February 27, 2009


Category: News — Ira @ 6:22 pm


Bumpety-bumpety-bump went the wheels of the cart, and
the tired old bunny grumbled again.

“What did you say this time?” asked Billy Beaver.

“Oh, nothing.”

“Yes, you did. I heard you grumbling.”

“Well, I just said that this bridge underneath us is bumpy.
It shakes me all around and hurts my tail.”

–Excerpt, children’s story: “A Ride to Animal Town”

I’m in a grumpy mood this week. Generally irritated at life. And since that’s where I am, I’ll be a grouch. And grumble. Be forewarned.

Lately, there’s been lots of drama skulking about, here and there, demanding lots of attention. Stuff going on. Entirely too much. On the peripheral. And, boom, front and center. Real crap, most of it. From old sources, and new. It’s draining. I can’t do much about it. Except vent on the minor stuff. The major stuff, well, it’s currently not vent-able. Might never be, except maybe to my counselor.

My conclusion: problems not faced and resolved in their infancy inevitably expand to vast looming mountains, shrouded by roiling storms and great deadly thunderbolts. Always. Seems to be some sort of law.

I should go to Florida, I suppose. As any sane person would. Where some of my friends are hanging out right this second. Probably some who are reading this, even. Basking in the sun and soaking up the fine warm weather. Pitying us shivering morons up north.

In my running around years, I made it to Sarasota twice. In 1981, I was down for almost a year, staying through the summer. Not exactly a picnic, the summer weather. Hot doesn’t describe it. And later, in early 1987 for a few months. Worked for Dennis Borntrager, the mason contractor, both times. In those days, I lived on a shoestring budget, traveling and working. Existed on that hard thin line of barely making enough to survive. But somehow always getting by, saving enough to move on to the next destination. A rolling stone, I gathered no moss, except in experiences.

I haven’t been down since February, 2007, just over two years. When some pretty ugly stuff hit the fan. Not that the specter of those memories is keeping me away. And not that that I don’t have lots of invitations from my southern friends to come and stay awhile. But I’m the kind of guy who gets stuck in stubborn routine, and if that means waiting out a particularly long harsh winter, so be it.

Meanwhile back here at the ranch, the winds raged for about six straight days in the past week, as the endless winter drags on. One of the longest in my memory, or maybe I’m just slipping in old age. No such thing as Indian summer this year. (Or is that a politically incorrect term these days?) We got blitzed with winter in early November. And it’s hung on since then, vastly overstaying its welcome. Cold, snow, cold, snow, cold, cold, cold. Incessant, day after day, week after week. It’s enough to drive a normally sane person stark raving mad. Stir crazy. Loopy.

Of course, today, the day I post, it was a balmy sixty degrees for the first time in months. But I’m not fooled. It’s a trick. Winter is NOT over, by any stretch. I hear rumblings of a big snow storm this weekend.

So I sit and stew. Feel grumpy. And sluggish. The dry desert season in sports has descended in a great cloud of gloom, as it always does this time of year. The long slog through winter into spring. No football to watch, since the Super Bowl a few weeks ago. Baseball still a distant spring dream. Only basketball remains, and I cannot force myself to watch that awful game. (And all you fanatical Hoosiers, save it. It IS an awful game.)

I usually have a game on TV as I’m writing of an evening. Keep tabs on things out of the corner of my eye. Stop, relax and watch the replays of a particularly outstanding play. In this dry season, I’ve been reduced to watching the Smoky Mountain Knife Works a couple evenings a week. Good ole southern boys, with their lazy drawls, hawking expensive collectible knives. It’s amazing, what’s out there. And actually pretty interesting, although I have not yet been tempted to call with credit card in hand.

To top off my bad mood, Fred the Curmudgeon has retired. Again. This time I think he means it. A huge loss. Whatever anyone thinks of the man and his views, one thing was true. He could write. Beautifully. Concisely. Brutally. Incisively. I’m running out of adjectives here. No one, and I mean no one, could skewer Washington and the fat cat politicians better than Fred. Or anyone else he set his sights on. Now he’s gone. I’ve lost an old friend, feels like.

I am deeply grateful to him for the influence he’s had on my own writing. Since starting this blog back in 2007, I think it’s safe to say I’ve found my writing voice. No small thing, that. It had eluded me for years, decades even, when I hardly wrote at all. With the possible exception of Thomas Wolfe, Fred Reed has impacted me more than any other person. Now and again I’ll go back and re-read some of his old stuff, just to get a feel for his style again. Perhaps one day I can take up his mantle and be known as Ira the Curmudgeon. I would carry such a title with great pride. But I’d have to earn it first. And I’m not there yet.

So I sit and stew some more and think grumpy thoughts. Which isn’t quite brooding, just a step above. Dream of spring and hot summer days and the thick green carpet of grass growing in the yard. Barbecuing for my friends. And think about what it would be like to hang out with Fred in Mexico, in one of those little hole in the wall bars he loves. Eating chicken wings and quaffing beer.

