Jul 08

Okay, so the boy and I signed up for summer camp again this summer.  We missed last year due to our whole family going on a cruise and me not being a doctor or a lawyer or some other rich dude who can afford all kinds of frivolous vacation expenses.   In the past, the boy and I have attended Medicine Mountain in the Black Hills of South Dakota and Camp Laramie Peak in Wyoming.  This summer, the troop had decided to go back to Camp Laramie Peak (CLP).  At first, I was a little hesitant, because last time we went wasn’t exactly a stellar, a-plus experience.  In fact, I blogged about it.

Now, I have written a couple of lengthy posts about scouting.  They are some of my most-“Googled” posts.   I want to make one thing perfectly clear: I love scouting.  I love the leaders, I love the kids, I love what we are trying to instill in the young men.  Between cub scouts and boy scouts, I have been an adult volunteer for around 8 years (and the last two years, I have been involved in both cubs and boy scouts).  Let’s remember that I am a cynical smart-ass and I make fun of stuff (myself included) whenever I write.  Every time I poke fun at BSA, I get some militant buttmunch who comments about what a horrible example I am, how I should quit scouting and pull my kids out, and how I’m just an all-around jerk with no business posting anything negative about scouting online.  To those with no sense of humor about scouting, please leave now.  I think you may have a more pleasant experience here.

So, I somewhat reluctantly agree to follow the troop to CLP to help with the scouts.  A short time before we’re ready to embark on this journey, the Scout Master approaches me.  He tells me that he has some work obligations, and because I have been with the troop for awhile, he wants me to serve as acting Scout Master while we are at CLP.

Crap.

Responsibility, paperwork, having to be the adult that wakes up early enough to get the boys up…

sigh

“I’d be honored,” I told him, and I actually think I felt my nose grow slightly longer.

I am not the kind of person who handles stress very well.  I don’t have a high-paying job with with a large amount of advancement opportunity because those kinds of jobs usually involve a large amount of stress.  If I deal with an upset customer on the phone, I usually handle it pretty well on the surface.  I can usually make the customer happy.  However, I have the knowledge that I will ultimately die of a massive heart attack while on the phone with one of these people because I get so stressed while talking to them.  Either an upset customer — or having to deal with employees under my direct command and their issues… management material I ain’t…  So, the inherent stress involved with being directly responsible for 20 scouts is not something I am really looking forward too, but I can’t imagine another leader that I am sure all of the boys of all ages will respond well to.  Kids like me (probably because I haven’t really grown up yet myself… going to have to do that one of these days).  Besides, there are a lot of other adults going with the troop, and I know there are a few of them who are going to be great assets with the boys.

Finally, camp time arrives and we load up the cars and take off.  CLP is about 2 1/2 hours from Scottsbluff and the drive goes by quickly.  My car consists of my boy and two other scouts that are my boys age.  I’ll just call those boys Mada and Neb to protect their identities.  I have been dealing with these scouts for years now and we all get along splendidly.  I always crank up the stereo and blast some tunes when I have a car full of scouts.  They usually enjoy it.  On this trip, I got the Mumford and Sons blaring and I hear giggles from the backseat.

“What’s so funny?” I ask.

“What’s this crap?” says Neb.

“Yeah,” says Mada.  “Is this folk country or something?”

“It’s… it’s Mumford and Sons,” I say.  “It’s good stuff.”

“It’s Garbage and Sons,” says Neb.  “It sucks.”

I turn the stereo down, blinking back tears, and proceed onwards toward CLP.  It’s going to be a long week…

Our actual Scout Master did an excellent job of preparing all of the paperwork for check-in at camp, which made checking in once we arrived a snap.  We were guided through the camp to our campsite.  Every time we approached a sight, I could hear scouts mumbling, “this must be it,” or “maybe it’s this one.”  Needless to say, the sites we passed weren’t “it” or “this one.”  Our campsite was Pawnee, and it was about as far as you can get from the main activities of camp… it was always an uphill walk to get there.  I think our Scout Master requested a site on the outskirts of camp… because I think our Scout Master may actually be satan.  Old fat guys with high blood pressure and weak wills are not meant to walk long distances uphill — several times every day — for a week.

So we get settled in and start our camp schedule.  Up at 6am, flags at 7:45am, breakfast at 8am, merit badges at 9am… etc, etc, etc. Life at camp is supposed to be pretty predictable.   And for the most part, it was.  I had a really good group of scouts and parents.  Everyone seemed to get along.  I was very proud of the boys of all ages.  The older scouts included the younger scouts in most of their activities and fun was had by all.

I was duly impressed with the staff at CLP.  The food, although pretty much like a school lunch and very high in carbs (although not a single bagel was to be found :) ), was plentiful and none of it sucked (although I did hear some of the health freaks from Colorado make complaints like “I never eat like this — so much processed food — oh my — I’ll have to eat salad for a week after I get back to straighten out my digestive system…”, thing is, there was a salad bar served with every lunch and supper, but there was no gourmet lettuce on the bar, and Coloradans like to make themselves sound healthier than they really are…).   The counselors were all relatively knowledgeable and seemed to enjoy what they were doing.  The staff was, for the most part, friendly and willing to answer questions.  In other words, CLP this time around was a complete turn-around from when we attended in 2010.

One of the things I always find amusing at every boy scout camp I’ve been to with the troop is, no matter which camp we go to, there is always at least one cute girl serving on the staff who becomes a topic of discussion amongst the scouts.  We try to get the boys away from the normal things of this world and help them get closer to nature and developing outdoor skills, and they end up infatuating over girls, which is what a lot of them do as a normal thing in regular life.  At CLP, there were “the twins”.  The twins were two attractive, outdoorsy young women who most of the boys would go out of their way to get a gander at.  Mada in particular (one of the scouts who rode to camp with me) became very fond of the twins.  I don’t think Mada actually talked to either of the twins, but I think he had visions of dating one — if not both — of them at some point in the near future.

