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More Dogs on Main Street

If ever there was a year to have battened down the hatches, it was 2005. It started out with the Asian tsunami, and just kept on giving with hurricanes and earthquakes, and the specter of bird flu hanging out there. While Congress worked itself into a lather over flag burning, the brain dead and gay marriage, we’ve mortgaged the future to China to the tune of a billion dollars a day. We are still in the last throes of the insurgency in Iraq; still being greeted as liberators after all these years. This was the year of the runaway bride, cable-news missing blonde girl of the week, Michael Jackson’s acquittal and so on.

Jesus and Mary manifested themselves on grilled cheese sandwiches and other assorted foodstuffs, which were celebrated with much dignity and respect in eBay auctions. It’s just a suggestion, but it seems like there are better places to seek spiritual guidance than burnt toast. If there was a connection between the God of the grilled cheese and the God of the hurricanes, it was lost on most of us. Rev. Pat Robertson came out in favor of keeping Teri Schiavo on life support indefinitely, while recommending the prompt assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Go figure.

I wish I could report that it was a year of great personal growth and development. It’s a stretch to say that skiing 105 days last season counts, but it felt like something significant. Over the course of the year, there were some unique experiences. I went mountain biking in Whistler, where the trails are slick, narrow and filled with slime-covered obstacles. And bears. Whistler has bears like we have potguts. This was a year when my house decided to show its age, and it seemed like hardly a week went by without some major household repair. All too often they were of the plumbing variety.

I discovered a new TV channel on my satellite service. RFD-TV is a great meditation. My favorites are "Talkin’ Tractors" with old guys talking about restoring their old tractors, and "Trains and Locomotives," which is nothing but un-narrated footage of trains chugging around. But you can’t really underestimate the joy of watching the "Big Joe Polka Show" as it travels around the grand ballrooms of Ramada Inns across the upper Great Plains.

For the first time in several years, we went into the summer expecting to have adequate irrigation water on the farm. That caused me to put in a lot more time than usual on the tractor getting the ditches opened up and ready to use. There is nothing like a few contemplative days on a tractor to give you time to solve all of the world’s problems. The difficulty was that while I was working out the details of a national health insurance program, I would forget to lift the ditching plow, and ended up with some ditches that run at random. The damage will heal in time.

Development issues continued to dominate the local news. What’s been approved and built is generally gross enough, but let’s not forget those projects that are still on the drawing boards. The Branson, Missouri-style dinner theater complex at Quinn’s Junction appears to have died a quiet death. Dolly Parton won’t be appearing at the Richardson Flat tailings pond any time soon. But now there is a proposal to build an assisted living center (for geezers 50 and over) next door to the sewage treatment plant on Rasmussen Road. I’ve heard that the sense of smell deteriorates quickly as we get older, but I’m not ready for that just yet. There are more five-star hotels on the docket than there are pretentious waiters to explain the specials. The strip mining continues at the intersection of Brown’s Canyon and S.R. 248. They won’t stop digging until they find a Costco store.

Although it’s impossible to stop "progress," it’s possible to get in its way. My neighborhood beat back a proposal from a few newcomers to pave the local roads. But that victory was offset by the eager welcome of high-speed Internet service. I even replaced the rotary dial phone. There were two tear-downs in the neighborhood, with little 1950’s cabins replaced by humongous houses. And a guy who is building a house in a sheet metal grain silo.

Maybe it was the Zen-like tranquility that comes from watching "Trains and Locomotives," but I’ve finally come to accept a few things as immutable and quit worrying about them. My dog’s little quirks that were cute when she was a puppy have now ripened into a full-blown psychosis. But I’ve adjusted to it. If she will only go out through the kitchen door, and in through the living room, well, that’s OK. She’s five now, and if she hasn’t figured out how to walk on the tile floor by now, it’s just not going to happen.

The car hit 100,000 miles at Thanksgiving. That used to have me hot and bothered to buy a new one. But this one runs just like it did the day I drove it off the lot, still turning out 50 mpg without a squeak or rattle. So now the focus is on trying to milk it for 200,000. Maybe that’s a sign of maturity, along with the bifocals, the colonoscopy and, for the first time in my life, actually exceeding the deductible on my terrible health insurance plan. Retail on the appendectomy was about equal to the cost of a new VW. I had hoped to find the face of Mother Teresa on it so I could sell it on eBay and recoup the part the insurance didn’t cover, but my inflamed appendix was just an inflamed appendix.

Maybe that’s the overriding lesson of 2005. Sometimes an inflamed appendix is just an inflamed appendix, and we shouldn’t try to read anything more into it.


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