Memoirs of a Orchidist
I have finally gotten a new post here. I have removed all but 1 of the old post's and will only show 2 at a time. They will be updated monthly from here on in.
March 2012 Post
As you know I have a problem with getting shot. Actually my problem is that I find it very easy to get shot. Many years ago while I was building a greenhouse I was shot by a friend with a 16 penny nail gun. He wasn't actually aiming at me although I am sure the thought crossed his mind once or twice. What happened is that the nail bounced off a piece of metal and went through my finger. Getting a puncture wound is a sure recipe for getting another one when you visit the ER and they ask you when your last tetanus shot was (I made the mistake of saying I couldn't remember).
The next time I was adding molding to the extension I was finishing on our house in Canby. My wife took pity on me hammering all those itty-bitty nails into the molding and bought me a electric nail gun for small finishing nails (It is my conclusion that she took pity on me because her purchase of the nail gun did not coincide with a increase in my Life insurance). Anyway, I noticed that most of the time the nails were not flush when I shot them, requiring me to pound them in with the hammer anyway. I also discovered that if I pushed real hard when I shot then I wouldn't have to get the hammer and do twice the work (I would like to set the record straight for those of you who might assume that I am a little bit lazy.... I am). So, I was gripping the inside of a door jamb while applying as much pressure as possible to the gun on the molding on the outside when the gun slipped and, my finger being the trigger-happy thing that it is, I went ahead and shot the nail. I knew it had hit me, but the only mark was a small drop of blood in the middle of my wrist (the one that was gripping the inside of the door jamb).
After looking on the ground for the nail for about a minute I began to realize where the nail was. The reason for this is the pain finally started to reach by brain and my brain was saying, "Stop looking for the nail, stupid: it is in your wrist." This time the visit to ER required a orthopedic Surgeon. Of course being a red blooded American male I was hoping that at least I could get some nice scenery in the way of nurses. The nurse who attended to me was about six feet tall and probably weighed around 250 pounds. He (yes he) looked like he belonged on the professional wrestling circuit. He took one look at me and pointing to my wedding ring and said `That is going to have to come off'. Well unfortunately for me the wedding ring was on the hand that I had injured, and apparently I had stapled the tendon through the nerve bundle to the bone. My hand was in a permanent clench and I told the nurse that it wasn't going to come off. He grabbed my hand straightened it and took the ring off with one fast motion. All I had to do was to remove the Ice pick from my brain (at least that was what my brain was telling me).
I was then wheeled into the x-ray department and there was the cutest radiologist I had ever seen. She was asking me what happened and I told her whereupon she said `You stupid idiot!' Wow, usually I get marital privileges before women start to talk to me like that. Oh well, finally someone asked me when I last had a tetanus shot. This time I wasn't going to say that I didn't know, I said it was the last time I was shot with a nail gun! Alas it had been 10 years and they gave me a shot to add to my troubles.
It seemed to me that if I stayed away from nail guns I should be safe. Last week my wife and I had been working on a stone embankment with pre-formed cement stones and I needed half a block. While whacking a chisel with a hammer on to the block the chisel broke free and shot my leg. It was both a deep cut and a really swollen bruise. Anyway I figure I can tell people how to get a chiseled Physique . It is okay to groan, I did.
Copyright David Morris 2010
January 2012 Post
Dippy Dave's and Tubby Tom's Practical Guide To Joking
Okay, you say, what is up with the title for this story? Well years ago when I was entering the wonderful tortuous road of starting my first business, I was helped along by my good friend and mentor Tom Harrison. Anyway we were looking for a name for this orchid business and his wife, Karen, overheard us and gave us a unsolicited suggestion of calling it Dippy Dave's and Tubby Tom's Orchids. Well, we went ahead and ignored her suggestion and called it Clackamas Orchids after the name of the county in which the business resides.
A little more is needed to describe my relationship with Tom, whom I have given the affectionate name of his immenseness. Okay, he is a little large. Perhaps a better way to describe both Tom and myself is to refer to the Nero Wolfe stories. Tom S. Harrison 1/4 (My way of saying that there is a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, and even a 6th Tom either currently or in the past) is a Genius. He has a way of cutting through the nonsense that is so often muttered that is truly beautiful (Unless, of course, you happen to be the mutterer). Also, like Nero, he requires special reinforced chairs into which to lower his 7th of a ton. This protects not just himself, but anyone within the blast zone as well. I, of course, am the epitome of Archie Goodwin, with his dashing looks and ability to woe any desirable women within my field of vision...Except perhaps for the ability part, and perhaps the dashing is a bit of a overstatement as well. Anyway there the resemblance ends. Unlike Nero, Tom has a wonderful sense of humor, which will no doubt be displayed when I have him proof read this story. Also, it is I, Archie..I mean David who is the orchid grower.
