"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Monday, February 29, 2016

First guest blog post...relaxed purple cows

I don't use guest bloggers, though I might eventually if I figure out how to make money off it.
In the meantime however, friend and retired journo Jon Denton replied to my post about iced tea...with an editor's eye catching something I missed.
"Everybody needs an editor," I used to yell.
Jon wondered if his scree was too long for a comment on the post. Well, yes, but not too long for a guest post.
I've edited it a little, but enjoy, this first guest post on my blog: (And thanks, Jon.)

            Terry … As always I enjoyed your Coffee With Clark blog ... This time on iced tea (or is it ice tea?) It made me want to dig out my flip-flops and head to a hilltop back porch where it is always sunny and warm, whatever the weather.

            Not sure this qualifies as a blog, especially given it's nature. I'm critiquing a guy with a bunch of initials after his name … and a good friend, too, or at least he has been.

            I don't understand the whole business of blogs. They are kind of like purple cows. Most people would rather read one than be one. But I notice how often bloggers relax when they write.

            Take your first graph in the tea story: "You know we're in trouble in mid-February when you crave and the first iced tea of the year."

            An alert editor would have toggled a correction and moved on, probably without mentioning it. Or he might have guessed your meaning and put “a hot dog” between “crave” and “and.”

            That’s what editors do, and exactly why you don’t need one. It’s my experience that editors edit from the top down. They are rational. They make sense first and if the story is worthy, let the message begin.

            That might not sit well with true bloggers. They seem to write from the inside out. Same thing goes for the blogger-challenged among us. We write cryptic texts on our cell phones.

            My daughter, who did college kind of like others do lunch, recently texted this: “Do u wanna eat today @_1?” She was a communications major until she decided she liked steak instead of ink. Her intent was clear, about the lunch, too.

            That reminds me of another story that is appropriate, if a bit off topic. When I was just out of college I got my first job at the Guthrie Daily Leader. The editor kind of grinned when I asked him about the pay. “Son,” he said (he was all of 10 years older than me … People didn’t last long at the Leader), “Son, we give you $70 a week and all the newspapers you can eat.” I didn’t know whether to laugh or what, so I signed up. That was the beginning of a fierce reporter-editor relationship which led me to quit two years later in a fit over 60-hour weeks, Saturdays and Sundays included … Lots of ink on the hands … Very little steak.

            Back to blogs.

            Once again we are in a literary mood when content trumps style. That attitude was popular during the American Revolution. The newspapers and flyers of the day were not always literate but they were passionate. It was not how they wrote. It was what they said. And it changed the world.

            It is my view that we pay too much attention today to how we say things. Do that and we fall into the camp of the politically correct. It’s a cautious trap, an earthly version of writers’ purgatory.

            Blogs and texts offer a relaxed template. Good writers master both, as you demonstrate with your focus on the weather and tea, then hapless, war-wrecked Syria. Nice contrast … sweet tea and a sour conflict.

            Please keep writing and encouraging others … Thank you for the relaxed blogs … And as some say, never let an editor get in the way of a good story.  – Jon Denton, Mustang

