Monday, October 29, 2012


I am pleased to welcome a guest blogger today, Rebekah Washburn, joining us all the way from Seoul, South Korea.  Rebekah has won awards for her writing and still delights her friends and family with her stories while she takes a year and a half off (before getting a Masters in Creative Writing) to work and serve in South Korea.  While she speaks Korean during her normal day, she teaches an English class for Koreans and has written to us in English of her latest class.

Rebekah Washburn is also my daughter.  Do I sound proud?

Rebekah Washburn

Happy Halloween!

For English class this week, before our class members came, I wrote on the board in big, bold letters, "SCARY STORIES!"  We spent the whole hour, the 6 or 7 of us that were there, going back and forth sharing spooky stories that we've heard.  It was so fun, everyone had at least one scary story to tell, and after the hour was up everyone was laughing.  One of them shared a story I've never heard before and I thought it was so interesting--so I'll share it with you. In honor of Halloween. :)

Here we go:

Once upon a time there was a selfish old man who lived in a little shack high in the mountains of Korea.  He had one little son, a sweet boy who worked hard and had few pleasures in his life.  They were extremely poor and the father blamed the little boy for their misfortunes nearly every day.

"Because of you my stomach growls from hunger and my back hurts from sleeping on these bare wood floors!" he'd yell. "If it wasn't for you I'd leave this mountain and make a fortune."

The little boy could only bow his head.

One day, while the little son looked for food in the forest he found an old woman sitting by herself on a large rock.
cc rinux/flickr  Well at Bunhwansa

"What are you looking for, son?" she asked.

"I'm looking for food for my father."

"You are a good son," she said. "I will tell you a secret.  Walk behind those trees and you will find a well.  Throw whatever food you have found into the well and you will recieve what you need."

Then she hopped off the rock, bowed respectfully to the boy, and walked away.

The little boy did as he was told and found an old, mossy well surrounded by trees and covered in vines.  He threw a few mushrooms and pieces of cabbage into the well and waited.  Suddenly, two gold pieces came flying out of the well and fell at the boys feet.

Then, in a whisper, he heard these words: "Thank you for the food."

He ran home to his father and showed what he had found.  The father grabbed the gold, pushed the boy aside and ran to the village to buy rice cakes to eat with his friends in town.

The boy stayed home and thought about the old woman on the rock.

Day after day the father made the boy go back to the well and bring back the gold.  After a few weeks the father got greedy and said, "Ask for more money. I need more than just two little gold pieces a day."

The boy tried to throw in more food but he still only recieved two gold pieces.  When he returned home his father pushed him down and screamed at him for disobeying his orders.

"I will do it myself!" he cried, and marched off toward the well in the middle of the forest.  The boy followed his father, his head bowed and his cheeks red with shame.

When the father came to the well, he threw in two rice cakes.

Nothing happened.

He picked a green onion from the base of the well and threw it in.

Nothing happened.

He screamed in frustration and rolled up his sleeves.

"Fine," he said. "I will get it myself!"

He put his leg over the side of the well and slowly climbed toward the bottom.

As the boy watched his father disappear over the ledge of the well he suddenly noticed the old woman looking at him from the trees across the clearing. She smiled.

That's when two gold pieces came flying out of the well and fell at his feet.

"Thanks for the food," the well whispered.
Rebekah    Seoul, Korea

THANK YOU  Rebekah

And a Happy Halloween to all.

