January 3, 2009

Cowboys, Rednecks and Heroes

"Courage is being scared to death - and saddling up anyway."

Buon giorno. Now that festivities and difficulties surrounding Christmas are over with for a while, it's time to get back to the business of daily living. And writing.

"Are you going to be a cowboy again, Uncle Bob?"

Yep. Well, people do expect it of me, don'tcha know.

Cowboy Bob Sorensen from Question Evolution Day 2012I've been thinking about being a cowboy. (No, I don't mean that I'm going to be a poser and dress up in the full western regalia, smoke long cigars, drawl and do other things that movie cowboys do.) What got me thinking about it was when a woman called me a cowboy one time. She was making a joke, but I started thinking about it after that and realized that it has some truth in it for me and my father as well.

What does it mean to be a cowboy?
Sometimes it's a derogatory term, meaning someone who is reckless. When used in the proper context, I can understand this usage because sometimes I go into situations with guns blazing and taking risks. The classic cowboys were known to get very rowdy after a long cattle drive.


A real cowboy knows how to ride and care for horses, tend to the cattle, put in long hours, work hard and do all sorts of difficult things. They need to have a strong work ethic in order to succeed. If I was put on a ranch and told to go to work, I'd need to have things explained to me, or ask if the ranch needed computer assistance. That is, if I was needed to do actual cowboy work, I would be lost. Real cowboys have a high-risk occupation. Reckless? No.

Recently, I've been rediscovering Western movies. I'm not into the modern, R-Rated Westerns, though. No, I'm talking about the classic Westerns. John Wayne and friends. You may recall that I briefly went on about the "Bonanza" television show a while back, saying that they had good values in that show. I've been seeing strong values in the classic cowboy movies, too.

Please pay attention, 007. I'm well aware that these are idealized, fictional characters and concepts on celluloid. But I'm more than willing to draw valid points from them. And I'm going to stick with John Wayne for this discussion.

In McClintock, a man asked G.W. McClintock (John Wayne) for a job and received it. Then he took a swing at G.W. (unsuccessfully). The new hire was frustrated because he never had to "beg for a job" before. McClintock said, "I don't give jobs, I hire men." After a brief discussion, he took his new hire to the ranch anyway. Why let a little thing like throwing a punch at you in a moment of emotional turmoil spoil everything?

From The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance: "Out here, a man solves his own problems." Right. No room for whining or expecting someone else to take care of things for you. It's a harsh life, and you have to adapt.

John Wayne's character in The Shootist said, "I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them." Fair enough!

"I never shot nobody I didn't have to", in True Grit. What, are you supposed to let someone try to kill you and not respond? Not in that environment. And in Big Jake, "There's two reason to kill - survival and meat. We need meat."

And when a good man would give you his word, you could count on him keeping it. Similarly, in Chisum, "We do exactly what we started out to do." Get the job done, capice?

Not only are these cowboys "straight shooters" with their guns, they speak their minds. Maybe because they believe in doing what's right. I also like Sheriff Bart in the Mel Brooks comedy Blazing Saddles. He did what was right in the face of adversity and despite the fact that the people he was trying to help didn't really like him.


"A man's got to do what a man's got to do."

There's a song title that comes to mind, "All of My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys". In a way, that's true for me. Bruce Willis in the extremely violent and profane Die Hard had to get the job done under adverse circumstances with what he had available, yippie ky yay. Video game hero Duke Nukem was a bit of a cowboy in that shoot-em-up. So were Indiana Jones and James Bond, to some extent.

In real life, General George S. Patton (I want to stand up at the mere mention of his name). He knew about courage in the face of fear, and getting the job done.

Ronald Reagan was considered a political cowboy by his detractors because they considered him reckless, but he got the job done as well. Those landslide elections kind of put his political enemies in their place, huh?

Uh, sorry, Kid Rock. Your "Cowboy" song doesn't fit here.


By the way, have you ever noticed that people use "redneck" as a derogatory term? Of course you have. What do rednecks have to offer?

First of all, "rednecks" are considered to be from the south for some reason. Yes, I know that Jeff Foxworthy says that being a redneck has a "glorious absence of sophistication", but in the broader usage, a redneck is a southerner with values that some people don't like. However, I do like the stereotypical redneck values. The good values of "rednecks" are often the same as those of cowboys.

By the way, I sort of disagree with Alan Jackson's portrayal of the "southern man", because it implies that a northern man doesn't have those same values. But — why is it that I don't see many of those values proclaimed in the North? (Or in rock music, for that matter?) Is it my imagination? Someone needs to explain it to this former Michigan boy living in upstate New York.

