My Photo
Location: DownByTheRiver, Central Iowa, United States

Husband of the world's most wonderful wife, father of the world's four most brilliant children, grandfather to the world's eight most beautiful granddaughters and two handsomest grandsons

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ranger Sweet Corn

The RRR is back at work on the adolescent psych unit in the Big City. There is apparently this hot summer night a Blue Light Special on assaultive female teens. As we wait for the next happy volunteer to arrive let's look back at today.

Mrs. RRR cleverly involved herself in 5 Day Clubs, sort of a Vacation Bible School, the week our corn ripened in the garden. So I have had the pleasure of freezing sweet corn. Here is how it's done:

Rise early and trundle the wheelbarrow out to the garden while the dew is still on the grass. You need good quality corn. This year was Kandy Kwick, the early variety of Kandy Korn. ALMOST as good, but not quite, as the parent variety. And it certainly de-silks easier. But I miss the the tall sturdy coon-foiling stalks with the pretty red stripes. So down the rows, picking, shucking, de-silking, and snapping the immature ends off. Also pulling weeds before they go to seed. WHY didn't I weed the corn earlier in the month?

Three 100 foot rows of that and I've had enough and the wheelbarrow is filling up. I'm also finished with the six rows we planted this year. Check the zucchini -- oops, a big one I missed last weekend.

Back to the house, up the ramp to the deck and park by the kitchen door. Inside, fill the big pot a third full of filtered water and turn on the flame under it. Set out the tools. A large stainless steel roasting pan to cut in. The new gadget copied from Elder Raymond. I cut a 6" section of 2 X 6 and drilled a hole through the center and drove a 16 d nail through it. Just jam the cob down on it and start cutting off corn. The knife plunks down onto wood instead of metal and stays sharp longer and doesn't scratch the pan. The corn pivots on the nail. Since it's held up higher there's more room in the pan for corn before you have to fill the bags.

Hey, the water is boiling. Out to the deck, fill the colander with corn and dump it in and cover. But don't forget the entertainment. When Oldest Son was a Congressional Aide in D.C., he helped pass a bill that requires that all e-books have a read out loud option. So the cheap CD of Horatio Alger stories I bought on Ebay will talk to me. I aimed the speaker at the kitchen and the computer's deep metallic voice began reading Paul The Peddler. I hone my corn cutting knife. Cold Steel's Carbon V version of the Green River knife such luminaries as Kit Carson, William Drummond, and Jeremiah Johnson used in mountain man days. One of the very best I've ever used, made with liquid nitrogen quenched steel.

The water is boiling again. Corn out into colander, dumped in cold water in the sink and the pot refilled with fresh corn from the wheelbarrow. The corn goes into a baking dish by the cutting pan. The Cold Steel knife peels the corn from the cob like it's slicing through warm butter. I swipe a taste, superb! If I cut fast enough, I'll be down by the time the next batch is boiling, hone the knife on the steel while it cools and etc. By the time Mrs. RRR returns for lunch, the roasting pan is full of cut corn. She fishes the 5 best ears from the boiling water for our meal and cooks hamburger patties whilst I scoop 4 heaping chef spoons of corn into each Glad sandwich bag, twirl, double bag and twirl again and fasten with a twist tie. Then we eat lunch. The corn on the cob still steaming hot, real butter slathered on and melting in, sea salt ground onto it. Life is good. For dessert, fresh frozen tropical fruit. Then Mrs. RRR is back off to 5 Day Club. I turn Paul The Peddler back on. He's been cloroformed in a cheap hotel room and the diamond ring his mother found in Central Park that was going to buy him a start in business as a necktie vendor has been stolen by a confidence man.

Back to the routine. By 1600 (4 p.m. to non-rangers) when Mrs. RRR returns a total of 62 bags of sweet corn are hardening in the freezer, the dishes are done and the table and stove cleaned. My reward is a huge smooch and the knowledge that with the corn already in the freezer there will be two meals a week for the next year.

