Obsession with new stuff is fast growing old

“Mom, I want all new clothes for the new school year.” I couldn’t tell if this was a legitimate (meaning sincere) request from my son, or if he were just sending up a trial balloon to see which way the wind was blowing.

Clearly the mother of the wearer of this catfood bag shirt wouldn't know cool if it pounced on her!

Clearly the mother of the wearer of this catfood bag shirt wouldn’t know cool if it pounced on her!

It didn’t matter. He might as well spit into the wind. It wasn’t going to happen. It couldn’t happen. And even if I had the means, it shouldn’t happen. Based on the diminishing respect my 13-year-old’s been showing me lately, he’s lucky I don’t start making his clothing myself – sewing together old, plastic mesh cat food bags so the “Special Kitty” el cheapo brand name is emblazoned across the front.

Of course, then he would complain that the other kids in his grade were wearing plastic mesh cat food bags that had the brand “Fancy Feast” or “Iams,” (the cat food equivalents of Hollister or Aeropostale) written across the front.

“You embarrass me when you send me to school wearing a cat food bag that has less natural flavor, more meat byproducts and killer fillers!” he would yowl. “People size up my nutrient panel and find me lacking. This is child abuse.” I’d throw him a bone in the form of the ASPCA phone number so he could report his mistreatment.

With this going through my mind, I also had a fleeting thought that he might be right. I remembered a middle school classmate wearing a car seatbelt in place of a real trouser belt several decades before that actually became briefly fashionable. That trip was far enough down memory lane that the streets were made of cobblestone, the men owned dress clothes, and people still said “trouser belt.”

No, I was quite sure I wasn’t launching my son off to school in garb that would get him beaten up. If I were, I would at least be a good enough mom to feed him a breakfast of raw meat and yell “Them’s fightin’ clothes!” as I shoved him out the door, itching for a self-defense bout with someone wearing a trendier cat food bag.

“But I just bought you some new clothes!” I reminded.

“Socks and underwear don’t count,” my son said. Except in this case they should. Regular underwear would no longer do, he informed me as we surveyed the unmentionables in the “I’m Too Big For Kids’ Britches, But Not Yet a Man” section at Kohl’s. He claimed he couldn’t live without “compression shorts.”

The chief function of compression shorts is to separate people from their money.

The chief function of compression shorts seems to be to separate people from their money.

What, exactly, are these modern marvels? Spandexy, Under Armourish, thigh-length version of women’s control top panty hose. Oh, they compress, alright. That’s why some young males report wearing them as a libido-disguising/limiting layer. In fact if there’s an upside to this relatively new garment, it’s that it helps prevent things from heading that direction.

According to Wikipedia, “Compression shorts are designed to keep the muscles warm to prevent muscle strain and fatigue, and wick sweat away from the body to prevent chafing and rashes.” The same source adds, “They are also used as a way to keep the male genitalia in place.” Bonus!

According to my son, compression shorts are so performance-enhancing he cannot possibly expect to compete athletically unless he owns several pair. I compromised and bought a two-pack, plus a spare to wear at home. By my calculations, they possess the power to help him finish household chores in record time. I imagine my son snagging Olympic Gold in the dishwashing competition.

“Mom, they’re no good for that kind of thing,” he spoils it. “You just don’t get it.”

No, I don’t. Just like he won’t be getting the new jeans for which he’s been begging. Compression shorts cost more than jeans. So I suggest my son wear his new compression shorts OVER his old jeans. And leave out the price tags as status symbols. He declines.

I’m back to scouting Salvation Army and Goodwill for jeans. Maybe some ultra-cool guy has died from the power surge of simultaneously wearing compression shorts and compression socks and his parents just donated his clothing to one of those used stores. It could happen.

I’ll be there to cash in on them. But better keep clipping the cat food coupons, too.

Dairy show goes on regardless of season

Knowing their gentleness, Avery Crandall, 4, relaxes comfortably around her family's cows. Every girl should have a pair of pink boots!

Knowing their gentleness, Avery Crandall, 4, relaxes comfortably around her family’s cows. Every girl should have a pair of pink boots!

It’s 5:00 AM. I make myself some toast and a cup of coffee that I top off with a liberal amount of Half & Half. It registers that if I were a dairy farmer, I’d already be up and doing chores instead of writing about those already up and doing chores.

