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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Superior sportspersons soar over losing definitions

The mythological status that we bestow upon winning sports icons is inspirational, but all too often our must-win culture deems the person who places second a failure. Take for instance, Germany’s Jan Ullrich: Here is a man who actually won the Tour de France bike race back in 1997 and earned second five other times. Mr. Ullrich is also a gold and silver medal Olympic Champion. Yet, in 2005, right before that year’s race, USA Today portrayed Mr. Ullrich as an ‘also ran’ saying, “He lacks mental toughness” (Reibal). Here is a super athlete in the top one-billionenth percentile of all human racers; yet the media continuously portrays him as a loser. Something needs fixed when according to such doctrines; if you are not sitting on top of the world you are a letdown.

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The same goes for professional sports at many levels. Even though Boston and New York’s baseball teams sometimes win pennants for World Series berths, unless the team actually wins the series, it is a tough traumatic event for the team and that team’s city! Enthusiasts, whose teams score second, truly believe that their lives as fans would have improved in magnificent ways, had not the most infinitesimal of heartless pebbles shifted an easy grounder, to bobble an erroneous course through their first baseman’s legs. When this happens, teams instantly trade ‘losing’ players, while managers’ heads get the chop. For years, fans caught wearing the insignia or even colors of the trailing team, become subject to ridicule -at least until that next rematch. Sometimes this happens even when the team is generating millions in profits, and would be considered successful by most other business model measurements.

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The honorable thing to do when this happens is to ignore this mockery, while attempting to gain character from the process. This is not easy, as there are hundreds of Monday morning ‘expert’ pundits for every professional player and coach. Yet sports figures with integrity can rise above this common challenge and prove successful by disregarding this emotional blather; knowing that as important as fanzines portray these games to be, they can look to many other vital things in life to gain rewards from. True superstars often use lessons distilled from their competitive glory days to shine in non-sports related venues, contributing global assists to the downtrodden.

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Sportspersons have much to live up to, when glorified as idols that represent everything good in this weary world. A few aspire to and actually reach this high standard and are worthy of such idolization. It is excellent when they attain this level, but even the most glorified of heroes make mistakes. Being subject to failure humanizes the most respected of sports idols, but if they handle this quandary properly, they can come away even more victorious, albeit human. Paradoxically, being fallible enables humans to overcome mistakes, achieving higher levels of admiration than they could if they were actually flawless entities.

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A prime example of sportsmanship played out in 1976 on a field at the Spokane Special Olympics. During the 100-yard dash race, ten physically and mentally disabled contestants assembled beaming full of life, each one eager to win. At the gun, they started out, except for one small lad who stumbled, rolled over and began to cry. One or two participants heard the boy and turned back. A young girl with Down Syndrome bent down on the racetrack, kissed him, and said, ‘This will make it better.’ Then they linked arms and walked in unison to the finish line. Everyone in the stadium stood stunned. There was not a dry eye in the arena, and the cheering still echoes years later, resonating in witnesses heads whenever they recount the story. This incident demonstrates how “True Champions” sometimes thrive in unexpected places; places that some of us might wrongly regard as lowly.

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Tales of football icons fumbling their fortunes emerge from the underside of the arena.

It seems that some fabled players, after having almost everything in life catered for them, have had difficult times adjusting to less lavish lifestyles when their careers are cut short. Some end up strung out on skid row or even in jail. Bruce Lowitt from the St. Petersburg Times writes about players who have resorted to selling their Super Bowl Rings only a few years after earning them. In his story, Getting the ring can be easier than keeping it, he interviews Kansas City pawnshop owner Don Budd, who says, “It was hard for me to believe that someone could reach that pinnacle and be willing to give up the one object that says, ‘I was the best’ Nowadays, Mr. Budd averages 10 players a season, who sell out their rings in this last line of defense between poverty and homelessness” (Lowitt).

