Category Archives: ROADS SCHOLAR

Stories and experiences as we travel … around town, the nation, and the globe.

“World’s Tallest Symbol of Freedom”

Built by Acuity Insurance Company, it is located at 2800 South Taylor Drive in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, the home of Acuity.

The flagpole is one of the most visible landmarks on the Interstate 43 corridor, and the flag serves as a symbol of gratitude to our country and those who defend it.

At the base of the pole is a Veterans Memorial, which features the names of every Sheboygan County veteran killed in the line of duty.

The Flagpole stands 400 feet tall, which is nearly 100 feet taller than The Statue of Liberty.
This is the tallest Flagpole in the world flying a U.S. flag.
The Flagpole weighs approximately 420,000 pounds.
The Flagpole is designed to withstand a low temperature of -42o F and wind speeds of 120mph.
Three pendulum-style tuned mass dampers reduce movement and vibration.
The pole has an 11-foot diameter at base, and tapers to a 5 1/2-foot diameter at the top.
680 cubic yards of concrete were used in its foundation.
Over 500 gallons of paint cover the pole.

About the Flag:
The 70 by 140-foot flag is the world’s largest free-flying American flag.
Each stripe is over 5 feet high.
Each star is nearly 3 feet across.
The flag covers 9,800 square feet, and weighs 340 pounds.

A couple of notes regarding the building of this Flagpole:
This was the company’s fourth attempt to build the country’s tallest flagpole.
The first was built in 2003, and was 150 feet tall. It was then expanded to 200 feet, but toppled in a winter storm. The next pole was 300 feet, and it was replaced by a 338-foot pole. In April of 2008, that Flagpole was seen swaying in the wind.
Six years later, in 2014, the 400-foot pole was built to last, and was officially dedicated on June 16, 2014.

Here’s a video look at the building of the Flagpole, and the reasons for it. As you will hear, it stands not just as a symbol of freedom, but of hope and inspiration. As one Veteran stated, and this is so true of any U.S. Flag we are privileged to see flying, “There’s nothing like the sight of that American Flag flying in the wind … it really means a lot …”

For more information, visit www.acuity.com/flag

 

Advertisements

Wealth Stored for the Righteous-Part 16

Hi Friends:

It is good to be back to writing.

With job, business, and other writing responsibilities, it’s funny how “your first love” gets pushed “to the back.” Plus, the opportunity to travel has also figured into the time equation.

We’re back to our series, in which, yes, we are thankful for what our Heavenly future holds, but, let’s not forget all of the benefits … all of the blessings … we can enjoy right now. I note that I use the term “can enjoy” right now, and realize why: There are just so many blessings we have, in our life right now, which, often, we take for granted. And, just like Spiritual benefits and blessings, there are many that we are not taking advantage of … even though, they are “ours” to use and enjoy … freely …

There is one great advantage we have in the United States, which, sadly, is not enjoyed by many countries around the globe. A great advantage, a great privilege, a great blessing, which we, as we do with so many “privileges” we enjoy in this country, take for granted. And, since we take this privilege for granted, it often becomes “unused.” This is such a basic privilege and, yes, freedom, we enjoy here in the United States. Ready?

The freedom to travel.
Period.
The freedom and liberty to travel.
What a blessing, a great advantage, and a great privilege we enjoy here in the United States. I’m not so sure if this isn’t near the top of the list for most “under-rated” privileges and freedoms we have here. A freedom which so many, in so many countries, can’t enjoy … because they don’t have this freedom that we, sadly, take for granted.

Especially after writing the series regarding Christian persecution around the world, to begin to understand what is happening in other countries, I have really been struck by how awesome a freedom and privilege it is, to just “get in the car and go.” Just as significant to me is thinking about how many of us, here in the United States (and other places), which have this liberty and freedom, yet don’t take advantage of it.

