2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.


The Art of Forty Winks

It is almost impossible to watch TV for more than an hour and not be subjected to a mattress ad. If you watch a little longer you will be exposed to various sleep aid prescriptions all of which carry side effects longer than the commercial itself. Or, open most popular magazines and you will find articles on how to achieve the proper amount of sleep, how to fall asleep quicker and wake up more refreshed.

I have one response for all of these suggestions and products.


When you have perfected the art of napping the way we were trained in the Casey household, all of the sleep aids and suggestions border on the ridiculous. There are tools the true siesta professional utilizes which the market has ignored. No company has launched a campaign to save the Sunday paper and use it as a heat reflecting napping blanket for the forty winks between Sunday morning breakfast and afternoon porch sitting. None of the big book retailers are marketing their best sellers as a sleep aids with the guarantee that minutes after opening the book you will be treated to a relaxing drug free snooze. Lawn chairs on a porch, cool cement floors, and warm air vents on cold winter afternoons, all have the potential to be marketed as sleep inducers, but it is obvious the big name companies research and development people have not caught on.

Napping, in the Casey house, was considered a right and an obligation. You were required to find your own style and posture. Once you had a routine, no one would argue with a proclamation of, “I will get to that after I take a nap.” If a person with evil intent slithered into the Casey house on any given Sunday morning between breakfast and lunch they would think someone beat them to the punch. They would have witnessed bodies scattered from recliners to rockers, mouths open like fly traps and heads contorted in ways one would never hold in a conscious position; a scent of fried bacon, eggs and coffee would be in the air and sections of the Omaha World Herald covering bodies as if purposely placed to cover the most vital organs of the unconscious victims. The only thing missing from the crime scene would be a chalk outline on the living room floor.

Sunday morning forty winks

Sunday morning forty winks

The fine art of napping followed each of us as we ventured out to find our fame and fortune. It also became a quality anyone wishing to spend time with us, was compelled to accept. This can be a little tenuous when your chosen mate does not come from a sleep valued tradition. Fortunately, each new member of the Casey family soon learned it was easier to join the movement rather than fight it.

The best endorsement of this snoozing habit came from one my professors in the seminary. He was a wise man, blessed by God with insight and understanding. He made a statement one day which gave credibility to every nap, forty winks, catnap, and siesta that has ever been or every will be. He said, “Men…(with a long pause for effect,) sleep is a gift from God to those who have a clear conscience.” With that, the sandman and I became close personal friends and together we have embarked on some truly amazing journeys, not always with the best outcomes, but restful if nothing else.

I am a firm believer in the best place to enjoy one of God’s gifts is in His house. It was from the long theological drenched homilies in the seminary that I first learned to appreciate His gift. Each priest would try to out preach the other with their homilies, droning on and on like a senate filibuster. If you were fortunate enough to be seated at the back of the chapel, it was an easy task to roll your handkerchief into a ball that fit between your chin and chest. This gave your head a great resting place and provided a reverent tilt to your posture that appeared to the faculty seated behind you that you were an open receptor to the message being delivered. The only trick, you needed to be conscious enough when the preaching was finished you stood with the rest of your brothers. There were a few awkward times when brothers who claimed, “all for one” let me sleep a few seconds to long while they stood for the next portion of Mass.

With little shame, I still find sleeping in church one of the best snoozes that can be found. It is usually quiet, comfortable and as long as I don’t snore, I am not a distraction to anyone else. However, this is not without embarrassment for Tina.

One Saturday night Mass, I was enjoying a particularly generous blessing of God’s gift of sleep. It was a long day of work and we arrived for Mass very early for the purpose of winding down and enjoying some quiet meditation.

You can imagine what happened.

Within minutes of me saying my hello prayers to Jesus, I was deep in dreamland. We were in our usual Catholic appointed spot, second row from the front, center aisle, end seats. While napping, the church filled behind us to almost full capacity which is typical for a Saturday night. Deep in my relaxation I had a dream in which someone was poking me on my left arm. I am sure you have experienced a dream when what is happening in your dream, is happening outside your dream state in reality, phone ringing, alarm going off, someone calling you, you get the picture. In my dream state I turned to the person poking me, and, in a very agitated voice I said, “What the hell do you want.” Yes, regrettably I said those very words.

