Tuesday, July 26, 2011


Ed at 95

Well, Ed Swartzendruber really isn't older than dirt, but having been born in 1916, he is older than a lot of things in today's world, some of which are in a PowerPoint at the end of this post.  Not too many folks are 65, have a sibling who is 5 years older, and have two active parents who are 93 and 95 - so I am quite privileged to be such a person.  I am in Indiana at my parents home in Goshen, and today we had a lunchtime birthday celebration at EDDS Supplies in Shipshewana; EDDS is an agricultural fertilizer company that Ed founded along with a couple of other of his friends, most notably the late Ellsworth Fanning.  

After lunch, I asked Ed some questions about his younger years - here are some of the highlights:

Grandparents:  Solomon and Katie Swartzendruber Swartzendruber
                         Daniel and Lydia Hostetler Shetler

Parents:            Joseph and Emma Shetler Swartzendruber

Siblings:           Walter [deceased]
                        Omar [deceased]
                       {Edward Glen}
                        Bill [deceased]
                        Paul [deceased]

Ed was born at home on the farm near Bayport, Michigan.  One of his early memories of Grandma Swartzendruber was going up to her to find the mints that she would wrap up in her apron.  Most of the mints were white and it was very special to get pink one.  Another early memory is of Dan's barn - it had a funnel mounted in the corner with a drain through the wall to the outside - for peeing!  Ed attended Snell school for grades one through eight, and the Kilmanagh school for grades 9 and 10.  He walked to Snell and got a bike to ride to Kilmanagh.  Both schools were two rooms with 'outdoor plumbing.'  He likes to say that he was the top student in his class, and then adds that there were only four in his class.  He took grades 4 and 5 during one year, and thus when he had to quit school after the 10th grade, he was only 14.  The reason for quitting - Joe said "You need to be a farmer."  Ed has a real talent in mathematics and had dreams of perhaps being a physician, but a farmer he became.

Joe and Emma moved from Iowa to the Michigan Thumb as did Dan and Lydia and Solomon and Katie Sol was a Bishop and Dan was a Deacon at the Pigeon River Conservative Mennonite Church, but Ed and the family left that church when Ed was about 9 and joined the more 'liberal' Berne Mennonite Church.  One of the reasons was probably the tent revival meetings of S.G. Shetler who drew up a blackboard chart for the children to show who would be going to heaven and who would be going to hell.  And for the boys, the hell-bound were those who wore neckties, wore white socks, and had long hair, and for the girls it was short hair and sleeves that didn't cover your elbows that would buy you a ticket to eternal damnation.  At the urging of Joe, Ed joined the Berne church at 13, which he still believes is too young to make such a decision - a good Anabaptist perspective!

Ed and his brother worked mightily to make their 125 acre farm productive.  They raised wheat, oats, corn, beans, sugar beets and hay, and they had a pasture for the milk cows and steers, plus space for their hogs and chickens.  The garden would also produce potatoes, beans, and many other vittles.  After working hard on the farm, Ed went to work at the Maust Market as a butcher.  In 1939, Ed married Mary Aschliman, and they started the marriage journey that now is in its 73rd year.  Due to the onset of WWII, Ed left the butcher shop and returned to farming.

In 1943, Joe decided to leave the Thumb for Goshen.  He bought the Byler farm south of Goshen and a home north of Goshen, and Ed, Mary and 3-year-old Kay followed in 1944.  They drove a car and pulled a 4-wheeled farm wagon loaded with all of their belongings - slow going!  Eds bought a farm on US 33 southeast of Goshen, which is where I spent my first few years.  In 1950, they sold the farm, and Ed and some colleagues started EZ Gas.  We moved into New Paris, to a home that was owned by my mother's parents, Sam and Anna Plank Aschliman.  Soon thereafter, Ed bought Joe's Byler farm at CR 27 and 40, and would farm there for over 50 years.  

There are many more stories to tell, but they will have to wait for another time.  Here are some of the things that Ed is Older Than [a document prepared by Ed's grandson Douglas Aaron Swartzendruber - sorry DA - a lot of the graphics/text did not make the conversion].  An intact version can be found here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


My life goes on in endless song
Above earth's lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear it's music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I'm clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging,
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?


