I often see apartment fires on the news but today I almost saw one up close and personal.

We visit our refugee families once or twice a week. Last week we took two small kids, two teenage girls and the small kid’s grandmother to Howard Amon Park in Richland. I think it was their first time in a park.

In the eight months we have been working with these families, we have never been able to get a word out of the meek little four year-old girl or her seven year-old brother. I don’t know just what the holdup in communications has been but I’ve never heard a peep from either child.

At the park we got the kids to sit on swings and I began pushing them. They both yelled with surprise and glee at what looked to me like the first swing-set ride they had ever encountered. Each time I pushed the boy, he enunciated a big yell out of his grinning mouth. It was a very rewarding time to bring some happiness into their world. A simple little exercise that we’ll each remember for a long time.

Back to the apartment fire. Today we visited the families once again. Michele read stories to the little girl while I talked to her uncle who can be partially seen in the background.Image1

Soon her grandmother launched into Swahili to her son (the uncle) about what had happened just a short time prior to our arrival. She talked so emphatically and fast that I didn’t understand a word she said.

I have as much Swahili under my belt as grandma has English. But I have mastered 3 Swahili words.  “Missouri” is not a river in the mid-west but a general term that basically means “Good”.

And after picking the families up several times to take them various places and waiting longer than I thought was necessary, I’ve learned that “Kua Tuende” means “Get your behind in gear and let’s get the heck out of Dodge!” I also learned that the louder the “Kua Tuende”, the quicker our van got loaded.

Only after the doors were closed and the state-mandated seat belts clicked did I say “Missouri”.

We have noticed that electricity is a new and strange power that these folks are unfamiliar with. Last winter on days that we visited them we would notice the thermostat was turned clear up which made perfect sense to me since it was 10 or 15 degrees outside and these folks had just arrived from Africa. What didn’t make sense was when we walked by one of their windows, they were wide open and freezing air was pouring in.

I assumed they were checking to see if the heater could stay ahead of frosty Mother Nature or maybe they were just trying to make the ambient outside air temperature in Kennewick a little closer to that of the old Congo neighborhood.

We’ve also noticed that when these folks cook, the burners are always turned on high. When something is on the stove, the burner element is red hot. I guess they think a red hot burner in Kennewick is the next best thing to a cooking fire in the refugee camp back home.

After the uncle heard the story, he slowed down the conversation speed and converted granny’s Swahili into English.  It turns out that fast-talking grandma had finished cooking lunch but forgot to throw cold water on the cooking fire before she went in the other room.

The little four year-old girl decided that since there was a nice electronic campfire on top of the Kenmore it was time to dispose of the trash. She lifted the week’s garbage,  still encapsulated by the plastic garbage container, over her head and placed it on the campfire.

In the other room, grandma heard a loud screeching smoke alarm go off and rushed out of the bedroom to be greeted by plasticized smoke signals. The signals were billowing out of the kitchen and smelled nothing like the meal she had just cooked.

This is the campfire-style stove and the heat-seeking garbage container…


I’m don’t know how she got the fire out. Maybe she did throw cold water on it.

I’m sure the many families living in that particular apartment complex have no idea how close they came to sleeping out under the stars tonight with just the clothes on their back.

I told grandma in my broken Swahili that the next garbage can she acquired should be made out of a non-flammable material like cast iron . I also let her know the stove knobs work better than water when trying to kill an electronic kitchen fire.

Like and share if you liked this post!

“Recovering Idiot” Facebook posts are seen by about 35% of my friends. You can beat the odds and get notified each time I post by entering your email address in the upper right portion of this post.

image3-lower   A quote from the book…

Claude kept harping and didn’t stop the impromptu flight school discourse so finally I said as I slammed the door, “All right, Claude, thanks for the ride. I’m going to take off with the wind just to show you!”…

(15 minutes later)…I pulled back on the stick and got no response. I wanted to stop this nightmare, but it was much too late. If I tried to abort the takeoff, I would hit the end of the runway, cows and trees at 120 mph. The point of no return was now a long way behind me…

Read the reviews.  Paperback or Hard Cover.

Kindle Book One      Kindle Book Two

At last, I’m finally making decent money from my inventions. However there is a downside. My kid brothers and sisters are extremely jealous and trying to crimp my style. Read on for the full scoop.

