Tales From the Road: Life Without Internet

Several years ago, my precious Carol and I stayed at an RV Campground for six weeks in southern Washington. It was a beautiful area, but the campground had one thing missing. It did not provide wi-fi service for us. They did provide it for people staying for two weeks or less, but those of us who stay long-term have to pay for our own internet service, wi-fi, and electricity. All you veteran RVers probably know what I’m talking about, but this was new to us.

I laughingly and facetiously asked Carol, “Is there life without internet?”

She reminded me of when our three older kids were in elementary school. The school officials were going to conduct an experiment that was titled: Is there life after TV? The Public Schools were cooperating in a research endeavor regarding the effects of television on family life.

This was not mandatory for everyone, but on Monday morning all kids in the school were encouraged to refrain from watching television for the next 7 days. The kids took notes home to their parents asking them to participate with the project.

The kids were asked to bring in daily reports of what they did each day and how life changed, but in our house, we watched very little TV anyway, so our quality of life did not change. Darlene, Ron, and Jeremy practiced their musical instruments a little more and we got into more family discussions. But I was surprised when Carol told me how much better we all got along with each other.

Guess what? Shortly after this educational experiment, we sold the TV and used the money for music lessons. Our kids were in on the family pow-wow, and that decision was unanimous.

For all the other students in the school, was there life after television? After just two days, there was weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth in many of the homes – and much of that came from the parents!

It was surprising how many families had wrapped and warped their lives around the screen that usurped so much of their time. Unplugging the television was like a divorce, and life was shattered. Many families couldn’t take it and turned the TV back on! Relief flooded their homes as each family member resumed going his or her separate way.

That was in 1979. We still do not immerse ourselves in television, theater, entertainment, etc. Our daughters and Carol & I own televisions, but the TVs are tools we use at our discretion. On the other hand, our two married boys, Ron and Jeremy, don’t own television sets. We all understand what life is about.

Now, where was I? Oh yes … is there life without the internet?

The first question Carol and I asked ourselves is: What is the purpose of this extended trip?

The purpose is two-fold. We realized that if nothing in our lives changed in these, our later years, we would not be making any new memories. So 1) I resigned from my responsibilities to reduce stress, and be with Carol. And 2) I need time to write two or three books.

And guess what? It was great! Even without internet.

But let me be open with you: I do need wi-fi and internet periodically, but not 24/7. I have to have internet capability – as when I need to email, submit blogs, send my Reflection articles to the newspaper, and do research – and the park officials allow me to intermittently use their service. But leaving the RV to do that means I plan my time judiciously because I enjoy spending time with Carol.

So, are there benefits of not having internet and TV? Yes, that’s why I am not paying for it at RV campsites. But we are paying for electricity. That comes in handy if we want to have lights, heat, and use of the computer – wi-fi or not.

One man asked me, “Don’t you want continuous use of your e-mail service?”

I told him that I can live without most of the e-mail I receive. E-mail that friends and family send can be answered when I have time. I reminded him of the benefit of e-mail: others can send e-mail at THEIR convenience, and I can respond at MY convenience. I am not hog-tied to the internet or e-mail; the telephone is for immediate interaction – usually.

 Well, since you’re reading this, I suppose the internet is working. Have a great day.

Tales From the Road: Tillamook Cheese

Years ago, I saw a movie about a woman who wrote for a newspaper. She ran out of ideas, so she began writing about different uses of cheese. After five weeks, the editor called her into his office. When the writer revealed what amounted to burnout or loss of imagination, the editor blurted out: “You’re a good writer – write about anything. But no more cheese, lady!”

That was the best line in the movie.

However, since I hadn’t written about that use of milk, since Carol and I were in the town of Tillamook, Oregon, and since I really like cheese, I decided it was time to write about it. When my editor read it, he approved, so I sent him some.

Tillamook is a Native American tribal name, but that’s another story.

Mankind has been making cheese for over 4,000 years, and I read that there are 1,831 kinds of cheese. Cheese is classified by geographic origin, what animal gave the milk, the animal’s diet, age of cheese, texture, added ingredients, butterfat content, and a lot more, and by combinations of all the above. Most milk used in cheese production is from cows, but cheese is also made of milk from goats, camels, sheep, yaks, buffalo, and even reindeer. I wonder if anyone tried giraffe milk.

