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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Truisms

Unknown author

These powerful truisms were displayed in a lower hallway at Falls Church City Hall back in the early 90’s

Following the crowd provides security

Many of the things you want are worthless

Everything is an integral of everything else

Almost no one finds their match

Strangers don’t want to know you

Crowds create their own power

Things left undone become harder

People are attracted to what they can’t have

Power is passed to those near it

You can only screw yourself

Only certain types are religious

A court of law is designed to intimidate

Almost everyone will take advantage of you if you let them

People put too much energy into money

Time goes by faster as you get older

Traveling far makes you appreciate home more

Do what you want to do most

The point is to be fulfilled

People only care about their own neighborhood

Thoughts today are the oldest thoughts yet

You will grow to be better or worse

People let other people kill themselves

All politics is based only on favors

You are art

Nature always wins

Loneliness is not contagious

Most Weirdos want to be

You are your actions

Many artists aren’t

Progress takes time

Repetition builds skill

When you die, you’re dead

Living increases knowledge

Cities alienate people

Most people are too uptight

Only work pays the bills

Suburbs isolate you

Friends ease the pain

Reviews sell art

Some people love only sex

Fear can be an aerobic activity

Relationships must move forward or begin dying

When dealing with the police attitude matters

People are starved for good information

People want something to respond to

Most Americans are indifferent to politics

You’re never sure if you’re the real cause of anger

Surviving distracts you from doing what you need to

Americans are culturally young

Long trips get shorter each time

We all want the same thing

Indecision is a defense mechanism

The best role to play is as yourself

You can’t run away from yourself

To help write PO Bx 33161 WashDC

Death of a friend gives you perspective

Suspense keeps you interested

People need someone to talk to

Money ruins friendships

Carnivores are nature’s way

Life is to create

Cities speed you up

People rush through life

No one likes to be cold

You’re never sure

Being positive is a choice

Thursday, June 26, 2008


Today had a brief and interesting exchange with Dr. James Loewen, preeminent author of Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America – two powerfully insightful and influential historical masterpieces.



I e-mailed Dr. Loewen this story about how San Francisco might name one of it’s sewerage plants after Bush. Dr. Loewen replied in kind with the following:



“Cute. I proposed that Delaware name its highest point "Mt. Reagan," as part of a major initiative Republicans were waging several years back to name something important in each state after The Gipper.


Delaware's highest point is a pile of dirt on the grounds of a mobile


home park....



My offbeat response to Dr. Loewen follows:




Dr. Loewen,



Thank you for your response.



I should pass this on to a mountaineering man I met near Idaho’s tallest peak, during a 1990 visit I made before moving here. His name was Adrian Crane and when friends and I met him, he was 90 percent through his quest of hiking to the tallest point in each of our fifty states.



Mr. Crane was well-versed as to where each of the high points are; and he told us that during the course of his adventure that whenever a state had a high point that was seemingly insignificant, he still made a ceremonious occasion of it, by warming up and jogging around the area for a few miles, before officially reaching the ‘summit’ for a photo-op. (to verify his achievement)



The next summer, we noticed that The Guinness Book World Records recognized Mr. Crane’s unusual accomplishment with a small tribute in the mountaineering section of their hardbound edition. Turns out, he summited each of our tallest peaks in a total of 101 days! As Guinness sometimes likes to rotate eclectic records such as these, it disappeared into thin air after a few seasons. However, I believe that interested mountaineering data miners and high-altitude-historian-buffs can still unearth this tip-top record from somewhere deep in Guinness’s archive.



Below is a photo I shot of Mr. Crane (on the left) during a break in his descent, standing next to my friend 3V3T5 at an appropriately named turn in the path called, Chicken Neck Ridge.



Borah Peak named after Idaho Senator William Borah

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Continuing Dental Hygiene thread

Below are the scary comments forwarded from one of the dental hygienists mentioned in the above link.




