Lessons learned on gravel roads

How I came to love pick up trucks so much probably lies in the way in which I learned to drive.  I grew up in eastern Iowa amongst some of the richest soil that God blessed Earth with.  Mile upon mile of mostly flat prairie that had been plowed under and replaced with hundreds of thousands (probably millions) of acres of corn and soybean fields interrupted by occasional rolling hills, all connected by gravel roads.  One afternoon while riding with my father on those gravel roads he stopped our truck, asked me to sit on his lap and while he controlled the accelerator pedal and brake, I steered.  It was a simpler time to be sure…in the late 1970’s and I was probably around eleven or twelve at the time.  At first I was terrified, not wanting this responsibility nor wanting to crash.  I learned how to counter-steer when the truck started to fishtail.  How to keep the tires in the “path” and not in the loose gravel along the sides of the road…and how to get over when you met a big old John Deere hauling a disk towards you.  While all of these lessons were unnerving I grew to love driving trucks.

“Truck One” was my Dad’s truck.  Fairly basic.  It had an AM/FM radio and shifter on the floor.  I drove this truck on my very first romantic encounter with a young lady from a neighboring town named Becky (the girl…not the town).  I won the girls affection and attention for a few short-lived months.  Truck 1.  Car 0.

Dad’s truck. I treated it like it was my own.

“Truck Two”.  I had turned sixteen years old and the first car of my own to drive was a pick up truck.  If I’m remembering it correctly it was a 1972 Chevy LUV.  Basic transportation.  Rusty.  Needed new brakes.  Manual stick shift and no power steering.  AM radio.  Would hold exactly three high school sophomores.  Dad and I bought it for $800 as a “project” for him and I to work on, grinding out the rust, filling the holes with Bondo putty or cutting sheet metal and riveting it to the body then spraying with gray primer.  After a $99 Earl Scheib paint job it was sold.  It was a safe and reliable means of transportation.  Truck Two was tough to drive and ride in and a pleasure to get rid of.

I found out quickly that I didn’t like sanding and grinding rust off of metal. I must have had a grayish pall during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

Here’s that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

 

“Truck Three” came in 1987.  I had my first full-time job. I was making $300 a week and was rolling in money.  Literally…rolling in dough.  Single and wanting a new, more reliable vehicle (one that would start when I wanted it to start) I traded in my 1975 Ford Maverick and bought a brand-spanking new Madza B2000 pick-up.  Small four cylinder engine, stick shift, heat, bench seat and no radio (though I added one in the months to come).  A short time later I took out the future honorable Constance Sue Ripley in this truck.  After the vows were spoken (and not to be taken back) the Mrs. admitted that she wasn’t exactly beholden to me at first glance. “You showed up wearing cowboy boots and driving a truck…”.  Its a good thing that I still had a full head of brown wavy hair back then or else I still might be single.  Dead serious.  Anyway…romance won out.  Truck 2.  Car 0.  I also took Connie to the hospital in this truck when Jordan was born.  Cold, dark and windy in the predawn hours of a December morn…bucking snowdrifts along the way.  Sturdy and reliable we eventually traded in Truck Three on a minivan for a growing family once Kid Two came along.

Truck Three was my first new “car”. No radio or AC. Bench seat. But it was all MINE

 

Truck Four was my Dad’s truck…again.  This time around it was for a drastically different reason.  My folks were moving off of the farm and didn’t need their truck.  A 1999 Ford F250 three-quarter ton with a V10 engine.  I bought it because we needed a another vehicle at our household.  Dad had kept it in awesome condition and it gave me considerable consolation after his death.  At times, while driving it, I could hear him speak.  I know that sounds stupid, but that truck helped me some days when I missed him a great deal.  I eventually sold that truck to my brother who still drives it to this day.

Truck Five was my nicest truck.  Purchased brand new in 2007.  It had many nice things that I didn’t have in most of my early trucks.  Air conditioning.  AM/FM radio with CD player.  Crew cab so that we could fit the whole family and go on vacations.  ABS brakes, power windows and door locks….all pretty standard stuff but for a guy who remembers using the hand crank to roll down his windows on a hot summer day it’s almost an extravagance to have something like power windows.  We moved all three daughters out of our house and to college in these last two trucks.  I started officiating basketball and baseball games in these two trucks.  I’ll tell you something….a truck makes a great umpire vehicle.  Just park it, drop down the tailgate, sit down and get your equipment on for the game.  I really loved Truck Five and didn’t see an end to its service to our family but things change.  We’re empty-nesters now.  No kids to ferry about (and no grand-kids on the foreseeable horizon…).  Warranties expire and things are going to need fixed or replaced eventually.  We usually keep our cars and trucks until they die or cost us too much to keep up.  I debated for several months on what I should do, if anything.  It seems to me that you’re either making a monthly payment on a new vehicle or paying to have the older one fixed.  This is why I reluctantly traded in Truck Five on a new car.

Ed…my 80+ year old neighbor said that my Silverado looked like a fire engine. What a great compliment!

Our new car has so many features in it that I may have to hire an eight year old to show me how to use them all correctly.  A six speaker music system that’s pared through Bluetooth with the ITunes on my phone (good-bye multiple CD’s in my armrest!!).  It has Sirius radio for several months!  Instead of a gear shifter it has a dial near my arm rest that I turn to select a gear.  It has a back up camera.  I can call folks while driving. It doesn’t have keys and I push a button to start it.  While the engine is half the size that I’m used too its turbo-charged and very responsive.  I actually have to “think” to use this car because its so simple to drive.  I’m not saying that its idiot-proof…but its a big step in that direction.  It’s also a really sharp looking blue.  Electric Blue….to be sure.

This car is too nice for me. Sporty and fast…it’ll take some time to get used to it. Maybe listening to some Johnny Cash while driving it will help

I’m going to be honest…I got a little misty when I turned my truck in.  While most folks view their cars and trucks as purely utilitarian objects I’ve come to love each and every one of my trucks.  Each time that I’ve driven them they take me back to a time in my life.  A first date.  Going to basketball practice.  A time in our garage working with Dad on a repair.  My last date as a charming single guy.  A trip to the hospital with a very pregnant and uncomfortable spouse.  Moving our kids around.  Road trips and vacations.   A time when I could still sit on my Father’s lap and steer his truck around those winding gravel roads of my childhood.  I miss many things in my life that shiny new buttons and whistles will never, ever replace.  I guess I’m still just that farm kid at heart.

