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Across The Lake

"While they help us get on line...and informed, librarians don't try to sell us anything. Nor do they turn around and broadcast our problems, send us spam or keep a record of our needs and interests because no matter how savvy this profession is in navigating the online world, it clings to that old fashioned value, privacy. They represent the best civic value out there... The school and public libraries in which we've invested decades and even centuries of resources will disappear unless we fight for them." Marilyn Johnson wrote that in her column in the Los Angeles Times and it seemed worth repeating, as a salute to our local librarians.

Close enough for government work, the late Bob Painter would say. He was our across-the-road neighbor in South Dakota and he'd say that when finishing a job. Thing is, he'd only say that when he had really finished a job and there wasn't a leak in the plumbing or a loose joint in the heat pipes he'd installed. He was, as it's said, a meticulous worker who took pride in every job.

No one really called him eccentric but he did drive around the town of Custer for years with his giant Japanese Akita sitting beside him in the front seat of his pickup. When the dog died, Bob got a frontend loader to dig the grave and then parked the truck atop it. The whole town understood.

Anyway, Bob was an admirable example. He liked his work, he liked the way he did it, he liked the tools he used and he liked the results. He did not like cheap materials and had a real dislike for some of the imported hardware that just didn't measure up. All of which brings me back to what I started out to say.

Why doesn't someone make a lawn sprinkler that lasts at least a full season? I just tossed out another one, one that sent more water out the hose connection than it did through the sprinkler heads. Wasn't cheap plastic either, but one made with a good design but shoddy workmanship. The disappointment was made worse when I realized this wasn't an import from China or Taiwan -- it was marked Made in USA. So, back to the soaker hoses, the hand watering and more grousing about it. I gotta remember to stop and smell the roses.

Looks like some members of Congress may have time to smell the roses, if the various pundits are correct about all the changes likely to happen next November. Not that it will be a change for most of them; the losers all seem to stay right there in Washington where they become lobbyists or consultants or advisors. We recall a Coloradoan we knew. Tim Wirth ran for Congress and right off he pledged not to serve more than three terms. He went on to serve a total of six terms -- twelve years.

Did he quit? Not at all. Instead, he then ran for the Senate, serving there for a full term. Because his first election came in 1974, he didn't fall under the 1980 rule which limited the use of campaign funds for personal expenses. He held a fund raiser in Houston, raised $44,000 for a campaign he didn't plan on because he'd already announced he wouldn't run again. He went on to a state department job under President Clinton, promoted the cause of global warming for Al Gore and since 1998, has been president of the United Nations Foundation.

My Favorite Reader was looking through one of her old scrapbooks and pointed out something from a column written while we lived in South Dakota. Not one of those that appeared for some time in The Dakota Farmer, but later in the Custer Chronicle. It suggested there are five different stages in reporting:

Some reporters write about the facts they find. Others write about the facts they think they find. Still others think they write about the facts they find, while others think they write about the facts they think they find. The fifth category is easy -- not finding anything, or thinking anything, they become columnists.

Why is she My Favorite Reader? Maybe because she's the first one to see what I've written and catch the mistakes I've made -- this goes back to high school days when she helped me get through freshman English. Maybe it's because she just noticed a paragraph that was in this space and she said, "Jack, you just wrote about that last month." Or maybe it's because she likes to keep me on my toes by reminding me I'm her first husband, in a tone that says "You're lucky -- don't push it!"

You'll find a group like ours everywhere. Small towns, big cities, anywhere people are able to get together for a cup of coffee. Trails End has an early morning bunch, the Rocket Science group and a couple mornings a week an older group. Mostly retired, mostly Twins fans in the summer, Viking fans in the fall. Mostly concerned with local goings-on because ways of saving the world get settled in the lengthy discussions at the senior center. Either big issues, or ones involving games to see who's buying that day.

This whole thing is of interest because at least three times a week, some lady is hostess for the day at the senior center and offers home-made rolls to go with the coffee.But it was the downtown group that recently heard the sage observation from one of the older members, "No, I don't eat natural foods. I need all the preservatives I can get!"Ok, not an original line and probably not first time I've repeated it, but it fills space.

Thoughts while drying the dishes... This will jog our youngest daughter's memory, but one of her friends -- also a teenager at the time -- came over complaining about the father of one of their friends. "You know the kind of stuff parents yell at you about maybe once a week or even once a month, but he did a bunch of 'em all in a row."