Friday, August 31, 2012

Neville at Ruston: Game Day

Well, here we go...!

Tonight's game is at Joe Aillet Stadium. BUT, Ruston will heretofore play their games in the usual location, weather permitting, at Hoss Garrett Stadium at James Field. If you need something to eat or drink while there, please frequent the NE Corner Concession Stand, whose purpose is to satisfy all your concessionary wants and needs. (The corner closest to the cemetery and the interstate.) It's a long story, but just do it.


Sunday, August 26, 2012

We Americans Sometimes Slow To Learn A Lesson

(From today's Times and News-Star)

Why is it we all know who shot presidents Lincoln and Kennedy and even who shot Martin Luther King, but nobody much knows who shot presidents James Garfield and William McKinley, which seems an especially heartless break for both Garfield and McKinley, on both sides of the coin.

Probably more people today recognize the names John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald and James Earl Ray than the names Garfield and McKinley. (What is the deal with assassins with three names?)

Even fewer would know WHEN Garfield and McKinley were presidents, and the only reason I do is because I just read a 2011 bestselling book about Garfield, “Destiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President,” by Candice Millard.

A former editor and writer at “National Geographic” magazine, Millard does not write in a sensory way but does write with extreme clarity and organization, something the less learned such as myself will be grateful for if reading this remarkable and most noteworthy history lesson that, like Hillenbrand’s “Seabiscuit” or Ambrose’s “Band of Brothers,” might have been mostly lost to history had she not taken the time to unearth it and spotlight it for our generation.

Garfield was top shelf. The last of our presidents born in a log cabin, he was dirt poor, his dad died when he was 2, he was the janitor at the school he attended and was teaching classes before his first year was completed. Later he was the school’s president.

That’s working your way up from the bottom.

The presidency was sort of thrown at him, and he accepted the nomination even though he didn’t run for it or want it. He was not as politically savvy as many others in Congress, yet he was wiser, more jolly and smarter than most of those he served with.

A nut named Charles Guiteau shot him in the back at a train station; Garfield died four months later. Here’s where things get extra weird.

Had the doctors left him alone, Garfield would have likely healed. But in their misguided and egotistical attempts to find the bullet, they introduced infections that would kill him. Given the chance, telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell would have likely found the bullet with one of his new inventions; Bell was stymied by the ego of others.

A couple of things changed after Garfield’s death in 1881. For one, shaken by the random act of a madman, the country was united for the first time since the War Between the States. And two, governmental appointments were thereafter earned on the basis of merit and not handed out as political favors; the delusional Guiteau shot the president in part because he wasn’t given a government job.

However, Secret Service agents wouldn’t be assigned to guard the president until 20 years later, after McKinley was shot by Leon Czolgosz. Until then, the author points out, “the idea of surrounding (a president) with guards…still seemed too imperial, too un-American.”

That Garfield was shot, a national experience of shared horror and senselessness, is the shame of it all. He seems the kind of man you would want to hitch your country’s wagon to, then or now. A family man, wise and noble who, as a reporter of the time observed, “walked at evening with his arm around the neck of a friend in affectionate conversation, and whose sweet, sunny, loving nature not even 20 years of political strife could warp.”

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Some Of Your Bad Days Are Elementary

(From today's Times and News-Star)

Don’t touch that school day! You don’t know where that school day’s been.

It could have been in all kinds of trouble. Could have been hanging out with undesirables. Acting the big shot. Racking up detention. Some school days, like puny fish, you want to throw back.

With school starting this week, the innocent elementary students, the ones not yet broken in on how the real school-world works, might find comfort in knowing that we’ve been there. If they say or act as if they’ve had a bad day at school, they probably actually have, and it’s not necessarily their fault. Life happens, both in the elementary and grown-up worlds. Sometimes you’re the windshield, sometimes you’re the bug.

Offer support and remember from your own experience some of the worst things that can happen during a day at elementary school:

It rains out recess.
You have a substitute but the substitute makes you “do something.”

Your “girlfriend” gives you your Tiger eye ring back, and she does it through another friend because she doesn’t have the guts to face you. Or because she just can’t stand the sight of you anymore. This after you almost got a stomach ulcer the day you asked her to be your girlfriend. Which was Tuesday. And this is Thursday. It was fun while it lasted.

The good news: You beat your big brother in “Madden” last night. The bad news: you forgot you had a spelling test today. Anybody know how to spell separate? Is it “seperate” or “saperate” or did I have it right the first time? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

You get shorted a fish stick at lunch.

Your best friend is absent, probably at home playing “Madden” and eating fish sticks.

You get caught passing notes and the teacher picked it up before you were even finished so all you’d written was, “This is the most boring class in the world and our teacher is stup…”

You get a bad seat on the school bus.

Nobody throws up. Or worse, you were in the bathroom when somebody DID throw up, so you missed it. Somebody throwing up can carry you along, conversation-wise, for weeks and sometimes for months, depending on who threw and where.

You left your homework, which you actually completed, at home. The teacher might have actually believed you if you hadn’t got caught passing that note. Sigh…

You got a scuff mark on your new Converse.

Your new Converse are rubbing a blister on your heel.

Somebody threw up on your new Converse.

You threw up on your new Converse.

You found out from a friend that your parents know something that you did that you didn’t think they knew. Busted.

You just remembered you have to mow your English teacher’s grass after you get home. Oh, the humanity!

You thought it was 11:20 but you’d looked at the clock wrong and it’s only 10:20.

Lost your best pencil.

You find out in sixth period that you’ve had a piece of breakfast on your face all day, including when you saw your ex-girlfriend at lunch, who was with the new kid and who looked at you like you had turnips growing out of your nostrils.

You’re walking into science class and the smart kid walking out is crying and mumbling something about “isomeric structure.” Help me Oprah!