Now about those tomatoes...

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Why I do it.

The RRR makes an attempt to explain why he works the races.

Weekends in the summer I often put on a uniform and go to the local race track to serve as a sheriff's deputy. Imagine an obnoxious group of people to ride herd on. Now imagine they are drunk. Now imagine ten thousand or more in one small spot, with dirt, and loud noise. Imagine only getting a stipend for the aggravation. But there's a bright spot. At about 8 p.m., the hot laps and time trials over and the racing about to start, the announcer asks everyone to stand. The music begins. It's the Star Spangled Banner. Other people have to put their hands over their heart, but my case is special. Under cover (wearing a hat), in uniform, under arms (carrying a gun), I get to give a military salute. Right arm exactly straight, finger tip touching my right eyebrow, boots at precisely a 45 degree angle, left fingers curled with arm at my side, thumb touching the seam of my uniform trousers.

For a minute and a half I'm not a fat old man wearing a cobbled together set of duty gear and carrying an antique gun, I'm standing proud. A thousand men stand with me in my memory. Uncle Elmer who was a Marine on Saipan. Uncle Dale who flew paratroopers into battle in his C47 and brought the wounded back. Brother In Law Richard who carried a rifle in Korea. Cousin Jim who was a gunship pilot in the Nam when I was there. And the memories are more personal. Me backed up to a bamboo flag pole on a hilltop overlooking Laos. Knowing they were going to take the flag down, but swearing they would do it over my dead body and that their would be a pile of them first. And with me too, terrified young men and old veterans, waiting to die, shaking, fumbling to load their hunting rifles on a bridge at Lexington and Concord as the Brits marched closer and closer. My great uncles in the trenches in France. The brash young G.I. Looking down at Saddam Husein in his spider hole and saying... “President Bush sends his regards.” We're all there saluting the flag that has a meaning to us the civilians in the bleachers will never understand.

The song comes to an end. I snap a finish to my salute. The crowd roars and beat their shoes on the metal floor of the bleachers as the announcer shouts, “Lets go RACING!”

And engines rev up into a crescendo. The dust from the dirt track must be irritating my eyes, there seems to be something in them.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Goodbye Westy

The nation mourns and the liberal media ridicules the late General William Westmoreland. Westy had his problems. He also had his bright moments. The brightest came time and again as he insisted quite correctly that we did not lose the Vietnam War, we were only guilty of having abandoned our allies, the South Vietnamese. But he missed the lessons of the culture of the East. As his hands were tied by the government and he was not allowed to do the one thing that would have won the war... invade, seize territory and hold it; the only option was a war of attrition The idea being that if we kill enough of the enemy, they would be demoralized and quit. Ho Chi Minh had already written that the Communists were willing absorb 10 casualties for every one of ours. In actuality they proved themselves willing to accept a hundred or more to one. By 1970 we had almost wiped out every North Vietnamese male over the age of 18 and were fighting children and Chinese volunteers. With the unlimited well of Chinese young warriors to draw from, they could STILL be fighting there. The Chinese could breed soldiers faster than we could shoot them.

But my favorite story about the General has nothing to do with his understanding of Communist commitment, it's about pine trees.
The Americal Division chopper pad at the massive base at Chu Lai was landscaped with short Asian pine trees growing out of the sand. Those shrub-like pines put out thousands of tiny pine cones which fall to the ground and soon form a carpet a foot deep. General Westmoreland was scheduled to inspect the division headquarters. The commander of the 23rd (Americal) Infantry division of which I was a member, by the way, walked out to the chopper pad and had the brilliant idea that all those pine cones under the trees looked messy. All his rear echelon soldiers were cleaned up polished and ready to be inspected in ranks. He went back to his office and called the first company commander who came to mind and said to pull his unit out of field duty and bring them to the rear at once. The soldiers, left off fighting and were choppered back and put to work scooping up pine cones around the landing pad and loading them in trucks. They only had a few hours, but got the job done. The cones were taken to the dump, the troopers raked the sand into parallel lines and were given well-deserved permission to celebrate at the enlisted and NCO clubs. They were soon partying.

