Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Turning Phenix Elementary Schjool Into Apartments Is the Dumbest Decision Made In the 50 Years I've Lived In West Des Moines.


A guy asked me what I think of the decision to turn 78-year-old  Phenix Elementary School in West Des Moines into apartments.

"I think it's the dumbest thing  to happen in West Des Moines in the 50 years I've lived in the city," I told the guy.

"I'll go even further with this. I think turning Phenix Elementary [pictured] into apartments is the most stupid decision made since the name of the city known as Valley Junction was changed to West Des Moines in 1939.

"The name Valley Junction gave the city some character anid personality. The name West Des Moines is about as imaginative as the names of West Lafayette in Indiana and East Grand Forks in Minnesota.

"News reports keep saying that 'city leaders' made the decision to turn Phenix Elementary into apartments. As far as I'm concerned, those city leaders are masquerading as knuckleheads who should never be permitted to make another decision.

I'd like to know why West Des Moines needs more apartments, and why they need to be built on the site of Phenix Elementary.

West Des Moines needs more apartments like Alabama needs another collegiate football championship and the newspapers need another story about a comeback by Tiger Woods.

Apartments, apartments, apartments.

I'm sick of them, and I don't even live in one.

Do something smart with Phenix Elementary. 

It's a state treasure of a school if not a national treasure.

Capitalize on that instead of building more apartments.

By the way, I've always wondered where the name Phenix in Phenix Elementary came from.

So I looked it up.

In December, 1955, West Des Moines Elementary School was renamed Nellie Phenix Elementary School to honor a former student, teacher and principal.

Now that was a very smart decision.

That's all I'm going to write--for a while anyway--about Valley Junction, Phenix Elementary School and dumb people who are called city leaders.

I guess I got into a bad mood the more I thought about apartments at Phenix Elementary

Thanks for reading this. The next time I write, I promise it'll be about something more pleasant.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Pastor Roland Pillack IsTurning 85


There are several things a person can count on when he or she is greeted by Rev. Roland Pillack at Mount Olive Lutheran Church in Des Moines:

1. Pastor Pillack will always be smiling.

2. Pastor Pillack will give you a firm handshake.

3. Pastor Pillack will be wearing his pastoral church attire or he'll be in a suit or sportcoat, dress pants and a necktie. Nice shirt and shoes, too, of course, on this very dapper man.

It's been that way for years--I mean, a lot of years-- certainly at Mount Olive and likely at every other church he's served.

Speaking of years, they'll be honoring Pastor Pillack next week, I'm assuming with birthday cake and the fixin's, when he turns 85 years of age.

"Join us as we celebrate and thank God for Pastor Roland Pillack's 85th birthday," daughter Becky put on the card that arrived in my mail the other day.

Becky will be hosting an open house next Saturday, Feb. 4, at 4048 42nd Street in Des Moines from 1 to 4 p.m.

Obviously, Norma Pillack, the pastor's wonderful wife, will also be present for the festivities.

I've provided a photo of Pastor Pillack and Norma [courtesy of Lois Jean Schumann at Mount Olive] so you can see what a nice-looking couple they are.

Pastor Pillack, who has been at Mount Olive for more than 20 years, will also be available to greet people between church services Feb. 5.

Take it to the bank that there will be lots of people present at both get-togethers to wish happy birthday to a man who has had a lot of 'em.

And he certainly deserves the celebrations.

Senior pastors have come and gone at Mount Olive, but Pastor Pillack stayed as an assistant pastor, visitation pastor, vacancy pastor, whatever you want to call it.

He's been Mr. Dependable.

He's been the Do-What's-Necessary man of the cloth.

Pastor Pillack was stationed at other Missouri Synod Lutheran churches around the nation, but he was a perfect fit at Mount Olive, and he stayed.

Pastor Pillack conducted the ceremony in wonderful, very spiritual, first class fashion in 2006 when my mother, Alice Margaret Maly, died at 94 years of age.

