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After 35 years in public education as a high school English teacher and university administrator, I began my second life as a freelance writer, winning San Diego Society of Professional Journalist awards for my opinion columns in the former San Diego daily North County Times and the San Diego Free Press.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ferguson no Mayberry, R.F.D.


Opinions flew following last night’s grand jury report exonerating police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of an unarmed 18-year-old who refused his order to stop walking down the middle of the street in Ferguson, Missouri. Wilson told the jury the teen yelled at him, “What the (expletive) are you gonna do?” after which the officer was attacked as he struggled to get out of his police car. What happened next, leading to Michael Brown’s body lying dead in the street for four hours is being hotly debated, with opinions divided mostly by race and political persuasion.

Those who disagree with the grand jury’s decision tend to agree on what led up to the tragedy in Ferguson, a city of 21,000 with a nearly all-white police force “protecting and serving” its 68 percent African-American population. It makes you wonder about the altercation between a white symbol of authority and a young black man doing what many young men at that age do, resist authority. Most agree a more representative police force, with more training on how to defuse a volatile encounter without using lethal force, might have prevented the tragedy.

It called to mind the fictional small town of Mayberry, North Carolina, made famous by the Andy Griffith Show, a sitcom running from 1960 to 1968. I imagined Sheriff Andy Taylor confronting a boy walking in the middle of the street in Mayberry. I think it might have gone something like this:
Sheriff Taylor (gets out of his patrol car): “Howdy, son. Nice day for a walk, huh? Sure glad it stopped rainin’.”

Opie: “Yes, sir. I like to walk down the street on a sunny day.”
Sheriff Taylor: “Well, you see, a car could come down this street at any time. Wouldn’t want to see you run over. How ‘bout usin’ the sidewalk?”
Opie: “I’ll just jump out of the way, sir.”
Sheriff Taylor: “Can’t let you do that, Opie. Wouldn’t want to call Deputy Barney Fife to have you locked up now. Know what I mean? How ‘bout I give you a ride home in my patrol car?”
Opie: “Gee sir, that would be swell!” (gets in the car and rides off with the sheriff).

I know, I know, that’s just a dream of a place that never was. But I wonder if Officer Wilson had a little more of Sheriff Taylor and a little less of Deputy Barney Fife in him Michael Brown would be alive and Ferguson’s Seasons Greetings overhead sign would not be hanging above police cars aflame in the street last night.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Rest In Peace Dialup Dad

I've just returned from my Dad's funeral. He turned 95 two weeks before and after celebrating with Mom their 73rd anniversary in August. The only serious illness he'd had in his life was the mild heart attack that hit him a month before he died. Four years ago I began saving Dad's emails, 323 of them in all. He didn't own a computer, relying on WebTV's glacially slow dialup connection to send and receive messages. That presented a never-ending string of technical challenges for him. His emails invariably began with "Howdie," and were mostly responses to my blogs and newspaper columns, which I called my daily rants, as well as updates on his favorite sports teams and reviews of the books he was reading. Mom's began with "Hi," and chronicled the happenings of the day.

May 15, 2010
From Mom
Hi: It's "Viking Fest in Poulsbo. We'll go for Breakfast tomorrow at the Armory, sponsored by the Lions club. It's fun to see all the OLD LIONS. Dad used to be one of them. In fact, one year he was KING LION.

May 17, 2010
Howdie: We wonder whether our machine is working because we haven't been getting any e-mail.  Please try us and see if it flies.

July 9, 2010
Howdie: Did you receive Mom's message about our dinner and waltz during the Lawrence Welk program? Her "Three little boys" were the only thing missing from our evening with Lawrence Welk!

Sep 13, 2010
Howdie: This has been an exciting weekend in Seattle. The Huskies beat Syracuse big time and the Seahawks thoroughly beat San Francisco. On Friday morning Mom had symptoms like a heart attack. They whisked her off to the hospital.

Oct 19, 2010
Howdie: Us "Ancients" from North Dakota are still low on the learning curve. You mention "Kindles." Explain, please! 

Oct 21, 2010
From Mom
Hi: In my last e-mail I wrote, "I best go see what Dad was doing under the Sink in the Kitchen." Well, the plumber arrived a couple hours later and put everything back in order.   

Feb 18, 2011
From Mom
Hi: The guy just left who had to come to fix our Toilet. Dad tried to fix it, but it wouldn't stop leaking because one of the parts (Dad put it there) was supposed to be outside the tank instead of inside the tank.

Feb 27, 2011
Howdie: You mentioned you had sent us a message. It did not reach us, so there must have been a "Glitch" somewhere.

May  27, 2011
Howdie: Did you receive Mom's letter on May 21st? We wondered because there have been problems with the mail not "Flying."

August 14, 2011
Howdie: The "Fatted calf" is awaiting the slaughter when you arrive!

August 26, 2011
We just received your message in address only----there must have been a glitch, gel (the German word for the Canadian expression, "Eh")?

September 10, 2011
I think the family philosophy had much to do with the two Doctorates and two Masters degrees among the seven of us. It was the philosophy of our parents regarding the importance of education and their insistence we must continue in school despite the financial  situation! 

Dec. 17, 2011: In response to a Christmas gift we sent to them, using the Amazon address to Dad.
I feel bad because it was addressed to me only. We both feel bad because it looks as tho it doesn't include the other person. We never do anything on our own unless the other person is included. Perhaps there was an error so please give us a report.

December 18, 2011
Thank you for  your prompt reply.  Our official address is:  Gene and Rose Riehl.  We are so happy that the matter is now settled.

Dec. 19, 2011
We are unable to bring up the Google that you mentioned. We may have to wait until Jim returns to see if we can reach Google.  We might have to see if he can reach it with his computer.

Nov. 15, 2012: In response to our concerns about his driving
Howdie: We now only drive to church and the grocery stores which is less than a mile away.  Mother is always in the car doing vigilant duties. In nice weather we walk to the church or don't go at all when the weather is bad. Thank you for your concern. We'll keep you informed if we have any problems.

July 15, 2013
Howdie: We finally were able to bring up your picture. Mom insisted it was a picture of me. It proves the truth of an old saying, "You can't tell the difference between an old stud and a young one."

Oct. 19, 2013
Will this fly?

Nov. 15, 2013, a year ago to the day of his funeral.
I now found  a way to roll the text up and down, so please send me a new copy of your rant!

Rest in peace, my Dialup Dad. May all your heavenly emails fly without a glitch, gel?