Earning A Living……

I am a proponent of higher education. In todays fast paced environment, fueled by rapid technology advancements, study beyond high school serves to enhance a fine mind. In my hometown, Springfield, we enjoy a number of educational opportunities for those who choose to enter a technical field where the melding of hands and mind produce folks who keep this country running at ground level. Contrary to the nonsense that Joey Biden spews that suggests Americans do not see the return on their efforts in the workplace, John Deere is leading the way in compensating folks in line with their profits. It’s called Capitalism, Joey, and it works.

In my 70 plus year tenure in America, a little over 10 years was spent in an agricultural environment. My grand father was a tobacco and cotton specialist and my in laws were row crop specialists. Every minute of that time was spent on or near green painted tractors and equipment, delivering the wonderful odor of turned earth. There are a number of US based farm equipment manufacturers to choose from, but none more iconic than John Deere. I still have a can of John Deere spray paint on my shelf, needed for the errant scratch that is inevitable when you challenge Mother Earth to meet our needs. It is a reminder of another time.

Sharon’s grandfather’s sale bill, reflecting a love for John Deere many years ago.

This year, John Deere enjoyed record profits. We’re talking big numbers here, an income estimated to be between 5.7 and 5.9 billion dollars. Do the corporate leaders of this company stash that money in tax shelters and thus avoid paying their fair share of taxes? No, they return it to the workers who make this company great. Their Union just negotiated a deal with Mother Green that pays a 8,500.00 signing bonus, an immediate 10% increase in wages, and a guaranteed 20% wage increase over the life of the 6 year contract. They already enjoy excellent health benefits. You see Joey, they don’t need your handouts, they use a tried and true tactic to guarantee income…..they earn and distribute their wealth among the folks who have a work ethic. An American company that delivers, not takes.

Johns Deere’s iconic green paint.

Our technical schools are turning out folks who have real marketable skill in a number of fields. One of our schools has recently added aircraft mechanics to it’s curriculum, a trade that guarantees a nice income for those who are willing to earn an associate degree in this expanding field. Training for health professionals, mechanics, welders, machine workers and critical support staffs for any number of professional services are available. They offer terrific agricultural training, animal science classes, computer science and public safety training among others. A skilled mechanic, trained in one of our technical colleges is destined to earn at a much higher level than folks who stand on a street corner with their hand out or wade the Rio Grande to await his or her handout from Joey Biden’s ridiculous social “safety nets”, unless of course Joey hands these swimmers a half million bucks for their wading experience and horrendous parenting skill.

There are many opportunities in America for folks who understand the work/reward concept. Congratulations to John Deere and especially the folks who make this company great. Green paint is an integral part of America’s agricultural scene and has notched another win in compensating it’s skilled labor force generously. Their high standards will continue to be met by workers who share in the reward that excellence produces.

One of America’s most demented politicians once uttered words that were true, “It takes a village”. It does, and there is no reason the villagers cannot be compensated for their contribution to America’s success. That being said, the manufacturing of a half million dollar combine requires far more skill than assembling a taco and folks need to understand why this is so. I know, as I began my employed life as a grocery bagger, compensated accordingly. It was my introduction to the concept of work/reward. The beginning of a work ethic…essential to any measurable success, was courtesy of a brown paper sack.

Have a great week!

SR

A Different Kind Of Veteran’s Day…….

This Veteran’s Day, Sharon and I left early for Union Station and the Holocaust exhibit that is playing to rave reviews. We began with a simply outstanding hot breakfast delivered to our car, drive through style, by our local Hi-Vee. A piping hot serving of scrambled eggs, hash brown casserole, sausage and bacon, a biscuit smothered in sausage gravy, topped by a tasty little cinnamon bun kick started the day’s activities. It was fitting that breakfast was delivered from a tent, something every veteran knows about. Hi-Vee loves our veterans. Fortified with a cup of hot joe, we started north to meet with our dear friends Col. (Ret.) John Bryan and his wife Bridgett to see what the exhibit was all about. It did not disappoint.

