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Dave Simpson: I Had To Pry It Out Of Her Little Hands

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

Years ago, in an advice to the graduates column, this suggestion was among the gems I bestowed upon the matriculating youngsters:

“Look up from your cell phone now and then. There’s a whole world out there that isn’t on the screen of your dopey little device. Give it a try, Skippy.”

A side benefit: You won’t walk into the path of an oncoming Greyhound bus, your final words on this planet to some best friend forever, “lol.”

(Two other pieces of advice worthy of revisiting here: Most of the romance you see on TV is bunk, so don’t get your heart set on never-ending, heart-pounding love. In the words of Cher, “Snap out of it!” And, don’t marry someone you can’t trust with a credit card.)

Look up right now from wherever you’re reading these words (newspaper, desk-top computer, cell phone). Chances are you see someone else, and there’s a good bet they’re peering into their cell phone – yammering with some friend (how do these people have so much to talk about?), crushing candy, or cussing at spam.

You can see how many grads took my advice and looked up from their phones: Nobody. (Swell advice for column-writing geezers like me: Don’t waste time writing advice to the grads columns.)

The other day, at the park where I walk half-mile laps around a lake, there was a guy sitting on the shore fishing. He had a folding chair, a cooler, and tackle box. And every time I walked past him, he was staring into his cell phone. Let me repeat that. He was staring into his cell phone while he was FISHING.

(He should go to the “app store” and look for an app that will alert him when his bobber bobs.)

A lady was sitting on a park bench, reading something on her tablet computer for about an hour as I walked my laps.

Other people at the park sat in the shade of trees, checking their cell phones. Couples held hands with one hand, their cell phones with the other. People walking dogs stopped every now and then, checking their phones for messages. A day in the park, these days, is no day in the park.

Waiters, construction workers, drivers in oncoming cars – everyone is sneaking a peek. The irritating person in the car in front of you at the drive-through at McDonalds or the bank, who doesn’t pull up when the person in front of him/her pulls up, is checking his/her cell phone.

Drives me nuts.

My wife, who hates wasting time, used to get frustrated by delays at the doctor’s office. Now, she whiles away the time playing Scrabble on her cell phone with friends hundreds of miles away. Our son kills aliens, or enemy soldiers, or who knows what, on his phone, using both thumbs to shoot.

To get their attention, I say something like this: “I’m thinking about joining Antifa and moving to Portland. What do you think?”

Last week I visited our red-haired, blue-eyed grand daughter, who is two. Cute as a button. Talking up a storm. (She has a disabled TV remote that she talks into like a cell phone. She calls it her “Hello.”) Her favorite thing in the world, next to her mom and dad, is any cell phone she can get her hands on.

Her mom doesn’t let her play with cell phones, but when I showed her pictures on my phone, she was on it like a monkey on a cupcake. She poked every button, changed settings, and swiped pictures, not intimidated by technology, fascinated with this magical device. She had her way with my cell phone until I pried it out of her little hands after she unwittingly set up a conference call with two of her great uncles, one in Utah, the other in California.

It was only after I was half way home that I realized why my phone was so quiet: My grand daughter put me in Airplane Mode.

I have to be patient, however. Five years from now she’ll be one of the young people I can ask to fix my cell phone when I have a problem.

Heaven help us.

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: Great Thoughts, On Our Bumpers

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Let’s touch some bases as campaign season is officially underway:

– “Ted Bundy Was A Republican!” proclaimed the bumper sticker on a car parked next to mine at our local Walmart.

I ducked into the store to do my shopping, thankful that I didn’t run into the driver of that car. While I used to relish political debate, it has become a blood sport, and conservatives like me are commonly, cruelly, labeled “buffoons” spouting “unbridled idiocy.”

One time in a newsroom over which I presided as publisher, I suggested that labor unions were much the same as political action committees. They laughed me out of my own newsroom, hooting in disbelief that their boss could be so incredibly ignorant.

Younger readers might not know that that Ted Bundy was a serial murderer who killed young women in Washington, Colorado and Florida, but who once also dabbled in local Republican politics in Washington state. He was electrocuted in Florida in 1989, and good riddance.

The person with the bumper sticker wants us to know that Ted was a Republican, as if all Republicans  lean toward serial murder, and should be strapped into Old Sparky like Ted.