Dani,
My encounter with the blatantly unsanitary conditions occurred about 25 years ago (!!), around the time we had new knowledge about AIDS and the transmission of dz was becoming a real issue. This was also the time that dental professionals started wearing masks, shields, gloves, etc., in other words started thinking in terms of protective barriers for all parties. I was substituting in various offices and had an opportunity to observe a variety of conditions. Clearly there are dentists of the 'old school' who still do not comply with existing health standards and there are double standards for dentists, hygienists and other personnel. For example, by the time I retired nearly 3 years ago, the dentists themselves have not been 'required' by law to wear a mask while treating a patient. I observed that vanity prevented some practitioners from wearing masks and goggles as did a sense of excess heat and other excuses. In terms of 'spot checks' in the dental office, they are done but not frequently enough and I suspect that one can be alerted ahead if on friendly terms, so to speak. There are many, many issues in the dental arena (as in the medical one) that are of great concern and are still in the process of systems development....amalgam re-capture, contaminated materials disposal (particularly on a septic, leech field systems), biohazard waste....In terms of sterilization, there is no excuse for the lack of it in the dental office as autoclaves are the standard. However, there are great variations in the implementation of separation shields between the sterile and non-sterile field and numerous opportunities for contamination. Often a dental rep will place a laptop on the sterile surface when taking inventory, assistants juggle supplies on and off sterile countertops, etc. so the chain is broken in numerous ways unless a clear and enforced system is in place. Human error, in many and various forms, is the ultimate culprit here...often as simple as an unwillingness on the part of the dentist in charge to hold simple office meetings to discuss the issues and develop a system that can be implemented and routinized by all parties in the office.

You may pass this on to Jim, for whatever it is worth!
M

Update: In November of 2008 the Post Register ran the following story called:

Is anybody our there watching Idaho's dentists?

Monday, June 23, 2008

An Expert Such as Banholzer

This is my new favorite catch-phrase. (leads to a wildlife story involving my brother)

When my brother David was a Wildlife Officer, closer to Carolina’s Coast, he encountered a handful of occasions, where an alligator was spied on the beach and in the saltwater surf. Mostly though they called him to snare alligators at golf courses, where he learned well from some other experienced experts. He pointed out how the muscles that an alligator uses to open his jaw are much weaker than the muscles he uses to chomp down quickly on his prey. Thus, it doesn’t take much tape to keep an alligators jaw shut.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Positively chirping phones

A friend brought it to my attention that some of the people who have been adamantly writing against any positive aspects of cell phone use in our SNRA and surrounding area, and who won’t buy a phone on principal think it’s perfectly okay to borrow other people’s phones to make their calls.

Something else that’s not being talked about much is that some people in small Idaho communities still unsecured by cell towers hesitate to speak their true feelings out of fear of being shunned –or worse - by the prevailing Flintstone-aged attitudes of their townspeople.

In one community, this fever has reached such a high chirping pitch that even a physician has gone on public record to speak out against cell phone towers. So far, though, I have not heard any police or EMT’s make convincing arguments about how the potential unsightliness of Galena’s cell tower –or any other tower - would not outweigh its multitude of benefits.

Some naysayers worry about how the safety beacon on the hill might smear the landscape if pine-beetles munch their way over Alexander Ross’s ancient pass. If this does happen, it is actually one more reason to have a cell tower on that exact spot, as it will have then become more avalanche-prone, in this dangerous area where young sports-enthusiasts have already lost their lives, after needlessly suffering because of extended communication delays.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Opening a Beer Bottle with a Chain Saw

I kept thinking about this video, so felt compelled to post it, after 3V3T5 discovered that on a Thursty-Thursday that I was once again, bottleopenerless.

Why is Basketball so important?

Some interesting answers from the Dribbling Oracles at Ask.com















Continuing correspondance with Idaho Spirit Seekers

Our writing club is still on sabbatical, but as I mentioned earlier, trying to open something up for your investigation team up here in Hailey is still high on my list.

