Sunday, October 11, 2015


Some of you may remember Marge McGaughey from West Bluff Christian in Peoria. Marge was the moving force at West Bluff, a creative, highly motivated woman, a devoted Christian. My husband, Jim, often said that if the Disciples church had nuns, Marge would be one of them.
Over the decades that I knew her, Marge taught me many things. One repeated lessons was: When you give to God, you get all that back and more.
I must admit that the lesson didn’t sink in at the time. We had children to raise and there never seemed to be enough money to go around. Tithing was out of the question.  I was responsible for paying our bills each month. It finally reached a point where I was afraid every month that the money would not cover our expenses. Eventually I threw up my hands and told Jim, HE would have to manage the family finances. I just couldn’t do it any more.
And, as in all things he did, he immediately took charge and steadily got us on to a sound footing.
One of the first things he did was to begin tithing to the church. I was flabbergasted! We could hardly pay our bills and here he was going to give 10% to the church?!! It was downright breath-taking.
Every week he would make out that check and drop it into the collection, and I would feel faint, knowing that things were sure to be going from bad to worse.
But, you know, it didn’t happen that way. Slowly but surely our finances improved. We didn’t win the lottery or fall heir to any big pile of money. Jim just kept paying the bills and one day he was putting money into savings.
Years later I took over the bills again, and I wrote out those checks every week. I can’t say I was comfortable doing it. I wasn’t an entirely cheerful giver. But I did it anyway, because I had finally learned that when you give to God, you get back all that and more.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

'Thank You' to Highway Designers

   Last week I thanked snow plow drivers and street departments for their great work. This week I’m thanking those who have designed our highway systems.
   We take such things as yellow center lines for granted. They are there to tell us where our lane is, and when the line is solid, we know we’re not supposed to cross it. There was a time when there were no yellow stripes, and on some country roads there are none today. I asked a county road commissioner why there was no yellow line on a country road east of Eureka, and he told me it was because the road wasn’t wide enough for two lanes. Since the road didn’t get much traffic, there was no impetus to widen it.
   Do you remember gravel roads? I sure do. If you were the first car in the pack, it wasn’t bad, but if your car was second or third, you ate dust…and the only ‘air conditioning’ in our cars was having the windows open, dust or no dust. There were no yellow lines on gravel roads.
   But gravel was a real step up in at the turn of the 20th century. Before the automobile gained enough popularity, roads were dirt tracks. In the spring they were inches deep in mud. When the mud dried, the roads were inches deep in ruts. If two vehicles met each other, they had to try to get far enough off the side so they could pass each other. With horses that wasn’t much of a problem, of course.
   The advent of the automobile changed all that. The first paving was brick and many a town still sports streets of red brick and treasures the sound the tires make on brick. The streets around the Woodford County Courthouse and extending south to the cemetery were laid with heavy red brick on sand in 1909. The next year the brick paving was extended a few blocks north of the railroad.
   The first concrete street was laid in Bellefontaine, Ohio, in 1894, and it’s still in use today. Concrete roads didn’t come to Central Illinois until the 1920s, but soon after the first such roads were laid, someone realized that you could put a center stripe on them and therefore might be able to prevent some head-on crashes.
   The development of our current system of streets, roads and highways has been relatively speedy. The interstate highway system was developed in 1956, originally as a way to move troops and military equipment quickly across the country. Machines that lay highways continuously make short work of what used to be laborious indeed.
   Scotchlite was invented by 3M in 1936 and was introduced into highway signs in the 1940s. Suddenly an ordinary road-side sign would seem to light up and glow at night when struck by headlights. In the past 15 years more and more roadways are edged with a white reflective line, and small reflectors are mounted right in the street surface at many intersections.
   We probably  pay little notice to highway design under ordinary conditions, but when faced with ‘white-out’ conditions, we find ourselves clinging to that white line along the road and looking hard for the yellow line down the middle. It’s difficult to imagine how anyone drove in a white-out without such conveniences.
   There was a time when my husband, children and I were traveling through Wyoming at night. Suddenly our car lights went out. They just stopped. We were miles from anything. Fortunately my husband had a 7-cell flashlight in the car. I opened my window and shined the flashlight out at the reflectors on the poles that were spaced every tenth of a mile. He drove down that pitch-black highway guided only by those reflectors until we made it to the next town.
   So we say ‘thank you’ to highway designers. You make our traveling so much easier and safer.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Snow, Lovely Snow

   We’re finally getting some snow, and for most of us that’s a good thing. Snow is pretty and clean. It is brilliant in the sunlight and brings some light to the darkness of night. And kids like to go sledding in it and make snowmen and snow forts.
   All right. That’s enough of the good stuff about snow. The bad part is trying to maneuver in it, especially in a vehicle. I don’t know about you, but I say 'thank you' to the road crews every single time I hear/see them on my street. I don’t know when they sleep, because it’s usually in the dark of night that I hear them rumble down the street. On the occasion when they can’t get out or if we live in 'the country,' we learn just what it’s like to live in the Midwest without road crews.
   Most snow plows not only move the snow to the side of the road, but they also sprinkle something on the plowed area. We usually think of this as ‘salt,’ although there are many other things that can be and are spread on streets to make them more safe.
   Common salt (sodium chloride) is the cheapest and most available substance. It works by breaking the bond of the ice to the pavement or melt the snow by lowering the freezing point of water. The problem with salt is that it is corrosive to most pavement surfaces; it runs off the streets into lawns and watersheds, and it is only effective when the pavement temperature is 15-20°or above.
   Sand or ground-up ashes are sometimes spread on roadways. It is cheap and it works at temperatures when salt will not, but it tends to clog up drainage systems, and it does not melt snow and ice.
   Sometimes there is an area where salt must be restricted. In these areas the street departments can use something called premix (a combination of sodium chloride and calcium chloride). It’s not as harmful to roadways and it works well at lower temperatures, but it’s more expensive, and it has to be kept dry.
   In recent years departments have been experimenting with pre-treatment solutions. Two chemicals can be used: liquid calcium chloride and liquid magnesium chloride. Both work at really low temperatures and are less harmful to the environment, but their use must be timed correctly.
   Incidentally, snow plow drivers do NOT delight in burying your driveway entrance in a mountain of snow. If they could, they would leave every driveway clear, but this is not a choice they can make. Your best bet is to shovel out your drive after the plow has gone by. Shovel the snow to the right of your driveway as you face the street (or in the direction of travel). And yes, as long as there is snow on the street, the plows will continue moving it to the side…and into your driveway.