Sparks (or not)
Emitted from the fire, their tiny illumination endures for the briefest of moments…then, they are gone


Olympic Pandas Leave Beijing for Home

My grandpa used to say, “There’s book-learnin’, there’s common sense and there’s farmer sense.”

Farmer sense has to do with feeling the soil, sensing the mood of the wind and observing the body language of animals.

Living on a small farm, I’m often treated to a lesson in animal behavior. I watch with interest as playful pups enact the more serious death-dance of their cousins in the wild.

I’m captivated as two mini horses chase one another up and down the fence line – nipping here, kicking there. The amusing game is but a rehearsal of actual survival tactics in another more cruel arena outside our barb-wired enclave.

These animals instinctively practice the skills necessary to maintain their species. They don’t yet know they will probably never need them in their domesticated sphere of safety.

Occasionally, these lessons shed light into human behavior – and perhaps, the origin of sport.

In a time when it was man against beast, our premium attributes were strength, speed, coordination and at least more brains than the beast. Forget courage, or a sense of rivalry. It was simply a matter of do-or-die when facing the sabre-toothed tiger or woolly mammoth.

The competitive spirit possibly came into play as food sources became more scarce. Then, it was  tribe against tribe—possibly even family against family. In addition to the physical attributes necessary for survival, an inner sense of pride,  loyalty and territorial ownership fueled the muscles beyond the normal adrenaline rush.

Perhaps the infancy of war?

Regardless, it became convenient and advantageous to practice the art of battle in the times between the heat of battle. These friendly episodes of play-acting, seasoned with the competitive spirit, quite possibly were the forerunners of sport.

How high, how far, how fast were some the deepest questions asked in those days.

As the methods of warfare became more refined through the ages, so did the playful games which served as dress rehearsal for the real thing. Think of the javelin throw, fencing, or American football and their relationship to combat.

Regrettably, war is still with us, with it’s terrible cost. Let us be thankful for the avenue of sport to vent our competitive energies. And while even our games sometime result in injury or death, they more often end with a handshake or embrace.

* * *

A shrill whistle and a show of food unlocks the four-legged combatants on our farm, confirming that it’s only play.

An educated anthropologist or behavioral science major could probably blow my theory to bits but standing here, leaning on the gate, watching…it sure makes sense to me.

(written March, 2009)


Every household knows the drill.

The occupants are kicked back—bare feet on the coffee table—perhaps in their underwear, comfortable in varying degrees of their own residue.

Then, from somewhere under a crumpled newspaper (or is it behind a lint-ridden seat cushion?), the cell phone rings.

Long-lost Uncle Charlie (who is mistakenly perceived as being above such casual behavior) is just blocks away and wants to drop in for a visit.

Out comes the vacuum, the dust mop, the air freshener.

Within 90 seconds, a facade of elegance is ready to greet Charlie, while behind the closet door and under the pristine rug, reality is in hiding, holding its breath until company leaves.

And likewise, the Olympic ritual of whisking the unmentionable, the seedy, the scum, back into a deeper, darker recess—as if the host city were the only place in the world without such clutter—begins again.

Beijing in 2008, and Vancouver in 2010 both did it.

London is doing it.

Rio de Janeiro, host of the 2016 Summer Games, will have some big-time primping to do as well.

As pretentious an act as it truly is, this preening illustrates a very human trait to which most of us can relate.

Putting on a good face for guests can be a gesture of honor. Or it can be a matter of hiding our shame.

At the household level, it’s only inanimate crumbs and dust. At the metropolitan level—though some consider it simply a higher form of debris—the rubble speaks of human beings and of our shortcomings as a society.

In either case, it’s not going away when the guests depart—without a good dose of creative problem-solving.

After a while, Uncle Charlie does leave.

For a brief moment, there is a basking in the hastily-arranged tidiness. Maybe even a thought of doing some genuine deep cleaning…

Nah. Back to the couch and Jeopardy.



The Vietnam experience was different than that of all other previous wars. With few exceptions, we came over as individual soldiers – without the benefit of the relationships and camaraderie of an organized unit. Most of us can probably relate to the trauma of being the FNG: alone, confusion, fear, apprehension. It’s like a rite of passage we had to endure and boy, was it good when we finally came out the other side, settling into a routine of familiarity and new friendships.