Pages of February--Life and death on the wing

I've found a "new" John McPhee.
That might not be fair to Hannah Nordhaus because she stands alone as an accomplished writer and author.
But I'd never heard of her until my former student Lauren Vargas on Facebook extolled the impact of her book, "The Beekeeper's Lament--How One Man and Half a Billion Honey Bees Help Feed America."
I can't keep up with Vargas'  continuous consumption of books, but this one caught my attention, because she used the term "non-fiction."
I looked the book up on Amazon, and a review mentioned McPhee, who is my favorite living author. He writes about what I would call "everyday science"--geology, oranges, birch bark canoes, wildlife, conservation, long haul truckers in such compelling narratives  I've read almost everything he writes. He writes for the New Yorker and teaches non-fiction writing at Princeton. As a journalist, I'm hooked. Comparing her to him is just pure admiration.
So I bought Nordhaus's book. She's written for the Los Angeles Times, Financial Times, Outside Magazine and more. The book grew out of an article in High  Country News. Her writing reminds me of McPhee's, and is just as captivating.
Unlike Vargas who probably buzzed through the book in a day or two, it took me about a week, enjoying every page.
This is a book about the commercial beekeepers who help feed you as they provide bees to pollinate America's crops...and the dangers to our food supply.
Actually, it's about more than bees--it's about life and dying.
Specifically, it's a story about one beekeeper, John Miller as he travels from California to North Dakota with bees, and his, and his fellow keepers', travails.
It opened new world. How honey is really made? How a hive is constructed? Where the queens come from? The history of beekeeping?  The diseases and dangers to bees? "Colony collapse"? It's all here, with plenty of metaphor to apply to humans too.
First three sentences:
"John Miller isn't fond of death. He takes it personally. A few years ago he even bought a Corvette, as if that could stave it off."
One of my favorite sections is about the declining North Dakota town where Miller sets up shop in June, the chapter titled, "The Human Swarm." Having lived in rural Iowa and Oklahoma, this was personal.
"Rural communities, like inner cities, have ceded membership in the nation's ownership society."
"It was like a sepia, soft-focus campaign ad: morning in an America most Americans have never had the privilege to know."
"We cleave to the way things are, not only to hold back a chaotic future, and not only because that is what we know...There is value in returning to the one who loves you, in keeping the family farm going, in living where you grew up, in keeping bees when no amount of common sense and self preservation can justify it The colony is collapsing in North Dakota, but not everyone is flying off."
There's more:
"He worries that beekeepers have evolved too slowly, 'a room full of old men'--senescent, like worker bees that have outlived their usefulness."
Nordhaus has also written  American Ghost: A Family's Haunted Past in the American Southwest. I'll be buying it.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Heroes, and messy democracy

