Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Betrayed by the Gold and Blue

I was once betrayed by a pair of Notre Dame gym shorts.
And while I still root for the Irish, my feelings have waned since that childhood backstabbing.
It happened when I was seven or eight. I had been swimming at the public pool, and when it was time to head for home, I put on my shirt, tied up my runners and went into the lobby to wait for my friends.
As I waited, leaning on the wall near the exit, I couldn’t help notice the lifeguards and pool patrons laughing and pointing. I couldn’t figure out what was so funny as I looked around the room. Then, I looked down. Like the proverbial forgotten pants nightmare, I was without apparel. Yes, naked as the day I was born.
I raced into the dressing room, found my faithless Notre Dame shorts, and did what any humiliated youth would do. I threw them in the trash – and ran home in wet swim trunks and squishy sneakers.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Coming from Spartan stock

The 24th of July is a time for remembering. Remembering our heritage, who we are and where we came from. Myself, I come from Spartan stock.
My father is cut from the old school mold. In fact, watch John Wayne’s The Cowboys, and you’ll see my dad in Will Andersen, Wayne’s leathery character — a tough as nails, no-nonsense ‘burning daylight’ kind of guy. Realize, my kids don’t refer to him as Grandpa — they call him Grumpy. And that’s since he’s decided he needs to be nice to get into heaven.
My mom, while certainly more impish and good-humored than my dad, is no less tough. Huck Finn. That’s who she is. A bare-footed, rough and tumble tomboy who used to spit in my wounds to clean them and called me names if I kept crying.
So where does that leave me? As I've noted before, I must be adopted. I am a comfort-loving, ice cream eating, hard work avoiding kind of guy. I used to work harder getting out of work than had I actually done the chore. I’m not talking about simply hiding in the bathroom like my brother Craig used to do. No, I went to great lengths, including personal injury to get out of doing chores. Although, truth be told, I got very little sympathy and no actual reprieve from my folks. I just managed to postpone the onerous.
One of the few chores that I looked forward to…no, the only chore I looked forward to was woodcutting. We started out in the boonies at some woodpile, where my dad would cut the trees into lengths with the chainsaw, and we’d load up old Bessie, our brown Ford. Honestly, the best part of the daylong event was the home-packed lunch. Sandwich, cookies, fruit, a cold can of Coke and a Snickers. And sometimes, my dad would let me drive the truck along the washboarded dirt road up to the woodpile.
I remember one time my brother Brad chopped open his thigh with the chainsaw while bucking branches. Both he and my dad sort of looked at it, picked out some wood chips and shrugged. Do you think we ought to take you in? my dad says. Guess so, says Brad. Well, lets finish up with these last few and then take you in. Okay, Brad says.
No question. I’m adopted.
So to prove I’m a Hardman, and to earn money for my mission, I took a job as a logger in Alaska just before my mission. Let’s just say that I did make good money, but I didn’t win any toughman competitions while up north. I did manage to stay alive in an industry that, next to commercial fishing, had the most job-related deaths than any other occupation. And I saw some remarkable and sometimes frightening wildlife, including my co-workers, and I learned to appreciate the skills of a lumberjack.
Yes, I can swing an axe and believe it or not, have won several competitions including standing block chop and one-man bucking (crosscut) during my academic stint at USU. The result of lessons learned a long time ago. Maybe I’m not the milkman’s boy after all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A tad bit more as to who I am