The Red Army, approaching from the east and American/British forces from the west and south were the first to see the inhumane horror tagged by the Nazi’s as the “final solution”. The exhibit singled out perhaps the most notorious death camp, Auschwitz. Students of history are familiar with this aberration in human behavior, however only those who dig deeper than the obvious horror will understand the concept of genocide, a concept that generally requires societal buy in, but occurs at the direction of fanatical leadership, such as that provided by Adolph Hitler and his like minded henchmen and women. The overwhelming consideration for me was the blissful ignorance of the German population and the people’s willingness to adhere to their satanic leader, Hitler and his psychotic musings. I also came away with a renewed sense of the incredible power of the military in today’s world. The Holocaust was the work of the German Army and it’s destruction and unveiling the work of Allied Armies. The common defense of the Nazi denizens from hell was the concept of absolute adherence to the orders of their superiors. It saved several from the gallows, but more often than not, the most demented of the lot met their demise at the end of a rope. We know, too, that many of the Nazi death camp workers met their end upon the liberation of the camps, some shot to death unceremoniously, others beat to death by those detainees able to wield a club or other tool. Far too many Nazi’s, directly involved in these horrors, escaped justice, a number of them enjoying the protection of the Catholic Church, for reasons that escape comprehension. Then again, the Holocaust is incomprehensible to the vast majority of folks who take the time to soak it in.

The fence….

In spite of the current woke mentality that seeks the destruction of our country’s history, it is so critical to the survival of mankind that we record and preserve both the good and bad in our past. Sharon was struck deeply by the Jewish mothers who carefully packed the necessary things for their infant children, believing that all would be well, only to be forced to hold their child in front of them so that a single bullet would kill them both before toppling into a ditch. Is man capable of such depravity? Yes, and we must never forget that.

The shoes remain…..their souls are in the care of the Master

Our system of government is designed to provide a check and balance to authoritarian rule. We have the legislature, the judicial branch and the executive branch. We flirt with destruction when all three branches are in lock step, especially if the intent does not represent the will of the people. Hitler and the Nazi party are a stark reminder these things can happen. Germany, an industrial giant with a fabulous standing Army, handed Hitler the reins, a mentally ill, hatred filled human like, demonic creature, and the Holocaust resulted. You wouldn’t know these things if we had obliterated the horror of Auschwitz and the “final Solution”

A mix of emotions have ranged through me as I process the lessons from this exhibit. The power of a country’s military, the hatred that fairly seethes through our country today, the incredible power we have vested in the Presidency, the flaunting of our constitution, our Pollyanna outlook that all is going to be fine, what will be will be. The German economy, destroyed in WWI, offered Adolph Hitler an opportunity to seize control of Germany and shape it to reflect his idea of a great society, racially pure and devoid of folks who did not meet his ethnicity standards. The exhibit teaches. History teaches. It was a Veteran’s Day that I won’t forget.

Hard earned wisdom…..

God bless our military. May they never be used for anything other than the defense of our nation. May they always be strong and capable of crushing the military of other nations whose intentions are other than existing peacefully in a world order. Finally, preserve history, do not re-write it or, worse yet, attempt to hide it. The reasons are obvious.

Have a great weekend!

SR

Why Missouri Is Not A Blue Zone………..

My deep roots are in the south, however; the rigors of being a military brat resulted in my adopting Missouri as my home. It is a wonderful, diversified but honest state, populated by mostly European ancestors, folks who call it like it is. The winters, however, are cold and the summers hot and it is not a healthy state. I’ll let you be the judge as to why we rank 40 out of 50 in terms of overall health, and barring some miracle will never be a “Blue Zone”, a special designation for places in the world where folks routinely live to a hundred and seem to get along just fine. I lived in one of the Blue Zones for 4 years and can offer direct insight into the practices that enhance longevity.

The World’s Blue Zones

There are between 5 and 7 Blue Zones in the world, depending on who is reporting. The generally recognized areas are Icaria, Greece, Costa Rica, a 7th Day Adventist enclave in Loma Linda, Ca. and Okinawa, where I lived from 1960 to 1964. Social scientists and medical authorities have long studied these locations and have reached a number of conclusions as to their secret to longevity. Before we start down that path, the common denominator in each of the considerations lies in the word “moderation”. Look at your lifestyle and list the things you are driven to and those that you could could less about. Despite the stereotypes to the contrary, Missourians are not the laid back, hay baling, straw chewing, coon skinning, barefoot hillbillies that folks on the coasts think we are. Let’s jump in.

