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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 Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman

Editor's Notebook, by Bill Blauvelt
Most weeks topics for this notebook are drawn from my reading, conversations or activities. This week none of those traditional sources have worked.
Rita and I played hooky from work on Friday and went to Osborne to visit with our nephew and his family who were there visiting his grandparents.
Garrett is now a practicing large animal veterinarian. Since last seeing him, he has moved from the Boston area to a small community in Garrett County, Maryland, known as Accident. While I often have trouble remembering where people live, I have found it easy to remember his home county is now the same as his first name and who can forget an unusual name like Accident. Accident, Maryland has a ring I find easy to remember. Much like the name of a cousin's receptionist.
When a newspaper reporter asked my cousin who was establishing a practice in a new community the names of his staff members, he listed their names without incident until he came to the receptionist, Wylean Novickie. Now I don't have a clue how her name is spelled and would have asked to have it spelled but spelling didn't bother the reporter. Instead he repeatedly asked to have the name repeated until in desperation he said, "Don't you know the name of your receptionist? Is it Wylean or is it Vickie?
While we were outside with the children, ages 3 and 5, playing on a merry-go-round Garrett's grandfather had built with iron salvaged from a Baldwin combine, a text message was received reporting 4 inches of snow had fallen that day on Accident and school had been called off.
Garrett said he wasn't sorry to have missed this year's record breaking snowfall reported in the Boston area.
Art Linkletter wrote a book based on a popular segment of his House Party radio and television program where he interviewed youngsters. And Garrett had a suitable story for a similar book. While preparing for their trip to Kansas, one of his boys asked "Is the baby coming along?" The boys are aware their mother expects to add a baby sister to the family later this year but they apparently didn't understand whether or not Baby Sis came to Kansas was optional.
Saturday three of our newspaper associates went kayaking on Lovewell Reservoir. It was a beautiful day for such an adventure and I am looking forward to a similar trip with my canoe. After playing hookey Friday ,I was busy with catch up work and couldn't go to the lake.
The recent nice weather has given me garden fever but with the cold weather we've had mid-week, I'm glad I haven't had time to put a lot of seeds and plants out. Thanks to Rita's work Saturday afternoon our garden does contain a few broccoli plants and onion sets. Potatoes have been sliced and are now in the hardening stage awaiting planting.
Hopefully, I'll soon have time for some serious gardening for I've been making plans.
Tuesday's rain reminded me I also need to reset my rain gauge. While the weather service people were in my back yard earlier this winter, they suggested some modifications that would bring the placement of my gauge closer to the national standard. Tuesday I had 5 hundreds more than the official Superior gauge mounted in Rick Disney's yard. That was in line with what they told me to expect because of where mine was located.
I have two CoCoRahs gauges. I plan to conduct an experiment this summer. I'll leave my original gauge where it was last summer and set the second one according to weather bureau standards and see which one reads the nearest to the official gauge in Disney's yard. My gauge is currently mounted where it is easy to read at eye level. The weather service standard calls for the gauge to be mounted at four feet and farther from my house.
In the current location, on a summer day I can dash out in my barefeet and check the rainfall. Where they want it, I'll have to take time to first put on shoes. That doesn't sound like a big deal but my dream list includes a remote reading gauge that I can read while seated at my desk. Such devices are made but the weather service hasn't approved their design.
On a different note, this week's obituary column contains the notice of the death of Helen Sankey.
The notice reminded me of a time about 40 years ago when I was in Republic to take pictures of an event which included a greased pig contest. After the youngsters had taken their turns trying to catch the pigs, two women asked if I ever took pictures that didn't appear in the paper. They explained they wanted to try to catch the pigs but didn't want their picture in the paper and didn't want the entire community watching.
I've kept my word and never published the pictures but since I didn't have anything to write about this week, it was tempting to use those pictures to fill this space.
But their secret is probably safe. After all these years, I doubt I could find the pictures. Especially since I file negatives by the date the pictures appeared in the paper. Even when I want to, it is nearly impossible to find a picture that was never published.


