A Shot in the Arm

Years ago one of our friends had tennis elbow, which in medical terms is called lateral epicondylitis. His doctor gave him an injection of cortisone, a long-acting glucocorticoid. Afterwards, he urgently and repeatedly told me, “Richard, don’t ever let them to that to you.” He said it was very painful and didn’t do any good.

Years later a friend had the same malady, and was treated in the same way, with a steroid injection. She told me it provided almost immediate relief, but that it didn’t last, and in the end, she had to have surgery to repair the damage.

Things may be different for me, since my troubled tendon is the medial epicondyle, not the lateral, but I can tell you that I’ve had it injected twice now. The first time, in October, was done by our family physician, and was fairly painless, but not very effective. The second time, last week, was done by my osteopath, who had seen the MRI of my arm, and knew exactly where to inject. It too was painless going in, and within a couple of days, my tendon was much less tender.

Time will tell if I will need further treatment, but I am doing my best to take care of it. It is my hope that by that if it does require additional treatment, bionic arms will be cheap and plentiful. I think it would be really cool if I could lift Jeeps over my head.

The Party Line

Telephone keypad like ours in high school
Telephone keypad like ours in high school

I swear to you, I am not making this up.

When my sister and I were teenagers, about 1978, we lived in Lawton, Oklahoma. She and I kept a notebook, which we just called “The Book,” full of all the funny stuff we thought up, all the gossip we heard, all the complaints we had about our teachers, etc. One entry, in Nicole’s handwriting, was sprawled with anguish across an entire page. It said, “NO MORE PARTY LINE!”

It was a flaw in the phone system at Southwestern Bell. I don’t know if it was just in Lawton, or all through the system, but the way it worked was…

  • Dial your own number
  • Click the switchhook and listen for busy signal
  • Hang up
  • Your phone would ring in a couple of seconds
  • You pick it up and…

You heard two busy signals in quick succession, followed by about one second of silence, then another two busy signals, another silence, etc. The thing was that everyone else in town who did the same thing heard that sequence, and in the silence in between, could hear each other.

It was the ancestor of the chat room. Typically on a day during summer vacation, which was the best time since your parents were at work, a “conversation” would sound something like…

“What’s your” buzz-buzz “name?”
“Where do” buzz-buzz “go to” buzz-buzz “school?”
“What do” buzz-buzz “you look like?”
“Can I” buzz-buzz “have your” buzz buzz “number?”

I mostly didn’t talk, but just listened. It was better than Gong Show reruns (mostly), and during the heat of the day, it was more fun than going outside.

The Party Line.

Flying

Self portrait at Max Westheimer Field, Norman, Oklahoma, summer 2002
Self portrait at Max Westheimer Field, Norman, Oklahoma, summer 2002

Here are a couple of photos from my days as an aviator. The reason I don’t fly any more, and many of my pilot buddies don’t fly any more, is that it has gotten much too expensive. Part of that is the panicky idiot mentality of Americans after 9/11, which was incorrectly laid at the feet of general aviation, and part of it is the absurd rising cost of fuel. If I ever hit the lottery, I will rejoin the ranks in the sky, but in the mean time I reflect on what a great time I had in the air all those years.

Flying a spiffy Cessna 150 named "Old Gomer"
Flying a spiffy Cessna 150 named "Old Gomer"

The Strangest Dream

Scene at Arches similar to the one I dreamed. This image was made the day after we got married
Scene at Arches similar to the one I dreamed. This image was made the day after we got married

Last night I dreamed I was in a part of Arches National Park that I had never seen before, possibly near the Colorado River. It was sunset and Lindsay Wagner and I had climbed to a high point to watch the golden moment. Just as it struck, someone stood up in our way, but was coaxed to sit back down. The golden moment was extremely short, maybe a second or two. As we walked down, we noticed that some of the slickrock cliffs had been wrapped in barbed wire to keep climbers out. At the campground, people were pulling up tent stakes and leaving as fast as they could, but no one would tell me why. The people who agreed to help me accidentally pulled the antennas off my car by mistake. Eventually, I was in a marketplace in Bangladesh, buying mangoes. At one shop, I couldn’t find the owner, so I crammed a dollar over his fireplace. This worried me, since there were police in the area who were shooting shoplifters.