My first invention from 18 years ago is pictured here. Sales have been great, far exceeding my expectations.


Propane dealers from sea to shining sea can’t do without it.

A homemade video showing it in action (Start at the 45 second mark)…

Here’s one of the first YankATanks I built, long ago outliving it’s depreciation schedule and now relegated to a scrap area.


And there’s more where that came from…


This is the original prototype of another idea I call the Tire Squire and Truck Tire Squire. It’s fun to see what can happen if you have a little vision!

Just yesterday we shipped one to a tire company in Georgia. The only man-powered machine on earth that will pick up and haul 8 truck tires. All packed up and ready to ship:


Action shots of the offspring from the original old beater… and

You may ask “Have you ever made something you didn’t sell?” I know it’s hard to believe but 95% of the things I’ve developed have never made it to the production stage.

One time I heard the phrase that people would beat a path to your door if you built a better mousetrap. So I did.

To get rid of rodents at the shop I found some great green mouse bait. The mice loved it but they carried it off to their winter quarters and came back for more. It just didn’t do the whole job. So I set to work constructing a gizmo to destroy Mickey.

I used the mouse bait to entice the mices to an area that featured my new but heretofore untested premier 110-volt Mouse Trap/Vaporizer. As you can see, it was an awesome invention!

Right off, I could see that I needed to do some improvements on it if I was going to get UL Laboratories to give their stamp of approval on it.


It worked great because I never once found a mouse lounging around the area. They had all been vaporized!

It never really took off. The only thing that took off from this handy little device was me on those unlucky days when I forgot about the high-charged ring and happened to brush up against it as I walked past. I didn’t vaporize but I’m sure I lost a pound or two from all the excitement and hopping and yelling and screaming.

Instead of calling it 110-volt Mouse Trap/Vaporizer, maybe I should market it as a 110-volt Weight Reduction device.

Speaking of weight reduction, here’s another one of my inventions that can help you lose weight and yet I never sold a single one. Yet.

The original prototype:



Some of the fruits of my simple creations that do sell can be found at

The story behind this post is my dilemma with my family…

I rent a building or two from my eight siblings so I can continue to turn my daydreams into nightmares and once in a while into real machines. Contained in this rented area are the remnants of my work over the last 18 years. Unfortunately, mechanical inventions necessarily produce a pile of prototypical expensive junk. At least mine do.

I’ve found it’s hard to part with my babies since I’ve put so much time, effort, hope and money into them.

However, my evil landlords have decreed that my scrap pile must be eliminated. They don’t have the sentimental attachment that I do for the rusty old relics. I finally had to quit crying, capitulate to my underling siblings and begin trashing my historical treasures.

Here is a small sample of my subject material:


As I started gathering up my works of art, the inanimate objects decided they really didn’t want to vacate the premises. At regular intervals they commenced attacking me to drive home the point that they didn’t want to leave their birthplace. My body is now sporting multiple contusions, scrapes, cuts, bruises and wounds from these battles.

Here is just one example of their assault on me:


As I lifted up a large load of metal to drop in the scrap bin, a large slippage occurred and I narrowly missed becoming part of the remnants being thrown away. Notice the missing fingertips that actually did end up in the scrap bin at an earlier date.

Thank goodness my old forklift had a safety cage wrapped around the driver’s seat!

The cleanup is almost complete. In spite of the mindset I had to fight through in order to chuck the stuff, I did it. It was hard.

It was even harder as some of my siblings circled like vultures around the hazardous cleanup site. Once in a while they would swoop in to partake of my treasures before I could get the items loaded in the scrap bin.

Here is pictorial proof of an actual brother absconding with what used to be part of my valuable inventory:


Like I said to them in the original unsuccessful debate, “This stuff is not junk! I’m going to need it someday.”

One man’s junk is another man’s treasure. Or, in this case…

One brother’s treasure used to be another brother’s treasure.

While we’re on the subject, have you ever had a secret desire to invent something that has never been thought of before?

I did for the majority of my life.

Finally, I quit dreaming, rolled up my sleeves and dove in. The crazy ups and crazier downs of my inventing experiences are detailed here…


Read the reviews.  Paperback or Hard Cover.