The irony of it doesn’t escape me. Truth told, I was up for the day at 4 am and had to struggle to stay in bed. Chalk that up to dairy. Not the dairy I ate or drank, but the dairy farm where I was reared. No matter where I live or how old I get, I can’t shake the early to bed, early to rise, productive work ethic ingrained in childhood. Dairy gets into your bones beyond the calcium level.

At one time, my father, three of his brothers and my grandfather all had dairy farms on the same road. My father’s only job off the farm was as a milk hauler. My first earnings were from working on our family dairy farm. Dairy’s a solid, satisfying way of life, if you’re into butt-busting and never-ending.

I wonder what the members of Battle Creek’s fifth-generation Crandall dairy family, Brad, Monica, Mark, Sara, Larry and Gloria, are up to at their North Avenue dairy at crunch time before their July 19th Breakfast on the Farm event. It’s hassle enough to ready your house for company, but farm readying? It’s mind-blowing that hundreds of people will join them for a meal and farm tour that day.

It’s not as if their farm work gets put on hold while they make special event preparations. Farming cares not that it’s early morning, late night, weekend or holiday. And the weather doesn’t care, either. The dairy show must go on. Round the clock milking and cow care occurs so people like me will have real cream in their coffee and real butter on their toast.

Brad and Mark Crandall work out details of the tour route with the Breakfast on the Farm Committee.

Brad and Mark Crandall work out details of the tour route with the Breakfast on the Farm Committee.

I was at Crandall’s dairy in the dead of winter when they held their first Breakfast on the Farm planning meeting. It was so cold, it hurt to take off my gloves to snap photos. Memories of carrying five-gallon buckets of water to livestock when the automatic watering system froze up on our farm were triggered. But the Crandall cows seemed snug and content on comfortable sand bedding.

Back at my house, I awaken my children to bagels with my special recipe sausage cream cheese spread. Other days it’s yogurt with fruit. All rinsed down with milk. We’re so entrenched in dairy we don’t even think about it. It’s how I grew up. Between the fridge, freezer and pantry, I stock 34 different dairy items. I’ve counted. Dairy dominates our diet. I have a kind of cheese for everything. And I’m rearing junior protein junkies.

Like a good addict, I can cite others who are just as bad. Collectively, we help dairy add $14.7 billion annually to the state’s economy. Clearly, love of dairy fuels not just bodies, but the local economy. Yes! Ample justification to continue eating ample amounts of dairy!

Ninety-eight percent of Michigan’s dairy farms are family-owned. Growing up on one, I took a lot for granted: hard work, environmental consciousness, animal husbandry, and knowing where my food came from. I thought everyone else understood, too. But observing my own children, I know that’s not a fair assumption. The story isn’t as obvious as I’d thought.

That’s what makes Breakfast on the Farm important. It’s a behind-the-scenes chance to see agriculture in action. The Crandall family offers a firsthand look at on-farm processes that often go unconsidered – a real insider’s look at modern farming practices. And free breakfast.

Monica Crandall reports the community has been highly supportive of event preparations. “There’s no way we could accomplish Breakfast on the Farm alone,” she said. “We’re looking forward to using the day to educate the public about agriculture, as so many people are two to three generations removed from farming.”

Breakfast on Farm is scheduled for 9 AM-1 PM (breakfast served until 12 PM) July 19 at Crandall Dairy Farms, LLC, 22231 North Avenue in Battle Creek. Tickets are required. Additional information is available at http://www.breakfastonthefarm.com.

Unable to swarm up to mosquitos of summer

There's nothing quite as annoying than the elusive mosquito you are unable to satisfyingly kill while you are driving.

There’s nothing quite as annoying than the elusive mosquito you are unable to satisfyingly kill while you are driving.

This will be neither my first nor my last rant about one of my greatest summer pet-peeves. No, it’s not the watermelon I deplore or having to see more unsightly flesh and tattoos than any one set of eyes should witness. And it’s also not having to fight back my fantasies of wanting to shoot a flaming arrow into the makeshift fireworks stands that spring up virtually overnight at every main four corners the week prior to Independence Day.

My pet peeve has legs, feelers, wings and a makeshift needle to annoy. Yes, I’m talking about that persistent, flying creepy crawler known as the mosquito. There is no barring them from my summer, even when I dim the flashing neon vacancy sign that seems to be posted over my head.

