Wednesday, November 27, 2013


The first time I recall mention of whangdoodles was when I read about them in William Least Heat Moon's first book, Blue Highways.  He took off in a van for a year, following the roads on atlas maps marked in blue - secondary highways - then wrote about his experiences.  He was somewhere down south when the locals warned a particular reservoir was haunted by whangdoodles.  I think he was a hopeful skeptic and decided to camp at that reservoir.  All through the night strange banging and noises surrounded his van.  Just because a world renown author writes about his experiences with whangdoodles is not scientific proof that they exist.

Every night when the sun goes down, I have to go into the chicken pen, find the three new hens and physically stuff them into the coop.  They are afraid of Big Hen, I suppose, since she bullies them every day.  I do not know what I am going to do to convince them they need to roost in the safety of the coop.  For now, I have to put those little chickens to bed in the dark. 

Last night was a starry night.  It was the kind of night I love the most: cold, calm, and beautiful.  After "tucking the chickens in", I was thinking of going to visit the horse persons when a loud, organic sound came from the general direction of the barn.  I cannot describe the noise.  It was surely made by a large animal, maybe a cow or even a horse, except I have never heard either animal make that particular noise.  It could have been the noise a cougar makes when it yawns.  You know, like right before it decides to attack a human being?  Except the dogs would have been going crazy barking at a cougar.  The dogs did not even appear to acknowledge the sound, as if they had not heard it at all. 

I stood in the dark a long time watching the dark outline of the barn, hoping to see if the horses were up there.  I never saw anything move but I gradually got the feeling that the noise I heard was probably a whangdoodle, so I came back to the house and locked the doors.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Cheap Thrills

The end of the line for the dog bed.  Glad I got it on sale.  I think Jake would agree it was worth every penny.

What are you gonna do?

Friday, November 22, 2013

Three Little Hens

Finally, I dialed a phone number and someone answered! I have been looking for a few little hens as companions for my single surviving Braveheart hen. One lady hung up on me and never called back. I am not sure what that was about. The other advertisers were too far away or did not have what I wanted. One advertiser on Craigs List seemed to be professional but there was never an answer when I phoned. I gave it one last try today and lo, a voice speaketh from the Chicken Realm.

First I talked to an older man. He was friendly and enthusiastically willing to sell me a few little hens. Yard art, he called them. He gave me overly detailed directions, including a description of driving past the "old, awful house" and "come on back - we'll take care of you!"

When I called before leaving work to confirm, I spoke to a different person, a younger man. He was a salesman! He imported his chickens from Holland and was one of only four breeders of Dutch Bantams in the country. He would give me a deal. And he tried to sell me a rooster.

Well, it was a dark and stormy night when I finally left work for the special chicken breeding haven beyond the "old, awful house". I know I am not as smart as I once was, but sometimes things happen that demonstrate how much I have truly lost. The first thing was driving all over southeastern Shawnee County because I apparently have lost the capacity to drive directly down the streets I have known since 1974. I was not lost. I simply failed to turn on the proper streets, going several miles out of my way. I knew exactly where I wanted to go, but for whatever reason, I drove through intersections as if I were on my way to a different place. I finally drove to the address and turned into a dark and narrow drive. By then it was entirely dark and an icy rain was falling.

It was a good thing the first man had warned me about the "old, awful house". It was an enormous old three story farm house that was coming down in large, square blocks of old wood. In the gloom, it was spooky. I began to worry about axe murderers who lure their victims with chickens. ("Come on back - we'll take care of you!")  If so, they were cheerful and friendly murderers.  It might not be too gruesome an end. A woman waiting for me with a flashlight showed me to the cages where earlier someone penned several little black hens. Even though the pen was under a big car port structure, their feathers were sprinkled with the icy rain. Poor little peckies!

There were only three in the pen and at one glance I said I would take them all. That is when I realized I had forgotten the transport box in the car - another indication of my foggy brain capacity. No problem. The woman scooped up two and I took the other. The little chickens were sleepy and only made a minor fuss. Cash and chickens changed hands then and I was on the road to home in the first winter storm of the season. I could hear their tiny little cheeps and mutters as they tried to deal with being rudely awakened and jostled around in the pitch black interior of a cardboard box while Joe Bonamassa played the best blues guitar licks known to mankind.

