Monday, August 30, 2010

TO WRITE OR NOT TO WRITE?

May 31, 1987 we were marooned by a flood on the west coast of South Island in New Zealand. The roads were impassable leaving me to just filling the time until we could proceed as scheduled. Then an idea struck me. This day was being commemorated by the New Zealand Postal System in honor of which any first class letter could be mailed for one cent postage to any place in the world. Upon my inquiry, I found the wee post office was just a short distance down the flooded road. I donned my boots and headed there to find that my information was correct for mail posted that day. I bought a supply of the stamps and made certain that the letters were all written and returned to be posted the same day.

My earliest recollection of the cost of a stamp was two cents. This seemed like a modest price for getting a letter sent anywhere in the USA. Such a price seemed low for such a service. Most of the postage stamps depicted the face of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton or Benjamin Franklin. Commemorative issues were relatively rare.

Saturday morning a two-pound crock of butter needed to be delivered to the Woodard home a half mile from the parsonage. The task was assigned to me, for at seven years old I was eager to do it. I decided to take my tricycle, although it did not have a carrier. Mother warned me to be careful lest the crockery pot be damaged and the precious butter be spoiled. I started out well but soon the slippery cargo became unwieldy. About that moment along came Mr. Myers, the mail carrier, driving his horse and buggy that he used in the spring to negotiate the muddy roads. He halted a moment to see what I wanted. My simple request was to take the crock to the next house where he was headed.

"Can't do it, " he gruffly explained. "It's against the law to carry anything that isn't properly posted. Without that law, I'd be hauling everyone's stuff. Get off the seat and walk," he advised as he slapped the reins for the horse to move on.

With the image of the sheriff coming with handcuffs, I did as suggested, leaving my tricycle beside the road. Mrs. Woodard expressed appreciation and presented me with a freshly baked cookie to munch on my return home.

I will now jump ahead to the year 1960. My quandary was how to ship my books from Ellensburg, Washington to Houghton, New York where I was engaged to teach at Houghton College. My inquiries led to the conclusion that our household goods would not be worth the cost of shipping them. However, a quirk in the postal regulations gave books an especially low rate. Each day on the way to work, I hauled the number of boxes of volumes that the trunk would hold. I mailed them with the assurance from the post-mistress at Houghton that they would be all right until we arrived. The clerk at Ellensburg was amazed as the number of boxes shipped hit fifty.

Were the Houghton postal employees ever glad when I arrived to relieve the wee limited storage space of its burden. Several years later on a return summer trip to Ellensburg, I had occasion to go to the post office. To my surprise, the clerk at the window took one look at me and blurted out the word, "Books. All those books!"

When we left Houghton in 1992 for Washington, the set pattern was altered. After selling the house, I gave my business books to a new faculty member. Then, in the huge basement, we heaped piles of books on the plywood tables so the new occupants could either read or dispose of them

Gradually the price of stamps began to climb, especially noticeable during the Franklin D. Rooseelt terms when there were particular programs to be publicized to aid the anti--depression efforts. Spreading a message concerning a cause became a way to get the word out nationwide. Philatelic clubs and services began to be popular. Quite noticeable became the purchase of blocks by the dedicated collectors, assured that in time their aggregations would show sizeable
gains. At the time I felt sorry for myself that I was unable to invest in stamps.

From here forward the cost of stamps spiraled and the Post Office Department developed into a separate enterprise of government. Then I began to receive mail posted by these collectors with the postage in multiple denominations from prior years. Depending on when purchased, some would have been sufficient at that time to have posted the letter with one stamp. The farther back in time, the larger the loss. Only the truly scarce issues retain or gain value over time.

Who are the recipients of my letters these days? Obviously those with e-mail will not normally be on the list. Business matters where I am dependent on proof will continue to be part of letter writing. Those for whom I have no e-mail address will and need to contact will be receiving a letter. Regular letters will be used to back up telephone messages where critical.

I like to send and receive letters. But the question remains: How long can I afford to opt for what has become this pricey communication?

Monday, August 23, 2010

PERSPECTIVE ON MY LIFE

From the 87th year of 2008 I am now looking back to March 29, l922 and taking note of what my life has consisted of in terms of its general pattern. Such an overview is considered in broad general terms and does not deal with individual events that make up the fabric of one's daily activities. From my birth through high school is covered in detail in my prior book, OF A BOY AND HIS VALLEY, a period I think of as MY BEGINNING. ... From early childhood up through high school my desire was to serve my Lord.