Last night I took too long getting out of my vehicle when I arrived home. Or it might have happened earlier, at an outdoor musical show with my windows rolled down. I can’t say for sure. All I know is that cursed mosquito sometime took up residence in my vehicle and resisted eviction.

My already annoying 65-mile trek to work became frustratingly unbearable due from the intermittent, yet elusive buzzing in my ear. For once, I actually felt grateful for my hearing loss in the other, because at least I didn’t have to hear it in stereo.

After swatting unsuccessfully at the mosquito with a hand that should have been kept on the wheel, resulting in nearly side-swiping an 18-wheeler (the driver of which let me know his displeasure with a loud, extended honk), I rolled up a file folder from my briefcase to extend my reach. That only caused the mosquito to seek refuge deeper in the depths of my dashboard. From there, he kept buzzing at me, parrying to avoid my cardboard thrusts.

When that tactic failed to yield pay dirt, I next unfastened the metal, dog leash-style fasteners that tether the strap of my purse. And I started swinging the strap crazily, like a medieval weapon. Unfortunately, I managed only to chip the glass on my windshield before getting it wedged down an air vent, without creating even a significant breeze in the mosquito’s direction.

Refusing to admit defeat, I kept one eye on the road and the other eyeballing the mosquito’s position, my left hand poised on the passenger window control button. After an eternity, he finally flew close to the top of the passenger window. I pressed the button with everything I had! A tornado-like breeze ensued, blowing out the window a stack of valuable grocery store coupons that had been half-sticking out from my passenger visor.

“Oh, well,” I thought. “It was worth the seven dollars in coupons just to take out that ornery cuss.” Except that it wasn’t. A half mile later, Mr. Mosquito reappeared. Back with a vengeance! How could that be?!

The whole episode was taking on the feel of the slapstick “Mouse Trap” movie. I visualized my star billing in a sequel more violent than the original, without Nathan Lane’s comic relief: “Mobile Mouse Trap: The Trouble With Mosquitoes.” Except I didn’t feel like a star, just driven to distraction.

By the time I left work that day and walked to my car, I had forgotten the mosquito. Until I felt him drawing blood from my right arm as a struggled with my left hand to fasten the seatbelt. I swatted post-emptively, but even in his blood-engorged state, he easily dodged the blow.

The next 50 miles were spent watching and hearing him buzz just out of kill range. My temper rose as I stopped at Little Caesar’s to pick up a five-dollar Hot-N-Ready pizza for a quick softball night family snack. It smelled great, mostly because I hadn’t eaten lunch. So I opened the box and took a piece. Gone in just four bites. I reached into the box for a second.

Opening my mouth wide to take a mouth-watering bite, I spotted something small and red that wasn’t pepperoni. My nemesis was mired in my meal! Hating to waste an otherwise good piece of pizza through splatter, I ate him whole. Think of it as recycling.

Don’t trust those product-hawking celebrities

Maybe it’s just my commonsense farming background rearing its ugly, plainspoken head, but I am extremely skeptical when it comes to the use of celebrity to sell products. If Will Rogers were still alive, I’m sure he’d have something to say about all this. But he’s not, so I’m tagging him and taking over.

In an attempt to cash in on the nostalgia craze, marketers are building emotional time machines in hope of transporting us back to childhood – betting we will purchase souvenirs in the form of their products, as endorsed by aging celebrities. At best, I get a slight kick out of seeing my former heroes back in action. At worst, it’s a downright scary ride.

Evel Knieval was a curious choice to market scooters to seniors, as his reputation doesn't exactly scream safety!

Evel Knievel was a curious choice to market scooters to seniors, as his reputation doesn’t exactly scream safety!

How many times have I been TV channel surfing and bumped into a celebrity pitchperson I had assumed was dead, but who had resurfaced long enough to be propped up on screen, feebly enthusing over the merits of a set of “not sold in stores but only through this special TV offer” collection of vintage songs.

Often, he/she is such a death-warmed-over-looking-sight that I totally lose sight of what he/she is selling. “Kids,” I’ll yell, “You’ve got to come and see this! This guy was older than dirt when I used to watch him on my grandparents’ black and white TV set, but yet his dentures are still functioning flawlessly due to Poligrip!” They tell me to get a grip.

Sometimes, the reverse happens. We’ll be watching an old movie, such as “The Glenn Miller Story” starring Jimmy Stewart, when his on-screen wife, played by the late June Allyson, appears, and someone will comment, “Isn’t that the chick who wore those Depends adult diapers for years and ran around telling everyone about it because they’re so well-concealed that no would know, but yet, curiously, she seemed to want everyone to know?” Yup, that would be her.