Anyway, as the title implies, this is a story about practical jokes. Once upon a time I was not a practical joker, nor was I a logical thinker. Thanks to Tom I learned how to dabble in both. Tom Harrison used to tell me wonderful stories of practical jokes that he had perpetrated in his past. Here are some as related to me by Tom.
When he was busy growing up (before he started growing out) he had a Model A spark coil, given to him by his brother-in-law. He wired a door switch to activate the coil when the door was opened, and then boosted the primary voltage from 12V to 36V. No second connection necessary, since the spark coil generates huge secondary voltage. He put a sign on the door, warning of a high voltage alarm system. His dad, who traveled a great deal, was home for a few days. He had just finished talking with Tom's mother who was lamenting the seldom opportunities to spend time with Tom. His father then decided to see what Tom was doing in the garage workshop. He stopped at the door, read the sign, ignored it, and opened the door. Tom realized what was about to happen as his father paused at the door, and started to get up to disconnect the battery, but it was too late: the loud, involuntary "UH!" from his father's mouth let him know that the spark coil's buzz was not just noise. It was then that Tom noted the significant flaw in his alarm: once the door had been opened, the WOODEN door could be pushed further with no risk of further shock. He came into the room and said just 4 words: "Take it out... NOW!" It was that last word that painted mental images of impending doom, and Tom complied. As he was removing the system, Tom's dad went back into the house and explained to mom the dangers of further bonding with his son. Tom doesn't recall him EVER coming back into the workshop.
Really? I looked up the specifications of a Model T Ford Coil circa 1923. It states that the inductance in Henrys is 22 Henrys with the secondary open and 11.3 Henrys with it shorted! That is big enough to hurt a bit even with the natural resistance of the body, clothes, shoes etc. They say that it sounds like a box of angry Bees! Apparently when hooked up the way he had it it also feels a lot like a box of angry bees.
Another great story
involves a BB dropper. Tom was in an outer rim office (with a window,
even). His coworker JB was in a central office prairie-dog pool area: no
doors or windows, just partitions. There was some trading of practical
jokes going on in the pool area, and he thought Tom had pulled one on
him (Tom denies this). Anyway Tom came back to his office, and found the
door uncharacteristically closed. He opened it, and was overwhelmed by
the odor of alcohol. The source was a large number of cleaning wipes
that were scattered under his desk. Tom removed them, and did a quick
walk through the office pool area, discovering a similar quantity of
empty wipe packages in JB's waste basket. JB was at his desk, and Tom
reminded him of (a) the folly of not concealing the evidence, and (b)
the cosmic certainty of payback.
In the Mid 1980's I was a computer programmer apprentice under Tom's thumb (pardon the pun). Anyway I saw a small semi-opaque plastic cube sitting on Tom's desk and asked him about it. He said it was a flashbulb invention of his meant as a practical joke. It had 6 small non-reusable flashbulbs tucked inside along with a 9 volt battery and a timing circuit. When picked up a small trip switch would close and after about 5 seconds 6 flash bulbs would go off one after another. The idea was that since it was semi-opaque you would pick it up and peer into it. The 5 second delay was to give you enough time to peer. Anyway when I was looking at it the bulbs had already been used up...fortunately. I asked Tom if I could borrow it and he said sure.
I found out that one serious flaw in design was that it had to be pried apart to change the flash bulbs and then reglued together. Anyway, I bought a sufficient number of bulbs for multiple firings, reset the device and sprang it on my brother. It worked beautifully! I then thought about whom should be my next victim (did I mention that practical joking was addictive?) . Anyway I figured that if I could get Tom that would be quite a achievement. I reset the device and took a close look at the safety pin it had for safely moving the armed device around. I discovered that if I bent the safety pin that it would look like it was there doing its job, but in fact would allow the switch to trip when the device was next picked up. I set it up this way and left it in the way on Toms desk. Tom later told me that he saw it, checked the safety pin, and then proceeded to move it onto a shelf out of his way when it went off. Of course Tom did not even begin to think that that was a accident! The next time he saw me he told me "That was Pearl Harbor, David!", and he proceeded to work on "Fat Boy".