Call of the Wild

Robert, playing imaginary volleyball
Robert, playing imaginary volleyball

I have a lot of friends, old and new, scattered about the world. Some I have known in person for many years, while others I visit only in forums and blogs. One friend who defies all other categories is Robert Edison Stinson, who approaches at any and all angles, and departs just as swiftly as he arrived. Sometimes he will visit for a week, and others he will call for a minute and a half.

Currently Robert lives in Boston, and while I have nothing but admiration for those on the east coast (my step-daughter lives in Baltimore, after all), I wish that Robert lived closer, so that we could get together more often. His creative impulses are in reverse sync from mine, so our creativity perfectly compliments each other.

He called tonight, and we had a great conversation.

The Predator

People have been complimenting me about this photo left and right. A stranger even called me at the office to tell me how great it was. I told her thanks, and that I hoped I never have to shoot a scene like this again.
People have been complimenting me about this photo left and right. A stranger even called me at the office to tell me how great it was. I told her thanks, and that I hoped I never have to shoot a scene like this again.

I’ve seen my share of dead bodies in my 26 years shooting news, and today was another one of those occasions. This accident happened today a few miles south of Ada, not far from where Abby works. A teenage driver, going too fast, passed a large truck, colliding head-on with a full-size pickup. The driver of the pickup was killed, and had not been removed when I arrived. Her face had been covered by first responders with a pillow from the wreckage. Also in the pickup was a toddler, who apparently survived. The teen driver in the car had to be extracted, which took 15 minutes or more, and may not survive.

It always amazes me how much energy is stored up in our moving cars, then transformed into destruction in a fraction of second when they collide. The same is true, of course, for the lives of the people in the cars.

Death is a predator who loves to prey on our mistakes. Slow down, get off your phone, keep your eyes open and wear your seat belt.

When I was done shooting this scene, I called Abby and took her to lunch. It was nice being with her.

Squizza! Vegurrito!

My square pizza
My square pizza

Forget round pizza! It’s squizza, the square pizza!

I make this with soy cheese and either soy sausage or soy crumbles. Both taste a little like meat. Also in the topping is green peppers and onions over a marinara (I think it tastes better than plain tomato sauce), topped with soy mozzarella.

Also this: A vegan burrito. Inside each one is a blend of sauteéd onions, pinto beans, corn, green chilis, rice and soy cheese. On top is the extra stuff from inside, plus chipotlé salsa.

Really, I mean it. No, seriously, this is the kind of thing that’s been keeping me alive for years!

Veggie burritos
Veggie burritos

Road, River and Rail

Derailed train
Derailed train

Dream last night: I am back in college, but for some reason I live in the executive suite in the dorm. It’s pretty nice – about three times the size of a normal dorm room, with large picture windows, mahogany desks, track lighting. I am upset when I discover someone at a computer in my closet, but soon become distracted. I am then seamlessly walking down the street, when a railroad car falls from above and lands not far in front of me. I run forward, looking up to see a huge, beige, spider-shaped rail car carrying machine. It is hundreds of feet tall, and is moving down the tracks, in my direction. For a moment I feel concerned that it might drop a rail car on me, but I then gather with some others near where the rail car dropped. It then seems to be Sunday afternoon in the summer in downtown Ada. We watch as the giant car carrier machine heads for a huge sliding door that appears to be the way out of town to the west. As the door starts to close, the machine speeds up and seems to be going at race-car speeds into the sunset.

A Trip to the Basement/Wind Comes Right Behind the Rain

At about 8:30 tonight, there was a close lightning strike, and we were plunged into darkness. For a few seconds. We Barrons are a little weird about flashlights – we collect them like some people collect stamps or coins. In spite of the nearly-instant re-lighting of our lives, the computers shut off, as did the stereo, which was playing Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings. Muh. We reported the outage using a cell phone, and about 15 minutes passed before a truck appeared, looking at our power lines.

