by R.L. Furse
Foot race no contest between old man, dog PDF E-mail

A simple task of walking dogs at the Aurora Adopt-A-Pet animal shelter can become more complex than we expected when signing up as volunteers several years ago. At the time, we told our bosses we wanted a job with little responsibility, but were willing to join the staff of  approximately 20-plus volunteers who daily feed animals, clean kennels, give medications, arrange adoptions and do the paperwork required for admitting/releasing animals at the shelter.

In an effort to give a helping hand we sometimes take on an extra duty or two. Generally our effort accomplishes nothing more than giving us the message we’re getting too old to handle some of those serious responsibilities. That was the case with a little Chihuahua the betterhalf called, “Peanuts” and carries her official name “Blanca.”

Peanuts had appeared to be losing some weight and I wasn’t familiar with a six-pound mini-size canine’s normal weight. Thus, Peanuts and I headed out searching for expert advice from a longtime Chihuahua owner who I knew would be hosting a coffee for friends in the back of his former insurance building just off the square. Upon arrival at the location, we stepped from the car when the leashed Peanuts immediately leaped off my lap; shook off her chain; and sped up the street. Folks, you’re too old when my striding four-foot legs fail to catch up with a Chihuahua with a five inch leg stride. The chase was on.

Momentarily I was in hot pursuit for a matter of 10 yards. By the time we rounded the first corner, Peanuts had stretch her lead to a quarter of a block. As I ran across the street a car made a sudden stop. At first I thought the driver and passengers were going to help me in this hot pursuit. I looked back moments later and while I am still uncertain, it appeared the driver and occupants were laughing with no plans for pursuit. Although I wasn’t in a laughing mood, the chase had to be a real laughter for any witnesses.

I don’t know the real age of Peanuts, but I would guess she was in dog years around 40. Her age was evident when she reached the post office corner and decided to take a “break” on a lawn. I didn’t need a “lawn break” to have my body tell me I was an old man. With what I thought might be my last breath, I staggered up and nabbed Peanuts. The chase was over. Yes, it was found Peanuts was a little underweight, but  her energy seems unaffected by lack of fat.

I mentioned earlier the betterhalf and I have volunteered at the shelter for several years. Now it appears even that news has gotten around our community’s canine citizens (licensed and those undocumented canines from nearby counties who have crossed over into Hamilton County). This past week our neighbor called to tell us there were two black labs resting on our driveway. The dogs appeared to have been attracted to the cool concrete after a day of freedom on the golf course and other points in Aurora. We took them to the pound where they were watered, fed and later claimed by the owner. We certainly hope this incident is not an indication of wandering dogs knowing where we live and are expecting amnesty and no punishment from their owners. Wait a minute! Haven’t we witnessed something similar to this on our human side?

RL Furse is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

What do our cars say about our personalities? PDF E-mail

The question has come up, “Do cars have a personality?” The answer, “Yes, they do.” According to a recent magazine report the car buying motivation of those over age 55 is that autos are an expression of their personality and who they are.

If cars didn’t have a personality, why do some owners call their car a name such as “Pete, Old Reliable,” or sometimes a name that can’t be repeated when “Old Reliable” fails to start on a winter morning. Over the years some owners drove Cadillacs to express their wealth. Others bought the same color car and traded every year because they didn’t want people to know they had bought a new car. Environmentalists chugged down the road in a low horse-powered smog-free vehicles smiling as the exhaust emitted nonpolluting vapor.

Meanwhile, I must take exception with that viewpoint when it comes to my past. In my youthful days I was just happy to have a car that allowed me to date a girl who lived in the country and carried a guarantee that I could get her back home before her curfew. I didn’t care that my old 1951 4-door Ford had an oxidized green finish that didn’t shine. It had a set of chrome spinner hubcaps that required one week’s salary to pay for. I didn’t care if the back doors on that car fit so loose that a few inches of snow would drift through on a blustery winter day. Only one option was on my six-year-old Ford and that option was the most important -- an AM radio.

