Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Horse Riding in a Cadillac

Everything can be found on You Tube!

Here is a video of the white horse riding in a cadillac with his two cowboy bud's. But it is even worse than I thought! They feed the horse CHEESEBURGERS!

View it and weep!

Insanity On All Levels

It remains to be seen if a new home will ever be built at Spirit Creek Farm. I have been taking each next step since early this year, and now it is almost December. The building permit has not even been obtained. Who had any idea of the insurmountable details, regulations, permits and bureaucracy requirements a person has to navigate! I have only just now started spending money, and that was for the first survey to prove to the county I am not building in a flood plain. I am not sure this is going to be worth it.

If I succeed in actually getting all the permits, various forms and proofs, and having all the money needed just to get permission from all of the government agencies to build, then I will have to tackle removing the old house and the dilapidated garage. I can foresee a horrible road block and an intense level of frustration and anger when I run into the environmental protection agency bureaucracy and expense, and the Catch 22 of not being able to get the final mortgage until the old buildings are removed.

Would you not think the various governmental blood-sucking vampire entities would want people to build new, energy efficient homes? They are allowed to suck even more tax money once a home is built!

How did we allow ourselves to descend into this bureaucratic hell - for something as simple as building a home? I am ready for a clean slate, in so many areas of my life! Where on this earth can I possibly go to escape the weight and insanity of rules, regulations, oversights, permits, ordinances, inspections, fees, fees, more fees and then taxes and more fees, and signatures and snooping by the mortgage companies and banks? I can choose to become homeless. I could forgo being a property owner, give my chicken flock away, sell Ginger, then Duke and I could become a pair of smelly, ragged travelers hitching across the country, following the warm weather.

I talk to myself now, just not always out loud.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sad Little Chicken And Forest Gump

Nothing is more sad than a chicken without at least one best friend. One of the babies I saved by bringing indoors this summer, the last of the year's babies, has not a single friend in all of the flock. He or she must roost all alone at night. Everyone else has bonded with one or two other chickens, except for this youngster. I guess I will have to intervene and select one of the other chickens to be a friend with this little orphan. After the two of them have been penned together for a week or so, then they will become friends.

Each night I go out and stuff the lonely chicken into a cat carrier that has hay stuffed in it, so the baby can have shelter and protection. I guess the big chickens prevent the orphan from roosting with them. It is very sad, indeed. After all, they are all related.

My chicken flock has morphed into a rag tag of pirates and rouges. The late Mrs. Peckins' son, Junior is now the alpha rooster. He is beautiful with a green tail, magnificent comb and wattles, and is easily twice or three times the size of the other chickens. He takes his duties seriously, but he has never attacked me or even spread his wings and lowered his neck as a warning. I never have to fear turning my back on this rooster. He is too much like Mrs Peckins and not at all like his father, the Evil Roo'.

Cherokee has matured into a beautiful Japanese rooster, with snowy feathers, and a gracefully curving black tail. He acts like a dope and no one takes him seriously. Junior chases him off every single day and Cherokee runs for his life squawking like... well, like a big chicken.

Tenzing Norgay, the very first chick I selected for the farm, is still here. Nobody messes with her. She and Junior rule the chicken kingdom of Spirit Creek. Junior affords her his finest gentlemanly behavior and she leaves him to his king career. If anyone else does a single thing she does not like, she goes after them growling and angry, and everyone clears out. If Cherokee thinks he is going to do his stupid rooster dance for Tenzing, she lines him out in no uncertain terms. Of all the chickens, she is easily the most expressive, determined and certainly the most convincing. If Mama ain't happy, ain't no body happy!

Then there Tenzing's two half grown babies. They inherited a high status in the flock from their mother, and continue to eat by her side, getting the best of the food. There is Black Girl, a Weird Sister/Junior chick, and White Girl, the only pure D'Uccle baby and the last one. White Girl might be White Boy... hard to tell yet.

That leaves the two Weird Sisters. They have never truly integrated into the flock. Not only are they physically different, they are from Back East. They know they do not belong out here in red neck country. They are flighty and nervous and fly into the red bud trees. Though the other chickens could fly into the low branches as well, they never do.

I believe now my chickens were killed by owls in the early mornings this summer. It was the crack of dawn and I had just seen Cherokee scratching beneath the tree before any of the other chickens were up. I saw something large angling through the front porch, past the windows. I rushed to the door, certain Cherokee was a goner. He did not even seem to be alarmed. That is why I believe it was an owl. Their feathers are silent, so Cherokee did not even realize he had almost been served for breakfast. He was contentedly scratching at the remains of the previous evening's meal. Lovable but dumb, his name should be Forest Gump, oblivious to the cruel realities of the world. 