Folks in Okinawa and other blue zones are at peace. Once you achieve a reasonable standard of living, a roof over your head and a place in the family hierarchy, you have arrived. They do not strive for castles, fine cars and big ranches and farms. They eat reasonably, mostly fruits, vegetables, and fermented dairy products with the healthy addition of whole grains in their fare. They drink alcohol in careful moderation and love their coffee. There is a remarkable lack of stress in their lives. Remember, rather than a weapon oriented culture ,Okinawans rely on a form of karate, and are schooled in this empty hands method of defense from an early age. Even the kids will open a can of whoop ass on you if you challenge their sanctity…very effectively. They have a refined pecking order and attach great deference to their elder population. Moderate physical labor and motion constitute their physical training beyond the application of a karate chop or two to fend off aggressors. Yet they are a very active people. Blue zone folks tend to have a strong spiritual base, secure in the knowledge of the existence of a higher power. Okinawans practice “tege” which means literally, “about enough” or “so so”.

Does that sound like a day in the life of a Missourian? We are far from laid back, go to gyms and bust our tails to maintain conditioning, eat red meat every time it is offered or available, eat refined breads and pastries, drink sugar laden drinks, rely on high heat cooking and love our pizza. We are materially oriented, want bigger, faster cars, settle our differences with a knife or gun, regard old folks as obstacles to a fast lifestyle, and are under constant stress. We live in homes that are at least twice as big as we need, drink what and as much as we can handle and measure success with “things”. Faith based living is on the decline. Okinawans eat to live and we live to eat. Genetics play a role, but it takes a long time for this to manifest itself in terms of longevity. Blue zoners also tend to reside in moderate climates.

A last but significant consideration is what I call the “happiness” index. Folks who live in the blue zones tend to be content with the status quo. They enjoy far more days of relaxation and happiness than days of anger and consternation. We just lost a retired Highway patrol centenarian, one of the most affable fellows you could hope to meet. Although he enjoyed the fast pace of a WWII fighter pilot, he left that behind and seized life on his terms. It can be done, but most of us just aren’t good at it. It is why Missouri will never be a blue zone. The blue zone concept may appear abstract, but it won’t if you are ever fortunate enough to spend time in one.

As an after thought, you might ask where the name “Blue Zone” comes from. It came into being when an author, Dan Buettner, began studying these areas and circled them on a map with a blue pen!

Have a great weekend!

SR

Lead Us Not Not Into Temptation……

Depending on which Christian scholar you subscribe to, Jesus, at some point in his ministry, provided us the Lord’s Prayer that has crossed the lips of any practicing Christian, perhaps many, many times in his or her lifetime. In this prayer, we ask that we not be led into temptation. I suppose the Lord was far more concerned with much bigger temptations to mankind than cookies but that is precisely where I found myself after Sharon and my sister Wanda’s recent trip to Ikea. Let me explain.

If we take the Lord’s words at face value, we would do well to turn off the television, rock back with a good book and never eat in a restaurant again. Our world is full of temptation at every turn. Our Amish and Mennonite brothers and sisters are content to ramble about in a horse drawn carriage to take care of business. They share the roads with any number of motorized conveyances, all designed to tempt us to purchase the latest, greatest, fastest or most opulent vehicle we can afford. A closer examination of the Amish buggies will reveal varying degrees of fit and finish….within reasonable constraints of course. Temptation here? You be the judge. I stood in a Pennsylvania Amish kitchen a couple of years back while a demure grandmother touted the excellence of her gooseberry jam. The temptation was too much and I acquired a jar of the sweet goodness. She was baking bread, the smell of which was simply too tempting to resist. The gooseberries simply closed the deal.

Current advertising strategies in America are constructed around temptation. As an example, sex, a much ballyhooed temptation, sells a lot of things. A lovely, scantily clad siren leaning on a car of any description, enhances the appeal of that car, whether it be a Corvette or a Prius. The lascivious consumption of a s’more by a hearty country soccer mom, in tight jeans and flannel, at a fireside picnic, enhances our desire for a Graham Cracker, Hershey bar and big fluffy marshmallow. Advertisers also understand that a subtle addition of sexual innuendo will have a greater effect on a 20 year old than a 70 year old person, who tends to be more concerned with mileage and comfort. (The car, not the model…..) No matter how you sum it up, they are tempting you to buy their product. I am still thinking over the relationship between a couple sitting in two separate bathtubs in front of a waterfall to male performance drugs. Maybe it is age again, but side by side bath tubs in front of a waterfall does not conjure up thoughts of…..well you know. On the other hand, a hormonally charged 20 year old can drift towards amorous thoughts when they see a cardboard box. They tend to be enveloped in temptation, seeing tempting opportunities everywhere.

