Itch....

..... for a while I was an avid genealogist..... I was dogged and voracious and searched incessantly....... I spent hours cataloging my ancestors...... I read hundreds of books, scoured countless census records, and eagerly jotted each name, date, and location onto ream upon ream of paper.... and then after a while, I slotted each disembodied name into a 'family tree' database.....

... I suppose that it all began innocently enough..... you wake up one morning, take a sip of coffee and look at your surname and think, "gee, I wonder where I came from."..... and from that moment forward, your search begins...... you find yourself on the phone long-distance with elderly Great Uncles & Aunts.... prying birthdates, marriages, and maiden names from them as they strain to hear your voice over the wires..... over the miles, over the ocean, over the years and years of Time....

... God knows that I irritated most of my living relatives half to death with my persistent questioning.... but at the time, I was completely consumed with putting all of the pieces together..... but now, the bug is gone.... I reached a point - and I am not sure exactly where or when it was - that I stopped.... a point where whatever itch I had was finally scratched..... four years and 10,000 names, and I was done.....

.... 10,000 names, my goodness..... it seems so odd to type that number and actually see it sitting there..... but there it is.....

.... the result of all of this, of course, is that I now find myself in the odd position of being the 'family historian'.... as more and more of the older generation slide off to the hereafter, I seem to be fielding more and more questions from the younger cousins about "where we came from"....

... it's a strange juxtaposition....... one the one hand, I gladly give them whatever information they ask for..... but on the other hand there is a part of me that is greedy with 'what I know'.... stingy with the products of MY searching.... how I found out that 'Hull' was actually "Hohl" two hundred years ago... and how the family fled Germany in 1735.... I somehow feel a strange sense of protection over the history that I have learned...... a weird sense of pride in having pieced together so much on my own through research & toil....

.... but I know that isn't the right way to feel..... I should give - and I do..... after all, their itches are just as itchy as mine was when I was their age..... and now I am The One With The Answers.... I just have a lot more answers now than those old Great Aunts and Uncles had when I asked them 15 years ago.....

... my Mother brought an old photo circa 1910 by the house a few days ago.... it was of my paternal Great Grandfather & Great Grandmother.... she was excited to show it to me as she hadn't seen it before.... I laughed and thanked her....and then proceeded to show her the same photograph neatly tucked away in a bulging binder on the bookshelf.... she was both shocked AND pleased that my old genealogy addiction had been so thorough years ago.....

.... she sat on the couch and I told her my Great Grandmother's maiden name, who her first husband was, that her father was a noted physician, that when she died her hair was long enough to brush the ground as she walked, that she was widowed a second time when her husband in the photo died, and how her youngest son took her in with his family to care for her in her old age, I told her of how her Great Great Grandfather had been killed by the Cherokee, and how his father had landed penniless in Philadelphia.......

.... why do I know all of this? .... other than being an interesting story to tell, what other purpose does it hold?......

.... what was that itch that sprang upon me and drove me to search out name after name, detail after detail all those years ago? .... what was I looking for?..... what did I hope to find?.....

.... I've long since been cured from whatever forced me search out my ancestors.... but for the life of me, I still don't understand it..... we all have ancestors..... and in the end, they were people just like us... just people.... working, living, loving, fighting, failing, yearning, hating, trying, creating, destroying......

.... I wish that I knew what kicked-off that itch...... but even more, I wish that I knew what cured it....

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Visitors......

.... "My name is Harold, and I live here all alone...."

.... "Wait!... Wait!.... Where are you going?!?.... I was gonna make espresso." ....

.... I swear, that just cracks me up every single time.....

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Casserole....

..... I had my Mother over for dinner last night.... she supplied the main course - her Quick'n'Easy chicken casserole - and I pitched in with freshly-boiled corn on the cob & my Southern-fried yellow squash.... it was simple, basic, easy, and extremely yummy....

.... a typical mealtime set-up, really.... we all sat around the table oohh'ing over Momma's casserole, and after each comment she would smile and quip right back with some lofty platitude regarding how wonderful the fried squash was.... hey, with some people, it's just hard to toss them a compliment.... instead of smiling and saying, "thanks", you end up jumping around in some extremely demure form of mental badmintonry.....