So it’s not surprising that the darker side in us was quick to turn the tables when the opportunity presented itself.

There were a few times when our normal day’s work was interrupted by a request to shuttle a FNG to his new duty station. There he sat, alone in the center of the cargo area, as far from the open doors as he could get— seat belt cinched up tight. It was probably his first helicopter ride. His dark green, still-starched fatigues, pale skin and high-and-tight haircut begged for an initiation experience befitting of a future combat veteran.

The plan was secretly concocted in the privacy of the crew’s intercom. The pilot gradually gained elevation and diverted slightly off course ’til we were flying over a known free-fire zone. Just as the greenhorn was starting to relax and enjoy the ride, the bottom dropped out and we plummeted  like a rock into an autorotational free fall. When the pale rider’s eyes were about to pop out of their sockets, and his white-knuckled hands were at the point of breaking the aluminum seat frame, we bottomed out and both M-60s belched their fiery stream into the jungle. At this point, depending on the individual, the FNG was either in full primal scream or stunned silence, pondering—perhaps even accepting—his own demise.

When the horror had sufficiently run its course, we reverted to normal flight and all crew members turned to smile knowingly at our terrified victim. The rear crew patted him on the back and shook his trembling hands.

I’m not sure if it was out of gratitude at still being alive or the eventual realization that it was all a good-natured prank, but when departing our ship at his new unit, the general attitude was one of understanding (our need for occasional comic relief) and respect.

I think we all justified our devious act by convincing ourselves that someday the FNG would thank us for preparing him for what might come. It must have surely lessened the blow of his first mortar attack, or ambush, or…

I suspect one thing: that GI probably wrote home that very night, telling family or friends his first war story.


I walked through the beautiful campus of my former high school the other day. One cannot traverse that sacred ground without reflecting on the rich history of academics and sports Grants Pass High School has been blessed with.

Yes, the structures where I once studied, mingled, and competed during the 1960s are long gone but the legendary names still live on in modern venues: Russ Werner Track Complex, Mel Ingram Field, Heater-Newman Gym.

Side-by-side in a lengthy display near the student commons – among the literal tons of championship hardware – sits an odd perplexity: two first-place trophies from the 1948 Oregon Class A Football Championships.

One, despite its nearly 62-year-old vintage, is remarkably polished and without blemish. The other appears to have endured a rough life, bearing the dings, tarnish and scratches of some earlier trauma.

The contrast of those two trophies in itself, is enough to pique the curiosity of even a casual observer. But why two trophies for the one championship?

This is the story which answers those questions.

~ ~ ~

Mel Ingram is still considered one of the greatest athletes to ever don a Gonzaga Bulldogs uniform. He was a four-year letterman in football, basketball, track and baseball. He had a short stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but soon left professional baseball to pursue a career more conducive to his personality and leadership skills: coaching.

Eventually, in the mid-1940s, Ingram landed his dream job as head football coach at Grants Pass High School, in the fiercely-contested Southern Oregon Conference. It was here the “Gray Fox” established yet another legacy for himself. In a 20-plus year career, he led his teams to four state championships and numerous playoff appearances.

His first state title came on December 4, 1948, a 6-0 defensive battle against Portland powerhouse Jefferson High. Grants Pass had earlier defeated Albany and conference rival Medford, to earn the honor of meeting the Dems in Portland’s Multnomah Stadium.

The following morning, the jubilant contingent of coaches, players and family began its long journey back to Grants Pass. In those days (before Interstate 5), Highway 99 was a narrow two-lane route with long straight stretches through the fertile Willamette Valley. Then it became a winding mountain road south of Eugene.

Some of the players and family were traveling home in cars, but most of the team chose to ride in the older Greyhound bus that had been chartered especially for the championship trip to Portland. The gesture was meant as a sort of “reward,” considering the usual school bus was not known for its comfort features.

The team made a lunch stop in Eugene before proceeding south through the hilly Umpqua region, stopping once more in Roseburg to fuel the bus. Coach Ingram, who had ridden thus far with his boys, decided to complete the final leg of the victory journey in a car with his wife.

From Roseburg south, Old Highway 99 traversed a series of mountain passes with steep inclines and wooden guard rails. At the foot of one of these passes, near the tiny hamlet of Sunny Valley, several riders on the bus noticed a distinct “rocking” or “swaying” as the old Greyhound passed a large truck.

