Monday, May 30, 2011

Real People

Is your life full of real people? Mine is, and I'm so glad of it.

A group of us "real people" gathered to celebrate a friend's birthday last night. It didn't take much for us all to have a really good time. Good music, good conversation, good food and a little beer.

Talk centered around work (lots of railroaders there), the weather (this is Nebraska, after all).... which was bad. Why should we have to bundle up in a garage for a Memorial Weekend get-together, while we're looking at the prospect of 90+ degree temperatures later in the week? Also around the anticipated flooding when the spring thaws start in the Rockies (again thanks to those 90+ degree temperatures later in the week), and friends who may face likely flooding, and our plans for helping out. Of course that led to a discussion of the greater disasters that have happened throughout the U.S. and the relief efforts there. On a cheerful note, we also discussed the fun times this past week spent on the river, enjoying even more good music and made plans for summer fun.

Snippets of conversation included fixing cars, kids, horses, concerts, gardens, cooking, home repairs, some politics... just the every day things people deal with in our real lives. Not one mention of Lady Gaga, TMZ, the infidelity of The Governator, not even American Idol, or anything else of interest to People or US magazines. The supposed ongoing obsession of America with all things celebrity has yet to find its way into the backyard gatherings in the heartland. No fashion discussion, no fancy cars, no "who's in rehab"...

We found the same thing earlier this week as we made a road trip to hear a friend in concert in a rural town in northeastern Colorado. He was playing at a little dive biker bar, and since it was his last appearance anywhere remotely close to us, a few of us piled in and made the trek. What we found were more folks just like us. Good-hearted, hard-working, fun-loving and friendly.

We met the college roommate of the sister of one of our neighbors (how's that for a small world), and were promptly invited to camp out on her floor so we didn't have to make the drive back in the same night. We met a bull-fighter recovering from an on-the-job injury who is working his way back up in the business, and were invited back for a big celebration being planned in the bar next month. We were offered the free food that everyone had brought in to celebrate a birthday.

Real people. Real fun.

Here's hoping your life is filled with real people.

Thanks for stopping by. As soon as the coffee's finished brewing, have a cup with me.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Original Through the Seasons Final

We've now come full circle, although I am woefully late in taking this May picture. It was taken at about 2:00pm on May 22. Scrolling down, you'll see a year in the life of one of our beautiful overlooks here in western Nebraska.
Below was taken April 6, 2011 at about 6:00pm.The picture below was taken on March 3, 2011 at about 8:45 in the morning as we headed out to the Colorado RV show to represent the local community. February 13, 2011, 10:30a.m. Thank goodness most of the snow is gone from this photo at about 1pm on January 3, 2011.

December 4, 2010 9:00am.

November 2, 2010, 8:30am.

October 3, 2010, 9:00am.

September 6, 2010, 7:00pm.

August 7, 2010, 8:30am.

July 5, 2010, 8:30am.

June 5, 2010, 8:30am.

And the original, May 5, 2010, 6:10pm.
Thank you for sharing this year of pictures with me. Be sure to check out the new series that I started earlier this year.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's like Gunsmoke without Marshall Dillon and Miss Kitty

Or M*A*S*H without Hawkeye and Hot Lips Houlihan... or Starsky and Hutch without Starsky OR Hutch...

This is an open letter to Discovery Channel and the millions of fans who watch Deadliest Catch each week:

Dear Discovery,

What are you thinking?

Sure, Deadliest Catch is one of the most highly rated shows on Tuesday nights. Good for you. But PLEASE, give some more air time to the Northwestern and the Time Bandit!! Don't forget what got you to where you are today!

To those new viewers who are just joining the Deadliest Catch fandom this year, you don't know what you're missing! Yes, I like the new boats. Captain Elliott Neese on the Ramblin' Rose is great to watch as he's getting his first taste at captaining during King Crab season, and Captain Scott Campbell Jr on the Seabrooke is wonderful as he leads his crew with calm efficiency, and his greenhorn troubles are especially entertaining.