Meanwhile, the General's chopper lands at the pad and he is greeted by the Division Band. After the pomp and ceremony the Division Commander and his General walked down the path through the trees. The Commander swelled with pride as he saw Westy glance at the newly manicured grove. But the General frowned. “H'm. pine trees. No pine cones. That's not natural.” Panic stricken, the division commander whispered hurriedly to his executive officer. The division clerical staff rushed to the clubs and dragged the soldiers from their drinks. The were taken to the dump where they dug out the pine cones and reloaded them into the trucks and quickly re-spread the cones evenly under the trees.

A few hours later, his inspection completed, General Westmoreland was escorted back to his helicopter. As he walked down the path he looked around and smiled. “Pine trees... and pine cones. Good.”

And that's how the RRR remembers Westy.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


The RRR gives the top excuses for having shot 15th or 16th in pistol competition at the Iowa games.

1. I hadn't shot one handed competition since 1979.

2. I'd never shot International Free Style before.

3. I worked all night and was so fatigued I passed out on the ground between matches.

4. The spare magazine I bought on Friday wouldn't work Saturday so I had to use one mag and quickly reload between five shot strings.

5. I was expecting to shoot at noon and got stuck in as last shooter at 10 a.m. without chance to adequately mentally prepare.

6. The indoor range was as hot as an oven and the sweat kept running in my eyes and fogging and streaking my glasses.

7. I forgot my handkerchiefs to make a sweat band and wipe my face and glasses between strings. (see 6 above)

8. The range master was deaf and going senile and kept making the wrong instructions.

9. The cheap target ammo I bought at Sprawl Mart gave me a dud, that caused an alibi shoot and took away my five best shots on one target.

10. People kept violating the red light and going in and out of the door behind me during the shoot and breaking my concentration.

11. I've been doing combat shooting the last 3 years using a big bore cop gun with a 5 lb. trigger pull and my target .22 only has 1 1/2 lb. and is balanced totally different.

12. I'd drank so much coffee to stay awake, my hands were shaking.

That all being said, Mrs. RRR and I had a great time and I enjoyed the camaraderie with the other shooters. The Isaac Walton League facility in Ames is fantastic and the Boy Scout troop they sponsor who had the food concession did a great job.

Most importantly: Just Wait Till NEXT Year!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Juan and Pablo and The Great Feud

The year is 1967. Juan and Pablo, the Gringo brothers come home late one night. The '59 Dodge has a headlight broken out and a cracked windshield, the door panel on the driver's side has been kicked in. Both are limping. Pablo is missing a tooth, Juan's glasses are broken and his right eye is developing a shiner. The brothers both have torn clothes and bloody knuckles.

Papa Gringo is shocked. "What happened to you?"

"Well, I overheard you talking to Mama about what terrible neighbors and enemies the Barringers who farm off to the south are," Juan slurred through swollen lips, "so we went over and called them out and had a big fight right in their yard."

Papa Gringo yelled angrily, "Your Mama and I were talking about the Rubels who live north of them, the RUBELS! The Barringers aren't our enemies!"

"Uh... Dad.... I think they may be now."

If it didn't happen, it should have.

Monday, July 11, 2005

"There's something strange afoot at the Circle K"

If any of the RRR's Readers recognize that quote, they should be ashamed of themselves. Nonetheless, it fits. With Mrs. RRR off to teach swim lessons to recalcitrant children I set about to give the acreage an overdue haircut. When I approached my venerable Cub Cadet to check for fuel, the gas tank was gone! Unable to believe some thief would go to the trouble of stealing just the plastic fuel tank, I lifted the hood. The flexible tank was crumpled into a crumpled plastic wad down by the rear of the motor. The new gas cap I bought cheap at Sprawl Mart has a vent screw on it I'd forgotten to loosen the last time I mowed. As the engine sucked down the fuel, the flexible tank simply folded in on itself. I took off the cap and the tank slowly unfolded itself back into shape. I'd never have believed it if I hadn't seen it.