The darkness of early December was beginning to fall and the driver had been advised to not delay or make any unnecessary stops, as a surprise rally was beginning to form at the high school in honor of the returning heroes.

At about 5:15 pm, the bus crested the summit of Sexton Pass and was making its final descent into the Rogue Valley and Grants Pass. Team members had been passing the championship trophy back and forth—kissing it, hugging it, admiring it.

Though many of the curves have since been eliminated, Sexton Pass is still a treacherous section of Interstate 5 in the winter.

Some 11 miles away from a crowd of hundreds of expectant townspeople, assistant coach (and soon-to-be athletic director) Jess Loffer noticed the driver suddenly having trouble controlling the bus’ steering.  The front tire caught the loose gravel on the road’s shoulder and, in one moment, triumph turned to tragedy.

The bus skidded sideways and rolled onto its top, breaking through the flimsy guard rail, eventually coming to rest with its rear section hanging over an 80 foot embankment. The just-fueled gas tank exploded, and the aft portion of the bus became a blazing inferno. The flames quickly spread through the entire coach.

Players who were not stunned or knocked cold by the initial impact forced their way out through windows, as the doors were jammed shut. Those exiting the rear of the bus tumbled to further injury down the steep embankment.

In a matter of minutes, the entire rear section of the bus broke loose and plummeted in a ball of fire to the base of the cliff. In a time well before cell phones and laptops, passing motorists picked up the injured and rushed them down the highway toward the hospital.

Word of a terrible accident eventually made its way to the waiting throng at the high school. From there, the once-giddy crowd made its way to the hospital, overcome now with grief and panic.

When details of the tragedy finally began to solidify, the toll was two dead and 25 injured. Coach Ingram was asked for a comment:

“I am too stunned yet to get my wits together. But this, I can say: from all reports, my boys kept their heads. That teamwork they displayed on the football field throughout the season was still in evidence. They were helping each other and following the instructions of their coaches…”

Indeed, eyewitness reports from the athletes themselves, in a later investigation, testified particularly to the heroism of coach Loffer and one of the deceased victims, Sterling Heater.

Loffer was instrumental in establishing an atmosphere of calmness, assisting player after player off the bus in the confusion and searing heat.

Ray Altpeter, the student manager, testified Heater, a varsity lineman, had ushered him through a window and then retreated back into the bus, presumably to help another victim. He must have been overcome by flames or smoke, as he did not return alive.

The charred remains of Heater and Al Newman, a seldom-used bench player who had finally earned his letter in the championship game, were found in the two separate pieces of the bus.

The truck driver who was passed by the bus in Sunny Valley later testified that the Greyhound appeared to have a broken spring as it went by.

At the funeral, representatives from schools as far away as eastern Oregon were in attendance. The entire football team and student body president from Grants Pass’ bitter rival, Medford, was present to witness the solemn event.

It took some time for the stricken school and community to recover. However, three years later, Ingram took his team to the pinnacle again, bringing home his second of four championship trophies.

And speaking of trophies, Harold “Porky” Dotts, all-state guard, was clutching that precious hardware at the moment tragedy struck. He is credited with getting it off the bus—possibly using it to break open an escape route.

Since the trophy was damaged, the OSAA, Oregon’s high school sports governing body, wanted to replace it with a shiny new one. The stipulation was that the damaged trophy be returned.

Grants Pass vehemently protested, saying in effect, Forget it! We’ll keep this one!

The OSAA, under the scornful eye of an entire state, relented and made an exception, allowing Grants Pass High School to keep both. Thus explains the quandary of the two trophies.

~ ~ ~

As I concluded my campus walk, I was filled with pride and gratitude for the legacy of excellence I was once a part of. I was lucky enough to have played three years during the Gray Fox’s tenure. The additional legacy of heroism uncovered in my research on this story was icing on the cake.

Something struck me as I walked past the impressive, modern football facility: it seemed more than coincidence that Mel Ingram Field happens to lie just adjacent to Heater-Newman Gym. Yes, it seemed even fitting – the two of them together – the memory of the father lying next to the memory of his boys.


