Humor

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Every security detail prides itself in being able to stop any attack that might come toward the person or persons they are assigned to protect. Allowing a threat, any threat…be it a serious threat, or a minor prank…to get by the security check points, is seriously embarrassing and can be very dangerous. Never was this more widely publicized than on May 28, 1987, in Moscow.

Early on that morning, a young man named Matthias Rust, a 19 year old amateur pilot from West Germany, took off from Helsinki, Finland and headed east. Rust flew his small Cessna airplane through 400 miles of Soviet airspace, somehow undetected, and landed it in Red Square by the Kremlin. The stunt was an immense embarrassment to the Soviet government and military…to say the least. I would think that “heads would roll” figuratively speaking. Red Square should be some of the most seriously protected airspace in the world, but here a 19 year old kid blew through the protections they had in place, and brazenly landed his small plane right in the middle of Red Square!!

Rust was not a known troublemaker. His mother said that he was a “quiet young man with a passion for flying.” He had no known political or social agenda when he took off from the international airport in Helsinki and headed for Moscow, so what was the purpose of his flight and subsequent illegal landing. He entered Soviet airspace, but was either undetected or ignored as he pushed farther and farther into the Soviet Union, but how was that possible. He arrived over Moscow, early that morning, circled Red Square a few times, and then simply landed…just a few hundred yards from the Kremlin. The people in the square, mostly curious onlookers and tourists, believed that Rust was part of an air show. They quickly surrounded him, probably wanting his autograph. Then, very quickly, Rust was arrested and taken to jail. The charges were severe. He was tried for violating Soviet airspace and sentenced to prison. I don’t know if the charge would have normally gained him a longer prison sentence, or if they took pity on him because of his age, but Rust served 18 months before being released…probably a relatively short sentence in retrospect.

The repercussions in the Soviet Union, however, were immediate. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev fired his minister of defense, and the entire Russian military was humiliated by Rust’s flight into Moscow. The United States officials didn’t make matters any easier either. They had a field day with the event. One American diplomat in the Soviet Union joked, “Maybe we should build a bunch of Cessnas.” The Soviet officials were not amused. Just four years earlier, the Soviets had been harshly criticized for shooting down a Korean Airlines passenger jet that veered into Russian airspace. Now, being able to stop one teenager’s “invasion” of the country, the Soviets became the laughingstocks. One Russian spokesperson bluntly declared, “You criticize us for shooting down a plane, and now you criticize us for not shooting down a plane.” No matter how you look at it, the situation was, to say the least, militarily embarrassing.

My grandson, Caalab Royce met a girl a while back and they have been almost inseparable ever since. Her name is Chloe Foster, and she is as sweet as she can be. These kids are perfect for each other. Both are dedicated to their families and to each other’s family too…and the cool thing is that their families like each other too. It’s always special when you can join two families…because the kids got together. When Caalab met Chloe, his whole life changed. I really didn’t hear about anything else but Chloe, and when we met her, we could see what he saw in her. Her personality was totally infectious, and I enjoyed meeting her very much.

As Chloe’s birthday approached I began to wonder about this girl who holds my grandson’s heart. I knew that she is studying criminal justice in college, and that she is a Christian, which makes me very happy. She has a sweet spirit, which I have seen in the things she posts. Caalab tells me that she has been spending part of the “shelter-at-home” time in which we have all found ourselves, studying the Bible. She is a girl who prays and allows God to lead her in the way she should go. These kinds of things make my heart glad.

Chloe is also a very talented artist. She recently sat down and is just a few hours she had painted a watercolor picture of Bob Marley. Caalab really likes Bob Marley, so he was very impressed with her work. I don’t know too much about Bob Marley, but I know enough to recognize him in her painting. She did a good job. Recently, I friended Chloe’s mom on Facebook, and when looking at her pictures, I saw some of the funnier ways that Chloe uses her artwork…namely, greeting cards. I won’t display them here, but let’s just say she thanked her parents for their part in giving her life…her mom for Chloe’s first home, and her dad for putting her and her brothers, Tyson and Tanner, in the race in the first place. The cards were tastefully done, and very sweet in a funny sort of way, but they told me more about this girl who has loved cows for much of her life. I thought it funny, when my granddaughter, Shai Royce, Caalab’s sister, told me to buy Chloe something with a cow on it for Christmas…now, I can see that Shai knows Chloe pretty well. Shai loves Chloe as much (well almost as much) as Caalab does. As a grandmother, I can say it is heartwarming to know that someone cares so much for my grandson…that she not only holds his heart, but she protects it too. Today is Chloe’s birthday. Happy birthday Chloe!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