National Weather Service WSR-88 image from tonight. The star I added shows Byng.
National Weather Service WSR-88 image from tonight. The star I added shows Byng.

We sat and read, but before long there was a text message on Abby’s cell phone, saying TORNADO WARNING! It occurred that me that my police scanners were, of course, off, since the power was off, so I turned on a hand-held scanner to hear the Byng Fire Department telling their volunteers, “Take care of your families first, we’ve got enough personnel at the station.” Then they decided that since the power was out at the siren tower, they would roll through town with sirens blaring and announcing the warning on their PA horns.

We calmly and quickly got our shoes on, grabbed the dogs, flashlights and radios (scanner and ham), and headed down to Dorothy’s house. She was asleep, so we woke her up and we all went down into the tiny basement below her garage. We waited for no more than ten minutes, after which police and fire departments reported that the threat area had moved to our northwest.

This time last week it was too cold to move.

La Mort Heureuse

Yesterday my doctor told me what I already knew: my blood pressure is too high. Technically, I have stage 1 hypertension, which is high, but not scary high. He started me on Diovan, a popular and effective medication that has few side effects. He also took blood and did a finger stick to check my cholesterol. It, too, is too high, but not in the scary range. He urged me to start a daily flax seed oil regimen.

The irony of these findings is, of course, that I live a lifestyle that is about as healthy as an American can be. I live in the country where pollution is low, I am active and exercise all the time, including tennis and hiking, I don’t smoke, I drink alcohol only in moderation, and I am a dietary vegan (and thus consume zero cholesterol.) So I really have only my heredity and the luck of the draw to thank for these risk factors.

The good news, however, is abundant:

  • I caught these symptoms at an early stage
  • I am noted for my ability to follow through with treatment regimens and therapies
  • In all other respects I am in excellent health

And, above all, even if the mother ship calls me home tomorrow:

  • I have been a creative contributor to my community and my crafts, such as photography and writing
  • I have been a powerful positive influence on the life of a child who is becoming a young man
  • I have lived an excellent and exciting life, which has included achieving dreams like learning to fly and exploring the American wilderness
  • And to me, most importantly, it has been my privilege to fall in love with and marry the most beautiful, wonderful, intelligent, affectionate and loving woman I have ever met

Forgive me if I sound sentimental at all, but it’s certainly better to say these things now than risk missing the chance to ever say them. The human body is fragile, and our lives are fleeting but precious.

Us or Them

Dead mouse
Dead mouse

As I got dressed for work this morning, I noticed Sierra the Chihuahua whining and clawing at the China hutch. She whines and claws at stuff sometimes, so at first I ignored it. Then I noticed that the sound of the clawing didn’t match the movements she was making, and decided there must be something else making the sound. I got my new super flashlight, the one Abby got me for Christmas, and shined it behind the hutch to find a terrified mouse Sierra had cornered. This called for the official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle. I held the light along the axis of the barrel, SWAT style, shooed the dog away, and fired. One shot wasn’t enough, but three more dispatched the tiny invader. I felt bad that I had to kill it, but I can’t have mice in the house, as they bring the risk of disease, particularly to our curious animals. I pulled the limp carcass from behind the hutch and photographed it before tossing it in the trash can.

Add this to the two gophers I killed, one with a .22 and one with a machete, and you might think me quite the assassin.

Awaiting Brimstone

Wildfire near our house in Byng
Wildfire near our house in Byng

Now that winter is here, it’s wildfire season again. The last two winters were under burn bans due to dry weather in the months prior, but it has since been lifted. It is dry and windy again today, despite a nice rainy spell last week. A few minutes ago I heard a call on the scanner about a grass fire across the street from us here in Byng. Of course, in the country “across the street” isn’t the same as in town. Looking, I saw nothing, but the journalist in me told me to get over there with a camera, which I did. It was in the field behind Vera’s house (we sometimes get her mail by mistake), and I only had to jump one barbed wire fence. I got there about the same time the Byng Volunteer Fire Department did, and they did their usual amazing job of stopping it before it got to any homes.