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Lie

The beginning of the holidays always brings on a slight depression for me. It has its roots all the way back to realizing Santa Claus was a hoax. If I could start over with my children, I would never tell them that outrageous lie. When I told the truth to my son, his wounded words were "You lied to me! You lied to me." He was right. He and his sister deserved far better than a nonexistent man flying around the world leaving "good" kids prizes and games. They were good and deserving from the moment they were born.

When you actually believe in Santa Claus and he comes through for you, it is indeed magical. Never again in all of your life will Christmas provide such magic, but you always wish it would, even when you are old. The lasting disappointment of children whose parents can not provide all the things wished for at Christmas could be easily avoided by simply dropping the lie of Santa Claus in the first place. There is something terribly, terribly wrong with an economy that relies on the annual spending glut of a single holiday to carry it the rest of the year.

As an adult you can wish for the existence of such powerful magic, for transformation, to ward off evil, for healing, and great happiness that lasts from one December through the next. We could restore the world with such magic. Too bad that magic is wasted for a lie. Too bad it is sold to us whether we can afford such a lie or not. Too bad we break our children's heart with that lie.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My List and the Sublists and the Side Lists...

Like everyone else, there are a few things I hope to do or see "someday". There are gradients and sub-categories within my list. For example, if I ever just happen to find myself in Egypt, I would certainly like to visit the pyramids. Seeing the Great Pyramid with my own eyes would be spectacular but not as important as finding another horse so Ginger will have someone to boss around other than me (and Terrie the farrier).

One burning desire harbored since childhood is entirely possible though unlikely: bring a horse into the house. Ginger may not be the best candidate for this project. It will have to be a horse in the future. Through the miracle of television, I once saw two old cowboys who owned a Cadillac convertible. They opened the back door and their white, full sized horse stepped into the back seat and sat down on his haunches. Then, all three of them went for a ride. I also saw a couple who reinforced the floors of their home so their full sized gelding could come in to eat spaghetti (with tomato sauce) from a plate at the dinner table. My desires are much less flamboyant than horses riding in convertibles or horses eating Italian.

There are a few things that look impossible at this point in my life. My knees probably would not hold up if I tried to ski in the mountains of Colorado. Unless someone invents the skiing equivalent of the "Hoveround", I likely waited too long to check this off the list. But then again, somewhere, sometime I read about a man who owned a coon dog, the best one he ever owned. The dog was too old to run any more, too old to hunt. The man fed the dog a big helping of his moonshine then took the old hound out hunting one glorious last time. I have never tasted moonshine so I could scratch two items off the list at once: moonshine and skiing. I may want to fact check that moonshine story. It might be a hillbilly myth. (Can we still say "hillbilly"?)

At this point in my life, well past the midway point, even if I live to be almost 98 or almost 100 like my dear grandmothers, there are some things I have to accept as impossible this time around. I will never, ever be able to sing like Janis Joplin, but then, neither can anyone else. I also will not be getting high with Hunter S. Thompson - unless he managed to bargain his way into Heaven with a stash. But, hey, that gives me a brilliant idea: weed in my pocket when I take the skiing moonshine trip. There is a high probability that I could kill three birds with one stone, so to speak.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

An American Thanksgiving

Depressing news this morning. The Wall Street boys are set to get millions in bonuses for their hard work this year while a charitable kitchen providing a Thanksgiving meal to the less fortunate served 8000 people last year and expects to feed twice that many today. Most corporations are doing well for their stockholders but not hiring. Employees cost a lot of money. God bless those hardworking all-Americans raking in the big dollars up on Wall Street. And God bless those American corporations who now have citizen rights under American law.

I changed the channel. I watched a revisit of Edward R. Murrow's 'Harvest of Shame' about the migrant farm workers of 50 years ago. The news was that nothing had changed. Then an amazing thing was reported, something that should have made the news every night in America the moment it was discovered: authorities found farm workers in Florida who were virtually enslaved. Seven different slavery rings have been investigated and successfully prosecuted in that state, freeing thousands of workers.

From the St. Petersburg Times: "A major shame is that Florida's leading lawmakers, not to mention ordinary citizens, have rarely expressed outrage over such abuses, and even fewer have raised a finger on behalf of farmworkers. Former Gov. Jeb Bush and his labor emissary openly criticized the coalition for its work, and Gov. Charlie Crist has yet to show real interest."