The Ripley boys after a day of painting.  From left to right.  Brian, Dan, Me and Dad

 

 

On this hallowed eve…

Ahhh….turning 51 tomorrow.  What can I say?  My celebrity pals have been all over it.   Brad Pitt sent me a pair of mittens that he knitted himself (or so he says…).  Beyoncé dedicated a song to me at her last concert (or so she says…I wasn’t there.  Her concerts are past my bedtime) and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said that the first touchdown pass that he throws in tonight’s Super Bowl will be for me (he always says crap like that…).   Anyway…celebrity notables aside, here’s what’s on my mind as I turn 51:

  • You know that you’re getting older when the gifts that you receive become more and more about comfort and “socks” are mentioned as your number one item.  Instead my beloved bride bought me a really nice chair to sit my dainty derriere into whilst I sit in front of the computer, making funny for you folks.  Nicely played Connie Sue.
  • Failure isn’t fatal.  If I had come to this realization forty years earlier I can’t help but think just how different this life would be.  In high school I would have danced my ass off at homecoming and prom.  Ass….OFF.  I would have shot the ball constantly in basketball.  You can’t score if you don’t shoot.  I probably would have started down a different career path.  It’s not that I don’t like what I do now, it’s just maybe these talents would have been better suited elsewhere.  At the age of 51…its probably too late to try something different.  Everyday I’m around many young people. I encourage them. I let them know that while I am their boss and hold them accountable for their actions that they are valuable and there’s no such thing as a “perfect life”.  That todays culture doesn’t put enough importance on being: honest, trustworthy, friendly, moral, having a good work ethic and playing nice with others.  That you don’t have to agree with everyone. That life is oftentimes a grind of the boring and mundane.  That it’s up to you to make it happen for you.  And while I’m at it…making work fun and stable for those under my watch.  I really appreciate those tried and true stalwarts of my work day.
Failing...?

Failing…?

  • Are you like me?  Old enough to remember the days when you had to buy a rock groups whole album just to get the ONE song that you really liked?  Albums were like ten bucks or more, and unless the group was really good you had just paid ten dollars for one song.  That’s why I think ITunes is the bees knees.  $1.29 for one song.  Just a couplea clicks and its downloaded into your computer.  A few more clicks and its burned onto a blank DVD-R for the CD player in my old Chevy truck.  Quick survey…who has AC/DC AND the Statler Brothers in their ITunes library?  Anyone…?  Anyone…?  Just…me?  Figures.  The Class of 57 is GOLD people.  GOLD.
  • Yes, I will be getting back into the gym.  Officiating basketball doesn’t really keep a guy fit or build the upper body.  Goals set.  Failure looms.  Let’s see what happens.
  • At this age I’m probably more apt to call a spade a spade, a drama queen a drama queen and walk away from idiots rather than waste my time and energy.
  • I traveled to four different countries this past year.  Headed to Europe this year.  I’m pumped.  I’m also pumped to take a two-day road trip, camera in tow,  of the back roads of my beloved home state…Iowa.  I might even make it a three-day trip.
Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful....but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Hanging Lake is stunningly beautiful….but when your daughter asks you to do a pano selfie you jump ALL OVER IT!!

Rooms next to the river.  Nuff said

Rooms next to the river. Nuff said

  • I haven’t gotten any post-season officiating assignments.  There’s still time, I suppose, but I’m skeptical.  It’s a bitter pill to swallow when you do your best, get a glowing evaluation from a state clinician at a big time game, love the sport and work on it daily to get better only to be on the outside looking in…left out of the tournament.  I had a great season, nothing can diminish that.  I’m a good official, and so are the guys on our crew…but it wasn’t meant to be this season.  Failure isn’t fatal, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lesson to learn from it.  I just don’t know what that lesson is, yet.  I’ll have all off-season to mull it over.  All.  EightMonths. 
It could be a long offseason....

It could be a long offseason….

  • I’ll be published!!  A magazine contacted me about writing an article for them.  Dead serious!  I signed a contract and am getting paid to write.  I had my right-brained wife (who’s real anal about being smart…cause she is…) proof-read the article prior to submission.  She had me add a couple dozen comma’s and apostrophes.  Nuff said.
  • It’s a time of transition.  My old classmates are becoming grandparents.  Those big-haired, sexy vixens from the early nineteen eighties are now grannies…and are totally rocking it!!  I love seeing them with their grandkids on Facebook.  It’s also a time when some of my older friends are retiring.  What.  The.  Hell?!  I can’t have friends that old…can I?  Good for them.  AARP has been blowing up my phone trying to get me into their stable of older celebrities.  I’m not buying…for now.
Ooo...touch tone phones?!  Why didn't you SAY so?

Ooo…touch tone phones?! Why didn’t you SAY so?

  • This next year I’ll try to shore up some long time friendships that have gotten on the cool side of luke-warm.  You may never know what kind of journey someone’s on until you park their ass on a bar stool and buy them a beer, or three.

Thanks to all of you for your friendship, for reading along and commenting.  I count myself truly blessed to have each of you in my life.  God bless.

R

 

 

Rusty screws, new neighbors and a First Place Winner

Its been a dramatic and event-filled summer here at the Palatial Estates.  Here are some notables that didn’t get their own blog but warranted an honorable mention by yours truly.  We jump all around the spectrum today so I hope that you’re warmed up, ready to read and mentally fortified to take this all in.  YOU’RE WELCOME America.

  • This is my first vehicle.  A 1972 Chevy LUV pick-up truck that Dad and I bought together.  80% rust.  The only things that didn’t have rust on them were the brake peddle and steering wheel. Four cylinder engine.  Four on the floor which required the middle passenger to move their leg one way or the other when I shifted.  Crank windows.  Manual choke and steering.  The horn was a button on the dash beside the AM radio.  I installed a secondhand  8 track player and TWO 6X9 tri-axial speakers that rolled around behind the seat when I whipped kitties in the gravel.  IT.  WAS.  AWESOME!!  On a rare half-day from school me, Scott Carlson and Gary Kelting would squeeze into the cab and head off for Northpark Mall in the big city of Davenport.  Scott brought his boom box and a collection of cassettes.  Foreigner, The J. Geils Band, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts sprinkled in with some Back in Black by AC/DC.   Not good times…EPIC TIMES!!  I was 16…my buddies 15.  I didn’t know any better.  Remember that for later…
I found out quickly that I didn't like sanding and grinding rust off of metal. I must have had a grayish pale during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

Rusty but reliable I found out quickly that I didn’t like sanding or grinding rust off of metal. Dad taught me how to do light body work and basic mechanical things.  It was mine to fix up.  I must have had a grayish pallor during my sophomore year since I was constantly applying primer to this heap.

  • We tore off our old sunroom and put in its place a brand spanking new one.  We love it!  I christened it with a nap shortly after its completion.  Its also good for drinking coffee in during the morning and beer in the evenings.  Who knew?!
  • We tore down our old tool shed, displacing hundreds of crickets and spiders, and had a new one put up.  As a result I had to get a tetanus shot after being assaulted by a piece of plywood with a rusty screw protruding from it.  The nurse commented several times that she’d never heard a scream as shrill as mine.  True story.
  • We’re getting new neighbors for only the second time in fourteen years.  Our neighborhood doesn’t turn over that much.   When you live next to eye-candy like me you won’t want to leave.  Just sayin’.
  • I have just about everything ready for my Halloween costume.  On Monday October 31st you’ll see it on Facebook and remark “he apparently has too much time on his hands…” or you’ll high-five the nearest person shouting “THAT’S WHAT I’M FREAKIN’ TALKIN’ ABOUT!!”  I play to win.  Everyone else is dressing for first runner-up.
Here's that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

Here’s that same 1972 Chevy LUV after A LOT of sanding, Bondo and a $99 Earl Scheib paint job. Firecracker Red.

