The First Book Ever Written on a Typewriter

A close up of an old fashioned typewriter

I have just begun to work on our tax paperwork for 2009.  As we all know, it can be a long and tedious process, so I use tax software to help me with that challenging task.   In the past, several of our presidents have promised to simplify our tax system, but all have failed miserably.   There have been prominent individuals that suggested a 10% tax across the board for everyone, no exceptions.   Every year at this time that seems like a good plan to me, but to others it would undoubtedly be heartbreaking, especially those with little income.   So, what would be a fair way to tax our citizens?  I think I have devised the perfect solution! J   The way I would do it, if I were in charge, and a lot of you are probably thankful I’m not, would be to devise a method, approved by congress, that would tell me the minimum amount of money each adult and child would need in order to have the necessities of life.  Each household would then be allowed to subtract that from their yearly income (no adjustments permitted) and then pay a flat 15% on the remainder with 5% of that being transferred to the state by the federal government (no state filing required).  For the states that acquire their income via sales tax (i.e. TN – 9%), they would have to reduce their sales tax by 5%.   Of course that would mean no other deductions of any kind (i.e. home mortgage, medical expenses, etc.).   I don’t know about you, but I’m fed up with people that make huge sums of money and, somehow, avoid paying their fair share using all the loopholes built into our tax system.  Probably a lot of you are rushing to your dictionary trying to look up stupid under the word “Tommyâ€.   I just want some “hair of the dog that bite meâ€.

This is the time of year when I do the maintenance on my yard equipment (riding mower, push mower, weedeater, blower).   It’s a messy job, changing the oil, greasing parts, putting in new spark plugs and cleaning/replacing the air filter.   It normally takes the better part of a week to get it all done, but it is something I enjoy doing.  And yes, I know this is a guy thing, but I often wonder what others do that don’t have those things to do.   Maybe their life is already filled with too many things that have to be done and chores like these would just add to the load.   I think that what we all need in our life is something that we can do in an environment that allows us to contemplate before acting, proceed in a leisurely fashion, and then resolve problems as they present themselves.  Fortunately I have used this approach all my life, and it has paid dividends by instilling a feeling of self-worth that would be missing if I just continually grappled with putting out fires.  When I’m in the garage or out in the shed working on something, everything else is blocked out and, for the most part, reality only sneaks back in when Jerilyn pins the butterfly to the mat by sucking me back into the real world.  Needless to say, I enjoy a life that few of my younger friends have available.  My hope is they will look at me and say, “boy, that is what I want to do when I get older!â€.   Then again, their thoughts may be exactly the opposite.   As a young boy growing up, I never knew anyone that was retired, everyone worked, so there wasn’t anyone to emulate.   Retirement has been a new experience for me and I have adapted well.

While we were on bus tour to Florida a couple of weeks ago, I spotted a woman with braids woven into a chignon (a roll of hair worn at the nape of the neck).   Very seldom do you see that, most women preferring to wear their hair short, hence  requiring less maintenance.   I have always been amazed at the effort women make to see that their hair is nicely styled and attractive.    I think that often, we guys aren’t as appreciative as we could be when  women spend hours making themselves attractive.   Jerilyn does so many little things to make herself attractive, and I do so little to make myself presentable.   She has to constantly remind me to put on cologne, or comb my hair correctly, or put on socks that match my clothes.   She is also the “clothes policeâ€, making sure that I don’t wear a shirt too many times, etc.  I have wanted to be dapper and have always been much less.  No one will look in the dictionary under “dapper†and find my name.   Knowing myself as well as I do, if I had to select one word that describes me it would be “organizedâ€.   My life is, perhaps, too well organized.  Not to0 exciting I realize, but hey, if it looks like a duck and waddles like a duck, then it must be a duck!  Quack, Quack, Quack!