The computer I was programming was a DEC mainframe and the language was Pascal. I had my own terminal which I used and I would log into the computer from there. I swear it was only the next day when I was logging into the computer when a hidden trap door over my head flipped open and a bank of flashbulbs attached to a circuit board bounced down right in front of my eyes. Poor Tom, he had put so much effort into this contraption, but he forgot to calculate how much `juice' it would take to set them off. They failed !! Ha! Of course I still had to pick myself off the ground after spilling over from the shock of it all. Anyway, a full blown flashbulb war had erupted in the computer lab.
Tom got me with a battery attached to a single flash bulb and a tilt switch so that when you pulled the coffee cup down from the shelf and looked into it (to make sure that whatever is in there is edible) you would get blinded by the bulb going off. I was busy chatting with someone when I caught the flash from the corner of my eye. My personal favorite though was a large socket bulb attached to a circuit board with a light diode and a large capacitor (Tom was taking no more chances with too small a charge to set off the bulb). It was affectionately referred to as "Fat Boy". This one would arm once you stuck it in a dark area for awhile. The next time it saw daylight it would fire! He got me good with it in the supply cabinet. Later I asked if I could borrow it for more brother torture. He agreed readily. When I got home shortly after I had walked in the door he called me. Tom asked me if I put the bulb in first or connected the battery first. After telling him that I connected the battery first he started to laugh! If you screw in the bulb and then connect the battery you can then arm it by putting it in a dark place. The other way it goes off right away, as I had already discovered.
Well, I wasn't done with this device. I racked my brains and finally decided on what I thought was a beautiful use for it. The office in which Tom and I worked had its own simple bathroom (a necessity for heavy coffee drinkers like ourselves). I drained the toilet, cleaned it and set the device in there, then shut the lid. Ha! just when the unsuspecting Tom would decide he really needed to get rid of some coffee urgently he would lift the lid and Pow! right in the eyes. Anyway it didn't work for several reasons. (a) He was no longer a unsuspecting Tom and (b) It was just us guys in that office and that was the first time the toilet lid had ever been in the closed position. Oh well, I clearly lost the flash bulb war.
I must also mention a practical joke that Tom invented around a mutual friends Honeymoon. The friend, Mark, had been very secretive about his honeymoon plans. Tom had found out, however, that Mark was going to borrow a relatives motor home in hopes of foiling any of Tom's supposed plans on practical jokes. Tom then created a device with a random timer between 15 minutes and 2 hours that would say something pre recorded by Tom, and then record the response for 60 seconds. The microphone was hidden in plain sight with the label `Propane gas detector' attached to it. They fell for it for several iterations before Mark finally ripped out the false wall in the cabinet and exposed the whole system. With the first event, though, he actually pulled the Motor home off the road and expected to find Tom hiding in the bathroom!
Years after I had moved my business to Canby and settled down to raise a family, I thought of one last practical joke. I had made a habit of collecting strange plants as well as orchids, and one of them, which I grew outside, had a beautiful large dark purple flower. It was called Dracuncula vulgaris and smelled like a cow had died, at least a week ago! Anyway, I wondered what would happen if you put a unopened bud in a vase? Would it still open? Would it still smell bad? Who better then my old friend Tom to try this out on. I called up his teenage son, (Yes, Tom S. Harrison the 5th) told him of my plan, and asked if he would be willing to help out? He said yes, so I gave him a vase with a bud in it which he put in Tom's office. Well, we found it that yes indeed it did open, and, yes, it did smell like a dead cow had wandered into Tom's office.
Of course to this day I still sort of expect some sort of retaliation, and perhaps that is Tom's ultimate revenge.
Copyright David Morris 2011
An orchid legend
Marie Riopelle, a orchid grower, hybridizer and judge emeritus has passed away at the age of 93. She was a exceptional grower who had amassed over the years 174 AOS awards including 9 Fcc's and 2 AQ's. She made and registered numerous hybrids and was well known for creating a line of miniature Miltonias such as Miltonia Dainty Miss and Miltonia Dainty Melissa. She had several hybrids named after her which include Cattleya Marie Riopelle, Miltonia Marie Riopelle, Colmanara Marie Riopelle, and finally Lycanisia Marie Riopelle. She was married to Jim Riopelle who was also a Judge emeritus and passed away in 1998. Marie was very independent and lived by herself in Portland, Oregon where she took care of nearly 1000 square feet of orchids. She used to tell me that she wanted to die with her boots on and dirt under her fingernails. Marie, you might not have totally gotten your wish, but your boots hadn't been off for very long. We shall all miss you and the unique perspective you brought to the orchid growing world.
By David Morris
Photo of Miltonia Dainty Miss X Grant Kelley
7920 S. Zimmerman Rd.
Canby, Oregon 97013