Tillamook is my favorite brand of cheese, and Colby Jack (marbled yellow & white) is my favorite kind. Don’t ever confuse Colby Jack with Pepper Jack. That stuff is hot! (My editor liked it.)

The Tillamook Cheese Factory is a dairy cooperative that was founded in 1909. My first visit was in the summer of 1991 with Carol and the younger two kids (Rebecca and Michael), and this is my third visit. Over a million people a year must have the same taste for cheese as I do and visit the Tillamook Cheese Factory, so they built a new visitor center, updated its name to Tillamook Creamery, and added a food court.

There is no admission price. You walk in and learn while you enjoy all the free cheese samples.

So, how is cheese made? If you already know, skip the next four paragraphs.

Milk is poured into a vat and an enzyme, rennet, is added to coagulate it. (But juice from fruit, fig leaves, melons, safflower, vinegar, lemons, and other vegetation can be added instead.) This causes the milk to curdle and separate from the liquid whey. Tillamook’s vats hold 53,500 pounds (over 6,300 gallons) of fresh milk. As the milk is stirred, the curds and whey separate. The whey is drained into another container while the curds begin to stick or knit together. This is called cheddaring.

Ten pounds (1 gallon plus 2.5 cups) of cow milk will produce one pound of cheese, while six pounds of sheep milk will produce a pound of cheese because of its much higher fat content. Goat cheese production is similar to cows.

I hope this isn’t boring you. The whole process fascinates me.

The curds are chopped, cut, and pressed to release more liquid. Then the cheese curds are poured into a square column and pressure is slowly increased. When pressure finally reaches 800 pounds, it is held for two minutes then cut into 40-pound blocks. The blocks are stored and aged from 60 days to five years – depending on their intended use.

After the proper aging, the blocks are cut into smaller blocks – normally, half-pound, pound, and two-pound blocks. Mis-shaped or broken pieces are made into shredded-cheese. The Tillamook Creamery packages about a million pounds of cheese a week, and that takes about 1,160,000 gallons of milk each week.

There are hundreds of uses for the whey. It is commonly used as an ingredient in some drink mixes, protein bars, and other foods. Whey powder is often added to smoothies and other workout foods for its protein.

The Tillamook Creamery center is a 38,500-square-foot building that allows visitors the privilege of learning about each step of the milk-to-cheese process and allows them to actually see production from the second-floor level.

We visited the facility twice this week and really enjoyed learning. We ate lunch there, but the best part was the large Tillamook ice cream cones! Carol got huckleberry and chocolate-peanut butter, while I got chocolate and vanilla. That, with the free cheese samples on the second floor, topped off our meal.

If you get a chance, visit the Tillamook Creamery in Tillamook, Oregon.

Tales From the Road: Road Hazards

Carol and I enjoy traveling. We drive the speed limit, observe traffic rules and cautions, and watch out for hazards. Watching out for hazards is sometimes nerve-wracking because there are many kinds of them.

Potholes and broken sections of pavement which can destroy tires account for most of our hazards. I’ve seen one accident that was caused by a driver who swerved to miss a big hole but hit another car.

Another hazard that drivers sometimes face in the deserts of Southern California, Nevada, and Arizona, are sandstorms. We didn’t encounter those storms on this trip, but four years ago we got caught. The sand was blowing at 40 mph and was so thick that I couldn’t see more than 20 feet in front of me. When that storm was over, the windshield needed to be replaced.

Yet other hazards crop up: animals on the roadway. Rabbits, racoons, squirrels, and other small game just get squashed, and it’s over. Dogs, deer, coyotes, and the like can present more of a challenge, but elk, cattle, and horses can prove to be fatal – for man and beast.

Another hazard we’ve seen – but haven’t been affected by – are downed trees across the roads. Nature has been acting up lately and high winds have been howling through the forests. About a mile from where we are staying, a large tree fell across the road after midnight. It was still dark, and by the time a tired driver saw the tree, he didn’t have time to hit the brake. It took over two hours for the ambulance crew to remove the body, and the highway department to remove the wreck and the tree.

But of all the hazards we face on the highways, one stands out like a sore thumb. It is a high-speed hazard called a Motorcycle!

 All over the United States we see signs reminding us about them. “Be courteous: share the road.” “Watch out for motorcycles.” “Save a life.” “Start Seeing Motorcycles.” And others.