I think of the United States, for this example, as a continent. Like, say, Africa. Or, a block of countries in the Middle East. Instead of individual, separate countries, here we have “states.” I know, we all know this. Yet, think about it: We can “move” between states, without any problem or trouble at all. No “check-points” or other heavily guarded “militia-points” to carefully get screened-with our lives depending upon it-every time we cross into a different state. Think about it: You enter into another “state,” and after an intensive search (think of the time this would take, travelers), you are informed, by military personnel, that you have to turn back … you can’t enter … based upon … well, a variety of things, like political affiliation or religious beliefs …
Can you imaging, in the middle of your vacation … having to turn around, and go back? Just because of the political party you belong to, or because of your faith?

Let’s put it this way: “?????!!!!!?????!!!!!”
Etc.

If this would happen to you, and your family, just once … think about it …

Did I mention that, often, at stations such as these … the potential to be arrested for either of these “violations” (politics or faith) could mean that, not only could you be prevented from entering the country, but … but … you could get arrested. This also means being separated from your family. Etc.

I’m sorry, but I can’t help thinking about 2 groups of people I know:
I love to hike, and, when I hike, I like to enjoy the whole experience. I’m the type that likes to stop and identity every tree. This is called “taking my time.” I have hiked with people whose goal, it seems, is to set a new land-speed record. They hike faster than I run.
The other group are those who go on “vacation,” but rush, rush, rush. I won’t mention the “always on cellphone” issue, or try to, you guessed it … set a new land-speed record for moving from place to place. Can you imagine either of these two groups traveling throughout most of the world, in these war-torn countries?

Recently, we traveled down to Connecticut, meaning going through Massachusetts, and then we spent time over in Rhode Island. It was during this trip that I began to think about how easy it is for us to go from “place to place.” No check-points. No military. Here is what strikes me now, still thinking about our nation being divided into states, and not countries. Again, please consider the context. What if Massachusetts was war-torn? Think about how that would affect our travel. Just to get to Connecticut, or Rhode Island, not wanting to take a chance on what could happen in Massachusetts, it could add days to our travel time.

We’ve spent a lot of time in Maine recently. What if Maine was war-torn? The other part of that scenario is this, and, please consider this: If our neighboring “states” were in the midst of war … how long would it be, before the war crept into our “state?’ Just think about how that would affect every area … every decision … every move … in your life.

I feel a sadness for those who are able, but don’t, travel. Our country is so beautiful. And … And … so accessible ….You can just “get in your car and go.”

Boy, do we take a lot for granted.
OK … OK … I complained about the toll in Maine … We were on 95 for maybe 50 miles, and we had to pay 3 tolls … something like 2.75 in total … Yes, I did think that, if you pay the toll … why can’t you drive as fast as you want???
I even thought about how much money …. As I do each time (I’ll admit it) I pay a toll … I thought about how much money they must make from the toll … How could we be in debt??? How could there be bad places on the road?

Sorry, but I always think the same thought, after thinking about gross mismanagement … I mean … after thinking about all the money collected … I thought about how having a lottery would provide so much money for … yes, our schools and such …. How could we be in debt???

It’s been years … and, I still haven’t figured out the New Jersey Turnpike …

Other subjects for another time, perhaps.

Anyway, what a great, beautiful country we have! And, it is there for the visiting!

I think about a speech which President John F. Kennedy made in the early ’60’s. How he promised that we would land a man on the moon before the end of the decade. But, that was only part of the goal. Not just to land a man on the moon … but, bring them back safely … I think about how, in today’s world, the way it is right now … the possibility of just traveling to another “state” and returning safely … is an impossibility …

Yes, there are costs associated with travel. But, in the context of this writing, what a privilege and blessing it is, to be allowed to freely go “anywhere we want,” without having to worry about what so much of the world has to worry about, as a part of their daily lives.

So, OK, let’s talk about “costs” associated with travel. Our freedom, as a nation, was paid for … at a dear, dear cost. Our continued freedom … the privilege and liberty to travel from state to state, continues to be paid for, by the sacrifices of our men and women actively serving around the world …Our freedom, as Christians, the liberty we have, was paid for, at the highest cost imaginable, God’s only Son. What great benefits and blessing we enjoy as we travel along life’s highway … Sadly, I think of those who don’t take advantage …

Blessings to you, and you family,
Richard. Vincent. Rose.