Who hatched the slick idea Florence Henderson become snake oil salesman for Wesson Oil? Why, she took extreme grammatic license and ruined the cute song “Personality” by substituting the made-up word “Wessonality” in its place, while smiling, dancing and crooning the merits of fried chicken. It’s an odd something to crow about through crow’s feet! “Shortn’ Bread” catchy it wasn’t.

Lindsay Wagner, the 1970s “Bionic Woman” counterpart to Lee Major’s “Six-Million Dollar Man” became a spokesperson for Select Comfort’s Sleep Number bed three decades later. While many guys had likely already had some of their own thoughts involving Wagner and a bed, I thought a hearing aid company was the logical entity to woo her, piggybacking on her television character’s bionic ear!

And who approached Karen “Ma Ingalls” Grassle about promoting Premier Bathrooms Walk In Bath, when on the “Little House on the Prairie” television program of my youth, they bathed roughly once a week in a washtub of shared bathwater? Some sales pitch.

Perhaps the most ridiculously cast celebrity pitchman was legendary motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, who was tapped in his later years to endorse Legend Scooters. I have trouble picturing my grandfather, who became mobility-impaired after a suffering a stroke and a broken hip, quoting from the Legend print ad, “Evel says he chose his Pride Legend (scooter) for its outstanding performance, style, durability and value. I’d better get one. I’ve always trusted Evel’s judgment.”

Advertisers at least knew better than to mention safety as part of Knievel’s pitch. I can picture an uprising among upscale insurers refusing to help seniors pay for something endorsed by someone who is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records at the survivor of “most bones broken (433!) in a lifetime.”

Incidentally, Knievel died in Clearwater Florida in 2007, at the age of 69, from pulmonary disease, eight years after induction into the Motorcycle Hall of Fame. My mind immediately assumed it was from breathing too many fumes from the exhaust of his exhausting self-aggrandizement.

Where do I come up with my oddly amusing musings? Well, this line of thinking was triggered by my accidentally running into a Subway restaurant’s cardboard cutout of its newest pitchman, former Brazilian soccer great, Pelé.

“Who is that?” my children wanted to know. “Nelson Mandela?”

“No,” I responded, “Mandela promoted designer orthopedic shoes.”

Finding lost sanity through right saint(s)

During the pre-printing press period, ordained priest St. Anthony (1195-1235), lost to theft a handwritten book containing psalms, sermon notes and comments. He prayed about it and the thief returned the book, making Anthony the patron saint of lost items. When my boss attended Catholic school, they’d sometimes chant, “St. Anthony, please come around. Something’s lost and can’t be found.”

St. Anthony MedalSt. Anthony is just one of many patron saints. They range from the well-known, such as St. Christopher (travelers) and St. Francis (animals), to the obscure: St. Lidwina of Schiedam (ice skaters) and St. Dominic Savio (juvenile delinquents). Even bowel disorders have a champion: St. Bonaventure!