I think that the Angel Factor Inn on Third Avenue in Hailey recently changed their name to The Old Ellsworth Estate – or something like that. I noticed that they have a website now, but I have not perused it yet. The last that I heard, the former owner of the Ellsworth Estate, Maurice Ellsworth, is still alive and well. He’s a largely amicable man, giant in stature and in community standing. He’s around ninety years old, lives on Carey Lake, beside some natural hot springs; the drinking of which he attributes to his good health and longevity. Anyhow, I have heard from a few normally reliable sources about some unusual events they have witnessed at his old place. Some of these seem to border on the paranormal.

I cannot remember who currently runs the Inn, but will try to find out soon.

I wanted to tell you a little more about the leader of our writing club, Mr. Tony Evans. Boise Weekly will soon be publishing an interesting article of his about Ezra Pound. Tony recently telephone-interviewed Mr. Pound’s grandson, who lives in a castle in Italy. (He tried to get the paper to foot the bill for him to travel there in person, but they didn’t quite go for it) His article will touch on how Ezra Pound desired to change the monetary system in our country, along with a number of other interesting tidbits. Anyhow, as I’ve been writing this here, I started wondering if perhaps Ezra’s birthplace in Hailey –which is only three blocks away from the Ellsworth Estate – might be another place for your group to pursue an investigation. Currently the Sun Valley Center for the Arts and Humanities owns the historical house and often runs special community events out of it.

It’s a darn cool house.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Water service terminators and the little baby loophole

Years ago, when I worked for a public utility, every two weeks or so, the City Hall office handed out some shut-off work-orders for us to perform. Our water department usually worked well with late-paying customers. Besides the initial bill, City Hall mailed out past-due notices and then final notices before waiting another week to turn off a customer’s service.

Soon, I noticed that the same houses often ended up with delinquent accounts. In a way, this actually helped us, to become familiar with where those customers’ meters lay. We worked up certain strategies to make the operation quick. The driver pulled the truck up to the meter, while one of us burst out the side-door, unbolted the hatch, reached the special key down to the shut-off valve and turned everything off, all in a matter of seconds. We might have tested this with stopwatches, because we became lightning-fast.

As you can imagine, actually having it come to be, so that they were suddenly without their sacred water, angered some customers. After all, there was a time when clean water ran free nearly everywhere. Some would call the office, claiming that the check was in the mail, or that they had a sick baby, etc. All the old clichés. The sick baby excuse actually worked though. If someone used that pretext, we were required to return water service to their household the same day - payment or no. We did not seek to extract proof of the ill child, but only took the customer’s dry voice at word. I thought that this was some sort of health department mandate. However, perhaps it was a bit of empathy that the water department developed on its own - a policy which transcended book laws. I suppose that if I was a sick baby and my parents couldn’t afford to pay the bills, it would be nice to hear later, that the water department held some compassion.

Some in our crew compared our unhappy task to that what the repossession man must go through, before taking someone’s car back to the bank. Occasionally a terminated customer would sneak out to the valve at night and force the water back on with a pipe-wrench. If they had still not paid the bill several days after turnoff, we checked for tampering and re-read the meter for evidence of consumption. If we discovered tampering, we attached an elaborate brass lock mechanism around the neck of the shut-off valve.

Occasionally, we discovered that a customer had reset the valve by smashing off our hardy lock. One man did this and then parked his car tire over the meter top! This was the final straw for our superintendent. After hearing of this tomfoolery, he sent out a full crew, along with a police escort. Our crew jackhammered up the street and dug down eight feet to crimp off the customer’s connection at the water main. Then we refilled the hole, tamped the earth back down and patched the street with some ‘coal-mix.’ With the work complete, our superintendent proclaimed, “There, I’d like to see him try to turn his water back on now!”