  • I kept a 1972 Eisenhower silver dollar in my pocket for the last two baseball seasons.  For most of my Little League and 3 on 3 basketball league games the initial possession is decided by a coin flip.  Hundreds of games have been started with the flip of that coin.  Hundreds of hours spent in my pocket during the last two summers.  I gave it to a young girl on the final night of my season who had volunteered to keep score at her brothers games that night.  I’m guessing that she was around the sixth grade.  Her brother and his teammates gave her crap all game.  She took it like a pro and didn’t let them get to her. As I gave it to her I told her how many games I had started with it and that I wanted her to have it for helping out all night long. Her face lit up as she whispered “wow”.  I hope that she keeps it.
My second car. A 1977 Ford Maverick. Did you know that Mavericks OUTSOLD Ford Mustangs for a few years? True story.

This is my second ride, a 1977 Ford Maverick. Automatic transmission, power steering and two more cylinders but still no good radio to blast ZZ Top or Billy Idol until $240 later and a trip to Radio Shack.  Did you know that Mavericks OUT SOLD Ford Mustangs for a few years? True story.

  • After the 2015 high school baseball season I made a decision to take a season away from working varsity baseball games.  I was getting home at 11:30 at night, getting up at 5 the next morning and repeating the process.  It also seemed like every night one of the coaches chose to act like a prick.  I decided to step away and only work USSSA kids baseball games and local sub-varsity games.  It went so well that I’m getting away from varsity baseball altogether.  The money is about the same while the time away from home is much less.  A final note about that high school season in which the coaches were edgy…I received two post-season recomendations…which is a nice acknowledgement that I was, in fact, doing a good job.  Go suck an egg Coach!
$40 of pinstripes and blue spray paint, along with some free wire hubcaps and the old Mav is looking slightly less "Church Lady-ish". That's Scott Carlson in the background being Scott Carlson. The Maverick got me through high school and college.

$40 worth of pinstripes and blue spray paint, along with some free wire hubcaps and the old Mav is looking slightly less “Church Lady-ish”. That’s Scott Carlson in the background being Scott Carlson. The Maverick got me through high school and college.

  • I realized that I sound great singing any Dwight Yoakam, Trace Adkins, George Strait or Diamond Rio song while driving my truck.  I’m quite talented that way.
  • I’m part of the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization, pairing men and women with at risk kids. (I’m a “Brother” in case you’re scoring at home).  My little brother comes from a love-filled, single parent home.  Dad’s not in the picture, hasn’t been for quite a while.  My Brother is quiet.  We’ve been together almost two years. He doesn’t know some of the basic “guy” stuff so I’ve set some goals that instead of just going to movies and such we’d work on some of those things…basic “dude” stuff.   Today we washed and waxed my truck but not before turning on some classic rock on the garage radio (its a rule…you gotta have the tunes rockin‘)  then grilled some burgers with him setting up the briquettes, doing the seasoning and grilling.  He’s almost fourteen, stands close to six feet tall.  Too old to be a child.  Too young to be a man.   I made him work.  I made him learn.  He had fun.  Summers drawing to a close very soon.  I hope to get in some more stuff with him before its gone, though today…today was a good day.
This is Logan. He's my Little Brother. Today he waxed my truck (loved it). Grilled us burgers (loved it) and made my nine year old Silverado a lot shiner.

This is Logan. He’s my Little Brother. Today he waxed my truck (loved it). Grilled us burgers (loved it) and made my nine year old Silverado a lot shiner (which I love…)

I'd imagine that there's some coy way of using waxing old trucks and manual labor towards helping a young person become a better person...but I'm not the guy to figure that one out.

Old Red’s lookin’ sharp

I like shiny. Shiny is good.

I like shiny. Shiny is good.

  • Did I mention that I taught him how to clean up chrome rims?  If not…here’s proof that I did.  I figured that since I enjoyed cleaning up my parents car and truck when I was Logan’s age that he might just like it too if someone taught him.  He did.

I’d imagine that a better writer would find some coy and thoughtful way to wrap up todays blog, using an analogy to mirror the similarities between working, learning, having fun and maturing from kid to adult….but I’m not that guy.  I only wanted to help out a kid like the many  folks that have helped me out somewhere along my way, getting me to where I am today. Blessed I am.  A blessing I try to be.

Until next time, God bless you and yours.

R

 

INNER NERD=Colorado

Day three of our vacation had us leave Nebraska, scurry through Wyoming and into Colorado.  Once we got close to Denver the inevitable question came up from Connie (wait for it….) “anyone want to listen to some John Denver?”  Dead serious…we’re big John Denver fans.  In the mid 1970’s when Connie and I were growing up John Denver was HUGE.  He was at the zenith of his career.  TV specials.  Concerts selling out.  Movies.  His hit music being played and we readily listened.  Unfortunately John was killed in a plane crash.  I can’t help but think that his career would have had a wonderful resurgence like so many other performers of his day.  Back to the present we hooked up Connie’s phone to the vans audio system and jammed out to Rocky Mountain High, Poems, Prayers & Promises, Back Home Again and many others.  I’m as serious as a heart-attack (again…NERD ALERT!!!)…most in our van were singing along with the lyrics as our girls grew up with Denver being played in our home.  With God as my witness I got misty singing along to Back Home Again and Rocky Mountain High having to stop a number of times to clear my throat.

As with any other vacation involving driving, we ran into road construction.  This one was no different.

I WISH that we were going 45. The only thing that could be worse is...

I WISH that we were going 45. The only thing that could be worse is…

...going 2 miles per hour. Thank God this only lasted about five minutes.

…going 2 miles per hour. Thank God this only lasted about five minutes.

We arrived at our destination, a cabin outside of Glenwood Springs Colorado in mid-afternoon.  Connie had rented a cabin for us, it was someone else’s home at other times of the year.  I didn’t know what to expect.

The living room

The living room

Master bedroom

Master bedroom

Loft

Loft

It had room enough for all of us, a full kitchen, garage and (wait for it….)

...an outhouse!! Its leftover from when the former property owner used this rural area as his families picnic area.

…an outhouse!! Its leftover from when the former property owner used this rural area as his families picnic area.