Back to the cookies. For reasons known only to Sharon and the Master, my sister succumbed to the temptation to buy a plain box of ginger snaps at IKEA as she left the store last week. She left them in Sharon’s car where they found their way onto the freezer in our garage where they tempt the devil out of me every time I walk by them. They are delicious little cookies and I am struggling to avoid one or two every time I walk by them. Mind you, I don’t need them, but I cannot leave them alone. Boom, something else I will have to account for one day. These little brown morsels have now threatened a handful of Oreos and a glass of milk as an ultimate temptation. I don’t need another car, but Lord help me if I see an add with a comely lass, wearing the remnants of a bathing suit, leaning on a new model, with a glass of milk and handful of ginger snaps or Oreos in her carefully manicured hands.

Temptation knows no strangers!

I am guessing there are little temptations and big temptations but life has taught me to judge not. The prayer does not suggest that we avoid being led into big temptations as opposed to little temptations, so I am a failure on some level. There is a lot of space between the Ten Commandments and a box of ginger snaps………choose carefully!

Fall has finally shown it’s color a bit. Have a great weekend and watch the temptations…….

SRuy

Sharon, We Have A Problem…….

Why does it always have to be in the middle of the night? After a couple of rapid fire successive events, I knew I was headed to the ER in one of Springfield’s two major hospitals and, honestly, dreaded the ER more than the malady that was taking us there. Unbelievably, there were just a couple of folks in the waiting room and my symptoms garnered the immediate attention of the triage nurse and boom……I was in the system and taken to a little room buried in the bowels of the ER. Today I write about that experience and the changes in the way hospitals are run. They may not be what you remember from days gone by.

The emergency room doctors and staff were as might be expected. They were compassionate, concerned and busy sticking needles in my arms. In the middle of the initial response, the usual concerns about financial responsibility were addressed and a very nice lady asked me to clarify my wishes in response to intubation should the mornings activities go south. I told her my directive was on file and the nice lady sitting in the corner, would make whatever decisions needed to be made. Reassuring……..not in the least. At this point it is important to note that blood doesn’t bother me at all, unless it is mine and there is a lot of it. I was not in the mood to discuss legalities. To add to my angst, a surgeon, at 4 AM mind you, walks in to the room, shakes my hand, and says he will be happy to take care of me should we need to “go upstairs”. I was beginning to get the feeling that I should have spent a lot more time in church.

After things calmed down, I then endured the next 17 hours on an ER bed designed to have a board placed on it for CPR. Why, you ask? Because there was “no bed for me upstairs”. Actually that was misrepresented and I was not buying it. After a subtle interrogation from a guy who used to do that all the time, the nurse admitted there was no staff to attend to patients. Beds they had. Finally, after my stay in the ER listening to any number of psych patients screaming through their meth addled delusion, I was taken upstairs, deposited in a room, and an hour later, met by an astonished nurse who had no idea I was being entrusted to her care. This began two days of massive IV antibiotics, a liquid diet, blood draws every 6 hours, a little morphine to take the edge off and a gentle conversation with the best patient advocate ever, Miss Sharon. The pain began subsiding, the bleed was staunched and I began to take notice of the current state of affairs. Of the 7 nurses that I came in contact with, 6 were “traveling nurses”. They were paid SUBSTANTIALLY more per hour than were the regular staff nurses that remained loyal to the system. Their abilities were without question and their level of care as high as anywhere I have been. So the nurses from city A travel to city B and vice versa. They meet on the road motivated by higher pay, control over their hours, and the ability to visit places they enjoy. You simply cannot argue with their logic. Anyone who has supervised folks can see the problem this causes. Why is this happening, Covid and mandatory shots. I will NOT be drawn into a discussion about this mess. It is simply the reality.

Hospitalists are next up. You no longer see your PCP on rounds as in the old days. You are handed off to a hospitalist, a doctor who takes over your care after admission. Honestly, while I would rather see my regular physician at the start of the day, these guys (and gals) were very much involved in my care and I had only positive interactions with them. The lady Doc who made the decisions on my last day, prescribed meds and established follow up care with the appropriate specialists. She was a angel. She was as knowledgeable on the matters at hand as the specialists that streamed in and out of the room during this stay.