Now, I didn’t just whisper this question to my distracter, and no, I didn’t say it just in dreamland, no, I said it with power and volume, to a little altar server standing in the center aisle tapping me on my shoulder. The phrase echoed back through a quiet church quickly followed by gasps and laughter. Tina, sitting beside me slid under the pew with embarrassment and I am sure at that point considered the practicality of an annulment. The little server, looking at me with saucer size eyes and nervous voice said, “Father wants to know if you will read tonight?” As I wiped the drool from my face, I told him I would be back there in a minute. I turned to Tina and it was a very easy read on her face of “I can’t believe you.”

I took my place on the altar, a little embarrassed, but not ashamed of enjoying a gift.

So, you might think this is the pinnacle of sleep embarrassment but it doesn’t stop there.

On one of my many solo trips to Nebraska, my flight was delayed and plans rerouted because of storms and air traffic. A trip that should only take a few hours to Kansas City, turned into a twenty-four hour adventure. Part of the trip back-tracked me to Philadelphia arriving there around midnight.

Midnight in Philadelphia International is a lonely experience. I walked down the gate ramp under the greenish cast of inconsistent fluorescent lights flickering like a set from a cheap horror movie. As I sauntered up the ramp, my tag-a-long clicking over the tiles I believed the next skycap or maintenance man would be Freddie Kruger in an airport uniform. Conditions at the gate were not much better. The lights were out because it would not be used until 8:00AM for my flight. The only illumination was drifting in from the hallway. A peaceful scene of runway lights and rolling aircraft filled the window of the gate and contrasted against the Friday the 13th movie set I was stuck in.

A Nebraska cowboy spirit kicked in from somewhere. I found a row of seats that would double as a bed, fluffed up my computer bag as a pillow and shoved my wallet where I won’t go into right now, slung my tag-a-long over the other end of the row as a place to prop my feet and pulled my sport coat over me like the bed roll it was becoming. The only thing missing was a campfire with a tin coffee pot hanging over it. Thanks to my years of perfecting the art of sleeping anywhere and in any position, it didn’t take long to drift off.

When I woke up the next morning, the gate was packed. Mothers were pointing at the bum camped out taking up more seats than he should and admonishing their little children to not grow up and be like that man. I calmly wiped dribble from my cheek and sleep from my eyes, double checked my wallet, (without giving up its location,) gathered my gear and made a graceful exit. I thought about bowing but that would have been even more inappropriate at the time.

One last story but there are more in my arsenal.

My primary job for the seminary community was managing the photo lab. I was the official school photographer which meant hours in the darkroom. Back in the days of 35mm film, processing was done first in total darkness, then under a red light until all photos were finished. Total darkness, means absolutely no light, you cannot see your hands in front of your face. To accomplish your tasks, you practiced the movements with the lights on, then switched to darkness when you removed the film from the canister.

One night, after a few beers at the local pub, I realized there were rolls of film which needed processed for printing. I made all of the necessary preparations under the watchful eye of the overhead light. When it was time to move to total blackout, I positioned myself in a chair with the intention of loading several rolls at a time. Murphy’s Law kicked in when the lights went out. With two rolls of film out of their containers, the developing canister hit the floor. At this point, no lights can be turned on. After many frustrating minutes, I finally found the mischievous canister and settled back in the chair.

It must have been the beer or the lateness of the night, either way, I drifted off for a little nap. Nothing unusual there. When I woke up, I had no idea where I was. In total darkness what you see with your eyes closed is the same as your eyes wide open. Well, I must have had more beer than I should because the first panic which swept over me was… “Oh my God, I am blind!” and another question immediately followed… “And where am I?” Thankfully, reality settle in and with my heart thumping in my ears, I completed my task of feeding the film into the developing canister and was never so happy to see the dawning of red light.

There are two more stories, one involving a Philadelphia subway and the other a giant pig on a Nebraska highway. If you would like to hear those stories subscribe and send me your email for a personal version.

Right now, I am seriously thinking of taking a nap and I am sure I have caused a yawn once or twice with all of this talk of sleep.

After all, a good nap is….all part of growing up.



A World Down Under

Grandma’s kitchen on a Sunday afternoon; sauce bubbling on the stove and steam coating the windows; a favorite easy chair worn in the proper places with a light beside it that cast just the right amber glow of an old incandescent, which is the perfect illumination for reading well into the late hours; the back porch of the old homestead, (read The Corner of 18th and Morton.) Everyone has a favorite place and most of us have more than one.

