Welcome to April. The outside temp as this is being written (Friday, April 5) is 74 degrees. But.....one of the forecast models shows the possibility of mixed rain and snow next Thursday. I still have great hopes that one day soon the winter will be over. We are practicing for that possibility with an outdoor barbeque on the neighbors’ patio tonight. The consensus was that we should at least try to get one in before we have to shovel snow again.
Before turning to a brief bit of writing news, please let me take a moment to say thanks to all of those who called, wrote, or emailed to ask if we were safe from the recent floods. We were touched by the kind thoughts and gracious expressions of concern. By the way, the answer to that question (“Are you okay?”) is “Yes, we are.” Lincoln was on water rationing for a few days (flooding disrupted the flow of power to some of the pumping stations that supply water to the city), but otherwise the nearby area emerged pretty much unscathed. Not so throughout the state, though. This morning’s paper had a status report. (Apologies to those who have heard some or all of this.) Economic damage to the state is estimated at $1.4 billion. Three hundred sites on state and country road systems remain to be repaired. One hundred three miles of federal and state highways are still closed, impassable, or underwater. (That is down from 3,300 miles that were impassable at various times.) . One hundred miles of those will need complete replacement or major repair. The final count of damaged or destroyed bridges is apparently 27. Six of those will need replacement, seven need major repair. Three dams and numerous levees are damaged or gone.
As best as I can tell, no towns remain isolated (although the residents of several have to take circuitous routes to get to their intended destinations). Many sites are trucking in drinking water, or are boiling water before use, or are rationing water. Peru State University, in the southeastern part of the state, received a donation of 900,000 gallons of bottled water when the school/town water supply was shut down. Students in several communities are attending whatever schools they can safely or conveniently get to -- roads are washed out or bridges are down in many places.
As I mentioned in correspondence to several friends, for a few days the town of Fremont was the scene of a mini Berlin Airlift. The city was completely isolated for a time, so light aircraft from all around the state flew in supplies, EMT crews, etc., and flew out patients and essential travelers. They also flew in doctors and RNs to cover shifts for those on hospital staffs who lived in surrounding areas and couldn’t get to their places of work. Really quite a time.
Our daughter Laura lives in Omaha but teaches in Plattsmouth. On her way home from work she was one of the last to cross over a bridge before authorities closed it to traffic. The interior span of a nearby railroad bridge was washed away.
Now on to happier things.
The poem “The Low Hard One,” a bit of whimsy regarding an ill-advised approach to pitching, was published in Baseball Bard in March and (always pleasing) opened to a very good review.
Likewise, the recently published book Fire in the North that I co-authored with a university colleague was cited in “Military Officer Magazine” and was the subject of a nice blurb in “The Coloradan” the magazine for alumni of the University of Colorado. (In a misguided moment, the Air Force sent me there for a master’s degree.) That magazine reminded me of a short piece I scribbled during a break between classes while attending there. I envisioned a Nebraska football player named William Bowel (“Big Bill” Bowel) who had a sensational game for the Huskers while playing against CU. The headlines after the game would then (of course) read “Big Bowel Burst Buries Buffaloes.”
Turning now to that seldom acclaimed feature WHO SAYS THEY DON’T WRITE GREAT POETRY ANYMORE… Several months ago we started to bring back some of the earlier poems that received the highest number of comments from readers. That process was interrupted by travel commitments, holidays, construction of a new website, and several other things. I thought it might be appropriate to begin again with one that given the current emphasis on diversity, political correctness, cultural taboos, and the apparently endless multitude of possible interpersonal transgressions, seems especially relevant to the present times.
SETTING THE BAR TOO HIGH: THE DANGERS OF CULTURAL EXPECTATIONS
All across the Arctic Circle with scorn Mukluk was pelted.
First his kayak sprung a leak
And then his igloo melted.
If you recall any favorites that you would like to have repeated, please let me know. Also, for those who have read Fire in the North, I would welcome your feedback.
Best wishes to all,