Home again

I took some free time last week. I did so for a number of reasons, a bit of political burnout, a bit of malaise, and a bit of irritation that some things I wanted to do never seemed to get done.

We did, however, take time to celebrate the success of a close friend, Daryl, a man who went to school with our daughter and is the son of our Pastor. He was inducted into the Pittsburg State University Hall of Fame for baseball on Saturday.

DarylCronkDaryl has been a ball player all his life. A pitcher in high school and later in college. He tried out for the majors but didn’t quite make it but did make plenty of personal friends and contacts, and created more when he was a scout for a MLB team. He received a Master’s degree in Sports Administration, was an assistant coach for Central Missouri State University and is now the head coach for Avila University in Kansas City.

DarylCronk-2Daryl has worked hard for his achievements and on Saturday those achievements were recognized. Congratulations, Daryl!

A friend is gone

I had a great idea for a post today. I had mentally composed it while in the shower this morning. Then my wife told me a friend, George Moreland, had died during the night from cancer.

George was a past Elder in our church. He and his wife lived in Platte County and made the drive to Cass County every Sunday. After a few years, the drive became burdensome and he and his wife resigned as Elders.

George, like me, was a Sprinter. He started with Sprint before it was Sprint as a lineman for United Telecom, later to become Sprint’s the local division. That division was later spun off as Embarq. He worked his way up through the technical ladder to become an engineer supervising the maintenance of many of Sprint’s Central Office switches and PBXs.

George lived, like me, through the yearly waves of layoffs  in Sprint during the first decade of this century and retired a year earlier than me. It seems for all too many that with retirement men seem to whither away. George, on the other hand, was a fisherman—a competitive fisherman and entered numerous fishing tournaments in the region. Until last year when something appeared on an X-Ray.

I wasn’t really close to George. We were friends but lived too far apart to have much contact outside of work or church. We talked and exchanged emails during the layoffs, wondering if we’d get picked for that cycle. I was once, and recalled in a few months. George, chose early retirement.

I miss him and his bushy mustache.

Blog note: I’m chauffeuring my daughter Wednesday and Thursday. Next post will be Friday, May 24th, 2013.


I was reading a post by Frank James and he mentioned about a shooting range in North Carolina that also cared for some cats. That struck a memory.

It’s not surprising that many businesses whether big or small, retail, office or outdoor, will have a mascot. When I worked for Sprint, my office was in a one story building with a basement containing test labs and an open courtyard in the middle of the building where we had tables, grills and an occasional nesting bird. Inside, we had mice.

One year in the early fall a yellow tabby appeared at the back door and was unofficially adopted. One of the ladies fixed up a cat bed in her cube and the maintenance folks cut a “cat door” into a janitor’s closet where a cat box was installed. That took care of our mouse problem…and chipmunks. We didn’t know about them until the cat, “8-Bit”, deposited her trophy next to the door to the courtyard.

The mascot I remember most fondly was an airport cat by the name of “Rudder.” I used to hang out at a small airport on the west side of Gardner, KS. The Fixed Base Operation or FBO, was owned by Charlie and Ellen Craig. Both were CFIs, Charlie was a CFII (Instrument Flight Instructor) and had been an instructor since before WW2 and had over 30,000 hours in the air. Ellen had been a ferry pilot during WW2 delivering B-25s from the Fairfax aircraft plant in KC, KS. Their kids and grandkids also served as instructors as necessary.

One day a car came by, stopped, and tossed out a small black and white kitten. When Charlie returned from a flight, he found Rudder curled up next to the door of the FBO. He picked Rudder up and took her inside. Rudder had found a home.

I met Rudder a couple of years later. I came to talk to Charlie about some lessons but he was out flying so I sat down on the office couch to wait. I hadn’t been seated long when Rudder appeared, climbed my leg and settled down in my lap. I still have a small scar from that first meeting. Rudder had a full set of claws and she used them to climb my denim covered leg up to my lap.

Rudder was popular with just about everyone. She ran in and out during the day and stayed nights inside the FBO office. Not long after my first meeting with Rudder, she produced a small litter of kittens. The next day Ellen set a large glass jar on her desk labeled “The Rudder Fund.” That was Rudder’s last batch of kittens. (Update. My wife caught an error in the paragraph above. Rudder’s fund was called, “Fix the Kitty Kitty.”)

The Gardner airport, also known as K34, has two grass runways and one asphalt runway. Off the end of the longest runway was a small woodlot. Somewhere inside that woodlot was a den of foxes.

I was sitting outside the FBO one Sunday afternoon watching a local (by local I mean one of the aircraft based at the airport.) do touch ‘n goes in a rebuilt Interstate, a high-wing single engine aircraft similar to a Piper Cub when I saw the foxes chasing something in the high grass next to the runway. It was Rudder. I couldn’t find a photo of Rudder but I did find the one above on the internet that closely matches Rudder.

The Interstate made another touch ‘n go at that moment and scared the foxes. Rudder was used to planes taxing, landing and taking off and used that interruption to streak across the runway, across the grassy tie-down area and up onto the bench next to me. She leaned into me, butted my arm a few times and then curled up into my lap shivering a bit. It’d been a close call. Foxes like cats—for breakfast, lunch or any meal.

The foxes were Rudder’s nemesis. From time to time some of the local pilots would go down to the woodlot to clean out the fox den. Sometimes they were successful but in a week or two, we’d hear foxes barking in those woods at dusk.

Rudder loved to fly. She never flew with Charlie but she did with some of the local pilots. There was a small group of WW2 and Korean War pilots who had planes hangared at Gardner. They’d go up a few times a month to keep current and it wasn’t too unusual to see Rudder looking out from the passenger seat as the plane went down the runway. I think Rudder had more air-time than some of the younger pilots at the airport.

