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Weekly Columns!

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

 Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya Pohlman A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Elsewhere in this issue, we have included a story about a scam making the rounds in Superior.
Superior residents are receiving telephone calls asking for their banking information. The callers claim to be Superior residents and the information is needed at once or their utility service will be disconnected.
Monday morning I received a call reporting Superior Publishing Company had been overcharged in September for PCI Compliance. Early in the call, the caller gave me her name and employer's name and asked for information found on our September credit card processing statement. When I informed her Superior Publishing didn't have an account with Wholesale Bank, the name she gave me for her employer, she had a ready answer. At that point I hung up the telephone ending the call.
Late last week I called an author in Greeley, Colo., to order more copies of her books about the 1935 Republican River valley floods. Her books have been popular sellers here in Superior and we have gotten acquainted over the years.
She wanted to chat and had questions about what was happening in Superior. In turn I asked about what was going on in her world. It was then she told me about the call she had received with regard to her grandson.
A distraught caller purporting to be her grandson reported he was about to be thrown in jail for something a friend had done and that he needed $1,000 sent at once to his attorney or he would be jailed.
Grandma immediately sensed something wasn't right and began questioning the caller. She asked if the arrest would jeopardize his job with the telephone company. "No," she was told. His job with the phone company was secure. She asked who would take care of his cats should he have to go to jail. The caller had a ready answer. But Grandma knew her grandson had pet dogs not cats.
And the conversation continued that way. She purposely continued to with her line of false questioning.
As requested she called and talked with the guy who supposedly was the attorney. He confirmed the grandson's dire straights and provided directions for sending the money.
When the money was sent, Grandma got more phone calls from the attorney. She reported she was having trouble raising the money and had been able to secure only $50. The caller didn't lower the demand. It was a thousand or jail. Grandma said she would keep trying.
Grandma attempted to call 911 for assistance. The first time she was asked to leave a recorded message which displeased her. Her call was not a dire emergency for she had already determined it was a scam and was only looking for help to put the scammers out of business.
When she finally reached the authorities to report the scam she was told she needed to have her telephone registered on the "do not call list."
Grandma didn't think that would have kept her "grandson" from calling for money. And so she is warning others about the scam.
I was particularly pleased to learn of her quick thinking and the questions she asked. Hopefully, the word will spread through the scammers network that she isn't an easy mark.
This morning as I was putting on my shoes and preparing to depart for work, my home phone rang. Rita had left for work a couple minutes earlier and I feared she had a problem. I ran for the telephone.
The caller began our conversation by telling me "I'm sure glad to hear your friendly voice. The last person I talked to wasn't very nice."
And neither was I when I learned she was soliciting funds for some project.
It is my policy to never donate money or purchase a product from an unknown caller. I only respond to telephone pleas from people I have previously established a relationship with. But before doing so I need to take a lesson from the grandmother in Greeley, Colo., and ask a few questions to establish the identity of the caller.
Writing about scams reminds me of an incident that happened here in Superior a number of years ago. I don't want to get the employee in trouble with a boss but it is a story worth telling.
An out of town supervisor,unhappy with a truck driver's failure to properly account for his actions in Superior, called a local employee about 11 p.m. and demanded an inspection be made and the inspection report be driven that night to the supervisor's office.
The quick thinking employee responded with a thick tongue.
She told the caller, "I think I can manage to go check to make sure the driver made the inspection before he left Superior but I've been drinking and there is no way I can drive 200 miles tonight. If you need anything more you will have to come do it yourself."
Faced with that option the caller decided regular channels would be adequate.


Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya Pohlman

When I was younger, my parents' idea of an outing was to go for a drive. We did not drive down the street or around the block. Where we lived in Alaska, there were no streets or blocks. There were highways. There were back roads. And, more often than not, there were places my father would take the family vehicle that probably were not meant for vehicles to go.
My father's idea of a drive often did not include stopping to use the bathroom or eat ­­ not that it would have mattered, as generally there were no convenience stores, gasoline stations or fast food restaurants along the way. If any children needed to use the bathroom and could convince my father to stop the car, our emergency bathroom was the great outdoors.
My mother learned early on to be prepared for outings with my father at the wheel and would always pack cheese, usually the square block of Tillamook perfectly sized to fit the crackers she also brought, a knife for the cheese, a loaf of bread, bologna and water, juice or cans of soda pop.
My brothers were older than me and depending on their ages were either with us along for the drive or busy with their own friends or their own activities and allowed to stay home by themselves. I was the youngest of seven children, the baby in a blended family of his, hers and ours, and I was the ours. I was usually "too young" to stay home by myself ­­ or at least that was always the excuse for dragging me along.
The purpose of my parents' outings ­­ long drives to nowhere and back ­­ was not necessarily to "get away from it all." We already lived away from it all. However, I imagine the idea of getting in the car and going for a drive really was in some ways just getting away, a day of family togetherness, stuffed in a car with my father pointing out various aspects of scenery that he expected me to enjoy while I tucked myself cozily in the back seat with a blanket, maybe a pillow, and my nose behind the pages of a book. The book, in my early grade school years, was most likely the latest Nancy Drew mystery, borrowed from the small, dark, stacked-with-books and ever-so-perfect-to-me library in Talkeetna.
From the driver's seat I might hear my father say, "Hey, Tonya, look at that," and my mom might be pointing to emphasize whatever it was I should have been interested in looking at. It could have been a tree, or a moose or some other Alaskan critter or bird. It could have been a mountain. It wasn't unusual for us to end up in the vicinity of Denali (in my youth it was controversially called Mt. McKinley). It also wasn't unusual for us to end up visiting friends near Fairbanks or stopping just outside Fairbanks in a town called North Pole. It wasn't the North Pole. Our family outings thankfully never went that far north. If they had, however, I'm sure my mother would have already had enough bread and bologna packed for the trip.
And there I would be, ever-so-unimpressed, barely peeking over the pages of my book, long enough to satisfy my parents that I had looked at whatever it was I was supposed to be looking at. I am certain that from grade school I had learned to roll my eyes in perfect disdain, disgust or disinterest from my best friend, Leah. That is who I am going to blame anyway.
I may have paid longer attention to something new or of particular interest to me on those family drives with my parents. At times I might have even been truly interested in something outside of the car and outside of the pages of my book. I emphasize my nose in my book because I do believe it truly irritated my father, an avid book reader himself, that I was reading books while our family vehicle traveled past and through some of the most beautiful and untainted scenery one could ever have the privilege of being in the presence of.
What comments I issued in conjunction with the well-practiced grade school eye roll that gave my parents the impression I wasn't paying attention might have included, "It's a tree, dad. There are a lot of those here."
What my parents may not have known is that, despite having my nose in a book and my eye roll or huff or comment of disinterest, I really was paying attention. I really did see that tree. I saw that moose, and that eagle. I saw Denali, and I saw that bear. I remember the igloo structure near Denali National Park that someone once dreamed of turning into a hotel. I've seen pictures of it since, in disrepair. I remember Fairbanks, Homer, fried Halibut on a stick, Portage glacier, and all of the places, outings, drives and adventures we had, that Nancy Drew didn't.
I remember everything. I was there. I saw it. I really was paying attention. And I'm glad.

A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

Last week, I learned a little more about how different it is going to college these days, compared to when I went, back when the Earth's crust was cooling.
Daughter Kateri called from school recently and asked for enough money to get the text book for her statistics class. Curious, because the semester is more than half done, I asked why she needed it now. She said the book is terribly expensive, so she hadn't planned to buy it. Instead, she planned to use the copy in the library. But it turned out the work for the class is both difficult and time consuming, so she wanted to no longer be forced to work at the library. Compounding the issue is that this year she lives about three blocks from campus, rather than on campus, literally within sight of the library.
So, rather than buying an actual text book for nearly $300, another option is to buy a used text book for about half that. Only thing is, the campus bookstore no longer actually sells books, apparently. They are willing to order them for strange, older people who still want them, but mainly they just facilitate the purchase of e-books. And they sell all manner of things with the college logo on them.
Purchasing the statistics class e-book costs about $100, and it is available to rent for about $50, which is what she decided to do, but not immediately. You see, the $50 e-book rental is only good for 60 days, and the day we were talking on the phone was about 65 days until her scheduled statistics final.
So it was decided she would wait at least five days to order the e-book.
Imagine the horror of having your electronic text book electronically repossessed (or whatever they do) just as you begin to study for your worst final exam of the semester.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli

It's time for the harvest blessings to be gathered. As combine headers whirled cutting soybeans in the fields, I was also reaping what I sowed this spring. Though my harvest in the garden was small compared to those in corn, soybean and milo fields, it still took time and effort.
My garden was "mini" this year; I discovered in the spring there was still canned and frozen produce left from last year's harvest. Not planting a garden at all this year was considered, but my semi-retired farmer husband encouraged planting one, promising he would help out once in a while. Maybe it was the farmer in me calling out as this year's seeds and the tomato plants were put in the ground. Our spinach and lettuce crops were a great yield and enjoyed at many spring meals, but as they began to seed and bolt, they were quickly pulled and feed to the heifers in the neighboring lot.
Cantaloupe grew perfectly and with a watchful eye we waited to pick our first juicy melon. But alas the coons made a visit one night and the three ripest ones were their target. They broke open the melons and were the first to enjoy the tasty treat. Only one melon survived. It was quickly picked and brought into the house. We couldn't help but be mad at those coons, considering all the watering and weeding we did in our melon patch. Now that fall is here, three more melons have showed up on the vines. Hopefully neither the coons nor the first frost get them before we do.
This was a good year for cucumbers as our patch produced again and again. We enjoyed sliced cucumbers in salads and on their own. When the vines turned brown and production was over, our taste for the cucumbers had run its course for the season as well.
Our tomato plants were also late-producing; bi-weekly checks on them found nothing but nasty, horned worms that strip the leaves. Thank goodness the worms only visited twice and were discovered and eradicated. July passed. No tomatoes. Finally toward mid-August, they began to produce. Maybe those earlier hot and windy days had slowed them down. Anyway, I was anxious to pick my first tomato and eventually they produced, and they kept right on producing as the first frost approached. Salsa, BLT sandwiches, salads, tacos, soup. And of course, just as "slicers."