Mike Farley, who died recently, was one of the more remarkable people I have known. After a successful high school coaching career, he was named head football coach at UW-River Falls in 1970. It took a few years for him to get his program rolling. In Farley's first four years, the Falcons won a total of 12 games. And then the program took off like a bird of prey. In the final 14 years of his career, Farley-led teams won 106 games and lost 44. (Two ties.) The Falcons won conference championships in 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987.
When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.—Winston Churchill. Sometimes it feels like our political environment is just another television "reality show." It can have that effect. Actual reality: like a nasty infection, divisiveness continues to spread across our nation. The great mystics recommended love and union as the bottom line in life, but it seems that we are increasingly turning our backs on that wisdom.
One of my high school teachers, Dick Durner, was known as a builder of school spirit. The smiling Mr. Durner liked to run out onto the basketball court before home games, cup his hands around his mouth — megaphone-like — and shout out to the student cheering section — "Is everybody happy?" This came to mind while reading the most current "World Happiness Report." It's a global ranking of happiness in 156 countries, produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
I initially submitted a different column than the one you're reading now. For a variety of reasons, I contacted the paper on Monday and asked them to pull the column. They graciously complied, even though I can imagine what that does to the already-busy people who are working up to a deadline. Anyway, I'm glad I pulled that column back. I wrote it in a reactionary mode, and I didn't even realize that I was stuck in it. I was certain that I had a correct (and potentially humorous) read on the Trump-Putin Summit in Helsinki.
Who "wears the pants" in your household? It's not an issue if you're single, but if you live with someone the question may come up. The expression comes from the era when men were the only ones wearing pants. And pants equaled power. Growing up in the 1950s, most families looked the same to me: husband, wife and kid(s), with man as "head of the household." On rare occasions, the wife appeared to be in charge. The whisper would go like this: "You can sure tell who wears the pants in that family!"
It was a mighty strange sight to recently witness the gradual demolition of Karges Center on the UW-River Falls campus. Mid-way through the demolition process, the remnant of that once-mighty structure reminded me of images from WWII. "Karges" has held a steady presence on the local campus for nearly 60 years. The building was named in honor of Dr. R.A. Karges, affectionately known as "Kargie." He taught chemistry at River Falls and was vice president of the college from 1926 to 1951.
We may consider ourselves a "deeply divided country" but it's unlikely we feel divided when we gather for the solemn act of memorializing a life. And our country's deep differences can quickly disappear at something like a Memorial Day service sponsored by a local American Legion post. It seems normal today for our 50 states to be separated by labels like "red" and "blue" but at a Memorial Day service the color is more like purple. This version of purple has nothing to do with the Minnesota Vikings. It's the color you get when you blend red and blue.
One of the advantages of living in a relatively small community is ... well, community: "a unified body of individuals." It's probably true that communities are less cohesive today than they were before isolating technological "advances" took over our lives, but for me there is still a sense of unification in my community — everything from shared pride in a particular athletic team, to organizational involvement, to circles of friends. And then every once in a while an issue pops up and a community gets divided.
Walking down a city sidewalk with friends, the sun was just starting to set. After rounding a corner, we encountered a young man who looked like he was "down and out." He was sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against a storefront and begging for money. As we moved past him, we couldn't help but hear him: "Hey, how about helping me out! My life is kind of upside down right now." I admit that I have a quick reaction to a scene like that. I don't actually say it but my reactive thinking goes something like this: "Get a frickin' job buddy!"
Traveling through Florida on a solo trip, I stopped for the night and booked a room. The motel recommended a small, family-operated restaurant nearby. Nothing fancy, just good food. I went there on the early side and it was easy to get a table. Four booths lined the wall near my table, and two of those booths were occupied —a couple in one and a woman-on-her-own in the next.