2017-07-15 / Viewpoints

The Old Timer

BY HOWARD ‘MAC’ MCDONALD

Summertime used to mean you could see kids playing all over our small towns.

There were pick-up baseball games in every neighborhood. The playgrounds were full of happy children scurrying about. The ones who weren’t there were probably off to a swimming hole in the creek or in somebody’s pond.

Mom would tell Junior, “Go out and play.” As long as he showed up on time for dinner, he could go out and create his own fun.

If you take a short cruise through the neighborhoods of your town, there’s a good chance you won’t see too much of this activity.

I have my own thoughts about this. If there is a good argument to be made for having our children plugged into the internet and video games instead of playing outside, I would like to hear it.

Summer recess for our schools is about halfway over. When I was a kid, the summer break seemed like it was a year long. When it came time to return to classes, the only subject I looked forward to was history. I still find history fascinating, especially the Civil War. It is hard to imagine that the division of the United States ran so deep that we settled them by slaughtering each other in a war. Today, our country is divided as it ever has been since the Civil War. I pray to God that history does not repeat itself. There are already signs of terrible violence, such as the kook who took out his frustrations on the Congress members at a baseball practice. As long as the news media goes along for the ride, both sides of this escalating battle will continue to say outrageous things to draw attention to themselves. I wonder how these chapters will appear in the history books. They will need some sharp editors to cut through all the crap and record the history that has some substance. I still enjoy reading history. I consider the Holy Bible an interesting history book. It has the added benefit of giving you lessons on how to live your life.

Every Independence Day makes me realize how fast time has gone by. It amazes me that 41 years have passed since the U.S. was celebrating its bicentennial. July 4 is one day when patriotism is still front and center, at least for some of us. The holiday also makes me think back to Kate Smith and the way she would belt out the great “God Bless America.” Compare that to the time Roseanne Barr squealed her way through the National Anthem, sounding like a tomcat with his tail caught in a screen door, and you have an example of how times have changed.

As I write this, the thermometer here in the Valley of the Sun reads a torrid 118 degrees. Ice water is the beverage of choice. We go through gallons of it every day. At least when I die and go to hell, I will not be surprised by the heat. Some folks out here say, “Well, it’s better than shoveling snow.” I don’t know how much snow they have shoveled. I have lived in the Arctic and in the tropics, and never in my life has the weather bothered

me this much. If my health and bank account were better, I would get out of Dodge and go have some fun. Instead, I sit here in the air conditioning and twiddle my thumbs.

One way to cool off is to think about winter. My memories drift back to the days when I would jump on my Polaris Rocket and hit the trails.

It’s hard to describe the rush from speeding down a lake in Canada on a snowmobile, or racing with Ken Gerg up Portage and somehow not smashing into a tree. Someone on high was looking out for us.

After another technical problem with my computer, I faced three choices – wait it out, send it to the computer hospital, or pummel it with a sledge hammer. If I were not taking my happy pills these days, the choice would have been an easy one for me. My temper has cost me a lot of money over the years. The last hit on my wallet occurred in Emporium when I went off verbally on the parking meter maid. The charge of terroristic threats cost me a cool $232.50. Shirley took it all to the family doctor and I ended up with a prescription that costs far less than that. As I look back at life, I realize that I have always bucked the system. Over my 21 years in the U.S. Air Force, I was never charged with an Article 15 or a court martial. I never bumped heads unless I was sure that I was in the right. I was exposed to a lot of brass and a couple times they were high in rank.

Most of our population does not even know that we are at war. It has been almost 16 years since we went off half-cocked in response to the terrorists’ attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. I said at the time that we were going about it all wrong and this would become known as the 100-Year War. How have I done so far with that prediction?

When old-timers have nothing else to do, they sit around and think about times gone by. Today was one of those days for me. Some 66 years ago on this day that I went into the Air Force. I was 21 and married, with a baby on his way. When I arrived home one day, the landlady was standing on the porch waving an envelope. She hollered down, “Howard, you have a registered letter from the president.” It was my draft notice for the Army. I had some connections with my brother, who was recruiting for the Air Force, and he worked some magic so I could enlist in that branch. Several months later, I was accosted by two FBI agents. Their comment was, “What the hell is wrong with that draft board? You are already in the service.” I thought that they were there to arrest me. I lived in fear for a long time. The issue was never raised again.

Find a way to beat the heat and always keep your powder dry.

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