Why Don’t We Phone Like We Used To?

Given how few people phone nowadays, one would think that Alexander Graham Bell’s phone call to Watson went like this. “Watson, I have invented a telephone that is fantastic! For if I hold my speaker next to my telegraph machine, you can hear what I’m keying in to you via Morse code! Listen!”

And so Watson hears the sounds of “– .- – . -..- – .. -. –.”  Soon, everyone in America wants a telephone so he/she can hear a caller key them dots and dashes.

It seems that we have forgotten how good the voice of a friend can be, say, one with whom we’ve had a long history. Or how valuable a discussion can be with a friend who knows us better than we know ourselves. (And we don’t have to pay long-distance like yesteryear!) Phone calls serve a purpose that texting and emails do not. Can you really feel the love with an emoji?

People have largely hung up the phone because they’re hung up on texting and other modern variations of sending Morse code. Yet, in the business place, experts insist that face-to-face communication is best. When that isn’t possible, phone calls are the next best choice. People can gather context and meaning from vocal tone that you can’t otherwise. According to Launch Workplaces, sixty-seven percent of executives and managers say productivity would increase if superiors communicated face-to-face, or dare we say, mouth-to-ear rather than dot-dot-dash.

And this is not to say that emails and texts (in French it’s called a texto) have no place in our lives. They do. It’s to say that phone calls do not deserve to be squeezed out. It’s also to say that we mature adults who refuse to text and begrudge emailing are cool. It’s our increased productivity that keeps America running!

There may be a new development. Some people think that they have begun to receive more phone calls on the job and from friends than a few years ago. (Actually, some people were surprised because these were friends with whom they had never spoken by phone! Hello.) A 29-year-old video producer has discovered that “Phone calls are much more efficient for everyone involved.” A 20-something female says, “I’ve always liked calling people, but maybe there’s a renewed desire for authentic communication.”

There seems to be no statistical proof that the phone call is back – do a google search and you will find dozens of stories lamenting the phone call’s death – but in her book, Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in the Digital Age, Sherry Turkle argues that teens and young adults are ready to change how they communicate. She spent several years interviewing hundreds of them and discovered they are growing tired of text-based communication. I’d guess it is a matter of, “If mom and dad are texting or emailing their friends, I’m going to talk to mine! WHERE CAN I FIND A DIAL TONE?”

Footnote: It is not clear whether or not Sherry Turkle is related to Studs – their last names sound alike – but she does lead MIT’s Initiative on Technology and Self. If you are interested in whether or not the two are related, give her a phone call. Did I mention that there is no long-distance charge?



Forty Percent of Seniors are Having Sex?

I walked into a doctor’s waiting room the other day and everyone in there had his/her nose in a dumb smart phone. And they were all elderly! If their parents had lived long enough to know how they were acting in public, they would have sent them to bed without their Ensure.

Having one’s nose in one’s phone is not the example that we of the older generation should be setting. It’s up to us to leave a legacy that is beneficial to those that follow. And what could be more beneficial than each younger generation taking seriously its responsibility to “Keep those Social Security payments coming!”

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2017 National Population Projections maintains that by 2030, all Baby Boomers will be older than age 65. (Actually, this did not require much of a projection. Just subtract 1964 from 2030.)  But what is not so obvious to the statistically unsophisticated is that this age increase will expand the size of the older population so that 1 in every 5 residents in the U.S. will be of retirement age. That’s almost like 20%! And by 2035, the estimate is that there will be 78.0 million people 65 years and older compared to 76.7 million under the age of 18.

Just this next year, 2020, the ratio of older adults to working-age adults, which is known as the Who Is Going To Be Paying Into Social Security Dependency Ratio? is projected to be three-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person. By 2060, that ratio is expected to fall to just two-and-a-half working-age adults for every retirement-age person.

It’s even worse than all this. No less a madcap than George Will reminds us that in 2018 it became known “that young Americans were found to be having less sex.” I don’t know who found them and called it in, but one possibility for this disinterest, says Will, is that one-in-four Americans say that they are “almost constantly” online. No time for sex, which is obviously not good for those of us dependent upon sustaining a workforce to pay in to social security.

So, here is the true legacy set by retirees that young people need to be aware of.

