The Canoe

In January I put an ad in the local newspaper reading;  Wanted:  Canoe or Kayak.


Being a single dad with two teens at home, my thought was that with a canoe and a kayak, the three of us could go paddling together, sharing the outdoors as well as each others company.  The strategy was to buy one of those sturdy, aluminum canoes along with a sleek little light-weight kayak.  I reasoned that the little used canoes littering hundreds of family’s barns and garages would be gladly exchanged for some unexpected income, especially in the middle of winter.  What middle class family can’t use a few found dollars right after Christmas and before the taxes are due?  Hopefully thoughts of paddling would seem so far away as we negotiated price.


As the calls mounted, I heard all kinds of offers.  Eventually, a gentleman called me with what sounded like a really good deal.  Jim introduced himself as the manufacturer’s representative that sold and distributed Old Town boats to regional dealers.  Old Town is a fine maker of canoes and kayaks and has been in the business since 1859.  He had a kayak that was sporting a manufacturing blemish and Old Town did not want it sold via their traditional sales route, so he offered it at a significant savings.  I agreed to meet him at his home.  My son and I arrived there early the next evening after supper.  The kayak was just what I had been hoping for and the price was so reasonable so I accepted without haggling.


The next day, I received a call from a man with a Grumman aluminum canoe, exactly what I had been waiting for.  After getting directions I arranged to meet Doug at his home late in the afternoon.  I arrived at his modest trailer park just before dark.  I knocked on the door of his seventies vintage single wide trailer and Doug quickly ushered me out to the back yard as he pulled on his hunting coat.  We struggled to unfreeze the canoe from the ground as we turned it over and swept away snow covering ice covering leaves forming a stiff carpet of the bottom of the canoe.  Obviously anxious to make the sale, Doug talked up what a good boat it had been and how his kids had lost interest after he bought the “big boat”, which he proudly gestured toward.  “I’ll throw in the paddles and I’ll even deliver it”, he said.  “As a matter of fact, I’ve got another canoe, and old wooden one, that I’ll throw in, no extra charge!”  I was happy to take just the aluminum canoe and I told Doug that I was not interested in the other.  He said, “Come on, just look at it,” as we started to walk towards a broken down shed.  As we swept away even more debris that we did on the first canoe, I saw the words Old Town on a brass placard.  “I just want to get rid of it.” Doug said.  “I’ll deliver them both for free.”  We shock hands as I gave Doug directions to my house.

Doug dutifully arrived at my house, on time, with both canoes precariously perched on the roof of his old pickup, pointing up and over the windshield, the whole family crammed in the cab. As I helped him pull the boats out of the truck and into my yard, I paid him the $100 promised and he happily accepted.  I dragged the aluminum canoe behind my house and tipped it on its side, against the fence.  I went back and looked more closely at the decrepit old wooden canoe.  The seats were woven cane, badly damaged with more holes than seat.  The frame work was basically all there but many of the small wooden parts were chipped or broken.  I took digital images of the boat and the brass placard and called Jim, the Old Town representative.  After exchanging email addresses, I sent Jim the images of the old canoe.  My phone rang later that evening and Jim was excited.  Old Town keeps very good records it seems as Jim was able to tell me when the canoe was built, what the customer had ordered that was special, who the dealer was, when it was delivered and what it cost.  The canoe was custom ordered in 1961 and was hand-built by Old Town.  In 1961, that canoe sold for just over $800.00!  Jim told me that without doing a thing, a collector might pay $500.00, maybe more.


The next morning, I placed a personal ad in the Boating Section of the newspaper.  My phone sprang to life with calls from collectors.  The following day, the high bidder loaded the canoe from the exact spot it was delivered to me not a week earlier and I was $600.00 richer.


I had paid $200.00 for the kayak and $100.00 for the aluminum canoe, both terrific deals.  I thought about Doug, his trailer, his family and his old truck as I drove towards Doug’s home.  One of the kids opened the door and I asked for Doug.  His wife recognized me and asked if something was wrong or if I was looking for a refund.  I assured her no and at the same time, Doug appeared from another room.  I explained to Doug the gist of what had happened and then I gave him $300.00, reasoning that I had everything I wanted at no cost.  It only seemed fair.  Doug and his family were on the verge of tears as Doug hurried me into the kitchen.  He said, “You won’t believe what I was doing when you knocked on the door.”  Doug showed me a notebook.  The pencil entry was entitled, Wish List.  In columns were items Doug explained were for the “big boat” that he knew he couldn’t really afford, but was wistfully hoping for.  Doug told me that he didn’t think there were people “like that” anymore.  I told Doug I was only doing what was right.  As I was about to leave, Doug’s wife asked me if I were a Christian.  I told her yes.  She said, “I thought so.”  As I trudged towards the car, through the crunchy snow, it troubled me to think that doing what is right is now sadly relegated to only Christians.  Is that what we have become in this country?  I sure hope not.