I think the winter weather is getting to the everyday Joe on the street. Last week one day at work, a regular customer walked in from the cold to pick up some metal he’d ordered. Hot on his heels a tall rangy redneck rushed in, steam practically billowing from his ears. The redneck approached my customer, who was standing just across the counter from me.

The redneck wasted no time on niceties. “Are you the guy driving that pickup and trailer outside?” he demanded belligerently.

My customer allowed that he was. The redneck lurched forward into my customer’s face. Loudly cursed him for cutting off his tractor trailer on the highway, a short distance away from our shop. The customer recoiled, then as stridently defended himself, and the two of them were off to the races. I rolled my eyes in disbelief. This was all I needed. Blows would come next. Whacking each other, right in my office. Seemed like the next logical step, anyway. We’d get sued, if someone got hurt. What with all those hungry shark attorneys out there.

After twenty seconds or so, I inserted myself. “Guys,” I said, loudly and firmly. They quieted briefly and looked at me. “If you have issues, take them outside.” The redneck immediately seized on that and invited the customer outside to fight. So I rephrased my statement. “If you have issues, take them off this property.”

Ignoring me, they went at it again. Blows were imminent. For sure, this time. Again, I interrupted. Pointing at the redneck trucker, I said firmly, “You. Get off this property. Now. Or I’m calling the cops.”

The redneck tried to ignore me, but I persisted. Get out. Now. He finally walked toward the door, but just before reaching it, he turned. The two of them resumed yelling and cursing across the showroom. Fortunately, no other customers were present. One more time, I pointed. “Get out now. Off this property. Or I’m calling the cops.”

The redneck stared at me, then slowly and deliberately lifted his middle finger in a grand flourish. He seemed practiced in the motion. I looked at him in disgust, and repeated my command. Again. He finally stomped out. I calmed the customer and prevented him from running outside after the redneck, who boarded his 18 wheeler and roared away.

I suspect the redneck trucker had good reasons to be irate. Furious, even. But you don’t just go bursting into a business and start yelling at customers. Not when I’m behind the counter.

The long winter drags on.

And the minor irritants roll on. I’m sick to death of the mass media coverage of the Octu-Mom, the poor woman in CALIfornia who had eight babies. Eight. At once. Just unbelievable. A welfare recipient, she somehow manipulated the system and convinced a doctor to fertilize her.

The relentless media instantly circled like wolves, hounding the woman day and night. How could she justify bringing so many more babies into the world when she couldn’t afford to feed or house them? All valid points. But the overkill has been so brutal, so one-sided, that I actually pity the poor woman.

Seems to me everyone is missing an important point. The eight little babies. They are alive, little persons, human beings. Yes, the mother was obviously troubled and misguided in her original actions. But that was then. This is now. They are here. I’m a little disappointed that local churches in the area are not stepping up and offering to help care for the babies. It’s not the State’s job.

The poor woman has received death threats. From people more troubled than she is. The public should stop raging at her and rage instead at the CALIfornia welfare system that allows such expenditures in the first place. No wonder they’re going bankrupt out there.

But all is not gloom and doom and grumpiness. Last week I mentioned that I’d never been to Holmes County, even for a visit. Since then, my friend John Schmid and I have been negotiating a time this summer when he will actually be at home for a weekend instead of gallivanting around all over the world, doing the Lord’s work. If he discovers such a free weekend, I will travel to Holmes for a visit. John has assured me that the entire itinerary will be planned, all I have to do is show up. So I’m looking forward to meeting all the fine people that John claims live there. Ditto for the food. I expect to test his hosting capabilities. And perhaps his patience.

One housekeeping note. On the Index of Posts page, I’ve finally provided direct links to each title. Took awhile, but I got it done. Should be a lot easier to find specific posts and otherwise peruse the archives. You’re welcome.



  1. Believe me, I know about loooong winters that don’t seem to end! Michigan winters are rentless!!

    Keep up the great posts and thanks for all you do for my dear friend, Anne Marie and her family.

    Comment by Dawn — February 27, 2009 @ 6:50 pm

  2. Hey Ira!

    You need to go to Florida for a week or so. I just got back and now I can face the cold with renewed resolve. Also, I got to meet your Dad (and brother, Jesse) while I was there. I stopped in to meet him on Thursday on the pretense that you ordered me to do so, and then your cousin Phil invited me to Sunday dinner where your Dad was, so I got to have a leisurely conversation with him over a delicious meal. Believe it or not, that was a thrill for me.

    I have several weekends available for your introductory tour of Holmes County. I will email them to you separately because if I offer them here on your blog I’m afraid that many of your readers will flock to Holmes Co. and clog up the roads and restaurants. We can only handle so many gas machines on our small roads. There are quite a few folks here who have said they want to know when you are coming, so all I have to do is call them and your itinerary will be set. It may take two weekends. I am looking forward to your visit.

    As usual- great blog. Even when you write about gloom, it’s good.

