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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
Tuesday evening students in the Superior Public Schools, grades five through 12, will present a talent show.
Most of the performers will be older than I was but I remember the time I presented my very own talent show for my parents and grandparents. It must have been a challenge for them to endure.
There was neither much to see nor hear but planning it kept me busy for days.
At the time, Zorro was my favorite western characters. I liked the way Zorro and various circus ringmasters handled a black snake. And I watched a neighbor who moved cattle with a black snake. (For those readers not familiar with the term black snake, the term describes a long black whip.) A skillful black snake handler can make the whip do many things. Zorro, for example, could make the snake leave a stylized Z to show his presence just like the Lone Ranger (another of my western heroes) used a silver bullet as his calling card.
I begged and begged my father for a black snake. He said they were too costly and instead made me a whip. He fastened a long strip of leather from a harness to a wooden dowel.
I practiced for hours trying to perfect my whip handling. I was never as good as Zorro but I did learn how to make the whip snap and make a sound like a popping balloon.
I still have the whip among the useless things I have saved from my childhood but the last time I tried, I had lost the ability to make it snap.
When planning my "Really Big Show," I tried to enlist the assistance of my cat Toby, dog Major, and horse Tony.
They weren't cooperative. Major would shake my hand on command but wouldn't walk the balance beam as I planned, Tony would lay down for my father but not for me, and Toby just ignored me.
I had to be not only the ringmaster but all the acts.
I cracked the whip and introduced the acts but most of the performers were imaginary and not visible to my audience.
I walked an improvised balance beam (a smooth fence post about one foot off the ground). I tried to swirl a homemade hula hoop around my waist but it dropped straight to ground around my ankles. I demonstrated my fast draw but my cap guns didn't burst any balloons, or stop outlaws in their tracks. My arrows tipped with suction cups missed their target. I couldn't juggle even one ball. The Yo-Yo unwound and wouldn't start up again and it wasn't dark enough for my audience to enjoyed its lighted innards. My costume wasn't flashy like the real performers wore.
Finally Grandpa stopped the show. Told me he would like to watch a lot longer but Grandmother was getting tired and he needed to take her home. She agreed and said the next day was wash day and they had to be up early.
As they left they assured me they had enjoyed the show but they never asked for a repeat performance.
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With both the Kansas and Nebraska press associations meeting on the same weekend, many of last week's newspaper had stories boasting about all the awards won by their staff members at the respective press association contests. Though much of the content of this newspaper could have been entered in either contest, we didn't receive any awards. The lack of awards is understandable. I've never been much of a contest person. This newspaper has won a few awards over the years but generally that was because a staff member entered the contest on behalf of The Express. When I was named editor of this newspaper, the press associations didn't charge a contest entry fee. Now they do and I have chosen not to enter. I believe our time is better utilized producing a newspaper our readers like to read and we should save our money for more beneficial projects.
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And I think I have better things to do than listen to all the candidates' telephone messages and answer the election surveys. I've registered my telephone number with the don't call registery but the politicians who passed the law, wrote it in such a way that they do not have to comply with the law. I'm tempted to vote for the candidate, if there is one, who doesn't call me.
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An interesting legal case surfaced this week on the Missouri River involving salvage rights. It seems someone made repeated trips on a snowmobile to the iced in boats, removed the contents and hid the goods. The accused later helped one of the owners remove his boat from the river.
Now that man claims the items he removed should be his because of "river salvage rights." The question of river salvage rights appears to be a murky one.
I have long thought salvagers had the right to abandoned and lost items found on a river or lake bottom. However, I believe the salvagers also have a moral right not to take property which can be returned to the rightful owner. In this case, it was certainly easy to determine who owned the boats and related items. In my book, the man is guilty of stealing.

A Different Slant, by Chuck Mittan
It's Shakespeare With Noodles time again! The innovative theatre troupe in Hastings returns this summer for its fifth season, and one of my favorites is one deck ­­ "Henry IV, Part I."