Following this is what I think of as FOUNDATION FOR GROWTH. . College was quite different from the preceding time, as my horizons were broadened from a narrow view of the world and what was offered. The fact that three institutions contributed to this span of time was broadening. Chesbro' (subsequently named
Roberts Wesleyan College), Greenville College and Houghton College provided me with a wider view. I was challenged to live a Christ-like life. I was drafted and then was labeled 4F and told to return to college. After graduation, I got the first real job experience as cost accountant for Bell Aircraft Corporation during World War II in Buffalo and later in Burlington, Vermont. Serving Christ in a secular job was enlightening. When Betty and I were married, the rigid conduct of the pastor created for us a difficult dilemma. Fortunately that was solved by the ending of the war and my decision to return to Western New York.

Unemployment as a result of this move and the birth of our daughter Tina made a deep impression on me. Never had I felt so helpless as to be told that I was overqualified for work available. I was denied unemployment compensation as I was not a veteran. Desperate, I was finally hired by a canning factory and later by a produce dealer for whom I worked for the next seven years. We were involved with church work. Over the period we had responsibility for junior church, young people's group, Sunday school class, church treasurer and such other responsibilities.

During the seventh year I felt that God was calling me to do something for Him, I made haste to obey. After months of fruitless searching, I was on the way to Ellensburg, Washington. I had a job and we were serving God in a new church. My job there as a CPA was challenging and I felt we had arrived. My boss was a Christian. We had built a new house and dreams seemed to be fulfilled. We had answered the call to go and God was true to our obedience. We felt like we were established there for a life that would be fulfilling. Permanence we were ready for. The church positions were being provided with usual attractions: Youth group, Sunday school classes, church treasurer and so on. Next would come partnership in the accounting firm.

Then came the bombshell. Not all at once, but gradually. Our plans for the future were to be modified. Were we willing and ready?
This phase of my life could be termed THE PRODUCTIVE YEARS. President Paine's persistent call to join the faculty meant major changes in calling and in remuneration. The details of the year leading up to our move from Ellensburg to New York are recounted in Ch. 18 WHAT'S NEXT LORD? of my book FROM A STAR TO PARK AVENUE.

To assess my life's work is difficult, even looking back from the standpoint of the forty-eight years since my first class or the twenty years since my retirement. It would be possible to figure out the graduating majors and minors or the growth of the department over time. But these measurements would not truly be a measure of what has occurred or is still happening. My Christmas bonus from Houghton (cards and letters) and the other mail from former students is more meaningful. The number of faculty and other positions presently and formerly filled by graduates of the department as well as at other institutions is gratifying. But above all else I feel that the commendation of Christ reaffirms my decision to teach at Houghton.

One other challenge that meant a lot to me was the area of instructional media. I will never forget the day when I searched in vain for a projector. I was told that if I wanted to be sure of having one, I could assume the job and was assigned the dusty spot under the stairs going up to Fancher Hall for my collection place. Here I began the building of the Instructional Media endeavor leading to the television studio and to the hiring of Dan Moore to manage it. From that dusty spot to a key
location is testimony to its usefulness.

Now comes the final phase - RETIREMENT. . This came about as a five-tiered matter: The desire to write, the yen for travel, interest in photography, the desire to read and the need to do something physical or tangible.

In January 1989 I had started assembling material for my first book, OF A BOY AND HIS VALLEY. Parts of it had appeared first as letters to my grandchildren as I tried to explain how my experiences as a boy during the Depression had shaped my thinking. My wife and others said they thought it had the makings of a book. When the decision was made to go to Myrtle Beach to avoid those who continued to seek my advice, I took the material along to see what I could do with it. The first draft was written during that winter. Upon my return to Houghton in the spring, I tried out the results on one of my former students, Dindy Bence, who was now in an editorial position. Taking her advice, and again resorting to Myrtle Beach, I spent my time rewriting it. Sylvia Duttweiler had made original drawings to illustrate the book and typed the final copy. Heart of the Lakes Printers took the responsibility for publishing it. The book arrived at my home in June of 1991. In less than a year my first thousand had sold out. When I arrived in Washington in 1992, I wondered if there was enough demand for it. I took the chance and reordered. It took more time for this order to sell, but I now have less than thirty on hand.

