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Sunday, March 15, 2015

Mission Orange - This Negotiator's Drink of Choice

It's funny what we remember from our childhood. My first job was as a paperboy for the Cleburne Times Review, riding the Keene, Texas paper route Sunday through Friday, about 5 miles a day.  I spent about 4 hours on Sunday morning collecting for the paper and used to end my route and my grandmother's house. I'd stop by for a visit and usually got a Dr. Pepper and a longhorn cheese sandwich. My Honeymama (the name her grandkids knew her by) was a firm believer in young people working.

When I was starting high school, my mother demanded that we give up the paper route. My sister and brother also ran short paper routes and Mom had to take my sister on her route in the car in bad weather or when she didn't feel like riding it. It probably cost them more than Debbie earned to keep the route. I rode in all kinds of Texas weather, including one time when I rode the route in a 22 degree driving snowstorm. I had to stop periodically and turn my back to the wind in order to get my body temperature back up enough to ride into the wind again.

I went to work at E.K. Birdwell's broom and mop factory in Keene Texas when I was barely 15. I may actually have not quite been 15 yet. My grandmother, a firm disbeliever in unemployment of young boys, hit up Mr. Birdwell on my behalf. E.K. came by my house and asked me if I wanted to go to work for him in the mop shop. I said okay and showed up for work the next day.

The job was combing out the tangled yarn of newly made mops, taping the end of the yarn and trimming them. Then we'd wrap them in bundles of half a dozen mops and stack them in the warehouse. We used these incredibly sharp-edged scissors and I still have some nasty scars on my left hand where I snipped off skin from my knuckles. I probably should have got stitches, but, hey. Later I used to claim they were dueling scars. Not that anybody believed me you understand.

Later I picked up some new scars when E.K. moved me to the mop-making machine when I turned 16. It was entirely piecework and I had to work very hard and very fast to make anything close to minimum wage - a new innovation at the time. We were allowed one break. We didn't get paid for the time.

There was a little gas station next to the mop shop. My favorite break snack was a Mission Orange and a candy bar. I never really had a favorite candy bar, but my drink of choice was either a Mission Orange, Dad's Root Beer and Dr. Pepper. Sometimes I'd get one of those packages of peanut butter crackers - the unearthly orange looking kind that probably had enough red dye #40 in it to sterilize a water buffalo, but oddly it didn't seem to effect me at all so far as I can tell, although others might dispute this.

Kids today would consider those kinds of jobs slave labor these days, but they prepared me for later jobs that were way better than the paper route and mop-making. One of my favorite moments of my life was telling Mr. Birdwell I was going to quit and work at summer camp the summer of 1971. I was a newly baptized Christian and ought not to have enjoyed quitting that job so much, but I did. Mr. Birdwell asked me where I thought I was going to get a job when I came back?  I told him I'd find something.

It's hard to tell you how empowered I felt. That summer I worked for the ridiculous sum of $10 a week hauling trash, cutting wood and painting anything that was anchored to the ground with barn red paint. It was the best job ever!  We got to water ski on our lunch break. We paddled canoes around the lake at night with actual girls in the boats with us. The director gave me an $800 scholarship for voluntarily staying a couple of extra week and because he was impressed with my enthusiasm.

I worked there for 5 summers, working my way up to waterfront director. The job changed my life. I learned how to be a leader, how to give my best and how to teach. I learned how to work with a team. I even learned to stand up for my team with the boss when he was wrong. I also learned how to see things through the boss's eyes too and learned to negotiate agreements that helped both sides of an argument get what they wanted. I also learned that some problems cannot be solved and that you had to learn to walk away.

I drank a lot of Mission Orange - the 16 oz. bottles - during breaks in the day's work. There's nothing like a Mission Orange for cooling you down and restoring your damaged calm.  I miss them. I really do. I don't think they make them anymore, which is kind of sad.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


When I hear rumbling in my neighborhood, I take it seriously!

When Daisy and I went out for a walk this afternoon, I noticed a low rumbling in the distance. The sound was diffused through the trees so it was hard to tell which way it was coming from, but it maintained a steady rolling boom, boom, boom almost so low you couldn't hear it.

In the State of Washington in my particular area, there are only a few possible reasons for such a sound out of doors. Indoors, it might have been a tennis ball in the dryer, but outside, such a sound is more ominous.

First, it could be a distant rumble of thunder. In Texas, I'd have shrugged and dismissed the sound. Up here, if it was thunder, it would be just the third time I've heard thunder in the four years I've lived up here. The sound was too indistinct to identify. The sky was it's usually gray and there was no rain in evidence and given the rarety of thunder up here, my vivid imagination went cruising for another explanation right away.

The second thing that it could have been was artillery practice over at Fort Lewis. The howitzers often sound like distance thunder. The sound of such an artillery cannonade is far more common in this neighborhood than thunder. I've heard artillery banging away at all hours over at the practice range about 10 or 11 times since I've been here, far more often than I've heard lightning and thunder.