The Handyman can...
It runs in the family — being handy that is. My father, throughout his life, has been an engineer, carpenter, cabinetmaker and mechanic. My three brothers can lay claim to titles like carpenter, machinist, mechanic, welder and draftsman. They’re multi-talented.
I am the brother, son and grandson of skilled tradesmen and craftsmen. It’s in my blood — I think. But maybe I’m adopted, because I am the least handy person I know.
I’ve always said that God only gave me two talents: I can grow a nice beard and I make cute kids. That’s it. Well, maybe three things. I have an excellent sense of direction. I can’t remember where I parked the car, but when I’m in it, I never get lost.
So why did the handy gene skip me? It’s not like I haven’t tried. But making or repairing things eludes me. Just ask my kid about his pinewood derby car. He showed up with a partially sanded block of wood painted red. I told him it was a fire engine — without ladders. A pumper truck. Yeah, that’s it. A pumper truck.
I just don’t get it. I mean, my pinewood derby cars were cool. My dad would use his scroll saw to carve out the Smokey and the Bandit Camaro. At least I think it was a scroll saw. It might have been a jigsaw or a band saw. I’m not sure.
I took home ec instead of shop because there were 30 girls in the class and me. Not bad odds, even for the non-handy nerd. And we got to eat what we cooked.
While home ec did score me some sympathy dates, it never really taught me to fix a car, which is what I really needed — and still need. So no, I do not know how to fix a car. And to make matters worse, they keep breaking down. Take last week for example. And the week before that.
My little Geo blew up outside of Richfield. Thanks to Trooper Franco Aguilar, and a local towing service, I was able to get back into town.
Later, while attempting to climb Payson Canyon, my van overheated half a dozen times. Not a good day for a family reunion. But thanks to Cousin Mark and Cousin Brandon, we were able to enjoy the Dutch oven potatoes and corn on the cob. Also thanks to gravity for helping us coast back down the canyon without exploding. [Note: When trying to relieve the pressure from a superheated radiator, be careful. The disposable diaper did come in handy, but should only be used by a trained professional.]
When I was a child, I acted as a child. Now that I am a man … well, some things never change.
It’s a good thing that people still stop and laugh, I mean, help. I’m almost secure enough in my inability to take it.
So if you see me on the roadside, broken down and overheated, please don’t lecture me about fluid levels. It won’t help. Just roll your eyes, pat my head, and remember that God made me to help you feel smarter.

Brief Bio

As the son of a runaway gypsy circus clown, I really can’t help myself. As a kid, my list of goals didn’t include Mt. Everest, outer space or a senate seat. I wanted to be a bald, pipe-smoking pirate with an eye patch and a sword hidden inside my cane.
My dream car was a Volkswagen Bus and my dream was the road. Sort of like a chunky Peter Fonda – a comfortable Easy Rider who didn’t get shot at the end.

Incidental Wandering

In January of 2005, I made one of the first new year's resolutions that I genuinely intended to keep. Understand, I don't keep a journal. In over ten years at the attempt, I had penned perhaps fifteen pages. So, in order to present some semblance of myself to my posterity, I came up with an ingenious plan -- to use my newspaper as a journal. I would write a weekly column about whatever odd thought happened to strike my fancy and someday present it to my children as a legacy of sorts. Problem is...I quit the newspaper exactly four months later.

The following is my final column for the Spanish Fork Press, the community paper that I had run for nigh on three years:

The closing of a chapter...

Marley was dead: to begin with.
Last Tuesday night, I was privileged and honored to accept the Business of the Year award by the Chamber of Commerce for the Spanish Fork Press.
Working for the Press has been an honor. It has afforded me an intimacy with you and the community that many will never know nor understand. I have been a participant in the birth of your children and the subsequent celebrations as they grow. I have seen them learn and serve one another in the schools, and mature and serve the community and country. Through missions, weddings and even death, you have bestowed upon me a great gift -- that of your lives.

A great verity in life is that things change. As of this week, I will no longer be the editor and manager of the Spanish Fork Press. I have been reassigned by my company. So, yes -- things change. But remember, some things don't.
I have had the opportunity to work with many remarkable people. And simply because I can, I would like to say thanks and farewell to my co-workers and friends.
Pam Mendenhall - you are truly my Laughing Aunt
Kirk Parkinson - may the water be flat and the trout always bite
Janis Nielsen - my political sparring partner, even though you know I'm right, er...left.
Candi Higley - the food truly was delicious
Debbie Chandler - you're in my heart
Namon Bills - never be that man you could have been but never was
Jenn Tullis - you're the little sister I never wanted
Heather Brush - all you need is a guitar, three chords and the truth
Jessica Ellsworth - ad astra
Mark Henline - Aargh! What a cute little pirate you are
There is always danger in thanking people, for inevitably you run the risk of offending those forgotten. If in my excitement, I forget, please know that you are still invited.

Since that time, I've written a few more things and had a few more random thoughts, or incidental wanderings, as I like to call them. This blog is just that. A journal to capture my wanderings. Some will be old. Others new. Regardless, I'd like to share them with you. Enjoy.