Charlie Daniels has something good to say about rednecks. Here are some highlights:

What this world needs is a few more rednecks
Some people ain't afraid to take a stand
What this world needs is a little more respect
For the Lord and the law and the workin' man
We could use a little peace and satisfaction
Some good people up front to take the lead
A little less talk and a little more action
And a few more rednecks is what we need
I was raised on beans and cornbread
And I like my chicken fried
Yes, I drive a pickup truck
And I'm full of American pride
I keep a Bible on my table
I got a flag out on my lawn
And I don't believe in mindin'
No one's business but my own
This part gets a "yee haw":

...it's a shame ole John Wayne
Didn't live to run for president
John Wayne didn't think an actor could run for president. And then cowboy actor Ronald Reagan did it. Ironic and hilarious, I think. The Duke supported him.

Back to Charlie Daniels:
What most people call a redneck
Ain't nothin' but a workin' man
And he makes his livin'
By the sweat of his brow
And the calluses on his hands
Now you intellectuals may not like it
But there ain't nothin' that you can do
Cause there's a whole lot more of us common-folks
Then there ever will be of you
"How does this make you a cowboy, Uncle Bob?"

I was coming to that.

It's the values and the concept. I believe in hard work, success, being able to speak the truth, being a man of honor, solving problems and the basics of "right and wrong". I don't know about hayburners (horses), campfires, herding cattle and branding, and I won't pretend to be a cowboy in the truest sense of the word.

I'm not stupid; I don't believe that cowboys are perfect. And I don't pretend that I've "got it together" myself. Maybe I'll even become somebody that I like by the time I'm fifty.

So, yes, I think there's a bit of cowboy in me. And "redneck" values. Now, 'scuse me while I whip out that Trace Adkins CD that I got for Christmas.

Ciao, Pilgrims!


December 29, 2008

Thoughts About Memorial Services

Buon giorno. While this may appear somber at first, keep going.

I did not make it to my brother's funeral. With the snow and ice in Michigan and New York, the cost and difficulties of actually getting a flight just after Christmas, etc., I was not expected to be there. But I expect to make it to the interment service in the spring. However, aside from being there in spirit, parts of this earlier post and Sharon's writings were included.

My other brother and his wife told me that it went well. And it was very different that what you might expect. Sure, it started with a hymn (one of his favorites, "He's Got the Whole World In His Hands"), Scripture readings and prayers at the beginning and end. But the part I like was based on one of Jack's favorite characters, Frosty the Snowman! This was also because Jack was a "happy, jolly soul". The sermon title was, "Don't You Cry, I'll Be Back Again Someday!" What a great double meaning!

I was cheering inside what Keith, Sharon and Rev. Gary had put together for Jack. (Yes, I feel it's safe to put first names in here. Especially since Tommy the Knocker has volunteered to give trouble to anyone who gives trouble to them. Capice?) Good job!

But in a way, why the sad faces? Yes, someone is no longer with us. But shouldn't this be a celebration of his or her life? Lela and I agree, "Roast me and toast me". We also agree that cremation is best (much of my family is using that route). On a side note, I know that some people say, "Gosh, Cowboy Bob, isn't cremation a pagan thing?" My response is, "So what? They can have a pagan ritual, we can have a Christian ritual."

I remember a recent episode of Ghost Whisperer, where a friend of the departed was supposed to give a solemn message. Instead, he said (paraphrasing here), "He wouldn't want us acting like this, all sad and everything. Let's celebrate his life, the joy he's given us!" Then he played some music and had everyone in the church dance to it. I thought that was great.

Maybe the funeral industry needs an overhaul. A good mix of spiritual values and celebration seems to be in order. When it's my time, I want to be looking down (heh, I hope I'm looking down and not looking up, if you catch my drift) and seeing some joy. At least, I hope I've brought some joy and been of some benefit to people.

OK, that's enough. Although somewhat joyous, I have to admit that the monitor got blurry a couple of times.

Ciao, Jack!

Addendum 12-30-2008 :

"God, how I hate solemn funerals. When I die, take me into a room and burn me. Then my family and a few good friends should get together, have a few good belts, and talk about the crazy old times we all had together."

— Marion Robert Morrison (John Wayne) . Jack liked John Wayne.

December 26, 2008

Bulletproof People

Don't worry, gang, Stormbringer still has plenty of thunder left in him. Not as loud today because I'm tired after the Christmas festivities.

