A Lifebuoy Lesson

(A summer repeat from February 2, 2012)

When I was 12 years old (1959), I spent part of the summer at Camp Napowan — a great Boy Scout camp in Wild Rose, Wisconsin.  One hot sunny afternoon, I was loping back to my campsite when I saw a fellow camper named “Wiley.”  I looked at him and called him a “______.”   It was a highly offensive and nasty slur.  What prompted my outburst, I don’t recall but from the moment the words left my lips, things began moving verrrry quickly.  And with great and lasting impression. 

The Senior Patrol Leader, Bill B. – age 14, heard my comment and yelled an order to other Scouts.  They grabbed me and dragged me shouting and struggling to the wash stand.  Bill took a well-used cake of Lifebuoy’s finest and pushed it into my mouth.   Then – with a word from Bill – I was released.  I ran back to my tent on the verge of tears – spitting soap shards.   When I emerged, the matter was forgotten.

But you know what?  From that time on, I never used an epithet like that.   I learned.  Some might say “the hard way.”   But I disagree.    I wish other young people could learn like this — from their peers.  I look at this lesson (and others I’ve had) as being key to my development (see posts of 8/16/11 and 11/23/11).  I’m glad I learned.         

Oh and Bill B.?  He and I went on to become Eagle Scouts.  We worked together on staff at Camp Napowan for the next 3 years.   He became one of my two closest friends (along with my great pal Col. “Ox” – another Eagle Scout).   Bill was best man at my wedding.  And we talk frequently.  Today, he’s the finest veterinarian in the State of Kentucky.   And to this day, I’ve rarely heard Bill utter anything stronger than a (usually appropriate) “doggonit.”  

The Parrot

(A summer repeat from July 19, 2012)

A man was looking for a present to buy his elderly mother. What to get he thought. An idea came to him. His mother had lived alone for years.  Maybe a pet?  Not a dog or cat – too much work.  So he went to the pet shop.

The owner said “I’ve got just the thing. I have a parrot. Smart as a whip. Speaks seven languages. Friendly.   She can talk to him.  Great companion.  Bird likes to watch t.v. too.”   The owner named a hefty price.

The man grimaced but said “I’ll take him.”  He had the pet store deliver the parrot to his mother.  And he called her the following week. 

Hi MomHey how do you like the parrot I sent you?”

He was delicious,” the mother said.

WHATDon’t tell me you ate him!” 

Of course I did.” 

Mom – that parrot was supposed to be a pet!  He spoke seven languages.”

Well he should have said something.”

Legal Pads

I’m a lawyer. I do a lot of scribbling on paper. Notes. Phone numbers. Client comments. Problems. Flow charts. Ideas. Cartoons.  And so on. When I’m done and no longer need my scribbles, I toss out the sheet and have a fresh, blank page staring at me.  What’s interesting is that I haven’t used a yellow or white lined legal pad in years (unless I happen to be in a meeting).

I have a printer outside my office.  It sometimes spits out more than is needed.  Rather than pitch the nearly-blank pages, I save them.  Turn them over and clip ’em together.  And use them as a “legal pad.”  I figure that over the years, I’ve saved a tree or two.   Just from using paper that’s blank on one side with some words on the other.  

I feel pretty strongly about conservation.  And recycling.  My trademark JUST TURN IT OFF® says it all (see post of July 23, 2011).  Why can’t we all conserve water, energy and clean air (see May 21, 2012); stretch products like shampoo (see April 11, 2013); reuse “zarfs” (see October 29, 2015); reuse bags (see August 6, 2012).  Each one of us has potential to make a big difference in the world.  Just think if everyone . . . . . . 

It’s the little details that are vital.  Little things make big things happen.”   — John Wooden 

Counterpoint. . .

1.73 million people are on airplanes every day in the United States.   Lately we read of a woman refusing to sit down on final approach because she wants to use the bathroom.  A convicted felon refuses to vacate his seat due to overbooking.  And is dragged off the plane.  Another woman refuses to hand over a baby stroller.  

Please tell me — why do such incidents become front page headlines?   Why does the media glorify this stuff?  Why are these folks victims?   

Once you are on a commercial airliner, you are subject to regulations of the FAA and the flight crew.  They call the shots.  Why do you become a victim – if you give the finger to the flight crew?  And refuse instructions designed for your (and others) safety?           

The FAA dictates the rules of the road for airlines and those on board. These rules are to be enforced by flight crews.  Or else.  With so many people flying every day in the United States, what would happen if everyone wanted to play by their own rules?   Wouldn’t that make air travel an adventure?  Of course our glorious press would call every maverick a “victim.”  Anarchy would reign.  And the news would turn into one long parade of sob stories.  I can see it now. . . . “John Doe suffered mental trauma when he had a lit cigar snatched out of his hand by an angry flight attendant while on a flight from Chicago to Los Angeles.  The airline is being sued for millions of dollars. . . . .” 