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Yet sometimes, after hitting all-time life-lows even these trounced players rebound, redeeming themselves as even better persons than they had been at the height of their ball-playing careers. Hall-of-Famer Jim Brown, (who was raised by his great-grandmother from age two, because his parents were gone and his grandmother was an alcoholic) left football while at the top of his sport, moving up even higher on the scale of true karma to counsel troubled teenagers and creating positive inroads for getting gangbangers off streets. After all, for kids struggling in traumatic times, seriously doubting everything, nothing beats hearing legitimately gifted voices of experience from high-profile persons who have tasted extremes of both sweetness and bitterness. From delicate golden syrupy pancakes stuffed with caviar and Savoy-truffles and Faberge omelets, to soppy milquetoast and rotten eggs for breakfast with a side of saltwater decaf from Hard-Times Cafe.

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Embracing wide spectrums of experience develops a broader person. Denial of bad experiences is necessary within certain degrees, but in many cases, denial isn’t the healthiest course of action.

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How often in life, have you heard someone say about a traumatic event, “I wish it hadn’t happened to me, but I’m a better person for it?” In Kathleen McGowan’s Psychology Today article, “The Hidden Side of Happiness” she shows how a rich rewarding life often requires a messy battle with adversity and that we have a built-in human capacity to flourish under the most difficult circumstances. Thus the paradox, “what doesn’t kill you can actually make you stronger.” We sometimes confuse adversity with failure; therefore making a distinction between the two can be healing in of itself. Knowing that you have given it your best at a sporting event or some other task, yet did not ‘win’ first place, should not by any means disallow you to proudly walk away from your valiant efforts.

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In the mountaineering community, there are several well-documented incidents of professional climbers attempting to ascend high peaks, and then due to safety or weather concerns, turning around within shouting distance of the summit. Jon Krakauer, in his award-winning Into Thin Air chronicles the case of Swedish ultra-athlete Goran Kropp. After traveling from sea level from Sweden on a specially built bicycle laden with 240 lbs of gear, robbed and beaten along the way, Mr. Kropp finally reached the base of Mt. Everest, intending to climb it without bottled oxygen or Sherpa support. After a few training days, Goran reached 26,000 feet, aiming for the top the next morning right after midnight. Krakauer’s eagle-eyed perspective recounts:

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“For the first time in months almost no wind blasted the summit, but the snow on the upper mountain was thigh deep, making for slow exhausting progress. Kropp bulled his way relentlessly, upward through the drifts, however, about by two o’clock Thursday afternoon he’d reached 28,700 feet, just below the South Summit. But even though the top was no more than sixty minutes above, he decided to turn around, believing that he would be too tired to descend safely if he climbed any higher.

To turn around that close to the summit (Rob) Hall mused with a shake of his head on May 6 as Kropp plodded past Camp Two on his way down the mountain. That showed incredibly good judgment on young Goran’s part. I’m impressed,“ considerably more impressed actually, than if he had continued climbing and made the top.” (Krakauer).

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Therefore, it is nice to see that at least in mountaineering circles, you do not have to park yourself on top of the world to be a winner. Principled warriors from other avenues of life would do well to take note of this. Being able to analyze mistakes, remember and learn from them, applying them to future tests, is one of the highest aspirations achievable and a fundamental nature of wisdom. Studying and learning from our failures can be a great human gift.

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In this age of Licitly split information it’s nice that more people appreciate this dilemma, offering optimistic opportunities for squeezing out from dangling second-leveled crevices.

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Works Cited

Krakauer, Jon. Into Thin Air (excerpt).” Salon 24 May 1997. 20 November 2006.http://www.salon.com/may97/wanderlust/passages970524.html

Lowitt, Bruce. “Getting the ring can be easier than keeping it.” St. Petersburg Times 26 January 2001. 11 November 2006http://www.sptimes.com/News/012601/SuperBowl 2001/Getting_the_ring_can_.shtml

McGowan, Kathleen. “The Hidden Side of Happiness.” Psychology Today 02 May 2006. 08 November 2006 http://www.psychologytoday.com/rss/pto-20060216- 00001.html

Reibal, Sal. “Focus gives Lance head start as Tour de France nears.” USA Today01 July 2005. 10 Nov. 2006 http://www.usatoday.com/sports/cycling/tourdefrance/2005- 06-30-armstrong-cover_x.html

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Be prepared for summer snake encounters

A friend spied some rattlers skulking around out Croy Canyon recently, and she asked me if she should go to Hailey’s St. Luke’s clinic for treatment, in the event that one was to strike out and bite her. In short, the answer is no, because the Hailey clinic is no longer an Urgent Care facility, and does not stock antivenin. However, St. Lukes Hospital a few miles south of Ketchum does carry rattlesnake antivenin and has treatment available at all hours.

