Sunday, June 29, 2008

Random 1

I just felt as though I wanted to share a random photo with you of a random scene in the northwest part of Montana, an area that I currently call home. Did I mention that the Random Mobile (my PT Cruiser) is also featured here. It is such a beautiful area with so many things to see. While growing up in Montana, I seem to have gotten lost in being a kid and I really did not see the wonders of the area at the time. I remember being in the countryside cutting fire wood with my dad. We would take a lunch break and he would sit on a log and eat his food while looking at the surrounding mountains. My dad was just simply enjoying the clean air and the views that abound in Montana. I missed out because I could only think of getting home and enjoying the last few hours of my weekend. I let my father down because I know that he was trying to make me understand how fortunate I was for being born in such a great place. I left Montana in 73 to serve in the Air Force. I never really thought I would end up back in Libby, Montana, but I did. I look around at all of the mountains, lakes, streams and the wildlife, and I wonder why I missed it the first time around. While my kids are with me for visits in Montana, I find myself trying to point out to them the same things my father tried to show me. I get the same response that he did. I guess it is Karma. The difference is that things are changing so fast in our world that my kids might not have the second chance that I was given. If I could have one more chance to cut wood with my dad, I would do it in a heart beat. I would eat my lunch with my eyes wide open and take in as much beauty as could.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Where Does The Time Go?

For those who have taken the time to check in and see if I have posted any new items, I have to apologize. I haven’t really had a chance to do much as of late. It takes me about one and a half days to get home from the North Slope. Once I arrive time goes by so fast that the things I want to do give way to the things I need to do. I am trying to get the house here in Montana ready for sale as well as make as much money as I can from my window washing company that I have had for a number of years. It puts in perspective just how old and out of shape I am getting. I hurt at the end of the day from stretching and moving ladders. At some point in time I will do a video on the proper way to wash windows. It is an art form and as a result, I find that I enjoy doing it. Go figure. I did have a chance to put together a few canvas wrap art pieces that are now available in the store that carries my work. “River Mist” is the name of the place, so if you are ever in town stop in and take a look. The above piece is one of the new items excluding the poem, which is embedded on the face of the photo. I took the photo last winter on the top of Turner Mountain just outside of Libby, Montana. I return to the slope on Sunday. I seem to have more spare time up there and will be back to posting soon.

Randy J. Cole

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Life in a Sandbox II

May I suggest that you read part one first.