But the more ominous problem is that many of the motorcyclists are not watching out for themselves! I hear the complaints from many RVers across the country. At medium to high speeds, motorcyclists disobey traffic rules. At high speeds, they weave in-n-out of traffic and zip past us between the lanes. The interstate freeway speed limit may be 70mph, and we may be going 65mph while most cars buzz past us doing 70-80. But many cyclists shoot past us doing 80-90 or higher!

When I want to change lanes, I turn on my signal, check my side mirrors, rear-view mirror (if I’m not pulling a trailer), and ask Carol if the way is clear. When I hear and see that all is clear, I pull over. But several times as I was about to change lanes, a motorcycle zoomed out of the distance at over 100 mph ignoring my turn signal. I would’ve been hit if I completed the lane-change, and the cyclist probably would have been dead. Complicating the problem is: if we collided, the default verdict would normally be against the driver of the car.

On one of our trips, we were driving 45 mph east on I-8 up Mission Valley in San Diego. The traffic was heavy. A motorcycle passed me at high speed on the inside shoulder between the concrete highway dividers and my car. I told Carol, “I hope he doesn’t kill himself.”

This photo is that of a different fatality.

About ten minutes later, traffic came to a crawl as the two left lanes began merging into the two right lanes. We eventually passed a damaged car, the mangled bike, and the rider’s broken body. The ambulance had not yet arrived.

There are many hazards on the highways and byways that we watch out for. But we must make sure that we don’t become the hazard.

Do you know that living according to Biblical principles can make our life safer? In Romans 13:1-5, Paul teaches us about obeying those in authority over us. That would include obeying speed limits, wouldn’t it? It includes being courteous drivers and giving others room to enter our lane without crowding them. And according to the principle in Matthew 25:40, if we show kindness to other drivers, we are showing kindness to Jesus.

We also should pray before we get out on the road. God can warn us of danger, remind us to be safe, and can protect us from unsafe drivers.

Bible Versions

The first time I was asked about my preferred version of the Bible, I said I preferred the KJV – the King James Version. I was in high school and had only recently been introduced to the Amplified and the New American Standard versions.

But in the past 56 years (my entire married life) I have studied out of numerous versions. When someone recently asked me the question of my preferred version, I told him, “I prefer the NCV – New Century Version. However, the KJV is the one I take with me wherever I go simply because I grew up with it and my Bible memorization came from the KJV.”

Some time ago a man told me that I was wrong for not sticking with the KJ because, he claimed, it was the only accurate Bible in the world. I tried to discuss the topic with him, but he wouldn’t consider my point of view. I finally said, “In that case, you have just presented one of the greatest miracles in the history of the world.”

Asking what it was, I responded, “If the King James Bible, published in 1611 AD (or CE), is the only real Bible, the Christian church existed for almost 1,600 years without a Bible and the Jewish Church existed for about 3,500 years without a Bible. Isn’t that amazing?”

He hadn’t thought about that. Many others haven’t thought about it, either. But neither had he thought about the fact that the KJV is only English. If the KJV were the only real Bible, no other language group in the world would have a true Bible.

With that said, people should not spend so much time creating more English versions. Instead, they should invest money to translate Bibles for the ethnic groups who have no Bible in their language.

I remember being in Bible studies when the leader asked, “How do you interpret this Scripture?” Since those studies didn’t involve linguistic experts, the question didn’t make any sense to me. The leader should have asked, “How do you apply this verse?” or “What does this verse convey to you?” or “What is the Lord saying to you through this verse?”

Two major problems most people have of interpreting Scriptures are: 1) many people, if not most, do not understand the history and culture of the Biblical era, and 2) most people do not understand many of the idioms and idiomatic phrases the original authors used. 

There are books to help us with culture and history, but idioms and idiomatic phrases trip us up. (That’s an idiomatic phrase and might be difficult for someone to understand and translate properly 500 years from now.)

A current example of translating idiomatic phrases is the following. Mark 14:38, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” was translated into Russian by an American, then retranslated into English by a Russian. The result was “The Vodka is strong, but the meat is rotting.” Both non-Christian translators tried to be literally correct, but they missed the intent.

Some of the problems generated today are by many church leaders and Bible scholars who normally filter the Bible text through their own cultural background. But the only proper way of understanding Scripture is through the context of the original writers who wrote the Bible.

