Saturday, May 23, 2015

And All the Way from Oklahoma...

So here is a complete emergency kit - all the way from Oklahoma!  It is portable, plastic and that jug of ol' Jack will fit it in my back pocket when hiking in snake country.  This is, amazingly enough, also a holistic herbal concoction to be taken to safeguard mental health.

No!  Oh, no!  I just got snakebit!

Friday, May 22, 2015

M'am! We've Already Answered Your Question! (So Sit Down and Shut Up)

Something terrible and ugly is coming to the neighborhood - strip mining for limestone - directly across the road. I simply cannot express the full depth of my dismay.

The notification came in the mail a couple of weeks ago. The Wabaunsee County Planning Commission would be holding a public hearing to consider a Conditional Use Permit to establish a ledge rock quarry - directly at the end of my drive way. It felt like a blow to the gut.

All that noise! Traffic. Huge machinery. Dust. The methodical destruction of the prairie. The peace and quiet I so dearly love destroyed, possibly for several years. My deepest disappointment is that the beautiful view I have lived with and loved will be utterly destroyed and permanently changed.

Yes, the land must be restored and reseeded with native plants. Eventually the earth will heal. But those of us who live next to this property will have to endure living with the ugliness and destruction of a rock ledge quarry for however many years it may take to utterly exhaust the limestone, fill the earth back into the holes, and wait for nature to run her course.

It was the first time I have ever attended a zoning hearing but it went as I expected. One landowner is in the process of turning a historical home, guest house and barn into a large event center that can and will serve alcohol. The woman who lives directly across the road told the commission her family moved to the country to live in the country not live across the street from a business. She was definitely opposed. Only one commissioner voted "no" but his vote was not actually in favor of her concerns. He was voting against the Kansas City and Topeka people who would come to the country and "complain about the smell" of cow manure. ? ? ?

Then the order of business turned to the foregone conclusion that the commission would vote in favor of the rock quarry strip mining directly across the road from my property. My next door neighbors live in an old limestone home that could easily be damaged by the slamming and pounding it takes to break the limestone - so it can be hauled to Topeka and Kansas City where the people with the sensitive noses live. The neighbors came prepared with insurance concerns, advice from the State of Kansas geologist, and science in their request that the mining be limited to 500 feet from their old limestone home. The commission took a minute to speed read the letter from my neighbors. I am guessing no one read the letter in its entirety.

Since Wabaunsee County has been allowing the destruction of the prairie for years, no one expected to actually put a stop to it. For me, it was the attitude of the men involved that commenced a smolderin' in my gizzard. Four women spoke. If a woman attempted to speak over a man, the chairman immediately barked an order for her to stop. Not a single man received a public scolding. Indeed, the men accorded nothing but the utmost respect for one another.  The room was full of patronizing attitudes, and the good ol' boy bullshit was so deep I wondered why no one complained of the smell. (No Kansas City or Topeka people present, I assume.)

I believe everyone in the room is a decent human being. The commission members are likely well versed in fending off verbal abuse and keeping the peace when people seriously disagree over zoning issues. The man filing for the conditional permit is surely a good man but his attitude rankled me. He likely makes a nice living strip mining limestone. I wonder how happy he would be if someone spent several years creating an enormous, ugly, noisy mess next door to his home. How tolerant would he be to have his property value negatively impacted by an incredible eyesore? How tolerant would any of the commissioners be if a biker gang or halfway house for meth addicts set up shop next door? I want to live within eye sight and earshot of a rock quarry as much as any of those men would want to live next to a biker gang club house!

I had several questions, and though the men answered, I was not satisfied with every answer. People were tired of the discussion. Each time the chairman tried to move on, I had no choice but to speak up. The last time I did, in his best woman-scolding voice he declared "M'am! We've already answered your question!" The unspoken words "So sit down and shut up" lingered in the air for a brief moment before the order of business moved on.

As far as strip mining goes, grubbing out the limestone is fairly benign and the earth will heal. The commissioners have made a good faith attempt to keep the peace and accommodate and alleviate as many concerns as possible over this issue. I would be very angry if my neighbors were able to put a stop to anything I wanted to do on my own property. But, oh, it would be a great world indeed if the aesthetic objections against living across from a big dance hall or a rock quarry held the same value as a man's desire to destroy the beauty and peace of the neighborhood.

This beautiful scene from the end of my drive way will eventually be strip mined.
Under Assault
Everything on the horizon past these trees will be laid bare and the limestone removed.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Kind Faces

To get good photos of the mares and colts in this pasture, I had to come to the fence. When I came to the fence, so did the horses. I was lucky to get any photos at all. The world already has many pictures of horses with their faces over a fence.

The first horses to greet me (get in my line of vision) were babies and youngsters. Should I live to be 300 years old, attention from a horse will never fail to delight me. I petted each beautiful face in turn. Then Big Mamma parted the crowd, coming to investigate. She waited a very polite 30 seconds for everyone to give way then she sped up the proceedings with flattened ears and a threat to bite. Everyone immediately gave her royal highness space front and center. I was allowed to pet her face and neck, but with no treats forthcoming, she summarily ended the audience. With her regal behind moving away, the more timid herd members came to the fence.

When all the horses, young and old, were satisfied there was nothing in it for them, they all moved back out of reach of the fence. I returned to my car - down a steep and slippery bank. By the time I was back in the car, these two little guys, most assuredly at the very bottom of the pecking order, had their turn at the fence. If only I had a carrot or an apple or a peppermint on hand! It would have been worth the climb back up the hill to pet these adorable creatures. Because I did not have anything to give them, I did not return to the fence, which was surely just as well. If their boss is as mean as Ginger, they might have been punished for getting a treat when she did not. They stayed close to the fence patiently watching, just in case, then they turned away, too. They looked so sad! I was sad, too.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Morning After the Storms

Early Sunday after the storm.