The man lived in that tiny house for several more months, all the time without water –or so we thought. Once or twice, the health department went to his house for a welfare check, lugging along some fresh water containers in the event he would like some. They stated that the stubborn codger said he ‘warn’t thirsty’ and turned down their free offer.


Soon, his property was sold to a big developer to make room for progress and the man moved south. While the workers were excavating his tumbledown shack, they discovered that he had managed to rig his ancient well system back into service, which indicated that that he had been freely using the City’s sewerage system. He probably reckoned that - as hard as they say it is to do - he had fought City Hall and actually prevailed with a small victory.

This 'shabster' might have saved himself even more trouble had he known about the sick baby loophole.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Evolutionary nicknames

Although I only have a handful of dedicated readers of this blog, I am quite thankful for each one of yun’s. Some of you may have figured out by now that my e-mail address smavo@cox.net is a tribute to my brother David. Every time I send or receive e-mail, I get a nice reminder of Dave. Dave of course rhymes with Smave, a moniker, which I pinned him with, back in about ’66. From there the natural progression soon became ‘Smavo’ There is an interesting story behind that too, which I would like to share soon, but for now, here is the tale of the evening:

This subject of nicknames came up one night after work, as our tight-knit crew shared a couple drinky-winkys. I mentioned the smavo progression, which prompted Carlit to mention that her dog Hannah soon became ‘Hanna-Banana.’ From there she became Banana-Bread, and then simply “Bread.” Carlit says that Hannah always comes to bread.

I chewed over this for an evening and then thought that in an alternate scenario, Carlit and her children might have started calling Hannah, “Hanna-Barbara.” From there it might have led to the Barbary Coast and then just Coast. Since Hannah comes to bread, I’d bet that she would even come to ‘toast.’


Western Cesspool?



There were some seagulls down there and I think the one pictured on the right was one of them. Seems that severe beachfront storms sometimes knock seagulls inland, where they start hanging around large bodies of water there.

I remember this from Virginia, where we lived about 150 miles in from the shore.




The marsh also attracts curlews, loons, sandhill cranes and dozens of other types. It was a windy day when we went in and I enjoyed watching the birds in their heroic attempts to navigate across the marshway. For a while, a couple of birds traveling together started sending out distress calls between each other, as the high winds started separating them. We were hoping to see a bluebird of happiness, and I’m sure one passed our path that day; only we didn’t notice him.





Listening to the birdcalls reminded me of an incident at the last place where I watched someone’s dog. At that house, each morning a morning dove came out with a peculiar triple call. Where most of these birds’ calls seem to follow a distinct pattern, this one made its calls in triple patterns. The mourning dove’s call reminded me a little of the whippoorwill Maybe it was a tripperlewill.







Lucas is a border collie. He’s about seven or eight and belongs to Doro, my equestrian friend, who is trying to start up a sanctuary for older and troubled horses. One of the coolest things about Lucas is his unique gait. He sometimes sneaks up silently from behind, on the people who walk with him. His gait is very confident and he gets a lot of comments and smiles. He also enjoys Bluegrass music and usually likes to howl along in accompaniment. I feel lucky that I sometimes get to pal around with him.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


Another strange flying dream











There was a certain sage stick that when I picked it up and fluttered it in a particular way, it started to lift me up off the ground. As I did this, I remembered the person from another dream who dropped their sage stick while aflight, resulting in a bad disfigurement for her.



As I lofted over the hills of Bald Mountain, the experience became irresistibly exhilarating, yet also quite natural. The potential for any danger quickly dissolved from my concerns.



To fly, I had to twist the sage stick in a peculiar figure-8 motion by using my hands, right in front of my body. I needed to complete the figure eight motion hundreds of times within one second to generate enough energy to fly, much like a hummingbird.



I don’t know how I was able to accomplish this, but once I started flying, it became easy. Soon I could adjust things, so that I was able to fly and steer wherever I need to go by mind control, overriding what my hands had previously been needed for, to direct my bodily flight with the swirling sage stick. Evidently, the specially powered stick now integrated itself within my body, lessening my earlier worries about needing to fly with a spare safety stick.