The week progressed nicely.  All of the scouts seemed to handle being away from home just fine, and everyone seemed to be having a good time.  Some of the boys weren’t showering quite as often as my nose would have liked, but that is just part of a week-long camp with boys.  By the time Thursday rolled around, everyone was in high spirits.  Thursday was the last day for the boys to complete any merit badges they were working on.  Friday, we had planned on taking the troop on a hike up the side of Black Mountain to the fire lookout post at the top.  It’s like a 3 mile hike uphill and it tests the younger scouts endurance.  By the time the scouts hike up, check out the awesome views from the lookout post, and stumble back down, everyone gets a good night sleep before packing up camp and heading home on Saturday.
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Photobucket

Spending a summer living here would be pretty cool...

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Now, we had heard that there was a forest fire in the area, but it was a long way from camp and was in no way a threat to us.  We all went about our scheduled business on Thursday.  The camp director informed us that his wife had given birth to their son the previous evening and he would be going to spend time with the newest member of his family.  He turned the reins of the camp over to one of the other staffers, and no one doubted her ability to get us through the remaining two days.

A couple of older scouts had no scheduled activities, so they decided to take a hike up Black Mountain just to say they did it twice at one camp.  Upon their return, they informed us that a new fire had started from a recent lightening strike and it may pose a threat to CLP.  Throughout the day, we were given bits and pieces of information about the nearby fire, and the stream of smoke pouring over Black Mountain grew in intensity throughout the day.  By evening, there was speculation that there may be an evacuation of the camp… just as a precaution.

Beside the Pawnee campsite, there was a hill that we figured would provide us with a cool view of the smoke coming over the mounatin.  All of the scouts and leaders took a short hike up the hill and were amazed by the ominous black cloud  that rolled right over the fire lookout at the top of the mountain.
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CLP Evacuation Smoke 2012

You can see a touch of the actual blue sky in the center. All of the dark is smoke coming over the mountain.

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Although the sky was filled with smoke, no one seemed to concerned.  You really couldn’t even smell the smoke, and the fire seemed so far away… until the sun went down.  As what little light that could be seen in the sky disappeared, the entire horizon over the top of the mountain glowed orange.  I didn’t get any pictures of the orange glow because, at this point, I am starting to freak out a little.

We have the entire troop return to the camp site.  By this time, it’s almost 10:00 pm and 10:00 is supposed to be lights out — everyone in their tents and down for the night.  Well, because of the eeriness of that orange glow, one of the other adults and I decide we’re going to make the long hike downhill to the office to see what the plans are.  We get to the dining hall and one of the staffers stops us.

“Can I help you?” she asks.

“Well, it’s lights-out and we were wondering if we should have the boys go to bed or what because the orange glow on the ridge is kind of freaky and I’d hate to have them get all comfortable just to wake them up to tell them we’re evacuating and that would probably freak them out more than if they just stayed up and …” I was settling well into freak-out mode before she stopped me.

“Listen,” the staffer said, “if and when… when (she looked me straight in the eyes)… we call for an evacuation, the fire bells will sound.  Keep the boys up and listen for the bells. ”

“Okeedokee,” I said, and we started the exhausting hike back up the hill.  We made it about 50 yards before another adult leader from another troop came running by.

“Did you hear?” he shouted.  “They are going to evacuate!  Get your boys ready to meet by the dining hall!”

Then he was gone.

Crap.

The other leader and I started to run — uphill — to our site.  The other leader, being in much better shape than me (it doesn’t take much) soon had the lead.

“Screw… this…,” I barely was able to emit between grasps of breath. “I’m… calling… someone…”

The other adult kept running while I pulled out my cell phone and dialed one of the leaders back at out campsite.  The smell of smoke that had been mysteriously absent earlier in the evening started to fill my nostrils.

“Yeah?” answered the adult back at camp.

“They… are… going… to… evacuate…” I stammered.

“What?” said the adult on the other end of the call.

I took a few deep breaths to try to catch mine, and I repeated the evacuation edict.

“What do you want us to do?”

Just then, the fire bells started ringing.

“Line all… line all… of… the boys… up…,” I stuttered while still trying to catch my breath, “and… wait… for… me…”

“Will do,” and the phone went dead.

I continued my brisk jog up the hill toward our campsite at the edge of the universe thinking about how much the real scout master must hate me for having chosen a site sooo far  from everything.  As I ran, I could feel my heart trying to beat its way out of my chest as my head felt like there was a balloon being inflated inside.

“I’m going to fall over dead of a stroke right here on this stinking trail,” I thought to myself… because talking to myself would have used too much precious breath, ” while I’m supposed to be helping a bunch of scouts to safety…”

When I finally stumbled into the campsite, the smoke was hanging heavy in the air, but there was a row of scouts and adults  diligently lined up in a single file line, ready to head out for the evacuation instructions.

“Alright, guys, ” I said as calmly as I could, “they are going to have us leave camp early because of the fire.  We are in no danger, they are just being overly cautious, which is a good thing, but I don’t want anyone to worry.  We are all going to be just fine, so stay calm and let’s make sure ever one is here.”

From  a nearby campsite, I could hear another adult leader screaming at his scouts, “Would you guys hurry up… there’s a fire coming and we need to meet at the dining hall to find out what we need to do to get out of here… HURRY UP… DO YOU ALL WANT TO DIE!!!

I glanced at my scouts to see if they had overheard the other adult with the other troop — their faces all remained calm, so I couldn’t tell.

“We don’t need to overreact,” I tried to reassure them as that balloon in my head grew a couple of inches in size.   I counted the scouts… and came up with 19.

“Nineteen,” I said, calmly at first.  “There are only nineteen scouts here.  We’re supposed to have twenty.  Who are we missing?”

Everyone looked at one another and then back at me with blank faces.

“There are only nineteen scouts here… and we are supposed to have twenty.  NINETEEN IS NOT TWENTY… WHY ARE THERE ONLY NINETEEN INSTEAD OF TWENTY… WHO IS MISSING?”  The balloon in my skull felt like the Good Year blimp and my vision started to go all kinds of wacky, while I’m sure that my voice sounded like that of an 11-year-old girl.

One of the younger scouts at the front of the line looked at me and calmly stated, “Don’t you have a roster?”