But, the tried and true fans who have been there from the beginning (I don't count myself among this esteemed group as I joined the fray at about season three) miss seeing Captain Sig maintain order with an iron fist on the Northwestern, and Captain Johnathan run a tight ship despite the shenanigans he is so famous for.

This is already a sorrowful season for everyone without Captain Phil Harris, and the comfort of seeing old friends would be especially reassuring. The drama aboard the Cornelia Maria as Captain Derrick Ray tries to help the boys come to grips with the loss of their father using extremely tough love is painful to watch. And while I appreciate everything Discovery has done for the boys and for allowing us to vicariously participate in their healing process, I wish it wasn't portrayed in so much an "us versus them - or him" fashion.

And the same with the friction between the Wizard and the Time Bandit. These guys are big boys, not sissies. Remember back in the day when the guys would gather in a vacant lot over the lunch hour at school and beat each other's brains out, then be best friends again by the end of the school day? Let's let the guys be guys and not make them out to be whiney girls. So they don't like each other... so what? Do we all like all of our colleagues or contemporaries? Would we all want cameras on us 24 hours a day as we make snide remarks at their expense? And would we want them to get all pissy about it when they heard us making the same comments they have probably made about us? So while the conflict may be ongoing, let's let Johnathan and Keith deal with it and not get caught up in it ourselves.

And then... Captain Wild Bill and the Kodiak. We're all just getting to know him and his crew, and yet weeks go by without even a single sighting of the Kodiak? How do you expect us to develop a long-term relationship with these remarkable characters if we can't even get to know them?

In my opinion, the answer is to extend Deadliest Catch to two hours each week, or even better yet, develop an additional 24-hour channel that is all Deadliest Catch, all the time - maybe even entire episodes devoted to nothing except the Northwestern and the Time Bandit!

Without them, it's like Dallas without JR... Happy Days without Fonzie... All in the Family without Archie Bunker... The Waltons without John Boy... Seinfeld without Seinfield... Friends without - well, without all the friends.

So, from a fan in Nebraska... give us more Northwestern and Time Bandit!

Thanks for stopping by... Join me for coffee with my DVD's of previous seasons.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What Would Mike Do

Those who know me best must immediately think that I am talking about Mike Rowe and his testimony today before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. As a Nebraskan, with family and friends closely tied to the skilled trades, I applaud his testimony, and I encourage everyone to go to his website and read his oral testimony. It is not only informative but entertaining - who would expect anything less from Mike Rowe? Doesn't he clean up well? I have read essays from Mike railing against "earnestness", but truly, doesn't he look earnest? I tease, because Mike and his mission of celebrating "the hard-working men and women who make civilized life possible" is one dear to my heart. He says everything that I wish I could say, and he has the wide audience, that it would be wonderful to have to influence so many people. However, in lieu of that, I'm going to encourage everyone I can to go and listen to him.

Over and above his oral testimony is his written testimony that outlines many of the initiatives that he's involved in to further the cause of the skilled trades. Mike is really on to something here, and people - individuals, government, business, industry, labor - should sit up and take notice!

However, if you think that's what I'm talking about, you'd be wrong. "What would Mike do?" refers to the OTHER Mike - Mike Holmes. Mike is a Canadian contractor who is passionate about doing things right - and he's passionate about helping the next generation of contractors have access to the tools they need to learn how to do it right. Much like Mike Rowe. You can see Mike Holmes on HGTV on Holmes on Homes, Holmes Inspection, Holmes in New Orleans, and Lien on Me. He also has a foundation: "The mission of The Holmes Foundation is to ensure that all residential renovation and construction in Canada is done right–the first time."

