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MAJOR MITCHELL


Major's Blog

A Little Humility

Have you ever run across what should have been an easy fix, but no matter what you did, it seemed to refuse to be fixed. I had one of those experiences over the weekend. For some unforeseen reason, our kitchen sink stopped draining. Normally, a clogged sink is something relatively easy to fix, especially for someone like me, who spent over thirty years in the construction field. While I was a painter, I had for a short period of time, worked as a plumber’s helper, and had seen enough clogged drains fixed that I knew my way around.

I went to the tool shed and retrieved a few tools and started right in. First step, remove and clean the p trap. “Yes, I thought.” The p trap was clogged so once it was cleaned; I put it all back together. To my surprise, it still didn’t drain. Okay, onto the next step.

I went to collect the snake and began cleaning the lines. When your snake had fifty-feet of line, why stop at twenty-five feet? Use the whole fifty-feet. When that was done, I put it all back together confident that I had solved the problem. Guess what? It still didn’t drain.

Okay, this was starting to get irritating, but I pulled it back apart and re-snaked everything. I was determined that I was going to win this challenge no matter what. I snaked all the cleanouts not once but twice then put everything back together. Then, I stood there like an idiot staring at the water coming from the faucet as it ponded in the double sinks without draining.

Judy finally got tired of watching me trying to clean the lines and called a plumber that one of our pastors recommended. I on the other hand took a break and walked to our mailbox to collect our mail. I told a couple of our neighbors what I had been doing for most of the day, and got more advice … which I followed. What good is advice if you don’t follow it? I pulled the drain on the garbage disposal. Guess what? It was clean and had nothing to do with our problem. At that point I had to admit I was beaten. I waited for the plumber to show up around ten Sunday morning. He saw the problem and went to his truck to get an old fashioned plunger and fixed the problem in five minutes. He was a real nice guy and Judy paid him sixty-dollars instead of the fifty is asked.

Me? Yes, I learned my seventy-five year-old body isn’t in bad shape, but it still doesn’t work as good as it did thirty years ago. And, regardless of what I might think, I really don’t know everything. Next time I run into a “fixit” problem, I’ll call an expert and watch them fix it in five minutes, after I’ve wasted several hours trying to fix it first.

 

 

The Rose of Sharon

Have you ever noticed how things seem to get better the harder you struggle? Take something as mundane as a glass of cold water. If you happen to be really hot and thirsty, that single glass of water might make you think it is the best glass of water bar none. Or a really good sandwich. If you are really hungry, that’s the best sandwich ever. I’m sure it has always been that way.

Thirty-four years ago Judy and I spent a week in Maui on our honeymoon.  We both enjoyed our time there to the point we considered moving. The main reason for us to return to the mainland was the thought of leaving our first grandchild and our children behind. We’ve returned to Hawaii since then, and while we still had a blast, it didn’t quite measure up to the joy we felt the first time.

I’ve come to the conclusion that life is pretty much that way. A cancer patient finishing their treatment would have a hard time telling what hearing the words cancer-free feels like to someone who’s never had cancer. Or, trying to explain what watching a loved one slip away into eternity feels like to someone who’s never had to face that reality.  Lucky for us, we do have someone who’s faced it all and come through every trial without faltering.

Jesus was approximately thirty years old when he entered his earthly ministry. The first half must have been a blast. He drew Donald Trump-sized crowds, turned water into wine, raised the dead, cast out devils, and taught thousands. And while some Jewish leaders hated him, he basically had things his way. It was the second year and a half that got rough. There were several attempts on his life and he was mocked. Finally, he was executed by crucifixion, while his disciples fled. But, lucky for us, it doesn’t end that way. He walked out of his tomb and offers free life to us.

Working in our flower garden this morning, I made a discovery by the waterfall. Several Rose of Sharon flowers were pushing their heads above the rest toward the sun. They came from a plant we planted by the waterfall, and the ground was next to some volcanic boulders. Not the best to say the least. But the flowers that struggled to reach the sun are beautiful. Kind of like our Lord. There isn’t a battle or struggle he has not faced, and he’s eager to join you in your fight, if you will let him.

Collecting Ideas

Yesterday I was asked by a fan on Good Reads where I got my idea for my next book. I truthfully said I didn’t know. It was just there.  That’s the way it has always been, from the time I was a small child to now.