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When traveling in the backcountry, far from hospitals, it’s a good idea to pack a first aid kit, and perhaps a snake-bite kit. A key point to remember when a snake sinks its fangs into you or a friend (or Man’s best friend) is to not panic or run, because an increased heart rate will speed the flow of venom in the circulatory system. Try to calm down and stay hydrated, but do get far enough from the snake so it won’t try to bite again. It’s important to identify the snake if possible, but use common sense and don’t try to catch the snake! Even if it is not a poisonous snake, you should cleanse the wound thoroughly, using warm water and antiseptic soap, before applying a snug dressing held by an elastic bandage. If feasible, carry the victim to the nearest available vehicle, before transporting him or her to the ambulance or hospital. If a rattlesnake bites you and you opt to drive to the hospital, rather than taking an ambulance; you would do well to call ahead, to tell them you are on the way, so staff can begin making preparations for your treatment.

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Occasionally some hardy westerners try to “cowboy up” after receiving snake bites, telling themselves that it’s not so bad, and they forgo any treatment. Later some come to regret this, as the area where they were bit, succumbs to a large amount of permanent tissue damage. Not only that, but since snakes subsist mainly on rodents, even non-poisonous snakes carry loads of filthy bacteria in their mouths; which with fang-bites can lead to terrible infections.

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Some other key points to remember are: Do not apply ice to the bite wound. This will not slow the venom flow. Also, do not use your mouth to suck out the venom. The accepted wisdom used to be to use a snake-bite kit to suction out the venom, but lately that’s been up for debate. Remove jewelry and other items which may constrict with swelling. A few years ago, a friend exploring in the remote Owyhee Desert had a rattlesnake bite his dog in the head, which started swelling to the point where he had to snip off his collar, before they could reach the vet.

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Some vital prevention tips regarding snakes are:

Snakes like to avoid the hot sun, by hiding under rocks or in crevasses. Stay away from reaching in there. When camping, zip up your tent the whole way, to keep snakes from squiggling in. Shake out shoes and clothes before dressing. Be a noisy walker to scare snakes away.

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Local lore has it that rattlesnakes are seldom seen above 5,500 feet. Although this may be a good rule of thumb, it’s not absolutely true, as snakes do not have altimeters built into their brains and depending on climate conditions, sometimes creep upwards to 7,000 feet and higher. Snakes sometimes seem to favor old abandoned mining operations.

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Much of this has been covered before in local newspapers, but it’s helpful to remind folks to be serpent-wary, with the plentiful amount of outdoorsy types constantly exploring here, during our high snake season.

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Once during a highway cleanup, Jim Banholzer got bit in the jeans by a lightning-quick rattlesnake, and he has been paying close attention to their interesting habits ever since.

Monday, May 16, 2011


The Owl and the Money Clip


Here's a story from Jim Banholzer that involves owl medicine. He heard it from a friend, Tonia, after he helped her and her husband Robin, move into a new house near Bellevue.
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At their old Ketchum place, Robin and Tonia had lived together with their children and a single mother, an arrangement that worked out great in some aspects, but also was a bit cramped, which tends to get worse during harsh Idaho winters. Both families had traveled down a few times to look at the prospective larger house. All four kids loved it, as did Tonia and her single-mother friend. Robin wasn’t so sure though; after all, they had already moved earlier that same year. His hesitation was understandable, as the new house cost more and he is the main breadwinner.