The full ballet of turns and spins I attempted became easier than I imagn’d they would be. After a soft landing, my company and I inspected some detailed maps of the over flown area. Interestingly, Baldy’s Southside matched exactly the area, where I grew up in Kings Park West. If you overlapped the map of the Virginia area, east of where Lord Fairfax and his wife are buried, with the proximity of the territory due east of Bald Mountain in Ketchum, Idaho, you would be hard-pressed to say, which map covers Virginia and which Idaho.



I wonder if this dream had something to do with the fact that I cannot fly and leap as I once could and it’s a desire to be more alive as I was in those great days. Some of the dream may also source from my recent perusing of Charles Hapgood’s Maps of the Ancient Sea Kings.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Nice job Statesman

Kudos to the heads-up Idaho Statesman front desk personnel for recognizing that Eusebio Arriaga’s remarkable life story deserved much more than a cold obituary draft and for calling Tim Woodward to help.

A further step Mr. Arriaga might consider taking (if he has not already yet done so), is to share his interesting narrative, by recording it orally with one of Idaho Regional Historians. As I started writing this, the Statesman ran an in-depth story about oral history programs, where they recommend several ways of participating in these.

It would also be nice to see libraries and historical societies link their websites in better with those of local newspapers and vice versa. For instance, when a writer tells a remarkable story such as Mr. Arriaga’s, readers who are curious to discover more, could link directly into a regional history database.

A way for the Statesman and other newspapers to continue to be innovative, in our fast-paced information age, would be to direct special project managers to develop working relationships with regional library historians and other oral history program leaders.

Which Idaho newspapers will be the first ones to start linking in better with our various oral history programs?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

My response to Hailey's Fire Chief, regarding his timely response:

Hi Mike,

Thank you so much for your speedy and comprehensive responses to my concerns. I am impressed with your answers.

This morning, when I pulled our freight truck past the main hydrant of concern, I was relieved to notice that the utility locations were recently marked out, presumably for repair.

I was curious too, as to whether the person that damaged the hydrant had been contacted and if so, what the result of that contact was.

Again, thank you explaining to me some of the variables and inner workings about which I was unaware. I didn’t want to come off sounding like too much of a grump, but after reading about the recent animal center fire, I felt compelled to follow up. I suppose that my using the term ‘disharmonic occurrences’ may have sounded a bit over the top, so to explain more, I will elaborate on an earlier bad experience of mine with the City. A few years ago, the Hailey water-billing department somehow lost my deposit. This required me to go to the bank, to prove that I had made it. After that, there were some other mistakes on my bill, which I pointed out to the city, but then the whole set of circumstances started to become very draining.

I had some more questions for the head of the Water Department, Mr. Ray Hyde. However, when I started asking them, I began receiving half-effort answers - if anything at all. When I told one of my bosses about this, she mentioned that the City of Hailey had been charging her for water for over a decade, when it turned out that a well was serving her that whole time. One of the questions I had for Mr. Hyde, was how did the City intend to charge sewerage based on the user’s winter quarter, when they had not yet taken readings at the beginning and end of the winter quarter for each customer. This and other legitimate questions I had, Mr. Hyde never answered. I must admit that these half-effort and non-answers from Mr. Hyde began to anger me. The other disharmony I obliquely referred to was the mass exodus of department heads and other key employees from City Hall. My intuition tells me that some serious things must have been going wrong for so many employees to leave around the same time. Perhaps though my intuition on this is off and it is all mere coincidence.

Regardless of that, I now feel that the answers and clear concern you provided today, has more than made up for my perception of the City’s weakness. It’s refreshing to see positive results so fast. Thank for leading Hailey’s orchestra in this good harmonic convergence.

Best regards,

Jim B.