 

Winter Clearance and “Tulips in the Snow”

It’s hard to believe the difference less than a month makes in the landscape. I’m going to share some pictures I took less than a month ago …

Today is May 4th, the birds are all singing, the grass is visible, the temperature is in the low 80’s, and I just felt a warm breeze … a warm breeze …

It’s hard not to get “giddy” this time of year. After a long, hard Winter, which fell on much of the country, we can finally, finally say that Spring has arrived. The groundhog was, of course, right again: He came out of his den on February 2nd … did not see his shadow (it was cloudy that day-not unusual for early February) … and, there would be 6 weeks elapse before Spring … a quick check of the calendar proves that Spring does come 6 weeks later …

Which begs the question, “How many of us would be so glad to have only 6 more weeks of Winter after the first week of February?” This year seemed to be especially brutal for so much of the United States. But, Spring has arrived.

I wanted to write something about Winter finally being gone, but needed to wait until all of the snow was gone from the yard. We had our last snow about 2 weeks ago, and the temperatures have slowly, slowly been going up-at night! As I look at the 10-day forecast, only tomorrow night is predicted to be in the 30’s. You have to understand how big that is. Today is Monday, and we finally shut the pellet stove down this past Saturday. When that happens, Winter is officially over. I wait to shut the heat down until we don’t have any night coming up in the 30’s. Tomorrow night is a surprise, but on Saturday, for the first time in several months, there wasn’t an overnight low in the 30’s predicted, and we would see 70’s on some days in the near future. That’s the signal we wait for … and, so, after about 8 tons of pellets (that’s 16,000 pounds of pellets), we “shut ‘er down.” Spring has officially arrived.

It is still hard to not stop on the way upstairs from the garage, upon arriving home, to not reach for a bag of pellets. After all, since November, every time I’ve climbed those stairs, I’ve grabbed a bag of pellets to carry with me. It seems odd to not have to stop, drop everything, and tend to the stove before I do anything else in the house … Which brings to mind this:

“Even good takes time to get used to.”
Richard. Vincent. Rose.

I have, for some time now, wanted to have a “final Winter post,’ and put my “left-over” Snow poems in to share. Looks like that will wait until next year. No pellet stove … no heat at all going … that takes some getting used to.

Today is May 4th, and the last of the snow has now melted. I mean, literally, today, as we still had a small amount of snow/ice in the yard yesterday. I worked out in the yard on Friday night, the first time in months, and, as I walked around the yard, I felt like a prisoner which had just been released. I’m serious. That’s how I felt. In a way, we are “kept prisoner” by the snow and cold and snow and cold of our Winters, just like many of you. Being able to walk around, outside, without tall boots and layers and layers and layers of clothing … it was, like, being released out into the world … a world you haven’t been able to “walk around in” for several months … At least I don’t make it dramatic …

We are able to park the vehicles outside. This makes it official. No more nights with frost.
Today … we used our clothesline … we actually have clothes outside … and, they will dry. Not just that … but, we dried towels on the line!!! You just have “to be here” to understand how big that is.

I am wearing shorts (this may be TMI, but, remember, this is an “event” up here). For the last 3 days, I’ve been able to wear a t-shirt outside-without layers and layers and layers … Today, for the first time in so many months … I am barefoot, and walking outside … Again, you just have to “be here” to understand how big that is …

It was one month ago, yes, it was Easter weekend, and we traveled through the snow … to visit the Tropics … I mean, leave “the ‘notches” and travel South … to Connecticut … As predicted, it was a snowstorm here (remember, it was only early, early April), and, as we drove out of Franconia Notch … the sky opened up … the sun was out … and, each mile we traveled diminished the amount of snow on the roadsides … We still had between 1-2 feet of snow in the yard at this time, and the snow was piled up, still, close to the roof of the garage … but, as we traveled south, visions of sunshine danced in our heads, and, with each stop along the way, more and more layers came off …

Connecticut, as a whole, got more snow than we did this Winter. This doesn’t mean we didn’t get any, just that they got a lot, lot of snow. It was one of the coldest, most severe Winters on record there, and in a lot of other places. The whole Spring growing season was thrown off, even in Connecticut. At Easter, we usually see flowers up, many blooming, etc. But, this year, this was not the case. While the snow was gone, the effects of the long, long Winter were evident in the lack of new growth.