I was the youngest of eight children. My older sister and brother got married young and started having children, so the house became small when my mother started babysitting their children while they went back to work. If I wanted any peace I had to go somewhere and hide. That meant I spent a lot of time alone. I quickly became a day-dreamer and made up a ton of stories inside my head. And because the local theater mostly showcased westerns, a lot of my stories were, of course, westerns. I took the place of John Wayne or Roy Rogers. I always killed the bad dudes and got the girl.

The town I grew up in was a ranching community, so it was nothing to see real working cowboys downtown. Most of the kids in my classroom at school lived on ranches and had 4-H projects raising cattle or sheep. Living within the city limits, I raised a pen full of chickens which I chose not to enter in 4-H. We did get fresh eggs and ate a lot of chicken dinners though.

One of my favorite spots was an old chinaberry tree that grew beside our house and had a perfect sitting area about halfway up into the foliage. On nice warm days I’d climb the tree with a fistful of comic books and spend hours alone with my comic character friends. Other times, I’d strap on my Red Rider cap pistol and wipe out a den of rustlers. It became serious when half the kids in the neighborhood grabbed their cap guns (girls included) and we’d have an old fashioned shoot-out in the middle of the street. I learned a lot in those days.

Where did I get my idea for my next book? I’d have to say from life. While my books are more serious, and wordier, a lot of them came from the games we played. I was able to study the actions and reactions of the other kids on the block. I perfected daydreaming to an art while inside the classroom. What was going on inside my head was a whole lot better than the words coming from my teachers. Yes, my next story came from life.

Bad Data

Bad Data

 

There’s a line out of Zane Grey’s novel “Riders Of the Purple Sage” that stuck with me when I first read the book some years ago. Lassiter is telling Jane Withersteen  that  the older he got, the stranger life seemed. I am finding that is certainly the case with me. Life, or people around us, can act real strange, especially when things get tough to deal with, such as buying all the toilet paper and paper towels inside the store. Now, I hear on the radio that we’re in a serious meat shortage. So, I guess if you have a large freezer you’d better buy all the meat you can ‘cause you never know when you’re going to eat your next pork chop or hamburger. I’m just waiting to hear what new thing I’m supposed to be in a shortage of and how worried I’m supposed to be.

It really is strange the way people react when put under a little pressure. Just the mere prediction of the devastation the virus could inflict on humans for instance, causes some people to act as though the end of the world is at hand. I caught a little of this on the radio. Only in this case they were trying their best to explain why the number of sick and the dead was so much lower than what they had been predicting. Really? That’s not hard to explain, unless you’re not telling the truth in the first place. The truth is they fed a bunch of bad data into their computers and got a lot of bad data back. Those numbers were what they based their predictions on…bad data. Try telling the public the truth once in a while and see what happens.

I’m not saying we should throw all caution to the wind and live like nothing’s wrong. There is a virus and it’s making some people very ill and killing others. But I am saying that most problems could be solved by allowing people to reopen their stores and run their business without going to jail or being fined. After all, this is America and most Americans are pretty good at solving problems by themselves when left alone. Maybe we should give it a try.

 

Sequestered

While I’m a fairly easy guy to deal with on most things, I am not so easy to get along with on a few issues. I don’t like being told that I can’t go to the post office or store, or be given a long list of things I have to do in order to take the dog for a walk. And it doesn’t make much difference knowing those telling me what and what not to do are doing it for my own good. I received a telephone call from one of my doctors saying they were postponing one of my tests due to the current virus. During the telephone conversation she asked how I was dealing with being at home. She said the picture Kaiser has on file shows me with one of my wide-brimmed western hats and she believed I love the outdoors. She was concerned that I wasn’t taking being sequestered at home very well. I lied and told her I was okay. The truth was that I caught myself sniping at my wife and yelling at the dog. Not a good combination.

It is strange to think that a little thing like staying at home can change you and the situation around you so quickly. I could yell and curse my wife and dog both but what would it change? I would have a hurt and angry wife, and a dog that only heard me yell “bla, bla, bla” and not understood a word. And to top it off, I’d still be required to stay at home. It is sort of like Mary Magdalene the day that Jesus was resurrected from the tomb. She saw the open tomb with no body inside. Now admittedly, that would raise a few questions, so God sent two angels who plainly told her Jesus had risen. But that didn’t stop her crying. Then she saw Jesus, who asked why she was crying and she mistook him for the gardener and begged him to show her where his body was and she would take care of it. Jesus had to call her by her first name to get her attention.

Sometimes, while we are riddled with grief or angered, we fail to see all the wonderful things around us. Mary almost missed the events of the most blessed day in the history of the world. Likewise, I can choose to snipe at my wife, yell at the dog and act like a fool. Or, I can grab all the free time I can to write and promote my books. Actually, it’s not a real hard choice to make, when you think about it.