Everyone needs cairns to guide their paths, both literally and figuratively.  Many cairns can be found along hiking trails high in the Rocky Mountains.  One of my favorite set of cairns marks the path up the back side of Pikes Peak.  The trail starts from the Crags, and once above timberline, there are a series of cairns that guide you to the Eyebrow where the trail then heads over to the Devil's Playground and on up to the Summit.

Pikes Peak Cairns

Cairns can also be a playful display of talent and artistic ability:

Cairns can also be used to mark special places:

The Wiz At His Favorite Spot Along Barr Trail

There are many figurative cairns - family, friends, colleagues, nature, faith, reason - what are your cairns?

Monday, July 18, 2011


One way to sustain our memories of relatives and friends who have passed away is to retell the stories that they shared with us.  This is among my favorites, as told by one of my best of friends Ron Wisner.

"After graduating from college, I joined the Peace Corps and was assigned to Niger.  Although my French was pretty good, I had to work hard on my Hausa.  Because I love to run, I of course took along my running shoes and appropriate attire.  Soon after arriving in the country, I hopped the fence and headed down a country road for a long run.  I passed many folks - workers in fields, folks tending livestock and people carrying various things on their way to and from the village.  Several times I heard people call out what sounded like a friendly greeting - "aikin banzo." So when I returned to my home-away-from-home, I mentioned to one of my native co-workers that several folks had greeted me with a salutatory "aikin banzo" that I had taken as a Hausa "hello."  My friend smiled and held back a chuckle.  He informed me that it was not a greeting but rather a commentary on my running - "aikin banzo" translates as 'worthless work'."

So, whenever I encounter chores that seem like worthless work, I invoke Ron's story about aikin banzo.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


Busy Brain raises an interesting point in his comment re David Gray's lyrics, particularly the line in this post's title from Babylon.  [Hey BB - the song is about modern Babylon!!].  Admittedly, the thoughts conjured by "chemicals rushing through my bloodstream" are disconcerting. However, I have to think about Gray's reference versus the general status of chemicals in the blood stream.  Of course all of us depend on the natural chemicals in our bloodstream that sustain life, so we will not dwell on that.  What I am thinking of is myriad chemicals that  many US folks put into themselves on a regular basis, and I will start with me:

Generic naproxin for minor knee and elbow pain;
Generic aspirin which supposedly helps the circulatory system and other biological processes;
Caffeine that helps the wake up call and may have other beneficial effects;
Ethanol that in moderation is supposedly good for you!

Now - what about other things that folks have rushing through their bloodstreams?

Too much sugar - just look at the epidemics of obesity and diabetes rampant in the US;
Too much alcohol - destroys the liver and kills innocent people;
Nicotine and dozens of other chemicals, most of which have serious adverse biological effects;
Viagra and other such chemicals - nearly 100% needless;
Lipotor and related chemicals - making drug companies rich without having much effect on health;
THC, meth, cocaine and countless other illegal drugs with serious negative effects;
Countless drugs intended to relieve the signs and symptoms of decades of bad habits.

And the list goes on - I think you get the picture.

Friday, July 15, 2011


Wednesday evening was quite memorable.  I caught the BX to Denver and got to the 16th Street Mall at about 5:30.  Nick and I met up there and went to the new Tap House Grill on the Mall for dinner and of course a couple of brewski's [Wyncoop's pale ale].  But the real reason for our meeting up was to go to a David Gray concert at the Ellie Caulkin's Opera House. We noted that the crowd appeared to be a mixture of young hipsters, urban sophisticates, and old foggies like me.  There was a dearth of tatted up and pierced folks.