"Farmworkers are and always have been excluded from U.S. fair labor standards and are prevented from unionizing. The overwhelming majority of farms hire contractors, or crew bosses, to employ, pay, house and transport workers, thus freeing the growers of culpability for wrongdoing."

God bless Americans privileged to purchase the cheapest food available on the planet.

There was some good news for the migrant farm worker in these modern times: a coalition of about eight or ten American corporate giants have agreed to pay one cent more per pound for tomatoes. The generosity is staggering. God bless those corporate citizens.

If you must watch television today, I recommend only watching the Thanksgiving parade or football. Everything else is a buzz kill.

Monday, November 22, 2010

From the 'Why Bother' File

The National Geographic Channel is free this month with my television satellite subscription. I usually enjoy the programs on this channel but sometimes disturbing information is shown. Yesterday I watched a program about three people who are each convinced they are Jesus returned.

One poor guy has no followers whatsoever. No one believes him. One guy is a former Christian minister from the Philippines who claims millions of followers around the world. He flies around in the sacred helicopter and lives in palatial surroundings and apparently all of his followers are beautiful and whole. The original Jesus never had it so good! The third guy wears white robes and seems terribly angelic.

Do we really think Jesus would have to announce to the world he is back? Would he have to wander the world barefoot without a single follower, or fly around in a helicopter and accept tithes in the millions of dollars? Would he really wear white robes and walk around like a ghost?

Why would these three people deserve a National Geographic program about them? I guess it is true that you get what you pay for.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My Ideas On 25 Years of Marriage

Right away I want to clarify that I am genuinely impressed when two people can remain married for twenty five years. Consider that in the last twenty five years of my life I have been married twice and divorced twice, resulting in a net sum of six years of holy matrimony. I hardly had time to memorize my married name(s) before I was at the courthouse signing divorce papers. A quarter of a century is an overwhelming amount of time, relatively speaking. Is it natural for people to remain married that long? Is it even possible without some sort of coercion?

I have seen photographs of couples who have remained married for fifty or sixty years, sometimes much longer. Their anniversary picture is often shown beside their wedding photograph, so it is plain to see what decades of marriage do to people. I have also observed that people tend to resemble one another after years of marriage. Women need to seriously consider this.

Raising a family might be a good reason to remain under the same roof for more than a few years. Buying food in bulk saves a lot of money and there are the family discounts at popular tourist attractions. If one or more of your offspring begin exhibiting a number of your spouse's disagreeable traits, would those savings really be worth it?

I have known some couples who remained married apparently to continue tormenting each other. Now that is an excellent reason to stay married in my mind. It is a reason I can understand, one I can whole-heartedly embrace. Think of the satisfaction twenty five years of daily irritants like hogging the remote or being forced to hold her purse.

There may be some secret to remaining married for two and one half decades, something I have yet to consider. Maybe separate controls for the electric blanket and the solemn agreement to not hang wallpaper together. I once read about a woman murdering her husband after a dispute involving wallpaper. I passed that information on to my daughter when she married, but in reality, what woman needs a lame excuse like that? When the time comes for my son to marry, you can bet I will warn him about wallpapering.

There could be biological reasons why people remain married. Maybe after a certain number of family vacations taken together in the family car, a genetic mutation occurs and people are then biologically compelled to remain married. I believe that is what happened to my own parents. When I think back, it was probably the year all seven of us went on vacation to Arkansas in a Rambler station wagon.

It was the Sixties. No seat belts, no air conditioning, and 80 mph was the minimum traveling speed. One of my brothers dropped a beebee into my youngest brother's ear, sending him screaming over the front seat in a panic. All fathers have a sex related gene behavior that prevents them from stopping for any reason on vacation. Either my mom mutated or simply lost her will at that instant. No way to really know what happened but my parents are still married.

Originally written for friends celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Shoe Dispersion Rates

It is not much of a mystery how a single shoe might come to be discarded along the pavement of any street or highway. The genuine mystery for me is the number of shoes, boots, high heels, athletic and baby shoes I have noticed over the years.

Maybe the work boots and heavy shoes fall off tool boxes or running boards when they are left by absent minded working men, perhaps after a few too many cold beers? Baby shoes might be thrown out by the babies themselves, or their bored siblings, or maybe they blow off the dash and out the window when Dad gets the family Ford up to speed.