Friday, October 19, 2012


          I’ve spent the last two weeks in Sheridan, Wyoming helping my father-in-law at his ranch.  He has a nice spread just east of town right off of Lower Prairie Dog Creek Road.  I’m serious, that is the real name of the road.  I’m not a cowboy, not even a ca’boy, but I help where I can, and my father-in-law is kind and patient.   We were able to get some things done, with minimal bodily injury to me.  Which is nice.
            It was especially nice to get away from the presidential TV advertisements in Colorado, (home).  You see, conventional wisdom, for what it is worth, says that Wyoming is a forgone conclusion and will vote red, (that means republican), so it gets no election TV ads by the presidential candidates; but Colorado is still up in the air, (that’s a mile high joke, in case you didn’t catch it), or up for grabs, so it is getting  tons of advertising.  Actually, I don’t know how much advertising weighs, but I’m certain they have dumped several hundred tons of it on us.  And yes, I intended the not so subtle analogy, implication, metaphor, whatever.
            It seems that every commercial is either Obama telling us what is wrong with Romney, or Romney telling us what is bad about Obama.  It is enough to make you want to vote for Ralph Nader.  Seriously, is he running, ‘cause I’d vote for him.
            Which brings us back to conventional wisdom, which says that most of the states have already decided if they are going to vote red or blue, and therefore only a handful are left in play; Colorado being one of those handful of states.  Most of the nation can pretend life is normal, but Colorado, along with Ohio, Florida, Nevada and a few other states, (we’re the purple states, isn’t that clever?) have to be reminded every single freaking time the TV is turned on that there are two people running for president who can’t say enough good about themselves, so they trash each other. 
What happened to Pat Paulsen?  Oh yea, I remember.  Can you vote for a dead guy?
This is all to Romney’s disadvantage, because it equalizes the campaign financial reserves.  Supposedly Romney had a big advantage in money, but by severely limiting the number of states he campaigns in he has lost that money advantage.  It’s like if you and Bill Gates both want the last Snicker Bar at the store.  Whoever grabs it first gets it.  All of Bill’s billions don’t help him as long as you both can afford it.  Now, if you both want the same Caribbean island, well, it’s going to Bill.
Romney screwed up by ceding California as a blue state.  I know that everyone outside of California thinks it is way liberal, but I lived there for most of my life, and it is more conservative than most people know, certainly more conservative than conventional wisdom allows.
And, Romney wouldn’t need to win California, although I think that is very plausible, he just needs to turn it purple, forcing Obama to go there and spend time and money.  California is expensive.  All of sudden Romney’s extra cash would make a difference because it would limit what Obama could spend in the other purple states.  A limit I guess Romney doesn’t have.
But, it’s too late now.  The die is cast, we just don’t know in what color yet.  It is almost enough to make you want to vote for Ross Perot.  Almost.
Instead I’ll go back out on the Wyoming range, where the deer and the antelope roam.  And never is heard, a presidential TV commercial!

Thursday, October 11, 2012


            I have to tell you about my friend, Jay Bell.  Jay was blind, as in mostly blind, legally blind.  Born prematurely in a small hospital, the oxygen mix was too rich in the tent they put over him and his eyes were permanently damaged.   When I moved with my family to the isolated desert town of Trona, California, Jay was the weird kid with the heavy, half-inch thick glasses. 
            Being friends with Jay had a number of great benefits.  First off, was his Mom.  “Hi, Berk,” she’d say with a smile when I showed up at the house, and then she’d stuff me full with large quantities of home cooked food.  At 6 feet 4 inches and the center on the Trona Tornado’s football team, my stomach was basically bottomless.
            The second plus was the freedom we had.  I think Mrs. Bell thought Jay would be safe with me and pretty much let us run free in Mr. Bell’s old pickup--as long as I was driving.  Her faith in me was justified since neither of us was ever seriously injured, but not for want of trying.
"Dozens search for missing men, combing area pocked with thousands of old gold and silver mines."
cc LA Times, 12/21/2011 "Dozens search for ...missing men."
            One summer, a bunch of friends and I, including Jay, decided to drive out to old Ruth Mine.  Besides just hanging-out, picking off jack rabbits with our .22s and gorging on Hostess cherry pies, we hoped to find dynamite left behind in the mine.
            The main shaft of Ruth Mine is vertical, plunging straight down into the core of the mountain.  Every hundred feet or so, horizontal shafts branch off where rich ore veins were discovered.  The only way down was an old wooden ladder, stretching for hundreds of feet down the side of the vertical shaft.  Carrying extra flashlights and batteries, we descended into the bowels of the mine.
            After exploring for hours and finding no dynamite, we got hungry and decided to climb back up to the truck.  Those Hostess pies were calling.  One behind the other, we crawled up the rickety, old ladder with Jay bringing up the rear.  We’d reached the top, and were waiting for Jay, when he suddenly called, “Hey guys, give me a hand!”
            There was a large gap between the top of the ladder and the rocky floor of the mine.  Jay had put his flashlight in his pocket so he could climb with both hands, and the mine was inky black.  Seeing poorly even in sunlight, Jay was now completely blind as he tried to step from the ladder onto the uneven floor of the mine.
            Turning, I reached out and grabbed his hand, pulling him up onto the ledge.  As I did so, the top section of the ladder, with a splintering crack, broke away from the shaft wall, crashing loudly as it fell hundreds of feet to the bottom of the mine.
            We all stood at the edge of the gaping shaft, staring soberly down into its black depths, realizing Jay had just barely gotten off the ladder in time.
            Finally, Ken Corbridge spoke up, rather mildly, since he had sworn off swearing.
             “Darn!  Now we can’t go back down again.”
            Shrugging, we trudged back to the pickup.  Another day, another mine.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012