Experiencing the jubilation of winning a championship at the highest level is a rarity. Thankfully, almost as rare is the deep grief of losing a child, a sibling or a teammate approaching the prime of life. Yet a small, southern Oregon city on a chilly December day in 1948 experienced both in less than 24 hours.

I am grateful to Richard Bayless, a member of that 1948 team, for his first-person account of the tragedy, which was my primary source. I am continually amazed at the resiliency of the human spirit to recover and move on from such pain.

– (originally written, October, 2009)

Other sources:

Grants Pass Daily Courier

The Bend Bulletin

Ellensburg (Wash.) Daily Record


Huumor has it's basis in reality...

Like scenes from the next Terminator thriller, the headlines scream a warning of impending revolution:

“Runaway SUV Assaults Innocent Sidewalk Shoppers”

“Diesel-guzzling Big Rigs Defile Pristine Parkway with Fumes/Noise”

“Off-shore Oil Pumping Station Threatens Entire Planet”

One would gather from the tone of these typical headlines that the machines of this world are engaged in an organized revolt against humanity.

It’s not by accident that machines like the ones mentioned above are given a not-so-subtle personification. If we can somehow assign to them an intrinsic willingness to cause harm, can we not then by-pass the real culprits and eliminate the machines?

And believe me, there are those among us who think a world suddenly devoid of SUVs, big rigs and oil wells would be heaven on earth.

Now comes the story of the cunning and sinister starter’s pistol—the one which fires blanks and has been used for decades to initiate the common footrace at all levels of competition.

The Olympic .380 Model BBM has been banned in the United Kingdom because criminal gangs have modified and used that particular model in several shootings.

Other movements are underway globally to eliminate the starter’s pistol from high school competitions because of it’s “deadly image”. Yet many of the supposedly impressionable victims seem to have no qualms about playing video games which depict the gut-strewn aftermath of terrorist violence.

The revolver has been the ideal starting implement for years because of its reliability and its auditory and visual signal. It would be acceptable to me in principle, to replace it with a device which can duplicate those features, in the name of progress (although sentimentally, I would hate to see the pistol go).

But to replace it on the basis of image or potential harm would be misguided and just plain wrong.

And no –  a horn, or bell, or beeping sound to start a footrace just will not do.

When man first picked up a stick or a stone, he discovered the value of the tool – an implement to make his life easier. Unfortunately, the intent behind the tool has not always been a benevolent one.

But the evil resides in the tool user—not the tool.

If banning the machine is not the answer, what shall we do? Ban people?

No. Hitler, Idi Amin and Pol Pot have tried that.

In addition to varying levels of good and evil, humans have an inherent measure of common sense.

It may be buried beneath layers of programming, propaganda and political correctness but it’s in there.

And once found, a little application may lead us to conclude: yes, we can keep our Olympic .380 model BBM (until something better comes along).


(written August, 2010)


she walks the wall

she guards the hall

while we in our complacency, distracted by our haste and glee,
(of looming danger unaware) party on, without a care.
But searching eyes and sober hands are ready for those evil plans
though harm may never rear its head at all.

In sorrowed times
when spirits are low

And dark and cold
have dimmed the glow

When hearts know naught but pain and grief, and deep despair beyond belief
the soul a scattered mass of rubble – uncovered, naked, and vulnerable,
A sentry spreads her mighty wings, her flaming sword…it fairly sings:
“Touch not the mortal being who kneels below !”

The high and mighty
have their fame

Kings and queens
their vast domains

Riches, fame and glory shine on those who seek them by design
The spotlight warms the pretty face, the powerful take the highest place.
But in shadowed nook, sword in hand…quietly, faithfully the guardian stands
In the vaults of heaven her reward remains.

~  ~  ~

“He makes his angels as the wind and His (ministering) servants flames of fire…are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”

Hebrews 1: 7,14


The ad pleads:

“Try Lunesta for sleep problems…”(accompanied by soothing music and a flitting butterfly)

“But be aware Lunesta may also cause swelling of the tongue and throat, which may lead to death. It may also cause irritability, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, and it has occasionally been known to produce  periods of memory loss…and has been known to be habit-forming” (paraphrased from TV ad).

I’m afraid I’d lie wide awake all night long for fear of the possible side effects.