The Holmes Foundation will do this by partnering with schools, businesses and governments to raise the profile and reputation of all skilled trades in Canada, using Mike Holmes' reputation to encourage young people to pursue careers in the skilled trades and to encourage employers to hire them. In addition, The Holmes Foundation will provide information on careers in the building trades and will offer scholarships and bursaries to students pursuing training in these trades.
Naturally, we watch Mike Holmes a lot! And now, The Mister is in the middle of our latest remodeling project, the bathroom off of the laundry room. Now The Mister can do ANYTHING! It is one of the things I love and admire the most about him, and my experience with those qualities in him is what draws me to public figures like Mike and Mike.Out came th sink, vanity, mirror, toilet, tub, walls... you name it!

Seemingly every day he has a "Mike" moment (I mean Holmes, not Rowe, although judging from the mess throughout the house when I get home from work, I suspect there's a little Rowe involved as well), in which he considers cutting corners, taking a short cut, and maybe doing things just not quite right to get the job done. Then he asks himself "what would Mike do?" and decided to do it RIGHT.

Things are now starting to come back together, and while there are multiple glitches along the way, I'm confident that the job will get done right, and it can't be soon enough to suit me!

So, whatever you're doing, ask yourself... what would Mike do? Then do it - the right way!

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

How It's Done

A lot of our friends and family think we are crazy for hosting Couch Surfers. To them, it's a foreign concept to open your home to strangers traveling across the country. For the Nebraska Outback household, it's as natural as having our kids come home for the weekend (and sometimes a lot less work!

Many of the people who stay at our home are young people. Students traveling home from school or to an internship, volunteers for AmeriCorps and other service organizations, and even adventurers just on a walkabout. But every now and then, we host people who are able to spend a couple of days and get to know the area. Such were our guests this weekend, from Belgium.

Their goal is to sleep in each one of the lower 48 U.S. states. After this trip their count will be at 32. They arrived late Saturday afternoon and our adventures began with a steak dinner at Ole's in Paxton, followed by a cheesecake and glass of wine at 5 Trails Winery.

Their timing was perfect because our Lincoln County Historical Museum opened for the season on May 1, so we got to enjoy that as well.
Many European visitors aren't nearly as impressed with the story of the North Platte Canteen as we Americans are - their WWII hardships far outweigh ours, but I swear I saw a tear in Anne's eye as she read the story of the Bultophs (I might share that story with you some day. If you can't wait, go check out the Nebraska Public Television film "The Canteen Spirit").
There are a lot of great displays at the Lincoln County Historical Museum, including this one which is the historic Brady Union Pacific Railroad depot. Here Anne poses for a photograph waiting for a train.

From there it was on to the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center where Anne placed a sticker on the map, which pretty much covered the entire country of Belgium.

They lucked out again on their timing, as it was the annual Community Day and admission was free! I heard later that more than 1200 people attended the Community Day. It is great to know that so many had the chance to experience this wonderful attraction. The Mister spoke to a lot of people he knew - railroaders who were taking advantage of the free day to show their families where they work.

The eighth floor is great, being fully enclosed, but in my opinion, the best experience is the 7th floor, which is open air and you can hear the rumble of the locomotives, the squeal of the retarders and the clang of the freight cars crashing together.

Then it was off to the Sandhills! We headed up Highway 83, then took the left "fork in the road" to Tryon. From there we headed west on Highway 92 before turning back south on the dirt road through Tin Camp. Things aren't very green yet, but it was wonderful to be on a road trip to the Sandhills again.

Heading into my grandparents homestead, the cows have been returned to the pasture so opening and closing gates is a must. Poor Anne learned that the passenger gets the gates, and she was game, so she gave it her best shot. With a little instruction from The Mister, she opened and closed the next one with ease.

Rain showers were forming all around on our trip home. Honest, there is a rainbow in the picture below even though it is very faint.

Down on the Birdwood, we saw another of the many flocks of Turkeys that crossed our path this day. I would have thought this late in the spring hunting season that they would be a little more spooky, but they just went on about their business.

Do we know how to show folks a good time or what? I can attest to the fact that WE had a good time, whether or not our guests did, but at least they're leaving with a little more understanding of Nebraska, the Great Plains and the Sandhills.

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.