One night in 1991 I was lying awake thinking of the cars I had owned. My thoughts fixed on the idea that so often a person would relate an event to the vehicle they had owned at that time. I began to wonder if anyone had written of their life as tied to the cars they had owned. I could not find a single book so constructed. I determined to do just that. Searching for a title, I arrived at what I thought would be a catchy title, FROM A STAR TO PARK AVENUE. The Star was the first auto owned by my father. The Park Avenue was the Buick model I currently drove. But such a title was seriously flawed. I wrote the book but later found that most people either thought that it was all about cars or didn't understand that it had more to do with the events of my life as stated as an AUTObiography. It sold far less than I had expected. Fortunately I had ordered a smaller quantity. Had I been less cutesy about the title, I would have sold more.

Presently I am doing some shorter pieces for a writing class with titles like THUNDER & LIGHTNING - STORIES FROM CAMPING and the like. This is the writing that keeps my mind alert.

Travel was my next ingredient. Immediately after retirement I purchased my one new vehicle - a 1989 micro-mini Winnebago Warrior. It proved to be exactly the right choice for our needs. It was fully contained and at 19.5 feet it could be parked wherever an auto could be accommodated.

The first main trip after shakedown was to follow the spread of fall from the North.
Teaching pre-empted such a trip prior to retirement. We traveled the highway to the extreme north point of Nova Scotia and slowly wound our way south as the season progressed. Arriving home from the Adirondack Mountains just in time for Homecoming at Houghton, the following week we continued our trek until the snow covered the trees in North Carolina. That was a satisfactory beginning.

There followed various trips to the 49 states and all of Canada's provinces. We drove to Alaska twice as well as taking two cruises there. The water was too deep to go to Hawaii so we cruised there once and flew another time. There were cruises to the Caribbean from Florida. So we saw quite a slice of the world. In addition to our two sabbaticals to New Zealand, we went there a third time seeing the country by RV with friends instead of sleeping in a tent. Topping it all off was finding our relatives in Ireland. Our travels now are over, limited as I am from the stroke. So I parted from the faithful Winnebago, thankful for its giving me l35,000 miles of trouble-free service.

Photography has been a constant for me, not just a retirement endeavor. From the time when our children were small it has been a long time pursuit. It has been a pursuit that has given me the pleasure of introducing it to Betty as she has established her reputation with cards after retiring from her teaching. I now hope to get back to this activity.

Reading has always been a desirable activity from the time I learned to do it. I read in the early years of life although it went easier when my parents realized that glasses were a requirement in first grade. It turned out to be something that was satisfying as a substitute for the field of sports. My eye problems have followed me over the years. After losing one eye due to botched surgery, sight took high priority for me. When the stroke affected my vision, I became greatly concerned. Prompt action by the ophthalmic physician brought back 20-20 vision
In the seeing eye.

In the intervening period I was introduced to the services for the blind and those with impaired vision. I was able to get books on tape from the special library. I now more than ever appreciate the ability to read. Hoping for interesting material from the catalog provided, I ordered what seemed like a reasonable selection of books on tape. In due time they continued to arrive. I was puzzled, as none of it fit the order. To this day and a dozen catalogs later I do not see the relevance to what I desired.

This brings the period of retirement up to the last segment - the section of activity involving physical tackling of a major challenge. When we arrived at Warm Beach a new house awaited us. Son Dan had it built by Ron Hansen and it was ready when we arrived in May 1992 with the truck carrying our goods. All was as planned including the three acre forested site. I hoped to create an attractive setting.

Over the following fifteen years I held brush parties. When I approached a man to chip up the brush, he told me I couldn't afford to hire him. He recommended that I buy a chipper to do the job. That was a good investment. The lower dead limbs on the trees made huge piles to be chipped. Using the extension ladder meant a lot of climbing. There was also the accumulation of dead limbs from the past.

There was lawn to prepare where the terrain was rough. The only tools I had were a mattock, rake and shovel. It seemed like a huge undertaking. Underneath much of it were old roots. In two areas were the remains of old dumps containing ancient car parts and tires. Another contained broken glass and hundreds of beer bottles, some with their contents intact. Mattresses and broken furniture were a part of the litter. Several large areas were covered with blackberry bushes with vines 30 or 40 feet long.

Betty had in mind flower gardens where the brush was nigh impenetrable. Slowly progress was made. When I reached the age of 75, it was thought an appropriate addition would be a tractor mower and trailer.

Annual additions of trees and shrubs were added. The long driveway (550 feet) was bordered with rhododendrons, azaleas, and several varieties of other flowering plants. To keep them watered by hand turned out to be a major water transport by wheelbarrow until I was able to install an irrigation system. As I would conquer one area another would be added. This meant an increasing area to care for. Annually a certain number of trees would fall and the wood had to be cut, split and piled.