We were given, as a gift (and an encouragement), a pot of tulips … in bloom … Good ‘ol grocery store! We returned home from the Tropics of Connecticut with a tank full of anti-freeze, and a flower pot full of tulips! So, in early April, as we arrived home to even more snow, and more snow and cold to come … at least we had flowers in bloom …Granted, this is the only way you get flowers in bloom up here in early April … but, we’ll take them! I could not resist the temptation to take pictures, and they turned out pretty good … almost have a surreal look to them.

I placed the flower pot out on the railing of our front deck, and snapped a couple of pictures. This was less than a month ago, and you can see the snow-covered spruce trees behind, and the road covered with snow. And, it was cold! But, up here, in early April, we’ll take flowers any way we can get them … even imported from the Tropics!!!

I am reminded of the verse in Genesis (one of my Mom’s favorite verses) where God promises that as long as the earth remains, there will be seasons …

I am reminded how symbolic this “Winter into Spring” transformation is … how, because of the “new birth,” old things “are passed away, and all things become new.”

I also think of this: How just a couple of days, even a few precious moments, wipes away several months, even years, of frustration.

So, maybe our Spring arrives late … but, boy! Do we appreciate its arrival!
I’m thinking … Which do we anticipate more … appreciate more?
The end of Winter? Or, the arrival of Spring?
I’d say both.
Thank God for the promise of Springtime.
It’s here!
So are His promises.

Here’s the photos:

“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” ( Genesis 8:22).

“While the earth remaineth … cold and heat, and summer and winter … shall not cease”
( Genesis 8:22).

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

Blessings,
Richard. Vincent. Rose.

 

62 Degrees and Sunny: What Does This Mean?

I have written often of how “different” the weather is up here in the Great North Woods of New Hampshire. I still get that “I just can’t believe it” insinuations when I am trying to describe our weather to friends across the ‘states (especially Southern) and the Globe.

Mark Twain said about the weather in New England, “If you don’t like the weather, give it ten minutes. It’ll change.” Mark Twain was right, you know. Of course, I try to use a Mark Twain quote whenever I can, especially after visiting his home in Hartford (I actually hosted a series of meetings there), and saw his beautiful billiard table … in the room where he did so much of his writing, scattering the pages across the table … Proving that to be a great American writer … you need a billiard table … Carol is close to accepting this, and I don’t miss an opportunity to use this example …

Anyway, Mark Twain was as right about his thoughts on the weather in New England, as he was about his choice of furnishings…

On Thursday morning (and Wednesday), it was 12 degrees up here. This morning … Friday morning … this Good Friday before Easter Sunday … it was 50 degrees … I’m sorry, but, when I saw the temperature this morning, the first thought I had was, “You know what that means. A snow storm is coming.”

Well, when I got home from School this afternoon … I was late because I had to pick up some wood heat pellets for our pellet shove … After using 7 (seven) tons of pellets so far … we ran out of our supply, so we are doing the annual “12 bags at a time until June thing” … it was 62 degrees on the front porch. And … And … And … It was sunny!!!
Guess what that means?
I bet Mark Twain was a great pool player…

That’s right … let’s look at the forecast for this, what is considered to be the first real weekend of Spring:
This is a real “copy and paste” from the Weather Channel’s Online Forecast:

TONIGHT
37°
Rain/Snow Late
100%
Partly cloudy skies this evening will give way to cloudy skies with a mixture of rain and
snow developing overnight. Low 37F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precip 100%.

How about tomorrow, Saturday, April 4 … I mean … after the sun comes up:

SATURDAY
38°
Rain/Snow
100% 1-3 in
SATURDAY
Cloudy with rain and snow in the morning. Snow showers in the afternoon. Morning high of
38F with temps falling to near freezing. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of precip 100%.
1 to 3 inches of snow expected.

OK … just one more peek ahead … How about Saturday night: I mean, the NCAAs are on… I mean … the Masters start the practice rounds on Monday … I think baseball season (remember that?) starts on Sunday….

