Monday, May 7, 2012

Did Melvin Dummar fix my tire?

You may remember the name, Melvin Dummar. He was the guy who, in the 1970’s, allegedly found billionaire Howard Hughes wandering in the desert and gave him a ride back to the Sands Hotel. It was the starting point of the “Mormon Will“ court case. Even though all the money, $156million, was to go to the church and Mr. Dummar would get nothing, his name was dragged through the mud in the press.

My own little story begins last Saturday night. I was talking with a nice young lady, which is a story in itself, but in the course of our conversation she mentioned that she had spent part of her childhood in Gabbs, Nevada. She was somewhat surprised that I knew of the place. I not only knew of it, but even more unlikely, I have a very fond memory of it.

Sometime in the late 1990’s, I don’t remember exactly when, I drove out to the Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park to do some sightseeing. On the way back I got a flat tire. As I was fixing it, I noticed that another tire was getting pretty low. Only having the one spare, I limped into Gabbs to see what I could do about it.

There is only one gas station in Gabbs. The man at the gas station was fairly old, with gray hair, and a bit taller than me. He plugged my bad tire, only charged me a minimal amount of money, and I was able to get back to Reno without incident.

As it turns out, that gas station is owned by Melvin Dummar’s brother, Ray. Melvin sometimes works there.

melvin dummar
Photo from Melvin Dummar's Facebook page.

As near as I can remember, this wasn't the guy who fixed my tire. It could have been, but given family resemblances, it could have been Ray Dummar. Or maybe it was just some guy filling in on a Sunday afternoon. I can’t be sure.

Anyway, knowing what I know of the guy at the gas station, pulling my bacon out of the fire and not taking advantage of a stranger in need, I’m inclined to believe Melvin Dummar’s story. Of course, that does nothing to prove the validity of the Howard Hughes Will, but Mr. Dummar’s part in it seems reasonable. People in Gabbs are like that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Last words for my sister

I've probably written nearly 5,000 words about my sister since her death three weeks ago. That's a lot for me. Most have been edited out.

After I wrote a remembrance for This is Reno, it was decided that she would have wanted a church service. People thought I would just read what I had already written. The problem was that I had written that to describe my sister to people who hadn't known her. Besides which, how things read and how they sound are two different things. I decided to write another one.

The Bishop of the church liked it so much that he asked me to send him a copy. He thought it might help someone else in a similar situation someday. I also sent him some thoughts on how I went about writing it. Maybe that will help somebody too. Since it's all I've been doing for nearly a month, I guess it all qualifies as a blog post. It's not the happiest subject, I know.

Anyway, what started as a stroll down memory lane turned into a marathon. I'm mentally and emotionally drained. I'm beginning to wonder if what had once been cathartic is now turning into something less clinically healthy. So, this will be the last of it. It's time to catch up on the news, rejoin the world, find a new subject and get back in the game.

How I wrote my remarks for a funeral

I can give you any number of reasons why I’m not a good choice to speak at a funeral. But when my sister died, and it was decided that she would have wanted a church service, I was the logical choice to speak for the family. In spite of my many misgivings about the idea, I knew in my heart it was the right thing to do. But it raised one very big question in my mind; Now what?

I’ve been writing on the internet for the past few years as a hobby and there are three simple rules I use when I write:

1) Tell them something they don’t already know.

2) You may know it all, but you don’t have to say it all.

3) To thine own self, be true.

There are two kinds of people at a funeral; family and friends. Most people in the family already know most of the stories. But friends are different. People move a lot, and friendships come and go. If you think about it, we really don’t know our friends very well. What seems old news to a family member will be unknown to a friend.

Think about your own friends. What’s the picture they have in their living rooms. Is it just a nice picture or is it something significant to them? How about that old picture in the hallway? What about the little statue in the bookcase? There are a thousand details of a person’s life that never come up in conversation, even with their closest friends. In my sister’s case, she had only known her friends for 2 or 3 years. She was 65 when she died. That left me with a lot of memories to work with.