We have all, on occasion, been around young people that act much older than their age (hence the comment, old head on young shoulders).   I have had more than my share  of young people around me that fit that description.   It is sometimes hard for an â€old guy†to understand the actions of youngsters, but thinking back my parents had a hard time understanding my brother and I as teenagers.  I was 1½ years older than Jerry and much bigger in stature.   Whenever he ticked me off, I would wait for Mom and Dad to go to our nearby town (Grundy) on Saturdays (grocery shopping) and then I would commence to let fly with a few well placed punches to his stomach (leaves no big blue spot).   I have seen that boy lock himself in the bathroom when they left and stay there until they returned hours later to escape my wrath.  I guess I was in my late 20’s before I realized how much I loved that boy.  I can only hope that somewhere in that noggin of his that fact became apparent before he departed for heaven.  Let me be clear here, my parents never accused me of “having an old head on a young shoulderâ€, it was more like, “Tommy Joe, don’t you have any sense at all?â€.   So yea,  I can recognize the young people amongst us that act older than their age, and I can appreciate that wonderful quality as I’m sure you do.

I read the other day that the novel “Huckleberry Finn†was the first book written on a typewriter.   I seriously doubt there are more than three people in our country that use a typewriter today, with almost all of the written word being typed on a PC  or handwritten.     I personally know a lot of luddites (any opponent of technological progress).  If they could pry the “mouth of hell†wide open, they would toss all our hand held electronic stuff into that burning hole  and go back to the way things were 50 years ago (as in the good old days).   As much as I enjoy all the wonderful things we have today, my choice for the best invention ever would be electricity.  I remember as a very young boy not having it in our home.  Everyone went to bed when it got dark outside, we got out of bed when our rooster crowed, and a fire had to be started to cook breakfast.  Since there was no running water, we carried it from a spring  a ¼ of a mile away.   There were no weekly allowances, snacks, or very many toys to play with.   That was the bad part, now the good part.   I never felt alone, I knew that I would never be abandoned, and I knew that if there was only one biscuit in the house, it would be shared equally by all.   I was taken to church at least 3 times a week, and I was told many times that Our God In Heaven would always be by my side and protect me.   Carl Marx said in 1844 “Religion is the opium of the peopleâ€.   I take that to mean it is comforting to those in distress.  It was comforting to a young boy of 4 or 5 to know that someone was looking over him, and it is comforting to this old man to know that also.   Sometimes I think I am as poor a storyteller as  Arapaho.

According to Kurt Vonnegut in “Man Without A Countryâ€, in 1818 an obstetrician in Budapest  named Ignatz Zimelvas noticed that 1 in 10 newborn babies died of Typhoid Fever.  He also noticed the doctors came from dissecting a corpse (common practice at that time) to the delivery room.  He encouraged the doctors to wash their hands thoroughly before delivering babies and at first they refused, but later consented.   The deaths of babies by Typhoid Fever stopped immediately.   What can we learn from that story?   That simple acts can have a significant impact on our health.  Simple things like washing our hands after touching a public doorknob, or covering our mouth when coughing, or sneezing, or after shaking hands with someone.  In our “Meet & Greet†during church on Sundays, I always try to refrain from touching my face until the opportunity to wash is available.   This is my first year of not taking the flu shot (neither H1N1, nor regular).   If I catch the flu this year, I will know that next year I need to go back to taking them.   One more month to go!

During our trip to Florida, I brought home a Hawaiian lei given to me at a fun show presented at one of our tour stops.  It has little value and I really don’t know why I brought it home.  I have it hanging on a fan in the poolroom, and I know its history will be forgotten within a year and it will be tossed.   Aren’t we all guilty of keeping things around that have very little value?   I see a lot of things sitting on and around my desk that have value only to me.   There is a photo of my 50th high school reunion, pictures of mom & dad, my grandchildren, ashes in a small  glass container of people important in my life that have passed on, and a rare photo of the coal camp I used to live in (torn down long ago).    What would it be like to remove everything that has little or no value to us?   I believe it is the important and unimportant things that describe who we are.  If only the important things were left after we die, what picture would our loved ones have of us?   After all, doesn’t the small insignificant things describe us as much as the important things?  Sometimes I have to call in the “Memory Police†to reign in  the things that run thru my mind.

I hope your “window on the world†provides you a wonderful view.   Drop me a line when you can……..Tommy

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them.”

Mark Twain