The caretaker of the home informed us that there had been a “small bear” in the area and to “be aware” when outside.  “You’ll probably never see anything…the mountain lions and bears have all moved up….but still, be aware…”.  Well ladies and gentlemen…when you tell Rich Ripley that there’s the possibility that a bear could still be lingering in his general vicinity Rich Ripley is at “Scaredy-Cat Level 3.75” on a scale of 5 with 5 being the highest level.  Rational thought is given some credence, all while said rational thought is being had while sitting inside the cabin whilst drinking a Coors Light, but when I ventured outside around eleven one night to see the stars (they’re spectacular in the mountains) I was marveling at the cosmos when I heard a twig snap down by the creek (roughly thirty feet away) and bolted safely back into the cabin within a few seconds…covering a stretch of gravel driveway in flip flops like a sprinter competing for gold at the Olympics (who was being chased by a bear…).  True story.  Thank God I made it back inside safely and lived to tell the tale.  Stupid bear, mountain loin, skunk, mouse….

Anyway…we have a tradition in our family of leaving at the break of dawn (or earlier) to get to our main activity for the day.  I’m not lying.  Whatever it is that we want to do, we’re usually one of the first ones at the gate, fence, building, ticket office, Ranger station, restaurant, subway, movie theater, airport whatever.  We’ve never been late. Even with reservations we tend to leave early in case we have a flat tire (its never happened in 27+ years of marriage) mechanical breakdown (again…its never happened in 27+ years of marriage) or heavy traffic (see “its never happened in 27+ years of marriage).  Oh sure…we’ve had flat tires or mechanical issues on the way home (twice in 27+years)….but never getting there.  Its our Lou Gehrig-like streak that cannot be broken unless one of us dies, then the remaining spouse will dutifully drag the others dead ass to the event saying “I got dressed and ready for this and you’re not going to ruin it!!”

Today’s activity was white-water rafting.  We had done this nine years earlier on a different river so it was nothing new to us, but we were still looking forward to it.  Our guide was a twenty-two year old, cute, tan and engaging young college student named Raleigh.  Here are some snapshots of our adventure.  You get to enjoy them without getting soaked by ice-cold mountain water, or having your youngest daughter ogle the guide.

Having fun with paddles and life preservers

Having fun with paddles and life preservers

Where'd we go?!?!

Where’d we go?!?!

So far...so good!!

So far…so good!!

OH CRAP!! ANOTHER ONE!!

OH CRAP!! ANOTHER ONE!!

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

We were all over those rapids like a hobo on a ham sandwich

The CREW (notice our guide mugging for the shot)

The CREW (notice our guide mugging for the shot)

Cold, wet and exhausted we retired to our cabin for the remainder of the day.

What's to do at the end of a fun and exciting day? That's easy...pile into Moms bed and tell stories. I snapped this photo in the reflection of a nearby mirror.

What’s to do at the end of a fun and exciting day? That’s easy…pile into Moms bed and tell stories. I snapped this photo in the reflection of a nearby mirror.

That’s Sunday and Monday wrapped up in 914 words.  The week gets more interesting with a trip to CERTAIN DEATH, wildlife (damn bears…) and more mugging for the camera (I told the girls to quit screwing around when the camera was out…but they take after one of their parents a little too closely.  I wonder who?

Thank you for coming along with us.

Take care and God bless.

R

 

 

RICH RIPLEY…TWO DECADES WORTH OF PUBERTY 1967-1987

We begin todays blog in 1966 where I was added to the bottom of the batting line-up as Richard Matthew Ripley, the third and youngest son of Charlie and Marcie Ripley….Davenport Iowa.

An early record of me and my brothers. Brian's looking at Mom like "...do we have to keep him...?"

An early record of me and my brothers. Brian’s looking at Mom like “…do we have to keep him…?”

I moved from the city to the country at the tender age of two (not for political, religious nor financial reasons) to just outside historic New Liberty Iowa…a town that had exactly one bank, one library, one volunteer fire station and two bars with a handful of faithful Christians sprinkled in for good measure. I brought my parents and brothers with me at the time as I felt it’d be unfair to leave them to fend for themselves in the city.  Nothing of consequence happened until first grade when I set our barn on fire.  You read that correctly…I set a barn on fire.  I blame the school system for not teaching us practical, if not life-altering, stuff such as “don’t play with matches in a barn full of straw since straw burns almost as fast as rocket fuel” or “you shouldn’t pee on an electric fence, it’ll emotionally and mentally scar you for life” or “how to shoot a BB gun without hitting window glass.”  THAT kind of information would have been INVALUABLE to a kid like yours truly who had LOADS of time on his hands.  I found out about this time that humor could potentially save me from a good old fashioned spanking.  I was across my Mother’s lap, butt up, clinching for the punishment that I deserved to get as her hand was descending upon me when I started shouting “THE DEVIL MADE ME DO IT!!” My brothers fell off their chairs laughing as I continued with my defense and Mom started laughing too…so much in fact that she couldn’t finish whipping me.  We all had a good laugh and I made a mental note to have a one-liner handy for most occasions AND that I doubt that I’d get that same leniency twice in one lifetime from a deserved spanking.

Dan, Brian and I. Look at the size of that forehead. (note to self...wear bow-ties more often)

Dan, Brian and I. Look at the size of that forehead. (note to self…wear bow-ties more often)

I included the photo below if for no other reason that its the only photograph of me without a bald spot.  Just look at it!  Soft brown hair.  Straight and smooth….just like the man writing this crap.

1975 was a good year for hair for yours truly. Dead serious...it got wavy and curly just weeks after this photo was taken at Peace Church Bennett Iowa

1975 was a good year for hair for yours truly. Dead serious…it got wavy and curly just weeks after this photo was taken at Peace Church Bennett Iowa

My circles of influence ran like this:

  1. Family & dog
  2. Friends at school
  3. (repeat)

Here’s the Ripley clan in 1975.  I’m arm in arm with my cousin Doug (before he became known as Dirty Doug of Mercer County Illinois).  Doug got me into a lot of trouble, but nothing that killed either one of us…but there’s still time.

1975-1976 Ripley's Galore!!

1975-1976 Ripley’s Galore!!

Here’s why I don’t ride motorcycles.  I rode Craig “Coonie” Conrad’s Honda minibike directly into the side of school lunch lady (Gladys Lynch’s)  grass green Pontiac LeMans in the spring of 1977.  Fourteen stitches later I didn’t have the same “need for speed” as just an hour before.  Go figure.

Fun. Fast. Not entirely idiot-proof

Fun. Fast. Not entirely idiot-proof

Here’s a fun fact for all of you Ripley Minions out there.  How many kids did I graduate with in the class of 1984 from Bennett Community High School?  Twenty-four.  Just twenty-four kids.  Twelve boys.  Twelve girls.  Most of us had been together since Kindergarten, while others had been added to the mix along the way…and by the fall of 1983 we were pretty much sick of seeing each other.  I was an average student and average athlete. The girls in our class either dated guys from other schools or guys that had already graduated (looking back our guys didn’t really give the girls a deep gene pool to draw from…honestly) while the guys in my class casually dated the lower grades or out of town as well.  I remember wanting to get the hell out of Bennett so badly that I didn’t really say goodbye to anyone.  I got my diploma and left.  I wasn’t mad…just ready for a new scene with different people.  I can’t speak for my classmates…but I think that the feeling was mutual.