(Oh yeah? Well serial murderer John Wayne Gacy was a liberal Democrat. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.)

Takes all kinds, I guess, which was confirmed the next day as I drove on Interstate 80. A cattle truck passed me, with a sign on the front that said, “Trump 2020.” And in bold letters across the back of the trailer it said, “No More Bull Schiff. We Stand With Trump!”

Before the last presidential election, a relative sent me a T-shirt proclaiming “Make America Great Again.” It fit great, and reflected my beliefs, but I only wore it once, in the privacy of my basement. Because politics in this country has become so bitter and hateful that wearing a MAGA hat or shirt is tantamount to an act of war. The relative who sent me the shirt was once asked to put a sweatshirt over his MAGA shirt, or to turn it inside out, when he dared wear it into a casino.

It’s come to that.

We’ve seen video of MAGA hats being snatched off the heads of Trump fans, even a child in one instance, and soft drinks dumped on their heads. I wouldn’t wear my MAGA shirt to exercise, because it would be seen as a provocation among the young group that gathers there.

I keep hearing that diversity is a goal we have to reach, but between the guy who owns the cattle truck and the person with the Ted Bundy bumper sticker, I think we’re plenty diverse already.

– A car frequently parked at our library sports a bumper sticker that says “Turn Off Fox News!” (You see a lot of liberals at libraries.) This person no doubt wants to return to the halcyon days when news from liberal anchors on ABC, CBS and NBC was all you could get.

This person apparently can’t tolerate even a single news source that doesn’t lean way left

My late father had a bumper sticker on the wall in his workshop that said, “Caution: I Don’t Brake for Liberals!” He thought it was funny, but didn’t put it on the bumper of his pickup in largely liberal Wisconsin. Smart.

For years I had a bumper sticker that said, “If God’s Not a Bronco Fan, Why Are Sunsets Orange?” That was before pro sports became a soap box for contempt for our country. (No more football, or Broncos, for me.)

I kick myself for not buying a bumper sticker in Wisconsin with this message:

“Eat More Lutefisk!”

(Who could disagree with that?)

– I was proud as punch this week to learn that a Forbes Magazine survey of the highest taxed cities in America showed my current home town of Cheyenne, Wyoming, coming in DEAD LAST. We’re the cheapest.

Woo Hoo! Break out the the party hats and noise makers. Peel me off the ceiling.

Stand by, however, fellow beleaguered fans of frugality (BFFs). Decimated mineral tax income in our state has the war drums for higher taxes beating louder than ever.

Pray for us, friends.

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Dave Simpson: Ready For The Times To Get Better

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

“It’s been a too long time with no peace of mind, and I’m ready for the times to get better.”

Written by Allen Reynolds, performed by Crystal Gayle.

It was November of 1994 when I unwrapped a couple 60-minute tape cassettes and recorded my first Saturday night performance of “Prairie Home Companion.”

They were at the Oscar Meyer Theater in Madison, Wis., and they had an excellent band from Milwaukee that lit the place up. “The News from Lake Wobegon” was funny and poignant and charming in the way only Garrison Keillor – the storyteller of our times – could hold an audience in his spell.

I would go on to tape the program most Saturday nights for the next 12 years, storing them in plastic cabinets with drawers.

Over the years I would get out a selection of tapes whenever we were headed out on long car trips, driving from Illinois to Wyoming, or to grandma’s house in Wisconsin. Our kids grew up listening to “The Lives of the Cowboys,” “Guy Noir, Radio Private Eye,” and those wonderful stories from Lake Wobegon, “the town out on the edge of the prairie that time forgot.”

We laughed at a comedy bit in which private eye Guy Noir asks a Canadian Mountie his name. “Wooster, sir,” replies the Mountie, to which Noir responds, “Worcestershire.” “No, Wooster, sir,” the Mountie replies. “That’s what I said, Worcestershire!” It was like “Who’s on first?”

A show at Yellowstone Park from one Fourth of July was particularly memorable, from one of our favorite places. It ended with the eruption of Old Faithful.

We enjoyed the show so much that when it was broadcast from Peoria in May of 1999, my mother, my son and I were in the audience. It was the annual “Talent from Towns Under 2,000” show, won by an incredible young violinist from Idaho, but my favorite was a marimba band from Texas.