That’s where you come in. You can give them perspective. You can help them see that their time and effort spent developing their friendship wasn’t wasted. Their friend was a genuinely good person and they are better for having known them. Let them see for themselves that they made a wise choice.

I started by making a list. Some of the memories weren’t pleasant, and a couple were personally embarrassing, but I wrote them down anyway. You never know what you’re going to use, and besides, one memory leads to another. Above all, stick to your own memories. Family stories can be entertaining, but personal recollections will be the most significant.

A partial list of what I ended up using would have looked like this:

Coloring book
Portrait painting
The Beatles
Drivers license

When you have 10 or 15 memories on your list you’ll see a pattern emerge; a group of stories that have something in common. You will probably see more than one group. You can expand each memory you want to use by answering a few questions. Where were we? Why were we there? What did I see? What did I hear? What did I think/feel about it at the time? What do I think/feel about it now?

Not all of your answers will be important. What you heard may be more central than what you saw. Focus on the important aspects. Some memories will only be a single sentence. Things in the scene are only the mechanics. How the experience affected you, how you felt, and why you remember it is the goal.

In my case, I had always known my sister liked to paint. Until I started a list of memories, I hadn’t realized how important it was to her. What was especially enlightening was the effect her love of art had on me. When you make your list, you will probably have a similar experience and the writing will come easier.

A little embellishment can often make a story better, more important or funnier than it really was, but in this case it’s completely unnecessary. The mere fact that you remember what happened establishes its importance. Your fondest memory could be something like the time the two of you sat on the beach, watching the waves and talking about nothing. Chances are, some friends will have had a similar experience. Real life is not like a James Bond movie. Just tell them what happened.

So, how did it all go?

I’m still not completely happy with what I wrote. There are the usual amount of grammatical errors, several paragraphs could easily be rewritten, and there’s no real conclusion at the end. I forgot a few lines and mangled a few others. I purposely skipped one as I didn’t think I could say it without crying. My voice was shaky and I had to stop a few times to gather my emotions. None of that mattered.

Afterwards, several of Karen’s friends thanked me for telling them my memories of her. I had confirmed in their minds the basic decency of the friend they used to know. The Bishop liked it so much that he asked me for a copy as an example for other people in a similar situation. I left the church that day feeling like I had done some good, and that Karen would have been proud of me for it.

Karen loved her friends and she loved her family. We loved her too. On the day of her funeral, nothing else mattered.

Memories of my sister, delivered at Murphy's Ward Church April 3, 2012

I’m Ron, one of Karen’s brothers. I’d like to tell you a little bit about growing up with Karen.

One of the oldest memories I have of anything, I had to have been three years old, so Karen would have been ten. We were sitting on the floor and we had our coloring books out. Karen was showing me how to color inside the lines. All the pictures in Karen’s coloring book were perfect. All the colors were even and just the colors they were supposed to be. Each one looked like a real picture. She used bright colors and had a light touch. Karen was great at coloring.

Not long after that Karen asked me if I would sit for her so she could paint my portrait. I didn’t know what a portrait was. She got out one of her books and showed me some pictures of kings, and presidents, and other famous people. I tried several poses, trying my best to look like one of the famous guys I had seen. She finally told me that the best thing to do would be for me to just sit there and be myself.

That was about the time she told me about impressionism; Van Gogh and Monet, and the rest. It turned out, you really don‘t have to color inside the lines all the time. It was OK to express yourself, show some emotion, let your spirit out. I came to understand that staying inside the lines makes a nice picture, going outside the lines can be messy, but if you do it right, it can work out pretty good.

I came to understand the proper role of the artist, to look for beauty and find meaning as a way of connecting with other people so that they could see it too. I also came to understand that you really don’t need to be an artist to do any of those things. Seeing beauty, finding meaning, and connecting with people are not so much something you do, as something you let happen. As I think back on those years, Karen taught me a lot.