Graduation May 1984 Bennett Community High.

Graduation May 1984 Bennett Community High.

It wasn’t all bad.  I worked detasseling corn for three summers as well as baling hay and straw.  I got a job working at a truck stop restaurant my senior year where I found out quickly that I didn’t care for working over a steam table nor fryers. I moved to Cedar Rapids, about an hour away from New Liberty, for college.  I’d make it back to Bennett and New Liberty through the years, but only to visit my parents, occasionally running into former classmates with polite conversations.

It really didn’t happen that way…or did it?  Regardless I’ve made it back to Bennett for several class reunions and had a blast.  Flat out…my former classmates are just good people.  I wish that I could be around them more.  They entertain me.  They remind me of what was, stories either not heard or forgotten.  They’re doing well and I’m happy to see them when I do. Truth be told…its kinda hard for a group of balding, heavy-set middle-aged men who grew up in our school to be pompous and our female counterparts are looking good with solid careers and good kids.

College was just like high school but with more beer and a lot more idle time.  I met a guy in the fall of ’84 who would become my best friend…hell…he’s like a brother to me.  We’ve been drunk together, gotten in trouble together (those two most often go hand in hand) gone to rock concerts,  been in each others weddings, watched as each has raised their families, worked with each other (I hired Dave one time, and he got me to sell used cars with him for five months…so we’re even) shared concerns over our parents, drank more beer and conversed about plans for possible world domination, etc, etc.  As I scanned through the photos from this period of my life I chuckled at how many photos included Dave.  A quick but not complete summary.

Me and Dave in Des Moines 1986

Me and Dave in Des Moines 1986

Dave and me in class at Kirkwood. Look at my hair. I'd give a weeks pay to have that hair again for a few days.

Dave and me in class at Kirkwood. Look at my hair. I’d give a weeks pay to have that hair again for a few days.

Jeff Hopkins, Dave and I on Jeff's birthday at Dori's apartment. May 1986.

Jeff Hopkins, Dave and I on Jeff’s birthday at Dori’s apartment. May 1986.

I graduated from college in May of 1986 at age 19. During this time I had joined a company that hired me and would transfer me to Mason City Iowa, roughly four hours from my family, my friends and all the fun that I had grown used to.  I was to be alone, working 70-80 hours week in a place that I didn’t like, with people who were ANCIENT (they were in their late 30’s and early forties).  It was terrible and probably the best thing for me at that stage of my life…getting me out of my comfort zone and making a career.  I was miserable. I was lonely.  That was 1986-1987.  In the fall of 1987 things started to get better.  Mason City had become my home.  I was 21 and things weren’t as bad as they were.  I was coming into my own.  1988 started like ’87 ended…quietly and without anything going on…then “she” came into my life wearing baggy sweatpants and puffy winter parka and life as I knew it would be forever changed.

I’ve been blessed to be born into the family that I’m in.  I’ve been blessed with good health, stunning good looks, a quick wit and a humbleness unrivaled.  She…wouldn’t buy any of it.  Tune in next week.

God bless…

R

 

 

 

Head-banging aside…I feel pretty good about myself

The consumer affairs hotline here at RIPLEY INDUSTRIES has been a lightning rod for the past 28 days…since its been 29 DAYS since my last post.  Sorry minions….not much going on upstairs if you know what I mean.  Here’s what I’ve scraped together for this week.

  • This past Saturday night I got into a head-butting match with my nightstand.  It was a draw, but it drew blood and made a tidy little gouge just below my hairline (I don’t even have bangs to cover it with).  I can’t even make up a story like me and the wife were in the throes of passion and I bounced off the bed and hit it then.  It was just me bending over to plug in my charger cord for my phone and WHACK!!  Stars.  I saw plenty of…..stars.
  • My co-worker is in charge of posting stuff about our company on Facebook and she’s busier than a one legged man in a butt-kicking contest (that’s busy!!).  I’ve offered to help and now have the credentials to post events and such on behalf of our company.  My first (and to this point…only) post was about…wait for it….PUMPKINS!!  TWENTY-SIX THOUSAND POUNDS OF PUMPKINS!!  Which I unloaded myself.  With the idea of promoting that fact I took photos and wrote a little joke about pumpkins and VIOLA!!  Posted!  The day after I posted I was handed the guidelines for our social media posting.  Turns out I broke three rules.  No ALL CAPS (but I LOVE ALL CAPS).  No excessive punctuation (BUT I MAKE POINTS WITH EXCESSIVE EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!!) And last but not least….post no “irony”.  People do not like irony.  Let me be clear….I COMMUNICATE IN IRONY!!!  I MAJORED IN IRONY!!  So yeah…I didn’t get my creditials yanked…yet….but I’ll need to follow the rules set in place for the good of all.  BTW…our customers will be able to vote for our employees who are dressed up for our Halloween Contest via Facebook.  Let me just say….this year…I’m IN IT TO WIN IT.  Just sayin’ that I’ll rock the whole costume contest in 2015.  Take note Mark your calendars.
  • We’re into Year Two of being empty-nesters and we still have  Blues Clues and Pocahontas kids dinner plates in our cabinet.  We’re keeping them out for daily use….why?
  • I’m cautiously approaching a task this morning that will involve tools.  I wish that I could say “yeah…I’m gonna pop the hood on my ’73 Chevelle SS and change out the headers on it…blah blah blah then I’m planning on blah blah blah…” all the while sounding capable and mechanically inclined…but that’s just not me.  I’m changing out the tonneau cover on my truck.  It’ll involve pliers, and a smallish wrench…which I’ll still find a way to gouge myself with somehow…someway.  I remember when I was 16 or 17, using a table saw in woodshop class at good old Bennett Community High School…where they let farm kids and the like use dangerous equipment….and I came very close to becoming known as “Lefty” Ripley.  Lesson learned….I’m still anxious around “cutty things” rotating at a high speed.  BTW…I was working on constructing a nightstand that fateful day in woodshop that I had drawn up using one inch thick walnut.  It weighs around seventy pounds (did I mention that its three and a half feet tall?) and I still use it for storage in our garage.  If I had banged my head on that on Saturday night I might not be with you today….so count your blessings….cause I know how much that I matter to you all.
  • Life’s kinda boring sometimes, ain’t it?  You can thank God Himself for that.  I see all of those refugee’s flooding Europe from their war-torn homes and I think to myself “God help them”.  I see parents carrying their little ones.  Folks desperate for answers.  Desperate for shelter.  Desperate for food, warmth and justice.  It makes me worry….worry for them, worry for us….that we’ve grown jaded and perhaps callous to the plight of those across the ocean from us…and even in our own communities.  While I work in an environment where I see folks casually manipulate our food stamp programs to fit their needs I see others fall through the cracks and go without.  Its troubling for someone who has Matthew 25 verse 35-40 engrained into my heart.  What I’ve chosen to do is buy items not normally covered by food stamps and to donate those items to places like the women’s and children’s shelter in my town, or to a mission that operates in a poor neighborhood.  Items like toilet paper, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, feminine hygiene and laundry detergent.  Or sometimes I’ll donate food and clothes….those places are just happy to get the help.  I walk away wondering if I could do more.   I bet that I could. 

matthew 25

Have a great and blessed week my friends,

God bless…

R

 

Insert Extremely Exciting Title of Blog….HERE!!