Anyone who lives in an old house knows the pros and cons of an old sandstone basement. It is a portion of the house rarely seen by company. There is nothing in these old dugouts worth showing to visitors. It is also where things go that are out of service and forgotten until it is time for the neighborhood yard sale.

Old basements are the dwelling places of the fire breathing monsters that come to life and roar just as you get your hands on the can of cream corn mom sent you to fetch. You hit the first step with the speed of an Olympian and close the door tight behind at the top of the stairs. The upstairs world is much safer but not nearly as entertaining.

The basement is a hiding place from the storms which plagued the plains and it is also what requires bailing out when the rains become so intense and the sandstone turns to sponge allowing all the surface water to poor through its walls.

With all of its challenges, the basement of our old house, is still one my favorite places.

Ours was a sandstone basement with a cement floor. Family legend has it when the house was built over one hundred years ago, the original owners lived in the basement until they could build the upper floors. Under the steps, in the darkest corner of the dungeon, was an old hand water pump remnants of the days when this was the most modern of conveniences, a form of indoor plumbing. The ceiling was a good ten feet high and lined with all of the wires and pipes snaking to the rest of the house.

The steps of the sandstone hole ran nearly straight up from the basement. When you stood at the top it was almost like you were going to jump to the lower level. At the bottom was a landing with three short steps to the basement floor. Somewhere along the line, the steps and railing was painted a light robin egg blue. That color did not show up anywhere else in the house, which leads me to believe it was a purposeful color choice. The walls to the right of the steps were lined with peg board on which held everything from mom’s favorite popcorn pot to dad’s flour infused baking apron. The ledge below the peg board was lined with car waxes that had seen better days, bug sprays, and a few mixtures of Miracle Grow that I think might still be fermenting under the watchful eye of the new owners. Since the house did not have a pantry (that space was turned into a second bathroom) the basement ledge and wall was a sufficient stand in.

The last three steps served as my work bench for many years. I was too short to work at dad’s bench so any sawing or hammering was done on those step using them as my sawhorses. Many kite ribs were fashioned there along with a few homemade skateboards and pigeon perches. Each of the last steps carries scars from my over cuts with the hand saw. Mom was convinced I was going to saw right through the steps someday, but they held up ok in spite of my poor carpentry.

The “ground level” was divided into four rooms, each having its own purpose and history. The main room housed dad’s workbench and several sub benches dedicated to different sanders and saws for his toy making projects. Off the main room was the home of the monster. It sat like Jabba the Hut with tentacles reaching to all parts of the house. It had an opening where you could look into the pit of Hell as it fired up to heat the house. It erupted to life on a regular basis but every once in a while it required dad to pay it some special attention just like Mr. Parker “the Old Man” in “The Christmas story.”

When the house was updated with a new gas furnace, dad and I spent several days dismantling the old furnace. Tearing it apart was like being the victor of an epic battle and now we were allowed in to see the secret workings of the enemy. A few hard blows with a sledge hammer brought Jabba to his knees and we carried him out piece by piece and spread him out on the yard for all to see his defeat. We loaded the heavy pieces in Jim Riders old lime green 1948 Ford truck. (This truck will play a key role in a future story Flight 250) We had the back bumper almost scraping the road when we took the pieces to the scrap yard. My share of the scrap bought my first pair of pigeons.

What was left behind in the basement was now a room matching the size of the main room with the exception of a pit better than a foot deep and almost six feet across. There was a tunnel leading from the pit which was the cold air return when the monster was alive. Dad challenged me to crawl in which I did, making it all of the way to the upturned shaft. After a brief panic of how do I get out of here now, dad talked me back to the light of day but I knew I had been where no man had gone before and never will again. The pit was filled in with cement but the tunnel was blocked to save on the slurry mixture. Someday when the house comes down, they will find the tunnel and wonder if anyone ever explored this part of the planet.

The space left behind was eventually sectioned off and one part became a “Ham Shack” for Tom’s amateur radio hobby the other side became an additional workroom for dad. This workspace was more for finishing work on his toys, making new patterns from ideas he gathered from books and magazines as well as some of his writing and sketching.

At the end of the newly created workspace was what was always referred to as the monstrosity, the real name for it was a Hoosier Cabinet. What was a piece of prairie kitchen luxury with all of its cupboards, pull out cutting boards and flour dispenser, now housed pens, brushes, countless sheets of tracing paper, tobacco and a few pipes.