That problem solved, I filled the newly restored tank and tried to start the mower. “Chunk!” and nothing else, yet a very healthy “chunk”, not a weak starter “chunk”.

I might add here that the blessed old Cadet years ago burned up the clutch on the blade shut off, so the previous owner, Grandpa Ranger, simply welded the drive pulley for the blades to the front of the crankshaft. Simple and deadly should someone forget and put their foot under the mower deck. I got down and moved one of the three blades. It seemed OK. I traced the belt. No jams or kinks. There seemed to be absolutely no reason it wouldn't start, yet that was the case. Finally I raised the deck up as high as it would go and tried it in that position. The motor caught with a roar and a battered spray can of penetrating oil flew out from under the deck with blinding speed, bounced off the air compressor and spun on the shop floor like a quarter on a deli counter. It appears I had knocked the can over some time in the last couple weeks and it rolled under the mower and stuck under a different blade than the one I had checked.

It could only happen to me. But I still had enough time to get the whole yard done and was started on the trimming when Mrs. RRR came home. My reward was a delighted smooch and oatmeal with raisins followed by her homemade yogurt with strawberries and bananas sliced in. No one has it better than the RRR.


The RRR presents a short essay from his daily quiet time.

“If you keep on saying things are going to be bad, you have a good chance of being a prophet” -- Isaac Bashevis Singer

Many of us have the habit of taking a negative outlook on whatever comes along. We don't believe things will work out for us; we don't think we will have a good day; we can't accept our friend's warm feelings. To follow this gloomy path is a strange distortion of faith – it is faith in the negative. Any forecast, whether hopeful or pessimistic is a step into the unknown. So why do we choose the dark one?

We get a payoff for our pessimism which keeps us hooked. It creates misery, but serves our demand for control. There is more risk in being open to something positive because we cannot force positive thing to occur. We can only be open to them and believe in the possibility. But when we predict the negative and expect only bad things, we squelch many good things or overlook them. Then we say, “I knew it would be this way,” and in our misery we satisfy our self-centered craving to be in charge. When we surrender our need to be in control, we are more open and welcoming of the good things that come our way.

Today, I will be open to the good that is around me.

Touchstones: A Book of Daily Meditations for Men.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Deep Cover Manhood

The RRR shares with his readers the darkest secret of manhood. This may be the first time a man has ever openly declared these facts publicly. Usually it is information passed from father to son in ceremonies under the full moon, uttered after the taking of blood oaths. The RRR may be swept up by the gender police and “re-educated”.

Are you ready?

It all starts at age 47. The vision begins to go and bifocals become necessary. The abdominal muscles give out and the “beer” belly becomes prominent. High blood pressure overtakes him. Diabetes begins. Prostate problems sneak in. Hemorrhoids, and indigestion overtake him. Libido suffers. Chronic back pain starts and muscle aches become a fact of life. The teeth start to go. First there are root canal's, then extractions and finally... dentures. Heel spurs cripple him. Baldness spreads across his head. The memory fades and the pocket calender becomes his “brain”.

But the worst thing of all...

The darkest of all male secrets...

One morning he awakens and finds.

On his bedside table...

Looking as though it had always been there...

Shhh, don't tell any one...

A Coin Purse!!!

That's right, and from that moment on he is cursed to have to carry it with him always and make people in a hurry in stores wait for him while he makes exact change.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Ranger Oatmeal

The RRR presents here the authentic recipe for campfire oatmeal.

Hold an army canteen cup with your thumb hooked over the top edge to the first joint and fill it with water till it touches the tip of your thumb.

Drop in a small handful of raisins and a 3-finger pinch of salt.

Place on fire and bring to a boil.