Roster?  Why yes, we had a roster.  In fact, they made us have three copies of that stinking roster and I remembered thinking that was nothing more than overkill: two copies to the camp and one for the campsite.

We rounded up the roster and I performed roll call.  When we I got to the name that didn’t elicit a “here”, a tent was checked and a sleeping scout was roused.  Now we had twenty scouts and we headed to the dining hall for further instructions… all the way back down the hill.

A small group of leaders were taken inside the dining hall while the staff led the remaining adults and the scouts in some rousing campfire songs to keep their minds preoccupied.  The fill-in camp director calmly gave us our evacuation instructions, which consisted of tearing down our campsites, getting everyone to their rides, and getting everyone calmly and orderly the hell out of Dodge.  We were all to meet at Safeway in Wheatland, WY to make sure that everyone had made it out.  There would be available locations for us to safely sleep in Wheatland once we arrived.

We went back outside and calmly gathered our troops and headed all the way back uphill to our campsite, which we promptly tore down and loaded in our trailer.  Once loaded, we hiked all the way back down to the parking lot and loaded the boys in their appropriate vehicles.  As each vehicle left the parking lot, CLP staffers stopped the vehicle and took a tally of who was in the vehicle and compared it to one of the copies of the roster that we gave them.  We then started the caravan toward Wheatland.

For the journey to Wheatland, I chose Adele’s Set Fire to the Rain as our departure music.  No one seemed to mind.  As we traveled the dirt roads leading away from camp, the orange glow on the horizon gave us perspective on why we were leaving camp near midnight more than 24 hours early.  After Set Fire to the Rain, I selected Someone Like You as our evacuation music.  I noticed that Mada seemed especially upset during the Adele ballad of broken hearts and lost love.

We silently snaked along the roads all the way to the interstate and then into Wheatland.  We arrived in the Safeway parking lot only to stand in another line while our names were once again compared to yet another copy of the roster that we had turned into the camp.  We then assembled on the sidewalk next to Safeway and awaited further instructions.  Finally, one of the twins came over to us and let us know where the city park was where we could sleep for the night.  I glanced at Mada and saw the sorrow in his eyes as the twin walked away.

When we got back to the car, Neb whispered to me, “Please don’t play any more Adele.  It reminds Mada that he may never see the twins again.”

“Okay,” I smiled gently as I put the car in drive and cranked Adele on the stereo.

By the time we arrived at the park and got everyone either sleeping on tarps on the grass or in the cars, it was around 2:30am on Friday morning.  When we awoke a few hours later, we must have looked like a bunch of vagrants littering the park to all of the Wheatland residents walking around the park… and there were a lot of residents walking around the park.  Apparently, there isn’t much to do in Wheatland, WY but walk around the park on a Friday morning :)  We received some strange looks and a few questions… and a lot of “we’re glad you’re safe” and “welcome to Wheatland”.

The drive back to Scottsbluff was a cheery one.  Everyone seemed to be in a grand mood… even Mada.  I later asked him if he was still upset about his missed opportunity with the twins.

“It’s not a missed opportunity,” he explained,” just postponed.”

The whole ordeal from our adventure at CLP gave me some perspective on scouting and the important lessons scouting teaches:

  • “Be Prepared” is not only a motto, it is a way of life.
  • Rosters are good and you can never have too many.
  • Boy Scouts of America trains it’s people well.
  • Always have some Adele on hand.  You never know when it may come in useful.
  • Never — I repeat, NEVER — select a campsite as far away from everything as possible to try to teach some sort of lesson to the scouts.  You (or your designated substitute) may actually have their head explode (which I’m pretty sure mine almost did) in case of an emergency…
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Dec 06

This past Friday, I had the honor and the privilege of attending Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman’s Pre-legislative breakfast at the wonderful Gering Civic Center… or something.  I was excited that my boss asked me to go, ’cause I figured I could get some good crap for my blog there, and I did.

Dave Heineman is the Republican governor of Nebraska (because Nebraska is ruled by Republicans who vote for Republicans no matter what that Republican really stands for).  I am registered as a Republican, but I consider myself more of a So-Stinking-Fed-Up-With-Politics-That-My-Head-Is-Ready-To-Explode-ian” (wish that party existed).  Governor Dave has made all kinds of promises to the people (i.e. voters) of western Nebraska and has followed through on so few of them, that I figured this little morning affair would be entertaining.  I wasn’t overly disappointed… well, except for the food.

It cost $15 for a member of the Scottsbluff/Gering Chamber of Commerce members to attend this event (more if not a member).  The food was provided by The Meat Shoppe.  The Meat Shoppe provides all food to all events held at the Gering Civic Center… it’s like part of some contract or something.  Many people hold things like wedding receptions and anniversary parties in this location… and if you want food, The Meat Shoppe has to provide it.  Needless to say, food from The Meat Shoppe usually isn’t overly spectacular, and Governor Heineman’s event was no exception.  Bland scrambled eggs, generic waffles, very greasy sausage patties, and even greasier hash browns were the only food available, and not a bottle of ketchup nor Tabasco were anywhere to be seen.

I recently attended a soiree (see how fancy I’m getting… “affair”… “soiree”… living the high life here in Craphole, Nebraska) for Miss Nebraska that was at the Gering Civic Center.  Of course, the food was provided by The Meat Shoppe.  Dinner consisted of semi-barbecued crap (chicken and beef), a potato casserole… or something like that (very elegant?!?), coleslaw (best thing they served), and a basket of rolls on each table.  Well, our table had 10 people (which almost every table held), and there were 10 rolls in each basket.  I like rolls.  I usually have 2 or 3 rolls with any meal I eat.  One of the rolls from our basket was dropped on the floor, so there was one person at our table who was roll-less.  When one of the table-picker-uppers came by (’cause there are no wait-people with The Meat Shoppe… just people who keep asking you if you are done yet), I asked if, perhaps, we could get some more rolls, because one had dropped to the floor.  I wanted more, and I know that others did as well… plus there was the one dude who didn’t even get one.  The table-picker-upper said, “I’ll check,” and she disappeared.  She came back about 5 minutes later and asked, rather snottily, “So, who is it that needs a roll?”  Well, no one (including myself) had the balls to say “ME” (including the dude who didn’t get one because one fell to the floor),  so the table-picker-upper kind of looked at me like I was a problem-child because I had made the request, and she stormed off… and we were roll-less for the rest of the evening.  Seriously, how flipping expensive can those stinking rolls be that you can’t bring out another stinking basket?