I first met my husband’s Aunt Charlys Schulenberg, years ago at a family reunion. There were so many people there that I barely got to know anyone very well. I remember most of the people but I can’t say that I had a chance to get to know any of them well. More recently, Bob and I had a chance to visit Uncle Butch and Aunt Charlys again, after many years in between those visits. I knew I liked them just from the times we had connected following my father-in-law, Walt Schulenberg’s passing. Uncle Butch and my father-in-law are half brothers. I felt a close connection to Uncle Butch, but still didn’t know Aunt Charlys well.

Then we went for a visit, and then for another, and I really got to know Aunt Charlys. She is a sweet, beautiful person, inside and out. She is friendly and loving. She is a great cook and tends to spoil those she loves…not a bad thing for those she loves either. When Bob and I went to visit the second time, we stayed with Aunt Charlys and Uncle Butch, and it was a wonderful visit. We had such a great time getting to know them better. They live in Forsyth, Montana on the edge of town, overlooking the Yellowstone River. It is a beautiful place, and very peaceful. We loved it, and wished the visit didn’t have to end so soon. We looked at old pictures, and they told us great stories from the past. We laughed and maybe shed a few tears over people who had gone to Heaven now. Nevertheless, even through the tears, we felt blessed to know the old stories about family members now gone home. We learned a lot about the family in those visits.

In those visits, I would kindred spirits in both of them. I know that in the future years, we will have more great visits, and I look forward to them very much. I wish that there had not been so many years in between the first time I met them and now, because I am not a fan of “lost time” in any way. Nevertheless, I will work toward making up for the time we have lost, because I love these very special people. Today is Charlys’ birthday. Happy birthday Aunt Charlys!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

Walt Schulenberg left us to go to Heaven, and sometimes that makes sense in my head, but most times, it just seems impossible. The years march on, and our lives get busy, and before we know it much more time has passed that we ever thought possible.

My father-in-law was a big part of my life…he was my second dad, and I was extremely blessed by both of my dads. They were different men in many ways, but they were also very similar in many ways too. That is probably what endeared my father-in-law to me in the first place. He had such a sweet and kind spirit. How could I have felt anything but welcome. He had a wonderful sense of humor and I found myself laughing at his antics every time. From the first time I met him, I felt like I was one of his kids too. Not everyone has the ability to make people feel that way, but Walt Schulenberg did.

Through the years, Dad could always be counted on to help with the many project a life produces. He never complained. He did it out of love…love for his kids and his grandkids, and later his great grandkids. His children blessed him with many of these, and he, in turn, blessed them with many treasures, material yes, but also the treasures of his heart and the love he had for them. We were all blessed by the love he had for us.

Dad was a hard working man. He was a loyal employee, and well liked by his bosses over the years. I think one of his favorite jobs was the one he had driving T-Birds of Casper College to many of their sporting evens and such. It gave him the opportunity travel around and still get paid for it…plus, he loved the kids. I think he always enjoyed young people, because they were so full of life. I think that is one of the things I loved most about my father-in-law…he was full of life. Life has been very different since he left us, and we miss him very much.

My son-in-law, Travis Royce has surprised me over the years. He didn’t do it intentionally, but rather he just turned out to be different than what I expected him to be. When he and my daughter, Amy live in Ferndale, Washington these days, out in the country, which is totally not what I expected of them. They just didn’t seem the type when they first got married in 1995. Of course, they were kids then, and they were into the typical things that young people were. They music they liked was different than the music I like…well, it still is, so I guess that hasn’t changed. Still the music they like doesn’t normally seem typical of country living.