SAT NIGHT
18°
A few clouds. Flurries or snow showers possible late. Low 18F. Winds W at 10 to 20 mph.

Hey-Great! I was wondering when the high winds would start!

Anyway … just to get that “so, we don’t have it as bad as a lot of other people” feeling, I decided to check on the weather in Minneapolis, MN … that should get me to feeling better …
“Mostly sunny and 56 degrees” tomorrow …

OK … one more … Guess what? We will be traveling to Connecticut and then Rhode Island tomorrow, so we won’t be here!!! Yes … this is always dependent upon if we can actually
make it out of here …

Allow me to mention an Easter Sunday a few years ago, when we went the same route, down to Connecticut… When we left on Saturday morning … it was snowing here … but, not too bad … as we got through one of the “notches” enroute to the Interstate, we ran into a full-scale blizzard … the visibility was near zero … the roads weren’t plowed, and, this is for real … we didn’t know if we’d be able to make it through the snow … it was a terrible situation to be caught in …
As we left Franconia Notch, heading South, the sun seemed to just “come out.” To appear.
The farther South, the less snow … By the time we reached Massachusetts, there was hardly any snow on the sides of the road at all.

That Sunday, Easter Sunday, we were at a family gathering … a cookout … around the backyard pool. It was in the Mid-70’s, and everyone was wearing shorts, or something similar to go into the pool swimming. I swear I remember someone starting up the lawn mower and, taking their shirt off because of the heat, to finish mowing the lawn. Keep in mind, this was only 245 miles south of here … We came through a blizzard just hours before … it really was like being in the tropics! Except all we had to wear was
flannel and heavy coats…

So, when I joke around about how “different” the weather is up here in the North Country, I guess I’m really not joking … nor am I complaining … that’s just the way it is…

And, I can tell you this for certain: There may be spots with better weather … But, I don’t think they enjoy days like today as much as we did. We really do appreciate the good weather.

I’ll close with this: I was loading the bags of pellets in the truck, when I, very jokingly, said, “It’s too hot!” The man helping me told me that, believe it or not … a customer, today, already complained about how warm it was…

So, I’ll close for me, believe it or not, our pellet stove (our heat) has been off since about 12:45 today, and it’s still off … I need to clean the pellet stove before the next Storm … in a few hours…

Not to worry … We are leaving for Connecticut in the morning. I just checked, and in Hartford, CT, where Mark Twain’s billiard table is located (I bet he loved that billiard table!), the weather is supposed to be 50 degrees and sunny … even better on Sunday in
Rhode Island…

… If we can make it out of here…
Blessings,
R.V.R.

Road Reflections-Part Four (How Sweet it Is!)

Recently, in this series, I wrote that “I would just make a list, as we went, of things which I was seeing, and heard, which I don’t see or hear much of, north of the Line.”
I also clearly stated that “this is not a “better than” or “worse than” type of recording.”

Well … here goes … as I read from the notes which Carol and I jotted down, as we just took it easy this summer, traveling through the Southland…

I wrote of the “significance” of that “Line.” It matters not to me, but, to others, the “Line” seems to be a big deal.
Still.
Sorry … but, the way that I was raised, the “North/South Thing” just doesn’t matter anymore. I’m glad about that.

See, when I think of a “Line,” one which is drawn, and people have to choose which side to stand on … I only think of the line which William Barrette Travis drew in the sand at the Alamo … the line which Jim Bowie, sick and on a stretcher, had his men pick him up, and move him “across the line.” That’s it.

However … it must still be an issue, this North and South thing … right?
No, you say, it can’t be.