My oldest son isn’t a huge barbecue fan, but we talked him into attending this event because we thought it would be… informative or something.  The poor kid is starving and was really looking forward to another roll, from which we were banned.  The wife looks at the boy and says, “Hold onto your fork and spoon for dessert.”  At least he has dessert to look forward to, right?  Well, about 5 minutes after refusing to bring us another basket of rolls, the wench from The Meat Shoppe says to the boy, “Are you done with that,” pointing to his plate?  He nods.  And then she adds, “Go ahead and give me your silverware, too, ’cause there ain’t any dessert or anything.”  The boy didn’t weep openly or anything, but I could tell he wanted to.  “We’ll pick up something from McDonald’s on our way home,” I reassured him… but we didn’t.  Stupid Meat Shoppe.  No customer service (at least if you are not the one paying the final bill) and crappy food.  I’m sure they were offering a discounted rate or something, because the whole night was a fundraiser for Miss Nebraska to go to the Miss USA thingie in Las Vegas, so I have a feeling that The Meat Shoppe was pitching in (at least they better have been), but come on… if you’re gonna give… GIVE a little dessert.  The Meat Shoppe: something to avoid in the Craphandle of Nebraska!

Well… I guess I kind of got sidetracked there, didn’t I?  The Meat Shoppe, as you can probably tell, isn’t my favorite and is well deserving of the  three-paragraph tirade I afforded it… but it’s my blog, so if you don’t like it, leave.  Or stay, because I get back to Governor Heineman here shortly.

Back to Governor Heineman (see, I told you it would be shortly :) ).  After the crowd at the Gering Civic Center had forced down the greasy goop that was passed-off as breakfast, Governor Dave got up and gave a little “state of the state” address.  I’m going to be doing some quotes from the Governor, and I just want to be all upfront with the fact that the quotes aren’t really “quotes” but more of a paraphrasing/making-stuff-up kind of thing…  you know, just trying to give you my biased “gist” of what Dave was trying to say.  It’s not like I was taking notes or anything, and this was days ago.  After all, I write a little blog… it’s not like I’m a journalist or anything.  His speech was all kitty cats and butterflies.

“Nebraska has a 4% unemployment rate… one of the best in the nation.”

“Nebraska has, in a few short years, moved from 45th best to 29th best in attractiveness of taxes charged to businesses… making us a lot more attractive to businesses than we used to be.”

“Everything I do is AWESOME and, even though I am much shorter in person than I’m sure you would suspect, I am the best governor this state has ever had… blah blah blah blah…”

… you get the picture.

So, after the little pep talk about how great things are for the state of Nebraska since good old Dave has been governor, he asks the audience if there are any questions.  About a bazillion hands flew up.  And Dave took each and every question from every person who wanted to ask a question.  You notice that I stated he “took” every question, because, to be 100% honest, I don’t think he actually answered any of the questions posed to him.

voter: “Mr. Governor, the Heartland Expressway is a priority to the people in the panhandle.  Once completed, it will link Rapid City to Denver with our community being right in the middle of all of that trade and traffic.  When campaigning before the election, you said you would make completion of this project a priority, but there seems to be little if any progress.  What are you doing about the Heartland Expressway?”

Governor Dave:  “The Heartland Expressway is a priority of mine.  I am committed to seeing it come to fruition.  Next question?”

another voter: “Yeah, uh, Governor, we are seeing an exodus of people leaving our rural communities.  Many of these people are young people who leave to attend college and never come back.  The more urban portions of the state are seeing growth while our rural communities are drying up and blowing away.  More quality business and quality jobs in our rural communities could help retain our most precious resource: our people.  What, if anything, are you doing to help slow or stop this population migration?”

Governor Dave:  “Hell, I wouldn’t want to live out here in the sticks, why would our youth be any different?  Ya’ll are a bunch of nincompoops for wanting to live out in this desolate wasteland in the first place”… wait a second… that isn’t what Governor Dave said… that’s what I was thinking… sorry :)

Governor Dave:  “My responsibility as governor is to see to it that the state doesn’t lose population, which it’s not.  The fact that the urban areas are seeing growth and rural areas are seeing decline means that urban areas are doing something right… and you’re not.  Next question?”

Yet another voter from western Nebraska:  “Yes, Governor, wind energy is going to play a major part of our country’s energy supply in the near future.  Wind farms are booming in Colorado and Wyoming, and wind is one of the few things western Nebraska has an abundance of.  Why are we not seeing wind energy development in our area?  Like with ethanol production, are tax incentives being offered to get wind energy off the ground in Nebraska?”

Governor Dave:  “Wind energy is good, but, you know, the wind always blows when you don’t want it to, and it doesn’t blow when you need it to.  Hahaha!  Wind energy has a future in western Nebraska.  Next question?”

…and on and on and on…

… seriously…

The only thing I learned from my attendance at the Pre-legislative breakfast with Governor Dave Heineman is this: I could be governor!

I think that wind energy is good!

I can tell people who voted for me that their problems aren’t my responsibility!

I can say that the Heartland Expressway is a priority of mine !

Man, at times I doubt I have any real worth to society.  Little did I realize… I apparently have every skill necessary to be governor of the great state of Nebraska!

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Aug 28

Here it is, Saturday evening, and I was trying to figure out something to do with the family.  I get tired of sitting around on the weekends doing nothing fun.  Our local crappaper, the Star-Herald, is always trying new things to get people to fork over a buck for a paper not worth 25¢.   This is a newspaper that charges for obituaries, so I have little respect for the heads of this paper (who are based in Omaha… so they are complete idiots who know nothing about life in rural Nebraska).   The Star-Herald‘s most recent attempt at suckering people into purchasing this rag was a little insert they put in the regular paper called “101 Things to do in Wyobraska”.  I kept this insert to use as a reference for times just like this; times when I’m trying to find something for my family to do to get out of the house and away from the TV and computer.  Well, after glancing through the Star-Herald’s “101 Things to do in Wyobraska,” I was still clueless.