Young Americans
The three of them stood there, holding three hand made signs, protesting Trump. as a constant stream of all kinds of people flowed by, heading for the rally inside the Oklahoma City convention center yesterday.
Two of them are students at Oklahoma City Community College, the other a student at Mid-Del High School. 
I spotted them as I rounded the south side of the building, curious about the types of people and the event. No, I didn't have tickets and intended to hold up my own protest sign, hoping to find others.
They were the only ones,  there of their own volition. Two were registered Republicans, one wearing a Tea Party shirt. The other was too young to vote.
Their courage inspired me  and since my sign was disrespectful compared to theirs, I just talked with them, watched from a respectful distance, and then had my photo taken with them.
They were polite and respectful, greeting passers by with "Hello, how are you?" Sometimes saying  things like "Don't build walls," and from one sign, "He's a fake conservative." The youngest one, always ended the conversation with "feel the love."
A few passersby who stopped got into respectful conversations.
But more of the people just flowed by, or were rude. 
Rudeness, cussings, fingers
One dumpy, frazzled woman, when greeted with "How are you?" wouldn't make eye contact, and replied "Better than you, go home."
Another 30 something, on hearing something about the wall, said "He's not going to build a wall." One of the protesters replied, "But he says he is." 30 something replied, "He's not going to build a wall." Reply, "Are you calling Trump a liar?" That got them a finger.
Worst case was one rough looking, big buckle, cigarette, who started loudly cussing them as he walked by, including the "F word," in easy sound of smaller children. (His Momma didn't teach him any manners)
I said to them, "Great vocabulary," and one smiled back at me, "Trump sure attracts well-educated, doesn't he?"
Another snipped from them: "It'd sure be nice to have a rational conversation with these people."
Others were outside too, passing out leaflets, selling campaign signs.
I saw one guy with an old campaign hat on, with a sign scratched on cardboard: "When tyranny comes to your house, it will come armed and in a uniform." We smiled at each other.
Another group (all men), one in an American flag shirt, was passing you pink sheets, urging women to vote for a candidate.
Teachers were everywhere, getting people to sign the petition for the one cent sales tax.
One young couple had driven up from Fort Worth and were passing out fact sheets on Trump, polite and smiling, unaffiliated with any campaign. They cared--they had information on how much money he'd given to politicians in both parties, including Hillary, and several who had voted for Obamacare. In addition, his past use of, and support of illegal immigrants. Here's their link: http://goo.gl/ochUxm if you care to see the research they did.
Most disturbing were the people passing out an eight page leaflet, "The Pope's Secrets," attacking Catholicism and the pope as part of an international conspiracy controlling the IRS, FBI, Mafia, and more.
Here's the first sentence: "The Vatican is posing as Snow White but the Bible says she is a prostitute, "The great whore." a cult (Rev 19:2.)" Oh and by the way, backing up  the claims are Bible references, but you're urged to use only the King James Version.
I went home and looked up the author, Tony Alamo, "World Pastor, Tony Alamo Christian Ministries."
Turns out that Alamo is not his real name, and he seems to have some trouble with the law. He moved from California back to his wife's home state in Arkansas. But in 2014 seven women who say they were sexually abused by him as minors were awarded $525 million.Church tycoon.
There are all kinds of tales, including an FBI raid on his Fort Smith compound in 2008. Fort Smith raid. Google some more and you'll find arrests and stories of child abuse.
I just wonder if all those people passing out the Pope article, calling the Vatican a "cult" knew any of this, or were deluded..
(Snarky comment about deluded people hinted at but  suppressed.)
Democracy and The First Amendment are messy.
Back to these three protesters -- I'm so encouraged by them, not because I agree with all their politics, any more than agreeing with my young family members supporting Bernie. 
What stands out is their commitment, their courage, their involvement in this Democracy--hope for the present and future.
Oh, the messages on their signs:
"Republicans Against Trump"
"Build a wall around his house"
"Trump is a fake conservative"
"A vote for Trump = A vote for Clinton"
"When the power of love overcomes the love of power
Then this world will know peace."

Their parents have done a great job, and should be proud--they have manners, conviction, and courage. They're a real contrast to all the anger and negativity of this campaign. I think that also is grounds for being proud of a still great America. Thank you, Americans.
Proud to pose with some dedicated conservatives

Thursday, February 25, 2016

An AK-47 on the flag, another blog country--Hey USA?

A visitor from a country with an AK-47 and bayonet on its flag clicked on this blog today, making it the 142nd on my list of countries  with readers.
Looking up the facts I saw the flag and read about it, immediately thinking  the USA should follow suit, with the complete lack of gun control in this country and constant, read constant, mass shootings (one today in Kansas).
Let's take a hint from our friends in Mozambique and replace all our stars with assault weapons. It's be more appropriate.
But I'm not making fun of these people in southeast Africa, who put the weapon on  their flag as a sign of their struggle for independence from the Portuguese in 1975. It's the only U.N country  with a weapon on the flag. More on that later.
The country, named after an early Arab trader, now has 24 million people and is one of the poorest in Africa, thanks to being exploited by Portugal for centuries for its minerals, spices and slaves. Vasco de Gama visited it in 1498 and it was colonized in 1505 as Portuguese East Africa, an important trading island, port and country that declined after the Suez Canal opened in 1869.
After gaining independence for about two years, it descended into civil war until 1992, has had multiple party elections and is a relatively stable republic. Official language, spoken by about 50 percent, is Portuguese, with others speaking tribal languages of the Bantu people. Main religion is Christianity, plus large Muslim and tribal religion minorities.
Ah, the flag, adopted in 1983: Green for the riches of the land, black  the African continent, yellow  the country's minerals, and red  the struggle for independence. The rifle stands for defense and vigilance, the open book the importance of education, the hoe  the country's agriculture, and the star Marxism and internationalism.
This reader and country make it the 25th on the continent who have followed this blog. 
Africa is huge. Look at the map below. And, to my new reader, welcome and thanks.