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg (professor of Jewish Studies for Christians in Tel Aviv, Israel) said in his book, The Jewish Gospel of John: Discovering Jesus, King of All Israel, “The proper context for interpreting the Bible is the context of the biblical writers – the context that produced the Bible. Every other context is alien to the biblical writers and, therefore, to the Bible. Yet there is a pervasive tendency in the believing Church to filter the Bible through creeds, confessions, and denominational preferences.”

That’s why we need Bible scholars, pastors, and teachers who have studied the culture and language of the Bible times to help us.

No matter how we cut it (idiomatically speaking), it is dynamically important that we read the Bible. Study it. Apply the truths and morals to your life. Honor the Lord Jesus Christ by the way you live. Studying the Bible will help you do that.

Counting Calories – Again

Although I knew my belt had slowly been getting tighter, I was surprised on May 18, 2014, to find that I weighed 182 pounds. I am five feet, eight inches tall with my shoes on, and I shouldn’t weigh more than 165.

We had been in California from December of 2013 through February of 2014, and my brother fed us well!

I told Carol, “Precious, I am disgusted!”

“What’s the matter?”  

“I am having trouble with my jaws.”

“What do you mean?”

“My jaws are processing way too much food and my tummy is revealing the consequences.”

Laughing, she asked, “Are you going on a diet?”

“No, and Yes. No: I’m not going on a traditional diet that people make and break twelve times a year. And Yes: I am going to count calories.”

And so I did. The weight calculator said my caloric intake should not exceed 1,948 calories daily, so I decided on 1,900 calories for easier figuring. If I went over one day, I stayed under the next day.

I started limiting calories – not food types, but caloric intake – on May 18, 2014; and five weeks later, June 25, I was down to 160 pounds. My plan worked. Ice cream, pies, and cookies were part of my diet, but only in limited quantities, and only after a hearty – not large, but hearty – meal.

If you want to know: my daily caloric intake for the 5 weeks averaged 1,713.

Oh, I almost forgot: Carol also experienced significant weight reduction because we both disciplined ourselves to a new way of eating.

That was eight years ago. But as you know, we again took a prolonged road-trip around our grand country; and guess what? My belt slowly-but-surely got tighter. When we returned home on May 16, 2019, the scale lied: it said I weighed 191 pounds! Not to be outsmarted, I replaced the battery, and the truth was revealed: my true weight was 182 – again. I remembered that tried-and-true “counting-calorie” regimen, and I decided to do it again. Because I was five years older, the weight calculator limited me to 1916 calories daily. So, I limited myself to 1850.

Limiting calories while sitting on the couch or at the computer helps only a little. So in addition to sitting at my desk doing a lot of writing, I exercised. I didn’t have the time yet to go to the gym to work out, so I worked outside.

Tree-trimming, shredding the limbs, weed-whacking around our half-acre, mowing the lawns, burning pine-needles and branches, ridding the premises of unwanted vegetation such as poison ivy, etc., was work! It wouldn’t have mattered if I went over the caloric intake because I burned it off. Nevertheless, I kept track and kept Jaws under control. Or did I keep my eating under control?

Either way, I got the weight down to a healthy level – again. (My average daily caloric intake after 6 weeks averaged 1625.)

I ate mashed potatoes and gravy, hamburgers and steak, chicken and turkey. I really like fish. And I ate fruit and vegetables. I just didn’t over-eat. Yes – milk-shakes, ice cream, pies, and cookies were still in! But in limited quantities.

I’m not a vegetarian, but I found myself asking for more fruit and vegetables, and I lost interest in some foods that are low on nutrition. (Some – not all.) Therefore, I felt better quickly and regained a lot of energy.

By the way: I didn’t LOSE the weight because I knew where it was hiding: in the refrigerator, the food pantry, and at my favorite restaurants. The key is discipline.

Our next short adventures were to Dallas to see our newest grandbaby, and to Pagosa Springs, Colorado, to be with our daughters and friends, and I made sure I didn’t over-eat.

Well, I might need to retract that statement. I caught plenty of 16-inch to 18-inch rainbow trout up there, and I tend to over-eat on fish. However, wild trout has between 202-270 calories for a 6-ounce fillet (depends on how it’s cooked). Compare that with approximately 394 for 6 ounces of hamburger, and approximately 400 for steak. Fish meat is obviously healthier for us.