The wife says, “Did you decide what you want to do… I kinda wanted to take a shower tonight, so if we’re going to do something, let’s do it.”

“Go ahead and take your shower,” I say.  “I’m going to spend yet another night on the stinking computer.  The boys will rot their brains in front of the TV and I’m going to write a blog post about how there really is nothing to do around the Craphole… and how the Star-Herald’s suggestions suck!”

“Okay, have fun with that,” says the wife as she heads off to take her shower.  I get no sympathy.

“101 Things to do in Wyobraska”… seriously!?!  In the introduction to this guide, the editors of the Star-Herald admit that a common complaint around our area is that there is nothing to do here.  They don’t believe that is true (because if young people continue to leave the area, all that will be left are old people, and although old people are more likely to read newspapers than young people, old people die… and there will be no one left to pay for their overpriced paper… so what else are they going to say?)  In their introduction, the editors go on about how they know there are way more than 101 things to do in our area, and don’t worry if your favorite is missing because they are going to be making this an annual project, blah blah blah blah.  An annual project?!?  It seems like they were seriously scraping the bottom of the barrel just to come up with this stinking list!  There is no way I am going to waste your time or mine covering each of the 101 things covered in the Star-Herald’s guide.  I’m just going to cover some of the highlights… and then it will be off to bed… early… again… because there is nothing fun to do here.

#28 – Reel in a pike at Box Butte Reservoir

#48 – Troll for a monster at Walgren Lake near Hay Springs

#52 – Battle a bluegill at Smith Lake

#61 – Fish walleyes through the ice at Whitney Lake

#83 – Wet a line in the waters at Fort Robinson State Park

#87 – Fish for trout on Nine Mile Creek

Apparently someone on the Star-Herald’s staff really likes his fishing.

Fish

I can’t get my kids to sit still for fishing for more than 15 minutes, so driving umpteen miles to some middle-of-nowhere fishing destination only to leave with screaming, fighting kids only 15 minutes later and have to drive all the way back home does not sound like something to do… it sounds like something to AVOID!  Those six are out immediately.

#24 – Eat a Tin Roof Sundae in Potter

Tin Roof Sundae

Potter is over 60 miles from where we live.  60 miles.  It would be an hour each way.  That’s two hours of drive time for an ice cream sundae.  My car gets 25 miler-per-gallon, so we’re looking at almost 5 gallons of gas at almost $3 per gallon.  That’s 2 hours and $15 just to make the trip!  That doesn’t include the cost of the sundae’s once you get there.  The drive from the Scottsbluff to Potter, by the way, is far from scenic.  These would have to be the best sundaes in the entire world to get me to make this trip… which I highly doubt they are.  I’m sure they are good, but I doubt they are worth a 2 hour drive and $15 in gas.

#39 – Listen to a windmill whisper at the wind farm near Kimball

“Windmill whisper”… really!?!  These are not your typical windmills.  These are wind turbines used to create energy.

Windmill

They are really tall, and I agree they are cool to look at from the road, but making a 45 minute trip to listen to them “whisper”… not a family fun activity.

#54 – Photograph the foundations of Nebraska’s potash boom near Antioch

Yeah, I didn’t know what potash was either.  Apparently potash is used in fertilizer.  Potash is separated from alkaline lakes, and Antioch was at the head of this boom… which apparently lasted about 5 years and no one really remembers it.  The only traces of the “boom” are some foundations to some buildings.  So, driving out to the middle-of-nowhere  to look at some old foundations from a boom that no one remembers…

Antioch,potash

…see what I mean by scraping the bottom of the barrel?

#60 – Buy a pair of spurs at Morgan’s Cowpoke Haven in Ellsworth

I don’t own a horse, so why would I need spurs?  I don’t think most of the residents of our community own horses, so I doubt they need spurs either.

Spurs

Not to mention the fact that Ellsworth is almost 100 miles away and seriously in the middle-of-nowhere.  I’m packing up the family for a trip to Ellsworth as I write… sure I am.

#64 – Spin a yarn at the Scotts Bluff Valley Fiber Arts Fair

Wow, I’ve always wanted to learn how to knit.  Nothing brings to mind a night of family fun like the word “knit.”

Knit

There really is stuff to do in Wyobraska.  Someone shoot me now, please!

#72 – Get history on the go at the region’s wayside markers

Wayside markers… you know, those little signs on the side of the road that explain trivial bits of history that no one actually stops to read unless it’s a guy who really has to take a leak.

Photobucket

This is one of the “101 Things to do in Wyobraska”?  I think we may have actually dug through the bottom of the barrel and mucking around in the dirt below.

#14 – Relive history at Robidoux Pass National Historic Landmark

This one really hit home for me.  When I saw this listed at #14, I knew this list was going to mostly be a joke.  You see, I have actually done this.  One day, a few years ago, I took the wife and our son (at that time, we only had one) to Fort Laramie National Historic Site (which comes in at #66 – Enjoy any season at Fort Laramie with the spirits of past visitors).  Fort Laramie, I’ll admit, is pretty cool.  This historic site is an old fort with many of the original buildings still standing.  It is fun to go to… about once every 10 years.  We’re only a couple of years from going again.  Anyway, after a spending a day in history, we didn’t want our history lesson to end.

After leaving the fort, I said to the wife, “Hey, what about that Robidoux Trading Post?  Have you ever been there.  It sounds cool.”

“Nope, never been there,” says the wife.  “Why don’t we go.”

So, we drive all the way back to Scottsbluff from Ft. Laramie and go on a search for the historic Robidoux Trading Post.  We drive and we drive and we drive over bumpy gravel road and breath in the wonderful dust of Nebraska.  Finally, off to the south, we see a crappy looking shack.