That's why I have a special reason to greatly respect this marvelous man.

Kendall Meyer was one of the senior pastors with whom Pastor Pillack worked at Mount Olive.

I asked Kendall to give me some thoughts about Pastor Pillack, and it comes as no surprise that he high praise for him.

"I first got to know Pastor Pillack when I began my ministry at Mount Olive in 2009," Kendall said. "His deep love for the people of Mount Olive was evident to me from the very beginning.

"He loves visiting with people in their homes, providing a spiritual word of encouragement and giving the Lord's Supper.

"He loves sharing his life and stories with anyone who is willing to hear them, and has become an integral part of the social fabric at Mount Olive.

"I had the benefit of having Pastor Pillack take me under his wing to help me get to know the people and needs of the congregation.

I also asked Rev. David Mumm, another former senior pastor at Mount Olive, to give me his thoughts on Pastor Pillack.

He said: "The thing I remember most about Pastor Pillack is his gentle and always kind nature. He was always willing to help when he preached. It was always a message filled with Good News of our Savior's love for us sinners."

Pastor Pillack is pretty much retired these days, but I'll bet he could handle any church-related job if needed.

I mentioned earlier that you won't see Pastor Pillack in church without a necktie or without a suit or a sportcoat and dress pants.

That's the way it is with this man.

You know and I know that the clothing people wear to church has gotten a lot more informal at virtually every church in America in recent years.

Blue jeans are in [what the heck, I often wear 'em, too], dresses for women and suits and ties for men have gone the way of Fifties music and Studebaker automobiles.

You won't see Pastor Pillack dressed in blue jeans at church.

I don't know if he'll be wearing a tie and dress clothes at his birthday bash.

That's up to him.

Hey, he has the right to decide.

The way I look at it, when a man is celebrating his 85th birthday, he can wear anything he wants to wear.

Finally, here are more thoughts from Kendall Meyer on Pastor Pillack:

"His patient listening and way that he handles himself with the shut-ins and those in the hospital have guided the way that I do those visits today in my ministry [at the Lutheran Church of St. John in Quincy, Ill.] While I am thankful for those examples he provided me, since I was in the ministry for only a short time when I came to Mount Olive, I am most grateful for the private counsel he gave me as I sought to learn how to be a pastor and a dad at the same time. Pastor Pillack will be the first to acknowledge he didn't always make the best decisions during his ministry when it comes to the time he spent with his family. With this in mind, he wanted to pass on his experience to me to keep me from making some of the same mistakes. He told me, 'Pastor, don't ever forget your wife and your kids. You have a responsibility to them. You have those kids for a short time and your wife needs your help just like Norma needed my help.' I am thankful to him for his words of wisdom.

"When I accepted the call to the Lutheran Church of St. John, Pastor Pillack came up to me after my announcement and told me words that I will always carry in my ministry, 'Kendall, you will always have the Lord with you in your ministry. Be certain of that, be faithful and trust in Him. You will be missed. Thank you Pastor Pillack to the one who is a pastor's pastor. A wonderful and blessed happy 85th birthday to you, my friend.'"

Friday, January 27, 2017

Judy Currier


The birthday parties and the other celebrations at Donna's and Kevin's home in West Des Moines will still be lively in the future, but they won't be quite the same.

Judy Currier left us the other day, so that means someone else will be sitting in that big, very comfortable easy chair in the living room.

That was always Judy's chair whenever someone in the family was being honored with a birthday party or whenever Donna, Judy's daughter, and Kevin, Judy's son-in-law, hosted some other type of get-together.

Judy [pictured] died at 72 years of age after a very courageous battle right down to the end.  She had lung problems,  and finally couldn't defeat a cruel virus that attacked her body.

That was Judy. She never gave up on anything.

She fought, and she fought hard.

But, as her obituary says, "she died peacefully, surrounded by love."