Seeing Keillor give the news from Lake Wobegon, standing before the packed house, without notes, and holding the silent crowd in the palm of his hand for 20 minutes, was the highlight of the evening. I can’t think of anyone in my lifetime who could tell a story like Keillor.

Over the years I hauled my stash of Prairie Home Companion tapes along with us – like lugging around heavy boxes of National Geographic Magazines – from one town in Illinois to another, then to Nebraska, and finally to Wyoming.

At one point I tried to donate them to the Veterans Administration hospital in Cheyenne, but they said they couldn’t accept them because who knows what might be on those tapes. Too bad for them.

So I finally just lugged them up to my cabin, where I break one out on summer Saturday nights, at about the same time I used to hear the show on the radio. It was a good decision, now that Keillor has retired, and was later accused of some impropriety with a female staffer. The storyteller of our time became one of the first celebrities “canceled” by the #MeToo movement, and even his reruns quickly disappeared from Public Radio.

The other night, I grabbed a tape from October 23, 1999.

As luck would have it, the musical guest was one of my favorites, Bluegrass legend Doc Watson. One of the songs he performed was written by Allen Reynolds and first performed by Crystal Gayle, and included these words:

“It’s been a too long time, with no peace of mind, and I’m ready for the times to get better.”

Just as timely today, maybe more timely, than in 1999, or 1978 when it was written. And to be sung by Doc Watson – perfection.

The News from Lake Wobegon, about folks retiring from farming and moving into town, featured a story about a kindly aunt – who secretly smoked – starting a fire smoking in an outhouse. It was put out by her nephew, in a manner “men are equipped to do,” keeping her secret.

Keillor ended with these words:

“Empires fall. Great schemes crash. Farms fail. Our lives are adrift. But kindness lasts forever. Kindness goes on forever.”

Prairie Home Companion.

What a loss.

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Dave Simpson: Better Cross Portland Off Your List

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By Dave Simpson, Cowboy State Daily columnist

So, answer me this.

Was the guy in Portland who kicked the other guy in the head a peaceful demonstrator?

Was he so worked up and enthusiastic about his peaceful demonstrating that the only reasonable course of action was to take a good run up and kick a man, who was sitting dazed on the ground from his preliminary beating at the hands of other peaceful demonstrators, IN THE HEAD, like an NFL field goal kicker trying to put the ball through the uprights from mid field?

Was that guy a peaceful demonstrator?

I live out where the buses don’t run, and it has been many years since I lived in a big city. So maybe I’m just not up to date on current trends. So I have to ask, is kicking  man viciously in the head classified as peaceful demonstrating these days?

Looks like attempted murder to me.

How about attempting to burn down a federal courthouse? Is that peaceful demonstrating, too? Firing commercial grade fireworks into a line of police officers. Throwing rocks, urine and feces at cops. Smashing store windows. Looting. Is all of this going on now in Portland for almost three months peaceful demonstrating?

Meanwhile, persistent efforts are being made by the news media to portray all of this craziness as just more “peaceful demonstrating.” (In London, rioting sparked this headline from the BBC: “27 Police Officers Injured in Largely Peaceful Anti-racism Protests.”

Largely peaceful? Twenty seven cops injured?) Insisting that these are peaceful demonstrations as we see video after video of rioting brings to mind the Groucho Marx quote about not believing our own eyes.

Another question: Was the guy who got kicked in the head by the peaceful demonstrator exhibiting some kind of privilege that made him deserve a swift kick to the head?

It’s my understanding that his offense was trying to defend a trans-gender woman who was being beaten by peaceful demonstrators. So he too was beaten by the mob, then kicked in the head.

The guy who got kicked in the head is apparently going to be OK, and as I write this, they’ve identified the the guy who kicked him and are looking for him. That’s progress for a city in which the mayor seems to be OK with over 80 days of mayhem, but draws the line at federal officers trying to keep the rampaging mob from burning down the federal courthouse.

Where on earth is the adult supervision in Portland? What do normal people there think? Who would want to live in Portland, or run a business there, under these conditions?

When does the rioting stop? Never?

