I find myself optimistic as 2016 gets rolling full steam. Why not? The year is young, national news commentators are finding humor in the scrum for presidential nominations, winter’s fiercest blow thus far was fairly easily shoveled away.
Let’s start with sports.
A friend predicted to me back in August that the Royals would win the World Series and the Chiefs would win the Super Bowl. I thought, “Well on one, she’s got a shot, and on the second, she’s dreaming.”
Now, she has one in her pocket and the Chiefs, once impossibly buried, now seem capable of winning it all. We’re not even afraid of jinxing them by saying so. To base one’s optimism or pessimism on a professional sports team (especially with our region’s history) is dangerous living.
But how can we resist?
We are buckled up for winter, but do you realize that spring training for the Kansas City Royals starts next month?
I’m still feeling the World Champion glow. Yet, it’s hard not to start wondering if they can do it all again.
Since the Chiefs are still cause for happiness for another week, and the Royals are still champs, let us feast on the feelings yet more.
Here are some other tidbits to start the New Year.
Platte County lost a couple of good friends recently. I call them friends to the county because both valued people and public service. Both worked hard to make their corner of the world a better place.
Ralph Shackelford, 97, was well known for decades of volunteer work in equestrian programs for 4-H and the Platte County Fair. He was also known to many for appearing in his U.S. Army uniform at veteran’s programs and telling the stories of his World War II combat experiences in Europe. He was one of those heroes who didn’t like the title but did want young people to know what was sacrificed to save the world from narrow-minded bigotry and fascist dictators.
You might have known these things about Ralph even if you’d never met him thanks to newspaper coverage over the years. But here are a few more important things about him.
Ralph was smart, well-spoken in a quiet way, and he was wonderfully patient. There was a patience about him that’s uncommon. Whether it was from his rural upbringing or the war, or both, I know not. It’s funny how in modern times a plain-speaking, gentle person who volunteers unselfishly becomes unusual enough to be newsworthy. I suppose, too, we’ll miss one more person steeped in Platte County’s rural traditions. Someone who saw the horse and buggy age switch to tractors and automobiles, but who always felt being country was good enough.
Bob Fluchel, who served as director of the Parkville Nature Sanctuary, recently passed away. I met Bob when I worked at The Kansas City Star, and he served in education programs for the Missouri Department of Conservation. He had a tremendous passion for connecting people with nature.
Fluchel was proof that a soft-spoken person can make a difference for the better in a community. Thus even in retirement from his state job he stayed active in Parkville.
I know when I write about people I have known who unselfishly make a positive difference in their community, I’m missing naming people I never met or didn’t know well. But if you know them, thank them now and then. They are the salve that soothes a society tainted by the bitter rancor of national and state politics, which also often dips down into the local level.
We all have a little politician in us in our daily lives. But it’s those who put people ahead of politics who keep the world in tune.
I enjoy parks and tributes to veterans. But I’d be a bit more excited about celebrating the placement of an anchor from a Navy oiler ship, the USS Platte (AO-186), at a Platte City park, if I was certain this ship wasn’t actually named for the Platte River in Nebraska. However, since the anchor is going in near the Platte River in Platte City in Platte County, and on a planned trail to connect with the Platte Falls Conservation Area, which passes by what’s believed by many to be the historic location of the falls of the Platte, I guess we’re good.
Bill Graham, who lives in the Platte City area, may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.