Judy, whose home was in West Des Moines,  was a great friend of mine. I always liked her common sense and her sense of humor.  When we'd start talking and laughing about something or other at one of those parties, I think we got so loud that everyone else's conversations in the room had to be suspended.

Her obituary says, "Judy will be remembered for being a 5-foot 1-inch force to be reckoned with. She was strong, generous, brave, kind, and protective of those she loved.  She loved well, and was well loved."

Very well put.

The obit also said, "She will be missed by many, but especially by her son and daughter-in-law [Jim and Chris Currier], daughter and son-in-law [Donna and Kevin Maly], and two grandchildren [Nathan Maly and Megan Maly].

Also among the survivors is Janey Ladd of West Des Moines,  Judy's twin sister.

A celebration of Judy’s life will be held Saturday, Feb. 11 at Merle Hay Funeral Home, 4400 Merle Hay Road, Des Moines, IA  50310.  Visitation will start at 1p.m., with the service in the chapel at 2p.m.

Memorials may be designated to the Childrens’ Cancer Connection, 2708 Grand Avenue, Des Moines, IA 50312.

We'll miss you, Judy.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Things Won't Be the Same

I don't write much about media people in these essays because I'm one of 'em.
I mean, for me to spend time discussing

writers and announcers would be like an Indianapolis 500 driver talking about other drivers or a plumber yakking about the work other plumbers do.
But I'm making an exception today.
Brent Musburger, a guy whose voice is familiar to nearly everyone who watches collegiate sports on TV, is hanging up his microphone.
In other words, he's retiring.
And very soon.
Like after a Southeastern Conference basketball game between Kentucky and Georgia next Tuesday.
Heck, Musburger [pictured] didn't even give ESPN, his employer, 2 weeks notice.
But that's all right. 
Musburger never did things the same as everyone else when he was broadcasting a basketball or football game.
And at 77 years of age, Musburger should be able to quit his job any time he wants.
Still, it's a bit strange to me that Musburger isn't waiting until the end  of the basketball season.
But I guess he hears Las Vegas calling.
“What a wonderful journey I have traveled with CBS and the Disney company,” Musburger said in a statement. “A love of sports allows me to live a life of endless pleasure. And make no mistake, I will miss the arenas and stadiums dearly. Most of all, I will miss the folks I have met along the trail.
“But the next rodeo for me is in Las Vegas. Stop by and we’ll share a cold one and some good stories. I may even buy!”
Musburger plans to “help his family start a sports handicapping business," whatever that means.
I liked the way Musburger did the play-by-play on collegiate sports, others not so much.
I have a friend [she calls him MUSH-burger] who shuts off the sound and just watches the picture whenever Musburger is doing a game.
Frankly, I thought the 2017 Rose Bowl wasn't an official Rose Bowl because Musburger didn't do the play-by-play on TV.
The same with the Big 12 Conference's Big Monday basketball games.
Musburger isn't doing them this season, and the telecasts don't seem the same without him.
For me, it was an official Big Monday game a couple of years ago when Fred Hoiberg was Iowa State's coach and Musburger was the ESPN announcer.
Iowa State would usually wiin and Musburger would rave about what a great coach Hoiberg was, and what a great family Hoiberg had.
Those comments would come when the TV cameras showed Hoiberg's wife and kids sitting in their seats at Hilton Coliseum in Ames.
Now Hoiberg is gone and Musburger will be out the door in less than a week.
Hoiberg is coaching the Chicago Bulls and Musburger will be setting up shop in Las Vegas.
For me, things won't be the same.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

I'm All for It


There are a number of things I never thought I'd be doing at this stage of my life, and writing about girls' wrestling is one of them.

First of all, let me point out that I don't know a heck of a lot about competitive wrestling of any type, even though I watched and wrote about plenty of it in my newspaper years.

