by R.L. Furse
Childhood lessons emphasize hard work, family PDF E-mail

We all like to have our beliefs reinforced and I was fortunate to have a couple of  “reinforcers” cross my messy desk this week. I try to clear the desk about every two weeks, but must admit I fall behind and papers begin to pile up. Finally I came across an item that has given me an outlet to embrace my messy side.

In defending my sloppy desk, a news clipping states that cleanliness may be a virtue, but clutter may inspire a great idea. When researchers at the University of Minnesota had people solve problems in either a tidy room or an untidy room, they found that those in an untidy space came up with more creative solutions.

“An orderly room encourages people to do what is expected. A messy room can do just the opposite, leading you to brainstorm more innovative ideas,” says Kathleen Vohs, PhD. She instructs messy people to cut themselves some slack and the resulting mess could encourage a “lightbulb” moment.

As a result of clearing my desk I’m moving on to another subject that is close to my heart. The subject of American history and I guess I could even be more specific citing pride in the Midwest and Nebraska. A book titled, “The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History,” authored by Jack K. Lauck, basically emphasizes by studying the history of the Midwest we not only learn how the heartland was built, but how it saved the nation.

In stressing his plea for renewed attention to our “lost region” and its history, Lauck notes how Midwesterners were and still are rooted in their communities and are believers in individualism and self reliance. He continues by writing that standard accounts of early American history tend to emphasize the sophisticated East and the troubled South. Yet, as Ralph Waldo Emerson observed with his usual shrewdness, “Europe extends to the Alleghenies while America lies beyond.” The fundamental spirit of our nation was forged on the frontier.

Lauck claims the heartland still is the subject of a tendency to be undervalued and its past skewed and fragmented mainly by the population on the East Coast. As an example he points out a powerful literary critic and author  H.L. Mencken, who died in 1956, said of a Midwestern writer: “I don’t care how well she writes, I  don’t give a damn what happens in Nebraska.” Mencken was dismissing Nebraska’s Willa Cather.

Lauck summarizes my feelings and those of most Midwesterners when he states, “... hardly a day goes by that I don’t recall my childhood and how it showed me the fundamental importance of family, school, neighborhood and church; taught me the necessity of hard work, self-reliance and kindness to others. These are American values, yes, but Midwestern ones above all.”

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Just getting ready to open a can of worms PDF E-mail

Just as I was getting ready to open a can of worms for the upcoming fishing season, another can of worms has been opened that is much more far-reaching than my bait and a few fish. In case you missed it, the National Labor Relations Board sided with Northwestern University football players allowing them to unionize.

I know a football or player sports union will not play out as the most dynamic impact on my life. That’s mainly because when sports becomes unionized this old guy will make the decision not to be seated in the stadium, or at courtside. But, before I overreact I must be reminded this ruling affects at this time only private colleges and surely will be challenged. One person predicted the decision is a long way from the goal line and those Northwestern players hoping to form a players’ union will be old men before the issue is settled.

With tongue-in-cheek I have a few questions and observations.

If a football player is an employee will he then be fired when he fails to make a key tackle, or missed his 8 o’clock class? Will football players be placed on a higher salary base since that sport generates more money? Do players draw overtime pay when a game goes into overtime? Is there going to be a strike clause in player association contracts?

Continuing I would ask if women athletes will be on the same pay scale as male athletes?

Maybe we should let the National Football League and National Basketball Association sponsor a “junior” pro league and let colleges get back to pursuing No. 1 one in education instead of concentrating on a gridiron No. 1.

I realize that when student athletes accept a sports scholarship they are making a commitment of long practice hours and weekend travel time that can interfere with study time. But looking back to my college days many regular educational scholarshipstudents were holding done jobs that committed them to a 30-40 work week. (Let me clarify, I certainly wasn’t on an educational scholarship and worked weekend and summer jobs.)

Over the past few years we have witnessed an increasing outcry that many things in life are unfair. Student loan defaults are more common. People walk away from home loan obligations. And it’s common to blame the “other guy” as the cause of our problems.

It might be time for the younger generation to realize something many of us oldsters learned years ago. Simply said, “There is no such thing as a ‘free lunch and sometime life isn’t always fair.’”

RL Furse is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Nebraska No. 19 in flatness, No. 1 place to live PDF E-mail

After moving to Aurora nearly 50 years ago, I thought I was living in one of the flattest places in the nation. I had grown up in hilly eastern Nebraska where as kids we could sled for eight blocks without stopping and where street slopes were so steep that on snow-packed days drivers parked their cars at the bottom of the hills. In fact, our house was located on the only flat avenue in the community.
Initially I missed the hill country, but after a few heavy winter snows I found the flat country had plenty of benefits. Rain runoff didn’t flood mainstreet. You could ride a bike nearly anywhere without getting winded and you always knew what was over the next hill because there weren’t any hills ... just a few humps.
As I got older economic benefits came into play. No more snow tires. No flood insurance premiums and no concerns about mudslides.
Just where is the flattest place in the United States? I came across some information that tells us Nebraska and Aurora are not the flattest places in the land. The Cornhusker state didn’t even make the top 10. Nebraska ranked 19th in a study recently conducted by the University of Kansas. Florida tops the list for flatland and Illinois is second.
Now it’s just fine with me that Nebraska is not No. 1. Here in Aurora and Hamilton County, we’re still No. 1 as the best place to live.
We always knew they did things “big” in Texas. Allen High School just found their $60 million, 18,000 seat stadium may have to be demolished, Yes, I wrote $60 million stadium! The two-year-old stadium has substandard concrete, as well as improper structural design of reinforcing steel. As I mentioned they always do things “big” in Texas ... even when they make construction miscues.
I had a busy morning recently picking up a scattering of plastic telephone book covers that a distributor dropped adjacent to mailboxes throughout our neighborhood. The delivery person chucked the yellow plastic covers on the ground and continued on his merry way. Apparently he didn’t notice the wind was blowing and several covers ended up in my front bushes while our back lot harbored nearly a half dozen. The distribution of those covers certainly was not beneficial to those advertisers who had hoped to get their messages in the hands of potential customers.
Were you one of those who struggled to change the automobile clock ahead to daylight savings time?  It makes a guy realize how short his memory is when he has a six-year-old vehicle and still finds it necessary to use the auto’s manual for instruction.