Travis is a very social person, another thing that doesn’t seem to fit with country living, but there is another side to Travis too. The side that loves the peace and quiet he finds in his back yard in the country. He loves sitting out in the back yard watching a fire in their fire pit. He feels so relaxed there. Don’t get me wrong, Travis still likes to go out, have a few drinks with friends, and do a little gambling, but it’s almost like the ranch family going out to a square dance on a Saturday night, and afterward, head back home to country living. The fact is that as often as not, Travis would rather have people over at their house that go out. When their kids, Shai and Caalab come over, Travis enjoys playing the guitar with Caalab, while the girls sing. I’ve had the privilege of attending some of their little impromptu concerts, and they are really good. The whole family has talent, and that makes it a lot of fun.

Because Travis loves yard work…or at least mowing the lawn, their yard always looks amazing. And Amy loves flowers, so she adds her special touches, and the effect of lovely. I can understand why they like being out there in the peaceful beauty of their back yard, because I have been there myself and it is very peaceful. Travis loves his yard work so much, and his yard tools too. In fact, that was never more evident than recently when he went out in the back yard and started using his leaf blower. there were no leaves to blow away, so Amy thought the picture was quite comical. Maybe it was, but I think it is also very much Travis. My guess is that while he wasn’t blowing leaves away, h might have seen some dirt or pine needles, and decided that the leaf blower was the best tool for the job. It’s as simple as that. Today is Travis birthday. Happy birthday Travis!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

The reality is…raccoons are known pests. They tear through the trash. They eat food that is supposed to be for the dog or cat. They go into people’s homes by way of their doggy doors, and the resulting home invasion is disastrous. All that is true, but then you look at their antics, and I for one have a really hard time “hating” them. I know that lots of people will totally disagree with me, but just look at their cute little faces. No, I have not had a raccoon sneak into my house, but my neighbors have, and the stories they tell are…well, yikes!!

I suppose that their stories should have made me realize just exactly what pests raccoons are, but they really don’t know any better. They are just doing what comes naturally. As human take over more and more of the world, there is little chance of avoiding all interaction with animals, and truth be told, I don’t think I would want to. For anyone who has stepped out their back door to see deer lounging in their yard, watched the squirrels on the power lines deliberately teasing the neighbor’s dogs to make them bark, the woodpecker pecking on the neighbor’s metal chimney early in the morning, and yes, the sneaky raccoon stealing your dog’s food, their antics are sometimes really funny. I love the videos of dancing deer, bears sitting at the picnic table, deer and cats playing together, and funny shots of animals in all stages of being startled by each other.

Yes, there are dangerous animals, and we would do well to keep our distance from them, but there are more animals who seem to have a wonderful sense of humor, and if we can get a peek at them when they aren’t aware of us, we might see them in some of their funniest antics. The raccoon washing his bread before he easts it, even if it totally dissolves before it gets to his mouth, or laying lazily in a tree branch sleeping with its leg hanging over the sides. You might even get to see a little raccoon peeking at you from the tree branches where he is hiding. Yes, they are pests. Yes, they get into things, but they are just trying to share the space we all live in. Next time you are outside, take a look around you. You just might be surprised to see a wild animal being totally funny.

My Aunt Doris Spencer is a wonderful woman who has always had a great sense of humor and a great imagination. When my mom, Collene Byer Spencer married my dad, Allen Spencer, they moved from Casper, Wyoming to Superior, Wisconsin. Dad’s family was from Superior, and most still lived there, so Dad was quite comfortable going home again. Mom was a young bride, who didn’t know anyone there, but found a new sister-in-law and best friend in Aunt Doris. They quickly became inseparable. They lived across the back yard from each other…there was no ally to separate the homes, but rather, just a fence and a gate. It was a great place to raise cousins, their children, together.

I am reminded sometimes, of my aunt and uncle’s cabin at Lake Superior, and all the fun we had there over the years. Everything from time spent in the Lake, to the drive out too the lake. Wonderful memories all. My sister, Cheryl and I were talking about a particularly funny incident the other day. Our Uncle Bill was already at the cabin, and Aunt Doris and my cousin Pam, their daughter, were coming out later. As she drove, probably is a hurry for the weekend at the cabin to begin, she wasn’t really paying close attention to the speed of the car. Before she became aware that she was speeding, she heard sirens coming up behind her. Like most of us the feeling of immediate dread leapt up, but I don’t think Aunt Doris had ever received a ticket in her life. She was really very shook up about it. I’m not sure she even knew how shook up she was, but I’m sure that her daughter knew how shook up she was, because Aunt Doris mentioned later that Pam had said, “Are you afraid of that man, Mommy?”