Apparently, one size fits all!

Of interest. Covid and the response to it, with mandates and political intrigue in the mix, has changed the landscape. This hospital is forcing life altering decisions upon it’s staff, yet does not enforce the anti-covid protocols in their own lobby. It is my absolute belief that politicians need to stay the hell out of the practice of medicine and the individual response we all have to it.

I have lived to fight another day. A special thanks to the men and women who delivered me back to my front door, weak but getting better. A final thank you to Sharon. She is a wonderful lady and terrific advocate. She can go from demure to Beth Dutton with the flip of a switch and watched every move on my behalf during this event. When you are scratching around in your overnight bag, looking for your directive, it pays to have folks like her in your corner.

Have a great weekend!

SR

Never Leave Home Without It……..

Not too many years ago, Sharon and I visited her mother’s cousin in Denver, Colorado. Dr. Earl, a successful gynecologist, was a charming fellow full of wisdom and great stories. The good doctor was a Renaissance sort of guy, taken to snow skiing and world travel and prided himself on always being prepared for life’s adventures. His emergency medical kit relied heavily on duct tape and he was masterful with it. I recently used a version of duct tape on a temporary repair and it worked just fine. What about this stuff that we tend to take for granted? Let’s have a look.

Hold on Captain! I’ll have you rolling in just a minute.

Duct tape traces it’s origins to the turn of the century. As early as 1902 an early version of a cloth backed tape was used to wrap the cables on the Manhattan bridge. Even then it consisted of a cloth or scrim backed fabric coated with a pressure sensitive adhesive. The fabric, even today, is usually polyester, nylon, rayon or a form of fiberglass. The adhesives have dramatically improved and the stuff has seemingly magical holding ability and use. A roll of duct tape is stowed on every manned capsule we send into space……you never know when something will need fixing. In 2003, when we were a little jittery with the world situation, the Department of Homeland Security recommended that every household have a roll of duct tape in their disaster kits.

A winglet on a modern jet liner….problem solved!

You can see from the attached photographs, duct tape is often employed in the aviation industry, holding in place pieces and bits pummeled by exceeding high wind or airspeed. Those of us having experience with helicopters in Vietnam may remember the “100 mile per hour tape”, green in color, that was often affixed to the rotor blades, usually to restore balance or cover some imperfection in the blade surface. It wasn’t a super secret fix, rather it was green duct tape. From a medical perspective, with little proof but plenty of anecdotal evidence, it has been suggested that duct tape will remove a wart from our skin. Just apply it and after a few days, bingo, the wart dissolves. While I am not recommending this wart fix, I can attest to the use of duct tape for removing a deep splinter, as long as the tape can actually make contact with the splinter. Apply it, drink a beverage and in 30 minutes or so, yank it off and the splinter will come with it. It has been used to hold wounds closed (on dry skin) and is a very effective flypaper hung in a room where flies are a problem. Duct tape is flammable and makes a good fire starter when lit by a match or other means. It burns hot and long enough to get something more substantial burning.

A grizzly tore this airplane up. The pilot duct taped it back together and flew it home!

Around our part of the country, it is not at all unusual to see automobiles held together with duct tape securing a piece of plastic, window, taillight or sealing a misfitting door or windshield. In fact, a shade tree garage equipped with duct tape and zip ties can tackle about any problem with trim or surface repair. To further complicate the picture, we now have variations of duct tape in color, strength, size and quantity. We, also, have a relatively new version of this versatile tape, a product called Gorilla tape. It is mean sticky, leaves a residue and you’ll almost have to burn it off the repair.

Here is the crux of the matter. I can’t imagine a household without a roll of this stuff on hand. There are new applications being developed regularly with too many uses to contemplate. Our RV culture does not leave home without it and neither should you.

Have a great weekend!

SR

Married To A Smoking Hot Wife……..

Unless you are a newlywed, being aroused from a deep sleep at zero dark thirty means different things than it did years ago. The soft rustle of freshly laundered sheets, the gentle breeze from a ceiling fan and the soft breathing of your wife as she stirs to life still happens, more frequently than the grand-kids would give you credit for, but little do they know. Your senses all come alive and you finally drift back to slumber land with the soft fragrance of a warm and gentle interlude on your mind. Your wife slips easily back into bed, wrapped in the soft scent of woodsmoke. This is the life of a man married to a serial smoker, and I would not change a thing.

