Soybeans, Soil and Scattering

I never lived on a farm.  I did live among farms. Some of the farmers hired me Dirty Beanswhen I was a teenager to feed the pigs, bale hay, drive a tractor and shell corn. One drove his cattle to market in the kind of trailer you have seen on the highway.  It was full of cattle doing things that cattle do. I shoveled it out after the sadly empty trailer returned sans steer.
Every year during my precocious teens, I went out to the soybean fields.  My name is Tim and I carried a hoe ( given the way the word ho, hoe is used today let me explain).  A hoe was a long handled, 5-6 foot piece of wood, with a 2 1/2 ” diameter, to which was attached, at right angle, a sharpened piece of steel. So it has been established that I was carrying that kind of hoe– not any other kind.
I marched forth because the soybeans were under attack.  You Tofu eaters should sing my praises.  Riding, well… walking, forth each day, I was a knight of the soybean table— my lance a hoe.  I, Don Quix…., no Tim, the hoe-wielding soybean warrior, went to slash pigweed and smart weed and other noxious weeds that were supplanting the bean, and depriving mankind, of the 719,711,717 products all derived from the noble soybean.  That’s me — St. Soybean.
Now, these soybean fields were big — over a hundred acres. When I walked one direction, I strolled the slight downhill rows.  But when I came back the same hills were climbed as cruel inclines.  At the end of the day it was uphill in both directions.
Most of the land was as flat and black as fresh-laid asphalt.  The top of the hills was much lighter than the rest of the field, gradiating to a top of pasty gray. The hilltop topsoil was thinner than the rest of the field.  The soybeans were dense & green, for the most part, but sparse and yellow at the top.
Wind and rain eroded the hills.
Erosion has taken its toll on the hills of my life. Life bumps into me at those knolls. Hills appear, interestingly, at both my strongest and weakest points.  Rain flushes away and wind scatters the precious soil.  The topsoil grows thin and the, newly, graying soil just isn’t what it used to be.
It is not surprising that life attacks where we are weakest.  For instance, we don’t make decisions well so the wind blows there.  We don’t evaluate our options. The wrong choice is made– consequences occur– a price, often very steep, is paid.  Top soil erodes and productivity diminishes.
Now, let’s suppose our strength is making friends very easily. We have lots of top soil here. No problems? Well, yes we do, since life wears us down at our strongest and weakest points.  It works this way.  Having many friends is exhilarating.  We accumulate them like precious coins.
Careful.  Friends take time.  Productivity declines.
Having friends is intoxicating.  The wind blows. The soil scatters. It is difficult to drive a straight course when inebriated by your own popularity.  The richest vein of topsoil in you thins.
And, responsibility is required in any friendship.  It is easy to take advantage of friends– especially when your chemistry with them focuses on your gain.  Money– easy to pick a friend’s pocket.  Morality— easiest to choose a wrong path with a friend.  A friendship can become one-sided— all about you.
 It’s great to be able to develop friendships.  That gift left unstewarded, will erode who you are and, left unbridled, will leave you, ironically, friendless.
I hesitate to say, “Now, that I am old.”.
The reply, “You are not old,” causes me to wonder, “How many other ways do you lie to me?”
When I say, “Now, that I am old,” and there is no reply, the silence suggests you agree. I don’t particularly like that.  Perhaps, I should stop saying, “Now, that I am old.”
One more time, now that I am old, I take fearful and hesitant looks at the field of my life.  The snapshot gives instant feedback.  There is so much gray.  So much erosion.  There has been, planting, cultivation and harvest.  Weeds have been hoed.  Missed some.
But there is so much gray.  So much of me is gone.
All sorts of room for moralizing here and I, certainly, love to do that, but …….
Be noble, gracious and responsible where you are strong.
Get help and improve where you are weak.
Then— when you are old, there will be less gray.

Baseball, Parenting and a Neanderthal

Several weeks ago, I was watching baseball in one of its purest forms. Ten year olds dropped fly balls, let grounders dribble through wicket legs, threw balls to the wrong base, and ran amok. It was wonderful.