The biggest mystery is how someone can lose a single, size 13 Air Jordan along the Interstate. While I have sometimes witnessed bare feet hanging out a passenger window, I have not seen nearly as many bare feet as I have seen single lost athletic shoes. Does an angry girlfriend throw out half of his footgear? Is the first guy to pass out on a road trip penalized by losing one of his shoes?

I have seen high heels the least often, but they too fall on the pavement, to lay abandoned and forlorn. There is always a fleeting fear that a woman was being transported against her will, but most likely a high heel is lost for the same reason all the other shoes are lost from vehicles.

I also wonder why humans lose shoes out of their cars more than any other item. It seems a shirt or a hat would be the most likely to blow out of a window. I have seen far more shoes along the road than hats. When you think of the number of American feet and multiply that by the five or six pairs of shoes a person has at any stage of life, that makes a huge number of shoes traveling with us in our vehicles at any given time. While we might travel with one hat, we always travel with two shoes. But, a pair of shoes is far more necessary than a hat. It does not add up.

It is a true mystery.

There is probably a scientific explanation for this, maybe a dispersion theory that addresses the rate of lost shoes. When the number of shoes reaches a given density in a population, the rate of shoe dispersion across miles of highways is equal to the sum of disposable income divided by the rate of alcohol consumption, where X is the national rate of carelessness.

This does not begin to address the urban numbers of athletic shoes seen hanging from wires.

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Cyberkit provides this link to a wonderful web site dedicated to lost soles: here

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Algebra = Chicken Feed

The rains arrived at last and all things are washed free of the thick burden of many weeks of dust. The prairie, now radiant in her red gown, is dressed for the winter. These timely, natural events wheel in with the turn of the season and I deeply appreciate them. I never know what lesson the natural world holds out for me. It can be as simple as chicken feed.

The chicken flock was decimated this summer by mysterious death and unfortunate predation, leaving only three experienced and wise chickens alive: two of the Weird sisters and the matriarch Tenzing Norgay. The other chickens are babies, one season old to just a few months. Essentially, they are the surviving of the fittest. They must be fairly smart.

The babies only know that I throw their scratch under a certain tree. Yesterday morning in the pouring rain, I attempted to show them I was throwing their scratch under the front porch deck. When they saw me, they knew it was time to eat. They came running, chuckling and murmuring in anticipation. When they saw the bright yellow cup, they began sorting out their pecking order because the feed was about to fall. When I called them a short distance away so they could see the feed fall on the ground beneath the porch, they stood looking at me, muttering worriedly among themselves.

Then Tenzing arrived on the scene. She is the smartest chicken I know. She understands that scratch can be tossed just about anywhere on any given day. Surely Tenzing would understand and lead the others to their dry breakfast, but she was stumped, too.

It was simply too many steps in the algebraic equation for them. It exceeded their logic capacity. I well know that feeling. It is not painful to exceed the limit of my working brain capacity. There is only a roaring silence as I wait for the universe to serve up something I can handle.

Given N + 2 = 4, I can solve for N. Confronted with: 6<=a+2<=-8+10, I am exactly like my chickens: uuuuh?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Winter Friends


Orion

The winter constellations slowly wheeling above a mild November night are truly the most beautiful sight. Past midnight, mighty Orion stands upright in the south, flexing his eternal bow toward the West, and Sirius the dog star, the brightest star of all, follows faithfully at his heels.


Pleiades

High in the tree tops along the west bank of Spirit Creek are the Seven Sisters, daughters of Atlas, glowing in their blue gowns.

Nearby, Cassiopeia, the beautiful but vain queen, sails silent and sorrowful, eternally repenting the boast that her daughter Andromeda was more lovely than the nymph daughters of the sea. Poseidon condemned Cassiopeia to be tied to a throne in the sky.



Opposite Cassiopeia, the Big Dipper pours abundant blessings down from the northern sky. This time of year it hangs vertical in the sky.



Images by Jerry Lodriguss, Astrophotographer. Visit his website here.

Pleiades from Astronomy Picture of the Day. Visit the website here.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Bare Trees


Sunrise

Since I moved to Spirit Creek, I have noticed that the trees in this valley are much later to bud in the spring than the trees in Topeka, and these leaves fall several weeks earlier. Whenever I have mentioned this rather remarkable discrepancy - after all, it is less than thirty miles as the crow flies - some people insist it is due to the sheltered lives of city trees, that they are shielded from the ravages of the wind.