Dump in one cup + a small palmful of old fashioned rolled oats. (only a non-Ranger or a Frenchman would use instant)

Bring to a boil and move to a cooler part of the fire to simmer for 5 minutes. If you don't have a watch and you shouldn't if you're REALLY camping, The Star Spangled Banner takes just over a minute per verse to sing. If you don't know all the verses, you should. Happy Birthday takes 15 seconds, Jesus Loves Me about 25.

Remove from fire, cover for five minutes more. The cardboard lid of a c-ration box worked great for a cover, these days use something similar.

If the oatmeal is too runny after 5 minutes, toss in a palmful of dried milk and stir. If it's not too runny, a dollop of water and then the dried milk. Add a 5 finger pinch of dark brown sugar or maple syrup crystals (hideously expensive from Frontier Natural Foods in Norway Iowa, but worth every penny).

Give thanks and eat with an enamelware spoon.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Juan and Pablo and The Mexican Standoff

The RRR responds to some criticisms of the Juan and Pablo series by telling one story that is absolutely true and has no humorous "hook" at the end

It was early in 1973. Juan, Pablo, and Papa Gringo were out for a walk in the desert Northwest of Roma, Texas about a mile North of the Rio Grande. Papa Gringo had remembered that on a hillside in that area were a number of ancient stone ovens. He had also seen peyote growing there. So the three determined to visit the sites and look for arrowheads. Juan, at least, was also interested in the peyote.

When they got to the hill, things had changed dramatically since Papa Gringo's last visit. The top of the hill was bulldozed flat and a mobile home perched there. A rough road had been bulldozed up to it. The whole hill was surrounded by a new fence made of cable connecting rail road tie posts. Every rod or so were fierce "No Trespassing" signs in English and Spanish. The trio's attitude toward any regulation in those days was "stupid law" and disobedience. They climbed over the fence and kept going. They were spotted almost immediately and a man came out of the trailer and got into a pickup and headed down the new road toward them. Juan, Pablo, and Papa Gringo hid in the arroyo beside the roadway with their pistols drawn. The truck rolled slowly by them down to the gate and returned even more slowly as Mexican in the cab looked for them.

As it rolled past and headed back up the hill, the three heaved a sigh of relief and shoved their guns back into the holsters. There was a deafening explosion and gravel flew. At first Juan and Papa thought Pablo had shot himself in the leg. He was lying on the ground holding it. They ran to him. The nose was blown from his holster and part of his pant leg was torn, but remarkably the bullet had gone into the ground. He had forgotten to de-cock his Ruger .357 and the trigger caught and fired the gun. The guard in the pickup meantime assumed he was under fire and roared back up to the mobile home where men with M-1 carbines had rushed out and were waiting to jump in the back. The Gringos clambered over the fence and walked quickly toward town, Pablo limping slightly and visibly shaken. Juan was in front followed by Pablo, then Papa Gringo. The pickup came out through the gate and up the road behind them and stopped as it came even.

The boys spread out. Juan was slightly ahead of the cab, even with the front wheel. Pablo faced the middle of the box. Papa was even with the tailgate. Their hands hovered over their pistol butts. The three Mexicans were sitting in the bed of the pickup with the carbines down out of sight. The driver had his hands out of sight, meaning to Juan he had a handgun, likely a 9mm.
The motor of the pickup ticked over quietly. Down in Roma, dogs barked and doors slammed. Here there was only heat and the sound of the pickup's V-8. Juan was a year and a half out of Vietnam, every nerve strained like the strings on an overtuned guitar. He realized the position they were in. Each of the men in the bed of the truck was concentrating on the Gringo nearest him. So two men were staring at Juan, the one in the front of the bed and the driver.

Juan was the only one of the three who had ever been under fire or fired a shot in anger. His hand trembled over a pitifully tiny Iver Johnson .22 caliber nine shot revolver. It would take carefully aimed slow fire for those diminutive bullets to have any effect and there would be no time for aiming. Pablo was armed with an Old Model single action .357, obviously with a hair trigger. There were five shots left in it. An extremely effective round, but in his shaken condition and having to cock before each shot, Juan knew Pablo's first shot would go low into the fender of the truck or even the ground. The chances he would get his second shot off without being riddled with bullets were small. About Papa Gringo, Juan had no doubts. Papa was armed with a Colt .45 automatic he had assembled and tuned himself. Papa, who would later outshoot the 2002 National Champion, would put at least the man in front of him down and quite likely the one in the middle if hit a dozen times by the .30 caliber carbines before he was out of the fight.