It wasn’t difficult to reduce my waistline and weight. I just had to WANT to reduce, and I had to want to stay healthy.

By the way, you may use my plan if you want to: it works.

Bon appétit, mes amies.

Labor Day

The Linzey family has a current memory of Labor Day. On August 31, 2012, our oldest son, Ron, and his family came to visit over the Labor Day weekend. We had a great time with Ron, Tanya, and their twelve kids. On Monday, September 3, Ron said, “Well, we better get going. The new baby is due in three weeks and we have some preparations to make.” So they loaded up the van and headed back toward Oklahoma City.

As I was growing up in Southern California, I learned about Labor Day in school. However, at times I confused it with Armistice Day because my sister Janice was born on Armistice Day – which was renamed Veteran’s Day in 1954. That made things worse: for how could Janice be born on Veteran’s Day when she was actually born on Armistice Day. Are you dizzy yet? As a child, I easily became confused. Let’s get back to Labor Day.

   Ron’s family hadn’t been gone long when the van pulled back onto our driveway. Ron said, “For some reason, baby has decided to be born that evening. May we spend the night?” And a new memory was created: Little Daniel was born within the hour … on our bed … on “Labor” Day.

     Although most Americans observe Labor Day as a holiday, some are aware of the meaning of the day. What are some of your memories? While you’re thinking, let me share some historical data with you. We won’t discuss Jolly Old England, but will stick with the US of A.

This day is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It’s an annual tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. But if we look at it objectively, we should not celebrate labor OVER management or company owners. No; our achievements are a product of overall cooperation between management and laborers. But we did have quite a time getting things straightened out between the two sides as labor unions became politically oriented. However, without business organizations, laborers are not needed; and without laborers, business organizations could not exist. But someone had to be the authority over the workplace. Although that necessarily fell to management, the compromise was that labor became a cooperative partner.

There have been many labor disputes, such as the massive “Pullman Strike” and the poorly named “Haymarket Massacre.” But not all problems have been between labor and management. Many times the problems were between the laborers themselves and other problems were within management and/or between companies.

Company owners and laborers alike have made mistakes. Some mistakes were based on “company greed” and others on “laborer greed.” But both are encompassed in “human greed.” Many times laborers had proper grievances, and when cool heads prevailed, problems were resolved. Sometimes it was hard to find those cool heads.

But historically, Americans built a strong country. The pilgrims were diligent workers who believed in and honored God. The United States is a blend of people from around the world, and most of them had a desire to be self-sufficient. They wanted to send word back to their motherland that they were doing well. They detested receiving handouts but would rather give a helping hand to others. These folk helped to establish a strong, powerful working force that could solve any problem that arose. I applaud them, and hope America will reestablish that mindset today.

Some of you may have been involved in union strikes. If you have, you know it’s seldom an easy task to clearly define the issues, because both sides act like Republicans and Democrats: too often they create their own problems, hide their own ignorance, and blame each other.

We as a nation have become like I was as a child: we have become confused. Having “grown up” in the 19th century, we regressed in the 20th. I matured because I received a Biblical work ethic from my father who also taught me to believe in Jesus Christ. But America has forsaken our Biblical heritage, rejected a foundational work ethic, and is floating precariously down the river of shame and disgrace. As a nation, we are in trouble.

Our only hope to become stabilized is to reestablish our foundational belief in God and live according to Biblical principles.

Lessons From the Flock – Stay Focused

What are they doing out there?”

I was pouring a cup of coffee – my first one of the day – and had my back to Carol.

“What are who doing out where?”

“You have to look and see.”

It was around 7:15 in the morning and I had already gone out to let the girls (chickens) out of the coop. As I prepared their mix of goodies, they followed me so closely that I nearly stumbled over them. Goldie and Elona pecked my britches as a sign to pick them up and love them a little – which I did. Then, as they began gobbling up the morning meal, I returned to the house where my coffee was waiting.

As I set my cup down, Carol reached for her camera to take a video of what was taking place. I began laughing. I had seen this many times previously but had never seen it from Carol’s viewpoint.

Goldie had entered the coop but left it within a few seconds. Whitey was walking toward the entrance of the coop. When Goldie walked out, Whitey entered, but quickly exited and stood at the entrance. Red Head was pacing a few feet away.