She used to let me tag along with her and her friends fairly often. She’d take me to her the high school’s football games even though she couldn’t stand football. She took me to basketball games too, even though she never liked basketball either. Karen even let me tag along when she and her friends went to see the Beatles at Candlestick Park. I was probably the only ten year old boy in the whole place.

When I got my learning permit to drive a car, Karen would make up places she needed to go and then talk mom into letting me drive her there. As soon as we got in the car, she’d admit that she really didn’t need to go anywhere. We’d drive out to the reservoir and feed the ducks, or out to the stables to look at the horses.

Most of my memories of Karen in one way or another involve horses. Karen had a unique connection to horses that went beyond a little girl’s romanticism. Like anyone with a long term illness, Karen’s diabetes wasn’t just a fight for physical survival. It was also a battle of the spirit. For many years, horses were a kind of spiritual ally. She was always happiest whenever she was around them.

She could always see the beauty in horses, and from there I guess, find some meaning and reconnect. As I think back on those years, whenever we went riding, or were just visiting the horses, I could talk to Karen about anything.

Of course, there was every logical reason not to go horseback riding with Karen. Even she admitted that her horses were not particularly well trained. She just didn’t have the energy for it. The combination of greenhorn riders and unruly horses is, if not dangerous, at the very least, adventurous.

The very first time I rode one of Karen’s horses, I ended up face down in the mud. . Next to the stable was this big empty pasture, so we got out there and Karen says, “OK. Hop on.“ So I got on and the horse took off running. I don’t know if it was a full gallop, but it was a lot faster than I wanted to go.

Karen hadn’t tightened the saddle strap quite tight enough and the saddle started slipping. She didn’t have a lot of practical experience back then. Karen was yelling, “Pull back on the reins! Pull back on the reins!” It was something I would hear her say many times in the years to come.

As the horse continued to run and the saddle continued to slip, I decided it was time to bail out. I thought that trying to hit the ground running would be a good idea, but it didn’t work. My feet hit the ground but after a step or two I pitched forward into a sliding faceplant through the mud.

As I was laying there slowly regaining my senses, the first thing I remember is the sound of Karen’s laughter. She thought the sight of her kid brother taking a nose dive was hysterically funny. I didn’t appreciate that sound at that moment, but I’m glad now that I heard it then. Of all the times I heard Karen laugh, I remember that time the best.

As Karen’s health deteriorated, it got to the point where she couldn’t go riding anymore.
Her eyesight was so bad she had to give up painting. Karen grew more serious. She hardly ever laughed anymore, at least not like she used to. Our conversations became short. Karen and I hardly spoke at all. We’d see each other at the holidays and an occasional birthday. We almost never called each other. That was as much my problems as hers

Eventually, they (Karen and Marv) came here, to this church, and the effect was immediate. Everyone in the family witnessed it. One night the phone rang and the voice on the other end said, “Hi. How ya doin’?”

Is this Karen?

She started laughing. It was the old laugh. “Yea, who did you think it was?” Then we both started laughing. We talked about art, and llama’s, and job prospects, and politics, and God, and girls, and pot-bellied pigs, and Monet…

Vase with Flowers
Flowers and Vase by K. ANDERSEN

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Remembering Karen

I've posted a remembrance of Karen on This is Reno. It's over 1200 words, but that's as short as I could get it.

Remembrance: Karen Hansen 1947 - 2012

Also, at one time Karen asked me if I would want her paintings after she died. I don't know what she expected I would do with them, or even if they are salvageable since most of them have been gathering dust for years. I'm thinking of possibly creating a web page for them.

I've been using flickr for my own stuff, but there's probably better host sites now. It should also have a place where people who knew her can post their own memories. Anyway, I'll be looking into it. Any ideas would be appreciated.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Auto racing here and there

The way to make a small fortune in auto racing, is to start with a large fortune.
Ancient auto racing proverb

Racing season is almost here and there's some news and non-news to catch up on.


