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


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dick Whitaker

I’ve decided to skip the article I had planned to post on my blog this week.  If you read my last post about building forts and my book on growing up in the ‘50s I should tell you that my partner in crime as a kid and my close buddy for over 65 years, Dick Whitaker, passed away last night.

I may or may not post this, since I’m still trying to process the loss.  Since I know Dick’s faith, I’m sure we’ll meet again.  I don’t want this to be a eulogy, because many of you don’t know Dick and anything I say might be distorted by emotions. 

Anyway, I’ll get back to my normal ramblings next week.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Back to "The Good Ole Days

I decided to lighten things up today and toss in a chapter from my book, “The Huckleberry Days of the ‘50s.”  This will take us back to the “good ole days.” Back to the days of “I like Ike” buttons and fuzzy dice hanging from the rear view mirror. It’s a sane place to visit when you need a break from a world gone mad.  You can find the book at www.ralphhhiggins.com

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Why Are Boys Driven to Build Forts?

I think it’s a genetic adaptation or defense mechanism that drives boys to build forts, because every kid I knew back in elementary school had a fort.  To build a fort was something boys were instinctively driven to do and the more complex, with underground tunnels and places to hide, the more admiration you received from your peers and from those you allowed to enter your domain.  Naturally, girls weren’t allowed in a boy’s fort back then.  We weren’t quite sure what girls were.  All we knew was that they giggled and ran funny.

If a kid tried to build a fort today he’d be required to have a building permit, an environmental impact report, a variance of some sort, a union contract, liability insurance, workers comp, a health plan, a sprinkler system, and about thirty additional permits and clearances.  HUD, OSHA, EPA, County Planning, and the Women’s Temperance Society, are just a few of the agencies that would be looking over the kid’s shoulders as he dug his foxhole, reinforcing it with scrap plywood, and covering it with tree branches for camouflage. 

His building project would be red tagged for code violations before he put on the roof.  I don’t think it’s as much fun to be a kid nowadays.

A tree fort was the ultimate fortress, but more skill was required in the construction of a tree fort.  After flooring boards broke and a number of us fell out of trees, most of us decided to stick to digging holes.  There was a group of kids who felt that they had the physical attributes for tree living, but it didn’t work well for them either.

The main problem with the “tree-dwellers” who tried to build tree forts was that those with prehensile tails didn’t have opposable thumbs.  They could climb trees and get around up there all right, but they kept dropping their tools.
The drive to build a fort was something young boys couldn’t control.  When you hit a certain age, you became a fort-building machine and you wanted the best fort in the neighborhood.  

The blue prints for forts are rolled up somewhere in a boy’s DNA waiting to unfold at just the right time in his development.  Like a duck imprinting on mama duck, when that timer goes off, the kid is a full blown mini-architect.  He can’t help it.  It’s beyond his control.

If the urge to build a fort hits too early, a small child will become obsessed with hiding behind furniture or under blankets hung over chairs. But if it hits too late in life, the unfortunate young man may eventually find himself living in tunnels under New York City or in the sewer system of Chicago.

Miraculously this building urge hit all my friends at about the same time.  The neighborhood was pock-marked with foxholes and it looked like the area had been taken over by a hoard of large ground squirrels.  Wood disappeared from construction sites and the sound of hammers punctuated the rhythmic grinding of hand saws.

We definitely needed wood for our forts.  A local contractor was building a house on the next street over from ours and the word on the street was that his house came up one bedroom and half a garage short.  He ran out of lumber.  The poor guy was still studying his wood order when I tossed the last of the camouflage over my hideout.

It was great to be a kid in the ‘50s.

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P.S. – If you want me to add a friend or family member to my blog notification lists, please send me the name and email address at higgins@digitalpath.net .

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Evaporation of the Second Amendment

   Once upon a time giants walked American soil.  These were real men.  Brave, honorable, God-fearing, intellectually brilliant, and willing to stake their lives and fortunes on their experiment in freedom.  These were men with names like Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, and others.  With the courage of Washington and the intellect of Jefferson, they risked it all for freedom.  Rumor has it that they actually shot guns.  Makes one wonder how this country ever get to the place where it is run by menopausal women, lactating men, and morons.  

      Take the “honorable” Congressman who recently expressed his concern to a Navy Admiral that the weight of military hardware on Guam may cause the island to tip over.  The guy was serious! I saw the hearing on TV. The only people dumber than this Congressman are the voters who elected him.  And that’s obviously not an isolated case.

      I think it was another brilliant intellect, Barbara Boxer who, when asked to describe an assault weapon, said something like, “They’re those big, black, ugly guns, with clippies, and thingies.”  Maybe not her exact words.  So what is an assault weapon?  How about a knife, a fist, a stick, or, worse yet, a woman scorned? 