The police officer, told her she had been speeding, and that he was going to have to give her a ticket. He went back to his car to write the ticket. For her part, Aunt Doris simply drove away. I can only imagine what went through the police officers mind. I’m sure he knew that Aunt Doris wasn’t any kind of a criminal. No one, whether they knew Aunt Doris or not, could possibly have though she could be a criminal. She simply wasn’t the type…couldn’t possibly be the type. So, he didn’t go after the woman who, being shook up, had driven away instead of waiting for her ticket.

Aunt Doris arrived at the cabin, and told Uncle Bill about the police officer and the speeding ticket. I’m sure that it was very clear to him that she was very shook up about the whole incident. After listening to her account of the traffic stop, Uncle Bill said, “Well ok. Let’s see the ticket.” Aunt Doris asked, a bit shocked, “What ticket?” Uncle Bill said, “The ticket he gave you!!” Then the realization came, probably to both of them, that there was no ticket, because she had simply driven away. Of course, my Uncle Bill, being quite mischievous, began to tell her that the police were going to be after her for leaving, and I can just picture my rather innocent aunt “freaking out” at the thought of the police showing up to “haul her off” in handcuffs. Of course, no such arrest ever took place, because the police officer, simply passed the event off as the actions of a woman who had never received a ticket before, and was terribly shook up about it. Besides, just imagine going back to the station and telling the guys that a woman drove away when he was trying to write her a ticket. Would he become the laughingstock, or maybe he did tell them, and they all laughed at the situation, and agreed that he couldn’t give her a ticket now…he just couldn’t!!

Today is my Aunt Doris’ 96th birthday, and while she like most people in the United States is under lockdown, it isn’t because of any arrest, because that arrest never came. She is living quietly, still in Superior, Wisconsin, and doing very well indeed…clear in mind, and healthy in body, for which we are all thankful, Happy birthday Aunt Doris!! Have a great day!! We love you very much!!

April Fools’ Day has long been a day to play practical jokes on friends and family, and most of us have taken part in the practice each year. The key to April Fools’ Day is when you get to see the look on your “victim’s” face. This year, it seems that a virus had the best joke…for lack of a better phrase for it, because there is nothing funny about COVID19. The virus has wreaked havoc on the world. And now it’s April Fools’ Day, and most of the United States citizens have been told to distance themselves from each other. On April Fool’s Day, that is a cruel joke.

April Fools’ Day pranks don’t really work well by phone, email, or text, although I suppose that, to a degree, Skype or Facetime would allow the prankster to see the face of their victim. Still, part of the fun is more than just their face. A perfect April Fools’ Day joke produces more than just a shocked face, the body language is a part of it too. My family loved April Fools’ Day pranks, and while the jokes varied, going from the typical childlike jokes, like trying to convince our sisters that they had a spider on them, when they were old enough to know that it was an April Fool’s Day joke. If they were feeling generous, they might pretend to be scared, but that reaction was usually reserved for the youngest sister at the time. The rest of us had to step up our game. Somehow, I just can’t imagine any of those jokes working very well by text. I wouldn’t even know how to set it up from that distance.

This year, with “social distancing” as a new part of our reality, the joke appears to be on the pranksters. Oh I might be able to prank my husband…and I probably will, because let’s face it, he’s here, and I am a prankster…and he is pretty much the only “victim” available. Yes, April Fools’ Day pranks will be much different this year, but in light of the fact that we all have cabin-fever, maybe some creative pranking is just the think we all need. So…prank it up all you dedicated April Fools’ Day pranksters. We must never give up without a fight!!

They say that “necessity is the mother of invention,” and never was that more true than for Ralph Teetor. The circumstances of his invention were of overwhelming necessity…to say the least. Teetor was blind, and because of that, he was forced to accept rides to wherever he chose to go. His friend, Harry Lindsay, who didn’t mind driving Teetor around, but who also had a notoriously “jerky accelerator foot.” Teetor couldn’t figure out why, Lindsay couldn’t keep the car at a consistent speed. When you think about it, a car that is being driven in a jerky manner would be a bit scary for a blind passenger, who has no idea why they might be possible stopping suddenly… or even if it just seems like they are stopping suddenly.