I managed to make enough writing sense while writing about at least one NCAA wrestling tournament, several Big Ten Conference tournaments. numerous important two-team dual meets, and even the Olympic Trials one year in Brooklyn Park, MN.

I acted like I knew what I was doing at all of those events.

At least nobody bitched that I didn't know a double-leg takedown from a fireman's carry.

Now on to girls' wrestling....

I'm well aware that a limited number of girls have been competing in what's supposed to be boys' high school wrestling competition in this state for a number of years.

Indeed, some of those girls have done very well.

Now comes news, courtesy of John Naughton of the paper, that girls may have their own high school state tournament in the near-future.

I'm all for it.

I haven't gone to a men's or boys' wrestling tournament in a long time. I probably wouldn't walk across the street to see a men's or boys' wrestling event now.

But if girls start wrestling each other, I plan to be there to see what it's all about. If women's collegiate wrestling is ever held in this state, I'll be applying for press credentials.

I'm sure the matches will be as competitive--perhaps more competitive--as any I've ever witnessed in the past .

Bring it on.


I heard from my Japanese friend Fusayo Hattori again the other day.

"Thank you for publishing all of your great memories of our visit to Iowa," Fusayo said in her email.

"We really had a happy time there.  Jiro [Fusayo's late husband] was especially happy that he was able to drink beer with you every day."

Fusayo also mentioned  the two Shih Tzu dogs we had at that time. They were Oriental female dogs [Shih Tzus have been traced back to Tibet and China], so their names were Sushi and Sake [pronounced sock-ee]. 

A Shih Tzu is pictured.

"I have great memories of Sushi and Sake," Fusayo said.  "When we returned to Japan, we got our own Shih Tzu, and named him Boggie.  He lived to be 15."

I mentioned to Fusayo that Sushi and Sake  each lived to be 13 years 5 months.

"Boggie probably lived to be 15," I joked to her, "because he ate Japanese food and Sushi and Sake didn't."

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Remembering Jiro


You may have noticed I've mentioned Fusayo Hattori in 2 or 3 of these essays recently.

Fusayo is a longtime friend from Japan with whom we exchange Christmas gifts every year, and exchange email messages frequently.

It wasn't easy reading some of things in an email Fusayo sent me a couple of days ago.

In it, she wrote, "Today, January 15 is the anniversary of Jiro's death 17 years ago. I remember, Ron, that you and Jiro were good friends. You always remembered Jiro. You sent me an email of some memories of Jiro. I was so glad, and I was touched by your email."

We became friends of Fusayo and Jiro a number of years ago through the Friendship Force, an international organization that promotes friendship with people throughout the world.

When the Des Moines chapter of Friendship Force organized an exchange with Japan, we were paired up with Fusayo and Jiro.

Consequently, we lived for a week in Japan with Fusayo, Jiro and their two daughters, Yumi and Yuki. 

The following week, we stayed in the home of a family in another city in Japan.

We had a tremendous time with Fusayo and Jiro. They were intelligent, fun-loving people who treated us to a fantastic week full of everything Japanese.

Money seemed to be of no concern to Jiro, who was connected with a number of Mazda dealerships in Japan.

We did all the things Americans are supposed to do in Japan, including visiting Mount Fuji [Japan's highest mountain], the nation's vast green tea fields and just about every type of Japanese restaurant anyone could imagine.

The way I recall it, most of the meals at Fusayo and Jiro's home was catered in.

But we ate out frequently, and one particular trip to a fancy sushi bar really appealed to me.

Jiro had me outfitted with an sushi bar worker's authentic uniform, including a bandana, and and arranged to have me treat diners to the best food a Japanese restaurant could offer.

I stayed behind the counter for a while before sitting with the other restaurant patrons.

I can't recall all the food we had--courtesy of Jiro--but it all was delicious. I'm sure I ate some stuff I hadn't dined on before, and haven't dined on since.

Our friendship with the Hattori family has continued ever since that first visit to Japan.