My smoking hot wife at work!

We are carnivores. I make no apologies, having been raised in a family where there was meat of some sort on the table three times a day. It might be salt-pork, fried crisp and chewy, or canned salmon or, on good days, some form of beef, pork or chicken. Honestly, I had no idea you could eat a meal without meat until I joined the Army and was served a nice dripping ladle of oatmeal on a steel tray with toast and canned fruit as a side. Mind you, after shuffling around in the sand of Ft. Polk, La., in 100 degree heat the day before, a slice of cardboard with syrup would have tasted good. It should be no surprise that when I returned to the civilian world, I picked up where I left off, eating meat. That is why we have a couple of outdoor appliances on our deck, one for the quick char, the other to gently smoke a delectable cut into a culinary delight. The smoker reigns supreme.

Sharon has developed quite a set of notes relative to the preparation of meat on a smoker. She reads voraciously on the topic, borrowing technique and recipes from the great Texas and Alabama smoke artists. She is developing a style unique to our tastes, eschewing the traditional spices with modifications that suit us, taking the spice induced heat out of the meat to protect old stomachs that can no longer endure a ghost pepper finish. Among her late mother’s coveted old cook books, she treasures her developing manuscript on the art of smoking above all else in the kitchen. She is a Traeger Wizard, although concedes the name on the smoker means little if you are just going to throw it in and jerk it back out with a slathering of some preservative laden sugar free stuff that is designed to insulate the diner from a piece of dry, flavorless muscle that would send Tazzy to the kibble can.

The Kama Sutra for old guys!

For me, gone are the days of smoke being associated with the P. Lorillard or R. J. Reynolds tobacco companies so important to our family in rural South Carolina as we struggled to raise a cash crop of cancer inducing herb. Today smoke means a delectable finish to a perfectly marbled piece of cow or our favorite, the pig. We don’t do tobacco in our house, cars, or yard for that matter. We do however, bring the neighbors down the street to their decks with the aroma that a pork butt, languishing over fine Missouri Hickory wood smoke, brings. Dogs break chains for this stuff, all courtesy of my wife, addicted to smoking.

Back to where we started. A smoking hot wife is what every man dreams of, but it is a carefully guarded dream, and I am surely violating my man card by reminding folks that we may be old but we are not dead. We still love a wee hour of the morning kick start to the day, courtesy of a wife willing to wake up and arouse our primal senses by firing up the smoker. I have decided to toss my expensive colognes in favor of a dab of liquid smoke on the back of my neck. That ought to do it. I love being married to a smoker and I know how to get her attention. An early morning with the sounds of rustling sheets replaced by the crackle of butcher paper and the scent of hickory coming to life, ain’t all bad now that I think of it. Guys, buy her a smoker and bring romance back into your life. There is nothing quite like a smoking hot wife in the wee hours of the morning!

Have a great weekend!

SR

Caveat Emptor……

If you are a member of the RV culture, you likely have participated in one or more of the numerous online forums where folks comment on their RV experience. Scathing critiques of various dealers around the country are prominent in this arena, prompting the title of this writing, which is Latin for, “Let the buyer beware”. This axiom is particularly important when you make the decision to spend on a big ticket item such as a RV.

I am not a shill, in fact would not be good at it as I tend to bore in, recognizing excellence and castigating substandard stuff with little political savvy. I feel sorry for the folks who buy a RV from a dealership that considers itself a lot with trailers, hooks you up (in more ways than one) and sends you packing to figure out how to use what you just laid big bucks down for. Such is not the case with a family owned RV store in Carthage, Missouri, named Coachlight RV. Hop on line and the horror stories in this industry abound. It doesn’t have to be this way, and the guys at Coachlight are committed to a positive experience from beginning to end.

The boss, Mr. Marty Lown

This business was founded in 1968 by Marty Lown. He is an affable guy who can still be found at his desk selling and “coordinating” as Fred Sanford used to refer to his management of Sanford and Sons. His son, Doug is heavily involved in the operation of this business and can be found on the lot on the days he is not appearing in Federal Court as a qualified expert witness in matters related to warranty and lemon law in the RV industry. These guys know RVs from the opulent, very expensive Newmar motor coaches to the smallest bumper pull trailer. They treat each customer, whether a picky millionaire wanting luxury in a coach or the rest of us with the same degree of respect. You do not win the prestigious Newmar Platinum Award for sales and service for some 23 straight years unless you are good at what you do. Their dealership consists of 12 bays capable of handling virtually anything within reason and service is the cornerstone of their existence.