I noticed that, yes, even the “National Geographic” Channel has a new program (maybe not new, I don’t watch a lot of television) which, I gather from the commercials I’ve seen, pits the North vs. the South. It is some kind of fishing reality program … hey, I’m not making this up … it is about tuna fishermen … yes, tuna fishermen, and it is called something like, “Tuna … North vs. South.” You may think I’m crazy, but, apparently, this is the premise of the show. No … really … (I feel like I should say something like, “‘No, don’t hang up!”) … This is National Geographic Television … I haven’t watched “network” television in years, but didn’t National Geographic used to be legitimate …??? I mean, I still see their magazines in the dentist’s office …

Sweet Tea: This would be close to first on the list. I love “Sweet Tea.” Here we go … Sweet tea is a staple of the South, I must admit. I can’t recall how many restaurants I’ve been to, in the “North,” at which I’ve attempted to order “Sweet Tea.” Yes, Sweet Tea. They will always say the same thing: “We only have unsweetened tea .. We can bring you the unsweetened tea, and we have sugar packets on the table.” Here goes … the formula for “Sweet Tea” can’t be a secret … can it??? The answer is always the same … they will bring you a glass of tea … you have sugar packets at your table … but, apparently … the formula for combining the two has not been discovered …

Sweet Tea: Prepare the tea, as unsweetened. Then, add sugar.
Have I just revealed a secret recipe?
Yes … that’s correct … to make Sweet Tea … combine the tea with sugar:
Fact: If you don’t add the sugar, it is not “Sweet” Tea.
Fact: (Critical): If you don’t add the sugar, it is “unsweetened tea.” This is a fact which you apparently already know.
Fact: If you don’t add the sugar, you don’t know what you’re missing.
Fact: Absence makes the heart grow fonder. (I just wanted to throw this in-When was the last time you heard this?)
Added Fact to Above Fact: McDonald’s is the only source I know of which has “Sweet Tea” in the “North,” and, frankly … it’s really good.
Fact: McDonald’s Sweet Tea is really good.
Fact: It is also on sale.
Fact: Love their milkshakes, but “Sweet Tea” is always on sale.
Fact (Additional-TMI): I’m a “Dollar Menu” kind of guy.
Fact: You can sit in your truck in a McDonald’s parking lot, go in, and “fill ‘err up” with real Sweet Tea …

Fact I Just Learned by Going to the Official McDonald’s Website:
You are not going to believe this … I mean … you are not going to believe this …
Remember, I just wrote that, up North, when it comes to Sweet Tea, which requires the physical pairing of both tea and sugar, “the formula for combining the two has not been discovered …”

I know … you think I am just making that up …
But, when I did a Google search for “McDonald’s sweet tea” (actual search term), here is what came up, first, after the official McDonald’s links:
“Top Secret Recipes | McDonald’s Sweet Tea Copycat Recipe.”

Yes, when you search for “McDonald’s Sweet Tea,” the first link that comes up is “Top Secret Recipes.”

I’m not making this up: The fact is that, yes, the fact that you can combine tea with sugar, making something called “Sweet Tea” (because of the tea being mixed with sugar), is, in fact, considered a “Secret Formula.” I am really not making this up.

Note: There is also a link, when you search for “McDonald’s sweet tea,” which has this for the headline: “Copy Cat McDonalds Sweet Tea.”
Additional Note: There is also a link which, is a “must see” on YouTube, which is this:
“How McDonald’s sweet tea is made! Must see – YouTube.”

Again, I may have just given away a secret, which, apparently is widely regarded as a mystery:
Please allow me to repeat:

Sweet Tea: Prepare the tea, as unsweetened. Then, add sugar.
Yes … that’s correct … to make Sweet Tea … combine the tea with sugar:
Hint: It is the sugar which makes it sweet.
Fact: If you don’t add the sugar, it is not “Sweet” Tea.
Fact: (Critical): If you don’t add the sugar, it is “unsweetened tea.” This is a fact which you apparently already know.
Fact: If you don’t add the sugar, you don’t know what you’re missing.

What a country!
Blessings,
Richard. Vincent. Rose.

The “Dirt” On Creation

Recently, we shared an old email post, one of the “Classics” which I had received many years ago, entitled, “The Scientists and Dirt.”

I think this is the first time I’ve added to one of these shared stories, as I always feel that they stand alone, and I always post them without any introduction or comment.
I pray every day that I will think the right things, do the right things, and say the right things.
“Think right, do right.”

