Column: The things that matter: Old dogs and children and …

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 20, 2006

Scott Schmeltzer, Tribune publisher

A couple things in the news recently made me think about an old Tom T. Hall song called, &8220;Old Dogs, Children and Watermelon Wine.&8221; If you remember the song, it recalls an older gentleman that was sipping on some watermelon wine and reminiscing about what he saw in life as the only true good things that stood the test of his time on earth. The man goes on to state the virtues of old dogs and says that in his life, he noticed that old dogs care about you even when you’re down and out. Then he goes on to further state the other true good thing on earth was children because they were too young to know what hate is.

The song comes to the conclusion that old dogs, children, and watermelon wine had been the only constant good that he has seen in his whole life.

Now I don’t know about the watermelon wine, but I have to agree on the dogs and children and that is why I have been bothered as of late.

In the last couple of weeks I have found out about two different news items that made my heart jump, my fists clench and my teeth tighten. The first of these items was about a puppy in Austin that was kicked, beaten, thrown, and mistreated by the owner. Now I don’t know who the owner was, but to beat up on a defenseless puppy has to be about the lowest thing you can do. If I personally ever saw something like that, I would wager a week’s pay that I would be in the confessional for a day or two afterward.

I grew up to turn the other cheek, but as tests from the Lord go, I just don’t think I would pass that one.

Now, the good news is that the puppy that was traumatized was taken to the local authorities, cleaned up and is now living happily with a new foster family.

The next item was about children and the news item that caught my attention and many other concerned parents was about the sex offender list in Minnesota and in particularly Albert Lea and Freeborn County. You see, Iowa has a rule that puts all of its sex offenders on a Web site and from that Web site, a concerned citizen found that five sexual offenders live in the Albert Lea area and some close to schools. As a parent, when anything like that is mentioned, you immediately want to know who, what, when, where, why and how.

As any good parent, you go into protection mode when your kids are involved. You turn into the angry grizzly protecting her cubs.

Well, this story also has some good news to it.

Because of some great people in Albert Lea bringing this story to the forefront of concern, tonight at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium there will be a public forum and discussion that Albert Lea Police Chief Dwaine Winkels in cooperation with community education has put together. Speaking at the forum will be Bill Donnay of the Minnesota Department of Corrections, Detective Frank Kohl, Investigator Chuck Malepsy of the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office, State Rep. Dan Dorman and a representative from the Jacob Wetterling Foundation.

I really think if you have a concern and want to know how to protect your child that attending this forum is a big step in doing just that. Chief Winkels has put together a fine presentation and a group of speakers that have the knowledge to help us out. As a parent myself, I will be there to find out what there is to know to protect my children.

So you can see why the Tom T. Hall song came to my mind and it doesn’t matter if you were old enough to remember the song or not. What does matter is that you are always looking out for the defenseless in life, like puppies and children. It is a big world out there and all of us could use more help in keeping kindness and good on our planet.

Thanks for listening.

(Tribune Scott Schmeltzer’s column appears on Monday.)