A 2017 National Poll on Healthy Aging, conducted in association with the University of Michigan, confirmed what some earlier studies have found with regard to sexual activity in older adults. Among men and women ages 65 to 80, 40 percent were still having sex. And this percentage would be much greater if more seniors could get a date, which is why all the elderly people at the doctor’s office had their nose in their phones. They were trying to figure out how to use an online dating service.

Senior citizens would gladly be populating future generations of social security, but we’re not the Abraham and Sarah Generation. (Remember Isaac’s older-than-dirt parents?) Biology doesn’t work that way, so it’s up to the younger folk to preserve social security. If 40% of seniors are having sex, just imagine how high this percentage could be among younger generations if they’d just get off line!


Readers Ask…

Dear Dewey: Is Punxsutawney Phil any relationship to Doctor Phil?

No, but the tabloids claim that Dr. Phil’s wife, Robin, is divorcing him and getting a groundhog for a pet. Now that Punxsy missed seeing his shadow this past week, we’ll see how that’s working out for them.

Dear Dewey: Today’s cartoonists draw a light bulb above a person’s head to indicate that he/she has had an idea? What did cartoonists draw for ideas prior to Edison’s invention?

Coleman Lanterns, which sometimes caught the person’s hair on fire. The light bulb is definitely better.

Dear Dewey: What if Edison had invented a bathroom scale that works like wind chill?

It would say, “156…But you feel like 181.”

Dear Dewey: My American family and I are presently living in Japan where my husband’s corporation assigned him to work for the next three years. Our son, who has always wanted to be a sumo wrestler, loves his Japanese high school, but his ribs show when he wears a mawashi, or loincloth. He’s only big enough to make the junior varsity team. Any ideas on how he can gain some weight and make the varsity?

Send him back home to his grandparents in America for the summer. Remember, America is the home of the Big Gulp, the Big Mac, and the “Supersize Me.” I see high school kids walking out of Starbucks drinking frappuccinos with an “awesome” number of calories. (Venti is Italian for Sumo Size.) As a matter of fact, I am wondering when American high schools are going to start sumo wrestling teams. Many of our kids can already take the teenage sumos of Japan.

Dear Dewey: I am a single woman and tired of men coming up to me and asking me, “What’s your sign?” What can I do?

Tell them it’s a “Do Not Disturb” sign.

Dear Dewey: How many spare peg legs does a pirate have?

I’m not sure, but I would imagine female pirates have more than male pirates. Also, that pirates no longer need one to walk the plank. In their yoga classes, they do the plank.

Dear Dewey: Why do most obituaries say, “She passed away” instead of “She died?”

Good question. Whenever I see such an obituary, I sometimes think of something like “slipped away.” She slipped away for a smoke or slipped away to go down the road for lunch and never came back. I think it’s unhelpful because “passed away” in no way approximates the magnitude of the mourners’ loss, whereas “died” does. This person has died. It’s a big loss. Much more than just gone around the corner. The Apostles’ Creed does not say of Jesus, “he was crucified, passed away, and buried…” In the New Testament are we told that Christ died and was raised from the dead, not raised from “the passed away.”

Loyalty Programs

The Bijou 48 MoviePlex, Food Court, Fitness Center, and Laundromat recently went stupid. It tore out the regular movie seats and put in these big honking reclining chairs. The arm rests alone – on which you can set your 96 oz. soda, your 55-gallon popcorn tub, your movie-comfort animal, and your elbows – reduced the seating capacity by more than 100 seats. There’s room enough for just a few people inside these theaters now compared to the number who used to be able to watch movies. Consequently, The Bijou 48 has to turn people away constantly.

This is a very strange phenomenon. It’s the exact opposite of the airline industry.

My wife and I arrived at the Bijou 48 a couple of weeks ago and stood in line in the cold outside the box office forever. Why so long? The Bijou 48 went so stupid that now you also have to choose your seats when you buy your tickets, which more than doubles the wait time.

There is no more unreserved seating. Couples get to the box office window and then debate, “Should we sit here, or if we sit there would it make the screen look bigger?” as though they’re talking about some dress and her butt. MOVE IT, PEOPLE!  By the time we got to the box office window, the cashier not only had to unthaw us with a blowtorch, but there were only a couple of seats left, and they were in the front row. We didn’t need the pain in the neck, and so we left.