Kindle Book One      Kindle Book Two

Cash winner followup:

And because I’m doing so well with my little inventing business and need more tax deductions, I decided to give out a little cash to my blog followers and commentators. Here’s our first winner who was randomly drawn from Recovering Idiot followers. Image2

Mark Maxfield of Pasco WA and his check for 50 bucks.

Recovering Idiot Followers and Commentators will be drawn from time to time for cash prizes. I do this because it’s fun to make people’s day and I need more IRS deductions.

Don’t miss out!

Mark didn’t!

My back pocket is getting kind of overloaded again. I think I’ll hand out some more heavy greenbacks in June.


Just for fun and to show appreciation, once in a while if I’m in the mood I’m going to throw cash to followers and commentators of this blog. The winner and other details are at the bottom of this post.

Back to the tutus…

Nine visible ballerinas. One of them carries my genes. Any idea which one?

The poor thing is known as Charlotte. (#5 from the left)

Like Charlotte, I don’t follow the crowd. I do a lot of looking up too. Case in point…

Last fall I was drying corn at midnight and noticed falling corn kernels attacking my bald head. The night was dark and the wind was howling.

After climbing the elevator stairs, I found the tube that was leaking. I could see that to fix this problem I was going to need some very specialized tools. I went back down.

I grabbed a ladder, a flashlight, some duct tape and a strand of baling twine. Me and my equipment then ascended back up the stairway to heaven.

Out of breath, I  arrived at the leak site. I positioned my ladder against the leaky tube and noticed one ladder leg was suspended by nothing but air. I tied some baling twine on the ladder leg, took a deep breath and climbed the ladder to fix the leak.


Notice the twine supported leg. The picture below shows the height of the work area.

Visualize the dark night and the wind whipping past as I attempted to tape the tube that was a good 60 or 70 feet high.  Did I mention a rung on the ladder was missing and the ladder teetered back and forth on the leaking grain tube at the top?

Finally, the leaking corn got taped shut and I was able to descend to a healthier elevation. Who needs Disneyland when you have a job like mine?


Thanks to everyone who has signed up to follow this blog! I like blogging and they must like following. Because I’m still a partial idiot and enjoy making someone’s day, once in a while I’m going to throw out a little appreciation cash. (This applies to this blog only. Facebook comments won’t be in the mix.)

Recovering Idiot followers and commentators will be eligible each time I notice some cash burning a hole in my pocket. I’m going to use an online random number generator which will pick out a winner. This way, I won’t be sending cash to just the few friends I have but my large assortment of enemies will also be eligible.

Mark Maxfield of Pasco WA was the Recovering Idiot follower on this first go-around. Congrats Mark!


Like the blog? Love the book.


Read the reviews.  Paperback or Hard Cover.

Kindle Book One      Kindle Book Two


One of my nephews called and asked if he could borrow my vehicle for his date tonight.

I said “Sure, if you keep it under a hundred and eighty.”

He said he would do his best.

I chuckled because I knew there was no way he would get the old pickup past a hundred and twenty.

Then he said he was allergic to vehicles painted white and preferred a darker colored vehicle. Now what do I do?


Like the blog? Love the book.


Read the reviews.  Paperback or Hard Cover.

Kindle Book One      Kindle Book Two





In my church, we have a program called “Home Teaching.” Each month teams of two very wise men are assigned to visit each family in our ward. They stop in, check on the family and give us a few words of wisdom.

Our family has great home teachers! They show up each month and have always delivered a stellar and powerful message.

Dan (on the right) is usually spot-on until last month.

Steve (on the left) is always attentive and was totally interested at the beginning of Dan’s greatly anticipated presentation. However, Dan was a little off his game.

Steve visited the Sandman while I got up and walked out to fetch my camera, not wanting to miss a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

I post this evidence for several reasons.

Dan claims his lessons are top-notch. Not always. (See photo)

Steve claims he loves Dan’s lessons. Not always. (See photo)

Michele claims I’m a lousy photographer. Not always. (See photo)

Michele is always right. But just this once, I disagree.


Like the blog? Love the book…


Read the reviews.  Paperback or Hard Cover.

Kindle Book One      Kindle Book Two