“The wall” Service and Sales Awards

Dealers today are (should be) a critical part of the ownership experience. Few dealers will meet you on delivery day with your unit completely hooked up in a delivery bay, and carefully walk you through each operation and nuance of the RV you are purchasing. This is after they have thoroughly vetted the unit. After your training day, they extend the courtesy of a night or two at their adjacent campground, help you set up and are available to walk down and assist you with anything that might require further explanation or their attention. New to this business? They will also have a tech help you hook back up and break down, taking as much time as is needed for you to grasp the “tricks of the trade”. Compare that to the RV “box stores” whose attention begins to drift after the check is written. We have shopped for RVs nationally, checking out the latest offerings from other manufacturers, and are now enjoying our third Grand Design, courtesy of this midwestern dealership who places service on the same level as sales. This is how it should be done.

The underboss, Doug Lown

At Coachlight, Steve, the service honcho, understands that everybody wants their work done yesterday. He works hard at scheduling one of his outstanding techs, like Cody, a military veteran who has twice been shot in the line of duty and Scotty, who is an old hand in this business. This industry has and is consolidating at a quick pace and the dealer is the linchpin of the RV culture. When you shop, shop for a dealer with all the diligence you reserve for the brand and type you buy. It is that critical.

Caveat Emptor, my friends!

SR

What Piloting Has Taught Me……..

I read posts on social media from time to time written by my friends who are able to pursue their passion for flying airplanes. There is nothing quite like the feeling of an airplane rising from the runway for a new adventure, seeing the world from the uncluttered confines of the heavens. I was blessed to have a terrific instructor who had an amazing ability to teach as well as instruct. She was demanding but patient, as old folks are harder to teach than young folks, and I started this adventure relatively late in life. After many hours with her and less than 10 solo, she pronounced me ready for my sport pilot check ride. I procrastinated and the opportunity is past. The lessons will follow me to my grave. Thank you, Jeanne’ Willerth, for sharing your passion and skill in instructing.

If you are to pursue this passion, do it as soon as you can. Lesson number one is the things that happen to you as you age are of great interest to the bureaucracy known as the FAA. They do not take prisoners and will dive deeper into your medical records than Jacque Cousteau in the Mediterranean. A relatively small lacunar infarct, also known as a stroke, many years ago is a show stopper, relegating budding old pilots like me to a limited “license” known as a Sport Pilot Certificate. The stroke was totally asymptomatic, didn’t know anything about it then or now, but only after some thirty thousand dollars in neurological testing could I be considered. The finest medical examiners who must sign off on your fitness to fly advise against the testing as a “denial” would preclude me from flying under any circumstance, including the sport license which requires only a valid drivers license. When the FAA denies you…..you are finished.

On the wing of a beautiful older airplane.

Lesson number two. Airplanes in the air are marvelous pieces of machinery. The FAA and pilots in general, place great importance on experience. On a clear air, visibility unlimited day, when everything is going just fine, you can relax just a bit and enjoy the world below and above. Things happen quickly in an airplane and you might go from a semi relaxed state to one of rapt attention as “something” has happened. Be it mechanical, weather related or any number of scenarios that only experience has prepared you for. Today, experience carries an inordinate price tag, and it is not getting any cheaper. The FAA is almighty, and has passed yet another regulation that has the flying community in arms, and will serve to increase the expense. I have learned there is no substitute for experience in life just has in flying.

Lesson number three is an extension of lesson number two. Airplanes are expensive. You have hangar expense, annual inspections, insurance and the hourly expense of actually flying. All this after you acquire an airplane. The costs associated with flying have and are rising at an alarming rate, with old hangar queens commanding big prices. These expenses are somewhat manageable with an older airplane, if you are a private pilot, but the sport pilot has far fewer options as a result of weight limitations. New airplanes, well, for most of us, are simply not affordable. When your age and experience are not in sync, insurance companies look the other way. A sport pilot ticket is a way to fly, but the limitations are daunting and relatively expensive.

