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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Column: Geyser’s reliability speaks volumes

In Yellowstone last week on vacation, we noted the many signs posted to let tourists know when Old Faithful – the park’s most famous geyser – would next blow its steam stack. This happens every 60 to 110 minutes and can usually be predicted within a 10-minute window.

Many people plan their day’s activities around Old Faithful, and in the 10 or so minutes leading up to the “window” tourists sit patiently on benches, waiting. Thousands of people wait together. When Old Faithful finally erupts for between 90 seconds and three minutes, a cathedral-style quiet descends upon the crowd, save for the snapping of photos.

The majority of the parks’ approximately 500 geysers erupt on unpredictable cycles. Some lay dormant for years, only to erupt in the middle of the night, when no one’s watching.

Watching and waiting on Old Faithful brought to mind one characteristic appreciated more and more as I age. The characteristic of people who show up when they promise they will, whether it’s showing up on time for something as ordinary as dinner or as extraordinary as holding vigil at a loved one’s hospital bed.

Last week was filled with tributes to the victims of the Navy Yard shooting – 10 of the 12 were in their 50s and 60s, by the way. Loved ones often mentioned the steadfastness of those they lost. Most of the victims had worked at their jobs for a long time; many enjoyed long-term marriages. And they showed up for their volunteer gigs. Frank Kohler, 50, was past president of his Rotary Club; Martin Bodrog, 54, taught Sunday school.

There is a well-worn saying that “Eighty percent of success in life is showing up.” True of geysers, true of people.

Speaking of Yellowstone: We saw a lot of boomers and seniors working in the park, both as rangers and volunteers. They seemed happy to be working in the World Heritage site. The 20-something ranger who led our geyser field tour said an 80-year-old volunteer who grew up near Yellowstone passes on stories he heard as a child, including the fact that early explorers washed their woolen long underwear in the geysers, but the extreme temperatures of the water shrank the underwear to child-size.

AND ONE MORE YELLOWSTONE ITEM: Tourists from other countries pour into Yellowstone in September. They must have all received the memo that said wait to visit until after Labor Day when all the kids are back in school.

Though no-smoking signs were everywhere, especially on the geyser boardwalks, we spotted dozens of folks from other countries blithely ignoring the instruction and puffing away.

GUNS AND GRUB: Several years ago, I sat down with women who were planning a fundraising event, and they told me about the great challenge facing fundraisers in a time when people are inundated with requests to attend breakfasts, lunches, dinners, fashion shows and golf tournaments where silent auctions encourage people to open their hearts and pocketbooks even wider.

They were offering in their silent auction rides in a farmer’s farm equipment. A creative auction item, for sure.

An event titled “Guns and Grub” has figured out something unique, too. At 10 a.m. Saturday people will gather at Landt Farms Spring Sporting Clays in Nine Mile where they will shoot guns and eat barbecue.

The event is in honor of Army Reserve Sergeant Daniel Guerrero of Coeur d’Alene, who is in a military hospital in Texas, recovering from injuries suffered in Afghanistan. Organizer Jeff Hohenthal has more information at or (509) 279-8125.

Guns and Grub made me ponder silent auction items that might appeal to aging boomers. How about a sleep study in a research lab? Or a basement or garage cleanout by a professional who can pitch items your grown children would someday swear at you for saving all those years?

U.S. CENSUS STUFF: 17 million – number of unmarried U.S. residents 65 and older in 2012. This group made up 16 percent of all unmarried people 18 and older. And for every 100 unmarried women in the United States in 2012, there were 87 unmarried men. Also: 33 million people live alone; they comprised 27 percent of all households, up from 17 percent in 1970.


• “Age of Champions” – PBS documentary about five competitors who sprint, leap and swim for gold at the National Senior Olympics, Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. and 2 p.m., sponsored by the Senior Assistance Fund of Eastern Washington, Garland Theater, 924 W. Garland Ave., Spokane, (509) 458-2509.

• Spirituality 101 – a five-week series that explores where spirituality intersects with daily life, led by author Kathy Finley. Begins Thursday evening, 6:30 p.m. at The Franciscan Place at St. Joseph Family Center, 1016 N. Superior St., Spokane. Registration required. (509) 483-6495.

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