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Pony Express: Day-in day-out performances

For the ninth straight year, the folks who are recognized and honored in this column with DIDO Awards for day-in-day-out performances will be more important than the glitzy stars who win Oscars in multi-million dollar movies honored by the Motion Picture Academy.

Everybody loves to give awards. A month or so ago, the Golden Globes people beat the Oscar crew to the punch and named top movies, actors and actresses. They don't just name the top movie of the year, they name the top drama and the top comedy/musical and one actor and actress for each category. They awarded "Argo" the top drama of the year and "Les Miserables" the top comedy/musical with Daniel Day-Lewis the top actor in a drama and Hugh Jackman best actor in a comedy/musical. When the Academy Awards come out on February 24th, it will be much simpler. The top movie will be "Lincoln" and Daniel Day-Lewis will be named top actor for bringing Lincoln to life.

But those awards mean nothing. Last year the Oscar for best movie went to "The Artist" and top actor was Jean Dujardin for his leading role in "The Artist." The Academy said "The Artist" was brilliant. I would have believed that, but I saw it. It was a silent, black and white movie that was, because of my lack of brilliance and lack of appreciation for things brilliant, for me, a colossal waste of time -- dull.

Celebrities aren't important, even though there are at least a half dozen magazines at every checkout counter featuring their lives, loves, divorces, split-ups, weight losses, weight gains, tummy tucks and plastic surgery.

If celebrities aren't important, who is? I'm glad you asked. Solid, non-celebrity day-in-day-out performers are important. That's what the DIDO awards are all about. In the past we have recognized a shoe repair couple, a cheerful bakery lady, a once-in-a-lifetime secretary with a world class work ethic, technical college students, nursing home workers, railroad engineers, nightshift workers, teachers and two-job workers among others.

This year we recognize three categories for day-in-day-out excellence. The first is the clerks at hardware stores. I'm not talking about checkout clerks at big box stores where they sell wrenches but don't know how they work, I'm talking about old fashioned hardware clerks. I appreciate the experience, know-how and helpfulness of these folks. If you go in, as I have, to get a hose fitting, they will remind you that you will need washers too and that rubber washers will suit your needs better than metal washers. If you need a pump fitting, as I have, they'll tell you not to connect a hose to that outlet or try to force a rubber plug in the opening -- you need a pipe-thread plug. This is not salesmanship, it's service. May we always have hardware clerks who know their stuff for those of us who don't.

The second category is voluntary firefighters. We needed them at our house last month, not for a fire, but for smoke. Through accident or mistake (probably mistake), we had a flu damper close in our fireplace with a fire in it. The smoke couldn't go up the chimney so it forced its way around the glass doors and filled our house with smoke in a matter of minutes. The Fire Department was called and in no time a crew leader arrived and diagnosed the problem on the spot. The fireplace doors needed to be opened, the fire snuffed out, the smoking logs removed and the house aired out. When he was nearly finished, I commented to Eartha, "I'm glad we didn't get the fire trucks, sirens and all the rest." About that time, two huge fire trucks with sirens ringing and lights flashing were out in the street and about 20 volunteer firemen surrounded our house. They had a ladder on the chimney which they checked out from top to bottom and made sure absolutely no stone was unturned. The whole episode started at about 9 p.m. and was mostly over by 9:45. These guys all looked young, strong, handsome and eager to serve. They all had other things to do I'm sure, but there they were ready to risk their skin for somebody in the community, and they standby to serve 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, because they care. Hats off to the firefighters.

The third category is the workers in the oil fields of Bakken Formation in western North Dakota. The Bakken rush is probably the world's largest oil development in the last 30-40 years. And it takes manpower/womanpower -- drillers, truck drivers, heavy equipment operators, geologists, engineers, clerks, mechanics, roughnecks, supervisors and laborers. It's hard work and much of it is dangerous, but day-in and day-out these workers are making North Dakota one of the most prosperous states in the union. Hats off to oil workers.