There might have been an inkling of change coming when I splurged one week’s salary to install four new chrome spinner hubcaps. Once chrome was thrown on a vehicle a guy just became aware of image and magically the car had developed personality.

Later and still far from that 55-year-old buyers group mentioned earlier, I began thinking about a convertible and a few other accessories such as fender skirts and vinyl seats. Finally, I persuaded my banker (a.k.a. Dad) to loan money for a used convertible that for the next few years was in the garage as much as on the road. That car carried my personality through college -- not in eloquent style -- but with enough reliability to get through our first year of marriage.

I should amend that reliability statement. The better half drove the car to her job daily and was constantly plagued with the car’s touchy carburetor. Failure to start became so routine the better half in her suit and heels would spring open the hood, remove the air cleaner, telling a male passerby to get in the car and turn on the ignition while she held open the carburetor’s butterfly.

As the years went by an expanding family left no room for car personalities. We advanced through the years going from two doors, four doors to station wagons and SUVs.

Finally, personality expression emerged far after the 55-year-old’s plateau. Several years ago a convertible was purchased for the better half and truly reflected her personality -- a sporty model with lots of horsepower..

Now, I just hope that doesn’t mean we’re going back to “square one” and in the future go through station wagons and additional family members.

RL Furse  is publisher emeritus of the News-Register.

A blow to justice PDF E-mail

The days are gone when we set off firecrackers, light Roman candles and blacken the sidewalks with smoking snakes. This Fourth of July we’ll settle back and listen to a few booms across town and look to the sky for aerial fireworks displays.

When I mentioned “we” I should exclude one member of our family. Our dog Missy will take up her usual Fourth of July evening post either under our bed or in the guest bathroom where there are no windows. She has trouble understanding the significance of the Fourth.

Today the Fourth should be more significant than ever. We can look to the Middle East where basic freedoms are fragile, or gone. We see the atrocities going on in Africa and other nations. Here in America we should celebrate this Fourth not necessarily with more fireworks, but with a thankful realization we live in the best country in the world and are an example what individual freedom is all about.

I sometimes wonder if the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia on The Fourth of July 1776 really understood they adopted a document so finely written that their Declaration of Independence has withstood the challenges for 238 years. And while they adopted that Declaration of Independence on July 4, it was not signed until Aug. 2.

What other turning points in our United States history have taken place on July 4?

Well, on July 4 news of Union victories at Gettysburg and Vicksburg arrived in 1863, as did Admiral Sampson’s dispatch in 1898 telling of the triumph of the U.S. fleet at Santiago. On the Fourth of July in 1917, U.S. combat troops first reached Paris on their march to the Western front and July 4, 1942 American planes first bombed Europe by day. The Fourth’s significance has not only been related to wars.

In 1817 that date was chosen to start work on the Erie Canal that linked the Atlantic states to the West. On July 4, 1828, the first stone was laid in building the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad  which gave fast, cheap transporation to the West.

On a sad note, three U.S. presidents died on the Fourth. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both died on July 4, 1826 while James Monroe passed away in 1831. Interestingly, Adams’ and Jefferson’s deaths came exactly 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence

The Fourth of July has also seen demonstrations – peaceful and violent – by Americans who, having been created equal, have pursued happiness by marching in parades, attending ball games, traveling, picnicking, or simply setting off fireworks.

How lucky we are!

RL Furse is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Stupid mistakes lead to teachable moments PDF E-mail

We’ve always been told, “Experience is the best teacher.” I’ve been thinking about that old adage and tended to agree. But, now I’m not so sure because I think the word “stupidity” may be part of the equation that made up much of my learning experience.