But they were going to die. Juan could see no other outcome than three dead Norte Americanos lying leaking blood into the dust. He determined they would take them all with them. He watched the driver and the first man in the back of the pickup. As soon as one gun barrel showed itself he was going to draw and fire into his opponent's faces double action, two shots per man, hoping his shooting would draw off the bad guy's attention enough that Papa could take his man out and get a bullet into Pablo's and they both would be able to finish off the one now focused on Juan while Juan concentrated his last shot on the driver. He was certain the driver had at least nine shots in his pistol. The carbines had curved magazines and thus 30 shots each. Juan thought of seven dead men lying there, the pickup's engine still idling quietly.

One of the men in the back of the truck said, "Que...?". Literally, "what?" but in most such situations, "Well....?". That word has probably preceded more shootings, stabbings, and beatings in Mexico than any other. But Pablo had fluent Spanish. He started talking, quickly found his voice and accent and explained in a few words the accidental discharge of his gun and apologized profusely for the trespass. As Grandpa Gringo would have said -- no talk, a fight. Some talk, maybe a fight. Lots of talk, no fight. A terse command from the bed of the truck. The driver's hands came into view empty. He put the pickup in gear and backed away and turned the truck around. Papa, Juan, and Pablo walked back to town.

Earth has circled the sun over thirty times since that day. Papa Gringo is now a great grandfather many times over. Juan and Pablo are both grandfathers themselves. And the Mexicans guarding Peyote Mountain?... Quien Sabe?

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Juan and Pablo Face Pain

Yet another adventure of Juan and Pablo, the Gringo Brothers.

The year is 1980. Juan and Pablo are handgun hunting for bear in the high desert of the Umcompagrhe in North West Colorado. They are joined at their campfire one night by Pancho, an itinerate cowboy. As they sip boiled coffee, Juan, as is often the case, begins waxing eloquent.

"Amigos," he said, "I have faced great pain in my short life."

"And what pain was the worst you had ever faced?" Pablo asked.

"I once got burning jet fuel on my hands at a helicopter crash and had second degree burns up past my wrists." Juan replied.

"I suffered worse pain than that," declared Pablo. "Once when I was a horse wrangler at a dude ranch a horse bucked me off far from the ranch house and when I attempted to capture him, he kicked me in the right side breaking 5 ribs and puncturing my lung. I had to capture him again, outride his bucking and ride him back to headquarters in that condition."

Pancho, who had been silent the whole time, stirred the fire with a stick and said, "Amigos I have faced pain much worse than you describe. When I was a vaquero in the Sierra Madres I once went behind a lodgepole pine to answer the call of nature and squatted over a large bear trap hidden in the pine needles. At the moment the waste hit the trigger it snapped shut on my body."

Juan laughed out loud. "And Pancho, what part of your anatomy was caught in the trap?"

The air suddenly became still as Pancho's bowie knife appeared from nowhere and gleamed in the firelight.

"Senor," he said in a deadly quiet voice, "there are matters of delicacy about which no gentleman inquires."

There was an audible "pop" as Juan unsnapped the strap on the holster of his Ruger .357.

"Amigos, amigos" Pablo entreated. "Surely there was no offence intended."

Juan cleared his suddenly dry throat and said, "Of course not, of course not. Please overlook my indelicacy, por favor."

Pancho's teeth gleamed in the firelight and the bowie disappeared as quickly as it had materialized. "De Nada. When no offence is intended, none need be taken, eh? To return to my story, when the trap snapped shut I screamed 'Ai, carumba!' and took off running."