Amidst all that, was the relief when the fly ball dropped into the glove of the staggering outfielder, the joy over the sharp ping when the aluminum bat squarely connected, the ecstasy when the runner bunny hopped home with a run scored. That was wonderful, too.
Parents….well they tried hard, paid attention, listened to the coach and to them I say, “Way to go, Mommy. Nice effort, Daddy.”
While the parents tried, they couldn’t keep the kid in the cocoon when the ball was pitched.  The bubble wrap had to come off when the soft liner was hit toward their little darlin’. Despite all the parenting classes they couldn’t control the outcomes.
Then, after the game, three, smudge faced, grass stained, shirt tail hanging outside of their uniform pants, kids ran toward the treat dispensing parents. The boys —- Josh, Trevor and Kyle,  knew, even though no one kept score, they were the victors and were about to appropriate the spoils of whatever gluten free, low sugar, healthy-this-week, organic, natural, supplementary food (snack) was being offered.
Over on the other side, the losers…wait… the ones who, unofficially, did not score as many runs were getting about the same treats.
Our three sweaty little heroes approached Josh’s parents. Josh asked, “Mom, can Trevor sleep over tonight? He brought extra clothes.”
Mom: “Did you ask Kyle to come too?”
Josh, with all the natural cluelessness of a kid, replies, “No, we didn’t want him to come over.”
Mom: “Ok.”
Kyle looked ready to barf up his soybean derivative, or cry, or run away, or, maybe, choose all of the above.
So what kind of cocoon protects Kyle from that? Where does one get that kind of bubble wrap?
Where were Kyle’s irresponsible parents?
Who’s the bully here?
I suppose the curriculum in our school system should prevent this? Maybe it’s just something that only happens in the United States. How do the Japanese ward off this problem? I bet the Europeans have the answer.
Or maybe this is just something that might build character and grow adults.  Then, again, you just might need to get me into some remedial program to correct my aberrant Neanderthal thinking.

The Stages of Life

1. All the major leaguers are older that me.
2. Most of the pro ball players are about my age.
3. Those boys on the field are young enough to be my sons.
4. The third baseman greets me with, “Hi gramps.”
5. What’s baseball?
6. Remember the Bible’s opening words, “In the big inning.”

A Star is Born

I was recently reminded of how a woman, I never met, caused me such embarrassment. A stop light flashed red, and while I considered sneaking through, I didn’t.  It might have been the music that sliced the edge off my aggressive driving.

I stopped.  I was in the middle of three east bound lanes. The lane to my left turned north.  The lane to my right required a choice of east or south.  My lane was the only one without a choice.  I had to go east.

The three cars, side by side, for just about 90 seconds on a sunny day with windows rolled down were about to share a special moment in time.  My radio, as always, was on.  The music was up and I was singing.  My head was back. My hand was beating. My head was bobbing and I was singing. Loudly.
Oblivious to my highway  partners, the three teens to my right and the woman about my age to the left, I sung until the song stopped about 5 seconds before the light changed. No one moved.
The woman was giving me a thumbs up and the teens were laughing and applauding. They were impressed, no doubt, that I could, “Feel Like a Natural Woman.  WOMAN! “.  She turned left. The kids turned right and I floored it.
But for those few moments, on that sunny day, Carol King, the co-writer of the song, who received the Gershwin Award, helped me get a little red in the face.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything because for 90 seconds, I was the star of the sixteenth street traffic light.

Sidewalks and Pez

If Pez spit out square pieces and not rectangular, if it were concrete and not candy, and large and heavy …… not tiny and light, you would think a giant Pez dispenser laid the sidewalk along my street.  4′ x 4′,  the concrete squares parade in frozen formation down my perfect road.  But.. wait a minute….hold on now– they are not quite perfect and not, really, frozen.

Citizens unite! We can’t can’t let the freeze/thaw cycles that heave the concrete out of its formation endanger our community.  At irregular intervals down the  sidewalk, one slab rises higher than the slab next to it, creating something upon which we might stub our toes. It’s a trip and fall hazard. Ride over it on your bike and you will get a discomforting bump.  To make matters worse, the rise might be as much as two inches higher on the north side of the slab than on the south side and, often, it is the south side that is higher. It’s consistently inconsistent.
We are not defenseless.  City workers deployed with a “big old grinding machine” attack the non compliant slabs and scrape them into conformity.  Things are smoother now. Once again, the “path of the righteous is level.”
I walk down the sidewalk, proudly and safely, but my eye is offended.  The path is smooth.. the trip potential is diminished but those grinder marks are ugly. It’s time for a committee— a petition—……