Dad worked in this space often late in the evenings when he couldn’t make noise with the power tools in the main room. The space was also directly below the cold air return in the “playroom.” When dad would smoke his pipe, the sweet scent of pipe tobacco came up through the gates and if positioned yourself just right, you could look down on dad sitting in his chair working his perfect penmanship recording some of the family history or putting the finishing touches with fine brushes on his latest toy creation.

The main room was where dad’s primary work bench was stationed. Two windows high up on the wall opened to the brick patio on the east side of the house. The windows looked down on the bench like two bright eyes of a face the objects on the wall filled in for a nose and the bench itself provided a smirk of a smile turned up on one end by a large vise. It was a space you walked into bathed with creativity and turpentine. Books lined the wall to the right of the bench. Each book took the creator into a world of ferris wheels, merry go rounds, and wooden puzzles. Tacked to the wall were tracings ready to be moved to wood someday. All around finished toys, boxes, puzzles and various creations sat ready for a new home or a view of the upstairs world for a few weeks, or until mom got tired of dusting.

Dads basement work bench.

Dads basement work bench.

It was from this bench that dad crafted a treasure box presented to me one Christmas. It is not an easy task making a wooden box. Anyone who has worked in a house where they thought the room was square, can appreciate the accuracy of making a small wooden box that meets on all corners. This box has lasted through countless yearly cleanups, moves, and numerous fits of “should I keep this.” The purpose was to place things inside that I valued. Over the years that changed but in writing this, I pulled it out to see just what remained. Some items I can tell you with no hesitation why I saved them, others I have no idea other than it had some importance at one time.


Creations from this bench have found their way across much of America. In later years when there seemed to be more visitors to the house, the inventory of wooden toys, and other creations began to find new homes. Many times dad was asked if he would sell his creations but that was a process he refused. However, if you wanted or admired a piece it was yours. As Teresa’s friends started spending time in the house on college breaks, dad would bring his latest construction up from the lower level. This usually prompted a visit down under to see the rest of Santa’s workshop. When a piece left the house it fulfilled two important roles. It relieved mom of having to say, “When are you going to start clearing some of these out? and…it made additional space for a new model.

You could leave the basement by way of the outside cellar door. You need to understand in the Casey vocabulary, there is a difference between a cellar and the basement. If you wanted to go into the basement you went down the death defying steps through the downstairs half bath. If you were going to the cellar, it was outside, open the cellar door, never called the basement door, and go down the always cold, slimy wet steps to a “cellar way” which was actually the space under the back porch. Along the cellar way you passed a window to nowhere, once again a remnant of days when they lived in the basement. This was probably their only real view of the world while trapped in the subterranean chamber.

At the end of the cellar way was the door leading into the basement. It was childproof in that you had to have reached some level of physical maturity to be able to bust through the door as it swelled shut with dampness and stretching of old wood. The cellar way was the safe haven from storms. Many nights we were rousted from bed to the sounds of sirens blaring a warning of approaching storms. Huddled in the cellar way you could hear the rain slamming the porch side of the house and an occasion crack of a branch from the numerous Dutch elm trees lining the 18th street side of the house. Once the all clear was signaled, we made the trek back up the incline and worked on trying to get back to sleep.

In 1973, the basement took on a new character. A deluge settled itself over Falls City and the rain came as if it was trying to float the Ark once again. It was a late August storm which sometimes is Mother Nature trying to get her last licks in before Jack Frost moves in to claim his territory. This makes for a lot of showing off among the nature gods. Well, the old basement had enough of this and gave up the fight. Water poured through the sandstone with more fury than the mighty Missouri River at spring thaw. What was the area of the old hand pump became reactivated from the spring underneath. Water poured through the walls and bubbled up from the floor. The bucket brigade of Caseys trying to bail a sinking ship and dodging lightning bolts when pitching buckets outside would have made a good 60 Minute segment. Bucket after bucket carried across the floor, up the cellar way, pitched to the yard, repeat…turned the haven of peace and relaxation into a cement swamp of floating sawdust, never to be used again bath towels and grass brought in from the yard. The next day, I loaded up with fourteen other guys from Nebraska and took off for a seminary in Kentucky. The rain of the night before was quickly climbing back to its homeland as steam from the August heat. The folks were dead tired, Teresa was spent, and I was just ready to start a new adventure. Scared as heck, but ready.

It was, all part of growing up.