This happened to us twice, and so when a movie we really wanted to see came to the Bijou 48, I decided to order our tickets online. Sounds simple enough, but there’s a catch. If you don’t join the theater’s Loyalty Program you won’t get your money back if you get sick or lost or shot by a movie terrorist and don’t show up. Movie tickets are expensive. Not getting your money back is like losing a fortune in the stock market, or even worse, spilling a vente mocha at Starbucks.

So, I joined the Loyalty Program, which took three hours of hassling with the website.  You would think that a loyalty program would have a user-friendly format, but no. This one should be named, “You Can’t Get There From Here,” There being “You Are Now A Member!”

I didn’t realize how loyalty programs have taken over our lives. Inside my wallet alone I find “Cinemark Connections,” “Member Barnes & Noble,” “Walgreen’s Balance Rewards,” “My Panera,” not to mention several others such as Southwest Frequent Flyer Program and Amazon Prime Idiot. Half of these I didn’t even know I had, and I rarely use the other half.

But everywhere you go there’s a loyalty program – grocery stores, drug stores, retail outlets, airlines, hotels, car rentals, restaurants. “Sign up! Save Big! Keep us in Business!” And whereas the one at the Bijou 48 was a hassle to join, some of these seem to enlist you without your even knowing it. They’re sneaky!

Well, what’s next? Here are my predictions for loyalty programs:

Frequent Worshiper Program. You get a 10% deduction on your offering if you attend church at least three Sundays/month. Plus, you don’t have to stay for the sermon on months with 30 days.

Yard Sale Discount Club. Get a 50-cent discount on each item valued at $1 or more. Plus, if you find something that gets you on the Antique Roadshow, you get a free membership for life!

Funeral Home Balanced Rewards. For every regular-sized casket you purchase, you get a burial urn for free! Either that or a plot in the Pet Portion of the cemetery.

What We Learn From El Chapo’s Management Problem?

Walt Disney is not going to get the movie rights to the El Chapo narcotrafficking trial in New York City. The characters are too animated for Walt. Still, this trial has its light-hearted moments. It seems that Miguel Martinez was hired years ago by El Chapo to pilot planes filled with cocaine from Columbia to Durango, Mexico. But he was a lousy pilot. He would have flown better had he been on drugs. One day he ran out of gas on the landing approach and broke the plane’s landing gear. On another, the landing was so poor that he wound up with the propeller stuck in the dirt and the plane’s tail assembly in the air. He was so bad that those who rode with him packed their own parachute.

El Chapo, the alleged kingpin of the Sinaloa cartel, thus had a management problem. Martinez could not continue as a drug pilot. He wasn’t even capable of running the kiddie rides at El Chapo World. What to do about him?

One option was to have Martinez sign a non-disclosure agreement; agree to never tell anyone where the bodies are buried, where the drugs come from, and certainly never tell anyone that the boss’s wife calls him El Chapstick. But that probably wouldn’t work. Another was to write him a letter of recommendation and tell him to seek employment with United or Delta or Southwest. Wouldn’t work either. If you read the news, airlines tend to go more for pilots with drinking problems.

If Hollywood writers had written the script, Martinez’ body would have soon been among the buried bodies. In fact, El Chapo’s bodyguard, an ex-cowboy named El Chaps, was ready to shoot Martinez, who was taking a selfie of himself by the plane with the propeller sticking in the ground. But being a kingpin who valued loyalty over ability – it doesn’t take much to sell dope to Americans – El Chapo instead gave Martinez a promotion.

Martinez was transferred to an office in Mexico City where his job was to grease the growing number of police palms, as well as those of government officials. He was so good at greasing palms that over the years he rose above El Chapo’s other MBA’s to run all of El Chapo’s companies. His compensation went from $25,000/flight to millions and millions/year. He became so wealthy that he could afford his own cocaine habit.

Now, to a different cartel. Although the Super Bowl is yet to be played, one of the stories to come out of the past NFL season has to do with field-goal kickers. I have nightmares about being a field-goal kicker. There I am. It’s the last few seconds of the game. My team is behind by two points, but if I can make the field-goal, which is very doable given the ball is on the 30-yard line, we’ll win by one! The center snaps the ball to the holder and I kick it! But it’s an unrighteous kick. It doesn’t go through the uprights. A sudden gust of wind blows it around them.

My team’s fans roar their disapproval and raise those big foam fan hands. Only their big foam fan hands don’t have the index finger pointing upward.  It’s the other one. And so, rather than face the sports writers, I go into the dressing room and shoot myself in the foot. But even then, no one is concerned about my pain. It’s tough being a field-goal kicker.