The biggest trouble I seem to always have is not saying the right thing. Usually, this is some light-hearted comment I’ve made, which I meant well by saying, but … I should have been more serious at the time. It’s just that I have so much joy inside, that, often, it “gets the best of me,” and I joke when maybe I shouldn’t. Among my concerns is always this:
If I am perceived as a joker … What happens when I try to share the Gospel … Or, just try to share something which God has done for me?

However … sometimes … even I … yes, me … can say the right thing at the right time. I mean, it can happen, can’t it? So, I had one of those moments recently, which I’d like to share. Something I said … just one word (maybe that’s the secret?) … one moment in time, when I actually said the right thing, at the right time. You know … one of those moments when, to yourself, you give yourself a “high five” …

I was in need of some dirt. No … not “topsoil,” which certain people call it. When I need to fill a hole, or add a new layer … I need dirt, period.
I try to work outside as much as possible in those few weeks we get to do so, and so I am always in need of at least a couple of bags of dirt. Yes, I buy dirt. Don’t laugh: Not long ago, I can remember when the thought of actually buying “water” was far-fetched. I tried digging some dirt from one spot, and filling in another spot, but then … I would have to go back to the original spot and buy some dirt to fill the hole … well, you get the idea.

So I needed some dirt, so I went to the “large department store” in our town. You all know the one: Where you can buy fertilizer and groceries in the same building. You can even put them in the same cart! When it comes to dirt, I just want a bag of dirt … so, I go to where I can get it the cheapest … After all, it’s just dirt …

Anyway, I cruised the parking lot to make sure that the dirt I wanted was there … it was … and, I wrote the price down (yes I did!) to have it ready at checkout …

All I needed was dirt, so I went to the “20 items or less” EXPRESS LINE … Yes, I spent the 20 minutes in line counting the individual items in the carts ahead of me! Finally, after thinking, “Look-I’ll pay the extra for the “price-check,” my turn finally came!!!

After a friendly greeting, I advised that I wanted to buy 6 bags of topsoil … being in the city and all, I figured I’d use language they’d understand. She said something like, “No problem,” and then picked up that black notebook … the one that has all of the items with the barcodes printed, in order to scan my purchase …

She couldn’t find it. I thought about how many types of dirt, or “topsoil” could there be …
How about I just give her the price from my note sheet I had used to record the price from the parking lot? Funny me … I did not think to write down the bar code with the price …

Funny how you don’t mind being there “as long as it takes” when it is you holding up the Express Line … How dare those people think those thoughts about you (which, by the way, were the same thoughts you had when you were 3 back in line) … Anyway, too late to make such a short story short … But, here goes with the whole idea behind the story … How I finally said the right thing at the right time … And, you guessed it … it came without thinking …

The young lady looked up at me, after going through page after page of barcodes … and, she innocently asked, “Who makes it?”
My one word reply:
“God.”

She looked at me with one of those looks I often get:
A cross between, “That’s the greatest line I’ve ever heard,” and,
“This guy is nuts!”

I pray I can be that “nutty” in the future.

Blessings,
R.V.R.

Road Reflections: Part Three

As we were traveling through the Southland, I had the notion that I would just make a list, as we went, of things which I was seeing, and in many cases which I heard, which I don’t see or hear much of, north of the Line. Did I just mention a “Line?” Well … there must still be, because it was clearly marked with signage, and I’ve crossed it at least twice in the last few weeks.

Please note that this is not a “better than” or “worse than” type of recording. It had been years it seemed (even though we were in the Deep South just last Summer) since I had just taken it easy on a trip, taking the time to notice-and enjoy-my surroundings. The United States and its people are beautiful. I have written “Northern Songs” and “Southern Songs” with the same degree of love and devotion. I have written State songs and regional songs, each reflecting the individual characteristics of a particular region. Each state and region has such a remarkable part to play in the vast beauty of our Country. I love the entire United States, its people, and its countryside. I’ve had the opportunity to laud its people and places on many public occasions, including the publication of the new Anthem for American, “The Eagle Still Flies.” I don’t take sides … because I love both sides …

Yes, I’ve gotten it from “both sides” regarding the fact that I lived on one “side” or other. I’ve been made fun of, or ridiculed, from both sides. Mostly good-natured ribbing, but … sometimes I have my doubts …
Well … here goes … I have had well-meaning (I hope) people look me right in the eye … almost in a defensive stance of some kind … and, in speaking of the Civil War … they would, point-blank, ask me, “Which side you on?” Don’t laugh-I’ve had it happen more than once.
Here’s my answer … the only answer which I can give, because it’s the truth:
“Neither … I wasn’t in it.”
My only additional response is usually one of two thoughts, both from the heart:
“There were great men on both sides.”
Or, I will quote Robert E. Lee, who said, “We are all equal at the foot of the cross.”