“Elona must be on the nest, Precious, and the other girls are waiting. No one will go in to make their deposit until Elona leaves the nest. And it looks like Whitey will be next.”

“That doesn’t make sense. Even if she’s on the nest, there are four more nests available. “Why don’t they use the other nests?”

I poured milk into my coffee to cool it and to give it a better flavor. I don’t like black coffee. I don’t like it hot, either.

“That’s human logic, Precious, but not necessarily bird logic. Remember when Goldie became a brooder and sat on twenty-three eggs?”

“Yes. All four birds laid the eggs in one nest.”

“They still do that quite often.”

“But Fred has been gone for eleven months now; do they think they can raise another flock?”

(Fred was the rooster.) “Who knows? I can figure out part of their thinking, but not all of it. All I can say is the girls seem to be waiting in line until it’s their turn to pay their dues.”

“You mean, lay their eggs. I didn’t know chickens could be so patient. Look!”

Elona walked out, and Whitey entered. Goldie moved up and stood at the entrance – Red Head continued pacing a few feet away. She would go last.

Putting her camera down, Carol finally said, “When it comes to eating, they will grab worms, cockroaches, moths, and other choice morsels from each other’s beaks; and Elona and Goldie fight each other vying for your attention. But when it comes to taking dust baths or laying eggs, they patiently wait in line? I don’t get it.”

“I don’t know if it is about patience; it might be a matter of being focused.”

The day before, Goldie and Red Head were chasing Elona all over the quarter-acre backyard trying to get the night-crawler away from her. Focused on that worm, they cornered Elona, and all three birds managed to eat a portion of that 7-inch fish-bait.

 The birds know how to be focused. God programmed that into them. As they meander around the yard, they are always on the alert for a bug – either flying or creeping. Sometimes one of them will half-run and half-fly all the way across the yard, leap or fly up several feet and grab a butterfly that is flying low. Now that’s being focused!

Is there something we can learn from our flock? Yes.

Not able to focus on eternal values, chickens are focused on what will keep them alive physically. But it’s supposed to be different with humans. What are you focused on? Fun? Personal gain? Entertainment? Vocational advancement? Vengeance? Disappointments? None of that will help you when you stop breathing. God built within us the ability to focus on eternal values.

Philippians 3:13b-14 says, “I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. (NLT)”

The prize the Apostle Paul was focused on was eternal life with God which he gained by living for and honoring Jesus Christ while here on earth. We must fulfill our responsibilities on earth, but let’s stay focused on honoring our Heavenly Father by obeying our Lord, Jesus Christ.

The Calaveras Jumping Frog

I had no idea what to expect when Carol and I went to San Andreas to visit our son and his family. Our first three nights were in the town named Angels Camp just eleven miles south.

No; that isn’t a place where celestial beings hunted and camped out. It is a town started by Henri Angell in 1848 as a gold mining town. Originally named Carson’s Creek, the town was incorporated under the name Angels in 1912 (located in Calaveras County) and eventually renamed to Angels Camp.

Although more than $20,000,000 in gold was processed there in the middle to late 1800s, one thing brought fame to both the town and a man: a story about a frog.

Sam Clemens, under the pen name of Mark Twain, was down on his luck and came to try his hand at panning for gold in the winter of 1864-1865. He didn’t do very well during his 88 days here in the California hills, but he heard a story in one of the taverns about a jumping frog. The veracity of the story is questionable; but embellishing it even further, Mark Twain wrote it up and sent it to his newspaper, The Territorial Enterprise, in Virginia City, Nevada.

That story, only 2,637 words including the title (The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras by Mark Twain), brought him immediate fame and fortune; that story became his “gold mine.”

Our son, Ron, took me to visit the site of his cabin on Jackass Hill where Mark Twain lived for almost three months. The hill received that name because at least once a week, a caravan of up to 200 donkeys with supplies for the miners in Carson Creek (Angels Camp) would stop there for the night.

Today, the main feature of the Calaveras County Fair is the frog-jumping contest. It is called the Calaveras County Fair & Jumping Frog Jubilee and is one the longest-running events in the state of California—going back to 1893. Of course, as with any good county fair, it includes entertainment, livestock, food, music, and crafts.