      And those dreaded “semi automatic” weapons.  Horrible things.  Ugly.  Scary like spiders. Some even have those demonic clips that can kill you more than once.  Then there is the insightful Joycelyn Elders, our former Surgeon General, suggesting that we need “safer bullets.”  Where do they find these people?  Where is Thomas Jefferson when we need him?

      But what is a “semi automatic?”  Diane Feinstein hates them, but carries one.  You may have one and not even know it.  Is a revolver a “semi automatic weapon?” 

      Well, let’s be different than our leaders and actually think.  Automatic means that if you hold the trigger down, the gun continues to fire rapidly.  Semi automatic means that every time you pull the trigger the gun fires once. By definition, a double action revolver is a semi automatic weapon.  Someone should explain this stuff to our maternal leaders.

      During WWII the Japanese planned to attack our mainland via the west coast, but backed off because of the fact that our citizens were too well armed.  I’ve been to Switzerland and once rode my motorcycle through the Alps.  I saw men and women with guns strapped on their backs.  Switzerland has no problem with gun crime.  Any wonder?

      I’ve also been to South American countries and communist countries.  The only guns you see in a dictatorship come with a uniform.  The invisible guns belong to the criminals. Someone said, “An armed man is a citizen.  An unarmed man is a subject.” 

      Chicago Mayor and former ballet dancer in a tutu, Rahm Emanuel runs a city with one of the highest crime rates and the toughest gun laws in the nation, yet he joins with our enlightened leaders who believe that disarming the law abiding will stop the non-law abiding from non-law abiding.  Say what?

      Our founding fathers established the Second Amendment to protect the citizen from the tyranny of government.  It had nothing to do with skeet shooting, “plinking” at tin cans, or hunting.  When you sniff the political air in this country, do you detect an ominous scent?

      What was the first thing Hitler did and what dictators always do when it comes to guns in the hands of citizens they want to control?  They disarm the citizens.  The operative word here is “control.”  In America it has to be done incrementally, which is what we are seeing. 

      I think the victims of gun phobia, who don’t believe in protecting their families, should post signs on their lawn saying, “This house is a gun-free home.  Free group hugs inside.”  Of course, when these people have a problem, they’ll scream for their neighbor who has a gun, because it would take the cops 30 minutes to arrive, if they show up at all. 

      I prefer an elderly lady, armed to her false teeth, phoning the police to say, “I just shot an intruder.  He’s fallen and he can’t get up.”

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Say "Ahhhhhh"

     Most men avoid doctor appointments like the plague. I’m no different. Unfortunately, like an old car with a lot of miles on the odometer, it seems that we all begin to require some engine work after we pass the 100,000-mile point. Sometimes we need a mechanic to check under the hood. A recent knee replacement generated a few random thoughts.

            Hospitals are confusing.  With people walking through hospital halls in green surgical gowns and matching dust covers on shoes and head, you don’t know who’s who anymore.  I’ve addressed male nurses as “doctor” and female doctors as “nurse”, most likely insulting some and raising the bar for others.

            And everyone wears a stethoscope around his or her neck. The stethoscope used to be a clue as to who the real doctor was. Kind of like a badge on a cop.  But now everyone has one of these things.  Even the parking attendant wears a stethoscope.

            Actors dressed as doctors for TV commercials have stethoscopes hanging around their necks. That’s about as authentic as a “rent-a-cop” bringing a radar gun to church.

            When some people see someone with a stethoscope approaching, they automatically roll up their sleeve, offer their arm, and look for a place to sit down.

            A stethoscope is a powerful symbol in our culture. I would be willing to bet that if a doctor wears a stethoscope when dining out, the waiter will bring extra bread to the table.

            Aside from a single night in the hospital costing as much as the first house you bought, the personal indignities are worse. I don’t know who came up with those little robes that tie in the back, but they never go all the way around. At least they don’t go all around me.

            The popular fad of “mooning” was born in a hospital when a “robed” patient dropped his health card and bend over to pick it up. Those gowns can make modest people walk sideways like a crab with their back to the wall, while the less modest take the opportunity to make a bold statement. I have a friend with delusions of grandeur who wears the gown backwards.

            Another thing…someone should contact the Department of Weights and Measures to check the scales in doctor’s offices.  Every one of them weighs you ten pounds or more over your scale at home.  I tell them that my clothes weigh forty pounds, but they never seem to believe me.

            After the scale trauma you are ushered into a small room where you wait patiently while sitting on a paper-covered table.  The charts on the wall tell you more than you want to know about the intricacies of your body.

            If the doctor shines that little light in your ear and it shines out of the opposite ear, you probably believe that those miraculous intricacies of the human body just happened by chance.

            Now that I think about it, I have a stethoscope for checking blood pressure around here somewhere. I think I’ll wear it the next time we go out to dinner. It could help me get a better table at the restaurant, but I sure don’t need any extra bread. 

            And as for fashionable hospital patient attire, no one should be forced to do the crab-crawl with their back to the wall while wearing nothing but that backless hospital gown. A guy could make a fortune selling underpants in a place like that.