The third thing could be something I've never heard before up here, and I hope I never hear do hear it - the rumble of Mt. Ranier erupting in the distance. I don't hear any warning sirens, so it's probably not the rumbling of our local volcano. There is a pretty good chance that the volcano will go off. We're overdo for some activity up there. There are volcano evacuation route markers all over the place, regular siren tests and they give you this packet of information if you're a new resident here that will scare the pants off you.

The other thing it might be is the deep rumbling in the earth of two tectonic plates rubbing against each other. I've yet to experience an earthquake up here, but we live in hope. It's funny the kinds of stupid things that human beings think they want to be able to say they've experienced.

I'm thinking I blow it off as thunder and enjoy walking the dog. I fairly sure I don't really want to be in an earthquake and I'm very sure I don't want to be 26 miles from a major volcanic eruption.

A vivid imagination isn't always the advantage one might wish it to be.

Tom King © 2015

Monday, March 02, 2015

Counting Coup at Potluck

Several native American tribes used to have this charming custom of "counting coup". It went like this. To prove your superior skills as a warrior, you took this club and rode toward your enemy very fast. Before horses you'd run at your foe or lurk in the bushes and jump out at your enemy. The purpose of this behavior was to designed to deliver a whack upside your enemy's head, that would raise a knot. Such a knot on the head ostensibly proved the courage of the warrior who delivered it.

You didn't try to kill the guy or anything. You were just trying to show him up. Humiliate him a little; that was the point. They are not the only tribe or culture to ever engage in such behavior.

Seventh-day Adventists have a long tradition of hosting regular Sabbath afternoon potluck dinners after services. Everybody prepares a dish on Friday, brings it to the church where the ladies warm up the most amazing casseroles and side dishes in the fellowship hall kitchen while the service is going on. One reason SDA services end pretty much on time on potluck Sabbaths is because of the smell wafting in from the fellowship hall.

Adventist potlucks are pretty genial affairs, with everyone loading their plates and generally feasting to celebrate the Sabbath and the goodness of the Lord. The food is amazing and traditionally, entirely vegetarian, of at least lacto-ovo vegetarian. If anyone does bring a meat dish, it gets set to one side on a special "meat" table where shame-faced individuals sneak over to indulge their weakness for flesh food. Otherwise potlucks in my church are relatively nonjudgmental affairs. Some of the best vegetarian food you'll ever eat is served up at these feasts. The food is pretty healthy too. Adventist generally live 5 or 6 years longer than most Americans and the diet is likely part of the reason why.

Unfortunately, there are always a few bony-fingered old birds, that show up at potluck with massive bowls of almost inedible lentils, salads chock full of kale or vegan concoctions that feel like you're doing some kind of penance when you eat them. Now, officially, Adventists don't believe in doing penance, but these folk pride themselves in producing dishes, which are healthier than anybody else's and making people eat them through the thick application of guilt. They generally plant themselves by the serving table, where they can bully everybody that comes by into trying whatever it is they brought. It's gluten-free, soy-free, fat-free, free of animal products and, they assure you, tastes great. Most of the time it doesn't, but you always feel obligated to take a big scoop of whatever it is in order to demonstrate your vegetarian street cred.

This week, I'm debuting my new weblog, "The Potluck Vegetarian" to memoralize the wonderful lacto-ovo vegetarian dishes that populate the serving tables of Adventist churches around the world. The first recipe went up this morning.  I decided to start off with Sheila's premier vege dish - Barbecue Tender-Bits. The blog is about potluck vegetarian food - the kind we bring to potluck to feed masses of hungry young people and their families.

My wife is the chef here and comes up with the recipes. I just chop up stuff and put it together for her. This is Adventist comfort food. We're going to test every dish personally with some help from Loma Linda and Worthington, who will be supplying some vege-meat for testing purposes.

This is not the kind of vegetarian cooking that allows you to count coup at potluck. It's just good-tasting food, everybody will love and will want the recipe for. And best of all, no chicken or cow had to make the ultimate sacrifice to make them. The blog will be a celebration of traditional Adventist lacto-ovo vegetarian food.

If you feel your nose turning up and you are smitten by an urge to tell me how terribly unhealthy one of the recipes is because it's not gluten-free or soy-free or radical vegan or has too much salt, sugar or spices, save your time. I won't post the comment. Who needs that kind of negativity. The Potluck Vegetarian will be a happy place. Take your criticisms to Facebook or Google Plus. Just not there.

And if you have a great recipe, you can send it to me there. I'll put a link on the site so you can email it to me. I'll credit you and if you'll send me a picture of yourself, I'll post that too. A picture of yourself with your amazing dish would be even better.  I looking forward to collecting all sorts of amazing recipes and posting them on The Potluck Vegetarian.


© 2015 by Tom King