 

 

 

A New Project

I’m sitting in my recliner inside my living room, staring out the window during my self-imposed quarantine. No, I don’t have the virus and don’t expect to contact it anywhere in my small circle of friends. First of all, it’s kinda hard to contact or spread germs or viruses over the internet, and I don’t expect to lick any handrails anywhere. The best place I go to contact a virus is the gym, which I attend three times a week, but being a guy, inside a guy’s world, we wouldn’t think of touching another guy for any reason inside the gym or anywhere else. You’d more than likely get tossed out on you rear. Now, I understand the gym is off limits until further notice. So, here I sit, staring out the window.

 

I will admit to keeping one small habit. I do give the dog a walk early every day, and say “good morning” to the same two or three people who are doing the same. I guess I could catch the virus walking the dog, except for the fact we are a safe distance from each other in order to keep the dogs apart. And no, Molly wouldn’t start a fight, but she will bounce all over another animal wanting to play.

I’ve completed several home projects, like helping our son Mark install recessed lighting in our kitchen and replacing the light switches and plugs. But those take up a small amount of time, and after today, I’ll be looking for something else to do. I was kind of anxious about staying busy until yesterday afternoon. That’s when I ran across a story outline I had written some time ago. Bingo! Now I know what I’ll be doing.

So, now I’m sitting in the same recliner staring out the window with a fresh cup of coffee and my laptop writing a contemporary mystery. It should keep me out of trouble.

 

God bless.

 

 

When the Storm Passes

The good news from California is that it isn’t raining today. That’s an odd thing to be saying about the state I’ve lived in all my life. As a child, I can remember honestly praying that it would rain, and being disappointed when it didn’t. On the few instances when it did, the first thing my two sisters closest to my age and I would do was  run to the street to play in the mud. We didn’t have a concrete curb and gutter or blacktop at that time, but we had plenty of mud. I’m sure our mother really loved doing our laundry. More rain is predicted for tomorrow and Saturday.

But such is life when you grow up in the Borrego Desert of California. While it is now known as one of America’s great farming areas, it once was known as a hot, waterless wasteland, only fit for rattlesnakes and lizards. The summer heat will rise to a hundred degrees by 12:00 noon, and keep climbing until around 4:00 p.m. In the middle of the summer, those who have air conditioners keep their doors and windows closed to keep the heat out. The rest just suffer.

Over the years we moved several times, until landing in Oakdale. It didn’t settle into my brain that I had moved to an identical place to where I had been raised. Of course there are a few differences. The San Juaquin Valley where I live has several rivers carrying fresh water, and is covered with wild grass and oak trees. The Imperial Valley had only two rivers, New River and the Alamo River, that carry sewage from Mexicali and are better left alone. Both of these rivers are fairly new bodies of water, having been created by a flood in 1905 when the Colorado River breached its banks in Arizona and rushed toward the lowest point, which happened to be the Salton Sea. But that’s another story for a different time.

Back to why no rain is good news for California today. We had some substantial rain, followed by an entire week of rain, followed by a dry day, and then followed by two more rainy days. The experts tell us to hang on, because we will have two more days of rain beginning on Friday. That’s both good and bad. It is good for the cattle and some farmers, but bad for the nut farmers and citrus growers. It all depends on who you are talking to at the moment. Sort of like politics. So, I’ve decided, at least for today, I’ll sit here in my recliner with a hot cup of coffee and watch a good western on T.V. and thank God I’m not out in the cold rain. God bless.

 

Take a Break

I’m sure that most of us have heard, and more than likely repeated, the old axiom I’m having one of those days. We instantly know what the speaker means when we hear someone repeat those words. We have all experienced a day where nothing seems to go the way we had planned it, and certainly not how we wanted things to turn out. We climb into the driver’s seat early in the morning, planning on going to work, only to discover the car won’t start. Okay, it sounds like the battery is low. We simply call our spouse, if they are available, or a friend, asking for a jump start. When the battery cables are connected, we discover the battery is fine. It’s the starter that isn’t working. What next? You call work and tell them you’re going to be a little late. How late? Who knows? You’ll do your best…maybe an hour or two.

Now, you are faced with a different problem. You can call a tow truck to take your car to the garage, and hope they can get to repairing it before next Tuesday, or remove the starter yourself and walk two miles to the local parts store. Then, if they have it in stock, return home and install the new starter. You quickly decide that doing it yourself will be faster.