The concert was scheduled for 7:30, but as per usual, there was an opening artist Lisa O'Neill who played for about 20 minutes, followed by another 20 minutes to prepare for the main event. David and his band started playing shortly before 8:30. And they played straight through with minimal chit-chat until about 10:30.  David did not introduce the band members until the end in a quick nearly inaudible fashion, but this is the probable lineup:

Rob Malone - Bass guitar, double bass and other strings and vocals
Neill MacColl - Guitar, mouth organ, mandolin and vocals
Keith Pryor - Drums and other percussion and vocals
James Hallaway - Keyboards and vocals
Unknown Female - Cello, viola, percussion and vocals

While all of these folks are highly talented musicians, clearly David Gray is the well-deserved focus of the group.  His musical skills on keyboard and guitar, song-writing abilities and truly amazing vocals make him most worthy of being a star.  I am not sure how he sustains such a high-energy performance for two hours without a break and only a swig or two of water.  He is a unique talent.  I could not find a playlist for his Denver concert, but here is what Nick remembers:  

Alibi, Babylon, Davey Jones' Locker, Flame Turns Blue,
Forgetting, Foundling, From Here You Can Almost See the Sea, Fugitive,
Holding On, Kathleen, Lately, My Oh My, Nemesis, Only the Wine, Sail
Away, Say Hello Wave Goodbye, Shine, The One I Love, and This Year'sLove.  

Some of my most favorite tunes were from his White Ladder album, which is near the top of the list of my all-time favorite albums, including My Oh My This Year's Love, Sail Away, Say Hello Wave Goodbye [in the encore] and Babylon, a song that goes back to his roots.

Friday night I'm going nowhere
All the lights are changing green to red
Turning over TV stations
Situations running through my head
Looking back through time
You know it's clear that I've been blind
I've been a fool
To open up my heart
To all that jealousy, that bitterness, that ridicule

Saturday I'm running wild
And all the lights are changing red to green
Moving through the crowd I'm pushing
Chemicals all rushing through my bloodstream
Only wish that you were here
You know I'm seeing it so clear
I've been afraid
To show you how I really feel
Admit to some of those bad mistakes I've made

If you want it
Come and get it
Crying out loud
The love that I was
Giving you was
Never in doubt
Let go your heart
Let go your head
And feel it now
Let go of your heart
Let go of your head
And feel it now
Babylon, Babylon, Babylon

Sunday all the lights of London
Shining , Sky is fading red to blue
Kicking through the Autumn leaves
And wondering where it is you might be going to
Turning back for home
You know I'm feeling so alone
I can't believe
Climbing on the stair
I turn around to see you smiling there
In front of me

And if you want it
Come and get it
Crying out loud
The love that I was
Giving you was
Never in doubt
Let go of your heart
Let go of your head
And feel it now
Let go of your heart
Let go of your head
And feel it now
Let go of your heart
Let go of your head
And feel it now
Let go of your heart
Let go of your head
And feel it now

Babylon, Babylon, Babylon

And Rachel, David did sing your favorite - The One I Love

Gonna close my eyes
Gonna watch you go.
Running through this life, darling
Like a field of snow.
As the tracer glides in its graceful arc,
Send a little prayer up to you
cross the falling dark.

Tell the repo man, and the stars above.
That you're the one I love. Yeah.

Perfect summer's night
not a windy breeze.
Just the bullets whispering gentle
amongst the new green leaves.
These things I might have said
only wish I could
Now I'm leaking life faster
than I'm leaking blood.

Tell the repo man, and the stars above.
That you're the one I love, you're the one I love, the one I love.

Don't see elysium
Don't see no fiery hell.
Just the lights all bright baby in the big hotel.
Next wave coming in, like an ocean rock.
Won't you take my hand darling
on that old dance floor?

We can twist and shout,
do the turtle dove,
and the you're the one I love. You're the one I love, the one I love.

