On Sept. 19, 2011, I became an octogenarian. Up until that time, I wasn't even sure I could spell it. It's not like being a Kiwanian, a member of Lions, Rotary, Downtown Vision or even the Chamber of Commerce! I had actually reached 80 years of age. That didn't seem possible, but I doubt my parents would have lied to me; so I was stuck with making the best of the situation.

2011 was initially a banner year for me. Getting the world premiere of my musical, Dream Your Dream: The Buffalo Jones Story, produced at our community college in July was an incredible, exciting experience. After 20 years of working on the show, seeing the production was totally unforgettable! And I still have great appreciation for the director, musicians, cast and crew members who made that possible.

But highs are sometimes followed by lows, and that's what happened when I injured my back in late August. The rest of 2011 was somewhat of a blur because of the incessant pain and discomfort. Lots of things I wanted to accomplish didn't get done. And some of the stuff I got done was, how should I put it, screwed up. Rather frustrating, to say the least.

I quickly came to have a more heightened appreciation of folks who suffer or have suffered with back pain. But, on Jan. 9, Dr. Britton and his surgery crew at St. Catherine, completely corrected the problem. I don't know if a mechanic from Marv's Garage assisted, but the bolt they installed has surely done the trick of making my pain disappear. Thanks, again, to Dr. B and his whole crew. Our community is fortunate to have such dedicated medical professionals, including all their helpers!

Spring's arrival allowed me to resume playing golf, where I get a bit of exercise in spite of riding a cart. And Buffalo Dunes was and is a wonderful respite from the nasty heat and drought we endured in late spring and early summer. The temperature there always seems 10 to 15 degrees cooler, even though some are skeptical of that claim, including my dear wife.

The nice weather finally allowed us to get our patio swing re-hung. My dad built the swing 90 years ago, so it's a family heirloom Orvileta and I really enjoy.

But the pleasant reveries encountered during a turn in the swing can cause one to make grievous mistakes. My attention was called to a leaky garden hose connection. A new gasket was needed. And the dreaded kitchen "junk drawer" was the designated locale of possible unused gaskets. Thus I fell over the abyss!

Oh, yes, two packets of gaskets were found, the hose connection duly repaired and the water leak corrected. But it took almost 30 minutes to locate the gaskets in the first place. Secondly, there was no retreat: the drawer had to be dealt with straight on!

Ugh! At least three hours later, the battle was won: all the "stuff" was separated; the 28 screw drivers, five sets of pliers, 10 measuring tapes, 25 different kinds of tape duct, packing, scotch, plumbers, etc., etc. nuts, bolts, nails, tacks of every kind and shape, rope, string, wire and much more, was securely placed in large and small plastic jars and containers neatly rowed and located in order of supposed importance. Wow! What an accomplishment! Who would have thought it? But the problem was that I had loads of other, more important things I wanted and was supposed to do that afternoon. And none of that got done all because I fell into the "junk drawer" trap.

So, folks, when emergencies happen at your place necessitating any repair items, here's my fervent advice: do not go near the kitchen, or even your garage workbench. Get your car keys; drive to the nearest hardware store (thus helping stimulate the economy); buy what you need, even two just in case you screw one up. Then go home and fix the problem, all in the course of 20 minutes. All those other things you wanted to do will then be waiting patiently for your attention!

The only good news: I did find a "Franklin D Roosevelt for President" button in that drawer. But I swear it really hasn't been that long since I cleaned it out!

Duane West, a longtime resident and former mayor of Garden City, is a member of The Telegram board of contributing writers.