I will soon return to writing about politics, there is just too much to say while this campaign is going on not to.  I can’t resist commenting on it some.  For example, I know what Mitt Romney could do to turn his campaign around and still win, but I don’t want to say anything until it is too late.
For reasons I don’t quite understand I want to write about the saddest thing I ever witnessed.  Why?  Well, we are obsessed with the ultimate in everything:  The fastest man; the fastest swimmer, the richest person in the world.  Additionally, we reflect on ourselves in our own extreme moments:  The happiest moment; the most wonderful moment; our best teacher; our best friend.  And so, I want to reflect on what is not necessarily the saddest moment of my life, (which probably had something to do with dropping an ice cream cone on the hot black top when I was a toddler), but the saddest thing that I saw, that I ever saw, and was caused to reflect upon.  Here goes,
I had gone to an assisted living facility, (i.e. retirement home, {i.i.e. old folks waiting to die place}) to meet two elderly women so I could give them a ride to church.  (I know, I know, what type of person other than elderly was I going to meet at an assisted living facility?)
I entered through a side gate and met one of the women in a little courtyard where several of the residents went to smoke.  The first woman went to get the second woman while I waited in the courtyard.  While waiting I could not but help notice a woman I did not know staring at me intently.  Concern and worry were stamped all over her face.  She started to approach me, thought better of it and turned away, and then thought even better of that and approached me anyway.
She laid an almost weightless hand on my arm and with a voice laden with anxiety asked me, “Are you my son?”
Now, if you didn’t pause after reading that last sentence, take a second right now and pause to consider the profundity of that question.
Did you pause?  OK.  I hesitate in telling this story because I would like to be a hero in it.  But I am not.  I gently told her “No, I am not your son” and she turned away from me and redirected her anxiety to the gate that led into the courtyard.  At that moment the two women I had come to meet showed up and I gave them a ride to church.
What happened to this third elderly woman?  I don’t know.  I really, really hope that her son showed up in the next few minutes and took her out of that facility and treated her to lovely brunch, afterwards buying her a huge bouquet of roses.  But something in my heart tells me that no son showed up and that she waited in vain.
Is there a greater tragedy than when our bodies betray us and our minds desert us?  This woman no longer had the faculties to know for sure if her son was coming or the ability to recognize him if he showed.  She was only left with the desire for him to come, whatever he may look like.  Damn him if he didn’t come.
In truth we are all large headed jerks who don’t or haven’t done enough for our mothers.  Call your mother; you can never repay her, and all she probably wants is a little attention from you.
I’ll try and be funny next week.