Book and movie favorites

Your favorite books, and movies?
Here's what's listed on my blog.
Books, stories, under tab, "Coffee-stained pages":
  1. Heart of Darkness, Conrad
  2. Death Comes for the Archbishop, Cather
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee
  4. Fahrenheit 451, Bradbury
  5. A River Runs Through It, MacLean
  6. Blue Highways, Least Heat Moon
  7. Leaves of Grass, Whitman
  8. Tarzan of the Apes, Burroughs
  • The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway
  • The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald
  • The Raven, Poe
  • Chekhov, The Lady with the Dog 
  • The Gospel of John
  • The Last Running, Graves
  • Dr. Zivago, Pasternak
  • Beowulf
  • All John McPhee
  • All Tony Hillerman
  • All Harry Potter
  • All Larry McMurtry
  • All Ed Abbey 
  • All Ray Bradbury
Movies, under tab "A Taste for Movies":
  1. To Kill a Mockingbird
  2. A River Runs Through It
  3. High Noon
  4. Shane
  5. Apocalypse Now
  • The Way
  • Memphis Bell
  • The Blues Brothers
  • The Front Page
  • Harry Potter
  • Spotlight
  • Citizen Kane
  • Il Postino, The Postman
  • Network
  • The African Queen
  • Bridge Over the River Kwai
  • Lawrence of Arabia
  • Dr. Zivago

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Midnight rap at Ludivine

Rapping away
Last Friday I got to offer the weekly Midnight Toast at the bar at the great restaurant Ludivine.
Thanks to their social media guru Jenny Grigsby who spoke to my last Twitter in Media class in May #clarkclass. I'm pleased some of those class members attended.

Here's the toast.
Midnight rap
ain't no trap
bomb diggity bomb diggity bomb diggity bo
Just a toast , not a roast
were the food's divine
at Ludivine
Where Grigsby Jenny
Earns every penny
bomb diggety bomb diggety bomb diggity bo
If you need to take a dump
Just be sure to name it Trump
so here's to my students
including the rudents
some are prudent
others just coolant
It's go go go
bomb diggity bomb diggity bomb diggity bo
Don't want curds
just some words
not a link
just another drink
bomb diggity bomb diggity bomb biggity bo
so here's to you
from Clark in the dark
with just a little snark

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Iced tea in "winter"

You know we're in trouble in mid-February when you crave and  the first iced tea of the year. 
The sun is out, it's 84 degrees, people are out in shorts and t-shirts walking their dogs. And on the negative side, it's dry, bugs are abounding, people have colds and sniffles and coughs and allergies galore.
I don't like being cold, but there is a purpose for winter.
However, I'll enjoy my iced tea, complete with fresh mint that survived "winter." And it always tastes better in a Mason jar.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Blogging right along...unanswered questions

I don't understand a lot about blogging, even though I've been at it for years. 
In fact, don't even ask me why I blog--multiple reasons perhaps, and I'm not sure I know the answers.
Two questions cropped up this week.
The first was over the weekend when a reader from war-torn Syria clicked on my blog, representing the 141st country in my roll call of visitors.
What is happening in Syria is a humanitarian tragedy, dictatorship, civil war, global conflict (Russia and the U.S.), and global terrorists (ISIS).
In America, hate groups (so-called Christians against everything Jesus was about) are targeting, for selfish, political reasons only, Syrian refugees--poor people desperate to get out, leaving behind homes and families to get to safety. 
Official flag

