2017-02-18 / Viewpoints

The Old Timer

BY HOWARD ‘MAC’ MCDONALD

T.G.I.F. is a phrase that many in the working population live for. It seems to me that if you only live for the weekend, you need to have a better attitude about the other five days of the week.

I’m all for the average working person getting off the treadmill and relaxing. Life is too short for anyone to be all-business.

You folks in the Pennsylvania mountains need to reckon with the elements if you are heading outside to enjoy the weekend. It used to be so easy as a kid to put on your mittens and boots and charge out into the winter wonderland.

Back in the day, the recreation was usually sled-riding or an old-fashioned snowball fight behind your self-built fortress. Today you have snowmobiling, skiing and all-terrain vehicles.

Most older folks can’t enjoy too many winter activities. They stay inside where it’s warm and either watch TV or read. If you’re really ambitious, there’s always the option of a nap.

Thanks to Congress, we are coming up on the bogus holiday they are calling Presidents’ Day on Monday, Feb. 20. I did not read the resolution that was approved by the Senate and House, but I assume the language was close to this: “To give government employees yet another undeserved day off so they can enjoy yet another three-day weekend, we hereby invent a new holiday and somehow lump George Washington and Abraham Lincoln into the charade.” I wonder what George and Abe would have to say about the mess our country is in today.

A guy is never too old to go to hunting camp, so I was pleased when my nephew Jack Fulmer, my middle son Bill and my oldest son Howard invited me along on a trip to a secluded spot about 70 miles south of Apache Junction. All the hunters in camp were hunting with muzzleloaders. We had a nice supper and lots of snakebite medicine. The temperature got down to about 40, but it was up to 81 by 4 pm. As usual, my job was to sit in the camp chair and watch while the camp was set up. I was also assigned part-time storytelling duties. It was a relaxing experience for all of us. I guess being an old-timer has some perks.

As I have written before, on this February day in 1953 I lost one of the best friends I ever had, Richard Knickerbocker, in an Alaskan plane crash. I had taxied my plane from our ramp to the aircraft loading area and parked next to his to help him prepare for takeoff. I met Knick at the entrance door, said good-bye and told him we would have a beer when we both got back that night. I had to have a beer alone. The airplane broke up in heavy icing and heavy turbulence. Six of the guys onboard got out and after one swing of their chutes they hit the ground. The snow was six feet deep, which cushioned their landing. Those six were rescued in the daylight of the next morning. An outstanding airman lost his life that day. I still miss him.

There is never a pause in the sports world. After the Super Bowl hype the talk turns to March Madness for college basketball and spring training for baseball. I don’t hear too much about the NHL or

NFL, which suits me just fine.

Mesa will be jumping, since the Chicago Cubs train and play their exhibition games here. Tickets for those games used to be reasonably priced. Not today. I guess they only want the wealthy to attend. That is a sign of the times.

Some of the help wanted ads in our local paper are perplexing to me. I saw one that was looking for someone to clean out the bird doo-doo from the cuckoo clocks. That jewelry shop is not far from where I live. Another ad was from the hospital in the next town over from here. They were looking for a mechanic who would install wheels on the miscarriages in the delivery room. Weird jobs, but someone has to do them.

The automobile has come a long way in the last 50 years, but drivers make the same mistakes they have always made. They run red lights, fail to yield the right-of-way, blow off seat belts and turn signals, speed, and allow themselves to be distracted by phone calls, text messages, entertainment and other things. There are scores of freeways and interstates here in Arizona. They are all well-marked. But just about every day there is some buffoon who enters them going the wrong way. Maybe these people can’t read English. When they meet an 18-wheeler head-on, guess who wins. Road rage is also a big problem. These days, if some of these maniacs don’t crash they pull out a gun and either threaten you with it or actually pull the trigger. Just about every driver out here is a criminal. That’s because if you drive at the speed limit on a 65-mph highway, you are considered a public safety hazard. Minimum speed in a line of traffic is at least 70.

I have been involved in two head-on collisions and lived to tell about them. One was on a surface street out here. A lady pulled out of a housing area and turned south into the northbound lanes. I never had a chance to get over or put on the brakes. My pickup became instant junk. Her insurance company bought me a new truck. I didn’t have airbags, but my seat belt saved me from injuries and she also was not badly injured. The second crash happened at Sylvan Heights in Emporium about 50 yards from my driveway. A young man coming up the hill too fast ran off the road, over-corrected and crossed to my side of the road. The next thing I remember was the fire company rescuers trying to get me out of the car. My dog Sarge was in the front with me and he would not let them touch me. One of our neighbors got my wife Shirley and she got Sarge out of the car. I didn’t know what happened until the ambulance was going through Truman and I came to my senses. Both vehicles were totaled. I am thankful that both drivers ended up okay.

I don’t drive any more, but I keep my shooting iron clean and my powder dry. You should do the same.

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