Various Thoughts

Chapter One





My Mom found an old church directory picture from about 1982 or ’83… It’s just Mom and Dad and I...  I have big hair. (Yeah, hard to believe but I used to have a lot of hair.  When ever I got a haircut the stylist or barber would always comment on how thick it was; they’d never seen hair this thick. Now I feel like George Costanza; “You have lost a lot of hair”, “That’s what they tell me!”)


I show the picture to Preston and he has no idea who those people are… he finally recognizes my Mom; asks if those other two are her parents.  Then he gets Dad and asks, “Who’s that other woman”? (me…with the big hair)  I say ‘Woman?!!’. 


Then he starts to laugh when he realizes it’s me.  Says “nice afro, Dad”.  Same thing Kelly said, “Nice Afro”. 





Couple nights ago we’re at Fazzolis for supper.  Preston is wasting lots of the crust from  the pizza.  I’m harping on him about eating the crust.  I tell him kids are starving in China.  He says we could send them this pizza crust. 





Kelly’s cousin Travis hates mice worse than Kelly.  Travis was telling stories at Thanksgiving about chasing a mouse in their new house.  His expressions and enthusiasm about getting this mouse was about the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while. 


We had a mouse in our bedroom this fall.  Once discovered Kelly couldn’t sleep in the bedroom anymore ‘cause we’d just lie there listening for it.  Middle of the night I’m moving dressers around and putting traps down.  Kelly’s method for mouse control is the ‘hunt-down-and-destroy; shock and awe’ method as opposed to the ‘put-down-some-traps-and-wait’ method that I employ.  But in the interest of a happy marriage I sometimes adopt her methods.  So it was, with the floor covered with sticky traps, that I’m crawling around with a flashlight and an old curtain rod (and slippers and gloves to grab or stomp the critter) and Kelly’s armed with the kids green plastic baseball bat.  And the unfortunate mouse did stumble onto one precisely placed sticky trap.  Next morning as Kelly is trying to have breakfast but can still hear a mouse somewhere in the kitchen she is on the prowl with her trusty green bat that I said to her, “Put the bat down and go have your breakfast.”





We’re at conferences with Amelia’s third grade teacher.  The day before was a substitute and she had the kids write a note to their parents.  Amelia wrote; “Dear Mom and Dad, I’m not in trouble.”

In other words, she wasn’t writing the note because she was in trouble, she was just writing the note because she had too…  Mrs. Henze, the teacher, thought that was very funny. 






One of Amelia’s friends, Kip started calling me ‘The King of Rochester’… I go into the class in the morning and sometimes they ask me, “Are you really a ‘King’ “ I tell them if they think I am.  Or sometimes I just say no, that’s just what Kip calls me. I come in and some of the kids say ‘The King is here!”  Kelly is the Queen of course and I have to hold the loincloth -- (So Kip tells me as he gives me brown paper towels…)

But today… December 17, 2004 my term ended. 


I came into class and Kip tells me I’m not the king any more.  One of the other students, Sam, wanted to be King.  So my reign has ended.  I asked Kip what I am now; am I the former King, am I the man who would be King or what? He said I’m the Farmer who feeds the king;




Farmer Ben. 


But wait!  I was reinstated a few weeks later and better than that; I was promoted! I am now the Pharoh! 





I have less of it in my life now.  I knew when I sold the cows there would be less, both figuratively and literally, but I'm kinda surprised how much less there is.  Where as I used to be up to my knees in it some days, now I don't even need my special shoes.  Well, it depends what I'm doing... but I can go feed the cats and calves and I don't have to automatically put on my boots.  I can wear the same jeans for a whole week and if they' re dirty it’s from grease or plain old dirt instead of... it.


I scraped some of it in the cow yard the other day. I haven’t missed doing that.  I suspect it’s because it’s too random for my anal retentive mind…





I get more theatre magazines than farming magazines these days… that must mean something. 