And Nick's favorite - From Here You Can Almost See The Sea 

Come the weekend
And well long gone baby
Just like the old days
Lettin' the world flow through me
Just a parasite in the line
I'm smokin' killin' the time
How longs a piece of a twine?
What use is sympathy?
From here you can almost see the sea
If you would hold still
Could make a clean incision
We could sit back
And watch the demolition
Little puppy dog in a box
Somebodys pickin' the locks
Must want the darn from the socks
Here comes the cavalry
From here you can almost see the sea
Just another fool in a line
I dream of high clouds
Flushed with the light of daybreak
I'm gonna dive in to a water so cold
It makes your bones ache
Fingers knees and knuckles scraped
All of the rubbish heaped
A piece of cardboard taped
Up where the bedroom window pane used to be
From here you can almost
From here you can almost see the sea
Just another fool in a line
Just another fool in a line
I saw a film once
Where all the air holes froze up
A killer whale swam
Under the blue ice 'til her heart stopped

Thanks Nick for thinking of me when you spotted that David Gray was coming to Denver - special.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


Every year around this time, I think about my good friend Steve Zimmer.  Steve was a mountain of a man, a gentle giant with a compassionate heart larger than his formidable body.  My friendship with Steve began in graduate school in the early 70's, as we both toiled in the laboratories of the pathology department at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center on east Ninth Avenue.  Steve worked with Ray Erikson and I worked with John Lehman.  Steve was an excellent scientist and an even more accomplished talker!  He seemed to have a story or an informed opinion about everything.  We parted ways after graduation and headed to our respective post-docs in Saint Louis and in Los Alamos; however, over the years we kept in touch, and we visited Steve and Connie in both Saint Louis and in Lexington and they visited us in Los Alamos.  Family, friends and colleagues lost a very good fellow when Steve passed away in 2006.  The following is a tribute to Steve, a memorial resolution that was entered into the University of Kentucky Senate:

Memorial Resolution for Associate Professor of Medicine Steve Zimmer (presented by Ernie Yanarella, past Senate Council Chair)
Faculty Trustee Yanarella read a memorial resolution in honor of Associate Professor of Medicine Steve Zimmer.
     Memorial Resolution
Presented to the University of Kentucky Senate
October 9, 2006

Stephen G. Zimmer, Ph.D.
Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics
UK College of Medicine

Stephen G. Zimmer, Ph.D., associate professor of Microbiology, Immunology and Molecular Genetics and Cancer Center member, died Wednesday, June 14, 2006.  He is survived by his spouse, Constance James Zimmer, and two children, Stephen G. Zimmer, Jr., and Courtney Anne Zimmer.

On behalf of the alumni, students, staff, faculty, and friends of the College of Medicine and the wider University community, I offer the following memorial to Stephen Zimmer:
Stephen was born in Trenton, New Jersey, on October 26, 1942.  Those who knew him recognized that he was a gentle giant whose love of family, profession, and religious community were manifested in equal measures of selfless devotion and fond memories.

Stephen's longtime research and teaching skills in microbiology and immunology were shaped in his early educational pursuits, specifically, at The Rutgers University, where he earned his bachelors degree in natural sciences in 1964 and his master of science degree in radiation sciences in 1966, as well as his doctoral degree in experimental pathology at the University of Colorado in 1973. After serving as a research fellow at the Washington University School of Medicine in 1974 and then as a National Institutes of Health research fellow there for two more years, he came to the University of Kentucky in the summer of 1976 to begin his duties as an assistant professor in the Department of Pathology.

In addition to his research fellowships, he generated a list of impressive professional activities and other honors from various research programs and associations, including service on the editorial board of Anticancer Research and, most recently, on the board of trustees of the Wood-Hudson Cancer Research Laboratory beginning in 2005.  He was also a member of the American Association of Cancer Research and the Metastasis Society.  Described by his chair, Alan Kaplan, as a consummate free thinker, Stephen Zimmer was a significant contributor to the study of mechanisms of oncogenesis and in the last few years had the satisfaction of seeing two of the putative oncogenesis blocking agents elaborated through his laboratory moved into clinical trials.

His extensive c.v. includes nearly a hundred publications in research journals appropriate to his field and external funding from a wide array of government institutes and pharmaceutical companies for cancer research and training grants.  It also lists an impressive number of students whom he mentored as postdoctoral fellows, for whom he served as co-director, and who conducted research under his direction.  His students, both past and present, remember his dedication to the work of finding means to understand, treat, and cure a scourge of our industrial society and perhaps human condition, and his wry wit and humor.  Besides his own contributions, his students’ continuing work and subsequent success inspired in part by his example and mentorship will be the lasting legacy of Stephen Zimmer, teacher and researcher.

