Saturday, February 27, 2010

Earthquake in Chile

As you all have heard, a huge 8.8 earthquake ravaged central Chile, around Concepcion and Talca, including Santiago. I haven't been able to contact anyone in Talca--the Diaz families, the Avendano families, Carmen G., and many others. Hermana Alvarez from Santiago attempted to call the families in Talca but to no avail. The lines must be down.

I did Facebook chat with some of my friends in the Puerto Montt area. They felt it, but there was no destruction there. I remember being in Chile on my mission and feeling tremors all of the time. It was a normal thing. The first time I remember feeling a tremor was in Talca. I had just finished praying, and the glasses in the cupboard behind us began to shake. Wow! I thought....must have been a powerful prayer. the people we were teaching just laughed, saying "this is a normal thing for us." It wasn't normal for us.

This all concerns me because Joanne and I were just there in November and visited many of these areas. Plus, many of my good friends are there. I have seen many pictures of the destruction in Talca. It doesn't look good. The news from Talca is sparse. If anyone knows anything, please let me know.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Boy Scouts. Here is My Tale

Winter campouts are for scouts. Some years ago, I went on one at Headquarters, an old fire service outpost, northeast of Orofino, Idaho. I had always thought winter camp out meant snow and below zero weather. Little did I know that sometimes winter campouts in north-central Idaho meant rain and slush and a slow, sure drizzle. Perhaps the next one will have trappings of campouts I used to go on—if there is one.

I remember my first winter campout as a scout. We loaded up with what we thought were the necessities of winter camping and followed the Snake River down into what everyone in Menan, Idaho, called the “Deer Parks,” appropriately named, I supposed, for all the deer who parked there periodically, looking out from behind the trees, trying to stay hidden from hunters and young boys like our Boy Scout troop.

It was one of those typical eastern Idaho winter days— freezing cold, with a touch of wind. We set up camp and then played games in the deep snow. Keeping the blood flowing kept us alive. Had we just stood around, we would have frozen to death. I suspect they would have renamed the Deer Parks, “Scout Park” and engraven the following words on our frozen statutes: “Here stands a group of scouts who through their stupidity stood in the cold and frozen snow, chatting about life and basketball, although a fire was stoked some thirty feet away.”

But we kept moving, returning often to the campfire to warm up. Finally, we began one of the natural and habitual scout cooking procedures: We cooked our tin foil dinners. Before we arrived, we—with some help from our mothers—cut up carrots, potatoes, and onions, pounded out a hamburger patty, and carefully wrapped all of it in tin foil, thus the celebrated tin foil dinner.

After the fire had some good hot coals, we each strategically placed ours in the coals, timed them carefully, and then turned them over at the appropriate time. Then, keeping careful watch, we played some more, hearing periodically the sage words of our scoutmaster: “Hey, guys, I think your dinners might be burning.” Within a reasonable time, we scuttled back to camp where we dined on tin foil cuisine. Now that I think back on the whole affair, I cannot remember eating one tin foil dinner where the carrots and the potatoes were actually cooked through or weren’t burned around the edges. Since we didn’t die, I guess we were nourished sufficiently. Of course, having red licorice around didn’t allow for starvation.

After our delicious dinner, we headed out into the dark to play “steal the flag.” Around 11:00 or so, maybe even later, we gathered around the campfire to perform another scout ritual: staring into the fire while absently stirring the fire with a long stick. Actually, the entertainment was always stirring until sparks flew up into the dark, cold night and disappeared somewhere out there, hopefully not on our tents.

While we stirred the fire, a couple of rifle shots rang out, not far away. Our first thoughts hinged on “Who would be out this time at night, shooting?” Our answer was swift: “Somebody’s out poaching deer. Let’s go catch them.”

We grabbed our flashlights and headed through the woods. We hadn’t gone far when we broke on to an open field. We could see the spotlight ahead of us, and I’m sure the poachers saw us. Who could have missed a dozen or so 12-13-year olds with bouncing flashlights running pell mell across an open field. It must have looked like hoards of large fire flies at ground zero.

The poachers quickly threw something into the back of their truck and spun out of there. We didn’t even get a close look at the license plate. What we did find was a pile of intestines, still steaming in the snow, and boot prints of the poachers. To this day, I don’t know what would have happened had we caught them red handed. We were a bunch of kids, all bundled up in snow gear, and Eveready flashlights in our hands, surely a formidable force against a couple of 30-06's.

Even today, though, I think about how “unsmart” we were by pounding across that open field, a bunch of crazy kids yelling and screaming at the top of our lungs, flashlights bouncing up and down, with a couple of poachers with their rifles, probably safety off. We were open targets—literally. They could have picked us off like bobbing ducks on an opened pond. Yet we did it anyway. We were very lucky.