Rebel flag
I just wonder who this person is who had time and security to click on my blog, and why? Fact, the capital of Syria, Damascus, is the oldest continuously occupied city in the world. It's also where the Apostle Paul sojourned.
Today, Syria has about 23 million people. Arabic is spoken by about 85 percent. Nine percent of the population is Kurdish, in the northeast, the most displaced, under represented ethnic group in the world--I think--along with the Palestinians. It has two flags--one of the "Republic," and one of the opposition, the rebels. I admit, as a Southerner, I understand "rebels."
Today's blog traffic, and popular posts
My second question today had to do with blog traffic. I'm a first-born Capricorn journalist, so I'm competitive. I always check the readership stats on my blog, and today 243 people clicked on it. Notice the day has already ended, about 6 p.m., something else I don't understand.
Today's country traffic
I wonder why. I didn't even post. I also clicked on which posts got the most traffic. One thing I learned long ago is if I mention trains, I get more traffic. I didn't mention trains today, but past posts still get traffic. So "All aboard!"
And, for the reader in Syria, regardless of which side...Shalom. Americans don't hate you. Thank you.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Shoe leather politics---look out world

The doorbell rang  again, interrupting my writing. 
At the door was a tall, slender young woman, with a clipboard, a smile, and a Bernie Sanders button. My grumbling faded.
She, Madison Rubino,  is a Spanish language education major at the University of Central Oklahoma, a student of one of my colleagues.
I learn that she's one of perhaps 30 people out canvassing Edmond, trying to get a feel for who might be casting votes for him in the Democratic primary. 
"Are you feeling the Bern?" she pleasantly asks,
She's soft spoken, not pushy, and I'm frank about my doubts, but tell her I know people who are voting for Bernie, and not to be discouraged if I'm cynical. I thank her for what she's doing. 
Yes, she's up-to-date on socialism, labels and the odds, but still quietly optimistic. I also learn that she's a member of the Bernie Sanders club, "Bronchos for Bernie," on campus, putting up that booth in the Nigh Center every week--it's the only club on campus specifically supporting one candidate.
I learn from Susan that step-daughter Alexx Harms, and probably others I know, are spending this Saturday canvassing parts of Oklahoma City.
Volunteers. Young people excited about a candidate. Spending shoe leather, not just words. I haven't seen anything like this since Eugene McCarthy and Bobby Kennedy 50 years ago.
Instead of  the anger and insults  and hate and fear from organized supporters of  other candidates this year, there's optimism, dedication, hope. 
Young Americans. That's how elections are won. Shoe leather. Bernie has become a "movement," not a candidate. Beware establishment, as Hillary has already learned.
Us old farts have griped for years about our "apathetic" youth, talking about "when I was their age, we were out there..." etc.  Well, these folks ain't apathetic. 
I don't care if you agree with Sanders' politics or not. If he helps involve our young people, it gives me hope. Thanks,  Miss Rubino.

