Ralph Higgins

Ralph Higgins
color pencil sketch by Gayle Higgins

Quotes I Like

“Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

-Albert Einstein


Thursday, April 26, 2012

Shopping with the Missus

When I was a kid I used to think it was both humorous and pathetic to watch old couples shop.  The woman typically leads the way with the poor old dude pushing the cart slowly while in a semi-comatose state.  His only function is to avoid knocking over the potato chip display or running into his wife’s heels with the cart. 

Other than that, he is a useless appendage to the little lady as she checks her shopping list and moves quickly from shelf to shelf; her eyes darting here and there. The poor guy in the stupor is just wondering what she’s going to feed him this week.

Even worse is the poor old dude whose wife has taken over his last vestige of masculinity by driving the cart herself.  This leaves the guy to shuffle slowly behind her, looking at the colorful displays as though he has any control over the purchasing process.

Yep.  It was amusing back then, but now I find myself doing the same thing.  I lean on the cart with glassy eyes until I see peanut butter or an attractive woman. It used to be women first, then peanut butter. Just something to snap me out of the trance. 

If I sneak something in the cart that I want to buy, nine times out of ten, Gayle says, “You don’t need that” and puts it back.  Sometimes I think I’ve come full circle and I’m a child again. I’ve been known to hide a candy bar under a head of lettuce when my wife is grinding coffee.  But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Just leaving home and getting to the grocery store is an experience in itself.  When we’re two miles down the road, Gayle remembers that she forgot to go to the bathroom before we left.  But we’ve already left and we’re half way there.  So I turn around and head back home.

I wait patiently and then we’re on the road again.  This time it’s a question, “Did you close the garage door?  Someone is going to steal your motorcycles.”  I’m not about to turn around and go back again, so I take a leap of faith and tell her that I saw the garage door go down.  It’s not really a lie, because at some time in the past, I really did see the garage door go down.

The drive to town is usually in silence as I weigh the pros and cons of questioning why a woman’s bladder is only the size of a golf ball.  I know I’ll get feedback on that one.  Sometimes silence is better.  I remember the guy who was pulled over by the highway patrol on Highway 17 just out of Los Gatos.  The cop was beside himself and asked the guy, “Sir, do you know your wife fell out of your car about five miles back?”  The guy looked at the cop and said, “Oh, thank God.  I thought I was going deaf.”  Our trips aren’t quite that bad.

Somehow my self-concept improves as a shoppers apprentice when I realize that I really do have a greater purpose in life.  I get to fill the plastic bags and work the magic belt that feeds me the groceries.  Now there’s a feeling of power.  I can block up that cashier at any time I choose.  If he’s a jerk, I can let the groceries back up and make him apologize to the people waiting in line.  No one expects an old guy to move fast anyway, especially if he acts confused.  And that ploy is getting easier for me all the time.

After regaining my self worth by packing the plastic bags, I take the initiative by loading the bags in the car trunk. But then my last hope for a semblance of pride is quickly extinguished. I have to unload the trunk of the groceries, because Gayle doesn’t like the way I load things.  I might tip over the milk, crush the bread, or let the oranges roll around.   Gayle has a degree in “trunk loading,” among her many credentials.  So I stand there like a moron and when the trunk is loaded properly, I get to take the empty cart back to the store. That’s my reward for being a good boy.  It’s also a form of closure. 

Now it’s finally over.  I ask her if she needs to use the restroom before we leave the store and then we’re on our way. That’s when I begin to pray that I don’t find the garage door open when I get home.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Down Home Ranch

            I want to introduce you to Dr. Jerry Horton and his wife Judy.  These are two people that Gayle and I are proud to know and even more proud to call our good friends.  When we look at what Jerry and Judy have accomplished, Gayle and I are both genuinely humbled.

            Jerry and I were friends in college at San Jose State University.  We shared many experiences together, including a potentially dangerous adventure in Tijuana.  But the times I remember most with Jerry were the discussions we had regarding philosophy, religion, and theoretical concepts that may have been more of an exercise in mental gymnastics than providing a practical solution to the world’s problems.  But that’s what college students do.

            Jerry was always considered by the rest of us to be an authentic intellectual.  Unfortunately, during those heady days of undergraduate studies, Jerry moved from his Christian perspective to become a self-described atheist.  He was also way off in left field politically.  That’s common for students of philosophy or psychology. But wisdom comes with age and experience and Jerry eventually made the transition back to his starting point as a Christian.  And politically he made a big jump … to the right.  Imagine that!

            As an example, Jerry, Judy, Gayle and I went on a cruise with the staff of the National Review, including William F. Buckley, Judge Ken Starr, Judge Robert Bork, Senator Pat Toomey, and about twenty other internationally known folks.  It was an unbelievable experience to meet all of these people and smoke cigars with Bill Buckley.  To join Jerry on the starboard side of the ship was certainly different from our college days, when he was walking the plank on the port side.