“Due to the proliferation of guns and violence, we must confiscate from the general populace all firearms and make their possession from this point forward illegal.”

The implied twisted reasoning (which of course is not voiced) behind such statements is as follows:

“The criminals will strictly adhere to such regulation for fear of punishment” and “authorities in power will never succumb to the darker side of human nature and resort to tyranny. Trust us“.


“Let’s not keep score. Little Johnny’s tender feelings must never know the agony of defeat. Bring the achievers, who’ve unfairly tasted the thrill of victory, down to Johnny’s level so all may experience  the boredom of mediocrity”. (sarcasm is mine)

When little Johnny moves beyond the world of fun and games, will his atrophied self esteem not guarantee failure in the real world?

As it is said, “iron sharpens iron”.


Think of a two-lane highway, separated in the middle by a painted line. Picture in your mind cars passing in opposite directions at speeds of 60 mph, only inches apart. Is that not mad…?

Considering this happens millions of times per day, involving the mentally unstable masses I’ve heretofore described, it is madness indeed.


When the Westboro Baptist Church teaches its children to dance on the graves of those who died for their freedom to do so…

…and to do this in the name of Christ, who uttered these words:
“Greater love hath no man than this, that he should lay down his life for his friends”…

Yes, it truly is a mad world we live in.


Sex was God’s idea.

Beyond the obvious function of intercourse in the perpetuation of the species, sex was intended by God to be mutually pleasurable, intimate, and the ultimate expression of love.

After all, were we not endowed by our creator with the receptors to sense, feel and respond to his creation (and his creatures) in the proper way?

These truths are illuminated brilliantly in another of the inspired writings of one of our favorite wise and wealthy kings…Solomon.

From the Song of Songs out of the Hebrew bible, sample these sensuous morsels, noting how creation and the creature are symbolically linked as one:


“How beautiful your sandaled feet, O prince’s daughter
Your graceful legs are like jewels, the work of a craftsman’s hands
Your navel is a rounded goblet that never lacks blended wine
Your waist is a mound of wheat encircled by lilies
Your breasts are like two fawns, twins of a gazelle
Your neck is like an ivory tower
Your eyes are the pools of Heshbon by the gate of Bath Rabbim
Your nose is like the tower of Lebanon looking toward Damascus
Your head crowns you like Mount Carmel
Your hair is like royal tapestry; the king is held captive by its tresses
How beautiful you are and how pleasing, O love, with your delights
Your stature is like that of the palm, and your breasts like clusters of fruit
I said, “I will climb the palm tree; I will take hold of its fruit.”
May your breasts be like the clusters of the vine
The fragrance of your breath like apples
And your mouth like the best wine.”


“May the wine go straight to my lover, flowing gently over lips and teeth
I belong to my lover, and his desire is for me
Come, my lover, let us go to the countryside
Let us spend the night in the villages
Let us go early to the vineyards to see if the vines have budded
If their blossoms have opened, and if the pomegranates are in bloom…
There I will give you my love.
The mandrakes send out their fragrance and at our door is every delicacy,
Both old and new…
That I have stored up for you, my lover.”

And yet again…


“Awake, north wind and come, south wind!
Blow on my garden that its fragrance may spread abroad
Let my lover come into his garden, and taste its choice fruits.”


“I have come into my garden, my sister, my bride
I have gathered my myrrh with my spice
I have eaten my honeycomb and my honey
I have drunk my wine and my milk.”

Whew! It seems a bit insensitive to even comment after such an exchange.

The Song of Songs, read in its entirety reveals not a fly-by-night, secret rendezvous between two lust-filled individuals. It weaves a fabric of commitment and mutual destiny, not unlike the true god-man relationship.

The purity and undefiled beauty of this kind of love lies  in such contrast with the illicit, exploitative, self-indulgent and perverted counterfeit we see portrayed in our media (and sometimes before or very eyes) today.

It is thought that Solomon wrote these words as a young man. Eventually, he himself succumbed to the counterfeit, becoming obsessed with women, sex and pleasure.

Perhaps he should have heeded his own advice, since warnings on the depth and eternal nature of true love were issued several times in the Song of Songs:

“Daughters of Jerusalem, I charge you:
Do not arouse or awaken love until it so desires.”