I do not agree with that argument. Only tornadoes and extreme straight winds blow leaves off their trees prematurely. Whatever natural mechanism that binds leaves tightly to the trees changes much earlier here then in town. The weather this fall has been relatively windless, but my trees began shedding their leaves far ahead of the city trees, as usual. I think it has more to do with the artificial light in a city than it has to do with wind. There are also many different species of trees in the city. Different trees might lose their leaves at a different rate than the ones growing along Spirit Creek.

It always takes a few days to adjust to bare trees. Their leaves provide almost complete privacy from the road. They hide the view of neighbor's buildings and soften the noise of power tools or hammering, which are thankfully infrequent. The profusion of mature leaves dresses the land in the look of generosity and abundance. Once the leaves are gone, and the prairie plants have diminished, it seems empty and lonely and cold, except for the tall russet covering of big blue stem, Indian grass and the other hardy tall grasses.

I like the late fall and winter on the prairie. No insects, no snakes, no suffering through high heat and humidity, and I have to work pretty hard to get poison ivy. I do not mind the winter months. But like every living thing, I welcome the return of the leaves each spring.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Jack and the Blue Bicycle

I do not know why, but I have been remembering Jack the neighbor boy who was a year ahead of me in school. He was my nemesis in several categories. He asked fifth grade questions, confident I could not answer since I was merely in fourth grade. I hated that he was always right. Almost fifty years later it finally occurs to me that he could easily have been lying. No body is right ALL the time. I conceded to his older and wiser pronouncements whether I was right or wrong in his slightly mean-spirited Jack Jeopardy.

Though I was strong and tough from riding horses since I was old enough to sit up, Jack was a boy, and one year older, a worthy opponent. I wanted to win when we raced our bikes, or played tag, or war, or whatever game the neighborhood gang was playing. I do not remember losing foot races but I certainly remember losing when we raced bicycles. Jack had an old heavy metal bike, a relic from the last decade, maybe older, maybe even before WWII. I did not have a bike, so I had to race riding his bike, while he rode his older brother's "newer" bike. Though he normally won, I at least had a fighting chance.

Then, my mother ordered a brand new blue Sears and Roebuck 26" girl's bike for me. It had a battery powered light and white handle grips. There was a flat steel platform above the back fender, with white pin striping. I could beat Jack riding my brand new bike. For a short, glorious, euphoric stretch, I won every race against Jack, confidently hauling past him on my new blue bicycle, taunting him into a race to the end of the block, to the school, past Robinson's bushes. Those were sweet days of victory and vindication and outright gloating. I rubbed it in - deep.

But then, my mother, the woman who found a million and three ways to ruin my life at every opportunity, slammed a sudden and horrible handicap on my racing victories. There was only one reason money was spent for such an extravagant purchase: to help my mother. I walked to the little grocery store downtown at least every other day to purchase a few bags of groceries and cigarettes for my mother. If I had wheels, my mother could expect far speedier deliveries. My birthday falls a few days before Christmas, so getting a new bike in the summer was suspect from the first.

The full enormity of her diabolical plan was revealed when Grandpa showed up to install big, ugly wire baskets on either side of the rear tire. Now I could haul fifty pounds of groceries for my mother. I was the only kid in town with old-lady wire baskets on her bike. The thrill of whipping Jack at bike racing was severely diminished. It was difficult to be cool and fast when your bike looked like the Wicked Witch of the West's evil contraption.

My luck crashed even further for within a week or so of the wire basket installation, Jack and his brother and sister received brand new bicycles. They were made overseas of unobtainium, with narrow tires and sparkly paint. My big American steel roadster with wide tires and ugly baskets could not compete against Jack's racers. I clearly remember the depressing realization that I would never again win a bike race against Jack - not unless I could talk him into trading bikes. One time he consented to ride my old-lady bike and let me ride his golden Ferrari bicycle in a race. I won easily but it was the last time. After that, he would not trade bikes and I would not race him, no matter what he said to goad me. We were still friends, and we still rode bikes together, but there was no racing.

Several years ago for my birthday, my kids took me to a restaurant in Lawrence. In late December, in the dark and snow, chained to a light post by the front doors, where I could not miss it, was an old Sears girl's bike with a flat metal platform above the rear fender. It was the same color blue and had white pin striping. It had been restored. It was minus the baskets, but it was the very same model my mother had ordered out of the Sears catalog decades ago.

I was delighted and explained it was exactly like the brand new bicycle my mother had ordered for me one summer. My daughter said "It's Grandma saying happy birthday to ya, Mom." And so it was.