If you’re like me (a middle-aged man with male pattern baldness) or maybe not so much…it’s the start of what I’d normally refer to as “fall”. School has started again with kids shuffling off to their respective schools while I nostalgically reminisce about this summer that’s now streaked past us at breakneck speed. Back in the day…when everyone only had around three or four TV channels of which to get their news, sports and entertainment I’d anxiously await the release of the newest TV shows on the major networks. There were no VCR’s, DVR’s, DVD’s, Net Flix or network websites where you could watch your favorite show if you missed it, you’d just hope that your buddy could retell the entire episode of the Six Million Dollar Man accurately enough to get you through until the reruns came on over the holiday break. Oh how they’d tempt us all summer long with their commercials of funny new sitcoms and dramas. Who could forget that hot little number Kristy McNichol in the show Family? (As it turns out I didn’t need to worry about courting her…) or the wacky goings on in Milwaukee with the crew from Happy Day’s (Joni didn’t trip my trigger…too whiny) but the good folks over at Three’s Company…well….who’s trigger didn’t get tripped by Suzanne Sommers?! 

It’s been a pretty good summer, with most of it being documented right here, on the BLOG SITE of the CENTURY, but if you missed it….here’s a quick recap:

  • We vacationed in New York City where I didn’t get murdered, which I have going for me. We had a great time and my new favorite mixed drink is a rum side car.
  • I, once again, captured first place in the “49 and holding” category for shrieking the loudest once I hit the ice cold mid-June waters at the local swimming pool.
  • My brother Brian gave me a CD of some old color slides from the late 1950’s and middle 60’s of our family, that he’s been working on for some time. It’s pretty cool. I found a photo of my Grandpa Wagner especially moving since I really never got to know him AND my mother told me that when she watched a video of me screwing around and using a few swear words that I look and sound just like him. Who knew?! Not this guy!!
Grandpa Wagner with my brother Brian.

Grandpa Wagner with my brother Brian.

 

  • I also found these photos of my brothers and (eventually) them holding me extremely funny.
My brothers Brian, on the left, and Dan.  Just look at them...bored out of their minds...just hoping for something like a puppy or pony to come along in their lives. They got me instead.

My brothers Brian, on the left, and Dan. Just look at them…bored out of their minds…just hoping for something like a puppy or pony to come along in their lives. They got me instead.

OH JOY!!  A puppy!!!  Er...little brother!!  I must have been a "biter" because Brian is keeping his mitts off me...which he couldn't do later in my life....I still have the bruises to prove it!!

OH JOY!! A puppy!!! Er…little brother!! I must have been a “biter” because Brian is keeping his mitts off me…which he couldn’t do later in my life….I still have the bruises to prove it!!

And last but not least…I jotted down these notes while at the pool for the last time before it closed for the season.

“The pool is the place to be today. In just a few short days these kids will be sitting in classrooms, trying in vain to remember what was on their frontal lobe last June. The pools will fall silent and empty…becoming the graveyards of summertime fun as falling leaves skip across their decks. I spy a local basketball player who has a posse of little twerps laughing as they ascend up his legs and onto his torso before almost making it up to his shoulders before he flicks them off into the water…squealing with delight midair before splashing down into the coolness of the water on this hot August day. He’s being very patient with them as he sends the last one airborne before moving onto deeper waters. Later on a little boy, all of seven years old, struts by two ten year old girls and gives one of them a paused “stink eye”. While one is horrified her friend laughs and gives chase to the blonde haired Casanova for his brazen flirt.   I try to read a book that I brought with me but the high comedic drama that’s unfolding mere feet from the end of my lounger is too much for me to ignore.

Later I spy a guy who’s obviously unaware that I’m the alpha male at this pool and struts right past me. He’s muscular (the show off). He’s tanned a dark bronze (again…showing off). His oiled physique glistens in the sun. (did I mention that he’s showing me up?) He’s shaved every square inch of his visible body (and probably more) so he’s not nearly as hideous as the rest of us middle-aged guys at the pool. His waist is small without the additional spare tire of blubber that the rest of us idiots have been purchasing on a thirty year installment plan of beer, burgers and potato chips….and he’s wearing a tiny European swimsuit and ROCKIN’ IT!! My subordinates look at me curiously to see what my next move will be since my kingdom is being challenged by someone who obviously has the will power to not eat fatty foods, exercises hourly, shaves constantly and smells as good as he looks . I weigh my options, literally….I think that since I outweigh him that I’ll sneak up behind him once in the pool and proceed with dunking him several times…..in the hopes of retaining my role as APHLA MALE or until the 17 year old lifeguard asks me to leave as I just dunked her dad. Its like my Daddy used to tell me “an alpha male has to do what an alpha male has to do.”

The public address announcer states that the residents of Willow Run Retirement Center should make their way to their shuttle as it’ll leave soon. Dozens of octogenarians shuffle towards the exit as one of them, Agnes, looks back over her shoulder at me and yells “See ya in 2016 Richie Boy!!” as she scoots towards her bus with her walker. A strong melancholy washes over me as I realize that there’s no one left to apply the multiple layers of cocoa butter to my back, shoulders and thighs quite like Agnes could. I pout quietly until I notice the sheer delight of a two year old girl jumping into her grandmother’s arms who’s in waist deep water. The grandmother lets the little girl submerge if only for a second before lifting her quickly out of the water as both laugh and giggle at their game. The joy and exuberance on the grandmothers face makes me smile though I cannot tell who’s having more fun…but I’d bet that it’s the older of the two. If we could only harness the excitement, the energy, the shrieks of laughter, the smell of suntan lotion and the feel of a hot summer day while cicadas serenade us from the leafy canopy and BOTTLE IT for later use in January and February…we’d be quite wealthy.

A moment or two later the same seven year old blonde boy is teasing two high school girls who have taken a seat along the pools edge and have their legs in the water. He closes down from behind them and slowly…cautiously touches one of them on the shoulder before scampering away. This goes on for several minutes as the beauties talk to each other before one of them catches the scamp and wraps him up in her arms and lays him across her lap and tickles him. He half-heartedly attempts to get away before the other knockout latches onto him and hugs him closely to herself and denies his attempts at escape. With these two lovely tanned beauties fawning over him gives me the impression that he is EXACTLY where he wanted to be in the first place. The high school boys siting across the pool witnessing this spectacle sit slack-jawed wondering how they could ever weasel that kind of attention from the fairer of the two sexes. Good luck with that boys…maybe you’ll learn how in school. As for me…I’m going home. Its been a great summer….and I hope yours has been too.