You’ve heard about it. You’ve dreaded it. And now, it’s here: long division.
You realize it’s only the third week in August.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Hot Time In The Ol' Town Tonight

(From today's TIMES and NEWS-STAR)

A funny guy said on TV the other night that it’s been so hot, Lance Armstrong tested positive for Snapple.

It’s so hot, the fire hydrants are hoping a dog will walk by.

It’s like “Grapes of Wrath” hot. “To the red country and part of the gray country of Oklahoma, the last rains came gently, and they did not cut the scarred earth.” And all like that. 

So hot even the sun won’t go outside. Even my hair won’t go outside.
I read a quote in the Kansas City Star from a guy with the Kansas State Research and Extension office, bemoaning the possibility that tomatoes will take a major hit, and have already. “Even the weeds are stressed,” he said.

If the Olympics were being held in north Louisiana, the swimmers would refuse to get out of the pool.

My own personal mother, ever thoughtful of creatures great and small, told me she put ice in her West Monroe bird bath this week. “The birds have loved it,” she said. (She’s willing to rent it out if either you or your birds are interested.)

I have been in a ballpark when a centerfielder’s metal cleats have melted and bent on the artificial turf. I have seen heat stroke victims carted to the emergency room. I have worked in air so hot, it burns to breathe.

But it has been a while – the summer of 1981 to be precise, which I spent with a shovel on a road in Camden, Ark., in a record number of consecutive 100-degrees days – since I have been this warm for this long. And I love the heat. But not so much that I want to know what it’s like to be a loaf of bread, baking.

A hot friend of mine said he’d experienced a miracle last weekend: “My father-in-law,” he said, “gave me his old riding lawnmower.” 


“I felt like a king sitting up on that thing on the trailer when we loaded it,” he said. “I wish my wife would have let me just drive it on home.”

Unless he has a climate controlled yard, it’s still going to be pretty hot in the mowing arena. But, better to sit than to stand when the heat index is more than the number of yards in a football field. Any port in a storm.

It’s already been a tough summer, what with the deaths of guys like Andy Griffith and, more recently, Sherman Hemsley, most famous for his role as George Jefferson, first on “All in the Family” and later on “The Jeffersons.” How could you not love George Jefferson? And why would he end up living in, of all places, El Paso, as his obit explained? And how hot do you bet it’s been there this summer? 

(It’s been 100-plus in El Paso for more than 30 days this summer, steamy but not close to its 1994 record of 62 100-degrees-or-more days. George Jefferson should have moved on up, like, maybe to Michigan.)

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Louisiana had its second warmest August on record last summer. We’ll see what this August brings. Hang in there. The good news is, we’re almost out of the woods. It will get cooler after this month, “cooler” being a relative term in north Louisiana. The point is, it’s just a month. You can fight a bear for a month.

So hydrate. At worst, find a nice bird bath. This month, make sure you test positive for water.


Sunday, August 5, 2012

How To Be An Olympic Idiot Without Even Trying

(From Sunday's TIMES and NEWS-STAR)

Most Americans don’t know a pommel horse from Secretariat from the plastic pony it costs a quarter to ride outside Wal-Mart.

Yet once every four years, most all of us suddenly become experts in not only the pommel horse, but also in floor exercise, foil, fencing, kayak and canoe.

The Olympics bring out the “Manifest Destiny” American in us all.

“WHAT? How can they score him that LOW? What are the judges THINKING?” 

I don’t know, but I ask just the same. If I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I can’t even keep up with how many flips these people are turning in the air. Olympians defy gravity and all logic that would suggest what a human body should and should not be able to do.

That must be one reason we watch the Olympics, which television ratings suggests we surely do. The allure of the barely imaginable. Even if we aren’t sure what’s going on.

“What do they do next?”

“Either the one bar thing or the rings thing.”

“Are we good at the one bar thing?”

“What do I look like, a pommel horse? Bruce Jenner? I don’t know. I’m just trying to figure out why all gymnasts are shorter than my grandmother.” 

Why do we watch so religiously? You could televise the 10 best gymnasts on a mat in a cage match in prime time on a day I’m recovering from surgery, and I still wouldn’t watch it.

World Championships? Neg. Pan Am Games? Paint drying.

Same thing with amateurs who could swim the English Channel with one arm and their goggles tied behind their backs. Divers who would twist and turn from the top of the Empire State Building into a tuna can filled with water. For 206 weeks every four years, I don’t care.

But for the two weeks of the summer Olympic Games, most of America will dig in. We bring argumentative passion to The Games, either because we are patriotic, competitive, or because ignorance is bliss. It’s quite the pleasure to be sitting in your living room, yelling at an American swimmer you’ve just met to “finish strong!” and notice that other people around your TV set are doing the same thing. 

If it’s the Olympics, we’re in. Even if a Jungle Gym is as close as we’ll ever get to the balance beam.

Plus these are the only two weeks of the year when you can say “breaststroke” and “shuttlecock” and not get looked at funny.

I have watched no basketball and probably won’t. Didn’t watch any Olympic baseball from China in ’08. No soccer. Even the bikinis on the beach volleyball venue don’t do it for me. Seen all that.

And as much as I love a horse, I won’t watch a guy in a suit ride his pony when the pony looks like he’s been to the beauty shop. Don’t really get it.

Yet that very allure of the unknown is part of the Olympic appeal. That, and the chance to watch something you can hook history on to: “Is he as good as Mark Spitz?” Or, “She’s good, but she’s no Mary Lou!”

The Olympics. I’m used to the more Americanized sports, but it’s rare I see people swim or run this fast, spin in the air this much, or dive without yelling “Cannonball!”

So let’s go get ’em this week, faithful viewer. Stick your landing. Stick it!