Joy to the World

Updated December 2018

“All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share.” ~Sally Brown, A Charlie Brown Christmas

We've all had the Charlie Brown Christmas tree ingrained in our holiday milieu. It's interesting to note that the central theme of A Charlie Brown Christmas is that we've lost the real meaning of the holiday to commercialism, yet in the history of this show, which is only a couple of years younger than I am, nothing has changed.
We’ve all had the Charlie Brown Christmas tree ingrained in our holiday milieu. It’s interesting to note that the central theme of A Charlie Brown Christmas is that we’ve lost the real meaning of the holiday to commercialism, yet in the history of this show, which is only a couple of years younger than I am, nothing has changed.

When I was a kid, these were the joke lyrics…

“Joy to the world
The school burned down
And all the teachers too
They’re looking for the principal
He’s high up on the flag pole
With a rope around his neck
With a rope around his neck
With a rooooope, a rooooope, a-round his neck”

Alternate lyrics…

“Joy to the world
The teachers are dead
We barbecued their heads
And as for their bodies
We flushed them down the potties
And around and around they went
And around and around they went

And aroooouuund, a-round, a-round they went”

Also, my current favorite Christmas joke…

Three men were killed in a car wreck coming home from their company’s Christmas Party and were met by Saint Peter at the pearly gates.

“In honor of this holy season” Saint Peter said, “you must each possess something that symbolizes Christmas to get into heaven.”

The first man fumbled through his pockets and pulled out a lighter. He flicked it on and said, “this represents a candle”

“You may pass through the pearly gates” Saint Peter said.

The second man reached into his pocket and pulled out a set of keys. He shook them and said, “These sound like bells.”

Saint Peter said “You may pass through the pearly gates.”

The third man started searching desperately through his pockets and finally pulled out a pair of still moist women’s panties.

St. Peter looked at the man with a raised eyebrow and asked, “And just what do those symbolize?”

The man replied, “These are Carols.”

Merry and such.
Merry and such.

From Kris and Jessica

Jessica Kringle. Is she fine, or what?
Jessica Kringle. Is she fine, or what?

As many of you know, Santa Claus has a wife, a red-headed spitfire named Jessica. In magic North Pole Land, she and Kris stay eternally young, only dressing up as jolly old elves one day of the year. Let me just say that Jessica is insanely hot.

(Sub-topic: My childhood is punctuated by crushes on cartoon and claymation characters. The one who captured my heart the hardest was Karen, the little girl with the big white earmuffs who escorts Frosty the Snowman to the North Pole – but that’s another entry.)

Gluttonous Ruminants

Coal and Buxton devour a tomato vine
Coal and Buxton devour a tomato vine

The process of culling the garden and throwing it to my ruminants continues.

I find the experience a little sad as I stand in the chill air, remembering the huge harvests; the bushy green tomato vines that smelled so good, the giant stands of bright marigolds, the crisp bell peppers that turned orange and red and yellow, the cucumbers that hid under their leaves until I searched for them.

The goats are thicker now, and their hair is thick and soft for winter. When I come into the back yard, they come running, and if I stand still, they push their bodies against my legs, saying hello.

Tonight I was pulling up mostly tomato vines, and on them were lots of shriveled green tomatoes. Coal is particularly fond of them, but Buxton likes them too. Here is an image of these two “sharing” (read: fighting over) a juicy one.

Possible Plans for Thanksgiving

  • Pray and fast
  • Fetal/fecal/fatal position
  • Elvis movie marathon
  • Wish I were still in college/high school/junior high/grade school/kindergarten/womb
  • Get head stuck in honey pot
  • Act like I give a crap
  • I’d rather have a pre-frontal lobotomy than a free bottle in front of me
  • See the writing on the (bathroom) wall
  • Listen to Duran Duran until I am unconscious
  • Await my destiny (or make it myself from crushed butterfly wings and real maple syrup)

    Feel the need.
    Feel the need.