Thanks for reading. God Bless!

R

My secrets out…and Mrs. Ripley isn’t happy about it!!

I know.  I know.  Its been a month since my last blog so just calm down, grab a refreshing drink of your choice and hunker down for these five tidbits. Odds and ends from this end of Iowa.

  • It’s springtime here at the Palatial Estates and Worldwide Headquarters of Ripley Industries and I have a couplea days off.  I’m cooking this evening which means that Ol’ Sparky (our grill) is going to be fired up, thick juicy hamburgers will be charbroiled, topped with cheddar cheese and strips of bacon.  That alone is reason to celebrate but I’ve kicked it up a notch with potato salad and baked beans as quality side dishes.  A funny story about my baked beans goes something like this:  I’d volunteer to make some baked beans for reunions, parties etc. and literally everyone would tell me how great they were (this is a true story).  I was known in my family as “the guy who makes the BEST baked beans.”  My wife, the honorable and trustworthy Mrs. Richard Ripley, would make baked beans for us following the same recipe in the cook book but they weren’t as good.  She’d ask me if I did anything differently from the recipe and, in response,  I’d cock my eyebrows,  turn my head at an angle and reply “…like what?”  This went on for several years until one night she got all sexy-upped (more than usual is all I’m sayin’) lipstick, perfume…plying me with alcohol and her womanly ways and purred into my ear…”…are you sure that there’s nothing else that you put into your baked beans honey-bunny?”  Now normally I’m like a mountain…devoid of any emotions and cannot be swayed to betray secrets to even the prettiest girl but as Mrs. Ripley ran her fingers through my hair and told me how much she liked all of my jokes (even the knock-knock ones) and said that she was thinking pretty strongly of baking a cake later in the night (chocolate with lots of chocolate frosting) I casually replied “well….you know, about that baked bean recipe…I’ll usually use twice the amount of brown sugar in it than the recipe says to use…but I don’t really add anything to it and about that cake…when do you think it’ll be? “ “YOU USE THREE CUPS OF BROWN SUGAR IN ONE CASSEROLE DISH OF BAKED BEANS?!?!” Mrs. Ripley belted out at the top of her lungs. “Yep…been doin’ it for years…so about the cake…”  Mrs. Ripley suddenly remembered that her favorite TV show was about to start, shot me the stink-eye and left the room.  I’m still waiting for that cake to show up and coincidently….her baked beans are now the equal to mine.  Just wait until she finds out what I’ve been adding to her wine!
  • I used to work a part time job at a home for adult men who were mentally handicapped.  As part of my job I’d cook for them, help them with their laundry and for the guys who needed more help…give them baths.  At first…it was extremely awkward to do some of the things that I did as part of that job (imagine giving a person your own age a shower…washing them)  The guys, eight of them, had different levels of independence and communication skills.  A couplea of the guys couldn’t talk at all but they could do basic things.  I came to love those guys for who they were, not for who they weren’t,  their love for people and excitement for life was uninhibited.  If they liked you, they loved you.  This past weekend I worked the Special Olympics as a basketball referee and had a blast.  Two particular moments pretty much sums up the whole day for me.  I was working one game of adult men.  It was a pretty up tempo game when I called a foul on one of the players.  He jogged over to me and I thought that he was going to argue the call but instead said “Yep…it was me!!  As soon as I heard your whistle I thought to myself ‘I’ll bet that’s on me!”  My number is 58.  Sorry about that!!” and then jogged away.  I’ve worked in the neighborhood of 400+ games in the past three years and can honestly say that no player has ever said that to me!!  Priceless.  Earlier on, two different teams, one from a hearing impaired school and another from a community of kids who would commonly be referred to as “special-ed”, without physical handicaps, played each other.  It was hard, if only because the deaf team didn’t understand the game nor its rules.  We didn’t call any violations on them…they were simply that bad at the game.  We didn’t call anything on the other team either since it wouldn’t have been fair.  The deaf team was being beaten soundly, at the end of the first quarter it was 16-0.  The winning teams coach then had her team do something that I’ve never seen before….when her team got the ball they walked it up the floor and then waited for the deaf team’s players to catch up, take their defensive positions and then they would start their offense.  The better team let the deaf team shoot the ball unguarded, over and over again, getting rebound after rebound.  With just a few seconds left the deaf teams point guard, who for the previous three-quarters had just dribbled and dribbled and dribbled without ever making any attempt to dribble it towards the basket took her dribble from the half court line, to the far sideline to the baseline into the lane and tossed up a shot as time expired.  The ball kissed the backboard and swished through the net as the horn ended the game.  I hammered down the “count the basket” signal and both benches erupted, jumping up and down, high-fiving each other and congratulating one another.  It. Was. BEAUTIFUL.  The final score was something like 34-6, though my officiating partner for the day summed it up best.  “I always finish my year working this tournament.  I’m worn out.  The season is long.  The coaches, fans and players and all of their complaining and stupid stuff makes me want to quit….but then I come here and see these kids and adults having so much fun, playing, sharing and laughing….it rejuvenates me.”  Well said brotherWell said.  I hope that they ask me back next year.
  • If you’re old enough you remember the days that if you liked a particular song your choices were: buy the album, buy the 45 OR hope that you could record it off of the radio onto a cassette (which I had the rare and unique ability to do though the stupid DJ would still be giving you the weather report right up to and sometimes over the first few words of the song).  It kinda sucked.  You might only like a song or two off of a particular album but you’d have to buy the WHOLE album to get the two or three songs that you liked.  That’s why I liked K-Tel records so much, you’d get five or six really good songs mixed in with a few less crappy songs.  I owned several K-Tel albums as a kid and that’s probably the reason I’m a HUGE fan of ITunes.  This afternoon I downloaded around a dozen songs from the likes of Donna Summer, Neil Young, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Cosby Stills and Nash for about the same amount of money that an album would’ve cost me.
  • As avid readers of Rich Ripley already know….I’ve helped out at a Christian Men’s retreat entitled “A Walk to Emmaus” on several occasions.  The good folks who oversee this area of our state either lost their minds or lost a bet and decided to ask me if I’d be the Lay Director on this fall’s retreat.  I’ve accepted and am excited to see how this all works out.  I’m in charge of lining up a team of around thirty guys to help other guys over the course of a three day retreat.  Its a huge responsibility (God’s involved…you know…so I’ll have to behave as much as I can…which isn’t long) so my spiritual juices are flowing.  I’ve never made any secret about the fact that I’m probably the least holy person in the room, though I’ve been blessed with the ability to speak in front of groups…usually with a fair amount of humor involved….about my faith walk.  (keep us all in your prayers is all I’m sayin’)
  • Baseball season is just around the corner.  I’ve been reading the rule book and reviewing what I think that I’ll need to know.  Meetings and clinics are planned.  I’ve got varsity games already booked and my equipment bag opened up and gone through.  Probably the neatest thing going right now is that my umpire mask is being used by an eight year old for a play that he’s in at school.  I should’ve warned the little whipper-snapper that us umpires are regular “babe-magnets” and those third grader girls will be chasing him endlessly during recess.  Poor little fella….I hope that he gets caught just as soon as he wants to be…which may be ten or fifteen years too early for his mother.  (Melanie…tell Gabe to wipe all of that lipstick off of my mask before returning it….Mrs. Ripley insists.)

