View From the Bottom Rung (the life of a scribe)

By Vander H. Atwell.  August 20th, 2016

Hmm. View From The Bottom Rung must be running nigh onto five years to date. Let’s see now, how does one express his heartfelt gratitude for the chance to appear here on this page every other Saturday? Welst, the well-worn old phrase, it’s an honor and a privilege pretty well nails it. A lot of water under the bridge since it began but still ambling along despite the roiling of rivers. Not always easy but we manage.

I do have the best, most approving critic a man could ever hope to have review the final draft before sending over to the good folks at the ’Courier. Each time an article is finished my gal reads it, graciously nods her approval and asks what the next will be about.

You wouldn’t know what a tough question that is to answer most time, and invariably the reply is “I don’t know.” It’s hard for an old guy with only a couple of stories to tell when it all began five years ago to come up with fresh material every two weeks, what with distractions so numerous and interesting that he postpones scribing long as he dares, or simply extends the current project out by making it a bit wordier than perhaps it should be.

Oh, you noticed, eh? The great cowboy philosopher Will Rogers (not to be confused with my friend, local sage and musical entrepreneur Mr. Bill Rogers) once said “Never miss a good chance to shut up,” wise advice one supposes after all rambling on and on means more likelihood of wandering off onto sidebars and less time to began and finish the next text. Despite the uncoupled and misarranged prose we do manage to persist despite an arthritic neck and shoulder compliments of my long career as a logger; hunching over this infernal word processer only serves to agitate and exacerbate a condition brought on by 45 years using myself as a pack animal, forcing the keeping of the pain reliever Tylenol close at hand.

Recently the hocus pocus of politics has been a major distraction from the primary purpose of simply “jawing” with my friends and neighbors. “Hocus pocus” by the way, is a term ordinarily applied to the realm of politics and means ‘tricks used to hide what is happening, especially by distorting the situation and making it difficult to understand’; the constant buzz tends to pull the old gentleman’s focus aside from the chase like a fox hound distracted by a cotton tail rabbit.

There was a time early in life political distractions just didn’t happen, working too hard and much too tired for politics; come election time no question asked, like a loyal and dutiful son I just went to the polls and voted Democrat. And why not, my heritage was Democrat, the political landscape in my place of origin here in the South was Democrat, my grandparents were Democrat, my father, mother and three siblings were Democrat: (well, there was that one sister married to a Republican, a World War II veteran and survivor of the Battle of the Bulge). ’Just say I was “habitized” by tradition into a political philosophy, no hard choices wherewith my conscience to contend. Rather than choosing a political ride by raising its hood, kicking its tires and examining the chassis, t’was the only franchise in town and only modal on the lot.

But now, 17 years into retirement sitting beside the boulevard of humanity’s dreams, watching chariots running to and fro, observing the industry and strivings of my fellow citizens, I sit’s and ponders the debits and the credits of unquestioning obedience to “the faith.”

It’s not that my conscience or philosophy has changed all that much through the years, rather that the political landscape shifted beneath my feet, even before I walked off the job to feast on the fruits of my long labors.

My disputation with the change tends to show up in the heat of this election year battle, where the constant buzz of bizarre machinations tends to distract from sane discourse. Yes, yes, I realize that involving in the chaotic tangle makes me just as zany, but t’was born with a fiery competitive feistiness, and the embers are slow to fade.

No, there’s not a thing to be done about the folly of it all, except “to thy self be true. A song by Larry Gattlin allows that “All the gold in California is in a bank in the middle of Beverly Hills in someone else’s name” still, one remains “involved” even as coastal tides sweep inland consuming every sacred value and conscientious tradition that made this country and its people great.

Eventually though, we try getting back to more mundane things and focus upon the community around us; things that sustain the soul as life, love – or is that liberty – and the pursuit of happiness; take it from someone on the latter end of a long trail, “pursuit of happiness” becomes more important the less time allotted to the “pursuit.” Admittedly there’s not a whole lot of human interest in such mundane topics as lawn mowing, tree trimming, house washing and flower gardening, yet, in chaotic times we should all be happier to channel our lives in more tranquil directions and occupy ourselves with the comfort of the common and the familiar ere the last embers die and cold of darkness chills flesh to the bone.

Does not the scriptures say that ‘Man does not live by politics alone’? Well, perhaps it should, considering the distracting brouhaha seeping from every crack and corner of our own little domain these days. Then there’s the scriptural suggestion that we “eat, drink, and be merry” for tomorrow, well you get the gist.

Many retirees take up vegetable or flower gardening as a hobby, and as a relief from the tedium of idleness.

When I bought my house in Alma, the appeal of it was a large yard that would need my attention, keep me occupied all toned up and out of trouble. But the main distraction, hobby, whichever we shall call it is/ has been music, especially in the years looking forward to retirement and what to do with idle hands.

But music itself can be a distraction sometime with serious potential for hurt by drawing attention away from demanding activities at hand.

Yes son, some jobs are so dangerous that daydreaming (preoccupation with other things) can be deadly.

Early on in life I fancied myself a guitar picker playing my first gig with a Country Dance band at Susanville California ’way back in 1953. It soon became apparent that I would never become another Chet Adkins, and the fancy only distracted from the responsibility of raising a family. The bars we played were no place for a young man with a start-up family to hang out, and having a wife and child, domestic and financial stability overruled any fanciful strivings or sacrifice for fame and fortune out ’neath those neon lights. I quit my government job, left my budding musical career behind and hit the timber trail, the bluest skies, the freshest air and the most lucrative employment a kid of my humble raisings might find. In retrospect, the danger of it made it a dumb thing for a young greenhorn to do, but then a yearling is never easily advised and what the heck—I did survive.

Today with time on my hands to make music an enjoyable and satisfying hobby, it again becomes a distraction of sorts at least in relation to my uh, “literary contributions” here at the PAC. So much time and effort dedicated to musical venues, projects, practice, etc., and further, the old scribbler has recently been “domesticated” and there’s all those social activities divided betwixt two families and a passel of friends each vying for time and attention within the heart and soul of me. Not much leeway for a column written by a slow plodding thinker and one finger “typer” and no time for thumb twiddling over on social media though admittedly I’m often inclined to that direction. Some might even say addicted.

It has been said that procrastination is the thief of time and lord knows there’s been times I’ve wasted so much time there was little time left to finish an article and get it in in time for publication.

Yes, the laptop upon which I scribe, itself is a major distractor from things more important in life, but I’ve yet to reach the point of insanity: Had lunch over at Chili’s a few weeks back and watched as three different couples came in, ordered, then brought out their iphones and proceeded to ignore each other the entire meal. So much precious time lost when one becomes lost out there in the endless reaches of cyber space.

Today I finish this column five days ahead of schedule, a luxury I tell’s ya! Next due Sept. 3. Time’s a wasting.

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