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Weekly Columns!

All your favorite weekly columns and letters to the editor- online!

 Editor's Notebook by Bill Blauvelt A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
The icebreaker question used to open a recent Sunday School discussion was, "What is the most memorable cave you have visited?"
As the teacher went around the room asking class members to share their stories about cave visits, many commented on visiting caves which have been developed as tourist attractions. I've visited such caves but my most memorable visits involved caves without electric lighting, air handling equipment and prepared walkways.
I remember the time my father and I visited an abandoned gold mine. Dad had heard about the mine while having coffee with residents of the area. The mine hadn't been wired for electric lights but the owner or his representative was willing to lead tours. Each visitor was outfitted with a miner's helmet and light, told to follow the leader and warned we might encounter some wet places. My mother and grandparents chose to stay in the family automobile parked near the mine entrance while Dad and I went exploring. I wasn't scared. I was at the age where I feared nothing as long as Dad was nearby. For several years after the visit, I kept in my "treasure chest" a piece of rock taken from the mine. It was probably just a piece of rock but I valued it like it contained a gold nugget.
Because of current safety standards I doubt today's youngsters would be allowed such an adventure.
Without doubt the most dangerous cave and most memorable cave I've ever visited was just a few yards from my home on Blauvelt's Hill.
It was about 15 years after the highway route was built over the hill and the fill was still settling in and becoming covered with vegetation. At the southeast corner of the guard rail which was supposed to keep vehicles from flying over the embankment, there was a flat spot I called the landing. From the landing a trail led on up the hill into the pasture located east of the highway. Before the irrigation canal was built, it was the only way the landowner had to reach his hilltop pasture by motor vehicle. It was used frequently as the landowner and operators of the stateline station took their trash up on the hill to discard in a washout. I liked the gate which blocked access to the trail. It was just a common barb wire gate but unlike many that were stretched so tight I couldn't close them, this gate was easy for a pre-teenager to open and close. When riding my pony, I liked to enter the pasture there and follow the cow path down the hill. This route had its challenges but it allowed me to ride down the hill and avoid the portion of the highway narrowed by the guard rail.
Near the bottom of the hill was my favorite plum bush. The plums were the largest and sweetest I've ever found in the wild. Dad suspected the plum bush was a descendent from a thicket that prior to the 1935 flood grew on grandfather's farm located west of the highway. Dad didn't know the origin of the plums but suspected they had been planted by an early settler. He thought the plums were all lost to the 1935 flood and shared my excitement when I found some had apparently been relocated and survived the highway construction. That year even Grandmother Blauvelt came out from town to pick plums. It was the only time we picked plums together.
A year or more had passed and I was at the bottom of the hill checking on the plum crop when I noticed a large hole near the bottom of the highway fill. I went to investigate.
I didn't venture far inside for the interior smelled like a skunk had been living there but it appeared in a child's eyes to be an enormous room illuminated by a shaft of light coming through the ceiling.
I had dreamed of having my own robber's cave but my father would never let me burrow into the soft sandy loam hillsides around our home.
I quickly climbed up the bank to explore the topside. There I learned water coming down the highway ditch had found its way into the fill and hollowed out the cave. In the presence of water, the hill's sandy loam soil dissolves much like sugar.
I ran to tell my father what I had found.
Dad didn't share my joy. He told me to never again ride my horse or walk on the landing and to stay out of the cave because it could collapse without warning. He shared the warning with the neighbors and told the state highway department.
In a few days the highway crew arrived with a number of trucks and a bulldozer. It took many truck loads of dirt to fill the hole. When it was all compacted, they built a cement drop to carry the water down the hill. Apparently, they didn't want another cave to develop.
Not only did they destroy my robber's cave, they also dozed out my favorite plum bush.
I hoped a plum shoot would survive but I've never again found a wild plum thicket which produces such large and tasty plums. To this day, I don't park my vehicle on the landing and it has been decades since anyone opened the gate and drove their vehicle to the top of the pasture.

A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan
My credentials a screenwriter and producer received a couple of nice boosts over the weekend. Sometimes it seems like I keep plugging away ­­ devoting nearly every moment of my free time to it ­­ only to have little happen to advance my fledgling career, but things actually do happen. They happen quite slowly in that business, is what I'm learning.
The first thing that happened is I picked up my third IMDB credit as a screenwriter. And I did it without writing anything. I'll explain. Sometimes a screenwriter writes characters that live on in spin-offs or sequels which the original writer has nothing to so with. A great example most of you will be familiar with is that of the incredible screenwriter, Shane Black, who wrote the first two "Lethal Weapon" movies. Even though he had nothing to do with the third or fourth films in the franchise, the characters of Riggs and Murtaugh (played by Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, respectively) are "his" ­­ which is to say he invented or originally conceived them. Therefore, Shane Black is given a writing credit for the other two films.
That's precisely how my latest IMDB credit came to be. The sexy and sassy genie I wrote in a short for a DVD horror anthology was used in another film for the same anthology. They asked me to write it, but I had started several other projects and had to decline because I was too busy. It didn't occur to me at the time that I would receive credit for it anyway, because I originated the character. Like in the "Lethal Weapon" movies, the genie was played by the same actress in both films.
The second thing that happened during the weekend is a short documentary I'm co-writing and co-producing began filming. For the past five years, I've thought someone should make a documentary about the Shakespeare With Noodles troupe in Hastings. At a film festival earlier this year, I met who I think is the right director for the job, pitched it to him and he agreed to do it. We're hoping to be done with it in time for festival deadlines yet this fall.
This same filmmaker has a pilot for a reality TV show called "Backstage Confidential" that he's currently shopping around to the cable networks. He asked if I would be interested in working on the series, should it get picked up. I said I would. If that happens, about a dozen people would go to work full time immediately. And spend a lot of time in Richmond, Va., where it is set.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli
After wheat harvest is completed, some farm families are considering taking a relaxing getaway from it all ­­ a vacation.
For a farm family, preparing for vacation is not an easy task. First, the decision has to be made where to go. Some long for a vacation spot far away, but chores and farm work may only allow for a short vacation, which rules out going someplace far away. If there are older children, they often come up with ideas about where they would like to go. Finally, a destination is agreed on.
Plans have to be made on who to ask to care for the cattle and check on the cats and dog. Vehicles have to be prepared, including changing the oil and checking the tires. Someone must be found to water the flowers and garden while the family is gone. All immediate farm duties have to be completed before plans can even begin to be developed. The post office has to be contacted and asked to hold the mail. Close neighbors are asked to keep watch out on the farmstead while the travelers are away.
The calendar has to be checked and rechecked to be sure no important church and community meetings or scheduled appointments will be missed.
If a family member teaches a Sunday school class or has other duties, then a substitute has to be found. There are haircuts to be obtained and maybe a shopping trip to locate shoes and clothes for the trip. The refrigerator needs to be emptied of all supplies that will not last. As the trip draws closer, clothes must be washed and packing and choosing what to take and what to leave home must be finished.
Some believe the house needs to be cleaned before leaving on vacation. The garden and flower beds also need to be weeded.
Electronic equipment must be unplugged, and then it's time to load everything into the vacation vehicle. This can be a problem. There are things that may be needed inside, such as snacks, tissues, DVDs or a favorite pillow. Last minute questions are asked, such as who locked the doors of the house, machine shop and garage.
Family members are drilled as they climb into the vehicle: "Who left a light on in the basement? Did anyone remember to unplug the iron? Are we sure we haven't left a dog or cat inside the house?"
Finally, the vehicle turns out of the driveway and the family vacation has begun.