For Teetor, the possibility of things changing was impossible. He was not going to magically get his sight back, so something else had to change. Teetor was no stranger to the idea of inventing things. At the age of five, he endured a terrible accident, which left him in his disabled condition. He was incredibly young age, but Teetor refused to allow an accident to keep him from living a full life. At age 12, he was featured in the December 21, 1902 edition of the New York Herald for building a one-cylinder car to scoot around in his neighborhood. Here is how the Herald described him in 1902: “A constructor of miniature dynamos and other machinery at 10 and thoroughly versed in all that pertains to their operation, and at 12 the builder of an automobile that carries him about the streets of his native town and far out upon the country roads at a speed of from 18 to 25 miles an hour, is the remarkable record of Ralph Teetor of Hagerstown, Indiana.”

Teetor set out to solve his problem. He invented what we know today as the automobile cruise control system, which is an outer control loop that “takes over” control of the throttle…a task normally exercised by the driver through the accelerator pedal. Unlike the driver of the vehicle, the cruise control holds the vehicle speed steady at a set value. The invention worked perfectly on the first try, but being a perfectionist, Teetor spent the next decade tinkering with his design. By 1958, he had finally perfected his invention. Nevertheless, Cadillac began rolling it out in all of their cars by 1950. The only part of his invention that Teetor ever struggled with was the name. At first, the invention was known by “a host of names more suited for the Wiley Coyote: Speedostat, Touchomatic, and Auto-pilot.” Eventually, the designers at Chrysler came up with “cruise control.” It wasn’t flashy, but it was also less likely to be mistaken for “a kitchen appliance.” Teetor decided that sacrifices just had to be made sometimes. So now you know that the cruise control…the gas-conserving savior of long-distance drivers everywhere, actually came from one man’s pet peeve. I would imagine that if you were blind, and being thrown around in your seat because you couldn’t drive yourself, you might be pretty grouchy, too.

Saint Patrick’s Day is usually synonymous with celebrations, parades, green beer at the local pub, and of course the “Wearin’ O The Green,” but this year might be very different. Of course, we all know why that is. The current Coronavirus has found most people taking extraordinary measures to avoid being around large groups of people, in an effort to stop the spread of the virus, which can have serious symptoms in some patients and rather mild symptoms in others. I think people are trying to do what it takes to be safe.

One of the biggest cancellations is the many Saint Patrick’s Day Parades. Most places don’t want more than 50 people…or 25 people…and even 10 people gathering in public places. Many of the bars and restaurants have been closed, so that eliminates Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations. Of course, schools and day cares, gyms, hotels and travel industries, casinos, movie theaters, churches, and many businesses, are also closed, so people can’t go to those places to celebrate or even to carry on everyday life. Even the traditional dying or the Chicago River to emerald green for Saint Patrick’s Day has been cancelled. There are places that are open, such as stores, hospitals, and doctors offices, but people are asked to avoid them as much as possible. The idea of a sick person being told to avoid the doctor’s office or hospital is a very strange one. In times past, doctors would not diagnose disease over the phone, but now that is the first line of defense. The medical professionals don’t want people who have the disease to come in and infect other people. In fact, people are told to “quarantine or shelter in place” in an effort to slow the spread of the disease. Testing sites have even become drive-through…a previously unheard-of idea. All of these things have pushed Saint Patrick’s Day to the background of reality.

Nevertheless, I have seen a number of people who have put their own “Wearin’ O The Green” on line, or on television (for people who are in the news, etc), or just at home with their own families. I realize that this virus has dampened the spirits of many people, but deep down inside, there seems to live a victorious spirit within people. They seem to be refusing to allow this to bring about depression. On this Saint Patrick’s Day, I have seen the Ohio Governor Mike DeWine talking about postponing the Ohio Caucus, while wearing a blue suit, green tie, and green hair dye in his hair. Sure, the best case scenario is to be able to celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day in all of it’s traditions, but the reality of the Coronavirus insists that we do things differently this year. I like that so many people have chosen to celebrate in a social-distancing social media kind of way. I’m glad that people still seem to have a sense of humor, amid the panic. Happy Saint Patrick’s Day to one and all!!

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