Friday, March 12, 2010


The  piece I'm now posting was published in last night's Emporia Gazette.  The writing was mine, as was the mug shot.  However, credit was inadvertently given to nationally syndicated columnist Jay Ambrose.  I actually feel quite flattered.  The content of the op-ed follows.  I hope you enjoy it:

The President called it “Snowmageddon.” After two blizzards in two weeks our nation’s capitol was buried in white. The wheels of government ground to a halt. Nothing was happening, not even the bickering and gridlock we’ve grown accustomed to. For some it was a godsend. For others, however, the icy blanket was cause for weeping and gnashing of teeth. Somewhere in the bowels of government an up and coming analyst reported that “Snowmageddon” was responsible for 100 million dollars a day in lost government productivity.

I think using the words government and productivity together might be an oxymoron. But it’s not surprising. Government officials, at all levels, have come to believe they reside on Mount Olympus raining legislation down on us “average” souls like divine thunderbolts.

Back in the early sixties I was stationed at Harmon Air Force Base in Newfoundland. With winters that began very early and dragged on incessantly, “Snowmageddon” was just a way of life there. Most GI’s thought of Harmon as bad duty. It was different for me. My mother was born in Newfoundland, in a little fishing village named McIver’s Cove. So, what was considered a curse for most became a blessing and the opportunity of a lifetime for me.

I made my first visit to McIvers in the middle of a terrible winter, even by Newfoundland standards. I still remember the bitter chill in my bones as I stood desperately knocking at the door of my Uncle Billy and Aunt Mabel’s house. And I have fond memories of seeing them greet me with the warmth so typical of the people of the Maritimes.

In time I got to meet all my uncles (most of the women of McIvers had gone to Maine or Massachusetts). There was my uncle Philip, who was still a lumberjack at age 77. There was my uncle Billy, the youngest of the Park boys, who worked as a night watchman at the lumber mill in Corner Brook. There was my uncle Ned, a veteran of the Battle of the Somme, who still carried a trophy of the Great War in the form of a crippled right hand, courtesy of a German rifleman. And, there was my uncle Fiander (pronounced Fye-ander). He was a confirmed bachelor, considered to be the gadabout of McIvers.

While I loved all my uncles, Fye was very special to me. It took very little to make him happy. He lived in a small cabin, with no electricity. He had only one extravagant worldly possession, a battery operated radio, purchased to tune in to his beloved Toronto Maple Leafs. We spent our time together talking about the simple life, family, values, lost traditions, war and peace, and so forth. Fye had little more than a third grade education, but he was one of the simplest, wisest men I’ve ever met.

I once asked him what folks in McIvers did during the long winters. There were three, he said. “We stay inside, make love, and boil water for the tea.”

Sometime during my tour the Canadian government decided it would be a good idea to pave the road going through McIvers. To that end, they met with the men of McIvers. “We’re going to pave the road,” they announced. The Park boys, ever obstinate and unprogressive, couldn’t understand why the paving was needed. “The road is perfectly good as it is. We’ve no need of paving.”The government tried government logic. “You don’t understand. This is what you pay your taxes for.”
“For paved roads?”
“Yes,” one of the government reps said.

The logic that followed was homespun and compelling. “Well, there’s no sense our paying the taxes, then, because we don’t want the road paved.”

The impasse was still in place when I left Newfoundland in 1964.

I’m sure by now the Canadian government has found some way to get that road paved. There’s probably an oversized highway sign as you enter McIvers today, proudly declaring “your tax dollars at work.” Such is the nature of progress, especially unwanted progress.

I’ve thought of praying for a blizzard of common sense to descend on our Capitol, but I don’t have that much faith. However, if Punxatawny Phil is right we have six more weeks of winter and reason to hope. I’m praying for more snow. Who knows, if it keeps on snowing our legislators just may have to take my Uncle Fye’s advice and “stay inside, make love, and boil water for the tea.”

1 comment:

WGW said...


I love your stories about McIver's. I grew up there but now live in Colorado Springs. I honestly dream of the place every night. I knew or knew of many of the residents you mention in your posts. Being in my mid-30s, many were much older than me, but as you know, everyone knows everyone in McIver's. Keep up the great work.