"I want my country back"--so much is wrong here

"I want my country back." I'm mad and want to make America great again. All this anger and yelling in this campaign makes me think America is in the toilet. I may even switch and register Republican.
"...makes me think America is in the toilet."
Just think of all the things wrong here.
A school bus just went by, on paved streets, full of students on the way to public school, with well trained certified teachers.
My electricity is on 24 hours a day and my tap water is drinkable.
The  prescription medicines I take with that water is government certified, as is my breakfast food, and all other food, is  certified safe.
I can go safely down the street, patrolled by police cars and regulated by stoplights, to the grocery store packed with that food.
I have regulated insurance on my house, and firetrucks are not far away. I have a working sewer, not an outhouse, and zoning prevents someone putting up a trailer house or factory next door.
My car meets safety regulations, and the big trucks on the efficient highways and Interstates are licensed and inspected by the government. Gasoline also meets required standards.
Overhead a jet airliner, certified safe and piloted by trained  and certified pilots, heads for the airport under direction of government air traffic controllers.
"I attended four different kinds of religious groups..."
In my house I own firearms, without fear of seizure, and this past month I attended four different kinds of religious groups without fear or being forced.
I recently went for an annual physical and was attended by a licensed doctor and nurses. I paid for this with funds from my secure account in a bank, where my money is safe. On the way home I stopped and bought a cup of coffee and my money was accepted. We went out to eat last night, and never worried about the safety of the food. 
Overhead, another U.S. Air Force AWACs jet just slid across the sky, reminding me of our country's military, the most powerful in the world, protecting us from invasion, trying to deter war so our service people don't have to die. 
Refugees and immigrants from those trouble spots and poorer countries are desperately trying to come here, oblivious to the sorry condition of America.
I've seen bumper stickers criticizing Obama, and others praising him. I read newspapers that are not censored by the government. 
Citizens can safely go vote, for whoever they want, in a multitude of elections, and know that whoever gets the most votes will win
I work at the University of Central Oklahoma that must meet certain safety and fire regulations, and my benefits include retirement.
"a young man in a wheel chair with a service dog,"
On that campus yesterday I saw a young man in a wheelchair with a service dog, able to go to college, which would never have happened when I was that age.
And there are a multitude of races and  citizens on that campus. In my classes I've had students from around the world and across the country--no segregation. I've had public schooled, private schooled, home-schooled, foreign schooled. All are welcome, and treated equally.
 "All are welcome and treated equally".
In one day I saw a booth for Christians on campus and another by Muslim students informing others. Outside, a small group was strumming a guitar, singing a religious song, with some hands reaching for the sky. There's also a skeptics club on campus, a bass fishing club, and a multitude of others.
I've seen anti-abortion displays, and pro-choice displays, across the sidewalk from each other.
A friend and favorite former student spoke to one of my classes this week. During her presentation, she essentially criticized the president. Some in class agreed, and some didn't, but her comments  were welcome. 
Are there things wrong with my country? Of course--crime and poverty and injustice and inequality and racism and hatred and prejudice and unfounded fear, corruption in buying politicians ... the list goes on. It is indeed maddening...has it ever been different?
Oh, I forgot about how mad I am and wanting to make America great again. My garbage is picked up every week, not strewn around or left to stink on the roadside.
"You take the outhouse"
Speaking of garbage...you take the outhouse if you want it back...it fits.
I'll take my country the way it is, not the way it never was.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

A new year, new experiences, new thoughts, First Amendment

We attended the four-hour Chinese New Year celebration and worship and vegetarian meal at the Buddha Mind Monastery in far southeast OKC today.
Inside the foyer
Still processing and decompressing all that my senses encountered. Much to write. Susan and I and friend Christy Vincent attended. Thanks to friend and former student Sheri Guyse for inviting, and to Dave Rhea for joining us too.
As I drove up to this impressive building today, watching all kinds of Americans enter, I thought "First Amendment." Freedom of religion, not state-sponsored religion, but all religions welcome here. I wish our legislators and those who think we're a "Christian" nation could attend.
What Westerners would call the "sanctuary"
Those thoughts were fleeting as we took off our shoes and entered a different world, a world of peace and mesmerizing chants in a different language and an English homily, and strange liturgies with lots of bowing, and offerings of fresh flowers.
I took photos and now regret I didn't record some of the chanting, which transported you to a realm of peace. I wish I could have monitored my blood pressure as I'm sure it dropped.  There were about 100 or so folks there at 10:30, and then after the break and before the free meal, the place packed with more than double that for the liturgy of offering, more chants, and a visit by the Chinese dragon. More photos later.
Susan putting her shoes on after our visit.
There's so much about this I do not understand, humbled by my ignorance of an ancient belief with more than 500 million  followers. I don't even know what to call the woman who gave the homily, but it was compelling with advice on changing the world with our own thoughts and action, and including  the words, "every day is a new year."
Indeed, this is a new year's day.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Shoe leather politics