The frog-jumping contest is usually in the third weekend of May; and in a town of about 3,900 population, about 50,000 visitors attend the jubilee. People can bring their own frogs or rent them from a company in town (who catch the amphibians in the local ponds). The winner of the contest each year gets a plaque and $900 in cash. But if a frog beats the world record of 21 feet, 5 ¾ inches, the owner gets a World Record Holder title and $5,000 cash. Now maybe you can see why this is a big deal in Calaveras County.

Frogs are placed at the starting line. They get three jumps. The actual distance they jump is immaterial – it’s how close the critter gets to the finish line that counts. They seldom jump in a straight line, but you should hear the noise of the crowd as they both cheer the critters and scare the daylights out of them.

Another event that takes place is the Mark Twain Wild West Fest on the third Saturday of October. Gold Rush village is a kid’s area with fence-painting, knot-tying, a petting zoo, historic town with candle and soap-making, and more. There is gold-rush era music, and in honor of Mark Twain, a liar’s contest. That’s a real hoot!

Mark Twain was a good story-teller. In 1899 he wrote an article titled, “How to Tell a Story.” He said, “The humorous story is American, the comic story is English, the witty story is French. The humorous story depends for its effect upon the manner of the telling; the comic and the witty story upon the matter.”

Twain learned to tell stories in a dead-pan manner. The audience would be in a gale of laughter while Twain would sit there and watch them. That made it even funnier.

Mark Twain sent his story about the Calaveras County frog contest to The Territorial Enterprise in Virginia City, Nevada. I read recently that although the paper had gone out of business sometime ago, it is now back in operation. It was in this newspaper that Twain wrote, “If you don’t read the newspaper, you’re uninformed. If you do read the newspaper, you’re misinformed.”

Angels Camp is about 132 miles east of San Francisco by road, and about 80 miles southeast from Sacramento. My favorite eating establishment in town is called Round-Table Pizza, and the best ice cream place is called Yummy Ha-Ha.

Jesus Overruled Physics and Politics

Before Jesus was born, His title was “The Word.” John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 tells us that the Word became a human and lived among us. God, the Word, was born under the name of Yehoshua (the Lord is Salvation) and translated into English as Joshua. Translated from Hebrew into Greek, his name is Iesous, and then translated into English is Jesus.

Historical records verify that Jesus was born in Bethlehem; lived in Egypt, Nazareth, and Galilee (and several other places), and His vocation was carpenter and stone mason. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus was no wimp. Although He had a gentle disposition, He was muscular, physically tough, and had a will of iron. Those who were hurting or oppressed received gentle looks of compassion, but some of His adversaries shriveled under his steely glare!

Jesus had no identity crisis. He knew who He was and knew why He left heaven to live on earth. This was verified in Luke 2:48-49. Joseph and Mary were looking for Jesus and found Him in the temple bewildering the teachers of the law. When Mary asked twelve-year-old Jesus why He didn’t stay with them, Jesus responded, “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”

Jesus never did anything worthy of execution, so why was He crucified?

A sacrifice had to be made to rescue us from the black hole of oblivion called hell so that we could live with God forever in heaven. But to complete this liberating task, the sacrifice could not remain dead. Only God could accomplish this other-worldly task, and that’s why Jesus came.

Historical records verify that multi-thousands of people, including the Roman Emperor, heard that Jesus had risen from the dead, although most folks didn’t want to believe it. When the guards told the leaders of the Sanhedrin that Jesus had left the tomb, the leaders paid them to lie and say that Jesus’ disciples took His body from the tomb while they were sleeping. But that lie was absurd. Any reasonable child understands that we don’t know what’s happening while we’re asleep.

In 1546 AD, John Heywood said, “There are none so blind as those who will not see.” That reminds me of the verse in Jeremiah 5:21, “Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear” (NLT). Both Jeremiah and John were speaking to people who refused to believe the obvious: those who closed their eyes and ears to reality. But Jesus was seen by many hundreds – perhaps thousands – of people during the forty days after He left the tomb. Jesus is alive!

Myths and legends have been created by those who refused to accept the fact that Jesus is alive, and I’ve been asked a number of times what happened to Him? The greatest history book in the world – the Bible – answers that question.

In Acts 1:9-11, after Jesus gave parting instructions to the hundreds of people standing with Him on the hill, He left earth under his own power. The verses say, “…as they were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud hid Him from their sight. As He was going, they were looking into the sky. Suddenly, two men wearing white clothes stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking into the sky? Jesus, whom you saw taken up from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you saw him go’” (NCV).