In the NFL, the saying is pretty much true, “You’re only as good as your last kick.” Fact: in the last 23 seasons, the Redskins have gone through 21 kickers. (The average for all teams over this period is 11.) The Chargers have gone through six kickers in just the past two seasons. Some kickers wake up on the road Sunday morning, and not only do they not know what city they’re in, they have forgotten what team they’re playing for.

There have been a couple of exceptions to the rule, though, one being the Chicago Bears. Robbie Gould was their kicker from 2005 through the 2015 season. He was one of the most accurate kickers in NFL history. But because he was set to be paid one of the highest salaries in the league in 2016 for a kicker, the Bears had to make a management decision.

Couldn’t they find someone else to do the job on the cheap? How difficult is it kicking field goals in Chicago anyway? So, they let him go. Like El Chapo, they didn’t shoot him, but they also didn’t offer him another position in their organization. They simply allowed him to seek employment with another team.

And how did his less costly replacements do? The Bears finished in the bottom six in field-goal percentages in 2016 and 2017, also during regular season play in 2018.  How did Robbie Gould do? He was the most accurate kicker in the NFL these past three seasons, one season for the Giants, and two for the 49ers.

This past season, 73 NFL games were decided by three points or less. In fact, sportswriters tell us that you can count on two things during the NFL playoffs. One team will win the Superbowl, and one team will miss going to the Superbowl because of a missed kick.

All NFL teams soon face the question, “What to do about the guy who missed the kick?” Call El Chaps, the bodyguard, and tell him to handle it with sudden-death play? Or call El Chapo, a guy who values loyalty, and see what he advises?

How to be a Healthy Party Animal

People are all the time giving us health advice. Never, though, have I heard anyone say, “Add birdseed to your diet.”  Yet, have you ever seen evidence of a constipated bird? No such thing.

The AARP Bulletin for Jan-Feb. 2019 has a list of “Ways to Add Healthy Years to Your Life,” ninety-nine of them (ways, not years.) Adding birdseed to your diet did not make the list, even though Ways #46 through #61 were all food suggestions. “Eat Fiber, Cheat Death…Eat Fruit and Vegetables, Cheat Death…Eat Nuts and Seeds (not birdseed, though)…” Also left out was kale. I understand that kale is now left off the menu at all prisons and jails because prisoners have learned how to hold a leaf in both hands, use it as a saw, and cut through bars. “Eat Kale, Cheat Prison.”

So, here’s the first part of this week’s health insight. Way #62 on the AARP list was “Throw a Party!” A party can add days or weeks or even a month to one’s lifetime. “Cherish the opportunity to hang out with your tribe. A review published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (a really fun bunch of party animals) found that strong social relationships had positive physiological effects, such as lower inflammation, while isolation had an even harsher negative effect on participants’ blood pressure and diabetes.”

I feel less inflamed just thinking about a party, but here’s the remainder of the insight. Not everyone is outgoing. Not everyone has lots of friends. How can you find more opportunities to throw parties? How can you become a healthy party animal if you are an introvert? The answer: Dogs!

What do we know about dogs? One human year is the equivalent of seven dog years. If you have a dog, you have the opportunity/obligation to throw a birthday party for it seven times a year! If you have two dogs, fourteen times per year! That’s a lot of positive physiological effect, especially if other dog owners return the invitation. If your neighborhood has twelve dogs, that’s 84 parties a year. And parties produce “positive physiological effects, such as lower inflammation, while isolation has an even harsher negative effect on participants’ blood pressure and diabetes.”

And you thought that the greeting card at Walgreen’s with the Chihuahua on front wearing a party hat was just silliness! No. Spread the word that your dog is having a birthday. Invite your neighbors and their dogs over for margaritas and milkbone. Someone will say, “Fido’s already 100 years old?  It seems that less than a couple of months ago he was just 99.” And you can respond, “Yes, he was! And next week your dog is 67! Party on!”


How About a Hike Across Antarctica?

When I was a kid, I thought that Antarctica was Uncle Art’s wife. The two were a silly couple, wore the same color clothing, had somewhat the same name, hers ending in “a.” Much like Leo and Lena, Wilbur and Wilma, Moe and Mona.

But then Antarctica turned out to be a continent with no indigenous people, probably because it was never populated like other places. The only humans who live and work there are scientists who study ice, snow, geology, climate, animal life, and boredom.