            Due to his intellect, it’s no surprise that Jerry earned a Doctorate and became a college professor.  This image was consistent with our conception of Jerry Horton.  It was a surprise when Gayle and I visited Jerry at the site of Down Home Ranch in Texas early in its development. We pulled into the ranch to see Jerry in Levis and a cowboy hat with tools hanging from his belt as he worked on a fence.  It sure wasn’t the image of him as a college professor. Quite a change.

            Jerry’s wife Judy is also an example of someone with a large intellect that matches the size of her dreams and provides the tools to realize those dreams.  When you pair up Jerry and Judy, you have an unstoppable team.  Those aren’t empty words.

            They turned a large and bare piece of Texas land into a working ranch for adult “ranch hands” with Down syndrome.  When their daughter Kelly was born with this condition, they had many decisions to make.  When they finally chose a plan, it wasn’t only for the benefit of Kelly.  They thought about others like their daughter and began work on a ranch for other people with Down syndrome, appropriately called, “Down Home Ranch.” 

Down Home Ranch is a working ranch.  They provide jobs on the ranch, so the ranch hands actually earn money from their labor through the ranch production. There are activities, educational and practical learning experiences, chores, living quarters for the ranch hands and an experienced staff. It’s truly an unbelievable operation.  And it started with two parents wanting the best for their daughter and others like her who needed a healthy and happy living environment.

            Rather than explain this fantastic program, I want to ask all my readers to look at www.downhomeranch.orgor go to Down Home Ranch, Elgin, Texas. Let Jerry and Judy explain the ranch operation in their own words.  It’s very interesting and really worth the time. Please go to the Down Home Ranch website.

If you have an interest in joining the effort, you can add your name to the long list of folks who support the operation financially.  It’s a wonderful non-profit charity.  Please check it out. I guarantee that you won’t regret it.

            Again…www.downhomeranch.org or just type in Down Home Ranch, Elgin, Texas.



Friday, April 13, 2012

Lessons from the Titanic

There’s been a lot on TV regarding the 100 year anniversary of the Titanic disaster.  I don’t want to wallow in a tragedy, but I can’t help wondering what I would have done had I been on board the Titanic that fateful day. I’m sure I’m not alone with that question.  I would have most likely been playing in the orchestra on deck, but I’m pretty sure the orchestra would have been missing a trumpet player as soon as I felt the ship begin to tilt.

Evidently experts have studied the disaster in detail and concluded that the ship tilted bow down with the stern rising from the water.  This put stress on the midsection and the ship split into two pieces; breaking like a twig. 

They said that the Titanic couldn’t sink, but it did.  When the stern hit a crucial angle where the tension maximized, the two halves of the Titanic broke apart and the great ship sank in two pieces. 

I couldn’t help but see the sinking of the Titanic as a metaphor for what we are witnessing in America right now.

Our country is divided into two parts of relatively even numbers. I’ve never seen a division of this magnitude in America in my lifetime.  Like the Titanic, the stress is on the center of the country – the middle class.  How much tension will it take for the break that could sink the good old U.S.A.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter !

I was a fan of "Rick O'Shay, Hipshot, Shag and all of Stan Lynde's characters.  Lynde always had a message on special holidays and he could put it clearly, graphically and simply.   Here's one of his cartoons from  1985 with his statement under the cartoon.  This was evidently written at a later date. 
Happy Easter!  This day has special meaning to Gayle and me.   I hope it means more than colored eggs to you too.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Failed Therapist

The way I present my marital relationship sometimes gives the impression that it’s more adversarial and contentious than it is in reality. In an effort to reinforce this perception, I thought I’d ramble on a bit about my heart-felt attempts at curing my wife of her arachnophobia.

Gayle is terrified of spiders.  Despite my heroic attempts to help her deal with this phobia, I’ve been an abject failure.  Falling back on my studies of psychology in college, I’ve tried to gradually help her acclimate to these eight-legged creatures. I’ll give you some examples of my altruistic attempts at therapy.

I think it started when I faced her fear head-on.  It was early in our marriage and we were in a pet store or museum.  I found Gayle standing motionless staring at something. She was trying to breathe.  My protective instincts kicked in and I rushed to her side only to find her staring in panic at a large spider in a glass tank.  It was one of those huge spiders that eat small animals and children under twelve.

I led her out of danger, took her outside, and tried my best to convince her that even if the thing got out, it would only eat an arm or leg on an adult. Whatever I said didn’t help. That’s when I realized she needed help.

(Click on the "read more" below for the rest of the story)