All of this activity came to a halt on March 15, 2006, the date of my stroke. From here on this phase of my retirement was terminated.

But being able to write does leave a door open to communicate my thoughts. And I find it very satisfying to look back on my life thus far and know that I am not without a way to express my joy to be still serving my God. Moving to Warm Beach on April 1, 2007 marked the opening of a new era of my retirement saga. By keeping in touch with friends and making new ones we can make it a joyful and pleasant benediction.

Monday, August 16, 2010

SATISFYING THE URGE

I know it's been some time since he's had a letter from me, so I'll try to remedy that omission on my part. Answering correspondence regularly is a sterling trait that I want to continue. In the moments available to me now, I'll delay no longer, but get started.

First I need to check my mailing list to find out if this person has e-mail. If he does, I'll just stop here and write my message in that form. It would seem quite extravagant to mail it by USPS at the price of letter postage if I can send it by e-mail. Not finding his name on my computer address list means I'm safe at this point.

What is the date? It's important to the reader to know when this was written. To date the letter will lend a sense of immediacy. Where have all of the calendars gone? It seems like yesterday that there was at least one of these pictorial documents on every wall. Locating the calendar, my memory fails me in recalling the day of the week this is. "Betty. Is today Wednesday or Thursday?" She is able to definitely pinpoint the day as Tuesday.

Next is the message. What about the weather? It's surely a theme that interests almost everyone. It's certainly a hot topic now as well as across the country. But what will it be like in another day or two when this letter arrives? On the other hand I could wax eloquent about the past week when it was perfect. In either case it could appear like I'm bragging. But I'm not. Better avoid discussing that for which I can claim neither benefit nor responsibility. I'll select a safer mode.

I could take up the matter of Betty's health. That's a matter I'm sure will get the attention of most of our friends. I can report that the knee surgery was successful. But then it will bring up a host of attendant issues. No. It was not a complete knee replacement. That took place two years ago. That the kneecap was disintegrated and the pieces had to be removed will raise the question of replacement. How can I explain no need for it now? This little note is getting nowhere. I'd better search elsewhere for safer news.

After all. do I need to write this letter? It gives me a headache just to think about it. "Thank you for the aspirin, Betty." I'll try it again another day if the urge hits me.

Monday, August 9, 2010

NO BAGGAGE

"Did you really mean that you have no baggage?" asked the amazed handler as I stepped up to the gate.

"I'm traveling light this trip," I cheerfully responded.

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Here is my explanation.

As I review my past, I think of my compunction to be adequately prepared for whatever may be required. My parents were relied upon for the first period of my life. They did a credible job of preparing me, given their limited resources.

Seven years at Elba, NY working for a vegetable shipper provided me with a basic understanding of what was needed in the business world. But the next step in the area of comprehension of what was required of an accountant was achieving CPA certification. Assisting other people with ethical considerations added to my personal concerns as a responsible father guiding his family to making correct decisions regarding right and wrong. Ellensburg Washington added depth to all of this. Here was my first opportunity to build a home, a place to store the things I was accumulating. Not much by worldly standards, but it was a beginning.

A shock to my accumulative urge was the clear plan of God that meant a major change of direction. The return to Houghton to start a Department of Business
Administration meant leaving the home that had become a central part of my plan. Discussion with van line personnel convinced me that what we had in furniture would not warrant the cost of moving it. What we had in books would be the one item I could trust to the US Postal Service for 5 cents per pound as of that date. All other things should be sold and replaced when we arrived. We followed this advice and left Ellensburg on the Milwaukee train with only carryon luggage.

The next twenty-eight years were spent in academic matters - teaching and learning about my students. I wouldn't for a moment minimize the responsibility of that portion of my task. This was what God had prepared me for. Faced with other opportunities, my decision was to stay with the assignment. Again I experienced the joys and sorrows of building a unique house. Travels during the summer offered opportunities for Betty to learn and enrich her botanical background for her college teaching. Over that period of time our holdings of appropriate books grew.

Retirement at 68 seemed appropriate along with the question of where to use that portion of our life. Along with this necessarily came the question of what to do with the things acquired over the ensuing time period. My store of business related books logically went to my colleagues. The detailed records dating back to my Bell Aircraft era and subsequent would be of value only to myself.