P.S. Don’t know if you caught it in the March 11th Journal, but I wrote another letter called, Kudos to Library Visionaries for the diligent Fire Safety efforts. (Letter 3 within link) I think I could have done more with the info you provided, but it seemed to come off as somewhat informative. Something else interesting is that even though Regional Historian Sandra Hofferber assured us that the Community Library has always worked closely, and in full cooperation with the Ketchum Fire Department. As occasionally personnel turnover occurs and improved technologies come along, the library revisits this issue periodically, to assure that not only the building and its patrons will be safe, but so will its priceless contents and historical records.” -They still experienced a small fire coming from the heat tape in the outside gutters a few weeks later, which an alert construction worker in the area, noticed in time to alert the Ketchum Fire Department, who fortunately responded quick enough to minimize the damage.

Response from Hailey Fire Chief Mike Chapman to my previous post

Hi Jim,

Thank you for forwarding a copy of your letter to the editor, and of your observations of what happened when the hydrant was damaged. As a former public works employee, you are most likely aware that the fire hydrant repair, being part of the city water main system, is the responsibility of the Water Department. As such, I have forwarded your e-mails to the Public Works Director Tom Hellen who has acknowledged that this is a high priority for their work crews. I know that the water department has already repaired close to a dozen hydrants that were damaged over the winter, with several more still awaiting repair or replacement.

I am also appreciative of your willingness to have contacted the police department with the information of the driver that probably damaged the fire hydrant at Shelly’s Deli. I don’t know if the HPD have located the person or if they intend to press charges, but will contact Chief Gunter for follow-up.

Regarding the remaining two items;

· Earlier this year, I had already identified the need to install the bollards completely surrounding the new replacement hydrant at Shellie’s, as well as several other locations in town. This installation was originally completed over 17 years ago, before there was any fire department oversight of these installations. Our newest standard for bollard installation requires protection from vehicular damage by the use of 4” diameter concrete filled steel tubes, with an increase of the international standard 3 foot height to 4 feet in height so that the bollards can be better seen in side and rear view mirrors of the larger SUV’s and trucks. These bollards also need to be painted bright yellow or red, and we highly recommend that they also use reflective striping at the top 12” of each post.

· Our standards call for a minimum four foot stainless steel hydrant flag that is secured to the base flange for rapid location of the hydrant by firefighters as well as snow plow drivers.

This combination of high visibility protection still only works if the driver observes the common practice of checking side and rear view mirrors prior to backing up.

Regarding some other comments included in your letter, I share your frustration in not having every fire hydrant in the city in operable condition. Several years ago, we began an aggressive campaign to identify and “educate” snow plow drivers in particular from burying or damaging fire hydrants during winter time. Unfortunately, due to the number of new and inexperienced plow drivers every year, we have had only minimal success.

Regarding the insufficient coverage of the fire hydrants, you may feel somewhat comforted by the knowledge that when we develop pre-fire plans for any building in town, we always assume that the closest hydrant is unusable. (The hydrant could be located too close to the building on fire to safely use, or obstructed by a vehicle, or as in this case – broken.) All of our structural apparatus have sufficient water supply hose to reach from virtually every building in town , to the closest three hydrants. In this way, the lack of being able to reach any single hydrant has minimal effect on most fire suppression efforts.

Lastly, I am somewhat perplexed by one of your final statements...”Taken in context with some other recent disharmonic occurrences within your departments, I can’t help but wonder if these slow hydrant repairs are the manifestation of some deeper problems within our municipality”

I am unfamiliar with the term “disharmonic occurrence” except in reference to an orchestra. In an effort to provide better public services it may be helpful if you were to provide any examples of such occurrences so that we may make improvements to our operations. Please feel free to contact me via e-mail or phone (788-3147) should you wish to further discuss these issues. I am hopeful that they will be resolved very soon.