AG at Dullard Mush alerted me to an ad on Craig's List about someone looking for help in promoting auto racing in the Reno area. At first I thought it was one team looking to find a sponsor, but it turned out to be an entire league; Dwarf Cars.

dwarf cars
Photo credit D.A.R.T.

It sounds like fun and I gave it serious consideration, (I'm still thinking about it) but I can see a number of problems. The biggest problem is the location of Reno/Fernley Raceway. Asking potential customers to drive nearly 100 miles round trip for some entertainment is a lot to ask. I don't know what a good location would be, but 10 miles south of Fernley ain't it.

In order to get people to make the drive, you'd need a good headline race. Club racing just isn't a big enough attraction. Their best bet, I would think, would be to attach themselves to a larger and more popular series and race at bigger tracks.

We can also add the mud parking lot, dilapidated grandstands, and only a 1/3 mile oval, and let's face it, it's not the best place to impress your girlfriend on a Saturday night in Reno. The league operates in northern Nevada and parts of California. I'm no marketing guru, but if Reno isn't the main draw in this area, then what is?

Contrast the Fernley track with what the Reno Aces did and it's easy to see why baseball is popular in Reno and dirt track racing isn't. Old Moana Park and the Fernley track have at least one thing in common; I visited them both once and never went back to either.


So for the time being, I'll remain an ALMS fan. The economic crunch has been tough on the series and many of last year's problems persist, but there are some interesting additions. (Note: Driving 600 miles round trip once a year is still worth it).

Last year's Aston Martin has moved to GT and for the most part, gone back to Europe. The Muscle Milk team picked up Honda which returns after a one year absence due to the earthquake/tsunami in Japan. Still, with the Dyson Lola/Mazda, LMP 1 is only a two team class.

LMP 2 has two new additions for a total of three teams now. On shorter, curvier tracks like Laguna Seca, both classes are competitive so we could get a pretty good race between them. The most interesting of the LMP 2 entrants is the Conquest Endurance Morgan/Judd prototype.

The Morgan Motor Company is best known for the iconic three wheeled cyclecar. They've been building them by hand since 1909.

1912 Morgan
Photo credit Wikipedia

They make four wheel cars also, including this one.

morgan prototype
Photo credit Racecar Engineering

Aside from their long history of innovation, what's especially interesting is the choice of the Judd engine. English sports cars traditionally focus on being light weight, and Judd is best known for their monstrous V-10. They'll certainly have something smaller, being an LMP 2, but the combination of Morgan and Judd make this the car to watch this year.

In the GT class Jaguar is out and Lotus is in. After three years, Jaguar never saw much success and I don't expect Lotus will either. But I have to admit, that's a good lookin' car.

Lotus Evora
Photo credit American Le Mans

The BMW's, Ferrari's, Porsche's and Corvettes will all return for another year. The GT class has been by far the most competitive and this year will be no different.

There are some new teams in LMPC and GTC. The cars in these classes are all from the same manufacturers, Oreca and Porsche respectively, so the focus is more on the drivers. We'll see if any new stars emerge.

All in all the series seems to be hanging in there. With only five teams in the marquee LMP classes, it's difficult to see the series gaining new fans. Still, there's enough that's new to keep the regular fans coming back.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wild horse photography

I have a new post at This is Reno about wild horses.

The Misfits of Eagle Valley

Coming in contact with wild horses has been an education. Part of that continuing education not mentioned in the post is how to get a decent picture of them. You never know where they're going to be or how many you'll see.

After taking a lot of pictures of little dark spots on the hillside, I decided to just wait until I happen upon them when they are near the road. Stopping does no good though as they are very skittish, so I'm now trying just slowing down and aiming my camera out the window. Here is a picture of my first attempt at a quick drive-by wild horse action photo:


Staying on the road, downshifting, rolling down the window and getting my camera ready all at the same time is pretty tricky. But, I have a system now so hopefully I'll do better in the future. Of course, the one time I thought I had a good one, they were on the wrong side of the road and I was aiming into the sun.

wild horses 1

Most of them are dark brown and black, which doesn't help either. In any case, I'll be posting more photo's of them here as I go along.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A less than stellar performance

I went to vote at the Nevada Republican Party Caucus last Saturday and wound up being "elected" precinct chairman. (Follow the link).