Then Pancho took another swallow of coffee and stared out into the darkness. The Gringo brothers waited patiently. Finally Pablo spoke. "And that was the worst pain you ever faced?"

"Oh no Amigos. That came when I hit the end of the chain."

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Good News, Better News

Ranger Readers have not heard from the RRR in over a week. Not suprising as there has been an explosion of events. Let's roll the clock back. When last you heard from me I had completed the dreaded CAT scan at the VA and was running on auto pilot, drifting between dread and the tyranny of the urgent. In that time period I carefully set up the irrigation system for the garden, hooked up the supply line to the well, had the sprinkler hose blow out, heard thunder and returned to the house to watch the beginning of a 1" plus rain.

On Sunday we went to the chapel and heard an excellent sermon by a Northern Irish immigrant and after a superlative pot luck he showed us an advance look at the movie Beyond The Gates Of Splendor. It is a retelling of the massacre of 5 young missionaries from the US back in the '50s by Auca indians in Ecuador, but more importantly, what happened to the tribe after they invited the widows and children of the missionaries to come and live with them. It was one of the most spectacular documentaries I've ever seen. Then I heard from an Indian (India Indian) missionary to the U.S. who is seeking support. He's an old friend. Years ago he and his wife invited the RRR and his family to dinner. They had no idea that Oldest Son and I would truly desire the genuine Indian cooking and not just the mild, watered down American version. We practically emptied their refrigerator.

Monday Grandpa and Mrs. Ranger came to visit along with Oldest Son's wife, Rangerettes 1 and 2 and the Youngest Ranger, age 2 months. Heaven, holding, hugging, snuggling granddaughters and then the special treat Tuesday when Mrs. RRR, Daughter-In-Law and the Rangerettes all went swimming and for almost 4 hours, the Littlest Ranger and I bonded. He talked and "goo"ed at me and waved his arms, and snuggled and fell asleep in my arms, cried and got his diaper changed, (yes, after 30 years I hadn't forgotten how) and sat in my recliner and listened seriously while I explained the joys of hiking, starting campfires, river float trips and regailed him with my heroics 35 years ago in the South East Asia War Games.

Handsome tiny boy with coppery hair and eyelashes and brilliant blue eyes, touch of his hand feather light on my cheek. Grandpa's interlude in paradise.

Then Wednesday, News Day. Mrs. RRR and I drove to the Big City and went to the VA for the care conference. I ran up the steps to the 2nd floor for the pure pleasure of not having to drag myself up the hand rail, hand over hand as I did a year ago while still on the chemo. We went to the waiting room and to keep busy I filled out the 3 page depression evaluation, only mildly depressed. Mrs. RRR spent a long time looking at the poster depicting the deteriation of a liver with Hep C. Then, after discovering I've gain more weight, we at last went in to see Jennifer, the Hep C program coordinator. She pulled my CAT scan results up on the computer and started to read and stopped. Then checked she had the right patient. Then checked to see if she had the right test results. At last read them to me...

1. No masses, tumors, cysts or other growths or abnormalities.

2. No enlargement (!)

3. Normal blood flow throughout.

4. Surrounding blood vessles not dilated.

I sat stunned, then started babbling happily. This is a stage 3, grade 3 diseased liver with 80% disease involvment (scar tissue intrusion in the cells) and it is to all intents and purposes functioning normally. There is no increased internal blood pressure. This is the liver that a couple months ago ached when my abdomen was pressed, that I could SEE when I lifted my arms in front of the mirror. It's back to normal size and all the function tests show it's working fine. The awareness crept over me that I might actually live to shout "amen" when the Littlest Ranger kisses his bride at his wedding someday and embarass him silly.

OK, apparently I still have the virus and yes, like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat, Jennifer came up with the brand new latest version of Interferon to take for 48 weeks, but all that is in the future, cirhossis is not my immediate fate.

Mrs. RRR and I almost skipped out to the car. When we got home I started calling relatives and giving them the news.

God is good.