They are tiny little hens, entirely black, much smaller than crows, maybe even smaller than pigeons. The woman said they were almost full grown, but they are not mature hens. Now it is after midnight and I checked on them in the box in the garage. They are fine. When  I looked up Dutch Bantams online, I discovered that Mr. One-of-Only-Four-Breeders-in-America was either lying or seriously misinformed. Everyone is breeding Dutch Bantams. Oh well. I have the chickens I want and that is the mainest main thing.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Jake the Bad Dog

The last detail Dan the builder had to complete was to pour the front sidewalk.  I knew I should have penned the dogs before I left for work the morning the concrete truck arrived.  Let me clarify.  I knew I should have penned Jake before I left for work.  Yes, there are dog paw prints in the new sidewalk but none of them, not even a toenail scratch, belong to the Good Dog Duke.  He knew to steer clear of things that do not concern him.  Jake the Bad Dog clearly enjoyed several trips across the concrete.  The final invoice from Dan contained an official builder apology at the bottom: "Sorry about the dog prints."  Of course, the fact that there are permanent dog prints in the sidewalk does not cause a disturbance in The Force, but it is another black mark against the Bad Dog Jake.

The dogs sleep on the front porch of the new house.  They will sleep there until cold weather makes them sleep in either the hay bale shelter or the big igloo dog house at night.  When it gets really cold this winter, I will let them into the garage at night.  Tonight I brought home a brand new sleeping pad big enough for Duke.  No amound of coaxing or putting a treat on the far side of the pad convinced Duke that it was his.  When I opened the front door to see if it was raining, I discovered enthroned in the center of the cushy new red pad the undeserving Bad Dog Jake.  So, I guess I need to get another sleeping pad for the front porch and hope that the Bad Dog Jake does not possess the selfish behavior of a snotty red American Quarter Horse mare I know - the one who insisted on keeping her pasture mate out of both barn stalls, though she herself could only use one. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Pyramids of Kansas

It was about a week too late for photographs of the enormous mounds of the north central Kansas milo harvest by the small town of Glen Elder.  This was the last uncovered hill and it only shows a bit of the marvelous striations of colors from the various strains and hybrid seeds.  Normally these enormous hills are beautiful mosaics of yellows, golds, reds, browns and beige.  Every year when I drive by, I wish for my camera.  I remembered to take my camera this time but just missed the best and most beautiful.

At this particular site, there are three huge covered buildings, and there were three enormous outdoor mounds already covered with the heavy plastic tarps. I failed to get a good picture of the entire complex.  There are millions of bushels of milo there.

According to, in 2011 Jewell County led the state in highest sorghum production with 5.95 million bushels followed by Smith County with 4.97 million bushels. Mitchell, Rooks and Osborne County rounded out the top five. Marshall County saw the highest yields in 2011 with 112.5 bushels per acre.  Glen Elder is in Mitchell County.  Kansas typically produces between 40 and 50% of the nation's sorghum crop. 

My "warm and fuzzy" feelings about milo was dealt a blow when I read that the Kansas Grain Sorghum Producers Association "continues to play a key role in advocating and protecting crop protection choices for Kansas sorghum farmers. KGSPA is one of the founding leaders of the Triazine Network, a national coalition of agriculture groups who continue to work to keep the atrazine and other triazine herbicides available to growers."   KGSPA is the only organization with a registered lobbyist representing sorghum growers in the Kansas Legislature.

After reading that, I went to the Environmental Protection Agency web site.  The EPA is concerned with the widespread contamination of drinking water.  "Atrazine is currently one of the most widely used agricultural pesticides in the United States, with estimated production of 76 to 85 million pounds annually."

All I can say is that I am thankful for the EPA's monitoring of this herbicide.  I hope they know what they are doing.

Monday, November 11, 2013

I Apologize. My Brother's Lamp Is Not the Ugliest Lamp In the Known Universe

This is bad.
This is worse than "bad".  It is creepy.
This is not creepy or cheesy or bad.  It is pure ugly.
This is sad. 
Ugly and cheesy = Cheegly?
In my humble opinion, this is What The F**k ugly. 
I apologize to both of my dear brothers.  The dungeon lamp is a true work of art compared to the electric blue frog.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Is Bad Taste Genetic?