While growing up in our family, we were always fortunate enough to have a four-legged friend around the house. We always had a dog. Never, never a cat. My father disliked cats and I too can live without them. The smell of cat poop has the same effect on me as, well, see elephant reference in part one.
The neighborhood felines loved to hang out at our place because of our sandbox which was located in front of our swing set in the backyard. Nothing like running your hands through the sand in your play area, imitating the effects of a large explosion and ending up with a cat turd (land mine) between your fingers. Most fathers would have likely told their kids to deal with it. I can’t recall my dad ever running his hands through our sandbox, but the sight of his only son gagging must have been more than he could bear.
What a surprise it was to find an indoor sandbox in our basement one day. It was big and deep and it rolled on wheels. This was to be one of the greatest innovations in play history. It sat next to a huge American Flyer train set my dad had built a few years before. The train set was on a big table with little ranch-style houses, tunnels and roadways. My imagination was allowed to run free in that basement like no other kid in town. Without knowing it, I began to live my life out in that sandbox and on that train layout, incorporating the two together. What a deal. I started to collect Matchbox cars and trucks with the money I made from returning Coke bottles to the mom-and-pop grocery store for the deposit. It was a wonderful collection of cars, trucks, tractors and trailers and of course the American Flyer train set.
As time went on, I became more innovative. I would paint my cars and trucks to match my interest at the time. I started out with royal blue because I enjoyed the idea of being in the Air Force. That may have come from my younger days when I would play in my pedal Jeep which was Air Force blue and sported the Air Force logo on the side. As a side note, an 8mm film exists of me pulling a Radio Flyer wagon down our side walk with this Jeep. The Jeep and wagon were tied together with a piece of scrap rope I found in my Dad’s shop. Seated proudly on a wooden stool mounted in the wagon, was the same girl next door mentioned in chapter one. She was adorned in a cape and crown and we appear to be having our own little parade. I think this parade was when I decided that I looked like an idiot, blinking my eyes asking others pull to the right and stop. What the hell was I thinking?
The blue cars and trucks gave way to Forest Service green cars and trucks. I even had a wooden tower that I would place in the sand box and use as a Forest Service lookout. Always looking for realism in my play, I remember deciding that having a tower was no good unless I had a fire to spot. Placing about fifty wooden matches in the sand upright and lighting them was as close as I could get. It was great until the basement filled with smoke. It is truly amazing how much smoke fifty small wooden matches can make. My mother was not impressed nor was my father. The forest was clear-cut from my sandbox never to return. I had to settle for patrolling an imaginary forest with my little green trucks.
The third coat of paint to adorn these Matchbox toys consisted of black and white. I spent hours in that basement with a few select friends patrolling the city streets of the train set and to the country roads of the sandbox.
As it turned out, the three paint job phases I went through with these little cars was more than just play. It really was practice for reality as it pertained to my adulthood. When I graduated from Libby High in 1973, I joined the Air Force. When I got out four years later, I ended up in Washington State. In the spring of 1980, I went to work for the Forest Service. I got to drive one of those green trucks I so admired and played with in my sandbox.
Working in the Colville National Forest was such an opportunity. It was so beautiful and I had the chance to learn how to operate equipment of all shapes and sizes. I was given the option of staying on with the Forest Service as a full-time employee. On the same day as this offer was made by the Forest Service, an ad appeared in the local newspaper. The Colville Police Department was hiring a police officer. At the time, the decision was easy. I needed to follow my boyhood goal of becoming a law enforcement officer. The Colville Police Department was a small agency. Counting the chief and sergeant, it was a 9-man department. As small as it was, it was and still is considered to be a very good police agency. It was a great opportunity for me to start my career as a police officer.
In September of 1980, along with a number of other candidates, I tested for the one position offered. Physically, I was in the best shape of my life thanks to the job I had with the Forest Service. I walked at least seven miles a day in the mountains of the Colville National Forest, carrying hand tools as I went. The physical portion of the test was a breeze. The surprising thing about the process was the ease in which I was able to complete the written exam. My scores were very high. This was strange considering I was a real dumb ass in school. The only explanation seemed to be some type of divine intervention. Something wanted me to be a cop real bad to pull that off. It kind of reminds me of the book, “The Secret.” Maybe that stuff does work and I didn’t have to put down $20.00 for the privilege.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Life in a Sandbox

I shall never forget the thrill of my first traffic stop. The look in the driver’s eyes as I approached her vehicle, the power I possessed, the authority to make life in a small town safer for all. The driver’s eyes filled with distain, fear and respect, all clearly visible to me, the small town cop. It was this young lady’s lucky day. She would be let off with a stern warning this time and an invite to come over and play later, a smooth move for an 8-year old with a badge. My patrol vehicle was a 24” black Hiawatha bicycle from Gambles. My light bar consisted of me blinking each eye in an alternate manner. My siren was a pretty good imitation of a cat slowly being run over by paving equipment, long before the woo-woo-woo type of sirens that are now so common.
My traffic violator, on that sunny summer day, was the girl next door. We were born on the same day in our small northwest Montana town. I guess she learned her lesson. A highly respected member of our community, I still see her driving around town with her kids. I’m pretty sure she still has a clean driving record as well. Glad I could be of service.
I think that day on the sidewalks of the Lincoln County Courthouse was the day I knew at some point in my life I was going to be a law enforcement officer. It was a good day. I also made a decision that if I was going to be an officer, I would not allow myself to indulge in illegal drugs. That decision is one I have stuck with to this very day.
I really don’t know for sure where the desire to become a cop came from, but it ran deep in my veins. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, it was very natural for me to say, “I am going to be a policeman!” I knew that it would come to pass for what ever reason. There were some outside influences of course. Television shows of good guys were prominent in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s - Robert Crawford in “Highway Patrol”, “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Dragnet” just to name a few. My favorite was about a pilot, “Sky King”, who lived on a ranch. Although he wasn’t a law officer, he was a good guy who helped the sheriff out in most episodes. I wonder how many of the kids I grew up with in Libby remember when Sky King came to town with the Carson Brothers Circus. He made a great impression doing trick shots with a six-shooter.
After the show was over, we all lined up in the center ring to shake his hand and get an 8x10 black-and-white photo of him signed right in front of us.
It was a great day and to celebrate, my sister and mother drove me to the “A&W” drive-in, which is but a memory now, long since torn down to make room for a hotel. I was happy, but something just wasn’t right. I ate my hamburger and some of my fries and swished it down with a swig of chocolate milkshake. A great combo, but there was a smell that just wouldn’t leave my senses. The smell was of the large, smelly elephant that was paraded before us in one of the rings during the show. I couldn’t get it out of my head or nostrils. That great combo wasn’t so great when it ended up on the pavement next to the car. I take a moment now to apologize to the carhops who worked at that A&W that day, including one of my sisters. To A&W, it wasn’t your food, it was the damn elephant. To this day, I retch when I smell one of those stinky things.
The 8x10 photo of Sky King remained close for many years, hanging on the wall of my bedroom. Unfortunately, it disappeared sometime after I left home in 1973 for the service, along with many of the things that helped me develop my imagination when I was young. Today I could buy some of the same items on ebay, or at least items like them, but it just wouldn’t be the same. And just like Libby’s A&W, Sky King is no longer with us.

