Bucket List, Pails in Comparison

Topeka Capital-Journal
Dec. 19, 2005

I have been given a list of “20 Things You Should Do in This Lifetime” and it appears if I had intended to do all of them I should have started sooner. Maybe you should have too. Here’s the list and some comments.

1. Visit the country your ancestors called home. I’ve done that. I’ve been to England, Ireland, Holland and Germany, and didn’t see anybody I recognized. All I really know if that my mother came from Nebraska, by way of Indiana, and my Dad from Kansas, also by way of Indiana. I’ve been to those places too and didn’t see any monuments to Shively’s or Sniders.

2. Leave a dollar where a kid will find it. I’ve done that. I also left my car keys where a kid could find them. When the kids were young, the keys disappeared. When they were older, the car disappeared.

3. Fly over the Grand Canyon in a helicopter. No way. I wouldn’t fly over the Shunganunga in a helicopter. They were not meant to fly.

4. Lend money to a friend without expecting it back. I’ve done that countless times, and sure enough, I didn’t get the money back. The friends were my children.

5. Have a suit made by a Saville Road tailor. How about a raw silk suit from a Hong Kong tailor? I tried that one. When famous haberdasher Bill Dodson was my neighbor in Wichita, he occasionally gave me a suit a customer had ordered but then didn’t want. One such suit wax ordered by a man who couldn’t pick it up because he was in prison.

6. Ride a gondola down the Grand Canal in Venice. Been there, done that. It takes something away from it, however, when you see dead dogs floating in the canal.

7. Teach class. For almost three years during World War II, I taught in the Naval Air Technical Training Command School in Norman, Okla. Many of my students were WAVES and women Marines.

It was tough, but that’s how we won the war.

I taught Naval Indoctrination, which included directions to the better bars, and Hydraulics, best summed up as, “if it won’t work, install a new one.”

8. See the sun rise over the ruins of Machu Pichu. I haven’t seen the sun rise over this 19,000 foot peak in Peru, but I have seen it come up from the back of a garbage truck giving the old “Dawn Patrol” of sportswriters a ride home after a long night out.

9. Plant a tree. I’ve planted more trees than Weyerhaeuser has cut down.

10. Fly on the Concorde. Not yet, but airliners I’ve flown on include the single engine Lockheed Vega; the twin engine DC3, Convair, Martin 2092 and 404, DC9, MD 80, Caravelle, BAC 111, Boeing 737, 757; three engine Boeing 727, Lockheed L1011, DCb; four engine DC4, DC6, DC7, DC8, Convair 880 and 990, Lockheed Electra (the one with wings that stayed on), Lockheed Constellation, Boeing 707 and 747, Vickers Viscount and Vanguard. My all time favorite: the 727.

11. Stand on the Great Wall. Never been to China, or a federal pen.

12. Make your own beer. My dad made home brew for years, and I helped bottle it. I set the cap on the bottle and my brother clamped it.

13. See an opera at La Scala in Milan. I’ve been to Milan, but the only opera I’ve seen was in Nashville. Eddie Arnold no less.

14. Learn to speak French. No, but I helped pay for a daughter to speak it, and she spent a year in France after graduation from K-State, working in a chocolate factory. She sent chocolates for Christmas and called it even.

15. Take a balloon ride over the Serengeti. This is a plain in Tanzania. My neighbor, Mary Hall, did this in October, and followed it with a champagne breakfast.

16. Be able to recite three good toasts. I can, but only two can be done in mixed company. My favorite clean one ends, “And may you be in heaven an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”

17. Kiss someone passionately in public. Try to remember to do this when victory is declared in World War III.

18. Play the Old course at St. Andrew.

My golf game is more suited to Hopeless Hills in Highland Park than to Scotland.

19. Shoot the rapids on the Snake River in Idaho. I pass, on the assumption the water would be over my head. If you can’t wade out, fade out.

There was a 20th item on my list, but I think it has to so with owning or leasing a BMW auto, so you see how far behind I am. On the other hand, there are some things I’ve done, not on the list that I’d recommend. Among them:

Visit the Vatican and Britton, Okla., live for a year in West Texas, experience your first byline, visit the tombs of the unknown soldiers, see Congress in action, attend one World Series, one Super Bowl, one Kentucky Derby and one Masters, own an Irish setter, and go to Gettysburg and Antietam.

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