It is a strange world here in California listening to my friend "Jim the Democrat" attribute all the ills of America today to being the fault of the Republicans. I guess turnabout is fair play as pretty much all the people I normally associate with in Nebraska are somewhat conservative in their political leanings and tend to attribute our ills to President Obama. I suspect that the truth is somewhere in between. Both political parties tend to spend more time disparaging the other than a sane person would find to be prudent. Still it is strange to find a person that will actually admit that he voted for Obama and is yet proud of it.
My long-time friend Jim whom I've respected and loved like a brother for some 40-plus years is a born and raised native Californian. He was farming almonds in the San Joaquin Valley when our paths crossed courtesy of the Air Force who sent me there to teach pilots to fly the KC-135. Our families were compatible and a close relationship has been maintained over the years since.
We just never discussed politics over the many years until just recently when Jim professed that he was as liberal in his thinking as I tend to be conservative. Recently Jim told his friend Walt that he considers himself a "conservative Democrat." Walt thought that a conundrum until Jim pointed out that Walt considers himself a "staunch conservative" yet is proud to be a member of a union.
In the years hence, Jim resigned from his county job, sold the almond farm and went back to school to earn a master's degree. He then had a successful career teaching at Merced College. Now retired, he builds custom hotrod cars in his home garage in the time he has to spare from tending to an ailing wife. He is also the go-to handyman of the neighborhood, fixing any and everything about the neighbors households that might go wrong. He is active in his church, oversees building projects for the congregation and anything else that needs done. A completely normal Christian man, it is hard to understand how he can be so sideways in his political thoughts. I suspect that his longtime career in academia is what led him astray. His political orientation is so far to the left that he even refuses to watch "Fair and Balanced" Fox News on the television. No matter, though how much we disagree we can always laugh at each other's opposite political stances and respect the other's opinion. Actually, our differences cause each of us to examine the facts to strengthen or back away from our initial thoughts on the subject.
Somehow I think that the rhetoric in today's rantings that pass for modern day politics would better serve our nation if those politicians would spend a little more time examining the facts out of respect rather than rancor. Maybe such a thought is just too much to ask when only the future of our nation is at stake.
Jim and I are both at that stage in life when all our parents are now gone. Looking through his keepsakes he shared a page from the diary that his mother kept. The entry was for May 4, 1972, and read something like the following:
"Today Major Dick Trail took Jim, Gordon and me for a ride in a Cherokee 140 airplane. We flew over Jim's farm and our home in Merced. Then we flew on north over Snelling (their home when her husband Gordon worked the gold dredges along the nearby river). Then we flew over Lake McClure before returning to the Merced Airport. It was one of the very best days of my life!"
Ah, I never knew that Fanny was so pleased until I read that passage from her diary. But then, somehow, my own recollection of that flight was a little different from her's. I distinctly remember the Cherokee that day being a little underpowered for the load we asked it to carry. For a few moments in time it seemed that we would be unable to gain enough altitude to climb out of the confined space of the reservoir and clear the heights of the Exchequer Dam to get back home safely. Obviously all worked out well and the exercise underlines the need of a pilot to give each passenger a safe and enjoyable ride when the occasion arises.
Precious memories and that is the way I saw it.