    Comment by John Schmid — February 27, 2009 @ 9:11 pm

  3. You really do need to come to Sarasota now. We are experiencing 81 degree weather and cold 60 degree nights. Last evening at the park we had a small Aylmer-ex Aylmer gathering. Raymond & Laura Eicher, Raymond’s brother Floyd, Philip Graber & myself.

    Comment by Katie Troyer — February 27, 2009 @ 9:20 pm

  4. Ira, come to Florida! Spring Training has begun and “specials” abound on everything from free tickets to ball games to buy one get one free on dinners and suppers.

    Did you hear or read what the “Team” Mgnt. did to the BUCS ? Who will lead the team now, without Brooks and Dunn? “Old Guys” do matter !!!

    Comment by Michelle V. — February 27, 2009 @ 10:26 pm

  5. As I was reading your blog, I was sitting here with tears running down my eyes. Only I am not in a bad mood. That is pretty much a thing of the past for me. I have learned to take life as it comes, mostly with little emotion. People can still irritate me, but rarely. Ignorance comes closer to getting my feathers ruffled than most things, but even that you can not fault a man. To be ignorant, is not always earned, it is just a gift bestowed on many helpless subjects. You learn to show compassion and love to every one. That has to subsitute for an engaging, intelligent conversation, which is not possible if you are not on the same wave length.

    Why am I sad tonight? I do not know. I guess the sentiment in me, remembering my son, my family as it used to be, and life when there were no resposibilities. But life does not always offer options. So I have learned to take one day at a time, and not worry about anything. It does not change a thing, except the aging process. God said He would take care of me, and I believe He is. Not too many things matter in life. So that keeps it simple. Love like God meant for us to, take care of your family and yourself, and always trust God. That is all. Life is peaceful, and the inner joy puts a glow on your face. But with all that said, I am still human, and I do feel pain. That is why I have moments I cry. It cannot be helped. After that life still goes on.

    I have concluded an attorney’s life must be stressful. My current attorney (who has been settling my son’s estate for almost two years and counting. But even that does not get me riled. Really what does it matter if it takes four??? ) seems to be dying of stress. Last briefing I had with him was more about his medical condition than my son’s estate! But that is OK. Maybe we can swap services….me the counselor…he the attorney! Imagine that happenning! Just remember, there is always tomorrow, and it will get better.

    Enjoy your blogs. You are special, and God loves you.

    Comment by mary english — February 27, 2009 @ 10:44 pm

  6. Forget Florida, come to California!

    Comment by Glo — February 28, 2009 @ 5:53 am

  7. Good grief, Eeyore, start your book! No outdoor temptations calling you like a BBQ pit or a baseball game. Just remember, it’s YOUR blog and you can grumble if you want to – and you did forewarn us in the first paragraph so all’s fair. I actually enjoy reading that there are other people out there that get in a rut every now and then as well, especially about the weather. By our age now, we know that “this, too, shall pass” and nothing good OR bad lasts forever. Of course I know God’s love does, I’m being earthly for a moment.

    I’m giving you trouble in fun – like most who read your blog, I look forward to Friday evenings to see what came your way this past week. When you do write your book, I think we who read your weekly stuff should get an autographed copy – I just thought of that. And here’s an excerpt from a children’s book as well (I’m sure you know which one)…”I think I can, I think I can…” Thanks for another good week, Grumpy. Maybe next week you’ll be Sneezy from the cold and when the Spring finally gets here you’ll be Happy (please tell me you’ve read Snow White) :)

    PS – Hope your friend Anne Marie is doing well.

    Comment by Beth Russo — February 28, 2009 @ 11:01 am

  8. I’m a Boilermaker not a Hoosier ;)
    you always have a great quote to start with- do you have a ‘mental bank’ of quotes, do you google them? just curious

    enjoyed the comments too- Yeah- go to FL (FL is Pinecraft, isn’t it?!)- my Grandpa J’s there. You could have a good gab with him.

    Comment by ann — February 28, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

  9. …and you thought your winters were bad! Try living in the land of ten thousand snows for a coupla winters =)

    Comment by jason yutzy — March 3, 2009 @ 5:38 pm

  10. You poor little puppy. I’m really starting to feel sorry for you. You really hate winter. It messes with your head, makes you grumpy, maybe even depressed. As I was reading this story from five years ago I thought, “Oh no! He must be absolutely miserable right now with the winter being so much worse.” Wish I could cheer you up, friend.
    The story about the prelude to a fight was something. There have been several times when I’ve been on the receiving end of irate truckers. Last winter coming home from Springfield, IL, during a snow storm, I glanced in my rear view mirror and saw a monster coming at full speed. After the driver passed one inch from my rear view mirror and I was able to pry my fingers off the steering wheel I had no doubt it was a God thing that we weren’t killed. Anyhow, that was awesome how you handled the truck driving bully.
    I’ll be praying for you regarding this brutal winter.

    Comment by Francine — January 30, 2014 @ 12:47 am

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