Animals and fish are quite abundant in the sea, but apart from penguins and parties thrown by scientists, there’s very little wildlife on the three-mile thick sheet of ice that covers the land. No polar bears, for instance, which is good for Colin O’Brady, an American, who on December 26, 2018 became the first person to cross-country ski across Antarctica without any assistance.

Even without polar bears nipping at his heels, this 930-mile trek was dangerous. Given that he started on a summer day, Nov. 3, the sun never set on his 54-day journey. If The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of midday to objects below, can you imagine how bright all that sun was on all that snow and ice? He needed goggles to prevent snow blindness.

Frostbite is also a problem, Jack Frost nipping at your nose. O’Brady is a tough guy, though. He says things like, “Oh, I didn’t need that toe anyway.” And hypothermia. It was -25F the day he began, but it can get a lot colder even in the summer. One needs 6000-7000 calories a day on such a journey just to maintain a healthy core temperature. O’Brady made his own protein-popsicles, complete with all needed nutrients, and maintained an 8,000 calorie/day diet, a thousand more than needed. A spokesperson for Jenny Craig said, “Imagine going on 54-day, 930-mile trek, lugging a 375-lb. sled filled with supplies uphill and still gaining weight! He should have used our meal plan.”

Other dangers include falling into crevasses and getting lost in whiteouts and forgetting where you left your satellite phone. And here’s one most people never think about, “polar thigh!” When you start chaffing in the cold, it doesn’t go away like in more moderate climbs. Plus, you’re doing a cross-country skiing motion every day.

Unfortunately, what happened with Mt. Everest is now going to happen with Antarctica. After many years of just a few people climbing Mt. Everest, everyone has now decided they’ll try it. There’s like a traffic jam at the base, even a book, Climbing Mount Everest For Dummies.

This is exactly what I see happening on Antarctica. Wyndham Hotels are going to go in with Sheraton Hotels and build a location next to the windsock at the Antarctica International Landing Strip. It’s going to be called Wynd-Shear South, (which is also a problem.) As hikers take the route “blazed” by O’Brady, businesses will start appearing, say Starbucks, offering what else but “cold brew.” A new chain called SubZero will offer seal blubber heroes, and the sign at White(out) Castle will say, “Sled in for a Slider!”

Still, a British fellow named Luis Rudd set out the same day as O’Brady from a different point. He also made the crossing, but finished three days later. He was walking in honor of a friend, Henry Worsley, who died in 2016 attempting to traverse Antarctica. It’s a dangerous trip. Even when Royal Southern Ocean Cruise Lines sends you the travel brochure, you may not want to pack your sled.

But Where Are The Doritos?

One of the things that is obligatory as we end one year and begin the next is a listing of the old year’s top news stories. Thus, we have just been through, or are still going through, lists of “The Top News Stories of 2018!”

What is amazing about these lists is that none of them includes the story referenced by the following December headline from a page of the Albuquerque Journal. “Did Unopened Doritos Bag Float in Sea for 40 Years?” Sub-headline, “Package stamped 1979 washes up on national seashore in N. Carolina.”   Click Here 

The National Park Service originally posted a photo of the bag on Facebook saying, “This bag was found last week…on Harkers Island along with other storm debris. The bag design looked odd to us” – I guess National Park Service personnel eat lots of Doritos out there in the park to keep up their energy – “but we couldn’t put our finger on why until we noticed the date in the lower corner – 1979!”

I am utterly dismayed that this story was not deemed important enough to be in the “Top News Stories of 2018!” A Doritos bag clearly stamped as being produced in 1979? At sea for forty years? Its colors amazingly vibrant? What does a Doritos bag have to do nowadays to get a billion hits on YouTube?

This bag has even stood the rigorous scrutiny of the world-famous History of Doritos website. Dora E. Toze, Head Chip Historian, immediately identified the bag as having been used by the company from 1973-1979. She also says, “Nacho cheese flavored Doritos first came out in 1972.” And this bag was clearly labeled, “nacho cheese flavor!”

Nacho cheese flavor, of course, brings up just how mysterious this bag’s survival was. It’s a little-known fact, but sharks are more attracted to the smell of nacho cheese than they are to blood. Sharks also have no trouble smelling through plastic. How, then, could a bag of nacho cheese flavor Doritos survive forty years in the ocean without a shark devouring it? I checked with Las Vegas odds-maker, Sherman the Shark, and he said the odds against that sack of Doritos lasting forty minutes in the water, let alone forty years, was a zillion to one.