Mr. Chairman, I propose we cut the hoo-haw

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The state of the TEA party

I posted an opinion on This is Reno about the state of the TEA party movement. I think for many Republicans, the race is effectively over. Not that Mr. Romney is going to beat Mr. Gingrich, it's more a case of it just doesn't matter. Ron Paul will get his 5-20 percent; that won't matter either. The TEA party lost this one and lost their reason for being in the process.

Opinion: TEA party perdition

Saturday, January 21, 2012


I’m going to try and re-launch a somewhat weekly Twitter highlights post. You may remember when I re-started this blog, it was something I was going to do. I think it lasted all of one or two posts. Since I now spend most of my internet time on Twitter and some of my readers refuse to join, maybe this will help them see the light. If you follow me on Twitter, but don’t breathlessly await my every utterance, you may have missed one or two items. In any case, here’s some of what I’ve been tweeting about in order of appearance.

EV’s in the ALMS?

There’s a lot going on in electric vehicle racing development. They expect to start an international series in 2013. At least one car, the Quimera AEGT will make some demonstration runs in a few ALMS races this year. No word yet on whether they will be at Laguna Seca in May.

Quimera AEGT
Quimera AEGT /photo courtesy

GOING GREEN: International Electric Vehicle Racing Championships Envisioned

There are also plans for a Touring GT series, a road legal series, a Formula F3 series, and motorcycles. There is a Quimera promotional video in the article.

Nature Ain’t Disneyland

In what has to be one of the more bizarre stories I’ve read in a good, long time, DNA evidence suggests that an activist for baby seals, William Walkman, was apparently beaten to death by angry adult seals. Of all the stupid ways to get yourself killed, this has to rank at the top.

Baby Seal Man

One might think that since seals have teeth and eat meat, they might have bitten him. But that’s not how it went. I imagine they could give you a swift slap across the jowls by using their front fins, maybe head-butt you in the groin, or something, but that wouldn’t kill you. They apparently beat him with their tails. I guess there’s a few hundred pounds of muscle in a seal’s tail, so yeah, that would probably do it.

What’s fascinating to me about it is it wasn’t just one seal. It was a group of them, acting in concert, and at night as he slept. It was a planned attack, hours, possibly days after Mr. Walkman‘s perceived indiscretion. I have to wonder if this is a learned behavior they got from us killing their babies, or if they did this sort of thing before. In any case, in an odd and unintentional way, Mr. Walkman’s death has given me a whole new respect for seals.

Of The Earth, By The Earth, For The Earth

Locally, two of my friends at This is Reno have started a new podcast called News and Views, Earth. Ryan Jerz and Jim Scripps are two knowledgeable, creative guys who are both good conversationalists. I’m sure the show will evolve over time, but one thing for sure; whatever it turns into is going to be interesting and likely pretty funny. I’m really looking forward to it.

News And Views 1

GOP Conspiracy Theory

I think I’ve been tweeting about Ron Paul too much. But I can’t help it. After desperately trying to ignore him, it began to look like he might win the Iowa Caucus. That‘s when the knives came out. The Republican Party’s fear and loathing of Dr. Paul has been beyond belief; worse than anything Sarah Palin put up with. It’s as if they believe that were we to cut the military by even a single M-16 cartridge, all Hell would break loose.

Overall, my take on the last couple of months is that the TEA party had it exactly backwards; the go along get along crowd are the true conservatives, the limited government types are the real RINO’s. We’ll need a new name to avoid confusion, though. I suggest ‘Barbarians.’ As the Nanny State goes global, we’ll probably end up with a name like that anyway.

The latest screed comes from an otherwise sane, Kimberly Strassel, at the Wall St. Journal.