The year after that, Fusayo and Jiro sent daughters Yumi and Yuki to West Des Moines to stay for a week or so with us.

Yumi and Yuki must have given us a good report because Fusayo and Jiro flew to the U.S. and stayed with us in our home the following summer.

I reminded Fusayo in an email yesterday that the highlight of that week was football media day at Iowa City when Hayden Fry was the Hawkeyes' coach.

I had alerted the Iowa sports information office that I would be bringing Jiro to Iowa's preseason press conference and the activities that followed on the football field.

Fry made friends with Jiro immediately by saying a couple of Japanese words to him. That was a  very nice thing for ol' Hayden to do.

George Wine, Phil Haddy and others on Iowa's sports information staff went along with Jiro's visit in first class fashion.

Reporters wear name tags at media day, with the writer's name and employer included.

The sports information guys provided Jiro with a name tag that said: 

Tokyo Times

Jiro got a bigtime charge out of that, so did Hayden Fry and so did I.

Fusayo, who had gone shopping with Maxine in downtown Iowa City during the time Jiro and I were at the press conference and on the football field, couldn't believe it when she saw Jiro's name tag.

That wasn't the end of it.

In those days, Iowa's sports information people treated a few sportswriters and broadcasters to a media day dinner at The Lark, a wonderful restaurant in nearby Tiffin.

The two of us, plus Jiro and Fusayo, were included in the group that day.

Following a glass or bottle or two of something or other, George Wine & Co. told Jiro and Fusayo they could order anything on the menu.

When Fusayo and Jiro were finished eating some of the best steak and seafood anywhere, Jiro insisted on paying the bill for everyone.

But that was out of the question. Iowa paid for it, and I will forever be grateful to the very nice people there for their kindnesses.

On another night during the same visit to West Des Moines by Jiro and Hattori, Jiro said he wanted to prepare dinner for all of us at our home.

So I took him to the Dahls supermarket that then was located on 50th Street in West Des Moines.

Jiro ordered all the groceries he needed, and also found some high-powered sake [prounced sock-ee], the Japanese alcoholic drink made from fermented rice.

Let's put it this way, sake was served and consumed often when Jiro was around, whether we were in Japan or West Des Moines.

Sadly, the trip here by Jiro and Fusayo turned out to be the last time we saw Jiro.

I guess it was in 1999 that we were planning to fly to Japan again to visit the Hattori family.

However, I went to an emergency room the night before we were supposed to leave. One of the doctors there told me, "I think you have pneumonia and I'm worried about you."

An hour later I was in a bed at Iowa Methodist Hospital in downtown Des Moines. I sayed there 12 days, and underwent surgery on a lung so the pneumonia could be swept from my body.

Consequently, we didn't get to make the trip to Japan that year.

The situation worsened after that.

I received an email from Fusayo saying Jiro had died of lung cancer at 63 years of age.

We were able to go to Japan to visit Fusayo at some point after that, and she and I have been communicating electronically and we have been exchanging Christmas gifts ever since.

At the end of Fusayo's email to me this week, she wrote: "I hope you are in good health. Please drink Japanese tea. Good for the health."

"Good for the health" was always what Jiro would say to me when he and I drank Japanese green tea together.

Sad stuff.

A note from both of us to Fusayo: Jiro was a wonderful man and you are a wonderful woman. We miss Jiro very much, and we miss you very much. Hopefully, we will visit you soon. We love you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Brass Monkeys & Other Stuff


I'm discovering that a lot of you enjoy reading these essays when I write about the occasional visits My Neighbor Al makes to my home.

One of the pleasures of Al's life is drinking Italian Dark Roast coffee, and he knows the pot is always on in my kitchen.

I've found from experience that when Al starts drinking coffee he gets more humorous and more opinionated by the minute. 

He tends to stay that way until his wife Diane calls his cell phone to tell him she's got a long grocery list and that they'd better get their fannies to Fareway.

