IDAHO FALLS, IDAHO – Welcome back to another Friday mailbag edition, where I respond to the latest letters you’ve sent in.

I’m writing this message to you from Bill’s kitchen table. Bill is a dear reader who lives in Idaho Falls. He offered to help us get up and running for our big road trip east.

We flew from New York to Idaho Falls yesterday. Bill picked us up from the airport, fed us, and let us sleep the night at his place (Penny and I slept in Bill’s RV).

In a minute, Bill is going to take us to the lot where we parked our car. Hopefully we can get it started…

Here’s Penny this morning. And that’s Bill…


Bill and Penny in Bill’s RV

I can’t believe we’re about to take a three-week road trip in a car we haven’t seen in nine months… we can’t be sure how well it works… and that is filled with junk – and possibly mold.

We’re so unprepared for this 5,000 mile drive. But oh well, unto the breach we go once more…

Now, before we dive into this week’s mailbag, I want to thank you, as always, for your letters… especially the kind and supportive letters you sent in about my Dad (Grandpa) and cancer.

And also, for all the kind and encouraging letters you send us about the essay Dusty wrote recently.

I will never get tired of saying this, but your letters have been a massive resource of energy for my family and me.

We would’ve quit writing these Postcards years ago if it wasn’t for all the kind letters we receive. So thank you!

As for this week’s mailbag… We talk about the Series I Savings Bonds I bought last month… gold-backed credit cards… Grandpa’s 68-year-old model train set… and more. Let’s dive in…

Reader comment: I have been reading your Postcards From the Fringe for many years. I am also a subscriber to The Bonner-Denning Letter. This is my first time sending a comment. Your post about your bout with depression gave me a flashback. I also had a similar experience. And like you, I have recovered and happily recommitted to my wife with four kids. I am truly thankful to God for bringing me back from the brink.

I have also been homeschooling my children for the past eight years. It’s hard, but a wonderful experience. Thank you for sharing your experience. It encourages me and blesses me. Keep on doing what you are doing. You have a gift for encouraging others. When you are in the Los Angeles area, my family would love to meet you and your family and trade some homeschooling experience over a meal.

Oh man, I feel so thankful, too. I can’t believe I almost threw this life away. Thanks for writing in and for your kind invitation. We’d love to meet you and trade homeschooling experience over a meal!

Reader comment: I respect the way you have spent time with your father at this time. It would be easier, in most cases, to have not. While all family dynamics are different, generally, we enjoy family in smaller doses. It speaks volumes to your family bond and will also be a great example for your kids.

Enjoy your journey back to our part of the country, (the west), and just know that my money is on your approach to educating your kids. Have fun, be safe, and keep writing 🙂

It’s been an amazing experience camping with Grandpa in a one-bedroom apartment for almost eight weeks… and like nothing we’ve ever done before. I think we could live there permanently with Grandpa… that’s how much we loved staying there.

We’d just have to fix the sleeping arrangements somehow so Grandpa wasn’t sleeping on a blow-up bed in the living room a few inches off the floor, where it’s not easy to get in and out of bed.

Reader comment: I just read your latest Postcard and it is in a very different tone. I can’t decide if you had an extra glass of wine or if you are just very excited to get back on the road into rural America. After the time you have spent with your father, I’m guessing the latter.

We’re excited to get back on the road. At least I am. I can’t wait to see the Tetons. And the Great Plains. And all those forgotten little towns scattered across the big land.

The kids are excited to see their friends in Driggs again, too. But also, we wish we were staying with Grandpa longer, especially as he now has to go to his radiation appointments by himself.

Oh… and you may be right about the extra glass of wine, too.

Reader comment: This set looks very similar to the Erector Sets I built when I was a child in the 1950s. They were made by the A.C. Gilbert Co. which also made the American Flyer train sets (which I also had).

My Erector Sets are still in my garage with all the parts labeled. The amazing thing is that there were no step-by-step instructions for anything – just photos, which you had to examine very carefully to determine what to put where. Must be why I’m so detail-oriented.

Erector Set and Mecano have both gone out of business. I guess Lego ate their market share. It’s a shame, because they’re great teaching toys…

Reader question: LOVE reading Dusty’s travel tales. So real and so informative. How about having him write once a week?