If Stephen was an esteemed colleague of high principle, unswerving dedication, and scientific integrity, he was also and not least of all a beloved husband, parent, and parishioner who somehow found a balance among the extraordinary demands of his personal, family, professional, and spiritual lives.  Those attending Stephen’s funeral on June 17, 2006, heard his priest advocate and speaker for the dead intone some of the recurring themes in his life among the standing room only audience of family and friends, students and colleagues--his profound love for family, his dedication to cancer research, his devotion to the teaching vocation, and his pursuit of peace and justice informed by his Catholic faith and spiritual practice.  Even in his gentle and cordial manner towards those whom he touched and often inspired, he was a towering figure who deserved to be recognized for his notable accomplishments and unflagging dedication to this University and its highest ideals and values.  

In his last years, he pursued with passion and conviction an academic accolade that he believed he justly deserved and had worked many long years to achieve.   Some believed that the achievements and stature of this man of science and liberal learning remained insufficiently heralded.   If that honor was not conferred on him in  life, it did not in any way diminish his stature and impact among those who knew him well and loved him for his exemplary behavior, his commitment to an ideal, and his life-long striving for an elusive humanitarian goal that eludes medical science still today.            

Dr. Stephen G. Zimmer was an esteemed colleague who will be missed greatly. I ask that this resolution be made a part of the minutes of the University Senate and that a copy be sent to Dr. Zimmer’s family.

A moment of silence was held in Zimmer’s honor.

Yanarella moved the resolution be made part of the minutes of the University Senate and that a copy be sent to Dr. Zimmer’s family. Jones seconded. The motion passed unanimously in a show of hands.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Pleistocene Treasures, at a Breakneck Pace

SNOWMASS, Colo. — Two different time scales collided in this place.

More than 130,000 years ago in the chilled depths of the Illinoian ice age, an errant glacier left a hole atop a 9,000-foot-high ridge near what would become the town of Aspen in the central Colorado Rockies. The depression filled with snowmelt, and for tens of thousands of years, the little lake attracted the giants of the Pleistocene — mammoths, mastodons, ground sloths half again the size of grizzly bears, supersize bison, camels and horses — that came to drink, and in many cases to die, in the high alpine mud.

The second time scale was more like a runner’s sprint. Scientists had only 70 days — a number framed by mountain winter weather and lawyerly fine print — to search the old lake bed sediments for remnants of these ancient animals.

That was from Oct. 14, when workers on a reservoir dam turned over the first fossil bones (of a young female mammoth, promptly nicknamed Snowy) to last weekend, when work on the reservoir resumed. A tight contract schedule dictates that the reservoir, which will supply the condos and ski lodges of Snowmass, must be completed by late this year. The result was a frantic race to find and catalog everything possible before the site was entombed once more by water.

The breakneck pace of the fossil dig was matched only by what scientists said was the extraordinary richness of the site, one of the best windows into the thundering megafauna of its time. “The speed of this thing is so unlike normal science — from discovery to completion of one of the biggest digs ever in less than nine months,” said Kirk R. Johnson, the chief curator of the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, who oversaw the project. (He is no relation to this reporter.)

“Typically, you write a grant proposal and wait nine months to hear anything,” Dr. Johnson said. “We couldn’t wait — in a single day, we were finding a couple hundred bones.”

The ancient Snowmass clock was measured in the untold lives of the creatures that roamed and roared in a place and period poorly recorded in the scientific record: The high reaches of Rocky Mountains during the Sangamonian interglacial, a time of very warm weather around the globe, 75,000 to 125,000 years ago.

Other well-known ice age fossil sites, by contrast, like the La Brea Tar Pits in California and Hot Springs, S.D., have been dated to between 10,000 and 40,000 before present, and no well-preserved site has ever been found, scientists said, at this altitude in North America.

