Where do you begin to describe half a century of life after GHS?
At the ending, of course.
I just retired . . . for the third time. I can't seem to figure out what I want to do when I grow up.
That is sort of how it began after GHS. I had so many interests, I couldn't decide which to pursue. But thanks to Mrs. Bryan's English class, I knew I wanted to write. That seemed my solution, write about all the things I like to do.
So, after graduating from Mizzou with a bachelors degree in journalism, I went into the Army (Rangers) as a commissioned officer. I served three and a half years – volunteered for Nam and was sent to Korea.
The worst fighting I saw followed the Army – when I got married. My former wife was a teacher who taught me an important lesson: never marry again. Our marriage would make Kim Kardashian's look like one for the record books for longevity.
With all the newfound freedom, I went to Washington, D.C., to work in journalism while getting my law degree at night.
My law career began in San Francisco working for an employee benefits consulting firm. While developing a career primarily in employee benefits, I began in my spare time to write books primarily on health benefits. I authored or co-authored six professional books including one on consumer-directed health care and another of self-funding health benefits.
I wore a third hat: working in health care policy through the benefits firm. This led to my most fun.
I was asked to testify before the U.S. Senate Labor Committee along with the Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health and Human Services and General Counsel of the Treasury Department on implementation of HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act). That led to a White House appointment (due to my expertise, not my politics) to a task force to write federal law on medical child support.
My outspoken nature created some angst for the political appointees to the task force. My key point was that writing laws would not solve the health care coverage problems. The real costs of health care had to be addressed first. And while that did not sit well with the politicos, my message did get out and I was invited to give a talk to a health care policy think-tank in Washington. D.C. The principals of the think-tank liked my way of thinking and ultimately invited me to join their board of directors, where I have served for more than a decade.
My last retirement came after I read the Obamacare legislation. My publisher would not let me quit, however, until I had done a series of analyses on the law. By the time I got through reading the worst-drafted legislation I had seen in 30 years and even worse health care policy, and writing about seven analytic pieces on the law, I really did retire . . . at least for awhile. I was asked to do another analysis for the think-tank, and when that was done this past fall, I really, really did retire . . . at least for now.
Uh, volunteer work does not count, does it? I am currently developing a wellness program that incorporates walking shelter dogs for exercise. But since this is a volunteer project, I'm not really un-retired am I?
The picture is of my dog Alex, who was a constant companion and vigilant guardian for 12 years. He came from a shelter with the name Alex – I am not mean enough to do that to a dog. Alex started his heroics at age two by fighting off a bear just outside my Montana cabin. Last summer he performed his last heroic act by treeing a bear that had gotten way too close for comfort – about 15 yards.
That may not seem close, but considering that a grizzly can run the length of a football field in six seconds, you get a different perspective of distance. GHS track star and sprinter Jim Blankenship in his fastest days at GHS would have covered about 65 yards in the time a grizzly runs the 100. I would have covered about 10 yards in that time. That means it would have taken that bear about one second to get its paws on me. Any one paw of this bear was about the size of four of Roy Smith's size 14 shoes lined up side by side.
Fortunately, my friend Alex was faster. The way it happened, I was hiking just behind my cabin with Alex and my cat, Mr. Intrepid, when we came upon the bear. Somehow, it had gotten between Alex and me, probably hidden by a little rise. In a heartbeat Alex got between the bear and me, and chased it up a tree, which gave time for Mr. Intrepid, Alex and me to make a quick retreat back to the cabin.
Quite heroic for a four-pound Pomeranian . . . Alex's pix is magnified about 100 times to make him look bigger . . . Seriously, he was a 90-pound mix of Malamute and Golden Retriever – a perfect match.
Alex died this December at our winter getaway near Moab, UT.
In Montana, Alex helped me fly fish and restore vintage jeeps. He rested at home while I practiced running mountain switchbacks on my touring Harley.
In Utah, Alex helped me rockhound and restore vintage jeeps. He stayed home to keep cool while I explored canyon peaks and valleys of the rugged Southwest desert lands on my street Harley.
It is in Alex's honor and of other shelter dogs that I am working on the wellness with walking dogs program.
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