You won’t relent
by Misty Edwards


Here’s a funny story from my childhood I  like to tell when family and friends are gathered around the campfire:

My family (Dad, Mom and three brothers)  occasionally loaded up the car and traveled around the state of Oregon during the summer, stopping to camp at various sites along the way. At one such campground in central Oregon, my brothers and I were chopping firewood in preparation for the evening fire.

In those days the Forest Service supplied each campsite with a large pile of log rounds, cut in handy 16″ lengths, then left it to the camper to split the rounds from there. You know –  sort of a wilderness experience for city-dwellers who wanted a taste of outdoor living.

A camp ranger, whose job it was to mingle with the campers, answer questions, and give advice, spied our youthful attempts at woodsmanship and assumed we were in need of a savior.

Or should I say he spied my mom, an attractive woman casually attired in  shorts, sandals and a sleeveless blouse. Dad was calmly kicked back,  hidden under the shade of an oak tree, quietly waiting for the scene to unfold.

The ranger sauntered toward our camp, unbuttoning and rolling up his sleeves as if preparing to do something important – like brain surgery. Or a piano concerto.

Brushing us lads aside with his left hand and winking at Mom with his right eye, he grabbed the axe and with a monstrous swing buried the axehead in a  round which was located in the center of the pile.

With such a violent thrust, we expected the round to explode into eight perfect slices of firewood. But nothing happened.

The ranger tried to withdraw the axe from the wood to deliver another blow but he could not retrieve it. After a couple of embarrassing tugs, he responded with the typical male retort,

“Sometimes you just have to get a bigger hammer…”

I looked at Dad, still hidden in the shadows. A faint smile and a wink seemed to say,

“Now watch this…”

Rangerman returned from his truck carrying a splitting wedge and a 12-pound maul –  as if the raw, heavy steel he was about to employ would impress my mother even further.

He deftly placed the wedge in line with the sunken axe and tapped it into place with the maul. Satisfied that it was properly aligned, he mustered the machismo of six men into one final, gigantic blow.

He lowered the boom.

I’m convinced the ringing of steel upon steel from that one decisive impact is still echoing off the walls of the Powder River Canyon.

The impressive results…?

The wedge was now buried to it’s shoulders, with not a whisker of a crack in the wood. It was obvious to all, that with such an earth-shaking, pile-driving downward force, the wedge had become one with the wood.

The stunned ranger was scratching his head with no more tricks (or bigger hammers) up his sleeve when my dad casually made his presence known. He gave the ranger a sideways glance as he approached the woodpile.

Pulling back some of the rounds from the stubborn piece which had refused to split, he revealed a sight which at once brought perfect clarity…perfect justice…and a few muffled snickers from four country boys:

The great man of the woods had been trying to impress my dad’s wife by splitting the still-green stump of a once-mighty oak…with it’s roots still firmly affixed to the earth.

He just sort of slithered back to his truck and disappeared.

As the dust from his quick departure settled to the ground, my mom drew lovingly into the security of the gentle yet protective (and very capable) arms of her true hero – my dad.


Every sports fan knows the feeling. It’s the off-season. What to do while you wait…and wait…and wait for opening day?

This original poem was written in 2007 as an encouragement and reminder that eventually you WILL see some action.

Like sailors on a cyber sea
Our gaze more fore than aft
Hearts affixed on distant port
And mem’ries in our draft

Wind and current – two good friends
Keep hands and minds a-flurry
Hoist the mainsail! Lash those lines!
In frenzied times we scurry

But August brings the sailor’s bane
An eerie stillness s’rounds ye
As in The Doldrums find we now
…the dread Sargasso Sea

“Dead in the water!”  Aye, lament
The wind and waves lie down
Boredom, strife, insanity
As mate on mate abounds

Seaweed, stench, no fish in sight
The water’s runnin’ low
We’re all a-wishin’ oars we had
At least then, we could row

~ ~ ~

Ahoy ye mates! A sign I spy!
Look up – atop the mast!
The flag’s a-flickerin’. Can it be…
September’s breath at last?

Our hearts do skip, we lick our lips
The deck begins to rumble
As Capt’n, sailor, monkey, rat
From out their racks do tumble

It won’t be long ’til we depart
This curs-ed wretched sea
Then…open water, billowed sail
I’ll drink a toast to thee

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