The reader response on my Facebook page was extremely high after I wrote about Al showing up at my home late last month to ask about the Christmas gifts I had received, and to encourage me, for various reasons, to pray a lot in 2017.

I'm trying to follow Al's advice, but it's still just January, so it's anybody's guess on how it's all going to work out.

That brings us to today....

Al rang the doorbell late this morning, and when I served up his first cup of Italian Dark Roast he wanted to know if I was feeling all right.

"What do you mean am I all right?" I asked.

"Well, I thought you were under the weather because you haven't been doing any writing lately," Al said.  "Ronnie, my boy, I miss you when you're not on Facebook--especially when you write about me."

"Al, you're right about me not writing lately," I said. "I decided to take a week off after the trip last weekend to Minnesota for the funeral of my nephew."

"What do you mean you took a week off?" Al said. "You're retired, aren't you?"

"Yes, I'm retired, Al, but what I meant was that I took a week off from writing. It's supposed to be a hobby at this stage of my life, you know.  Some guys make birdhouses in their garage when they retire. I write stuff on my laptop. The writing comes easy to me, but it seemed to be turning into an every-day job in recent weeks.

"I thought I was emotionally drained after writing about so much sadness in a short amount of time.

"It was tough enough to write about my nephew's death, but I also wrote about the deaths of Debbie Reynolds and her daughter Carrie Fisher, the death of an Iowa guy who was run over by a tractor, and the train wrecks that Iowa and Ohio State had in their bowl games.

"I decided to fly under the radar for a while after all of that. A lot of what I did for several days was listen to Fifties music on that computer/keyboard gizmo Mark, my son, installed here at home, with some daily trips mixed in to a place where I do my indoor walking.

"I didn't completely shut myself off from the world.  I made sure I went to Valley's gym Tuesday night so I could watch the Tigers sweep their boys/girls doubleheader against Dowling, and I plan to go to tonight's Valley-Ankeny doubleheader, too. I also made it to Wednesday's pie-and-coffee session. But I wrote nothing.

"Mostly, I got some quiet time and relaxation. Now I feel a lot better. Maybe even recharged."

"Recharged? What the hell does that mean?" Al asked. "I thought that only happened to batteries. Whatever, I'm glad you're doing better, and I'm pretty sure what I tell you today won't cause you to have a relapse."

"Go with it, Al," I said. "I'm ready."

"Well, I'll bet when you have an appointment to visit one of your many doctors, there will occasionally be a student doctor coming into the room with him or her.

"I don't particularly like it when my doctor has a student--particularly a female student doctor--with her."

Why not, I asked.

"Because I maybe want to discuss my prostate, my 
hemorrhoids, a particular itch I might have below my belt, or some other personal issue, that's why," Al said. 

"In fact, I had an appointment a couple of days ago with my family doctor, and a female student doctor came into the room, too. Made me nervous."

Not so nervous that Al wasn't able to ask the student doctor a question or two.

"I asked her if she was a student at DMACC," Al said. "The student doctor said, 'Not DMACC. I go to DMU, which is short for Des Moines University.'"

Al said he apologized to the girl for thinking she went to DMACC.

"I told her I knew she wasn't going someplace where she could learn to be a welder," Al said.

"That upset the real doctor. She told me there's nothing wrong with being a welder."

Getting back to Al not being comfortable when a student doctor is in the room, I said, "Hey, Al, I know you're old-school, but worrying about saying something about your hemorrhoids or an itch in your crotch in front of a female student doctor is really old-fashioned behavior," I said. "Grow up already. The female student doctors have a lot more savvy and maturity than you.

"So how did it go at your appointment?" 

Al said he avoided talking about his prostate, his hemorrhoids and his crotch, instead concentrating on the persistent cough he has, which he's always blamed on 25 years of 2-pack-a-day smoking as a younger guy.

"The doctor said I had some mild bronchitis, and prescribed an antibiotic," Al said.