That’s when you discover you’re lucky, because a buddy happens by and seeing you lying under your vehicle, asks what’s wrong. After hearing your sad story, he offers to give you a ride to the parts store and waits while the guy behind the counter goes into the back and returns with a box containing your new starter. Your buddy then gives you and your now-lighter wallet a ride back home and offers to wait while you install the new starter. With the new starter installed, you wipe your hands and insert the key into the ignition and shout when the car starts perfectly. You dash into the house and wash up. You’re only two hours late for work.

Grabbing your work folder and another cup of coffee, you dash back out the door, start the car and head out of town. Only you don’t quite make it, because the car with the blinking red light behind you wants you to pull over. The problem? You’re doing 35 miles an hour in a 25-mile per hour zone. The officer agrees that nearly everyone and their cousin drives down that street at 35 miles an hour, but you just happened to get caught. He also agrees the speed limit should be changed, and soon will be, but the law is the law. He turns out to be a nice guy and lets you off with a warning, telling you to slow down. So off to work you go.

But you have a different problem now. The two or three dozen people passing your car know you got pulled over, and will tell all their friends, who will tell their friends. By 6:00 p.m. everyone in the small town you live in will know you’ve been arrested for bank robbery. You’ll spend the next two weeks explaining that you got pulled over for speeding and you’re not really a bandit who kicks his dog.

Being an author, I will admit to embellishing some of this, but much of it actually happened. So, now I will pass along some sage advice. When you’re having one of those days, slow down, don’t fight it. Maybe drink that extra cup of coffee I talked about. Reacting in anger will only make things worse. Also, learn what you can. You can learn something in each and every situation. The lessons may not be pleasant at the time, but reacting in anger and frustration will only make things worse.

Finally, remember Christ’s promise that he will never leave or forsake you. It will somehow give you a different outlook on things realizing that Jesus is right there with you, lying under a greasy car installing a new starter, or inside a hospital room visiting that loved one with you. Grab another cup of coffee and sit down. Discuss the problem with Him. You might be surprised at what you learn.

 

 

Lessons From An Apple Tree

 

The apple tree Zachary planted in our back yard several years ago is telling us that spring is around the corner. And yes, I know they are forecasting another storm system moving into our area sometime this evening, dumping more rain in the valley and snow in the mountains. But still, the apple tree says be patient because spring is here.

What we see now are only the leaves starting to unfold. In a matter of weeks the tree will show its true beauty when it is covered with flowers. In the summer the apples will appear, to be picked next fall.

Zachary’s tree is a constant reminder that nothing stays the same. Life is always changing, and what might appear to be a storm in your life today will be followed by something beautiful. If we are aware of what’s happening around us God can do some amazing things with very little. Don’t ignore the small reminders as you go about your daily routine. God hasn’t abandoned you in your storm, and He never will.

 

Beautiful Weeds

These plants are known as Datura Stramnonium, or more commonly called Jimsonweed or Angel's Trumpet. It is a summer annual broad leaf plant. All its parts, especially the seeds, contain alkaloids, and when ingested, are toxic to humans and livestock. The trouble is, they grow everywhere---along roadways, ditch banks,creeks, and they thrive next to wastewater. While being a nuisance, they take on a beauty when in full bloom, sort of like The Ugly Duckling.

Sometimes people are that way. Depending on how you look at them, they can be a troublesome weed, or something beautiful. You know the type---the relative that has caused you more trouble and pain than you'd care to mention. Or, maybe the obnoxious person who just cut you off and almost caused an accident, simply because they wanted to be one or two cars ahead. Or, they could be the homeless man or woman, wanting you to dig into your purse or wallet. These all can be bothersome weeds in your life.

I was rewarded in a strange way some time back. While spending a Sunday afternoon with Judy, bouncing from one antique store to another, a homeless man I had seen many times in Oakdale was shuffling along the sidewalk in front of us. It was obvious he had some severe mental problems. The weather was pushing the mid to high 90s, and he was fully dressed, including a full-length coat. As we crossed the street, on a whim I said hello and asked how he was doing. The man looked at me with a shocked expression, then grinned and told me he was doing fine and thanked me. He then shuffled on past without asking for a thing. It only took approximately thirty seconds, but it was easy to see I had made his day, perhaps his week or even his month.

A weed? No, I think he was extremely valuable to God, and at that moment to me also. Try it. Take 20 or 30 seconds of your time to give a smile and say hello. It won't kill you. And just maybe like the Jimsonweed, you'll get a glimpse of some hidden beauty.

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