A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan

My wife's father, Bob Mulcahy, was featured recently in an article that appeared both in the Omaha World-Herald's print edition and their online edition. What did he do to deserve such an honor? Nothing, but he's Irish, and the focus of the article was the large Irish-American community in Omaha. The article was written in preparation for St. Patrick's day.
In addition to showing the writer a lot of photos of his Irish ancestors, he was able to show him his grandfather's shillelagh (pronounced shuh-LAY-lee), which he explained his grandfather carried as a theft deterrent when making deliveries with the horse-drawn beer wagon. Which were the thieves after, the beer or the money? Apparently, it depended on the thief.
A shillelagh is a wooden walking stick carried by Irishmen. Maybe Irishwomen, too, but I can't confirm that. They're usually quite ornamentally carved and have a large knob or knot at the top. Lest you think a slender walking stick does not make much of a theft deterrent, you should know they are actually designed and intended as weapons as well as walking sticks.
Shillelaghs are traditionally made from either blackthorn wood (Prunus spinosa) or oak. Wood from the root was prized as it was less prone to cracking during use. The wood was smeared with butter or lard, and placed up a chimney to cure, giving the shillelaghs their typical black, shiny appearance. Shillelaghs were often hollowed at the heavy "hitting" end and filled with molten lead to increase the weight beyond the typical two pounds; this sort of shillelagh is known as a "loaded stick." They are commonly the length of a walking stick (distance from the floor to one's wrist with elbow slightly bent). Most also have a heavy knob for a handle which can be used for striking as well as parrying and disarming an opponent. Many shillelaghs also have a strap attached, similar to commercially made walking sticks, to place around the holder's wrist.
The name, an Anglophone corruption of the Irish "sail eille," appears to have become convolved with that of the village and barony of Shillelagh, County Wicklow. The shillelagh was originally used for settling disputes in a gentlemanly manner ­­ like pistols in colonial America, or the katana in Japan. Modern practitioners of "bataireacht" study the use of the shillelagh for self-defense and as a martial art.
I've watched videos of skilled shillelagh users in action on the internet, and there's no way I'm robbing a beer wagon if both driver and guard are armed with shillelaghs. Not even if the wagon is delivering Guinness.

Life, Beyond the Ranch, by Tonya R. Pohlman

I found myself watering six recently potted and desperately thirsty starter houseplants at 3 a.m. The plants were lucky I had trouble getting back to sleep and noticed them while making a fresh cup of coffee (because who doesn't drink more coffee when they can't sleep?). I knew this would happen. I tell myself I'll try harder every time I scatter the dried remains of another houseplant to the wind.
This is the curse I bear of the indoor houseplant brown thumb.
My outdoor plants and flowers are usually well nurtured. But outdoors is where I prefer to be in spring and summer. And caring for my outdoor plants is a good excuse for me to wander aimlessly in the backyard for hours looking purposeful but not really doing much.
If you see a healthy green plant indoors at our home, chances are it's fake, and I have no shame in admitting that.
Indoor plants are just too quiet and I forget they are there. When they genetically engineer houseplants that speak, or better yet, beat on the bathroom door when they want something or nothing, then the likelihood of live houseplant survival under my care will improve.
I'm not saying the only reason my children survived is because they were great at bathroom door beating (and at least one of them, now in her 20s, still is), but I do think their instincts to never leave me alone in the bathroom greatly increased the likelihood that I would not just lock myself in there and stay, until they graduated from high school.
We now have no human children as permanent residents in our home. They did in fact grow up, graduate high school and move on toward adulthood. One of them most likely has the bathroom to himself. The other one, my daughter, with a little one of her own, is learning the luxury of bathroom alone time. Of course, as I mentioned earlier, it doesn't deter her from reverting to childhood instincts when she visits. After all these years, and a child of her own, she still does not seem to notice the distinctively sharp note of irritation in my voice when she persistently knocks on our bathroom door and I finally respond with, "What!?"
Aside from the occasional visit from my daughter and her family, and with Marty and I being the only human elements at home, one would think bathroom alone time would no longer be an issue. One would think.
Marty's dog, Ben, does not like closed doors. If you are behind a closed door and Ben notices, your chances of remaining alone behind that door are slim. Our smaller dog, Bear, usually doesn't care if we are behind closed doors without him, unless he thinks we have food and aren't sharing with him. As we normally do not take food into the bathroom, Bear usually doesn't bother us in there.
But let there be thunder...
Awakened by the roar of thunder with a rapidly approaching storm early Tuesday, I rolled over in bed, savoring the idea of a few more hours of sleep with the unusual and welcome treat of a rainy spring storm.
And then I felt the heavy-weighted steps and desperate nudging of a trembling and not-so-fierce Bear. I wouldn't have minded Bear's need for cuddling and reassurance, but the closer he wedged himself against me, the more he aimed his breathing directly at me, the less thrilled I was with morning dog breath. As we proceeded into our morning, Marty and I each took our turn entertaining Bear during our time in the bathroom. If Bear could have grabbed us around the ankles and held on, I am certain he would have. Luckily for Bear, the storm subsided. The moisture is left outside our home was needed and welcomed. Inside our home, the welfare and future of my fledgling starter houseplants remains to be seen.