My father loved his garage.  We spent countless hours there together, me working on various cars, motorcycles, or lawn mowers, while dad either watched, talked, or grabbed a rag and cleaned whatever was nearby and dirty.  While not particularly handy, dad decided that if he couldn’t fix it, at least he could clean it.  His old, two stall, wood frame, dimly lit garage, situated in the back of his modest home, was a shrine of sorts.  He told me hundreds of times how much he loved this place.


While dad was mechanically challenged, he nevertheless loved tools, even ones he had no clue how to use.  I think my dad hoped the legal adage of “possession being nine tenths of the law” somehow equated to his ownership of tools magically rendering him handy.  Before the Alzheimer’s, dad knew where ever one of those tools were located in his windowless temple to the god’s of repair and the angels of the less than handy.


The truth is, we used the garage as a meeting place, the replacement for the tree house of our youth.  Men Only.  You could say things in the garage you wouldn’t dream of saying anywhere else.  While we didn’t post signs to keep women out, it seems they understood that this was turf akin to a locker room and as if by magic, they seemed almost afraid to approach us while we were inside.  Neighborhood men, on the other hand, sensed our presence in the garage and spontaneously appeared like salmon going upstream to spawn.


At about the time my dad began to noticeably give ground to his battle with Alzheimer’s, I bought my first home and ironically, it was garage-less.  This would have been a deal breaker if my father had not lived nearby and been kind enough to share his shrine with me.  During that time, my dad’s fight with Alzheimer’s began to challenge him in a greater way.  As his mobility suffered, even going to the garage had to stop.  From then on, after finishing whatever I had to do in the garage, I made sure that I came into the house and spent time with my father, describing to him what I had done and asking him questions about where things were in the garage in an attempt to keep him engaged.


Last week, I did my final oil change in dad’s garage.  Earlier this evening, as I stood in the shadows of darkness in my own garage, part of the deal in a recently acquired income property, I thought about the cruel irony of the situation.  My dad went into a nursing home today.  That officially returns his garage to its former use as a mere storage facility, shrine status now and forever revoked.  My hope is that some of the magic we created and enjoyed there finds it way to my garage and my son.


Trump – 3016, Clinton – 395

The 50 United States collectively contain 3411 counties.  Donald Trump’s candidacy for the presidency of the United States won 3016 of those counties.  Hillary Clinton took only 395 (or 11.5%) in her 2016 bid to become the first female president.  If you look at a US map highlighting the election results by colors, it is easy to confuse it with a Verizon wireless coverage map, overwhelmingly red in the middle with blue spots mostly around the edges.  Expressed by measuring acreage per vote, Clinton controlled approximately 5% of the land mass, reinforcing the brilliance of our founders in designing the Electoral College.


While middle and rural America hugely backed Trump, the largest urban centers voted overwhelmingly for Clinton.  In the geographical breadbasket of the US, the three adjoining states of Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma together contain 275 counties.  Only four backed Clinton.  Using Texas as an example, the further north you go in the state, the fewer and fewer Clinton votes you find, that is with the exception of Dallas, the sole county supporting Clinton north of Houston.  But drive due North from Dallas to Kansas City, a trip of more than 500 miles, and you pass through two states where Clinton carried but a single county.


So the billion-dollar question becomes; why is it that the tighter together people are packed, the more likely they are to vote liberal?  The short answer is that urban dwellers apparently cannot tell the difference between the smell of cow sh*t and bull sh*t.


The further away you are from the stench of corruption that wafts around Washington DC and the closer you are to the sweet smell of cows, wheat, corn and soybean fields, the more likely you are to appreciate self-reliance and pride of accomplishment over the expectation of big-government handouts to buy votes.


You see, when people in the country have a breakdown, whether it be their homes roof, car, pick-up truck or their tractor, their first thought is how to fix it themselves and how to budget the funds to pay for it.  When urbanites face a transit or cab strike, or a rent hike, their first inclination is to blame someone else and ask why government isn’t fixing it.