Some patron saints have more power than others. At http://www.saint-josephstatue.com, devotee Jim Wagner bragged about St. Joseph, the patron saint of home and family. Wagner wrote about people burying statues of St. Joseph in their yards, believing the (urban-legendish to me) practice will help sell their property.
Per Wagner, “Praying to St. Joseph for a quick sale and burying a statue of him is said to always bring a fast offer on the home. Realtors and homeowners swear that this legend is true.” Then why doesn’t it ALWAYS work, despite some realtors buying cases of St. Joseph statues?
According to Wagner, here’s the catch: they didn’t bury their St. Josephs in the right spots! What?! Yes, it’s their own darned fault! But what exactly went wrong? Again, I quote the victim blaming Wagner, “If you don’t bury the statue in the right spot then you might end up helping the neighbors across the street sell their home before yours or helping a person on the street behind you sell a home. Where you put that statue of St. Joseph can make a big difference in how quickly the home sells.”Omigod!
Burying an artistic statue and activating its spiritual magic is apparently more scientific than first suspected. I hate that my faulty statue placement and misplaced prayers could malign enough to actually help the competition. I should’ve paid more attention in Catechism!
So what’s the RIGHT way to engage in this pagan activity masquerading as Christian tradition? Again, I defer to Wagner’s expertise, who recommends the backyard, preferably in a flowerbed. If one’s unavailable, bury the statue within three feet of the house and on its side, hands pointing toward the house. Another allegedly effective position is to put it upside down in its superstitious grave, where it will have to work harder to dig out. Either way, the statue should be a least 12 inches below the surface. Must be symbolic of deeper faith!
Finally, Wagner suggests those chronically struggling to sell a home should bury the statue next to the real estate sign. However, that might confuse the home seller. Someone still adhering to the initial instruction to bury the statue in his backyard might foolishly move the real estate sign out there to keep them together. And then no one would know the house was on the market. Stranger things have happened!
I only wish I were making up this stuff! But the whole concept is too ridiculous to be fictional. It also got me thinking what if someone at the saint statue store either accidentally or on purpose switched the tags around? That could lead to some interesting consequences. For instance, what if someone only thought they were burying a statue of St. Joseph, but really buried a St. Francis figurine? Would they catch the error before their family pet was asphyxiated?
Worse yet, what if the people selling the house buried a St. Christopher statue by mistake? Would that render potential buyers incapable of finding the house, let alone putting a bid on it? For example’s sake, let’s assume none of them were wearing St. Anthony medallions.
I could speculate over this sort of thing for hours, but unfortunately, my lucky St. Bonaventure pocket charm is working its charm. I need to make a dash to the restroom. If I should fall en route, St. Amelia (bruises) has my back. And if all this has made you crazy, rest assured, there’s a patron saint to cover even that: St. Dymphna (mental illness).

More scents than sense available to teen boys

old spiceIt seems like my two middle school children spend way too much time thinking about relationships and romance. But if there’s one thing a potential beau can inspire, it’s better teen hygiene. So I guess in that respect, middle school romance isn’t all bad. Just mostly.

My daughter has long been caught up in the scented soap scene, so it’s not surprising body washes and sprays followed. The real shock came when my son stuck his head out of the shower one day and announced our ordinary bar of Dial soap would no longer do: he needed something more reflective of his personality. Dismissing my suggestions of Irish Spring (harkening to his Donovan family heritage) and Ivory (“Mom, it doesn’t matter if the soap can float when you’re showering!”), he requested I buy him Axe products.

Not wanting to sound like a dumbaxe, I agreed. Until I priced them. It wasn’t complete sticker shock, as I’d hygiene product shopped with teenage students from the private, therapeutic boarding school where I used to work. But it’s different when it’s coming out of my budget and replacing a perfectly good bar of Dial and bottle of Suave.

When I failed to pick out the “right” type of product, my son simply requested the cash to purchase something himself. That seemed fine, as my head was still reeling from the new, dizzying array of male hygiene products on the store shelves. Plus, out of curiosity, I wondered what he would choose.

My son selected an Old Spice brand multi-purpose product, the personal hygiene liquid equivalent of a Swiss army knife. Granted, I was eyeballing the label with my head under the shower, but I swear the bright red and blue plastic bottle contained not only shampoo, body wash and conditioner, but shaving gel, deodorant, forming cream, mouthwash, sunscreen, mosquito repellant, WD-40 and an energy drink, as well. I’m not sure how environmentally safe it is to rinse that combination down the drain. Does the EPA know about this?

Speaking of green, what on God’s green earth would inspire my 13-year-old son to want something like that? A friend sent me a 2013 Slate article, “Axes of Evil,” where author Dahlia Lithwick wondered the same. She speculated about the effects on a fortysomething woman after using “just for men” hygiene product. This followed finding herself trapped in a shower on a beach vacation with only a bottle of Axe three-in-one.

“It was the most sublimely powerful fragrance experience of my adult life,” Lithwick said. “I smelled like teen boy spirit. I smelled the way an adolescent male smells when he feels that everything good in the universe is about to be delivered to him . . . I had never smelled this entitled in my life. I loved it. I wanted more.”

Although fearful I might become addicted, I showered the next morning with my son’s Old Spice stuff. It was immaturely empowering. I grabbed something rumpled out of the clothes hamper to wear to work, forgot my lunch, and drove a little faster there. At lunch, I didn’t even note the calorie counts on the McDonald’s drive-thru menu. I wore my pants lower and one-upped co-workers’ stories during a staff meeting.

Later, my primitive craving for more took me to oldspice.com to read what else was available. Old Spice rebranded itself a while back and everything about it now screams, “Not your grandfather’s stuff!” Hair care products were called “Drench,” “Bulk Up” and “Kick Start,” which incidentally, “provides a powerful clean.”