A year ago, my daughter, my son and I attended a wedding in Portland. We boarded a cruise boat downtown and spent a beautiful evening cruising the Willamette River, past the posh homes and spectacular buildings of Portland.

The afternoon before, we visited a huge book store downtown, and had an excellent lunch at a local brewery. I have a framed picture of the three of us at the brewery, enjoying our visit to Portland. The only downside was finding a place to park, because the downtown area was so popular.

I wonder what that visit would be like today, after almost three months of peaceful demonstrators tearing up jack in Portland. Maybe if you avoid the federal courthouse you can keep from getting kicked in the head, or beaten for defending a woman being beaten by peaceful demonstrators.

Maybe the directions you get on your cell phone have been adjusted to avoid kicked-in-the-head zones.

The fact is, if that wedding was this year instead of last year, we would have sent our regrets. Who in his right mind would visit war-torn Portland today?

The city leaders of Portland, however, are apparently OK with this situation, saving their ire for federal officers trying to keep the lunatics from burning down the (our) federal courthouse.

So much for Portland. And too bad. It’s a beautiful city, now at the mercy of brutal anarchists.

I listened closely last week and didn’t hear one Democrat at their convention cite the great job their party has done running big cities like Portland.

It figures.

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Dave Simpson: Chewing The Fat Out On The Porch

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By Dave Simpson, columnist

Three old guys sitting in Adirondack chairs on a porch, staring into a crackling campfire.

All three of us are 69, but the consensus is that we feel like we’re in our 50s.

“Except when I first get up from a chair like this,” I say. “For the first couple minutes after sitting for a while, I walk around like an old man.”

“You ARE an old man, Dave,” one of them says, and the other one laughs. Between the three of us, there have been one knee replacement, a torn quadriceps, two rotator cuff repairs, a back operation and one heart scare.

One of us has escaped the attention of the orthopedic surgeons, so far, but his wife has had two knees and two shoulders replaced. Nobody escapes unscathed.

We worked together in Central Illinois for a time back in the ’90s. I was their boss, but our friendships survived anyway. We remain close friends. Two of us live in Wyoming now, and the third lives in southern California.

All of us have had our share of caring for aging parents. My wife and I care for her mother at age 96. The guy from California was on his way home from taking care of his dad, who is in his 90s, in Nebraska. We seized on his passing through, giving us a chance to get together, sit on the porch, and as my dad used to say, “chew the fat.”

I’ll be the first to admit that some adult beverages were consumed, and empty cans of Coors and Pabst Blue Ribbon littered the porch floor. We’re not the kind of guys who want grapefruit, or raspberries or lemon in our beer. That’s not who we are.

We make quick work of a tin of Beer Nuts, and move on to the Doritos.

The beautiful wife of the guy from California died 13 years ago from cancer. He has not remarried. The long-suffering wives of the other two don’t mind us getting together up in the mountains now and then. We joke that they must have boyfriends. (Not likely after 35 and 47 years of marriage.)

I pass around a notebook full of pictures of two of us building this cabin back in the 1980s. The third guy asked specifically to visit “the cabin,” and he finds a sad note in my cabin diary from the day his wife died.

“Look,” he says, pointing to a picture of me with lots of hair and a full beard, wielding an ax, way back in 1984. “This is when Dave had hair!”

I gamely join in the laughter. I was nice about it.

All three of us are conservatives, close to rock-ribbed. We worked together in a vastly liberal business – local newspapers – and we have plenty of stories about how crazy it once was. That business has pretty much gone down the tubes in recent years, making retirement – at least in my case – a welcome rescue from a sinking ship.

Two of the three of us don’t watch much television anymore, having parted ways with most broadcast stations and cable. One watches a lot of YouTube. They don’t listen to much talk radio. I watch cable and listen to talk radio, a creature of habit. Of the three former local newspaper employees, only one still subscribes to a local newspaper. Two get the Wall Street Journal.

We all appreciate much of what Donald Trump has accomplished, but wish he would quit giving the Democrats so much ammunition with his tweets. Supporters like us deserve a break. None of us can imagine a President Joe Biden, because he’s so liberal, and because we see evidence of getting older in Joe, things we see in ourselves, memories that aren’t as sharp as the once were, gaits that aren’t as quick, words that don’t come easily anymore.