Amelia has been reading ‘Charlotte’s Web’ every night for the last year or so.  Kelly and I have read the book several times now.  And every time, when Charlotte dies I get a lump in my throat.  I have to admire the author’s ability to do that to me…

As John Irving said in his book ‘A Widow for One Year’ – and a phrase I have written on a wall –  “Oh, the power of the written word”.

And speaking of phrases written on walls, my other favorite phrase comes from Merideth Willson’s ‘The Music Man’.  Professor Harold Hill says, “I always think there’s a band kid.”  A deep thought if I ever heard one…






I heard a radio story the other day about Elisabeth Kubla-Ross, the lady that pretty much invented Hospice Care and came up with the five steps of death. I sorta cross referenced it to picking rocks:


The 5 steps of rock picking.


Step 1 Denial:

There are only a few rocks.  They won’t really cause any problems.  There are a million small rocks; I can’t pick them all up. 


Step 2 Anger:

I’m out here anyway; so gosh darn it!  I’m going to pick up every rock I come across. If I’m feeling lucky, I’ll put the tractor in low first gear and let it creep forward on it's own while I walk beside picking up the rocks and throwing them in the loader bucket.


Step 3 Bargaining:

I'll skip anything under 4 inches diameter because I'm saving my energy for the bigger rocks.  Really, these little ones don't cause any problems.


Step 4 Depression:

Oh, for cryin’ out loud; Look at the size of that rock! (On our property it’s limestone-- big chunks 6 inches thick and 3 feet long and 2 feet wide.)  After this anything smaller is hardly worth the effort.


Step 5 Acceptance: What's the point, they're just going to keep coming back;  Next year there will be more.  I've already picked up the big one that was a true hazard.

The rest are fine.  Really, they’re just…dirt with more structure.







            National Public Radio’s ‘Weekend Edition Saturday’ occasionally has a guy on named A.J. Jacobs whose claim to fame is having read the entire set of Encyclopedia Britannica.  He’s written a book called ‘One Mans quest to become the smartest Man In The World’ or something like that…  Ya know, I read our entire set of Collegiate Encyclopedia a few years ago.  Well, read may not be the correct word…browsed is probably more like it.  But I did go through every page in every volume.  Things didn’t really sink in though.  I sure wouldn’t make the claim to be the smartest man in the world now or such nonsense like that…


Big News! I bought a 2002 set of Encyclopedia Britannica from the libraries used book store for $50!!  Finally, I can get rid of the 1972  set I’ve been using for reference.  And don’t talk to me about using online encyclopedias; they’re just not the same as holding it in your hands and finding ‘moth’ and ‘Mozambique’ while I look up ‘Music’.  Yeah, I’m a bibliophile.  And a book snob. 






I don’t understand what’s going on with the rear view mirror when you flip the little lever to reduce glare at night…How does that work?  And why can’t they make that feature for the side mirrors? 





In the movie ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’ the brides father uses Windex as a cureall for any and everything.  As I grew up it was Absorbine Jr.—that was my Dad’s cureall.  I’m told when he was 4 years old and the hatchet fell off the shop wall and split his head open his mother poured Absorbine Jr on his head and wrapped it in brown paper and sent him on his way.  He’ll show you the scar if you ask…



My Dad slept without a pillow because his older brother Carl had broad shoulders and HE slept without a pillow.  So Dad figured if it worked for Carl…I also slept without a pillow for several years as I grew up. Another thing I could never figure out was how Dad could fall asleep instantly.  He could go lay down on the living room floor and be *out* just like that.  He said you just have to empty your mind. 


I have these conversations (arguments) with Preston these days that remind me so much of conversations (arguments) that I had with my Dad…






Things I Have Learned from Working at the Mayo Civic Center:

            -Sequins come in a veritable plethora of colors.

                        -There is such a thing as too many sequins.


            -Management gets upset when you take your girlfriend / wife into the catwalks.


            -During a slow load in a video guy taught me how to tie a rope into a ‘daisy chain’.