A Llama in the Hhedgerow

Buxton and Coal eat old, brown marigolds
Buxton and Coal eat old, brown marigolds

After a long, great growing season which saw my garden simply explode with produce, a freeze finally came, and as always, the garden is dormant for the year. It’s at this point that I pull up all the brown tomato and pepper plants, and whatever else is left, and throw them to the goats, who are always comically grateful for it. There’s a lot of garden, so I don’t give it all to them at once, so I’ll take several days on this task.

We don’t have a llama, though we might if my wife had her way.

Let’s Play!

Okay, let’s play “What Would God Do?”

  • Make Eskimo Pie
  • Frogs frogs frogs
  • Daytime TV
  • Elephantiasis of the nuts
  • President Bushton
  • Karl eating ribs
  • “This is not meat loaf! It is kabab!”
  • Seven year coma for guy who loved “Family Ties” but missed every episode
  • Unexplained emergency dookie
  • Strip down to bra and panties for a tickle fight

True story: I was in a friend’s home with their dog. A man came to the door saying he represented a church. The dog was quiet until the man said, “We’re trying to encourage Bible reading.” At that point, the dog acted like he would have killed him.

You decide.

Actual Name of My Godfather: Dick Spray

Good news! We are not like our fathers.

The biology is obvious: take good genes, subtract cigarettes, alcohol and baloney salad. Add the internet, clear soda and “Family Ties.” Subtract Korea and Viet Nam. Add brown rice and three months experimenting with weed. Subtract Gulf War Syndrome. Add motor skills and a national championship. Subtract rubber dog doo. Add leather underpants. !!!

It all makes perfect sense
It all makes perfect sense

Tinfoil Hat to Deflect CIA Control Rays

  1. Percentage of people at the Kent State Massacre who were actually CIA operatives or extraterrestrials: 95.
  2. Percentage of CIA operatives who are actually extraterrestrials: 95.
  3. Percentage of this morning’s stool sample that was actually CIA operatives, extraterrestrials, leather, or Quake III Arena railguns: 102.

Fun fact: It has been widely debunked that “tin foil” hats (which are actually made of aluminum) do not reflect or absorb mind control rays from United Nations transmission towers or New World Order satellites. Such mind control devices use neutron pulse technology, and thus can only be deflected by hats impregnated with boron.

(Human manure is one of the rare wastes that can contain more material than it actually does. In science, it is referred to as Superstring High Intensity Turds, or SH!T.)

Richard Powerwashes the Pig!

I photographed it, and took the liberty of adding a nice gleam in Photoshop, which I felt I deserved.
I photographed it, and took the liberty of adding a nice gleam in Photoshop, which I felt I deserved.

An ongoing project around our house is powerwashing the siding. It’s slow, and I don’t have as much spare time as all that. I am doing it, however, one section at a time. Tonight I looked over and noticed that our propane “pig” (tank) had the same greenish mildew as the house, so I decided to wash it. The goats looked on with great curiosity. When I was done, I ran into the house and announced to Abby, “I powerwashed the pig!” It was a work of art that, sadly, was somewhat under appreciated.

Deep Fried Phasers

Dream: I was assigned to infiltrate a nuclear power plant. Our goal was to assassinate two people, both blond-haired women, and steal the weapons hidden inside. The weapons were phasers that had been deep-fried, only they looked a little like the nozzle on my garden hose (only deep fried.) We made our way through a labyrinth of metal stairs and railing to a series of doors. My partner (who I don’t really remember seeing) went inside and terminated our targets using a really cool chrome .22 with a silencer. We were then seamlessly running from the Israeli Army, dodging their small arms fire. Once they had surrounded us, we threw the phasers into a burning vehicle to prevent them from being captured. Then seamlessly, we are at a black-tie dinner party. Harrison Ford offers me a government job, which I accept because it will pay pretty well.

The Urgent Physics Problems of the Incas

Dream: I ran into an old girlfriend, Kathy, in the town where we used to live, at a particle accelerator where they were bombarding Christmas trees with neutrons. She has a midget on a leash. She tells me she has been married three times and her last name is now Schoecheekowskischke, which she made up. The midget, she explains, is an adopted child from the second marriage. I get into a blue SUV and start to leave, claiming that the church I am assigned to photograph will only be dry enough for another 15 minutes or so.