Circus job may be a new career, or not PDF E-mail

Sometimes a guy can blindly stumble on to something that can prove beneficial to his future. That stumbling can be even more rewarding when it comes from serving as a volunteer.

Now before I lose you as a reader, I am going to state immediately this is not going to be a report on the benefits of the enjoyment I have working with the dogs at the animal shelter. This is a report on something that took me away from Aurora to assist with a main attraction that drew approximately 1500-plus spectators in another community. I signed on as a volunteer for the Shrine Circus when it appeared in Grand Island.

As a Shrine volunteer at the circus you are asked to do duties such as assisting at the main gate selling and taking tickets; directing patrons to their seats; giving directions to rides; and a host of general other duties. I had previous experience at the main gate several years ago, so this year’s application must have noted my experience and it was evident I had been upgraded to a much more important job. I was assigned as a ticket taker for the elephant rides.

The ticket taking for the elephant ride must be a pretty important job. There is only one ticket taker for each circus session. Another individual is responsible for selling the elephant tickets and handling the cash. My role that was re-emphasized by the elephant loader who sternly told me to keep the potential riders in a orderly row; making sure they didn’t misplace their ticket; and allow no more than five on the ramp when boarding the elephants. I must admit I felt I did a pretty good job and even gained, not only how to do ticket taking and crowd control, but was able to learn some important facts about elephants as well. In my own mind I have filed away some important facts that will be useful in the future, particularly when I seek to broaden my career.

Did you know African elephants have bigger ears than Asian elephants? I watched as an elephant cleanly swept (or vacuumed) scattered grain from the ring floor with his trunk and placed the granules in his mouth without leaving hardly a kernel.

Another intellectual gem was evident was elephants appear to be good listeners and display a tremendous sense of balance. Elephants routinely followed their handlers. One could even balance on all fours atop a four-foot diameter steel ball rolling across the ring.

Again my resume continued to grow after talking with another circus official who told me they hire many temp employees at the location the circus is appearing. I didn’t exactly run home after the show and get out a map to see the next city on the gig. The official also put one damper on my potential job hunt. He said many of the temp workers sleep in their cars or trucks.

When I came home that evening I told the betterhalf about job potentials. It was obvious she wasn’t about to embark on a circus trek with me. She could rest easy. I already eliminated the idea. With my job skills, my next job advancement as a circus employee could be walking behind the elephants with a shovel and broom!

RL Furse is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Life, volunteering was once so much simpler PDF E-mail

Judging from the activities in our community, it appears volunteering is alive in well whether it is an organization or an individual doing the volunteering. While various clubs have seen numbers dwindle in recent years, volunteering to help with projects and services continues to at least remain steady.

There’s no doubt more volunteers are welcome and in some cases present volunteers have increased their volunteer hours to meet local demands. But, a good nucleus of young volunteers has stepped up to the plate to help. It’s heart-warming to see local youth aiding and working along with adults on common projects that range from local campaigns to even national or international causes.

However, in today’s world there seems to be somebody out there always wanting to put a damper on goodwill. That was case in Robbinsdale, Minn., where the American Humanistic Association is threatening to sue an elementary school for participating in an effort to feed hungry children in Haiti.

Last month first, second and third graders joined hundreds of others from the community at a church to help pack food boxes to feed the hungry children in Haiti. The program was run by Feed My Starving Children, a Christian nonprofit and the church served as a center to pack that organization’s food boxes. Both the FMSC, church and school had taken steps to enable the involvement of public school children without exposing them to religious views.

A normal prayer at the end of the packing was not held and all religious symbols had been removed from the packing room. The school principal wrote in a letter to the parents, “The purpose of this service learning activity was to teach our students civic responsibility and provide opportunities for our students to become active positive contributors to society.”

It was even pointed out that students were not required to participate in the program and offered other alternatives for those students.

An attorney for the Humanist group notified the school they objected to a public school encouraging its students to participate in a program run by a religious organization contending it’s in violation of the First Amendment principle of church-state separation and if the program continues they will consider suing the school to stop it.

It appears now attorneys may be doing battle.  Alliance Defending Freedom, a law firm which specializes in religious liberty cases, has offered to defend the school free of charge. The firm contends  “The Constitution does not prohibit  students from cooperating with a religious organization to help starving families, which is not any sort of government endorsement of religion.”

I’m glad I’m old enough to recall when life (or volunteering) was simple.

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register.

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