Many others sent in similar sentiments about Dusty’s essays. Thank you for this and all other kind messages. I read them all to him, and he’s so encouraged. Thank you!

Reader comment: Keep up everything you are doing. I’ve been reading Tom’s work since the early days of “lessons in options.” We did a lot of exploring within the U.S., Alaska and Hawaii. My four children are all over 50 years old now and have never regretted the so-called “weird” lives they lived with my husband and I – never a TV, lessons in musical instruments of choice, alternative schools.

Incidentally, my husband died 31 years ago, never seeing any of his grandchildren. You and Kate are giving your parents the opportunity of meeting your very interesting children. That’s why I say, “Keep Up Everything You Are Doing.”

Thank you for this encouraging and supportive message. We’re probably screwing up our children’s futures, but at least we’re having fun along the way!

Reader comment: I have been reading your Postcards for about two years now. I believe in what you are doing. On the challenge of the Big C, I do recommend natural methods.

I had Stage 3c Colon C in April of 2017. I never did the chemo the oncologist wanted me to do. I just had the surgery, then I did vitamin C therapy.

No C now, no sign of it. I eat all organic foods and look like a man 15 years younger. It is a tough choice for your dad to buck the system. But those doctors make money by pushing chemicals. God did not make those chemicals. Use what God gave us.

I’m happy to hear the news about your excellent health. I can’t personally speak for these natural therapies, but I read your message to my Dad, and you got him thinking. He’s open to natural therapies… and tries to lead an otherwise healthy life.

Reader comment: I pray that your dad gets stronger every day and is on the path to healing. Have a great safe trip!

Thank you, and everyone who sent other messages like this.

Reader comment: Have enjoyed your Postcards for a long time. I guess because many of my thoughts and practices have been much like yours. At 90 years old, I have been on a cash basis since I was a kid, haven’t ever bought anything till I have saved up enough cash to pay for it.

My credit card balance is paid off every month. I have had a GLINT account with a Mastercard debit card for the past two years and am very satisfied with it. It is sponsored by Sutton Bank (U.K.) with a branch in Boulder, CO. Of course, the underlying principle is gold, stored in Zurich and changes in value daily with the price of gold.

The downside that I see is that the IRS classifies gold as a commodity, not as currency, therefore, capital gains tax (tax on loss of purchasing power of the dollar) is due at tax time if the price of gold at the time of the transaction has increased over your cost basis. Keep up the good messages.

This is great intel. Thanks for sharing it. That tax on gold is an outrage, in my opinion. I have never used Glint personally. I don’t plan to use gold for daily payments or as a checking account. For me, gold is for savings and future investments.

Reader comment: I discovered the Series I Bonds last September and maxed out my allowance and my wife’s. Like you, I think this is a good alternative to keeping cash in the bank, especially in light of the current inflation spike.

We maxxed out our allocation to Series I Savings Bonds, too. I’m expecting inflation to fall and for the next scare to be a deflation scare.

But with these bonds we can’t really go wrong… It’s inflation-protected cash guaranteed by the government. The only potential red flag is the one-year minimum holding period. But that’s not a big deal for us…

Reader comment: Have been reading about your family travels for well over a year and always enjoy reading them every day. Your quote from Mark Ford resonated with me as I was also in the Peace Corps about the same time, but in Kenya. I remember reading it when Mark first wrote it several years ago and have quoted him many times.

I do have to admit that I did not “suffer” as much as he did in that I was a doctor taking care of the volunteers, so was staff and lived in a nice home in Nairobi. Also had a vehicle to drive, but all the same it gives me a totally unique perspective on my home country, the USA.

I used to work with Mark Ford, and he’s one of my favorite teachers. His insight about pleasure and joy is one of my favorite lessons about life.

For anyone who missed it, Mark said:

In the mid-1970s, my wife and I were living in a humble three-room house without indoor plumbing in N’Djamena, Chad. I was sitting on our front porch watching the rain spill off the roof and onto our little garden when I had this thought:

“One day, you will live in a big, fancy house back in the States. But you will never live in a house that can give you more pleasure than this one.”

And that’s all for this week! As always, please keep your questions and comments coming at [email protected]. I’ll address as many as I can in future Friday mailbag editions.

– Tom Dyson

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