The National Park Service wants to remind us of something important by finishing its post with, “While this was sort of a neat find due to its age, it serves as a reminder that plastic trash lasts a long time, in this case almost 40 years!” True, but what the park rangers don’t tell us is what happened to the chips inside. The headline reads, “Unopened Doritos Bag,” yet, we’re left unsatisfied by all accounts as to what has become of the Doritos themselves.

Did park rangers eat the chips and reseal the sack with an Old Bag Sealer by Ronco that washed up on Harkers Island last year? (A crime under Section F, paragraph J of the Flotsam and Jetsam Reclamation Act.) Or were the Doritos “beamed aboard by Scotty” and the bag left to float unopened for almost 40 years? If so, the bag is now a candidate for display at the UFO Museum in Roswell!

In any event, Frito-Lay, who makes Doritos, missed out on a Super-Bowl-class commercial. They could have sent Geraldo Rivera to North Carolina to open the sack and say, “Wow! Does this remind me of a vault I once opened!” Still, Geraldo might have sold a lot of Doritos, but he wouldn’t have solved the “Mystery of the Missing Chips.”

A D.I.Y Video for the New Year!

Do It Yourself is so big nowadays that it even has its own acronyms. A.A.U.G.H! for those of us who have difficulty following directions; D.I.Y. for those of us who don’t.

You want to make money performing brain surgery without going to medical school? There are D.I.Y. Brain Surgery videos on YouTube. You may need more than one, so there’s a second: “How to Prevent Brain Bleeds with Superglue and a Popsicle Stick.”

There is presently a Do-it-Yourself video for every activity known to humankind, but not all of them are called D.I.Y. Those that deal with nefarious activities have labels such as, “Watch as Thieves Clean Out an Apple Store in 13-Seconds!” (Teenagers can really be quick when you aren’t waiting for them to clean their rooms!)

As you watch these crimes unfold, you learn how it’s done. You have D.I.Y. thoughts. You say to yourself, “This gang of bank thieves is more efficient than the gangs in the other thirteen videos. I think I’ll do it this way. What I need now is a YouTube video on how to find a gang.” And, of course, there are at least 27 of them.

There are videos, even websites, that show kids how to sneak candy into their classrooms at school. If America’s test scores on math and science don’t worry you about the future, kids who aren’t imaginative enough themselves to sneak M&Ms into class ought to.

D.I.Y. includes everything from making gingerbread men to making robots. You can learn how to do handcrafts, start a business, create (or steal) jewelry, and grow a garden on a postage stamp. Every few days I get an unsolicited email from Pinterest saying, “You too can have a backyard garden like one of these!” And as I look at backyard garden after backyard garden, I am reminded of what is wrong with D.I.Y.  IT TAKES A LOT OF WORK!

Whatever happened to the idea of learning a skill that supports one well enough that he/she can pay someone else to do the things you don’t know how to do or don’t want to do or don’t have time to do. Sounds to me like A D.I.Y Video for the New Year: Specialize! (By the way, these videos don’t have to work. You just have to post them on YouTube and you’re done.)




A Christmas Corral

Eight inches of snow fell on Roswell, New Mexico two days before Christmas. Christmas Eve morning the clouds had moved off to the east as Bobby Cratchit sat down at the kitchen table with his first cup of coffee of the day and a copy of the newspaper. It was going to be a lonely Christmas Eve and a lonely Christmas Day. Eileen, his wife of 49-years, had died two years earlier. They didn’t have children, and what few relatives they’d had between them were gone.

Across town, Euben Scrood did not know that he was the great, great, (however many) great grandson of Ebenezer Scrooge. For one thing, he was too cheap to have his DNA tested on ancestry.com. But people in Roswell could have guessed it. Euben was a stingy, greedy man! By Christmas Eve that year he had cornered the Chavez County Christmas tree market, doubling prices from the previous year and putting local vendors out of business. The only trees available were on a vacant lot west of town that he didn’t even have to pay rent on. He’d built a fence and called it the Christmas Tree Corral.