The “Wild Collection” of body washes included “Foxcrest” (for cunning gentlemen), “Hawkridge,” (for guys with swift minds), “Wolfthorn” (for nocturnal creatures), “Bearglove” (for the commanding mind) and “Lionpride” (so beastly bold it defied defining?!). I would have expected my hand on the keyboard to start sprouting hair and claws, had I not seen gated retirement communities bearing similar names.

If I were to create my own line of hygiene products for teenage boys, I would name them things like “Risky,” “Notta Wuss,” “Omnipotent” and “Slacker,” or maybe “Entitled,” “False Bravado,” “Defiant” and “Shortcut.” Look for them in bright, jailsuit orange bottles, under the P & G (“Persecuted and Grounded”) label.

Lessons from a caster of community shadows

My dad never missed a funeral. I can still picture him, dropping everything to bathe, shaving his everyday farmer facial stubble, setting out a white dress shirt and dark suit (except for a couple of wretched 1970s years, when my mother had him wearing an uncharacteristically trendy blue, polyester leisure suit with a pastel-colored shirt – an overly vivid memory I’ve tried to banish), and shining his black wing-tipped shoes.

Such a sight might not have stood out to those who regularly saw their fathers dress that way for work, in the years before business casual attire had been invented, or for church, but funeral dress-up occasions stood out to me, as my father rarely left the overalled orbit of his farm and didn’t attend church.

Dad would either skip or go lightly on the aftershave. “People aren’t going to the funeral to smell me.” He’d also take the time to subdue his hair, brush his teeth for longer and put on a less-battered watch from the special place he secreted it between special occasions. There was a ritual to all of it, the paying of last respects. My father believed nothing conveyed the lessons of living more succinctly than someone’s dying. And he was a rapt pupil.

Ironically, while my dad was always sure to attend the funeral, he rarely found the time to visit people while they were still alive. Possibly he viewed funerals as a “deadline” for one last encounter, albeit a one-sided one; an opportunity to catch up, secondhand, on what he’d missed. I learned indirectly from him to not make that mistake. My visits are not reserved for funeral visitations.

Curt Knowles

Curt Knowles

I recalled those things recently as I donned a skirt, jacket and pantyhose on the hot Sunday afternoon of the funeral of longtime family friend, Curt Knowles, of Athens. I knew to leave early because everybody knew Curt and funeral seats might be a hot commodity. His funeral was predicted to be so large it needed to be held at the high school. Curt had been bigger than life for the majority of his lifetime, which necessitated a bigger final venue.

Outside the school, I armed myself with a handful of Kleenex, carefully folding them and putting them in the pocket of my jacket for easy access. This wouldn’t be an ordinary funeral because we weren’t sending off an ordinary man. Remembrances of Curt, who’d lived his life to the nth degree, were likely to stir up emotions to the nth degree.

In hindsight, I should have taken the whole tissue box with me. Five speakers memorialized Curt. It’s hard to say whose words affected me the most: those of a long-time co-worker and friend; his granddaughter; or his three children. They each attested to a different dimension of Curt, opinions overlapping on the topics of family loyalty, generosity and humor. “Curtisms” abounded; laughter echoed; tears flowed. It was the kind of funeral my dad would have cherished.

Pastor Daryl Dexter batted clean-up with his eulogy. “I don’t think Curt was ever fully aware of the size of the shadow he cast,” he stated, challenging the 500 of us present to think about the size of the shadow we are casting through how we impact others’ lives.

Curt had a large sphere of influence as a teacher, coach, excavator, relative, friend and community builder. Rabid enthusiasm, storytelling, humor and volume were his chief methods of making a point. Anyone who’d been on the receiving end of one of his deliveries knew the wallop they packed. “Get the lead out, Smitty!” he’d yelled at me at a conference track meet when I was already running the race of my life. His comments rolled encouragement and admonishment into one, if that’s possible.

Politically correct? Only accidentally. Welcome? Occasionally. Effective? Absolutely! Though few would consciously seek wisdom from a gym teacher on a backhoe, it never stopped Curt from offering it – free and unsolicited. He wasn’t happy until we stepped up to the plate and swung our hardest.

You always knew where you stood with Curt because he knew where he stood – behind the people and the community he loved. His funeral was one last shadow cast lesson in living.

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