Not only did innumerable people see Jesus for forty days after He walked out of the tomb, but hundreds of people also watched Jesus overrule gravity and ascend into the sky. As He disappeared into the clouds the angel told them how Jesus would return.

Return? How? Why?

Jesus was not ruled by the laws of physics nor the pressures of politics, and the same will be true at His next appearance. Accompanied by myriads of angels and people, Jesus will come out of the sky under His own power. He will end the prevailing wars and put an end to all evil empires, corrupt democracies, and inadequate kingdoms. Jesus will set up His own Kingdom, and those whom He calls righteous will rule with him.

This is not the end of the story: read the Bible for more.

Suicide Doesn’t Help

Carol and I had been at the Niagara Falls for five minutes when the State Trooper walked up and asked, “Sir, I don’t understand a thing any these folks are saying, but you look like you speak English. Have you heard anything about a man jumping over the edge?”

“No, sir. I’ve been here for about five minutes, and I haven’t heard anything about that.”

 “The rumor is that he jumped over about seven minutes ago. If you hear anything about it, I’d appreciate it if you’d find me and let me know. I’ll be in the State Trooper booth over there.”

“Yes, sir. Will do.”

An estimated 12,000,000 people visit the Falls annually, and every year about 40 people are killed going over the Falls – most of them suicides. The horrendous water pressure mangles the person against the rocks below and sometimes the bodies are never found.

We walked to the railing that is supposed to keep people out of the Niagara River. Here is basic information about the Falls.

The water plunges onto the rocks and slowly erodes the cliff at the rate of less than a foot per year. The confluence from the Canadian Horseshoe Falls and the American Falls creates the large whirlpool below. The American Niagara plunges down a total of 167-188 feet (depending on the specific location), but the water hits the mound of boulders around 70-110 feet.

The river flows about 25 miles per hour with an average of 150,000 gallons going over the edge each second; but the highest recorded volume was about 700,000 gallons per second. Its speed is estimated to be 68 mph as it hits the jagged boulders with multiple tons of pressure.

On the lighter side: As I read other information about the five Great Lakes, the Niagara River, and the Falls, I leaned back and laughed. For an unknown number of centuries, the Laurentide Ice Sheet covered Canada and a portion of the Northern US. According to one theory, the last ice age ended about 18,000 years ago, and the ice sheet which gouged out the lakes began receding.

I read: “20,000 years ago, earth started to warm, and the Laurentide Ice Sheet began to disappear. By approximately 10,500 BC, the Niagara Peninsula was free of the ice.”

This is why I laughed. Man is accused of causing global warming, but man wasn’t capable of generating substantial local heat until about 1500 BC, and no substantial regional heat until the 1700s AD. But the ice sheet began melting around 18,000 BC.

If man wasn’t the culprit 20,000 years ago, what caused the global warming back then? For that matter, what caused the earth to warm and freeze to generate the multiple theoretical ice ages? If the earth can cool and warm by itself, why blame man now? This is simple logic and easy to think through.

Back to Niagara Falls.

Carol and I spent the next four hours looking at the beauty and wondering about the power of nature on this spot on the map in northwest New York. Standing on the observation tower several hundred yards away or at the railing a few feet from the water’s edge, the sight of the water plunging over the edge and the roar of the cascading water crashing on the rocks was almost mesmerizing. Is that what prompted the man to take the leap? Or was it sorrow, loneliness, embarrassment, or emotional pain that prompted him to end his life?

The Niagara Falls is called The Honeymoon Capital of the World, so why do so many people end their lives here?

For the western mindset, the thought might be, I just can’t take the pain any longer; I’ll end it all. For the New Age or oriental religions, the mindset might be, This life hurts too much; perhaps it will be better next time.

But suicide neither solves nor ends any problems; it only creates more. Hebrews 9:27-28 says, “Just as everyone must die once and then be judged, so Christ was offered as a sacrifice one time to take away the sins of the people. And he will come a second time, not to offer himself for sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” Suicide will not help anyone, but Jesus can help whoever asks Him for help. Turn to God, and to friends, for help, comfort, and direction for life, because you are loved. Your life is valuable, and people need you.

John 3:16: For God so loved the [people in the] world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.

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