A steak dinner on the porch, some beer and hours of conversation take their toll.

As I head off to bed, they’re still going strong out on the porch, turning their attention to religion.

A porch. A campfire. Three old friends chewing the fat.

As the kids say nowadays, “Perfect.”

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Dave Simpson: Getting Cold Feet Over The Debates

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

OLD NORMAL: The one thing you almost always hear in the endless political debate in this country is the need for a “national dialog.”

I wish I had a dollar for every time some pundit, politician or activist called for a “national discussion” of this or that societal challenge, as if we weren’t already talking problems to death. As if pundits, politicians and activists don’t get paid plenty for talking problems to death.

It’s like that line from “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” On the subject of Butch talking, Sundance says, “That’s what your good at, Butch!”

And yet, in what was arguably the greatest American achievement of my lifetime – putting men on the moon – it started with a challenge from President Kennedy, followed by a decade of calculations, invention, determination, and some tragedy. They didn’t talk it to death. They just did it.

It was only after they got to the moon that the politicians talked it to death, bent on spending the money back here on Earth. (And how did that work out?)

We fought this country’s bloodiest war over slavery. In 1964 and ’65, with the help of Republicans – who are now routinely vilified as racist – our country passed historic civil rights and voting rights legislation. Affirmative action programs were put in place.

And yet we’re now told by The New York Times that the very foundation of our country is racist. “Systemic racism” is the new blanket slur.

The cop who killed George Floyd is charged with second-degree murder. The cop who shot and killed a fleeing man in Georgia is charged with first-degree murder, and could face the death penalty. What’s left to discuss? Summary execution of cops who are accused?

But like Sundance says, talking is what politicians, pundits and activists are good at, so we need another serious discussion to begin, yet another national dialog. When was the last time a national dialog solved anything?

As the old saying goes, “Money talks. Bull… (let’s just leave it at bull) walks.”

The one thing that never seems to spark a meaningful national dialog is the huge debt we have heaped on our kids and grand kids. The main difference between our spendthrift political parties today is whether to add another $1 trillion to our debt, or $3 trillion.

Some difference.

I didn’t think I’d ever hear the number $1 trillion described as not nearly enough. Until now.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for that national dialog.

NEW NORMAL: The very essence of a sharp national dialog is the presidential debate.

And yet, we’re hearing Democrats say that Joe Biden should not debate President Trump. Joe Lockhart, President Clinton’s former press secretary, said last week that Biden absolutely should not debate. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman says Biden should only debate if Trump first releases his tax records, and the debate is monitored by “fact checkers.” Writer Elizabeth Drew and comedian Jimmy Fallon joined the don’t debate chorus this week.

Anyone who has seen Biden recently knows, however, the reason he will have his hands full in a debate. He can’t string two sentences together without faltering or committing an embarrassing gaff.

Simply put, Trump would be on him like a duck on a June bug.

The sad fact is that Biden – who ate vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan alive in their 2012 debate, which pundit Britt Hume said was the most “disrespectful” debate performance he had ever seen – is not nearly as articulate as he once was. Biden was all over Ryan in that debate, repeatedly demanding, “C’mon man!” that anyone could oppose him and Barack Obama.

It’s not an ageist slur to recognize that Biden now has trouble expressing himself. It’s obvious.

But some of the very folks who normally want a national dialog now oppose debates.

As the saying goes, “They can argue it flat, and they can argue it round.”

AND LASTLY: I can’t imagine Democrats – who hate the president with an intensity that’s enough to blow your hat in the creek – will allow Trump to beat them twice.

They’ll use any and all means to beat him. Count on it.

Katie bar the door.

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Dave Simpson: Coin Shortage: Who Could Have Seen This Coming?

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle, “Surprise, surprise, surprise!”

It was at a sandwich shop this week that the guy behind the counter asked if I minded if my change wasn’t quite exact, due to the current shortage of coins.

I resisted the urge to argue – we were both wearing masks and I get a little dizzy from oxygen deprivation – even though I’m one of those guys who picks up pennies I find in parking lots, and who is uncomfortable with those little dishes full of free pennies that clerks use to make change

When a clerk gives me a penny or two to make the change easier, I go out to my pickup and scrounge around for loose change, so I can go back in and replace the penny or two, and pay for what I buy.

