The Wednesday Read: A Halloween Story

A Halloween story from my childhood. Enjoy…

 As children living in a very small town, all the kids and I were excited when Halloween would roll around. The residents in the small town were also excited to see the children come to their doors and yell, “Trick or Treat.” Everyone knew who the kids in town were, even when we were dressed like skeletons or cowboys.

I had a sister who was about 10 years older than I, and she was sometimes given the chore of taking little Mikie around town to trick or treat. If you were a 16 or 17-year-old teenager, the last thing you really wanted to do was to take your little brother trick or treating. My sister knew that the sooner she made her way around town with me, the sooner she could go and hang out with her friends. Of course, I kept hearing her say, “Hurry up” throughout the evening.

There was always something about Halloween that made me uneasy as a little kid. You would see people out walking around in the shadows, and it was a spooky night with the leaves rustling in the wind, and there were strange noises. Plus, my sister would tell me scary stories for a few days before Halloween to get me ready for Halloween night. Also, some of the folks, whose houses I visited were a little scary.

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Paying My Debt to Society

I recently broke the law.  Yes…me.  I am guilty as charged.

Before I tell this story, please know that I have the utmost respect for police officers and other government workers.  I was a military police officer for over a decade and I have worked for different agencies in the government.  I do have to poke a little fun at the calamity of city government.  I won’t disclose names, badge numbers, or identify the people in city government I met and dealt with during this…experience.

Although I won’t do that, I will offer my observations and some cynical and sarcastic commentary about the experience.  I hope you enjoy it!

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Lemons = Lemonade

There was a compelling story in yesterday’s Billings Gazette about the Stillwater Mining Company laying off employees. Particularly interesting to me was the story about the young man who moved from New York to Montana and spent one whole day on the job and was then laid off.

His situation brought back memories. Many years ago as a young man, I applied for a job with the Chicago and North Western Railroad (C&NW) in the Midwest. They were hiring people because the C&NW had purchased tracks from the bankrupt Rock Island Railroad.

After putting in my application, I was called and asked to show up at a hotel in Des Moines, Iowa. They gave about 300 of us a couple of tests. Those two tests cut the 300 down to about 40-50 applicants. Then we had a personal interview with one of the Human Resources people. After that, they said they would call me if they wanted me to take a physical.

A day later, I was called to take the physical exam the next week. I passed the physical and was cleared to start work.

The call came and they told me I would start “brakeman” school in two weeks. I was going to school to be a brakeman for the C&NW out of Des Moines, Iowa! The money was very good, so I was looking forward to a new life.

I gave my two weeks notice at my current job, and I prepared to move a few hundred miles to my new job. The day before I left, the railroad called and told me my class was delayed for a week. That was no problem. At the end of that week, they called me again and said school was delayed two more weeks. At the end of the two weeks, they called me again and said I was officially laid off.

I attempted to obtain unemployment benefits but because I had quit my last job voluntarily and never worked even one day for the C&NW, I was out of luck. I called the head of the Human Resources department for the C&NW and begged him to let me work there for one day, so I could at least draw unemployment. He said, “Sorry, I can’t do that.”

Hopefully the young man who was laid off from the Stillwater Mine on Monday will at least be able to obtain unemployment benefits.

As for me, the C&NW never called me to go to work. I guess after almost 25 years, I should give up on ever being a brakeman for the C&NW. After being laid off, I enlisted in the Air Force, which was by far a much better choice.

But every so often I hear a train in the middle of the night and think, “What if…”

A Short Story

He calmly gazed down at the document, which contained authorization for water projects across the nation. The bill, H.R. 1495, the “Water Resources Development Act of 2007” was crammed full of excessive spending. It had easily passed the House and the Senate because everyone received some pork.

“It’s getting close to the holiday season, but these ‘gifts’ are excessive,” he told his staff. “I just don’t understand their math.”

He commented, “They took a bill in the House of Representatives that was $15 billion and negotiated the differences with the U.S Senate bill that was $14 billion. Then, they passed a bill that was $23 billion.”

He proudly stated, “As a graduate of Yale University, this fuzzy math just does not add up. At Yale, we’d take the $14 billion and the $15 billion and split the difference. If my trusty calculator is correct, a compromise would have been…$14.5 billion.”

So the President of the United States of America, George W. Bush, vetoed the Water Resources Development Act of 2007.

Members of Congress across the fruited plain were struck with overwhelming shock at the President’s veto. The shame! The travesty! One Stanford graduate serving in the U.S. Senate pulled out his pocket dictionary/thesaurus and proclaimed the President’s veto was “downright dumb.” Another said President Bush is “out of touch with the priorities of rural America.” Still another said the veto was “shortsighted.”

Of course, the veto will be overridden by the House and the Senate because everyone gets a little pork in this bill…if it’s funded through the Appropriations Committees down the road. But that’s another story for another day.