My daughter, Molly, has peformed with the group every year, but because there are always considerably more girls than boys who want to devote the majority of their summer to memorizing and performing Elizabethan dialogue, last year was first time she played a woman.
The first season, she played Ross in "Macbeth." Seasons two and three were both devoted to "King Lear." The director learned there was too much to tackle in one show, so she devised a cliff-hanger mid-way through. Season two was called "King Lear Part I." Season three was tongue-in-cheekily called "King Lear's Backside."
Molly played Gloucester, who famously had his eyes gouged out. For comedic effect, they used a marshmallow shooter and "shot" two marshmallows painted to look like eyeballs into the crowd.
If you haven't guessed, they're all comedies with Shakespeare With Noodles, even the so-called histories and tragedies. Last year, Molly played Lady Capulet, Juliet's mother, in "Romeo and Juliet."
The cast is typically restricted to school-age youths. Occasionally, the director "fills in" when a performer gets sick or is able to make all but one performance, but still wants to be in the play. Sometimes there is a college student or other adult actor playing a role when it seems prudent or appropriate.
About a week ago, the director messaged me and said she wanted to find an adult to play the role of Falstaff this summer, and she "immediately thought of me." Any of you who are aware of who Falstaff is are probably already laughing. I'm going to choose to believe she picked me because I'm a trained and highly experienced stage actor, and not because I look like, well, Falstaff. I'll elaborate.
Sir John Falstaff appears in three plays by William Shakespeare ­­ "Henry IV Part I," "Henry IV Part II" and "The Merry Wives of Windsor" ­­ as well as in operas by Giuseppe Verdi and Otto Nicolai. In the two Henry IV plays, he is a companion to Prince Hal, the future King Henry V. A fat, vain, boastful and cowardly knight, Falstaff leads the apparently wayward Prince Hal into trouble, and is ultimately repudiated after Hal becomes king. In terms of great characters, Falstaff is widely considered among the greatest by actors who wish to both have lots of fun and steal the show.
I had considered myself to be "retired" from stage acting, because I've been highly focused on my screenwriting, but the opportunity to both play Falstaff and be in a play with my youngest daughter is too great to pass up. I immediately said yes. We don't know yet what character Molly will be playing this summer ­­ she still has to audition and be assigned a role.

Country Roads, by Gloria Garman-Schlaefli
Friday morning was the appointed time for the annual spring round-up to take the fall calves to the sale.
My husband and I, and a good neighbor, arrived at the winter lots where the cows and calves had been lured in with hay bales. As the trailers rattled toward the lot, the cows seemed to know something was about the happen. We got all the cows and calves into the sorting lot. Thankfully the bulls didn't want any part of this round up and they gladly remained in the outer lot, munching on the hay.
I awaited my next assignment, which would either be to sort, watch the gate and open it when the cows came close or go to the back corner of the lot and drive the cattle towards the sorter. As it turned out, my job was to go to the back corner.
I watched as the neighbor carefully approached the cattle and, one by one or two by two, they were moved toward the gate. My husband quickly opened and shut the gate at the right time. It was so dusty it became hard to see what was going on from my view point. I couldn't hear directions as the cows bawled loudly behind me, calling for their calves. One bunch of calves was driven into the loading pens and into the trailer, then a second and a third.
Soon it was down to the last few cows and calves, and somehow the assignment was shifted as my husband joined the sorter and I was now the gatekeeper. My imagination went wild. I imagined I could see the cows coming my way, but somehow the calves managed to get in front of the cows and they got out with all the cows and bulls. Thankfully this did not happen. Like clockwork, the cows came my way, I opened the gate and the cows gladly ran into the outer lot. The last of the calves were loaded and we were off to the sale barn.
The cows and bulls were turned out into the winter pasture and soon there will be another round up so they can be transported to the summer pastures. Hopefully, between now and then, rain will come, the pasture grass will green up and the nearly empty ponds will be filled.