The “Come Here, You Have to See This!” Frog

The frog that appeared in the hole in the siding
The frog that appeared in the hole in the siding

Tonight while I was power washing the front of the house, I saw this little guy poking his head out of a small hole in the siding. I think the hole was from one time when I was trimming the photinia and almost fell off my ladder into the bush. Anyway, I called my family out to witness this miracle of froggery. So here is a picture of the funniest amphibian I saw all day.

Are You Fatting Kidding Me?

Sierra looks over the KFC "Mega Jug"
Sierra looks over the KFC “Mega Jug”

My wife drove through KFC the other day on her way home from work. She just wanted a piece of chicken, a little bowl of mashed potatoes, and a small drink, which she ordered. When she got to the window, the clerk handed her a bucket of chicken, a tub of mashed potatoes, and a jug, literally a jug, of Pepsi. It was some kind of “mega meal deal” like those so popular with restaurants now. The Pepsi, stamped with the moniker “Mega Jug,” was a half gallon of soda. A half gallon. Do the math: according to Pepsi’s web site, their regular soda contains 100 calories per 8-ounce serving, so Abby’s drink was an 800-calorie serving. Are you kidding me? According to WebMD, that’s half of her daily calorie requirements. There’s no way she could drink all of that. When she got home, she shared it with me, and we still couldn’t drink it all.

The moral of my story: don’t be surprised every time you look around and more than half the people you see are obese. This isn’t good for us as individuals, and it isn’t good for us as a society or a nation.

Sidebar: “Mega” literally means “million”, not large or superior.

A Vegan in the Wood Pile

A September Harvest
A September Harvest

Some of you who know me well know I have been a vegetarian since 1989, and a dietary vegan since 1994. Over the years, the choice to devote my energies to these pursuits has been one of the best I have ever made. Why? All the right reasons…

  1. It’s physically good for me in every way, and has no down side for my health whatsoever. Simply put, I feel great.
  2. It lends itself to the slogan, “Eat to live, don’t live to eat.”
  3. It contributes more to conserve our fragile planet than many more popular efforts, when you consider the vast resources devoted to production of meat, dairy and eggs.
  4. It respects the lives of animals. I believe that we have as much right to exist as any other creature on the planet, and that we have as much right to its resources. I do not believe it is our right to squander the world around us to feed our decadent luxury, which in the process makes us fat and weak.
  5. I take immense pride and joy in the foods I grow and eat on our happy little patch of land.

Now that you have read this, go have a peach!

The Death of Our Aunt Carol

Carol and Wes Peterson, our Aunt and Uncle on Dad's side, February 2005
Carol and Wes Peterson, our Aunt and Uncle on Dad’s side, February 2005

08-27-06: Aunt Carol Peterson (Dad’s sister) is dying. She experienced many co-morbidities and quality-of-life issues toward the end of her life, including Crohn’s Disease and type II diabetes.

Abby and Uncle Wes reminisce as they look at family photos.
Abby and Uncle Wes reminisce as they look at family photos.

We drove to the Blue Springs, Missouri area to join the family. The drive up was smooth. The dogs traveled well and Abby had a long nap.

08-30-06: Carol died at 12:45 pm at age 66.

09-02-06: This evening in Blue Springs feels like late October in Oklahoma.

Uncle Wes and Cousin Lori seem okay.

09-05-06: Funeral at the same chapel where Dad and Carol’s mother’s funeral was in early 1996.

Our time with the family was good. Abby was the goodwill ambassador. “Abby is very easy to be around.” ~Lori

The family gathers at Bill and Lori Wade's house in Platt City, Missouri. From left are me, my wife Abby, my mother Sarah Jo, my cousin Lori, my sister Nicole, her dog Griffin, Abby's nephew Mitchell, and our uncle Wes.
The family gathers at Bill and Lori Wade’s house in Platt City, Missouri. From left are me, my wife Abby, my mother Sarah Jo, my cousin Lori, my sister Nicole, her dog Griffin, Abby’s nephew Mitchell, and Uncle Wes.