Hope Ternall, a widow who had gone to school with Bobby Cratchit years ago, took her six-year old grandson Timmy with her to Scrood’s lot Christmas Eve morning. Having searched unsuccessfully for a Christmas tree lot, she was delighted to hear on the radio that there were Christmas trees for sale on a lot west of town. Her joy was even greater when she found out that Euben also had a one-horse open sleigh, one like her grandparents had owned back in Minnesota. For $20, one of Euben’s underpaid employees would give her and her grandson a ride around the Christmas Tree Corral.

Hope didn’t need anyone to drive her. She was perfectly capable of handling the horse herself. In fact, she and Timmy had successfully circled the inside of the open corral twice when a pack of dogs appeared and spooked the horse. Euben and his employees immediately began doing all they could to chase off the dogs – screaming at them, throwing snowballs, phoning Animal Control  – but the horse knew that it was in danger of being attacked. It ran out of the lot headed north on a snow-packed dirt road.

Bobby Cratchit had never snowmobiled in Roswell. He and his wife had always gone to Angel Fire or Colorado. But given the 8” of snow, he thought he’d give it a try. He was coming from the south on the snow-packed dirt road when he saw the one-horse open sleigh careen out of the Christmas tree lot a hundred yards ahead of him, the female driver flailing her arms and screaming, although he couldn’t hear her over his motor. Behind the sled was a pack of dogs giving chase, and behind them were three men giving very little chase as they slogged through the snow.

Bobby formulated a plan as he sped along. An adventurous sort, back when he was a kid he had wanted to be the guy in the cowboy movies who rescued the young lady in the runaway buckboard. He would ride his horse alongside her rig, speed up and then leap onto the back of the runaway horse, bringing the buckboard to a halt.

Using the same principle as in the movies, he maneuvered his snowmobile alongside the horse and prepared to leap on its back. But there were two problems. One, it had been at least forty years since he’d done any leaping. And two, the situation was unlike leaping from the back of one horse to another. Bobby was closer to the ground on his snowmobile. The back of the runaway horse was as high as his head.

Unable to leap on the back of the runaway horse, Bobby did the next best thing. He tumbled into the sleigh in the hopes that he could grab the reins and bring the horse to a halt. What he had not fully considered was that the sleigh was not only open on top, but open on both sides, nothing to stop his momentum as he somersaulted past Hope’s and Timmy’s legs and out the other side of the sleigh, entangled in a red, white, and green Christmas blanket.

He regained consciousness as paramedics were loading him into an ambulance. “What Happened?” he asked. “Is the lady alright? What about the horse?”

A policeman answered, “The woman and the kid and the horse are okay.” He could say that because even though the horse might have eventually run off the road and the sleigh overturned on the uneven terrain, the throttle of the snowmobile got stuck when Bobby tumbled into the sleigh. The snowmobile sped ahead for a brief while and then assumed a path directly in front of the horse, where the exhaust soon caused the horse to become nauseous and stop. Also, the dogs had stopped chasing it.

At the hospital, Euben Scrood found out that Bobby had a slight concussion, broken ribs, cuts, contusions, and a broken ankle. Also, that Hope had wrenched an arm and Timmy sustained a bump to his head. Immediately, he was visited by the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Future. The two of them held up a large neon sign that said, “LAWSUIT!” Their pronouncement was based upon Euben’s experience with the Ghost of Christmas Past.

And so it was that a lavish Christmas dinner was held in Bobby Cratchit’s hospital room. Hope was there, as was Timmy and his parents. The food, the tree, and the generous gift certificates beneath the tree were all provided by Euben, who let it be known that he was also going to pay all the doctor bills.

It was a wonderful Christmas celebration! Bobby wasn’t lonely. He and Hope reminisced about the good old days growing up in Roswell. Timmy’s team won the televised football game, and his parents chilled out for once, given that they didn’t have the stress of hosting Christmas dinner at their house. It was such a great time that Timmy asked his dad in the car on the way home, “Why doesn’t Grandma Hope marry Mister Cratchit. He’s a nice man and she wouldn’t be so lonesome.”

Of course, not everyone formed such a great Christmas memory. Euben Scrood worried all day that, in spite of his unaccustomed generosity, Bobby or Hope or Timmy’s parents were going to file a law suit. Also, most Roswellians figured out why there were no other Christmas trees for sale and didn’t drive out to his lot. Others didn’t even know he was there. On December 26, he beheld of the saddest sights he’d ever seen, a corral full of Christmas trees.