… Something tells me I’m not going to get to that list …

One of the first things I noticed when I first moved to New England, from the Deep South, is that you just didn’t hear much about the Civil War. I say this honestly, and sincerely. Keep in mind that I was born and raised in the Deep South, where it was just part of your every day surroundings. You are literally surrounded by Civil War history, and its battlefields. In fact, the first real home I remember, and we lived there for several years, was very close to Chickamauga Battlefield, and we were surrounded, every day, by the War’s history. My love for history began with learning about the Civil War. It had to, as I lived where it happened. Growing up, we were just as likely to find a mini-ball as a prized arrowhead.

There is nothing civil about war.

When you are in New England, the war that you are surrounded by, mostly, is the Revolutionary War, and therefore, much of what you see and learn about is about that war. Again, you are surrounded by that history, much like you would be surrounded by the history of whatever area you lived in.

Yes, I’m proud of my Southern heritage, for many reasons, including because of my family, and the way we were raised. It is “just different” being in the South, just like it is different being in the North, or the West, or the West Coast, or the Pacific Northwest, or … well, you get the idea.

And, yes, I got yelled at … in Virginia … in the Shenandoah Valley, at a concert, when the lead singer answered my cry for a particular song … He yelled, “No! No Free Bird!!!” But, the band did break into another Lynyrd Skynyrd classic …

Please allow me to say this: Every place that I have ever lived, every place that I have ever visited, regardless of how close or far, everywhere I’ve been, it was a “different world” there.
Think about this: Everywhere I’ve ever worked, regardless of what state or city or region, that place was its own, different world. I’ve worked at fast food places and large retail chains. Plus, it seems that everyone that I’ve ever talked with about their job, they all say pretty much the same thing:
“It’s its own world.”

Something else: Every place, every town, every city, every “where ever” that I’ve ever lived in, I have heard the same, exact thing: “If you’re not born and raised here …”
I hate to break the news, but, individually, we really don’t have any control over where we are born. And, if I’m not mistaken, individually, we also don’t have any control over who our parents are …
Yet, I still see it all the time, and so have most of you. There was a lady who ran for a public office for a city which we had moved to. Now, I love this lady, and she was really the first person we met when we visited that particular town, when we were just “looking around.” We all hit it off immediately, and I report this only for the example, as I still highly respect her: In the ads she ran to get people to vote for her, this was her platform, and the only statement she made to inform the voting populace of her qualifications for high office, and I quote it as closely to exact as I can. Here was her advertised qualifications:
“Born and raised in ________.”

That was it. In her mind, she felt she had to say what would get her the most votes. That’s what a political ad is for, right? I don’t know if it says more about her, or the mind of the voters. Anyway, I use that as an example.
I was even watching the movie “Jaws” recently. And, the sheriff’s wife was having a discussion on the beach, with one of the business ladies from town. Remember that Amityville was an island. The discussion was directed to Ellen Brody to explain that, if you weren’t born and raised on the Island … “Ellen … you’re just not an Islander.”

I am even tempted, to mumble this on occasion, when accosted “up here” by the fact that I wasn’t born or raised here. I fire back something about the Pilgrims … that it was amazing … they weren’t born here either … yet they chose to come here … to this country … for freedom …to live how … and, where … they wished … without persecution …

For some reason, I have always felt that it was more of an honor bestowed upon a town, if a person and family decided to move there. That it would place more emphasis on the fact that they were there by choice … rather than being “bound there” for the rest of their lives ….

Guess I’m not going to get to that list … for now …

Blessings,
R.V.R.