Piloting requires thinking at a level not reserved for a jaunt to the grocery for a loaf of bread. It is a procedure laden experience that requires a lot of knowledge about the airplane, weather, rules and regulations. It offers an opportunity to awaken your mind and apply conscious thought to what you are doing and what the result is going to be of your action. I deeply admire, if not envy, pilots who have and are living their passion. Approach an airplane with the casual indifference we approach the family chariot, and sooner or later, you are going to get in trouble.

I read, a lot. Center in my bookcase is a leather bound logbook, between two airplane bookends. It is the most expensive book on my shelf, as I have invested time and money in every entry in it. It represents a beautiful expenditure of time, in limited supply for old guys, but seemingly unlimited for younger folks. Flying is a passion and I delayed far too long. If you have a passion, and you won’t know until you have tried it, do not delay. Do not let the everyday business of living get in the way of your dreams. I did, and I am now an experienced wannabe. Tip of the hat to my pilot friends…….

Have a great weekend.

SR

The Written Word…..

Computers have made us lazy. Books are available electronically, greeting cards are now emailed and letters have gone the way of the dodo. Documents are, more often than not, filed electronically and electronic signatures are legally recognized. Newspapers are now loaded with propaganda, available online, and losing subscribers in great numbers as we live in a 24 hour news cycle and prefer to have a talking head tell us what we think. The ability to spell words that involve more than a single syllable is no longer necessary, as spell check will handle that task for us. The emotion and warmth that surrounds a hand written note or thought is lost in the coolness of a few keystrokes by hordes of people who transmit their thoughts electronically with nary a care about the impact of these kinds of communications. This realization has prompted today’s writing.

What and how we write is an important part of our personal brand. As a young officer, I made sure that everything in writing that hit our regional headquarters reflected a maximum effort. The record that we kept of gasoline and vehicle expenses was in ledger form and at the end of each month, I carefully reprinted this form for the convenience of the motor equipment officer in headquarters. The motor Sergeant in turn, was required to transcribe my records into a system that managed these expenses, and I was careful to end each gasoline purchase with a .5 or .0, which saved him time in transferring the data. The Patrol required block printing on official documents, and most officers were meticulous in their preparation of reports. Supervisors did not make changes in reports, but would return them to you when you failed to adequately explain a happening or circumstance. Good police officers are good story tellers. Accurate and lucid descriptions put people in jail, keep people out of jail, clarify undignified situations and portray history in factual terms.

Say it in writing…….

Hand written notes are superior to any form letter or card. This statement is worth repeating in another way. There is no substitute for a hand written condolence, note of appreciation or recommendation. As I progressed into police administration, I was in the habit of regularly isolating a particularly well written investigation report or accident report produced by one of my officers. I would then express my appreciation for an excellent effort, hand written, on the margins of a copy of this report, and mail it to the officer’s home. Some thirty years later, I run into an occasional officer who reminds me of how much this meant to him at the time. Proof positive the efforts of the officer were indeed reviewed and evaluated. I enjoy writing and have deep respect for those that can carefully and lucidly explain a complicated circumstance or procedure relying on the King’s English. There is not one among us who has not opened a set of instructions for a home bound project, written in broken English, which failed entirely in providing useful instruction in regard to assembly.

I’ll end by saying that I am now taking the time to write letters to folks who have made or are making a difference in my life. I will continue my habit of writing various medical professionals, sales people and service folks who exemplify hard work and effort on our behalf. Fifty eight cents is a small price to pay for the privilege of creating a personally written note to a friend or other person of importance to codify my thoughts as to why they are important. I will trade this privilege for the habit of writing politicians to express an opinion, only to have it answered by a form letter months later. In the end, one of your friends will be tasked to carry you on that short walk from the velvet lined casket hauler to your last owned piece of real estate. They will come closer to appreciating your thoughts than will the pol who is only concerned with the loss of a potential vote. My father had the benefit of knowing about when death was going to call. While he could administer a scorching verbal correction to those in need, he chose to write a personal note to each of his pallbearers, thanking them in advance for their services yet to be delivered.

Col. SR (Steve) Johnson, Sr.

Writing a legible and coherent note or letter still carries the impact that electronically generated thoughts never will. As the lawyers say, if you don’t have it in writing, you don’t have it, period. It is never too late to start writing!

Have a good weekend!

SR