MC

Before the snow hit last fall, I was eyewitness to the crash, which caused the fire hydrant to leak in front of Shelly’s Deli (now Southside Deli) at the intersection of Glenbrook Road and Woodside Blvd. I immediately called 911 and as requested by Officer Davis of the Hailey Police Department, provided a written account of my observations by the next morning. The Fire / Water Department put this Hydrant out of service and it has been unusable ever since.

This spring at Southside Deli, I crossed paths with a couple of the fine members of the Wood River Fire Department, where those of us enjoying a hot breakfast inquired about this dilemma and requested the phone number for the hydrant’s responsible party. The EMT’s pointed out that the hydrant near Woodside R.V. is also out of service and that if there were ever a fire in this area, it would be a hard one to battle.

To follow up on this, I called the number, which the EMT’s gave me and spoke with Robbin, to make sure this important need had not fallen through the cracks. She said that this hydrant was still on the list for repair, that the crews have been waiting for spring for things to warm up and should be getting out there soon to complete the work. However, now another month has gone by -including fire-prevention week- and we here in this lower Woodside area are still are stuck with substandard fire protection status. Recently when members of our community here pointed out to the Hailey Post Office that their mailbox here was also off its moorings, they fashioned a new box and bolted it down professionally within one week of our request.

Undoubtedly, the Hailey Street and Fire departments have experienced a demanding winter with snow removal, employee turnover, etc. As a former supervisor of a fire hydrant repair crew (back east), I empathize with these challenges. Yet by the same standard, I am a bit dismayed that these repairs are taking so long, as it was rare for us at the City of Falls Church, Virginia water department to have a hydrant out of service for more than one week. Taken in context with some other recent disharmonic occurrences within your departments, I can’t help but wonder if these slow hydrant repairs are the manifestation of some deeper problems within our municipality.

Meanwhile we in the lower Woodside community are looking forward to a full return of our fire protection, via timely hydrant repairs.

Concernedly,

JB

Monday, June 02, 2008

Accomplishing impossible tasks through rock hard concentration

While searching through one of our warehouses for a furniture piece that ended up being out of stock, I begin wondering about some of the other impossible tasks, I’ve been given over the years and how I handled some of those impractical situations.

The most challenging task that comes to mind was hoisting seventeen tons of rock for a stonemason –all in one day! This was back around 1998, the same year that Tim Quietly conquered Idaho, achieving his own impossible task.

Gene, the experienced rockman from Menan, Idaho, had a remarkable collection in his backyard, with a special pile for unique adorning jobs. He had an old ’62 truck named Merlin, a fabled green Ford, which held 4 ¼ tons per load. The previous week his wife and I were heading up to the job with a full load, when suddenly a bunch of noise broke loose from the rear end, right before the Ohio Gulch turnout. Sensing trouble, I edged the battered truck to the roadside, and checked to see what the matter was. We soon saw that the tire had churned loose from the wheelbase, but magically, Merlin’s tire wedged in a way to keep that corner of the truck aloft, so no rocks spilt. Later we found that several of the lug nuts had shot off like hot bullets into the summer sage. Had this happened at the Greenhorn Bridge it would have been catastrophic and probably would have shut down the highway for a few hours, with Merlin featured on the front page of the Wood River Express.

As stonemasons will do, we took the rest of the day off and had a few nippers. With Merlin back in service the next day, I felt compelled to make up for lost time and being in good shape, I meticulously loaded four & 1/4 tons into Gene’s truck, four times, which also involved unloading them at the East Fork house we were building. When the job was complete, Gene was impressed enough to give me a small bonus. After all, what I had loaded and then unloaded was one ton heavier than the traditional song.

Stonemason to Attorney Ratios

I remember reading somewhere that the stone mason to attorney ratio is a good indicator of a town’s health and general well-being. By checking the local yellow pages, you can get a good feel for a town’s atmosphere. I parlayed this info into one of my early columns and soonafter received some jovial feedback.

I disremember who said this, but they remarked, “Gee, those stonemasons must be getting into an awful lot of trouble for a town to require so many lawyers.”