Here at Snowmastodon, as the site is called, the human clock ran partly on adrenaline, with 50 or more shovel-wielding scientists, volunteers and interns from the Denver Museum pawing the lake bed on a typical day. Their goal: sift 7,000 tons of sediment — 35 feet worth to the bottom of the glacial scrape — by the deadline.

Something very big — a mammoth tusk taller than LeBron James, a partial mastodon skull half the size of a Smart Car — was turning up every few days. By the end, more than 4,500 fossil specimens from 20 different animals were hauled out.

“Bone up!” Dr. Johnson shouted on recent, brilliantly sunny day, as a cheer rose across the pit. “Arm bone of a sloth,” Dr. Johnson said casually from a practiced distance, when the huge humerus was held aloft by its finder.

Preliminary estimates say the ancient ridge-top lake — unusual in having no stream inlet to bring in sediment — might have persisted for as long as 100,000 years before windblown dust filled it in to become a typical-looking alpine meadow, a state it had reached 50,000 years or more before humans came to the Americas.

The resulting fossil bed thus has a long climate record in its pollens, buried plants and windborne particles, as well as a long yardstick of the animals and what might be deduced about their lives. The sediment layers suggest periods when the lakeside landscape was tundra — too cold for trees — and others when great forests hugged the shore.

“I think at the end of the day that’s what’s going to be so valuable — you’ve got this crystal-clear glimpse into the Rockies before humans show up,” said Ian Miller, curator of paleobotany at the Denver museum. “We’re sitting here at almost 9,000 feet, and climate is driving ecosystems up and down. It’s a window, and you just watch it go by.”

A businessman from Wisconsin, R. Douglas Ziegler, bought the lake bed in 1958, when it was just an old meadow being used for grazing sheep.

The growing water needs of Snowmass Village, founded in the 1960s, eventually led engineers to look for a reservoir site, which led to the backhoes, and the first discoveries last fall, and which will lead, in a grand circling back of history, to an eventual restoration of meadow’s use as a watering hole. The accelerated pace was partly because the Snowmass Water and Sanitation Department District, under its contract with the Ziegler family, which still owns the land around the lake, faced substantial financial penalties if the work wasn’t completed on time. The reservoir must be up and running by next spring under the contract, but because winter will close down the work late this year, just as it did on the dig, that means finishing up before snow flies.

The dig, partly supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society, will be featured in a National Geographic-Nova special on PBS next year.

“We cross-country skied over where those creatures once roamed, and we never had any idea,” said Peter Ziegler, 62, who spent two days at the dig in June, laboring with a shovel. There are still many unanswered questions about what happened here — most pointed is, when did the animals actually die?

Because the site is too old for radiocarbon dating, which is only useful to about 50,000 years before present, other more complicated methods, all of which take longer to work out, will have to be used. Ancient pollen, for example, was collected from the mud to compare against other climate indicators. Core samples will be examined for markers like volcanic dust, which might be dated using radiometric dating techniques based on argon 40-39 or uranium-lead geochronology.

Secondly, the animals did not march to their deaths in a steady procession over the centuries. There are sediment layers with few bones, followed by layers with many bones — indicating, Dr. Johnson said, that the lake may have multiple stories to tell. The remains of young animals found in the pit could suggest, for example, that through at least through part of its history the lake was a trap, with slippery slopes or lethal leg-sucking goo, like the La Brea Tar Pits.

The third great question, connected to everything else, is how the great shifts of climate recorded by the mud affected the lives and habits of the creatures that roamed here. Was the climate warm enough in the interglacial period, which peaked in temperature around 110,000 years ago, that elephant-family relatives and other animals like camels and sloths could live year round at high altitude, or were there migratory patterns — highlands in the summers, lowlands in winter — that might emerge? For instance, will the growth rings of mastodon or mammoth tusks found here differ from those of cousins found at low altitude sites, hinting at permanent mountain residence?

“That’s the kind of question we couldn’t even ask before this site was discovered,” Dr. Johnson said.  Some researchers are hoping the finds will yield DNA that might give a glimpse into the genes of ice age mammals. Genetic diversity, or uniformity, can suggest how big a population was at the time of an individual’s death.

