Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Week That Was

A TV show aired called "The Week That Was" when I was growing up. Last week was my "Week That Was".

The early part of the week was non-descript. We were putting the finishing touches on our Whiteside install so that everything would be ready.

Tuesday morning we loaded, and I mean loaded, up the truck. It had antenna, pole, camera, control unit, concrete, tools galore, some kind of electric gadget for driving anchors into the ground, and a trailer with a one man auger on it. We were ready. With all of that crap, I decided not to take the truck to Sweetwater Tuesday evening and took my Buick instead. Bummer.

Tuesday is my longest day. Up at 5:30 AM, back home by about 11 PM. After a long day, I like to take the back route home. Even though I spend an hour with those confounded wind turbines all around me, it still is more peaceful than taking the truck-clogged interstate.

There is, however, one enemy in my otherwise driving bliss: deer. Deer are big problems for vehicles. They are even bigger problems for mid-sized cars. This night, less than three miles from home, I managed to meet up with about 10 of the (growl) sweet brown-eyed creatures. I hit two, maybe three. Thank God I wasn't going very fast, maybe 15 mph. The car is now quite snaggle toothed ... but drivable.

Wednesday morning: Oh my goodness. Theoretically, this should be easy. Just drill a couple of two foot holes in the ground, sink an antenna pole and a post for the electrical, drill in our guy wire anchors, then hook everything up. Yea right.

I forgot. It's my fault, really. The caliche hills in West Central Texas have NO top soil on the bluffs ... and we were on a bluff. I got lucky with the auger. I drilled the holes for the antenna pole and the electrical post with no problem. 24 inches, sweet. But when we went to drill in the guy wire anchors, they just would not go in more than about 12 inches. Too rocky. In fact solid rock. We tried augering the hole first ... no joy. Finally we bolted the anchor onto the auger thinking we could drive it in with more power. Nope.

Finally we gave up. I pulled the anchor (which is about a 3 foot long piece of pipe normally used to anchor mobil homes) from the ground and leaned on the still running auger. My partner reached down to shut off the auger just as I, for some unbeknownst reason, squeezed the throttle.


That anchor hit me in the side of the head every bit as hard as a baseball bat in the hands of an angry attacker. To say that it knocked me down would be a gross understatement.

I lay in the caliche soil holding my head moaning "I think I'm hurt". Gee, dude, ya think? My buddy stood there eyes wide and slack-jawed trying to figure out what to do next.

We did all we could do: went back to work, albeit with a splitting headache. We mounted the control box, then put up our tools and went back to town, in case I was gonna friggin' stroke out or something. I called my wife and told her I was hurt and not to go anywhere just yet. She put me on the prayer list. Then we drove the 45 minutes back to my house where I showered and tried to recover. An EMT friend told me not to go to sleep, so I said, "well, crap, might as well charge on", so I went ahead and went to Sweetwater.

My head still hurts.

Thursday began another adventure. A local rancher was working in a field when he managed to inadvertently set the whole neighborhood on fire. Here's a picture from the North side of the hills:

The smoke was so bad that at one point, you could see the plume from Fort Worth 150 miles away. You could even see it from satellite. It made the national news. While I was in Sweetwater, my wife and daughter were packing in case of evacuation. We live in a log home on a hill side. If the wind changed, we were toast. It didn't. The fire is still smoldering.

I guess you have to be philosophical about a week like that. The car wasn't TOO damaged. The prayers worked, because I didn't stroke out or anything. The fire didn't destroy any homes, although it damaged a couple of wind turbines. In church Sunday, I got a chance to publicly thank many of the fire fighters. All in all, it could have been worse.

Did I mention my head still hurts?

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Flag Controversy

I have to talk about this. I just do.

Earlier today, I read what may very well be the most depressing thread that I have read on the internet, at least in a while. It's at Desperate Houseflies, The Magazine. Here is the link to the actual thread.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not really in favor of an amendment to the constitution banning flag desecration. It's a red herring. It plays well with the Republican base, so it's used as an issue to force the Democrats to side with flag burning liberal hippies. But it's just not a necessary thing. I mean, do we really need to make something like this illegal? Didn't our founders fight and die to make such "speech" a right?