Robidoux Trading Post

“I think that’s it,” says the wife.

“That’s it? I ask.

“Pretty sure that’s it,” says the wife.

You’ve got to be kidding,” I say.  “For crying out loud.  That’s just a shack.”

“Says here,” the wife says, looking at the wayside marker by the shack, “that this isn’t even the original shack.  This is a reproduction.”

“Why would anyone reproduce a crappy little shack?” I ask, my head starting to hurt.

“For historic preservation?” ventures the wife.

“Why would anyone reproduce a crappy little shack and put it out in the middle-of-nowhere and encourage people to drive over crappy, bumpy gravel roads and breath in all of that crappy dust just to get to it and be disappointed?”  By this time, I’m actually rubbing my temples.

“I guess some people like stuff like this,” says the wife.

“IT’S A CRAPPY REPRODUCTION OF A CRAPPY LITTLE SHACK IN THE MIDDLE-OF-NOWHERE!”

“You’re preaching to the choir,” says the wife.  “Let’s go home.”  The wife doesn’t let things stress her out like I do.

Of course, this list of things to do includes a lot of “eat this here” and “buy that there”, many of which I have tried and few of which I would consider a destination for family fun.  The Star-Herald’s lame attempt at giving the average family something to do in Wyobraska actually made me reconsider my stance that there is nothing to do here.  There is all kinds of stuff to do here… it’s all just really, really lame.

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Jul 16

I recently spent a week with my 12-year-old son at Camp Laramie Peak Boy Scout Camp in Wyoming.

Laramie Peak, WY

This is the second summer that my son and I have attended a scout camp.  Last summer, we enjoyed a week in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota at Medicine Mountain (I say “enjoyed” only because it didn’t suck as much as Camp Laramie Peak).

Dead Dudes

(at Medicine Mountain, we actually set our tents right inside Washington’s nostril… who knew there was an entire scout camp inside the heads of the dead presidents?!?)

Ahh… sleeping on the ground in a tent as the rain pounds down and the winds gust up to 90 MPH, what could be more fun?

I am an Assistant Scoutmaster.  This means that I don’t want (and am far from qualified for) the position of Scoutmaster, but I like helping the kids reach their goals.  I am not an utterly complete pessimist (although I am within spitting distance), and I really do believe in trying to help young people find a measure of success.  I have been a leader in scouts since my son was a tiger cub and he is now a Second Class Boy Scout.  This means I have been involved in scouting for around six years.  Six years is far longer than I have held any single job with any single employer.  Let’s face it… I’m a quiter.  When life throws an obstacle or stress my way, I quit.  Quitting is easy, and starting something new is exciting, so there you have it.  When something starts sucking, I quit; but I have never quit scouting (although, trust me, I have been very tempted).

Camp overall was pretty good (the food kind of sucked and there wasn’t enough of it, the weather was horrible,  getting up early bites, etc.etc.etc. and all the other stuff I could go on and on bitching about) considering these camps are meant to build character in boys.  I’m old and my crappy character is beyond help, so I tend to look at these camps as a chore and not a vacation (even though I have to use up precious vacation to attend).

Something that really struck me with camp this year was the way the counselors were “looking out” for the scouts.  If you’ve ever been to a scout camp, you know that the majority of the counselors are not that much older than the scouts.  Many of the counselors are high school and college kids just pulling a summer gig.  It was easy to tell these counselors had been trained on how to make sure a kid isn’t being abused.

During this camp, many of us adult leaders went through “safety training”, which is little more than “how to cover your ass as an adult male when working with young boys”.  I’d like to throw a big thanks out to all of the stupid pedophiles and the Catholic Church for making this stinking training necessary.  Never be alone with a scout; never touch a scout; if you suspect a scout is being abused in any way, shape or form inside or outside of scouting, let the district council know (not the police, not the boy’s parents, not any kind of authoritative figure in the boy’s life whatsoever… the disctrict council; all of this is to cover your and BSA’s asses).  The training really didn’t make it seem like we volunteer our time to help the boys succeed.  The training really focused on how not to get Boy Scouts of America sued.  Ah… what a wonderful world we live in.

Anyway, back to the counselors.  Anyone who has spent a week with boys ranging in age from 17-years-old all the way down to 11-years-old knows that an 11 and 12-year-olds who are away from their mothers can have, well, to put it politely, mild emotional breakdowns.  These vary from slight bouts of teary-eyed whininess to full-blown tantrums.  On this trip, I got to deal with a couple of full blown tantrums, and during each tantrum, a counselor happened to walk by right smack in the middle of each.

When a young boy throws a tantrum, one of the first things he tends to do is try to stomp off on his own to show how mad he is.  Of course, at scout camp, the boys are required to use the buddy system.  There is to be no stomping off.  A boy eaten by a mountain lion wouldn’t be good for BSA’s image.  So when the boy with the attitude starts stomping off, you must stop him.  Of course, you can’t touch the boy, so, at times, you have to raise your voice to get the boy to understand that he seriously can’t stomp off by himself.  This is exactly what was happening with the first instance.  A group of scouts was heading to a merit badge class for the afternoon and I was escorting them.  One of the boys started getting, well, kind of tantrumy, because he wanted to hang around camp instead of going to the merit badge counseling.  The more I told him he needed to go to his counseling, the less he wanted to go… until he got pissed-off and started stomping off.  Of course, I couldn’t let him stomp off by himself, so I told him to get back with the group.  He kept walking and the further he got away, the more I had to raise my voice.  Finally, I ran to the boy and stood in front of him.  “C’mon, man, get back with the group,” I told him.  At this point is when the teen-aged counselor was walking by.  The counselor stopped right beside us and looked straight at the scout.

“Are you okay?” the counselor asked.

“He’s fine,” I responded.  “He’s just doesn’t want to go to his counseling and he thinks he needs to stomp off by himself.”

The counselor completely ignored me.  He continued to look at the scout, “Are you okay?”

The scout finally responded, “Yeah, I’m fine,” to which the counselor simply turned and continued on his way.