Have a great week and God Bless!! Your humble and capable leader…. R

Its the year of “50 Eve”

I turned 49 earlier today in case you weren’t awoken to the sound of the huge display of fireworks over the city at midnight, nor the huge marching band parading up my street serenading the three block area surrounding the Palatial Estates and you probably didn’t hear the polka band that had set up shop in our kitchen (unless you were one of the many well-wishers lined up on the sidewalk and driveway…awaiting your chance to say something catchy and memorable on this…Friday February 6th….the day of my 49th birthday and the beginning of the year now known as “50 Eve” for yours truly.  If you didn’t make it by now….don’t sweat it….you’ve got 364 days left to surprise me with something.

My 48th year went pretty darn well, honestly.  Here are a few highlights:

  • Oldest daughter got a career job that she loves.
  • Another year of marriage to my smokin’ hot wife Connie Sue.  I continue to delight her so much that her brain sometimes confuses “joy” with “utter distain” at the sounds,  scents and sights that a middle-aged man like yours truly “puts out there” for her enjoyment.  Silly girl.
  • I umpired varsity baseball…a goal of mine that was met.
  • I received a post-season basketball tournament game assignment just a few days ago.  That was a huge goal of mine and, Thank God, with the help of my mentor and officiating partners…got that recognition! (in only my third year for gosh sakes!)
  • We continue to celebrate my Mom’s good health. She’s still full of piss and vinegar in her 80′s…the stubborn ol’ German that she is.  We love her to death.
  • Connie and I are now “empty-nesters” and are planning vacations for just the two of us.
  • Seeing my classmates from high school at our reunion.  Thirty years later…they’re just terrific people.

No “birthday blog” would be complete without a goofy photo of the celebrant in their early years.  Here’s your dose of laughter America.  You’re welcome.

130 pounds just teeming with testosterone.  In 1983 the thing to wear at Bennett High was bib overalls, a flannel shirt and mirrored sunglasses....in your parents kitchen.  Practically irresistible to upper (and lower) classman of the opposite sex...I somehow maintained my virginity well into my twenties.  (my basketball warm ups and uniform are hanging on the door knob in the right of the photo.  Coolest uni's EVER!)

130 pounds just teeming with testosterone. In 1983 the thing to wear at Bennett High was bib overalls, a flannel shirt and mirrored sunglasses….in your parents kitchen. Practically irresistible to upper (and lower) classman of the opposite sex…I somehow maintained my virginity well into my twenties. (my basketball warm ups and uniform are hanging on the door knob in the right of the photo. Coolest uni’s EVER!)

Here’s a throwback photo….me chasing a kid from Oxford Junction at a Junior Varsity game in ’83.

Avert your eyes if you don't like seeing A LOT of upper thigh.  (notice the crowd...we really didn't pack them in the old gym for the JV games)  Look at the mad hops Kory Stuhr has along the baseline (I'm pretty certain he cannot attain the same height these days without the assistance of a step ladder)

Avert your eyes if you don’t like seeing A LOT of upper thigh. (notice the crowd…we really didn’t pack them in the old gym for the JV games) Look at the mad hops Kory Stuhr has along the baseline (I’m pretty certain he cannot attain the same height these days without the assistance of a step ladder)

My Junior year student ID….because…you know…EVERYBODY was trying to attend Bennett High illegally since it was such a cool-ass place to go to and learn about wielding (both arc and gas), no-till farming, crop rotation and Consumer Math (after I dropped Algebra).  My graduating class in ’84 was 24 kids.  Twelve boys.  Twelve girls.  We could have probably done without the photo ID’s.  In that community….if we did something wrong…our parents probably knew about it before we got home from doing it….or shortly thereafter.

I was voted "Junior class male" MOST LIKELY TO BECOME THE UNI-BOMBER"  Jeez...how about those eyebrows?

I was voted “Junior class male” MOST LIKELY TO BECOME THE UNI-BOMBER” Jeez…how about those eyebrows?

How many blessings do I have in my life…..?

...more than these two arms could ever hold.  (you could also title this photo "twirling!!  I'm twirling!!  Look at me TWIRL!!")

…more than these two arms could ever hold. (you could also title this photo “twirling!! I’m twirling!! Look at me TWIRL!!”)

And lastly….I actually enjoy the music of the early 80’s (and this is from the generation that brought you Dee Snyder’s Twisted Sister to the for front).  Simple, fun and bouncy songs that make you happy.  One of my favorites is Diesel’s Sausalito Summernight.  An obscure song from a foreign group that got into the Top 40 enough to be heard but quickly forgotten.  Thank God for YouTube.  Here they are, getting together for a tribute concert…rockin’ it better now…than back then.  See if you remember it.

 

Thanks for reading.  God bless.

R

That DREADED first day of school…and the 2,327 that followed

To say that I wasn’t much of a student while attending Bennett Community School is like comparing a birthday cake to Brussels sprouts…it wasn’t even close.

As a kid I had a great life on the farm.  My dog.  My cats.  My bike.  The creek.  Batman TV show in the afternoon.  Drinking cool water from a garden hose. Feeding the hogs grass through the fence, why my day was already filled with cool stuff to do…why would I need school?  Who would watch the barn, the hog house and garage while I was gone?!  Who would keep an eye on Mom and her whereabouts?   I had an already full agenda, now you just want me to drop everything and wear pants and get onto that yellow school bus?  Yeah…sure…sounds like a blast.  How about I just stay home and help Mom out around the house.

As an adult (of age, not of mental maturity…I have a fart app on my smart phoneso suck it) I’ve always felt a bit of relief when, at this time of year, I don’t have to go back to school.  My thirteen year school prison sentence served, I’ve been on parole for thirty plus years.  It would only serve as poetic justice that I would fall in love with and marry a school teacher.  She enjoys her summers off (technically…she’s unemployed but whenever I suggest that she gain part-time employment during her summers she shoots me the stink-eye that lets me know that I will be lonely for several nights until I worm my way back into her good graces).  While she loves teaching (she’s darned good at it…if I had, had a teacher like her I might have amounted to something…like an astronaut or something neat-o) she kind of dreads going back to school too (like I dread Monday’s I suppose).

Fall 1971.  A young Dick Ripley starts his 13 year school prison sentence.  I think that my facial expression tells it all.

Fall 1971. A young Dick Ripley starts his 13 year school prison sentence. I think that my facial expression says it all.  So with that…I’m off the hook for yet another school year.  Thank God!

 

 

Have a great week and may God bless you and yours,

R