Randy J. Cole

Friday, June 6, 2008

Four Nuts in a Bag

For us older farts it is easy to look at this photo and say, “prize my ass,” or, “look at the tiny nuts that were in that sack,” and even more disturbing is the fact that there are only four, well maybe five if you consider the tiny one stuck to the other. I remember when you would open a box of Cracker Jacks and the amount and quality of the nuts made it worth the wait, eating your way down into the box until you found the treasure of nuts at the bottom. Granted the package here is only a 1 1/4 oz. bag. They didn’t have those back when I was a kid. The prizes have changed drastically as well. You can look forward to a square piece of paper with some goofy little exercise to do. Back in the day the most anticipated prize was the coveted little compass, just like the one that Slim Pickens had to swallow to keep the Japanese submarine crew from finding their way to safety. (movie, 1941) He swallowed it and as a result ended up tied to the toilet seat in the sub. At this point, the line that still leaves me rolling on the floor is spewed from this great actor’s mouth, “You boys ain’t getting shit out of me!” Great line but really I suppose the fact that you could put it in your mouth and swallow it is why we have been deprived of those cool little gadgets, and now are reduced to tearing the end off of a paper square to look at unimaginative game. Some kid probably swallowed one and he too had to be strapped to a toilet awaiting the arrival of true north. No real point to this story except to say that so much of our past pleasures are going away in this country and going away fast. We should have prepared better decades ago and as I recall there were warning signs but we as Americans we just could not give up our right to drive ourselves to work as opposed to riding with someone. I know this is true because I was as bad as the next guy. The speed to which the changes are coming are actually frightening. A barrel of oil jumped by eleven dollars today. If that doesn’t scare you it should. The cost of living is rising and in the back of the minds of our elders I am sure that they are thinking, recession will be the best case scenario. In some ways it can be said that some good will come out of this shakeup. I think people will end up spending more time with family members. You will see homes being shared by three generations of families, this will be done as a cost saving measure, which I might add is something practiced in many Asian countries, although they do it more out of love and respect than convenience. I also see many people turning to worship, seeking refuge and comfort from the situation that arises. We the people, are in for a big test over the coming years. I guess maybe I should be happy that there is still four nuts at the bottom of that bag!


Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Special Gift For Julia From John Stamos, One of the Good Guys

This is a little off season but I feel the need to write it now and so be it.