As I watched the teen get farther and farther away, it popped into my head to yell, “Thanks for the help; couldn’t have done it without you,” but I thought better of it.  It still took some time and effort to get the upset scout to rejoin our group, with no help from the interfering counselor.   I figured that the counselors were trained to do exactly what this one had just done, which made me feel a little like a turd clinging to the side of the toilet bowl of scouting… but that’s why I volunteer my time, right?

Second instance was similar.  One of the scouts wanted to borrow some money from me to buy some crap at the trading post.  I have made it an official rule of mine that I do not lend money to scouts for unnecessary items.  I have seen other leaders get burned in the past by lending scouts money and never receiving that money back.  I volunteer my time… because time is more precious than money (and I have more time than I do money).  Well, the fact that I wouldn’t lend the scout cash so he could buy an energy drink (yeah, just what I needed was a hopped-up 11-year-old to watch after for the afternoon), apparently was enough to send him into a stomping-away tantrum.

Right, crap, here we go again.  I start hollering for the boy to rejoin the group right as a counselor is walking by.  The scout is crying and whatnot because that stupid energy drink is so flipping important to him at that moment in time.  I jog up to the scout right as the counselor is asking “Are you okay?”

For crying-out-flipping loud!  These guys probably report all of this crap back to the “district council” and I’m gonna look like a child beater or something.  “He’s just mad because I wouldn’t lend him money to buy a stupid energy drink,:” I explain, feeling a little stupid for having to explain the situation to an acne-faced teenager.

The counselor doesn’t acknowledge me at all, never taking his eyes of the boy.  “Is there anything I can do?” the counselor asks the scout.

By this time, I’m getting to the verge of throwing a tantrum.  I feel like I’m very discreetly being accused of doing something wrong.  I spent my own money to “volunteer” my time to go to camp and help BSA accomplish it’s mission.  I was not spending my time and money to be ignored and accused.  I’m getting pissed.

I sooo wanted to say, “I’m glad your offering assistance, ’cause it’s so much easier to smack them silly if someone holds them… can you grab his arms?” just to see what kind of response I could get out of the counselor, but I didn’t.  The scout finally shaped up and we all went our separate ways.

So, I guess the moral of the story is counselors at scout camps are trained to cover the ass of the camp, adult leaders are trained to cover not only their own asses but the ass of BSA, and the whole stupid thing makes me wonder if it’s really worth having to cover my ass to volunteer my time and money to an organization that apparently a lot of people want to sue.

You know, maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong angle.  Maybe I should be looking for a reason to sue.  You know, all of the stupid bagels they served at the mess hall did tend to go straight to my ass… making it that much harder to cover.

barf
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.FatAss

I could sue for that, couldn’t I?

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Apr 02

You are dealing with a customer-service-type-situation.  The person you are dealing with is asking you for things that are above and beyond not only what the rules and regulations of the company which employs you dictate as acceptable; the things this person is asking of you are beyond what a normal person would expect.

“Do you know who I am?”

Or better yet, “Do you know who you’re dealing with?”

Of course, if you have heard one of these phrases  or something similar, the first thing that popped into your mind is probably pretty much the same thing that pops into my mind:

“Uh, yeah, apparently you’re a jackass!”

Of course, you don’t say this.  You try to explain why what the moron is asking for is unreasonable and, after talking down to you in more ways than you ever imagined possible, he or she ends up tromping off in a huff (or hanging up if on the phone).  They then work their way up the chain-of-command above your head until, 99% of the time, they get what they wanted in the first place.  Would have been kind of nice if you were given the power to grant their request, but you weren’t; so you will always be the peon who “didn’t know who they were.”

People who throw out the “do you know who I am” spiel should all lose their ability to speak… immediately; this is my wish.  Just the fact that someone would use this phrase shows that he thinks he is more valuable to society than you are.  Wow, who doesn’t like to be talked down to?  Who doesn’t like some arrogant jackass making demands and belittling you in the process?  The thing is, these jerks often complain loud enough and hard enough that they get what they want, which only reinforces their unbearable behavior.  These jerks have had “the customer is always right” driven into their heads for so long that they actually believe  this “rule” is the gospel in each and every situation they come across in life.  The fact that these morons have a position which they perceive as power-filled does not help the situation.

I live in rural America.  The snobalicious people I am referring to in rural America usually hold some sort of political office.  Small town mayors are notorious for being butt monkeys.  Small town mayors make almost no money by means of their office, so they apparently think they need to get lots of “perks” from businesses that serve their community.  It’s kind of like the mayor of Littletown, WY.  Now, Littletown has a population of about 8 people, and for some reason they have a mayor.  The mayor probably makes around $7.28/year for being mayor.  The mayor also happens to raise (and smoke) meth (bet ya didn’t know meth could be grown, huh?  Well in Nebraska and Wyoming, meth grows on the prairies like stink grows in Rosie O’Donnell’s armpits.)  So, Mayor Littletown calls you up ’cause he buys a service from your company and he has a perception that something isn’t right.  Let’s say it’s satellite TV.

Littletown:  My TV ain’t workin’!

You:  What seems to be the problem?

Littletown:  My kid chucked his baseball through the front of the TV and now it ain’t workin’.

You:  Uh… what does that have to do with your satellite?

Littletown:  Look, I pay you guys for service every month and I want something done!

You:  But, Sir, we just provide your satellite.  We don’t have anything to do with your kid throwing a ball through your TV…

Littletown:  DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU’RE TALKING TO?  I’M THE MAYOR OF LITTLETOWN AND I HAVE A LOT OF INFLUENCE IN THIS COMMUNITY!  YOU WILL FIX THIS OR YOUR COMPANY WILL BE DONE IN LITTLETOWN!

Ok, so the Mayor Littletown has a lot of influence… over 7 other semi-inbred rednecks (who are also the mayor’s best customers for his meth crops).  Being the mayor of a community of 8 people does not mean that you were elected due to your impressive electoral campaign or your innate ability to reduce deficit and balance a budget.  Being the mayor in a community like Littletown means… uh… it was your turn.  Next term, your neighbor Jedidiah with the rotted front teeth and the constant tweaks gets his turn.