When the opportunity came in 1992 to move to Stanwood, Washington to "pioneer" the settlement surrounding the new home that Dan contracted to have built, we finally had to make many hard choices of items to relinquish. The tandem bike, for example, and the multiple camping items were tough to put in the items to sell. My eyes deceived me when packing the large Ryder truck I had rented for the move. On the afternoon when loading the truck was taking place, it became clear to me that the boat, motor and trailer about which the household goods would be placed just would not fit. A quick deal to my fisherman neighbor proved to be the only answer. This was only one example of the pain of parting. One item that afforded me great delight was the offer of my friend Lee Houseknecht to drive my Winnebago Warrior motor home out for a vacation.

Arriving at the house on Frank Waters Road, the saga of clearing and beautifying the property bespoke the need for a variety of tools: Yard tractor and trailer, chipper, power saw, and what turned out to be a lengthy list. The next fourteen years found use for all of the foregoing.

My stroke in March of 2006 brought his to a halt. After about a year of semi-recovery, it became clear that I could no longer do what was required to maintain the place, we decided to move to the Warm Beach Senior Community to which we had made application while on our way to Alaska in 1990. Dan was at the same time in the process of leaving Compassion. We all felt that the timing of both moves was right.

The move was accomplished with the assistance of the small group that met at the Ricarte house. Our furnishings and the like were disposed of by yard sale and donation to thrift stores. The tools and the like could remain for our son to have as he continues to beautify the property.

The last item of consequence to be dealt with was the Winnebago Warrior motor home. It had served us well over 136,000 trouble-free miles. With it we had driven over 49 states and all of the Canadian provinces. Over the span of driving 26 different vehicles, the motor home was the only new vehicle I purchased. I trust that the new owner has the same happy experience as we did.

In searching the records, you will discover nothing in rental storage or recorded receipts for goods to be claimed. No intangibles remain such as feelings of bitterness or anger. There are no scores to be settled. I'm ready to go when God deems the time is right.

I stand by assertion, NO BAGGAGE.

Monday, August 2, 2010

HILLSIDE COW

"Eva," Father announced at breakfast that Saturday morning, "Brother Reed is giving us a cow."

"Is it sick or injured" Mother asked in surprise?

"She has one bad foot. But the veterinarian charges so much to come out to the farm that he'd rather give us the cow if I can save it," was Father's response.

"How can you get it here? We don't have a truck," was Mother's practical question.

"Arnold can lead it. He can sit in the trailer and hold the end of the rope while I drive slow." was Father's solution.

Father cautioned me to keep him posted on the proper speed. I promised to be very careful. We drove two and a half miles to Frank Reed's farm and found him awaiting our arrival. The cow was not a Holstein like the rest of the herd. Instead, it appeared to be a Jersey. It was common practice for the farmer to keep one animal for rich milk for the family. Holsteins had the reputation for quantity but the Jersey produced a much richer product but significantly less of it.

Father and I also noticed that this animal had suffered the loss of one-fourth of the udder with only three instead of four teats present. When questioned, Mr. Reed told father that this didn't affect the cow's ability to make rich milk but just gave a lopsided appearance. That seemed all right so father placed the improvised rope harness over the cow's head and we began the trip home.

The sore leg made the going very slow. Sensing the change from familiar scenes made the bovine less cooperative. From one side of the road to the other the grass appeared greener. At times my muscles were stretched to the limit. When a rare vehicle approached, father would pull to a halt. The next problem was to start making progress again towards home. At last we reached the barn. With the inducement of a measure of oats the cow was secured in the third stanchion.

Wasting no time, father rigged up a treatment trough from a large tin can. Into it he inserted the hoof. Apparently it felt better as the cow tolerated it without complaint. She seemed contented with the attention she was receiving. With the few animals that we had, naming this addition seemed Important.

Mother decided she should be named Bessie, the Hillside Cow, because she could graze at an angle on the steep pasture slope without stumbling. Soon Bessie also began impressing grandma with the cream she produced. The golden crocks of butter testified to her quality product. The attorney from Buffalo made certain it was Bessie's product.

My first year of high school included the first year of Agriculture I. When it came to cows, how the other would brag about the gallons produced by their herds of from 50 to 200 milking cows. My puny output of one or two cows was a joke. Then came the time to learn how to test milk for butterfat. Mother sent a sample of Bessie's product for me to use in testing. The test of the other herds was on the average between 2.00 and 2.30%. Next was my sample. How would it stand up to the rest?

As the other fellows watched, I tried my sample. The reading came to 5.8% "Try it again," I was challenged. "This first one was a fluke. It can't be for real," was the comment. I chose another sample. This one was 5.9%. Bessie, the Hillside Cow had established the record for East Otto.

For all of the various cows that we came by, one way or another, the Hillside Cow was always recalled as the first in the production of golden butter.