“The interglacial period wasn’t a great time for stuff to be preserved,” said Beth Shapiro, an associate professor of biology at Pennsylvania State University who studies ancient DNA. “So this is not just a window into a time, but a whole group of animals we’ve never been able to get before.”

“Scale” is the word that researchers and volunteers used over and over, from the timeline to the volume of specimens to the crush of pressure to the trove of data that will fill research agendas for years to come.

Chris Faison, a schoolteacher from Aspen and a volunteer at the dig, said he hoped the story would resonate into the future, too. After the news broke last fall about the archaeological treasure trove, his school built a mastodon model to scale, 12 feet tall at the shoulder — and Mr. Faison said the first and second graders he teaches shared his awe.

“I never thought I’d see this kind of stuff,” he said, pushing his shovel into the mud.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011


Charlie Hall recently quibbled with my proclamation that basketball was the greatest game in the world.  He made the case for baseball, and although I will not change my opinion, I will acknowledge that baseball is a great game and will proclaim that it is the second best greatest game in the world.  One of my earliest memories related to baseball was taking a broomstick over to the railroad tracks in New Paris and pitching and hitting chunks of coal with my best grade-school friend Dick VanDiepenbos.  We would get filthy, which no doubt made our mothers quite unhappy, but we sure did develop an eye for hitting. 

At New Paris High School, baseball was a summer sport, so one became eligible to play varsity ball right after graduating from eighth grade.  Being somewhat of a runt at that time, I made the team, but did not play too much.  The first time I got put into a game, I was sent to the position that is often assigned to the weakest player - right field.  It was late in the game, and I think that we were winning, but regardless, there was a man on second and the hitter sliced one in to right.  The runner no doubt noted my stature and rounded third headed for home.  I picked up the ball cleanly and bounced a good throw to the plate for the final out of the inning.  Undoubtedly, most everyone at the game was surprised, including me, and my teammates gave me a warm welcome back at the bench [there were no dugouts in those days].

Although I throw right-handed, my dad figured I would have a better chance to play ball if I hit left-handed - so that's how I learned and that's how I have played to this day.  [Left-handed golf clubs were too esoteric in the 60's, so I learned to play golf right-handed, but putt left-handed].  As I grew a bit through high school, I moved in to second base and then over to third base and then to shortstop.  Our NPHS baseball team was not as successful as our basketball team, but we were well above .500 ball.  Our yearbook. The Parisian, has some great cheesy pictures of our team and players, and I will try to add them if I can get decent copies.

I am not quite sure why I did not try out for the Goshen College team since I had a decent arm, good fielding skills and reasonable hitting.  Maybe it was because neither Dennis Caprarotta nor I made the JV basketball team at GC - tryouts and selection were based on running through cone mazes, dribbling around chairs, and sprinting from line to line.  Hardly any time was spent assessing shooting, abilities in team play, and knowledge of the game - I am still a bit ticked :-)  However, I did take up fast-pitch softball and will soon write about that.

Saturday, July 02, 2011


To continue this thread, here are a few more:

** Baseball fans on their cell phones waving to the camera - I am happy to report that there is a Facebook Page devoted to these idiots!  They are probably the same folks that start the damnable wave.

** Diminutives of Given Names - e.g. Dougie.  As long as I can remember, this has irritated me.  I had a professional colleague who randomly called me Dougie Doo and because of my junior position at the time, I never unloaded on him :-)   Now, Swartzie I can handle.  Drooler, maybe.....

** Drivers who seem oblivious to the fact that the light has turned green.  In Boulder, we simply assume that they are contemplating the change and internalizing the event.

** Travelers who seem to think that if they don't get on to the plane first, they will somehow not make it to their destination - hello - assigned seating!!  And it seems as though these folks have 12 carry-on items, and thus need to claim as much of the overhead space as possible.

** Waitstaff who don't write down the orders and invariable get them wrong.

** People with Peeves different than mine.