For those living and working amongst millions of people packed into a city, it is understandable that they might feel more like a cog in a giant gear, lost in the sheer magnitude of faceless anonymity, toiling away at work that shows no outcomes, no finality, no joy of achievement.  Folks who work on farms, small businesses, restaurants, auto parts stores and the like, find a quiet dignity of relating to their purposes, understanding the goals, challenges and nuances of their work.  They can see the bigger picture because there are fewer moving parts and a clearer image as to the goals and outcomes.


America has finally awakened from its liberal coma and proud patriots have forcefully said, enough is enough, we’re defending our proud heritage.  We’ve heard the encouraging voice of a man who wants to make America great again.  While Donald Trump remains to be judged by man and history as impactful a force as Reagan was, it is clear that Trump has tapped into an enthusiasm and hopefulness that has not been seen since the Reagan years.  To loosely quote Michelle Obama, of all unlikely people, most of the folks in those 3016 red counties are feeling, for the first time in eight years, proud once again of America and to be an American.


Cake Anyone?

Donald Trump had a habit of uttering the single word; “Wrong”, during the various debates when he heard something said with which he disagreed.  It is a word that every professional journalist, media pundit, talk show host and politician should repeat as they stand facing a mirror.  Everyone was wrong about Trump.  Moreover, today and I’m sure tomorrow, those same dead wrong prognosticators will continue to write and talk and lecture and babble about everything they have been proven not to know about Trump, as if they actually got it right.


Look carefully at the voting map of our country, red everywhere with blue edges.  Thank God and our founders for the concept of the Electoral College, which defends against the likelihood of the disenfranchisement of Middle America via the voting bloc of large urban areas like New York and Los Angeles.


The liberal agenda American has been suffering under since Lyndon Johnson has perhaps happily met its Waterloo.  Hillary Clinton was the final leg of the Obama legacy, now vanquished by the people.  Those millions of “deplorables”; bitter clingers clutching at their guns and their Bibles came out in force to address the insults head-on.  Clinton received some 6 million fewer votes than Obama in 2012.  The media machine reminded us of the shame all of the millions of non-college educated white men should feel, apparently so thoroughly stupid as to cast a vote for Trump, oh the humanity!  Nice try, but we all know that this is just liberal code for dumb rednecks, they just don’t have the guts to say it outright, political correctness and all that don’t you know.  What is deplorable is the condescension; the assumed moral authority and the soft bigotry of the low expectations of the “great unwashed” liberals so cavalierly embrace.


During the final debate, when Trump suggested he might not go quietly if he lost the election, the Left went crazy saying this in a October 19, 2016 article in Politico.  “Donald Trump delivered another unprecedented historical moment during the final presidential debate Wednesday night when the Republican nominee, who appears on his way to a landslide loss, refused to say that he would accept the election’s outcome.”  When we fast-forward to the present, we see rioting in major cities by the same leftists who were so quick to accuse those on the Right of acting out when Hillary was to be crowned as their first Queen.


So now, those on the Left call for calm, understanding and reconciliation, just as they would be doing had Clinton won, right?  Oh no, we don’t believe that anymore, too many examples of blown expectations.  Elections have consequences, picking winners and defeating losers.  Hillary Clinton is by definition a loser and as another famous queen was heard to say to her faithful followers just before her untimely demise, “Let them eat cake.”


Drain the Swamp

What was unthinkable for liberals and unsavory for traditional Republicans has transcended from abstract theory to here and now reality.  Donald Trump is the President elect.  Pundits, critics, advocates, they all got it wrong and got it wrong in the grandest of fashion.  Every single step, or mis-step along the way was promised to be Donald’s undoing.  He was out spent, out organized, out classed, a political neophyte treading water in a shark tank with sixteen veteran Republican politicians and he not only survived, he harvested the poisoned media machine that was out to crush him and turned them into his own, free PR firm.


Every time a mainstream politician of either stripe called him out, I gained interest.  Every time a journalist pronounced him as toast, I gained respect.  Trump has promised to drain the swamp.  Let’s be sure no one escapes that swamp before hand because it is not only the game that is rigged, but those who have played it for so long that are as slimy as the muck out of which they crawl.


Good luck President Trump.  Let’s make American great again.  Drain that swamp and then build that wall.