With the pressure on to decide soon, one evening Robin vociferously announced that he was “going fishing.” He walked down to the
Big Wood River to spend some time alone and to specifically reflect on their situation. As twilight progressed, an enormous great horned owl swooped down over the water and dropped something shiny. Robin carefully waded out to where the owl dropped the item and discovered it was an empty money clip. Examining it closer, he saw that the silver was emblazoned with his own initials!

Robin took the owl’s message as a powerful sign, which helped him, decide that his family would be better off if they made the big move. Coincidentally, a few months previous, at their old house I had dropped off some animal totem books, including one that focused on birds as messengers. On a whim, I marked one of the owl stories with a copy of my own owl story, using it as a bookmark. It's called The Midday Owl who Withdrew from the Bank.

What’s interesting about this story is that most people who hear it agree that they would have made the same decision, even though the owl had dropped an empty money clip. One friend even opined that it’s healthy to get out in nature when making such large life-changing decisions and that it was a nice enough to be given such a powerful bird-augury to help with the choice; as pennies from heaven will arrive in their own due time.

Gene’s 1962 truck ‘Merlin’

A Trucker's tale



Back in cold February, I was chugging up Highway 75; when suddenly right before Ohio Gulch, the rig started behaving badly and jerked to a halt. Turns out it was the transmission, and even though a mechanic-friend had recently inspected it with a fine-toothed comb, it was shot.

That cost some big bucks; and then, only a few weeks later, the truck started acting up again, at that exact same spot. As
Blaine County locals know, Ohio Gulch is the turnoff for the dump transfer, and just south of where the State sometimes sets up truck inspection stations. It’s also essentially the last safe place to pull over; if you’re heading north with a big rig in the area, and it happens to break down.

The second breakdown was caused by a fuel pump problem. I thought it was strange and yet a little fortunate that the truck decided to break down at the same safe pullover spot twice. Then I remembered; fifteen years ago, I was driving a rig full of rocks for a stonemason, and that truck broke down at the same precise spot. I had loaded Gene’s truck to the brim, with four and ¼ tons of river rock. As we approached Ohio Gulch, his truck started thumping loudly from the right rear side. I pulled over and soon saw that the wheel had actually rolled out from its base, while the lug nuts whizzed off like hot bullets in the wild-west sage. Although the tire and rim had shot off, it had miraculously wedged upright into a corner of the truck, keeping the masonry rocks from spilling out.

As I hitchhiked to the East Fork jobsite, passing over
Greenhorn Bridge, I became thankful that the truck had not decided to shuck off its rock, back to the river there. I wasn’t looking for that type of legend on my resume.

It’s funny; every time I drive past that Hyndman Creek house with a friend and see those river rocks shining so intact, I feel compelled to pull over, point at the stones and tell this story.

And it makes me curious to hear about other people’s experiences of breaking down at same spots.

And while we did laugh later, Gene told me, when he saw me walking the last leg of Hyndman, two hours late and with no truck, he thought, “This can’t be good.”

Addendum:

Another synchronicity occurred few weeks ago, when I was in this same proximity, dumping off an old mattress at the transfer station.

While up there, the garage-styled back door of my work van became wedged open in a manner that I could not shut it. Since I had another job scheduled, I tied everything down that might come loose, clamped the door to the roller as a precaution, and then headed back out on the highway with my rear door ajar.

As I pulled out, I gave the only other vehicle in the area a wide berth to scoot around me, but he would not pass right away. I felt as though he was checking out my rear door and might try to flag me to inform me it was open.

Finally, as he passed, I noticed that he was driving a service vehicle for Overhead Door repair company! As my problem is in the area of his trade, he was probably checking out my disabled door. At the next intersection the light conveniently turned red, giving me enough time to jot down his number.

The amazing thing is that he passed me, right at the same spot, where I've broken down thrice before. As I pointed out to a friend, he was a helper. And come to think of it, now; all four times that I've experienced mechanical difficulties at the Ohio Gulch "
Bermuda triangle for trucks" eventually, a helper has always come with gracious assist.