After some inspection, we trudged back to camp. As we warmed by the fire, we chatted about the night’s event until it became late enough to actually turn in. I always figured if you were tired enough, you could ultimately fall asleep. But that was before my first winter campout. The biting cold on the banks of the Snake tended to seep through the thickest sleeping bag and wooliest blanket, at least mine, anyway. I froze the entire night. I think we finally learned to pray during that campout—we prayed hard for morning to come and a hot fire to warm us up.

Our prayers were answered; morning came; and we had survived. I guess could have scored it: Scouts 1, frigid winter. Once the bacon and eggs and hot chocolate slipped down our throats and landed in our stomachs, we felt much better. Food always has been a Scout’s best friend.

So after we packed up this last time while the rain drizzled steadily and then changed into dry clothes in the warm restrooms, we climbed in the van and headed out of there and home to Lewiston. As I sipped my hot chocolate with one hand and steered with the other, I chalked another one up for the scouts.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mrs. McIntire: Typing 101

For the past several weeks, I have been able to chat a bit about typing and the importance thereof. But when I sit down in front of my computer terminal, I know for a surety that the keyboard won’t change on me. Granted, I now have a 10-key pad to the right and bunch of other buttons along the top that I never use, but the keys are in the same place every time (although sometimes my fingers don’t believe it).

I have two people to thank for the consistency in life: My mom and Mrs. McIntire, my high school typing teacher. Frequently, I ask myself, “Where would I be without these two people who nagged me into doing something that, at the time, I really didn’t want to do?”

I just remember when I signed up for classes at Rigby High School, home of the mighty Trojans, my mother made sure I signed up for typing. She previously had made my brother and my sister sign up for the course. They had to endure typing and Mrs. McIntire’s constant harping about fingers on the keyboard, eyes on the paper, no swearing in class, and no banging on the typewriter because of your own frustrations.

So why not me? It was a tradition to take typing. All my cousins had Mrs. McIntire. Why was I any different? Plus, all five of my younger siblings ultimately would have Mrs. McIntire, too. It was just one of things everyone did. Besides, I think my mother knew what the future was going to be or figured I ought to take at least one class in which I would learn something.

I remember those cool orange books we had, how we could actually bend them back at the seams, the only book in the 12 years I could do that with, without getting into serious trouble. We must have been the last class in the world to type on manual typewriters: old Royal 44s (I realize many of the readers have no idea what a Royal 44 was. Just think "ancient machine," precursor to your keyboard) with a true carriage return we had to hit with our right hands in order to go back to another row.

Each morning our fingers had to line up, like first graders going to lunch, on the home row. Haltingly, our fingers chattered through the middle row: “ffjjffjjjffjj ddkkddkkddkk ssllssllssllssll aa;;aa;;aa;;. Then we started different rows: top, then bottom, then those crazy, hard to reach, hard to remember, numbers and the things we did when you shifted like @$&*# which we knew secretly meant swear word in the typing world. It was great fun to type @#$%^**(+)*&^%$#@ because we could actually swear and nobody, I mean nobody, thought anything about it--except , maybe, for Beetle Bailey. And I figured since I didn’t say it, I was not a guilty party. It was almost too fun.

I had to sit the entire year right in front of Mrs. McIntire’s desk. I didn’t mind that at all until we did one of the timed typing tests. Most of the time, Mrs. McIntire did the test with us. Even at the end of the year when I thought I was becoming Mr. Speedy Gonzalez, Mrs. McIntire’s carriage return would ding about four times to my one time. And I knew she didn’t have very many errors.

Now, Mrs. McIntire would be proud of me if she could see my fingers dance across the keyboard. Of course, I still would have to divert her attention when I hit the numbers. For some reason, I still cannot remember where they are supposed to go, and I have to look. Sometimes, I take just a little look, but I can hear her behind me on her Royal 44, typing about one zillion words per minute.

I have always wondered what happened when she got her dainty hands on a smooth, responsive keyboard. Probably, no one could have seen her fingers. What, six zillion words per minutes? I can hear her clicking away. But then again, she might have decided she didn’t “need no stinkin’ computer keyboard to type any faster.”

Actually, because of Mrs. McIntire’s training, I don’t dare look at my fingers. If I do, I cannot type anymore. But, Mrs. McIntire, wherever you are, turn your head while I type my numbers--2 4 6 8, who(m) do we appreciate...typing teachers, typing teachers. May your fingers dance across the keyboard because, I believe, keyboarding has become a national sport.