First off, I want to clarify. At my age, I use the term "kids" loosely. It doesn't have to be someone college age or younger. I've seen people in their thirties that I consider "kids".

"What in the world are you on about, Cowboy Bob?"

People consider themselves bulletproof. The younger they are, the more indestructible they seem to think they are. Especially in areas related to health. Scott the Collector can booze it up, stay out late and still come in to work and I don't see a lack in his performance. Ernie the Gambler is gambling by chowing down on fast food and sugary sodas instead of decent meals. I don't mean that it's wrong all the time, but it's a lifestyle for him. That crap catches up to you. (It's funny, ZZ Top's "TV Dinners" just started playing...)

I want to tell people to wise up so they don't have health problems in the future. You know that I've told you about some heart difficulties that I've had, and became diabetic as well. Take care of yourselves while you can so you don't have to have my experiences. Yes, I know that things will happen despite your best efforts. But why go asking for trouble?

Here are some ways that I see the bulletproof mindset in younger people.

  • The "know everything" attitude. I want to knock some people over the head when they won't listen to the voice of experience, or even another intelligent viewpoint on a subject. This is often carried out through a statement that sounds like a prophetic utterance, no matter how inane it really is. Have you ever had a political or religious discussion with someone in the public indoctrination — I mean, education — system? It's alarming.
  • Refusing to admit when they're wrong. This is a kind of subcategory of the above point. It shows a closed mind, unwilling to listen to someone else's viewpoint or consider facts of which they were previously unaware.
  • Reckless driving. I've lost friends and acquaintances of all ages, or had them maimed, because of their cocky driving.
  • Reckless sexuality. Sure, you're young and you have more stamina. But promiscuity and binge sex? Aside from the moral difficulties and risk of incurable diseases, there are spiritual and psychological side effects that you are not considering.
  • Gullibility. Just because something is on the Internet, television, in a movie or "documentary" does not mean you have to suspend your ability to reason. Check things out, for crying out loud! Will this cause them harm? Well, what do you think?
  • Bad eating habits. Although I had straightened out my own habits for several years, the junk food caught up to me and I had to have a heart blockage removed. It accumulates and catches up to you in the future. And those blasted sugary drinks? You're killing yourself, Skippy. On the psych front, bad food and drinks (especially with little or no exercise) contributes to depression.
I don't think I need to go on about having the music too loud for too long, illicit drug use, excessive alcohol and tobacco or the inability to appreciate ZZ Top.

And I don't care what your music star and movie star heroes are doing. Let them self-destruct and go into rehab. Your assignment is to pay attention to what you're doing to yourself physically, mentally and spiritually. Consider using moderation.

I know you're probably saying, "This does not apply to me". See what I mean? Hey, I had to try.

December 21, 2008

A Time of Loss

Not much thunder from Stormbringer today.

Isn't it strange how sad events happen around Christmas? One friend told me that his brother-in-law's wife died last week, and that the brother-in-law has had a series of difficulties recently. Another friend knows someone who has suicidal tendencies. A third friend lost his father on Christmas Eve. I can name other disasters that happened around the week or two before Christmas. Yes, they happen all year round. But it's certainly more difficult at this time of year.

Today is December 21, 2008. About an hour and a half ago, my oldest brother died. He was 64.

Jack ("Jackie" to many family and friends) was born with Down Syndrome. He could not talk, but was able to do basic functions for himself. He was content to watch television or listen to his phonograph records. Jack was not able to stay at home for most of his adult life, and was in various state institutions and eventually into foster care. For the last few years of his life, he was in an adult home.

Later in life, he had health problems that developed. At the end, he had to use a walker to get around, and an oxygen tank was a frequent companion. Various infections occurred, and the last one is what did him in.

He was stubborn. The doctors were simply guessing, and I believe that it tormented our parents when they said he would not live very long. "He won't live to puberty"..."He won't live to..." Ha! He fooled them all. In fact, we understood on the 19th that he would not last the day. Stubborn Jack held off until the 21st.

There have been people praying for our family at this time, and we all have appreciated it. My next oldest brother and his wife were the main facilitators of his care. They did a great job, and I was especially glad of what they had to do, and deal with, while I was 750 miles away.

I have to admit that I had trouble in my younger years understanding and dealing with his condition. That, and the fact that we were apart most of the time added up so that we were never close. But he was still my brother. Hey, I've admitted my faults and failings on here before, yes?