"Good, that should make you feel better in a few days," I said.

"Not if this weather doesn't improve," Al said. 
"On days like we've had lately, my dad used to start talking about what freezing weather does to brass monkeys."

"Why brass monkeys [one of which is pictured]?" I asked.

Then I remembered.

"Hey, Al, don't tell me any more about freezing weather and the anatomy of brass monkeys," I said. 

"I'd prefer not writing R-rated stuff like that on Facebook. A lot of my church friends read what I write here, and I don't want them to think you and I sit around talking about stuff like that when we drink coffee."


"Ronnie, my boy, I think you'd better take another week off, and fly under the radar some more," Al said. "You still seem emotionally drained to me. Besides, I thought you were praying a lot like your pastor and I keep telling you to do.

"Pour me another cup before Diane calls my cell phone."

Friday, January 6, 2017


This is a very difficult one for me to write.

I mean, how do you make any sense out of a guy my age going to the funeral tomorrow morning
for his 50-year-old nephew?

It's not supposed to be that way.

Lance Maly died Monday of brain cancer.

The young man fought that devastating thing as hard as anyone has ever fought a disease.

He volunteered for medical trials in hopes of ridding his body of the cancer.

He battled valiantly for a year. He battled valiantly right up to the end.

 A Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Church of St. Bartholomew in Wayzata, MN.

Many of you knew Lance's dad--my brother Phil,  a longtime sportswriter and sports editor in Des Moines, Davenport and Decorah.

It shocked us all when Phil died at 53.

Now his son is gone at 50.

That shocks me even more.

Like I said, it makes no sense.

Lance, born in Des Moines and a 1989 graduate of the University of Iowa, made it big in the business world.

He owned his own company, he had a beautiful family, he had a beautiful home.

He was a great family man, a church-going Catholic, a runner, a golfer. 

He lived life the way it's supposed to be lived.

Lance [pictured] is survived by his wife of 23 years, Maureen; daughter Caitlin;  son Luke; mother Mary Jane Maly; sister Michelle Hanson; brother-in-law Carter Hanson, and many others.

Lance was a very good man.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

It's a French Silk Afternoon


You'd have thought the big spenders had arrived at Village Inn on this mighty cold afternoon.

The eight of us--Mike, Chuck, Larry, Bob, the two Daves and the two Rons--had just sat down at the circular table in the middle of the room when the restaurant manager came over to greet us.

"So you're back after a couple of weeks," the guy said. "Someone here was wondering where you'd been, and we figured you took the holidays off."

It was Wednesday.

Free Pie Day.

Big spenders these guys aren't.

Most of 'em pay something like $2.53 for their coffee and plenty of refills. Someone might have ice tea, and that costs a little more.

Like I said, the pie is on the house.

Mine was French Silk [pictured], and, yes, it tasted as good as it looks.

The manager was correct. We took the Wednesdays of the holiday weeks off.

But it was back to business today, rehashing the bowl games, how Iowa simply didn't have enough speed  to keep up with Florida  in the shocking 30-3 Outback Bowl loss, whether any of our state's four major-college men's basketball teams will make the NCAA's Big Dance, whether Drake's women's team can win the Missouri Valley Conference championship, stuff like that.

Lots of ideas, few solutions. That's how it goes every Wednesday.

The French Silk was outstanding.  Everyone went home happy.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Be Careful Out There


Even though I live in a state famous for its farms, I know little or nothing about them.

I have visited just 2 or 3 Iowa farms in my
entire life.

One visit was when I was kid, the other 2 were when I was an adult.

I enjoyed all of the visits, especially one when I was an adult.  I liked the serenity associated with the farms.

I also happen to own a T-shirt with the words "AMERICA NEEDS FARMERS" on the front, and I wear it proudly.

I certainly know how important farms are to this state. Lots and lots of food is produced on them.

That said, I also know farms can be very dangerous.