A few years later, Ellen died in her sleep. Charlie continued to give flight instruction for a few months at the airport but his heart wasn’t in it. The FBO was a means to keep the family together. Now that Ellen was gone, the business lost its purpose. Just before he closed, Rudder didn’t escape the foxes. She was found next to the runway one morning. Her friends buried her in the grass next to the airport office where they’d built a small covered picnic area. There was talk of collecting money for a small memorial for Rudder but I don’t remember anything coming of it.

I now have cats at home. We’ve had three since Rudder died and now have two of keep us company.

But, I’ll always remember Rudder.

Free Enterprise

Here we are on the precipice before Tuesday’s elections. I am encouraged by the momentum of Sean Beilat in Massachusetts against the reprehensible Barney Frank and even have some hope that perhaps an honorable man might move the liar Cleaver out of my congressional district. Hope springs eternal…..

While thinking about all that’s at stake during this election [granted, the O will still be president and will veto all plans by our side–Gridlock is Good!] I’d like to share a tale of Free Enterprise, free association, and good will. Here’s what happens when the ‘stimulus’ for creating jobs and wealth happens spontaneously.

A couple of years ago a couple (Carlos and Donna Royal) installed a barn owl nest box in their spacious yard in southern California to go along with their kestrel box, beautiful gardens, bird feeders, etc. Nothing at all happened for two years, but this past January, after a big storm, they noticed noises coming from inside. This box had been installed with a camera that would transmit to their computer/TV in the house. They fired it up and saw the image of a heart-faced owl in the box. That night her mate showed up and the game was on! The adults were named Molly and McGee. The Royals enlisted their 15 year- old grandson to figure out how to share via the internet with Carlos’ mother. One thing led to another and soon family and friends were watching. Six eggs were laid and Carlos devised a way to install a night-vision camera and another day camera with sound during the brief absences at night when Molly left the box. Four of the eggs hatched and by this time 2 million people had watched the Owl Box [word got around!] I started watching right before owlet three hatched….and I was hooked. There was a chat room affiliated with the website hosted by Ustream and folks from around the world were there day and night visiting, cheering, mourning and sharing everything from jokes to recipes to advice about pets, etc. It became a huge community of ‘friends’ united by two owls and four owlets. We watched them grow, swallow whole mice [and watched one mouse, delivered alive, make a break for it out of the elevated door!], turn into fluffy balls of down, venture out of the box and take their first tentative flights.

From this community Free Enterprise blossomed. Author Eric Blehm, a childhood friend of the Royal’s son, suggested ‘publishing’ a PDF book for children about the Owl Box. Chris Adams, an artist/designer from back east, also a watcher, signed on to do the paintings. Orders poured in. Another watcher, artist John Atkinson from northern California, started a subscription for his delightful cartoons published roughly weekly and finally issued as a digital book and a forthcoming DVD. Adams sold prints of the book art. Carlos set up a Café Press site to sell his spectacular night photos–on absolutely every imaginable item, plus calendars, mugs, and on and on as well as many delightful free goodies for adults and kids. A watcher from Connecticut, a school teacher, wrote songs about the owls and recorded them with her students [they’re available from the Molly the Owl Books site]. A woman from Kansas City collected and compiled a cookbook of recipes offered up by the huge community [900+ recipes!] and put together a collection of her limericks and two Lexicon volumes composed of the novel language that emerged in Chat. The book’s author was persuaded to explore publishing a hardcover book in addition to the PDF version and started his own publishing company, Molly the Owl Books, and thousands of book orders poured in. I received my copies yesterday and they are far better than I could have hoped! Now he’s publishing a coffee table book of Carlos’ color night photos due out the end of December. He had a friend, a silversmith, who created delightful sterling charms based on the owls, including one that is a miniature owl nest box with flip-up roof showing four owlets inside!

The grandson, by now a true computer whiz, made a DVD with collected photos set to music and sold several thousand of them–enough of them to pay for two years of college–in addition to learning about business licenses, shipping, purchasing, etc. He had a real education.

The first clutch of the owls left and the Royals were all set to hit the road in their motor home, but the adult owls moved in again, started a second clutch and ultimately raised two more owlets to fledging. In the end there had been more than 20 million views on the site–from Italy, Japan, England, Dubai, Australia, The Netherlands….. The Royals have finally torn themselves away and are off on a road trip but the community still gets together on-line [at the Ustream site of the cartoonist]. Before they left they hosted a picnic in San Marcos and 400+ folks showed up….including the teacher/musician from Connecticut, a fan from Florida, the Kansas City woman and her family, the author, artist, cartoonist, and many new life-long friends. They’ve helped each other through family loss, health challenges, good times and bad…..in addition to learning more than they ever thought possible about some endearing birds.

This is all a wonderful testimony of what a community can do….desires were expressed and entrepreneurs stood up and met those needs. Carlos did live talks via computer with students in classrooms around the country. [In many classrooms, watching Molly and the owlets was a regular part of the school day.] Good deeds ensued with folks donating books and DVDs to schools and libraries as well as to some owl watchers unable to afford the concrete reminders of our time together. Friendships were formed among the chatters that will last until next year when, hopefully, the Royals plug in those camera cables again for the ‘owlcaholics’–and me!

Happy Birthday, Brigid

Happy Birthday, Brigid!

I don’t know how many and it isn’t any of my business but I do want to wish you a good one and many, many more.


To all the Bacon afficianatos—Breda, Brigid, Tam, Roberta and others.

What to my surprise do I find in my inbox this morning?


Click to embiggen!