One memory that keeps coming back is that my mother (who passed away a few years ago) said, "Just think, in Heaven, Jackie will be perfect." That was something for me to look forward to then as well as now.

I wouldn't be on my game if I did not add one moment of anger. This is directed to the arrogant atheists that seek to take away the faith of those of us who believe in God. What do you have to offer? Are you going to attempt to take away the comfort that my brother is now perfect, at peace, entirely whole in Heaven? That he will be with our mother? Or that our father, who does not know anyone (or who he is himself) will join them in a grand, happy reunion one day? Or the rest of us, at that? I have some people to look up myself...

I'm going to be more blunt here: This is part of what Christmas is all about. The real meaning. Jesus came to live among men, to die, to be bodily resurrected. At this time of loss, we have the hope that he gives us. Capice?

Addendum 12-22-2008:
Here is an excerpt from a letter from my sister-in-law. As I said, my father does not know anyone anymore, and does not even know who he is.
We stopped in to see Dad today. He did not seem to understand. I stopped in on one of his neighbors. Doris told me that last night after dinner, "John started scratching back & forth in his chair as he normally does; then all of a sudden he let out a very loud howl." Doris said he sounded like an angry bear. This would have been out the time of Jackie's passing. Just thought you would want to know.
Perhaps my father did know after all...
(Edit: My father died less than two months later.)

December 17, 2008

Liberal Kids These Days

Gather 'round, kids. Uncle Bob has another story to tell. This one is true (and I do tell you when they're not), but I'm not going to give names and locations because I don't want to cause undue embarrassment. I have proof, but that's only for my own satisfaction and not for public view. Also, I pieced together some of the details after the excitement.

I was messing with an instant messenger and picking on the daughter of one of my goomah's. She's in college, and I started playing. She did not know who I was, but the clues were there and she would have figured it out. Why didn't she? She's a bright girl. The problem was that she has a jealous, controlling boyfriend that was right there. He took over the messaging and started in on me.

The girl had told him she knew who it was, but he was having a good time thinking that he was ripping me a new one. He dared to accuse me of sexual harassment, which was laughably untrue. (I have plenty of girlfriends at the club, I don't need to make my moves on a college kid. Another reason that I wouldn't make any moves on the girl is that she is extremely liberal and the opposite of me in every way.)

Let me stop the story for a moment and point out that colleges are liberal indoctrination centers. Liberal girl's boyfriend was obviously a liberal as well. Why? Because she wouldn't hang around him if he wasn't, and because of what passes for education in colleges.

OK, back to the story. It is interesting is that he insisted that I identify myself, but refused to identify himself ("I don't have to!"). I did not initiate a conversation with this guy, and told him that he had a double standard. He did not know what it means! When I pointed it out, he still justified his actions. He was dead wrong on all counts, but still insisted that he was oh so very right.

I was nice to him for the girl's sake. People who know me are aware of my online slapdowns that send my opponents home crying to Mommie. Damn, I love running rings around them logically!

What I want to show is that cafone boy was incapable of restraining his emotions so that he could reason, he would not listen to his girlfriend (she knew it was me, remember), he certainly would not listen to any reason from me, he was fond of himself for thinking he had me (bada bing!), and justified his double standard.

I place a high value on critical thinking, even when it comes to emotions. The above situation shows what I already knew. Namely, that colleges do not teach reasoning skills. Instead, they teach liberalism, which is not logical and appeals to emotions. Liberals are in charge of the country now, and they seldom resort to rational thought processes. Reason is needed for making intelligent decisions. And that's why Conservatives need to take this country back. Capice?

December 1, 2008

Guard Your Cash

Buon giorno. I had been putting off writing this article until the first of the year, but I think people need to know now rather than later.

Now that Obummer and the other Socialists are going to be in charge in the USA, and economies are interconnected, perhaps what I have to say will affect readers outside these borders as well. Much of what I'm going to say is common sense, but sometimes things need to be summarized and repeated.

The economies are in bad shape, we all know. Our national "leaders" have points of view that will only make things worse. They will continue to create an entitlement (welfare) mentality, and will raise your taxes to do it. You believe that B. Hussein Obama will keep his promises to only raise taxes on the "rich"? Dream on. Or you want to see them pay more than they already do? You're dismissed. We don't need class warfare in this room, anyway.