It sounds funny that stupidity plays a key part in learning? Let’s just say I’ve gained lots of memorable experiences because of my stupid actions over the years. I’ll make my point by revealing some of the stupid actions I’ve done in my lifetime that now give me a voice of  experience I can pass on to my grandkids. I’m passing those experiences on to my grandkids because I feel when these learning experiences were conveyed to my sons, that wisdom fell on deaf ears.

Here are some of my present day experience-based teaching moments that resulted from my own past youthful stupid actions:

* Your parents knew what they are talking about.

* The best things in life are free with the exception of ice cream, peanuts, a piece of lemon pie and a new bike.

* Don’t pour hot water over an automobile’s cold front window in an attempt to rid it of a coating of ice.

* In small communities news of your misbehaving actions travels to your parents before you get home.

* Don’t throw firecrackers out of the front seat of a moving car when the back windows are down.

* When you’re told you’ll burn your fingers, you don’t need to touch the object to see if the warning is true.

* Don’t sass back to your mother, or for that matter attempt to run away from her when a spanking is on the agenda.

* Never say “never” as in, “I’d never do that!”

* In this world it seems when you are right, no one remembers and when you are wrong, no one forgets.

* Don’t go against what you feel in your heart.

Over the years I had hoped I would get smarter through my stupid mistakes. That has not happened because I still continue to make those miscues. I have softened my disappointment by believing I am still learning and padding my learning experiences. All I have to do is find someone to listen to my teachable moments.

RL Furse is publisher emeritus of the News-Register

Headlines of the future a cause for concern PDF E-mail

Scanning a week’s worth of newspaper headlines and related news stories can cause a lot of thoughts in a guy’s mind. Those thoughts made me question just what is going on in this world of ours and what the future holds. I am sure most of us can recall our parents and grandparents asking the same question decades ago.

After reading a story that predicted in a few years cars will be computerized to motor down the road without having a driver behind the wheel, it conveyed the image of a person traveling along holding up his hands and shouting, “Look ma – no hands!” At first I figured I would never live to see a string of vehicles heading down I-80 driverless, or at least someone with no hands on the wheel.

Then I realized we have already reached that point judging by the number of people talking or texting on smartphones will driving.

For those of you who might think the most expensive natural resource in the world is gold or oil, you may want to think a little deeper after a recent news story of a plan calling for the City of Lincoln proposing to draw future water needs from the Missouri River. For over 80 years the city has been getting its water from wells along the Platte River, which is 25 miles away. To meet future needs Lincoln will need to diversify its water sources and is calling for a well field 50 miles away near the Missouri River by the year 2070.

Lincoln’s proposal may not seem important to Hamilton County at the present time, but a battle for water rights between urban and rural interests across the nation someday will need to be resolved. In addition to Nebraska metro areas and ag focusing interest on water needs, we must also realize out-of-state interests have been studying ways to tap the Ogallala Aquifer.

Today, oil and the Keystone Pipeline are grabbing the majority of the headlines. In too near a future water will certainly be more valuable to Nebraska’s overall economic picture than oil.

Caps and a new student loan policy have been aired by the president. I sympathize with any student who has a loan and particularly one with a loan at the 7 percent interest level. Some form of a refinancing program might be appropriate in some cases. However, when you adjust a loan rate for one, what do you tell that student who worked his way through college without taking a loan, or one who has already paid off his 7 percent loan?

As cold as it sounds there’s another basic lesson to be learned that should be carried by everyone, young or old. That is, don’t borrow the money unless you know you can pay it back.

Our final headline grabber tells the reader bars and restaurants are in a movement toward original and quirky cocktails. We recall the era when a bartender needed to be able to mix less than a dozen drinks and simply keep the beer cold. It now appears that era is gone and the average bartender might need a degree in chemical engineering, agronomy, culinary, or geography. Cocktails with titles such as King of Carrot Flowers, Autumn ‘n June, Death in Bushwick, Lehua and a Gene Park Swizzle trigger the imagination. And if you think that gets a guy thinking, how about a drink that contains “gunpowder tea?”

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