The Ph.D. of Boyhood

Do you have a son? Grandson?  Want to improve his chance of succeeding in school and as an adult? Encourage him to join the Boy Scouts of America.

In 2012, Baylor University conducted a study of the impact of Boy Scouts – and Eagle Scouts – on society.  The impact was highly positive.  A synopsis of the study can be found at http://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=113239   

The Boy Scouts is by far the largest youth organization in America (2.6 million Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Explorers and Venturers) and the best youth organization ever devised.  Eagle Scout service projects constitute the largest youth service initiative in history (150 million hours and counting).  And 3 million souls are alive today because they, their parents or grandparents had their lives saved by a Boy Scout.

On November 17, 2015, Michael Malone penned an article for the Wall Street Journal on Scouting.   Malone calls the path to the Eagle Scout award “the Ph.D. of Boyhood.”  I’m glad – make that lucky – I have my Ph.D. . . . .  

As a parent, you could not wish a better activity for your son (or daughter) than Scouting.  America desperately needs youth – and adults – who abide by the Scout Law – to be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Wouldn’t it be nice if our politicians would abide by these principles (see post of September 12, 2011).   

The Ushers

When I was growing up, I attended St. Mark Lutheran Church in Mt. Prospect, IL. It was a big church offering three services on Sunday morning: 8:00; 9:30; and 11:00. The 8:00 a.m. service was relatively new. And as you might imagine, it was sometimes a challenge to staff the early service with ushers.

The head of the ushering program – Mr. Wendt – often had to attend all three services – filling in as needed.  Finally, perhaps in some desperation, he approached the head of the church’s youth program — and asked if there were some high school boys who could “help out” with the early service.  The answer?  “Sure.”  So Chuck, Wayne, Randy, Dave and I — were tapped to usher the 8:00 a.m. service — every Sunday.    

On the first Sunday, the five of us showed up early.  Suits.  Ties.  We each donned a white carnation and got an ushering lesson from Mr. Wendt.  He guided us through the service offering a running commentary (“smile”greet people by name if you can” “when collecting the offering, walk backwards – never turn your back on the altar“).  After a few weeks of this, the five of us had the protocol down pat.  And  a few weeks later, Mr. Wendt said “keep up the good work, boys” and he never showed up again. . . . .  

Lawyers. . . . . .

A police officer was being cross-examined by a defense attorney during a felony trial. The lawyer was trying to undermine the police officer’s credibility.
Q:  Officer, did you see my client fleeing the scene?
A:  No sir. But I subsequently observed a person matching the description of the offender, running several blocks away.
Q:  Officer, who provided this description?
A:  The officer who responded to the scene.
Q:  So – a fellow officer provided the description of this so-called offender?    Do you trust your fellow officers?
A:  Yes, sir. With my life.
Q:  With your life? Let me ask you this then officer. Do you have a room where you change your clothes in preparation for your daily duties?
A:  Yes sir, we do!
Q:  And do you have a locker in the room?
A:  Yes, sir, I do.
Q:  And do you have a lock on your locker?
A:  Yes, sir.
Q:  Now, why is it, officer, if you trust your fellow officers with your life, you find it necessary to lock your locker in a room you share with these same officers?
A:  You see, sir, we share the building with the court complex, but sometimes lawyers have been known to walk through that room.

4th of July!

On this Independence Day eve, here’s a distillation of a few prior posts.  

Fireworks? Firecrackers? Cherry bombs? Should they be legal? In Wisconsin, fireworks stores seem to outnumber cows.  Weekend festivities are often punctuated by the staccato of firecrackers or the magnificent boom of larger devices.

In 1956, the Hungarian Revolution began.  And my 9 year old pals and I learned about Molotov cocktails.  So – we filled a pop bottle with gasoline, stuffed a rag in the top and lit it — tossing the bottle into Weller creek.  WOW!!   Spectacular blast and flames (not to mention the bumblebee whiz of shards of glass and rocks).   

We’d break open firecrackers, shake out the fulminate of mercury powder into cigar tubes with homemade fins, balance them on an incline and then light a fuse sending the “rocket” skyward or sometimes just bouncing along the ground (ending with an enormous explosion).  We would grab handsful of match books at the local pharmacy and cut the heads off.  And stuff match heads into thin pipes, shaking in the powder for more incendiary displays.  And bombs.  And cannons stuffed with BB’s held in place by dripping candle wax.  And once a hand grenade – using Slaymaker lock dial.  Every boy had a supply of firecrackers, cherry bombs, M-80’s and such.  And my neighborhood was frequently ripped with massive explosions.  

I am keenly aware of all of the arguments of some armchair howlers (“what about accidents?” “they can blow your finger off!”).  Puh-lease.  Wisconsin and 39 other states have got it right. Illinois – as usual – marches to the wrong drummer. On pretty much everything. . . . .