The way I see it, if you get casual about pennies, then nickels, dimes and quarters are next, and before you know it, fiscal discipline breaks down, and pretty soon our country is $25 trillion in debt. (Oh, wait, I guess that’s already happened, and the big debate in Washington right now is whether or not to add another $1 trillion to that debt, or $3 trillion. My mistake.)

We should have seen this coin shortage coming.

Several years ago, my bank – Wells Fargo – took out the coin counting machines. I said to a teller, “I guess you guys aren’t in the money business anymore. Where do we go now if banks are above counting the pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters that make up dollars?”

It was pointed out to me, however, that this teller didn’t make the decision to rip out the coin counting machines. Decisions like that are made much higher up, by the geniuses who have been running Wells Fargo for some time now. It was the higher ups that decided they were way too important to waste time on the jar of coins that fills up on my dresser.

The teller told me I could wrap my coins myself, and bring the rolls of coins into the bank, and they would redeem them for dollars. She gave me a hand full of free wrappers.

So after that, I spent my winter evenings wrapping coins. (It’s not much of a hobby.)

Apparently, Wells Fargo wasn’t worried that I might short them a penny or two, or give them a roll of quarters with one less than required, because they always redeemed my rolls of coins without question. And here I thought bankers were picky about stuff like that. Apparently this new breed of bankers isn’t into bending down to pick up stray pennies in the parking lot.

That went on for a couple years, with me bringing in my coin bag full of wrapped coins every three or four months, and leaving with between $30 and $40 in dollars, plus a few coins to get me started on the next jar of change.

Then along came Covid-19, and a big sign was posted on the front door of our branch bank, saying someone had contracted the virus, so they had to close the lobby. Well, OK, I can go to the drive-up windows.

That went fine until my jar of coins overflowed, and it was obvious that I couldn’t load my rolls of coins into the pneumatic tube system that connects you to the tellers at the drive-up windows.

Put five rolls of heavy quarters in that system and they’ll have to call a plumber to fish the cylinder out of the innards of the drive-up.

So, my only alternative now is to take my coins to the grocery store, where they CHARGE you to take your change.

I don’t think so, Bullwinkle.

The wonder of it is we didn’t see this coming. But then, that’s the nature of this crisis. It’s full of results we should have seen coming. Close businesses and the economy tanks and unemployment goes through the roof. Surprise! Pay people more in unemployment than they make working and they won’t come back to work. Surprise!

Our clueless response to things we should have seen coming brings to mind another famous quote from Gomer:


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Dave Simpson: Up Where Distancing Is No Problem

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

Nice to know that 2020 isn’t nearly as rotten a year if we can just get far enough away from members of our own species.

Twenty miles up a rough dirt road, the final five miles steep and full of potholes, is far enough. Social distancing is the order of the day up here at 9,600 feet elevation, and you’d have to work hard to get within 600 feet of someone, much less six feet.

Not long ago, a lady who was upset about something I wrote sent an email saying I should come up here to my cabin, not bring any writing materials, and NEVER COME BACK. (Helpful suggestions like that come with the territory.)

If you can avoid the temptation to tune in the news on the radio, you can spend an entire day not thinking about whether or not masks work against Covid-19, about kneeling athletes, about Portland, Ore., or about the looming presidential election.

Maybe they’ll have things worked out by the time the snow flies and cabin season is over. But I doubt it.

Keeping the radio turned off is particularly important because the only news that comes in clearly in the morning is National Public Radio, where they’ve given up any semblance of impartiality. It’s non-stop Trump-is-a-dope-and-despot coverage, all day, every day. I’ve considered using my radio for target practice.

Podcasts can save the day. My favorite so far is a solid hour of a calmly gurgling mountain stream.

But, on to the not-so-bad news of 2020 up here where the buses don’t run:

The mosquitoes haven’t been nearly as bad as usual, probably because the standing water disappeared more quickly than usual. Mosquitoes were a real issue 35 years ago when we were horsing around logs to build the cabin, and we returned to town Sunday afternoons covered in sweat and layers of mosquito repellent.

I remember looking down at a stick of butter on the picnic table and seeing half a dozen mosquitoes mired in the sticky butter. Nothing like a little extra protein on your slice of toast.