Bernie asked me for advice--I'd make a good vice-president, I said
Good journalists, good cops, good ad people, wear out a lot of shoe leather, not relying on the phone or internet, but meeting people, being on the scene.
I thought the same thing at the close of the Iowa caucuses. The upstarts in both parties had the old-fashioned "shoe leather" approach to politics...on the ground organization.
More evidence of that already today on the UCO campus. I walked into the Nigh University Center to my office, and there on the ground floor, were volunteers for Bernie Sanders.
Wow...that's how campaigns are won. So, for my Sanders' enthusiast friends, and family, I thought I'd put in a good word for you.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Iowa--where the tall corn--and more grows

I get misty when I think of Iowa.
This was my rant today on Facebook, in the wake of the presidential caucuses:
  "I am really getting tired of all the high techy, big city snobmedia and pundits looking down on their noses and making fun of the Iowa caucuses. Excuse me--they don't fit in your pigeonhole so you can stereotype the people as hicks and the system as archaic? Hey, they use pencil and paper, they get together civilly, vote in a true democracy where every vote counts, and dare to do it differently than any place else in America. You gotta problem with that? If American politicians and the system make a bigger deal of it than perhaps it should be, it's your fault. Iowans are glad you're gone. And besides, you ougtta have to come up here and suffer the winters if you're gonna be so uppity. They can handle it, if you can't."
Pardon me, but it's personal.
Three of my four children were born in that state, and my fourth child, and his family now live in Dubuque, on the northeast side, and "caucused" yesterday. Proud I am.
"Iowa, where the tall corn grows."
My wonderful wife Neysa and I  moved from Oklahoma to Hawarden, in Northwest Iowa on the South Dakota border by the Big Sioux River to teach high school English many years ago, following friends, "establishing" a church, renting a Seventh Day Adventist church, driving to Sioux City and Sioux Falls every once in a while.
I never saw so much green, so much great rolling rich dark glacial farmland, America's Mesopotamia, nestled between two great rivers...full of life, corn, soybeans,  tempered by brutal winters, but with great solid people who valued education and hard work. In northwest Iowa our first son was born, Vance Conrad. Story below.
From there we went to Iowa City to get a graduate degree in journalism, and then to southwest Iowa to be an editor of a semi-weekly paper, the Herald-Journal, in Clarinda, Iowa, where our second son, Travis Austin, and our daughter, Dallas Page, was born.
Then we moved back to Oklahoma to be near family, worked at the Duncan Banner and bought into the Waurika News-Democrat, where our fourth child, Derrick Rogers was born.
Since then there has been happiness and sadness, successes and failures, but Iowa remains, deeply a part of all of us. I can go on and on about its influences in our lives. I understand why it is the original "American Heartland."
Misty-- from an earlier post:

"We headed east over the rolling hills of northwest Iowa  years ago.

"The rising sun turned the mist from the corn golden, as we sped up and down the hills in a light green Volkswagen to the hospital 30 miles away in LeMars. My wife's contractions had started before daybreak, and we left the house shortly after 5 a.m.
"'Come in here, you're responsible for this,' said the red headed doctor O'Toole, handing me a gown and mask, and about noon, a baby boy was born.
"Those memories are still real, and I know his mother remembers even more, because mothers remember more than fathers do, including  more about the births of our other three children. 

"Years have passed and there have been lots of ups and downs since then for all of us. But we're blessed with our children and grandchildren. That boy is now M/Sgt. Vance C. Clark, USAF... ."
Our  other Iowans--
A chilly night 
Third time is a charm
My Iowans, Derrick and Naomi, ready to caucus!

God and professors--paradise without tenure, conversation

 (An earlier version appeared six years ago)
God:  "Welcome to Heaven. Sorry for the memorized formula speech, but we have to read you your rights. You've got your welcome packet, met the lawn crew, read the rules, signed consent and release of liability forms, signed up for health care insurance like Congressmen get, been assigned mansions just over the hilltop with silver fixtures and  streets of gold,  got pass keys to the stables of The Four Horsemen, know where the cafeteria is, gone through training to use the Help-Desk, got security clearance from IT, and have been issued always-clean-no-wrinkle white robes. Any questions?"