A Taste of Holland

Just before 7:00 PM.   I’m hungry.  Too tired to think much about where to eat.  I know just the place. It’s the kind of place you would choose only when you didn’t think too much about it, a place where nobody knows your name unless you are Dutch.  Russes restaurants– Holland Michigan— where the menu always stays the same– in fact– the menu, specifically, the one that you are holding, is the same.  A nine year old kid flips through the menu and says, “Hey, I remember leaving this ketchup stain here when I was little.”
Mom and Dad think back wistfully, “That’s right, you were about two and half when you left that.”  Ewww.
I walk through the door.  The sign warns, “Soup and salad bar close at 7:00.”
It’s 6:57.  The old guy that is hosting is more interested in impressing the teen waitress than seating customers so he ignores me.  A waitress motions me to the booth just inside the dining area.  “I’ll be right back to get your drink order in a bit.”
In a “bit” the soup and salad bar would be closed, so I ask as she speeds by me, “Can I get the bar?”
Just as I knew she would, she looks at her watch and says, “It’s going to be closing soon.”  Anywhere else in the world they would leave it open for a last minute customer— not Russes.
“Look,” I beg, “I will run over and get my soup and salad and then you can get my drink order.”
Graciously, she says, “Oh, go ahead.”
I groveled to get to this soup bar to choose from their four mediocre varieties all of which were, possibly, life-threatening.  Remember the bar had been going since 11:00 AM (not a minute earlier).  Two of the soups were too disgusting to remember, but I knew I could make something that I could choke down if I combined the two other, Chicken corn chowder and Chicken with rice.  Combine them about 50-50 and they weren’t half-good but better than combining the split pea with anything.
My waitress was waiting for me when I got back to the table with my 50-50 soup and a salad of translucent slimy iceberg lettuce with a hint of carrot.  The toppings were palpitating so I passed on them but the French dressing didn’t let me down.  I could, showing how I classy I am, sucked that dressing down with a straw.
She shoved a glass of lukewarm water with three dice sized pieces of ice and disappeared until I would later, once again, beg her for something else.
Now, it was time to dine and enjoy the stolen ambiance that I could gain by listening to the conversations in the booths in front of me and behind me. Eavesdropping in Russes– an old Holland tradition.
Front booth– a sixty year old man and his eighty year old mom were holding a consult on skin cancer.  He was reading all the different kinds of skin diseases displayed on his smart phone.  He read in great detail of lesions, bleeding, itchiness and pus while turning his phone around so mom could enjoy the pictures too.  I couldn’t clearly see the pictures on phone but one looked a lot like my lettuce.
Behind me, the foursome was expressing great concern over an acquaintance that had cancer. They never mentioned her in the very audible prayer for the food that was set before them.  I couldn’t decide if it was more shocking that they could give thanks for the Russes’ food or that they ignored their dying friend in prayer.
The best was yet to come when they began guessing when she would die.  It would have been like an NCAA basketball tourney pool but no money was mentioned.
There was a lot going for this meal.  Lettuce that looked like skin cancer.  Soup made palatable only by my alchemy.  Conversation to the front and to the back that was worthy of adolescent boys.
So the waitress comes and says, “Do you want any dessert.”  Anyone in his right mind would have said, “No, just the bill,”
I said, “Got any apple pie?”
She said, “No, here’s your bill.”

Grandpa Crackerjack

This grandpa was sitting in the row behind me at the Whitecaps baseball game. I discerned his grandpa-ness because the three year old girl sitting on his left, on his right and in his lap kept calling him that. She was very talkative, very active and very in to being a granddaughter.
First came the tri-colored ( pink, yellow and blue) cotton candy. This was the first course on the belly ache special.  Apparently, this is what Grandpas do. Buy junk.
Grandpa: “You aren’t eating any pink.”
Kid: “I don’t like the pink.”
GP: “Did you try it?”
K. “No.”
GP “It tastes just like the others. How do you know you don’t like it?”
K. “I just know”
GP. “I will try it. Mmmmmm.  Tastes good– just like yellow and the blue. Wanna try it?”
K “No.”
They put the lonely pink cotton candy back in the bag and sat it in the empty seat next to me. I asked, “Can I try it?”  Gramps, seeing my plan, says, “Sure.”
I, who hate this spun fiberglass insulation like concoction, take a bite. In complete honesty, I smile and say, “It does taste just like the yellow and the blue. Do you want to try it before it is all gone?” My mind is worried about swallowing a fiberglass product.
The little girl says— what else– “No.”
I turn around….defeated and watch the ball game.  The little girl taps me on the shoulder and says, “You can have the rest.”
This is what it is like to grandparent. My stomach hurts too much right now to tell you about her adventures with caramel corn and peanuts but I will get around to that in the next couple days.


I like poetry and baseball and seldom get the two confused.

There are few things better than Pecan Pie.

There is no “new 40.” …….  or “50”…. or “60” for that matter.

Confusion doesn’t bother me. I kind of like it.

Of all the places I have ever lived, my favorite is waiting for me in the future

I often look forward to forgetting.