After discussing this with the friend who has great insight, she asked me, "What colors do you see in the sky when you break down?" I don't understand what that could have to do with anything regarding the breakdowns, but believe me, whenever I notice anybody else experiencing trouble in that same area, I study the sky, thinking of her unusual question.

Perhaps, someday, I can be the helper for someone else in this area who is experiencing a breakdown, and recount this interesting tale to them as we try to fix whatever problem they are having, as we curiously bide our time
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Sunday, May 08, 2011

Winning!
Last night the press club announced that I won a 1st place award for General  Excellence for editorial writing in the public relations division.    Here are the three that won the award:
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http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005134119&var_Year=2010&var_Month=11&var  _Day=17    
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http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005130045    
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http://www.mtexpress.com/index2.php?ID=2005133011&var_Year=2010&var_Month=09&var  _Day=01  
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    I also earned 2nd place in this same category in 2008 and 2009.       http://idahopressclub.org/annual-awards/2010-best-of-awards/item/114-public-relations 
Here is some background info for my three letters of public interest:

Elk making a comeback is a follow up of sorts to a column I wrote for the Express five years ago titled: Golf Course offers Links to Nature. That account of my experience working as an irrigator for two summers ran synchronisticly the day before an Idaho Fish and Game elk round up, where in a remarkable display of ungulate athleticism, one legendary cow escaped by leaping clean out of the 8 foot tall corral!

This letter gained 87 replies on the Express website, making it their most commented letter of 2010. Within those comments I was pleasantly surprised to see a few hunters temporarily exchange their arms for pens and healthily scribe some poetic dialogue probably good enough to make Lawrence Ferlinghetti smile.

My second letter, Lower speed limit has benefits mostly speaks for itself, while urging citizens to consider advantages they can gain by adjusting to slower paces.

Considerable telephone calls and concerned community letters like my third; Soldiers deserve to have a flag, were enough to pressure the Copper Ranch Homeowners Association to capitulate into allowing the Perfect family to display an American flag on their porch as a symbol of support for their son Edward; recently deployed overseas to the war in Iraq with the Idaho Army National Guard’s 116th Cavalry Brigade. I’m especially proud of this letter, because I was the person who first gave the Express the tip of this story’s newsworthiness. The feature Family fights for right to fly flag became the most commented news article of the year on the Express’s website with 132 comments.

The morning that this story ran in the Mountain Express, a person closely associated with the family, called to say that she had talked with Robin Perfect, who was overwhelmed with emotion, seeing how supportive our community is.

Further regarding news tips; perhaps this is something that the Idaho Press Club should consider for a future category. In the spirit of Idaho’s Mark Felt (Watergate’s Deep Throat) the Press Club could name the award in honor of this Twin Falls native. If circumstances necessitate it to be so, the Press Club could present the award in secret -only revealing the deserving recipient’s name at a much later date.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Halfway to revealing of Arbor Day time capsule



In the spring of 1986 I was part of Fall Church’s Beautification team. Our dedicated landscape crew consisted of Julie, Henry, Lawrence (Butch), James (Pee Wee) and I. For Arbor Day that spring, our group planted a six foot redbud tree a few feet off the curb in the parking lot directly across from the police station downstairs entrance. At the time, some city officials (from the personnel office?) made a photo op of the tree planting and created a time capsule with the snapshots, along with various other pertinent items of the era; including local newspaper clippings, and copies of the Cherry Hill Chronicle.

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Later on, after inquiring more about the time-capsule, we learned that it was not buried anywhere on the grounds, but rather filed away in a secure cabinet somewhere in City Hall. As this week marks the halfway point to the grand revealing of our time-capsule, I wonder if any of the current Falls Church personnel have knowledge of its whereabouts.

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Furthermore, as many municipalities have begun using online calendars that reach decades ahead, I would like to suggest that Falls Church personnel note on their calendars that Arbor Day of 2036 is the day for the grand revealing that we were promised. Meanwhile, I will mark my own day-planner in such a way that if I am lucky enough to still be alive in 25 years, I would be delighted to attend the small ceremony of the time-capsule re-opening.