In rural America, it doesn’t usually seem to be the successful business people who are the butt monkeys (although there is a cafe owner in small town Wyoming that I would like to punt for a field goal.)  Most rural American butt monkeys are usually paid with taxpayer money or “volunteer” to help the community: city council people, county commissioners, school board members, school administrators, city management, community development leaders, etc,etc,etc…

I’m not saying that all people in these positions are butt monkeys; I’m saying that a large percentage of the particular type of butt monkey which I am discussing (the “do you know who I am” butt monkey) can be found in one of the aforementioned positions.

You may wonder why I refer to people who I have issues with as “butt monkeys”.  Well, it’s funny :)  Just the mental image that “butt monkey” conjures gets me giggling.  You know, little monkeys… in your butt… peeking out every once in awhile and annoying the CRAP out of you (figuratively… or not…)

We the people, in order to form a more perfect union, need to destroy all butt monkeys!  Whose with me?  C’mon, let’s grab our butt-monkey guns and bag us some butt monkeys… wait, that would take effort… ok, lets just agree to make a crapload of fun of all butt monkeys.  Agreed?  And small town butt monkeys need to realize that they are butt monkeys and that they annoy the crap out of most normal people.  So, if you know a butt monkey, make sure to slap them every time the butt-monkiness comes through.   I think I’ve even come up with a slogan for the new anti-butt monkey campaign:

Give “spanking the monkey” a new meaning – slap the crap out of a butt monkey today!

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Dec 06

I spent some time back in Montana over the long Thanksgiving weekend.  Spending some time driving in a normal state made me realize how ridiculous drivers are in Nebraska.

In Montana, especially eastern Montana, there are a lot of deer.  A LOT OF DEER!  When you drive in the rural areas after the sun’s gone down, you have to constantly scan the sides of the road looking for any sign of movement.  I lived in Montana for most of the first 22 years of my life; I hit two different deer on two separate occasions.  If you live in Montana and you drive at night, you will almost unavoidably hit a deer.  Something that Montanans realize is that it’s a heck of a lot easier to catch the glint of a deer’s eye in the headlights if your headlight beams are on high.  Thus, people in Montana, when approaching another car at night, usually dim their headlights about 4 to 5 seconds before passing the other car.

Nebraskans (and, to be honest, Wyomingites are even more anal about this than Nebraskans) start flashing their headlights from high-to-low in an effort to get you to dim your lights at anywhere from 1/2 mile to 1 mile away.  This means these morons are flashing you at 30 seconds to 1 minute away!  Seriously!  If these old Germans have such poor eyesight that they need oncoming lights on dim at this distance, they should have their licenses taken away… not only because they are increasing the risk of roadside hazards becoming unexpected surprises, they also just annoy the CRAP out of me!

These light-flashing idiots used to get to me so bad that I would wait until I was about 4 or five seconds away before I would dim my lights just to make them mad.  Of course, this backfired, because the light-flashing nincompoops started sticking it to me.  By “sticking it to me” I mean that they would wait until the last second and then hit me with all that they’ve got… high beams, low beams, and if they got ’em, fog lights, all at once.  The blinding brightness usually lasted well after the other car passed and made me even madder.  I actually considered turning around and running the idiots off the road on more than one occasion, but doing hard time because grandma Schultz ticked me off on her way to make butterballs at church wouldn’t sit well with the wife.  Instead of tinkering with my blood pressure more than need be, I have attempted to learn to conform to the local idiotic driving patterns.

And then I went to Montana and re-experienced night driving the way it should be: safely avoiding the hazards at the side of the road.  On our return trip, it started getting dark right about the time we arrived in our local driving area… and I once again had morons flashing their lights at me from up-to a mile away.

I wanted to get this straight once and for all.  Tonight, I went to several states’ DMV websites, including Nebraska and Wyoming, to find out what the law is regarding distance for dimming headlights when approaching another vehicle.  Nebraska did not list a specific distance.  It did list a distance of 200 feet when approaching another vehicle from the rear but it didn’t list a distance for forward-approaching vehicles.  200 feet from the rear was the same distance I found on several other websites, except for the Wyoming site which put this distance at 300 feet.  The funny thing is (and I don’t mean funny in the sense of “ha ha” but more in the sense of making you want to stick a red-hot steak knife into your eyeball) the distances on the sites I visited regarding the correct distance to dim you lights when approaching another vehicle from the front ranged from 300 feet to 500 feet.  The Wyoming site stated 500 feet.

So, you might ask yourself, how long would it take for two vehicles to meet each other from a distance of 500 feet… considering a speed of about 55 mph?  Thanks for asking!  The Wyoming Driver Manual, on page 75, states… and I quote… “You should dim at least 500 feet (about four to five seconds) before meeting an oncoming vehicle.”  I kid you not!

So, let’s see if we can get Adventurer Rich’s situation all straightened out.  I have been dimming my headlights in a very legal fashion and should have increased the safety on the road (due to potential roadside hazards) in the process.  The stinking knuckleheads that blast me with all that they’ve got are, in reverse, breaking the law because they think I am breaking the law (which I’m not) and causing a danger to me and anyone in my car by  obscuring my vision with their temper tantrum… not to mention that they are tempting fate that I don’t have a temper tantrum of my own, turn around, and run their sorry butts off the road!

Let’s see if we have learned a little lesson here.  If you are driving on one of the many rural highways in western Nebraska or eastern Wyoming and you come across a gent who refuses to dim his lights at 1/2 mile away, proceed with caution.  If you get to anywhere from 10 to 4 seconds away and he then dims his lights, remember that he is acting in a completely legal fashion.  If you, at this point, decide to blast him because he didn’t dim his lights when you wanted him to (law be damned!), accept that he may very well turn around and do everything within his power to see you run off the road (which would be no more illegal or put any more life in danger than you did by blasting him with your headlights.)  And the number one thing that I hope you have learned is this: if you would even consider flashing your lights at someone when they are 1/2 mile away in an attempt to get them to dim their headlights… you need to turn in your driver’s license, Grandpa, ’cause you shouldn’t even be on the road!

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