Mosquito technology has improved over the years, and a spray or two of Deet, and burning a Pic coil in the evening seems to keep the rascals at bay, at least this year. And for the last three years I’ve hung something called “Mosquito Eradicators” in trees on either side of the porch, and they seem to help.

Back in the 90s we saw a lot more hummingbirds at my feeders. I have a  photo from back then of more than a dozen hovering around a feeder. But in recent years there haven’t been nearly as many. Four is the most I’ve counted this year.

There’s one hummingbird that seems to be in charge of running off the other three. A rust and red colored beauty, he terrorizes the other hummingbirds, even though there’s plenty for everyone at my feeders.

Maybe hummingbirds are selfish, and the mean bird is just protecting what he considers his valuable assets. Even in the animal kingdom, we apparently can’t all just get along.

I heard a bird expert say on TV that red dye in the nectar does not attract more hummingbirds. Tell that to the birds I see trying to feed at the red Coleman lanterns hanging from my porch rafters. I always put red food coloring in my feeder nectar.

Last year I spotted several nice bucks on my little acre of forest, but so far this year I’ve seen just one doe. I spotted a moose calf on the road coming up a couple weeks ago, and if there’s more leg in any animal short of a giraffe, I don’t know what it is.

Bark beetles wiped out thousands of our trees 11 years ago, and one neighbor cried as the dead trees surrounding her cabin were cut down. We cut down 65 on my place, and I’ve spent the last 11 years cleaning up the forest floor.

The good news is that the new trees that have come up are now as tall as I am, enjoying the newfound sunlight.

Nature has a way of dealing with a crisis.

(I’m not sure it works that way in town.)

Dave Simpson can be contacted at

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Dave Simpson: The NFL – Taking A Walk, As They Take A Knee

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By Dave Simpson, Columnist

Who cares what a pro football team’s nickname is if we have to sit through millionaire players and coaches taking a knee during the national anthem to show their contempt for our country?

Why would I care what they call a team if its members have such a low opinion of the country I love?

I was a Broncos fan for decades. But this is it for me. I’m finished. Done with football. All it is today is another heaping, steaming helping of political correctness, wokeness, and angry grievances. Brain injuries. Boring contract issues.  And anger for the country that made it possible for so many to become so vastly wealthy, so successful.

And apparently way too big for their britches.

No thanks. I’ll clean my garage on Sunday afternoons from now on. The library in our town is open on Sundays, so there’s that, too. Or maybe while they’re taking a knee, I’ll be taking a walk.

To Hell with all of them.

For the record, I don’t care if – as the woke people insist on saying – “the Washington football team” (instead of what we used to call the Washington Redskins) changes it’s name to the Washington Walleyes. Although in today’s ultra-sensitive environment, who knows if a reference to a fine-tasting freshwater fish might offend someone, somewhere, someday, and trigger some snowflake.

The late, great Washington columnist Charles Krauthammer once wrote that while many die-hard fans wanted to keep the nickname Redskins, words evolve. And since the choice of a nickname for a sports team does not rate high on issues of cosmic importance, the nickname should probably be changed in deference to the evolving nature of language. It was a reasonable opinion. It was the sport he enjoyed, not the nickname, so make the change. He preferred “Skins.”

The problem today, however, is the larger issue of disparaging our country at the beginning of games by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem. According to news reports, a song considered the Black national anthem will be played at the start of the first two games of the season (if there is a season), then the Star Spangled Banner will be played, during which players and coaches may well take a knee, apparently to show their solidarity in not honoring our country.

Who would ever have thought that a hero like Drew Brees would have to apologize for saying he would never dishonor the flag and the country that his grandfathers fought to defend in World War II? How on earth could that be deemed so outrageous that Brees would be browbeaten and berated into issuing repeated apologies?

But, that’s what happened.

And who would have expected Bret Favre to liken pioneer anthem kneeler Colin Kaepernick, known to wear socks depicting police officers as pigs, to Pat Tillman, who gave up a career in the NFL to enlist in the Army, and died fighting for his country? Really, Brett? He later backed off from that stupid opinion, after many were justifiably outraged. 

The football coach of the Oklahoma State University Cowboys was pictured wearing a t-shirt showing the name of a conservative news site. A player expressed outrage. And the coach gave up over a million dollars in annual salary to try to make amends. 