I have no intention of giving you investment advice, however. This is simply what it takes to survive.
  • Times are tough, and they're going to get tougher. Start now and plan ahead.
  • Get out of debt, or lower as much of your debt burden as you can. Don't be foolish and only pay the minimums on your credit card debts, or you'll be there forever. And you don't want to have huge amounts of debt to pay off when they raise their interest rates. Those companies are always looking for an excuse to trick you, so they'll simply write a new rule and raise the rates.
  • Consider the underground economy. I'm not talking about the black market or downright illegal activities (that's some of my turf, anyway, so back off). Barter your way through things. What you need is the backyard mechanic that will fix your car because he owes you a favor anyway, or you can owe him one (be sure to pay it back!), or you may have other goods and services instead of money.
  • Pay cash. You can use this to gain a better rate. I know someone that needed limousine service and saved a couple of hundred dollars by paying cash. Hey, if some companies want to do business "off the books", that's up to them. Or the guy that will work on your computer if you give him cash or give him something else that he wants.
  • Do not buy things you do not need. I know you want that big-screen television, but put it off for a while. Maybe next year. If something you need has to be replaced, you'll probably have to do it. But not if it's going to be an expensive "upgrade". Not yet.
  • Back off from pressure. I have long believed that haste is Satan's favorite tool. "Do it now, or you'll lose the opportunity!" Sure, Buttercup. If I act now, I don't have time to think about it, figure my budget, find an alternative, see if I need it in the first place, and if you're a crook. Listen to that inner voice of caution.
  • Plan. That's the alternative to the pressure that I just mentioned. If you need or want something (Do I really need to tell you the differences between needs and wants?), look at your budget and plan for it. And learn about what you're wanting. Be an educated consumer. The more it costs, the more you should plan and think.
  • Don't be cheap. If you take the cheapest way out instead of paying for quality, you'll pay for the cheap stuff and pay to replace it with the good stuff. This is for things that matter. I don't care if you get salt and pepper shakers at the dollar store, capice?
  • Continue to give. It's a proven fact that Conservatives are more generous than Liberals, and charities will be hurting. I don't have time to go into the psychological and the spiritual aspects of giving, so I'll just say that we need to be here for others. Why? Because it's the right thing to do. Oh, you want something more practical. OK, try this: If you're not here for them, they won't be here for you. But I hope you're not that selfish.
I have some advice for businesses, too, in case they're willing to listen.
  • Make it up in volume. Don't be so greedy that you need fifty percent profit on ten items, when you can sell many more items if the customers see a lower price tag.
  • Excel in service. Tim's Automotive in Kingston, New York has done good work for my crew, and we recommend them. In fact, this "word of mouth" advertising brought us there.
  • Listen to the customer's needs as well as their words. Don't be a cheap stronzo and try to get them to spend money on something they don't need. Sell the correct product or service and they'll love you for that.
OK, Cowboy Bob is done for today. I hope you learned something. In fact, I implore you to follow this advice. And feel free to use the comments section.

September 24, 2008

Why I've Decided to Vote Democrat

Buon giorno. This arrived in my Inbox, and I decided to share it with the world.

I'm voting Democrat because I believe the government will do a better job of spending the money I earn than I would.

I'm voting Democrat because freedom of speech is fine as long as nobody is offended by it.

I'm voting Democrat be cause when we pull out of Iraq I trust that the bad guys will stop what they're doing because they now think we're good people.

I'm voting Democrat because I believe that people who can't tell us if it will rain on Friday CAN tell us that the polar ice caps will melt away in ten years if I don't start driving a Prius.

I'm voting Democrat because I'm not concerned about the slaughter of millions of babies so long as we keep all death row inmates alive.

I'm voting Democrat because I believe that business should not be allowed to make profits for themselves. They need to break even and give the rest away to the government for redistribution as THEY see fit.

I'm voting Democrat because I believe three or four pointy headed elitist liberals need to rewrite the Constitution every few days to suit some fringe kooks who would NEVER get their agendas past the voters.

I'm voting Democrat because I believe that when the terrorists don't have to hide from us over there, they'll come over here, and I don't want to have any guns in the house to shoot them with.

I'm voting Democrat because I believe that good intentions and lofty ideas are more important than demonstrating any mechanism or experience necessary to make them happen.

I'm voting Democrat because I love the fact that I can now marry whatever I want. I've decided to marry my dog.

I'm voting Democrat because I believe oil companies' profits of 4% on a gallon of gas are obscene but the government taxing the same gallon of gas at 15% isn't.

Makes you wonder why anyone would EVER vote Republican, now doesn't it?

Subscribe in a reader