Professors: "When is fall break and what office hours do we have to keep?"

God: "Give Me a break. There is no work here,  no office hours. If you can sing, you can join the choir. For others, like Clark, we'll find something else to occupy your time, oops--no time up here either--to keep you busy."

Professors: "It seems we've filled out a lot of paperwork and useless forms."

God: "I figured you university types had lots of experience with that, so I wanted you to feel at home. Don't worry, the forms will soon change and you can do them over."

Professors: "How come the angels have different colored robes? We see some with gold, silver, bronze,  and ours are white?"

God: "The gold robes are for Full angels, silver for Associate angels, bronze for Assistant angels, and white for Lecturers."

Professors: "What? We're full professors. We don't even speak to lecturers."

God: "Up here, we have a real 'higher-ed' system. It's based on service, not snobbery."

Professors: "Service? We've all been on committees and task forces and faculty senates and  ..."

God: "Not that kind of time-wasting mediocrity. We don't have any time to waste. Literally. Up here, service means actually helping people."

Professors: "So what about research?"

God: "Just ask Me."

Professors: "Would you mind repeating that construct so we can dialog  with you as to the impact of this concept vis-a-vis our cognitive post-modern theses..."

God: "Stop it. No profanity up here."

Professors: "About research, God. It was more important that teaching or service down there, and we're specialists in analyzing minutiae so we can publish it in academic journals nobody  reads."

God: "I repeat, if you want to find something out, or do research, just ask Me. I know the answers, all of them. Quantum physics? Philosophy? The name of Shakespeare's dog? --Yes, Shakespeare had a dog. Never would have found out that would you?--Why Conan was really fired?  How the so-called Religious Right's synapses misfire in their brains and the chemical analysis of that?  Literature? Did you know there's a lower level of Hell that Dante forgot about? The one reserved for micro-managing  administrators and poor teachers.
"Name your discipline--such a silly term for knowledge--and I can give you all the answers, and the statistical calculations and chi-squares, immediately.Where do you think 'Rain Man' got his talent?  I am a know-it-all. No brag, just fact. Nope, no need for 'research' up here, sorry.
"And publishing? That is so 18th Century. Nobody reads those 'journals'  anyway, much less understands all that obtuse academic jargon. They just gather dust.  I'm not interested. Now if you've written something for Mad Magazine, I might be, or if you have an I-phone ap for Mad, cool."

Professors: "Then why are we here?"

God: "Good question. I wonder that Myself. Well, you all must be pretty good teachers. Your dossiers show you actually liked students--even Freshmen. You helped them learn,  weren't boring, didn't talk down to them, learned their names, mentored them, didn't mind being disagreed with, kept your doors open for them, weren't rude or arrogant, kept your office hours, were on time, were usually prepared, had a sense of humor and were secure in challenging them and being challenged."

Professors: "So how do we get to move up to Full Angel. What about 'shared governance' and when do we get tenure?"

God: "I've got a lot of people who need a lot of help. Lists everywhere. Get busy."

Professors: "Uh, about  faculty senate and tenure...."

God: "There ain't no faculty senate or tenure up here. I don't 'share governance.' That's why I'm God. Don't have to. Satan has a faculty senate--meets  and talks forever and never gets anything done...modeled after your systems."

Professors: "No tenure in heaven. Why we thought...."

God: "Ever hear of the fallen angels? No. Hmm, I thought you were educated. You did know Milton plagiarized in 'Paradise Lost,' didn't you? Check out his source, an old book among many I recommend. I've got it on a podcast if you want visuals. It might be apocalyptic for you.

Professors: "Godda...er, Youdammit, God. Tenure...why that guarantees our academic freedom...."

God: "MeDammit. Look, If you want tenure, you can go to Hell. Never have to leave. Never will."