Snokomo School pump in the brilliant light

Tall Grass Spring

Weathered the Storm

In the Cool Shade

Better than church

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Enough Rain to Drive for Miles

It has been raining - honestly raining - for a couple of weeks. There is thunder and lightning and wind, and then rain falls from the sky for longer than one minute. Instead of dusty, cracked dirt there is mud. The clouds in the sky are normal Kansas clouds and not mere wisps of vanishing vapor. For far too long there has only been "fake" rain - thunder, lightning and wind but only a stingy spit of rain. I was afraid the Kansas climate had permanently changed.

Now the grass is so high it will take two days to mow. There has only been a window of opportunity to mow once so far. Let me clarify. I have only felt like mowing once of any of the times I could have mowed so far. The most important perk of living in the country is that the neighbors will not complain about a lack of yard work. Do not think the absence of social pressure means I will never mow.  The back half of the fattest, longest black snake - ever - disappearing into the grass by the chicken pen is more than enough incentive to keep the lawn civilized. I happened to be standing at the front door when I noticed the snake. Jake was sitting back a safe distance watching it. He lazily eked out one lame "arf", then looked at me.

"You are FIRED!" I shouted at that worthless dog.

He does not care.

These long years of drought meant I have not driven in the rain after dark.  It has been such a long time that it was unnerving the other night, especially when I realized my eyesight has diminished. I slowed down to compensate. I appreciated the rhythm of rain against the windshield, the "slishing" roll of the tires, and the slick light reflections smearing across the landscape. I was thankful for the life-giving rain replenishing the streams and ponds and the lakes, restoring the moisture deep in the prairie soil, refilling the wells.

With rain like this the prairie explodes into lush and extravagant green. When nature adorns herself yet again with the celebratory finery of a verdant spring, I wonder at the living processes we take for granted. The earth is a marvel, alive in the same manner as we are alive. We must realize this and act accordingly before we succeed in stopping the rain forever.

Rain has magical properties beyond the natural, too. The outside temperature display in my Ford stopped at 50 degrees last winter and has not wavered a single degree since. Driving in the rain suddenly brought it to life. When I noticed, it was negative 7 degrees. As the wet interstate miles rolled, the numbers steadily fell until it was 33 degrees below zero in my driveway. Taking my chances that I would not be instantly freeze dried if I left the safety of the car, I stepped into the welcome rain and did not mind getting wet.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Grumpy Old Woman Complaining

People, I know that with every passing second, an American my age becomes less and less valuable, less marketable in the work place, less important as a consumer, less valued as a citizen. Alright. I am good with that. I had my day in the sun. I am fixin-to-get-ready to retire so I can just fade away and leave the world to the cell phone addicts. Before I go, I have a couple of things to get off my chest.

First of all, goddamn it, a point is MOOT - not MUTE! Mute means silent. Moot means irrelevant or open to debate. It is pronounced moooooot. (If cows could make a point, they would make moot points. Oh, I crack myself up!)

Americans once held the grand idea of educating every child - a marvelous, democratic and noble idea! So how did almost 318.9 million people reach the age of majority without understanding "they're, there, their"?

They're - a contraction of "they are".
Their - a possessive plural pronoun.
There - refers to place, an adverb

Now pay attention: "They're going there with their children."

Not that I myself posses perfect grammar. It is impossible for me to even catch my own mistakes because I was born in Kansas, raised in Kansas, and have lived here my entire life. I am never sure how to properly use was/were. My writing is full of such errors that I wholeheartedly, without shame, blame on the Kansas vernacular in which I have been steeped lo these many years.

I struggle to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. There is even a prepositional joke:

A PhD, between flights was waiting in a crowded airport. A friendly Kansan sits down next to her and asks, "Where you goin' to?"

The PhD sniffed, "I do not answer people who end their sentences with prepositions."

"Okay. Where you going to, bitch?"

Grammar issues are nothing compared to cell phone etiquette. If we are in a face-to-face conversation, unless you are the President of the United States or an Obstetrician, do NOT check your texts every five minutes - or every ten minutes. Trust me, it can wait. I am dying even as we speak! Have some respect.

Monday, April 13, 2015


The handsome pup

Nothing lasts forever - not the sun, nor the moon. Not a human life and certainly not the life of a dog. I called the old Duke in from the rain one final time early Saturday morning. A thunderstorm was almost on us. He was not doing well at supper and I did not want him out in the rain. I had to look for him with a flashlight. Wherever he had been, he faithfully came when called one last time. When I went toward the garage, he could not go any longer.

Unable to lift him, I got a sheet of cardboard to move him, but realized that he was dying. I stayed with him then until the good dog passed out of his old worn out body, leaving me behind.

He came home in the arms of my son in April of 1999, and took his leave in April 16 years later. He lived a set of four rounds of four, befitting a good and wise spirit such as he.

I do not believe there is a human being on the planet who truly deserves the love and devotion of a dog. I did not deserve such a good companion.

The old graybeard

Inspecting the construction materials

Trying to have a back scratch in the tall grass but what happens?  JAKE!

He asked for so little for what he gave.

Nothing Duke loved more than a cold winter morning!

Just call and then get out of his way!

Now I do not know where his spirit may be.