What Ron Paul Wants

She worries about Dr. Paul influencing the party platform at the convention, and if he doesn’t get his way, a third party run. Silly conservative that she is, she doesn’t realize that most Barbarians don’t vote for major party’s anyway, and party platforms are meaningless to presidential contenders. Except for lip service, even Ronald Reagan ignored the party platform. I would suggest that Ron Paul is running for president because he wants to be president. Just a thought.

So to recap then, racing season approaches, there’s lots of entertainment on the internet, and I’ll soon be heading back into the political wilderness. Oh, and I landed a new job, too. Life is returning to normal.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Book Review

For any reader(s) who don’t follow me on Twitter or read This is Reno, I wrote a book review that I posted on This is Reno. My friend Bob Conrad has written a second book, this one deals with media bias. It’s not about political bias though, just human bias and how it affects the news business. There’s also some stuff in there about where the news business is headed. It really is a pretty good book.

Spin: How the news media misinform and why consumers misunderstand

Monday, January 2, 2012

When enough is enough

You can always tell when we’re about to wage another pointless and meaningless war when the WWII and Hitler analogies start appearing. Last time, it was Saddam Hussein who was the next Hitler. Now, it’s the Iranians. It’s almost enough to make you feel sorry for the North Korean regime. They always seem to get left out.

My old buddy Orrin Johnson is even getting in on the act. He has a theory as to what might have happened if Ron Paul had been president in the 1930’s and ‘40’s. Orrin also directs us to the Ace of Spades blog, and as might be predicted, another WWII analogy. This one’s about the Holocaust. Would a President Paul have declared war on Germany to stop the concentration camps? No, he would have done nothing, just as President Roosevelt did. Would President Paul have bombed the train tracks leading to the camps once the war had started? No, he would have used those bombs against the trains going from the munitions factories to the front lines, just as President Roosevelt did.

Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. Whoever would have thought that Ron Paul would be in the mainstream of military strategy? The fact is, humanitarianism is not a cause for war. It never has been. These WWII analogies are really pretty meaningless. They’re like asking what would happen if George S. Patton had been in charge of British forces at Yorktown, or how many states would we have if Genghis Khan had been King of the Eskimo’s.

The US Navy is said to be larger than the next thirteen largest navies combined. We currently have troops in 130 of the 180 countries on the planet. Of all the money spent on the world’s militaries, the US spends roughly 50%. My question for Orrin and Ace is the same that any of us would ask a liberal regarding taxes; How much is enough?

Ace goes on to poke fun at conspiracy theorists who are also supporting Ron Paul. Ace makes the mistake of confusing the symptoms for the disease. I think we can all agree with Thomas Jefferson that the success of a Democratic Republic depends on an informed citizenry. When the government hides behind a wall of secrecy, the public is forced to use their imaginations to find answers.

As I recall, conspiracy theories started with the Kennedy assassination’s Warren Commission. Whether by incompetence or design, there were too many unanswered questions. At about that time the Air Force closed Project Blue Book without explanation. The conspiracy theory industry has been with us ever since.

And now here comes the Department of Homeland Security. DHS was created because the 38 or so federal law enforcement agencies were not only keeping secrets from the public, but were keeping secrets from each other as well. It was designed as a clearing house for all the secrets. How is it working out? Nobody knows. They don’t tell us. It’s a secret.

If you want some insight as to what the Ron Paul deal is about, I suggest Daniel Henninger’s latest effort for the Wall Street Journal. There are really two Ron Paul’s. One is the “cranky Texas Libertarian,” and the other is an idea, the growing realization that there is too much. There is too much secrecy, too many closed door meetings, too many foreign adventures to no effect, too many leaders who are no more than slippery salesmen in disguise, too much intrusion, too many academic theories taken as Gospel, too many non-answers, too much fiddling around the edges, too much kicking cans down the road, too much bullshit.

Really fella’s, haven’t you had enough yet?