A rant

We just returned from a hurried trip to Seattle to see family. We were hoping for some cooler weather but enjoyed the 90-degree days and high humidity without the benefit of air conditioning.

The Tucson monsoon began on July 3, right on schedule, and we had a few good rains before we left a week later. Rains continued until we arrived home but the rain disappeared for about a week. Now the monsoon is back with almost daily rain. The downside is that weeds are sprouting all over the yard.

I guess I had a somewhat unusual childhood. My dad worked construction for some of the big players like Morris-Knudson and Peter Kiewit. As a result, my early life was spent living in a trailer (no “mobile homes” in those days) in largely rural communities. We semi-settled in Antelope Valley, California, which at that time was an agricultural area with alfalfa fields, orchards, and turkey farms. It also included Edwards Air Force Base, where the USAF tested numerous aircraft, and USAF Plant 42 in Palmdale, where aircraft such as the Space Shuttle and B-2, are/were assembled and modified and flight tested. My friends at elementary school and AVHS were offspring of farmers and aeronautical engineers. This area could have doubled as the location of “American Graffiti” with the drive-ins, car clubs, cruising, and the variety of personalities.

Just before starting my junior year of high school, my dad took a job at the Nevada Test Site where they were testing A-bombs. Since the nearest town of any size was Las Vegas, I spent my final two years at LVHS. Las Vegas was somewhat like Antelope Valley in that we had drive-ins, a number of hot rods, and the variety of personalities. One of the major differences was that our cruising street was Fremont, a half-mile strip of wall-to-wall, neon-clad casinos. I also attended a small college there of 3,500 students named Nevada Southern University (when I returned from the service the school had been renamed UNLV.)

So, in trying to relive my youth, I belong to several “growing up in…” sites on Facebook. What I find interesting is that on the AV sites, discussions of the AV Fair, chasing lizards and snakes in the desert, restaurants, and aeronautics dominate. On the LV sites, The Strip, Fremont Street, casinos, and clubs tend to dominate.

I also belong to a site for the town in Arkansas where my mother grew up. I don’t know anyone there – just interested in the history.

But what I find interesting (and disheartening) is that both communities seem to be failing in the education department. People of my era (baby boomers and earlier) mostly know how to spell and write a complete sentence. Subsequent generations, and these sites include people who graduated from the 1940s to the 1990s, become progressively worse in simple English. Some of these people, appear to be incapable of expressing a simple thought, and I’m not speaking of writing like Hemingway, just expressing a thought. After studying a few of the comments from all these communities, I still had no idea what the commenters were trying to say. Admittedly, some may be writing on a phone and using abbreviations, but this doesn’t explain the lack of verbs or nouns, lack of capitalization, capitalizing wrong words, misspellings so bad the reader has to guess, missing words. What may surprise a lot of people (but not me) commenters in the Batesville, Arkansas site are better at writing skills, although may be attributed to older folks dominating the website.

This is not to sweep everyone into the same pile: plenty of baby boomers have difficulty with English while plenty of the younger generations are fully capable of writing coherently. Facebook friends of both our kids write (and think) well with proper spelling and structure as well as thoughtful and easily understood sentences.

But it is becoming more pronounced. It is truly a sad state of affairs for our country.

I’m done ranting for now. I wrote this story last week and I hope you enjoy it.

Barking dogs and irritated neighbors

Sven Olson looked up from trimming the hedge when the rumble of an old Dodge 1500 announced the arrival of Bobby Murdock, the neighbor on the other side of the hedge. Bobby’s three hounds in the back yard, recognizing the sound of the motor, increased their howling.

Bobby was a strange one, a failure at everything he had ever attempted. Despite his size, six-foot two and 230-pounds, he never advanced beyond second string on the high school football team. He had tried welding, automobile repair, and many more occupations but his limited intelligence, lack of commitment, and stand-offish personality had resulted in a continuous string of pink slips. That is until five years ago, six years after squeaking through high school, when he landed a job driving a semi for the local bakery. He worked the night shift, hauling a load of freshly baked bread from the bakery to a distribution point 150 miles away. At this he excelled, probably the result of working by himself coupled with an innate ability to drive a big rig. He had inherited his grandparent’s house and furnishings when they both passed away; he had moved in three weeks prior.

When Bobby turned off the motor and stepped down from the cab Sven greeted him. “Morning Bobby? How are you doing?”

Bobby stretched to loosen the kinks from being behind the wheel for nearly eight hours. “Doin’ good, Sven. How ‘bout you?”

“Not so good. It’s hard to sleep with your dogs barking all night long. Is there any chance you can put them in the house when you go to work?”

“I tried that, ‘member? They tear up the house when I’m not home.”

“Well, it’s not fair to your neighbors to listen to that howling all night long.”

“Sorry ‘bout that, but I ain’t got no other choice. I gotta get somethin’ to eat. See ya later.”

George Jensen, who lived in the house on the other side of Bobby, was finishing his morning walk and had stopped to listen to the conversation. “That boy’s a little rude, don’t you think?”

“Sure is. I’ve asked him three times now, politely, and it’s time for more drastic measures.”

“You aren’t going to hurt him are you?” Sven was the opposite of Bobby, being successful at everything he tried from starting at quarterback for three years (despite his size at five-nine), being state Golden Gloves champion for two years, graduating from both high school and college with honors, and owing his own business from which he was now retired.

“Naw. Even though I could as long as he didn’t get a hold of me. Time for some old-fashioned subterfuge.”


Eight days later Sven went out to check the mail box and ended up chatting with George about the weather. Bobby was loading his belongings into the back of his truck.

“Hey Bobby, what are you up to?”

“Movin’ out, man. That damn house is haunted. Strange moans and voices and all kinda weird noises all day long.”

“Well, you know your grandparents lived in that house for over fifty years. When they died the same day their souls may have remained in the house. Sorry to see you go.”

“I gotta get the dogs and I’m gone.” He walked into the house and opened the door for the dogs. He locked the door then opened the rear door for the hounds who gleefully jumped in. “See ya around.”

After Bobby left, spewing gravel and dust, George laughed. Okay, Sven, just what did you do?”

Imitating Bobby’s somewhat whinny voice, Sven said, “I didn’t do nuthin’ man.” Reverting to his own voice he added, “I found a CD of haunted sounds and just put a remote speaker in his heat duct. Since I controlled the volume from my house I was really messing with his head by increasing and decreasing the volume. The noises came from every heat duct and the tinny sound from bouncing through the duct made it even spookier. That really helped.”


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