And how about the gutless NFL owners, who own teams in a country that is nuts about football, but can’t summon up the spine to defend the economic system that made them all so fabulously wealthy. Or to speak up for the vast majority of the hard-working police officers who patrol our streets. Or for the working-class guy who just wants to watch football on a weekend afternoon without having his nose rubbed in ever more political correctness, smarmy insufferable wokeness, and contempt for the country he loves. 

The problem is that pro football is confusing entertainment with just another truckload of seething, hateful controversy, in a world already chock full of hatred. And it’s just as bad in basketball, where they’re planning to wear protest slogans on the back of their jerseys.

This is entertainment?

No thanks.

I’m done.

I’ve been putting off cleaning the garage for years.

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Dave Simpson: Behold, The Kitchen-Table Haircut

in Dave Simpson/Column

By Dave Simpson, Columnist

It’s like getting a haircut from Nurse Ratched.

Maybe you remember Nurse Ratched from the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” and her look of icy disapproval. She was perfectly willing to recommend shock therapy to get a patient’s ducks in a row.

My wife worked for years as an emergency room nurse, then went back to school and became a nurse practitioner. For a few years during her long career, she worked on a psych ward.

So she’s pretty much seen it all, and participated in much of it. (She even likes that show “Dr. Pimple Popper,” if you can imagine that.)

So, she’s not about to be intimidated by the small matter of cutting my hair. And she likes saving the $11 that a geezer haircut costs at the place I used to go. When the coronavirus hit, we had no alternative but to have her cut my hair at the kitchen table.

These days, you can get a barber shop haircut again, but only if you “sign in on line” with your electronic gizmo of choice, which is a real turnoff for guys like me. So the other night I got my second kitchen-table haircut of the pandemic.

Some amazing things have happened at our kitchen table. In Nebraska, we had friends with four growing sons, a dad who was a contractor, sky-high insurance deductibles, and nose-bleed-sized premiums, thanks to Obamacare.

More than once my wife sewed up the dad’s fingers at our kitchen table, to avoid a costly visit to the emergency room. (Don’t tell that family that Obamacare is popular. They don’t agree.)

One time in Illinois, my wife cut a cyst out of my back, while I sat at the kitchen table and the kids watched with wide eyes. “GROSS!” they said. “I think I’m going to THROW UP. Gag me with spoon!”

When she got it out, she proudly held it up with her tweezers like a dissected frog heart in biology class. Right there at our kitchen table. (The experience must not have been too traumatic for our daughter, who went on to become a physician assistant.)

Nurse Ratched drained a couple Boone and Crockett-sized “lipomas” on our old black Lab Woody in our kitchen, and never batted an eye. I couldn’t watch.

So, mere haircuts are a piece of cake.

I will say, however, that she lacks the gentle manner of Floyd the Barber from the old “Andy Griffith Show.” Floyd had a light touch with his comb in one hand, his scissors in the other, and his pinky fingers held high as he gently moved his customer’s noggin around during a trim.

My wife’s touch is much more, shall we say, direct, as she shoves my head up, down, to the right, to the left, like she’s inspecting a questionable cantaloupe at Walmart.

“Put your head up!” she demands, as if she’s not about to put up with much more of this foolishness.

She’s been getting the job done with a little rechargeable beard trimmer, but it frequently gets bogged down in the thick weeds at the back of my head, sometimes pulling my hair. But I don’t complain. Because you don’t mess with Nurse Ratched.

“Oops!” she said the other night, as she trimmed the hair around the back of my neck, and mistakenly cut a big divot. “Oops” is something you don’t want to hear from your surgeon, your dentist, or your barber, but she reassured me that “in a couple days you won’t be able to see that at all.”

Easy for her to say.

The next day, she showed the divot to our son, and they both got a pretty good laugh. He said, “in a couple WEEKS you don’t be able to see that.”

All things considered, these kitchen table haircuts aren’t nearly as bad as having a bloody cyst cut out of your back, and I’m likely to keep getting them until the virus goes away.

She says she ought to get paid, and receive a nice tip as well.

Nurse Ratched isn’t getting a tip, however, until she stops shoving my head around like a questionable cantaloupe at Walmart.

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