There may be some people on the planet who are so highly evolved aesthetically that they cannot abide anything ugly or unpleasing within their sight.  They are the people who own purebred animals, limited edition cars, designer clothing, and critically acclaimed artwork.  Clearly, no one in my family enjoys membership in that exclusive and limited group.

I unashamedly shared with the world the orange and fluorescent green old-lady sneakers I wear for mowing and working at the barn. I humbly admit they are ugly - very, very ugly. Once a person begins to admit and own shameful secrets, it is difficult to stop. I confess my brothers are also guilty of incredibly bad taste. It is possible that together they found the most unattractive table lamp in the long and torturous history of unattractive table lamps.

Exhibit A, presented here for your perusal, is the lamp my brother Randy found somewhere in his brave and crazy travels across the world.  (Not surprisingly it was discovered for sale within the state of Kansas.) He bought this lamp as a gift for our youngest brother Mark who has always been interested in the Arthurian Legend and the Medieval historical period.

Some creations are singular.  Their unique and distinctive existence produces an aura, an energy that, regardless of purpose, marks their existence as peerless.  They become the epitome of some aspect of themselves.  Exhibit A falls into that singular group of artifacts.    

Mark graciously accepted the lamp. He ferociously defended it through marriage and divorce, and perhaps even more telling, through a much later subsequent romance. The 1970's avocado green sofa inherited from our parents could not be successfully defended forever. The sofa miraculously made it through the marriage, but fell at some point in my brother's current relationship. That he gave up the beloved but ugly and FREE couch is tangible proof of the depth of his enduring love. But even that fierce love cannot part my brother from his ugly lamp.

When I contemplate this item, I realize that there were surely two such lamps purchased originally - one for either end of the sofa. There were likely dozens and dozens of these lamps created somewhere on this earth. Conceived by an artist or a designer, executed in a modern manufacturing center, then with much effort and energy, sent across the world for consumption by eager home owners and interior decorators. Maybe the only thing left of the entire conception, birth and life cycle is this one lamp, the lone survivor, rescued from extinction and obscurity by my own brothers.

Anything as singular and rare deserves something far better than the ugliest lamp shade known to mankind.  I have a new mission in life as of this morning:  a quest for the holy lampshade.  Help me, Lord.


Monday, November 4, 2013

Vera Road

When Did Coke Bottles Become Worthless?

Some months ago I discovered that Coke was selling small six packs of Coke in glass bottles with metal caps, just like the old days! This made me happy. I thought Coke was making a trend toward reusing benign glass containers. This also made me happy because those tiny bottles were perfect to enjoy a Coke at home. Eight ounces with ice is exactly the right amount to satisfy my craving for something sweet, but not so much sugar and carcinogens that I feel guilty. A six pack would last several weeks. Eventually I had six little cartons of small Coke bottles to return to the store for the deposit. I bagged them all up and hauled them to town yesterday.

When I checked out at the grocery store, I set all of the empties on the conveyor, and the young - very young - check out girl was taken aback. "You have empty bottles." She looked at me accusingly. I thought maybe she was slow or damaged, and I was irritated with her. The sad truth is that she was truly mystified by the cartons of empty bottles. She had to call another kindergarten-aged "manager" over where they slowly explained to me that they do not accept empty bottles, with the exception of glass milk jugs. They were irritated with me for holding up the line and interfering in their day. We all looked at each other, wondering what planet the other generation was from. The baby manager politely asked/told me she was giving my bottles back as she was gingerly loading them back into my cart.

So this is what our decades of recycle and reuse and environmental consciousness have come to: millions of glass bottles going to the trash. I left the store feeling embarrassed in the short term, and depressed overall. Apparently it is cheaper for Coke to just make new bottles forever than it is to reuse them. Nothing in our government, nothing in our laws, and nothing we have taught our children has made a bit of difference in the wasteful, consumer society we have created.

I have four little bottles of Coke left in the refrigerator. I am going to enjoy them because they will be the last ones. I have to find a place to recycle the empties I have now. And it occurs to me to ask why my adult children have not kept me informed and up to date regarding what the hell is going on in the world these days? It is part of their job description as my offspring to keep me from embarrassing myself.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

October Closes Spectacularly and November Dawns Lovely

Coming Home

November Dawns Golden and Lovely

Fertile Are the Fields and Pastures

The View from I 70

Imagine this vista, requiring millions of years to evolve to this beauty, being destroyed by fracking...