I own two vehicles, which have between them 12 forward gears.
Not so long ago you needed three or four rigs to get that many transmission cogs, but such is progress.
The unusual thing about my modest fleet, though, isn’t the gearbox tally — showrooms abound these days with 7-, 8- and 9-speed transmissions — but rather the type.
Both are manuals, which is to say stickshifts.
It used to be you could tell oftentimes what kind of transmission a car had without wriggling onto the floor to count the pedals, which can give you a crick in the neck. Or worse, if you rise up too fast and whack your forehead on the fuse block.
If the shift lever poked out from the floor, the transmission almost certainly was a manual.
But if the lever jutted from the right side of the steering column, the odds were better than even that it was an automatic.
Baker County Assessor Kerry Savage has created a spreadsheet that makes you wish you had owned a home here since 1970.
Although it’s quite likely, I’ll concede, that you already felt this way and need no spreadsheet to confirm your feelings.
Measured as a long-term investment, this theoretical house reminds me of those intriguing stories — some of which have the not minor advantage of being true — of people who had the foresight, or the dumb luck, to pick up a few thousand shares of stock in, say, IBM back when most people thought a microprocessor was a very small person who helped you apply for a bank loan.
Savage’s spreadsheet shows the market values of the various categories of real estate in the county — residential, farm, forest, etc. — for each year dating to 1970.
Like all such documents, it seemed to me at first glance indecipherable.
Also at the second glance, after which I had to plead to Savage for help.
I had the worst vacation of my life last week.
And the best.
On the negative side of the ledger I list the common ailments of a manual laborer whose skill with even basic hand tools is so meager as to be dangerous to passers-by.
I refer here to myself.
I tweaked a tendon or a ligament or anyway some part of my right wrist while shoveling gravel into a wheelbarrow.
I gashed my left arm on a section of plastic fencing whose ends ought to have been labeled “Ginsu.”
I almost glued two fingers together.
(My own fingers, fortunately.)
Yet the aches dissipated, and with a speed no salve or balm could match, the instant on Friday, May 16 when I glanced over at the new playground in Geiser-Pollman Park and saw that children were climbing every ladder and careening down every slide.
The new trees cast only thin shadows over the sidewalks north of the Fairgrounds rodeo arena but their significance, it seems to me, looms much larger than their meager shelter.
We who love trees must of course leaven our affection with patience. Much more patience, certainly, than we invest in the sowing of a vegetable garden or an expanse of grass, either of which yields its final products in a matter of weeks or perhaps a few months.
Trees are nothing as ephemeral as a row of peas or corn, but the greatness of a tree accumulates only over many years.
There is I think a slight similarity in this respect between trees and children.
Neither arrives fully developed. We watch as they grow into their potential, striving always to give them all they need to prosper. We rejoice when they achieve milestones (first autumn display of brilliant foliage, first straight-A’s report card) and we despair when they falter (first wind-snapped limb, first time late bringing the car back and with a dent in the fender).
For those of you who have been asking to receive your Baker City Herald subscription online, today’s the day you’ve been waiting for.
Our readers are increasingly interested in receiving local news delivered to their computers, notebooks, iPads and smartphones. We’ve included some news stories on our website, www.bakercityherald.com, since 2001, and share local updates on Facebook and Twitter. But in our mobile world, it makes a lot of sense to have a “portable” subscription that delivers the entire newspaper digitally — you can read it while on the road, vacation or before you get home from work.
So, for the last two years, we’ve been planning delivery of the full version of the printed Baker City Herald to our subscribers to be accessed online and via mobile devices.
Finally, it’s here. In today’s print edition you’ll find a Readers Guide to the Baker City Herald that includes information about how to use your subscriber account number to login, create a password and view today’s newspaper ... every page. Your monthly subscription now gives you the option of having both the print and online edition at no extra charge. You can also choose just to receive the online edition, or never login and just keep receiving the print edition of the newspaper delivered to your home. Any way you choose, you pay the same subscription price as you’ve been paying ... no additional charge.
I made it five pages into the book before I got so mad I had to put it down.
I figured the library wouldn’t appreciate it if I returned the book with half the pages dangling from the binding like rotten shingles from a neglected roof.
I picked up the book a few hours later, determined to finish it without so much as dog-earing a single page.
Over the next several days I read the remaining 445 pages with emotions ranging from anger, which never totally dissipated, to bewilderment to sadness.
I’m grateful to Cameron Stauth for writing “In the Name of God.”
But that he was able to write it — although it seems to me that he felt he had to write it — is a tragedy.
The subtitle for Stauth’s 2013 book explains the topic: “The true story of the fight to save children from faith-healing homicide.”
Except most of the children Stauth writes about weren’t saved.
The clouds and the sunshine have finally worked out their customary spring schedule, and my grass is greening nicely.
Not so nicely as the dandelions, of course.
I despise dandelions, and have employed all manner of weapons to eradicate them from my modest expanse of turf, yet I can’t help but admire their tenacity.
This war I wage, like almost all wars, is a needless conflict.
My disdain for dandelions brands me as the product of a culture which venerates some vegetation and abhors others for reasons which aren’t altogether rational.
Big problems rarely lend themselves to easy solutions.
We can’t reverse global warming by twisting a thermostat.
We can’t make Vladimir Putin behave himself by yelling at him to lay off Crimea and Ukraine.
We can’t balance the federal budget by....
Well, actually we could do that by playing hide the checkbook with Congress, but first we’ve got to get our hands on the thing.
There is, though, one widespread mess that we could clean up today, and we’d probably save energy in the process.
Saturday marked the 20th-annual Baker City Herald Easter Egg Hunt. It’s an event that draws hundreds of local children each year to gather free eggs and toys in Geiser-Pollman Park.
But it almost disappeared in 1995.
That year the Baker City Jaycees, who had been the organizer of the annual event, disbanded. It looked as though the Easter Egg Hunt would not go on, for lack of a sponsor.
The first time I shook Sid Johnson’s hand I felt an instant sense of familiarity.
His hand was my grandpa’s hand.
It was rough with sandpapery callouses, the fingers thick and gnarled like oak limbs, but it was also protective, in the manner of a wool blanket that is itchy but will keep you warm on a January night.
It was the hand of a working man.
A hand made to grasp a hammer, to plane a board, to build structures that would endure for decades.
It turned out that Sid and my grandpa had quite a lot more in common than well-weathered hands.