Sandi, the author of the original article, characterizes the tone of the discussion with this comment:

I guess what I ended up with at the end of our conversation was that I don't consider the nation-state an appropriate way to organize the world and allocate goods, rights, and resources. I accept that that's the way it is and it's not going to change because of my vote (not that I even have an alternative to offer), just like I accept capitalism but do not embrace it. But I'm not going to affirmatively do anything (fly a flag, say the Pledge, foam at the mouth over mythical flag-burning) that implies that I'm okay with having and perpetuating divisions between people based on where they were born and raised, or where they live. Obviously there is no way to completely avoid participating in these ways of organizing the world that I don't believe in -- I get a paycheck, buy things with the money, have a passport, check the "U.S. citizen" box on forms -- but I'm not going to take pride in it.

I really don't get it ... I don't. Why are these folks so negative? By my standards, living paycheck to paycheck in West Texas, Sandi is a rich metropolitan lawyer. Why does she "diss" the very system that gave her the prosperity she enjoys? And she's not alone! Save for one (who ended his tenure with the blog because of this thread), those commenting agreed with her!

To be fair, I understand not wanting a flag in one's sanctuary. Our kingdom is not of this world and I don't want any other banner other than God's to fly there. But contrast the following words made by Captain Chuck on flag day of this year:

Ladies and gentlemen, I’ve seen, like many of my brothers who’ve gone before me and those who are represented here today by these flags—I’ve seen the horror of war. I’ve experienced first hand horrible injury and disfigurement. I’ve visited with many of my brothers and sisters who’ve suffered even more than I, who lie in military hospital beds and wait for their wounds to heal, for infections to subside, for prosthetics to be made and fitted. Almost to a man, the question foremost in their mind is “When can I go back?” They understand that there is a job to do. A mission with a true purpose and a noble cause. A cause so important that a man who’s lost both arms and a leg does not wallow in self pity, but focuses on returning to his unit, to his adopted family, and even to the throngs of smiling and waving children whose greatest gift is a pad of paper and a pen, handed out by a soldier on a patrol. The personal courage of our nation’s veterans never ceases to inspire and amaze me. While I was lying in my bed at Walter Reed, only a few weeks after being wounded, a man I recognized walked past my room. He was another captain that I had served with earlier in my career. I noticed something very different about him—he was missing both feet. He’d lost his right leg in OIF 1, the invasion of Iraq, and then, a year and a half later, lost his other leg during OIF 3, the rebuilding of Iraq. He walked on prosthetic legs, and was at the hospital to receive his second purple heart, and was then returning to his unit to continue a train up for yet another tour.

Chuck got blown to crap in Iraq a little over a year ago. He has become a legend of sorts because he was and still is a blogger. His recovery, with the incredible support of his wife Carren, is an inspiration. Click on the link to read his entire flag day speech.

I wonder how Captain Chuck would respond to this comment:

Contrary to the faux-respectful drivel that gets preached whenever this issue comes up, it's inconceivable to me that anybody ever died for a flag. People died for their buddies, for their unit, for their families, to protect their freedoms or someone else's, or because they were just soldiering on, following orders. But for a flag? Surely not. If anyone ever died for a flag, their death truly was pointless.

I've read Chuck off and on for a year now and can pretty well guess how he might react.

I understand both sides of the controversy, really I do. But let me recount a "flag" experience that I had:

It was a windy West Texas day as we carried my Dad's flag draped coffin to its final resting place. The Air Force honor guard was outstandiproperm and propper in every movement. I will never forget the rifle shots as they rang out in his honor. I blinked back the tears as the honor guard quietly and methodically folded the Stars and Stripes.

When they finished the process, the airman marched over and with hallowed movements, handed me the now folded flag. With one hand held under it and one hand held above it, I then marched a square corner and in like fashion, handed the flag to my next youngest brother. The process was repeated until my youngest brother handed the flag to my Dad's only sister.

Dad would have loved it.

Dad sacrificed his physical health flying B-52's during the cold war. Even though the pain followed him for the rest of his life, he would not have traded it for all of the money in the world. Did he do it for his family? His buddies? His future? Or a flag. I never asked. But I do know that he didn't have much patience with flag burners.

Sometimes I wonder if patriotism is a test. The folks over at the "Flys" disdain it in the extreme. In so doing, they seem to be disdaining the authority which it represents. Being subject to authority is a rather constant New Testament theme, so I hope I'm wrong about that.

If a person has disdain for the "system" of government under which one lives; if a person derides those that govern such a system; if a person is constantly throwing rocks at either, then how will that person react to an absolute theocracy with Jesus at its head?

Hmmm. Things to think about.