As a kid, I  would hear gruesome stories about farmers dying when their tractors overturned on them.

I once was told about a farmer being killed when he gored by a bull he owned. 

Before I get too deep into this, I want to say I realize that there are plenty of dangers in Iowa's cities and towns, too.

I know people are getting killed by guns, knives and cars every day and every night.

I guess I began thinking about farm tragedies  when I heard news reports about a horrible accident this week on an Iowa farm.

One man was killed and one was injured while they were repairing a tractor.

The tractor somehow slipped into gear and ran over both men.

One man was pronounced dead at the scene. The other man was taken to a hospital with injuries.


Once I began thinking about this subject, I began doing some research.  On the Internet, Brady Preston Gronlund PC writes that the most common types of serious farm mishaps are:

Tractor overturn deaths. Each year approximately 100 U.S. farmers are killed when their tractors roll over while being used.

Farm structure falls. Many farmers suffer serious injuries in falls from grain bins, ladders, haymows or other farm buildings.

Farm machine entanglements.  Farmers can be seriously maimed, disfigured or killed when they  become caught in farm machinery such as augers.

Suffocation accidents. Farm workers may become trapped in grain bins or silos where they are suffocated. Others may become trapped in enclosed spaces that do not have proper oxygen levels or that are contaminated with silo gas or manure gas.

I realize that none of that is pleasant reading.

Now I'm sorry I got into this subject.

Next time I promise I'll write about movies, football or My Neighbor Al.

Meanwhile, be careful out there--whether you live on a farm or in the city. 

Monday, January 2, 2017

Fifth Straight Iowa Bowl Loss


You know it's an ugly day for Hawkeye football when the most positive development  is that athletic director Gary Barta announces the price of season tickets for next season won't increase.

Otherwise, Iowa fans would like to forget the rest of what happened today at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla.

On the field in the Outback Bowl,  the situation was awful.

Iowa [8-5] was clobbered by Florida, 30-3--the first time a Hawkeye team went without a touchdown in a bowl game since Hayden Fry's 1993 squad lost to California, 37-3, in the Alamo Bowl.

The paper was still paying me to watch and write about football games in 1993.

It was no more fun writing about the 34-point loss than watching it.

Today's defeat was Iowa's fifth in a row, and the Hawkeyes' all-time bowl record fell to 14-15-1.  

"It was a tough day for our football team," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters after the game. "Our team really had a good month, they practiced and prepared well. I'm not sure there's a thing I'd go back and change. Ultimately, we didn't play well enough to come up with a victory."

Austin Appleby [who I assume is not related to the late Bud Appleby of Des Moines] was the Florida quarterback who engineered the victory, and he was named the player of the game.

Appleby passed for 222 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Oddly enough, this was the fourth time Appleby had played against Iowa. His first three were when he played at Purdue.

However, he lost his starting job with the Boilermakers, and transferred to Florida.

Wise decision, Austin.

The loss tacked a sour close to Iowa's season, which had impressive November  victories over Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska in the Big Ten.

However, Florida [9-4] scored more points against the Hawkeyes than those 3 Big Ten teams combined.

Don't ask me what the  Gators' lopsided victory today says about the proud old Big Ten.

Iowa quarterback C. J. Beathard didn't play well in his final collegiate game, completing just 7 passes in 23 attempts for 55 yards.

He was intercepted three times and played much of the last half with a hamstring injury.

TV commentator Ed Cunningham kept telling viewers on ABC that Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz should get Beathard out of the game because he was favoring his gimpy leg.

Cunningham must've said it a half-dozen times that Ferentz needed  a quarterback change. But it didn't happen until the final minutes.

 Iowa's offense wasn't a complete flop.

Akrum Wadley ran for 115 yards, giving the Hawkeyes two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time. 

Wadley, a junior, finished with 1,081, and LeShun Daniels wound up with 1,058 after gaining 45 today.

But in today's Florida sunshine, it didn't matter.