Throughout my life I have met some incredible people, some very famous and some just kind of famous, and others who are people that have no desire to leave a mark in the books of life, but could if they chose to. The subjects of this story are my granddaughter, Julia, and a person that most people know as a television actor who is considered by the opposite sex to be handsome and sexy. Well to be fair about it, I suppose there are plenty of those of the same sex that will tell you the same about this gentleman. To me he was just an actor who played the part of an uncle in a household shared with a bunch of family members. Of course I am speaking of the actor John Stamos from Full House fame.
This story begins with a few phone calls in early December of 2005. The first call was from my dear friends, Sandie and David Knox. I had expressed interest in working in the film business in some shape or form during past conversations and the phone call gave me my chance. I had been invited to work with them for a few days in craft services in LA. At the time they were working on a program being filmed at FOX studios by the name of “Kitchen Confidential.” This was a chance to find out if I could handle the 18 hour days. For those who do not know what craft services is all about, just imagine food being prepared in the back of a truck or a warehouse kitchen and providing food and drink for the stars and crews of film productions. Not glamorous at all, but still exciting just the same. If I could handle the job I may be offered a full time position with Dave and Sandie, who were considered the best in the business. I jumped at the chance and was more than willing to give up my job in the cold arctic for the heat of LA. A date was set and preparations made.
The second call to set the wheels of fortune into play, came a day or two after the conversation with Dave. I called my daughter in Rapid City SD and asked her what my granddaughter, Julia, had in mind for Christmas. My daughter Jamie said that Julia had asked for the first season of ‘Full House” which had been released on DVD just weeks prior to this conversation. Jamie said that the motivation for Julia’s selection was love. She wanted to marry uncle Jess, (John Stamos.) My granddaughter was only about 6 at the time. I remember making the comment in jest, that I would be in LA and maybe I would be lucky enough to find Stamos and have him sign it. Ha Ha.
I found the DVD and left it home not really thinking I would run into Mr. Stamos.
A few days later I arrived in LA and Dave picked me up at LAX. As we drove toward his house he made the comment that we would not be working on “Kitchen Confidential” because it had been canceled just the day before. I thought it meant my chance to take part in the actual production of prime time T.V. was a bust. Dave told me that we had been reassigned to a different program and would be going to a location shoot at an exclusive LA country club. I asked the name of the show and he said “Jake in Progress,” “never heard of it,” I said, who is in it? The look of shock was evident to Dave as he said the name, “John Stamos,” I think I said something to the effect of, “you gotta be shitting me!” Dave was surprised at my reaction until I told him about the conversation I had with my daughter just days before. Dave laughed and said he would have to tell John about that. I was truly stunned but then again, this sort of thing happens to me more than the average person. Just like when I met Ben Stein. I had told my then wife, I wanted to shake his hand someday and a short time later I find myself flying from Seattle to Spokane in first class with him.
We were up before the sun rose and stopping at Dave’s favorite bakery, picking up several dozen of the most beautiful pastries I have seen in a while, and remember I was a street cop for almost twenty years. We picked up Dave’s daughter, Wendy, who is also well established in the crafting services industry. The day was exciting for me as I looked around and got into the swing of things. The actors seemed to be pretty friendly especially the ones with the smaller parts in the show. Mr. Stamos was always acknowledging people with a wink and a smile. I was pleased with the way things went and felt that I would do well at this type of job. It didn’t hurt that Dave introduced me as his writer friend from Montana.
The end of the first day of shooting and I was tired but felt excited enough that I could have continued on for another several hours. As I pushed a cart to the rear of the truck, a black SUV pulled up next to me and the window slid down. John’s assistant handed me an autographed head shot of John Stamos. Scrawled across the front it read, “To Julia, Love & peace, John Stamos.” I was ecstatic that this big star had taken the time to sign a photo for my granddaughter. I was even more ecstatic that it was going to be a gift to her from her grandfather. The photo still hangs in her bedroom in SD. I am pretty sure that she will always cherish it.
There is little doubt that there are some real jerks in show business, so full of them selves that they would simply walk away from an opportunity to make a little girl so happy but I got the feeling that Mr. Stamos is genuine in his kindness. John Stamos is one of the good guys!

A footnote to this story: Before I could commit to working in LA full time, Dave and Sandie had been put in the position of being able to return to their home in northwest Montana. They basically were able to semi retire and be in the place they loved the most. We still work on our own projects together.

Randy J. Cole