.. but all in all, it was a nice evening.... and I'm pretty sure that we managed to pull off missing her overt hints for an after dinner Scrabble match without raising suspicion....

.... anyway, her recipe is so easy - and she told it to me so many times last night - that I suppose I should share.... this is a recipe straight out of my childhood.... no frills, extremely quick to make, and as easy as pie.... hell, all you really need is a pot, a dish, and a can opener..... you just gotta love that.....

Ingredients
1 can of cream of celery soup
1 can of cream of mushroom soup
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 can of chicken broth
1 tablespoon of black pepper
2 large chicken breasts
1 box of Stove Top stuffing

.... basically you boil the chicken breasts until they are cooked through-and-through... once they've cooled, you pull them apart with your fingers so that they're nice and stringy and will get stuck between your teeth with an unearthly ease....

... once that's done, combine all of the soups, broth, and black pepper together in a casserole dish and stir up nicely.... once they're mixed well, spoon in your shredded chicken and stir again.... prepare your stuffing as per the little box, and spoon it over the soup/chicken mixture..... bake at 350 until heated through.... usually about 20-25 minutes....

.... it's good, ladies and gentlemen.... but with that much Campbell's soup, you will certainly meet your USDA recommended sodium allowance and THEN some.... so I don't recommend her recipe to anyone who has blood pressure or other ticker ailments.... since one or two portions would likely kill them stone dead by the time that they get around to asking someone to pass the rolls.... but hey, if you've got a ship-shape heart and a flair for the daring, I highly recommend it...... it really is easy and tasty.... and afterwards it'll make your stomach emit some of the strangest gurglings imaginable.... so it is a tasty AND entertaining dish....

.... I highly recommend it.... although feel free to leave the cream of celery soup in the cupboard if you wish..... I certainly would..... (personally, I lay the blame for the gurgling noises solely at the feet of the celery...)..

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Ancient.....

... I'm continually amazed at how quickly the world spins by..... it seems like just yesterday I sat here and peered out into the woods outside the blogroom and marveled at the blooms, naked trunks, and scaly bark..... and now?..... it is completely green.... almost overnight, the trees have sprouted leaves...... even the sunflowers that The Missus planted a few days ago are already three inches tall..... one of them even has the 'shell' of the seed from which it sprung clinging to one of its leaves...... amazing.... that shell is gripping that green little leaf like there is no tomorrow......

.... in other news, I was playing around with some dialogue today and stumbled up on something that I found incredibly interesting..... around here, in the foothills of Appalachia, I often hear people use the word "hit" instead of "it" when speaking..... I had always just assumed that it was merely a product of the basic hillbilly accent..... but as I was digging through the dictionary today, I happened upon this little nugget from Webster.com..... check this out....

"Our Living Language : "I told Anse it likely won't be no need." This quotation from William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying demonstrates a use of it that occurs in some vernacular varieties of American speech. It is used instead of Standard English there when there functions as a so-called existentialthat is, when there indicates the mere existence of something rather than a physical location, as in It was nothing I could do. Existential it is hardly a recent innovationit appears in Middle English; in Elizabethan English, as in Marlowe's Edward II: "Cousin, it is no dealing with him now"; and in modern American literature as well. Although most British and American varieties no longer have this historical feature, it still occurs in some Southern-based dialects and in African American Vernacular English. Use of existential it may actually be increasing in some places, such as Smith Island, Maryland, a historically isolated community. While older Smith Islanders sometimes use existential it rather than there, younger islanders almost always do. In some American vernacular dialects, particularly in the South (including the Appalachian and Ozark mountains), speakers may pronounce it as hit in stressed positions, especially at the beginning of a sentence, as in Hit's cold out here! This pronunciation is called a relic dialect feature because it represents the retention of an older English form. In fact, hit is the original form of the third person singular neuter pronoun and thus can be traced to the beginnings of the Old English period (c. 449-1100). Early in the history of English, speakers began to drop the h from hit, particularly in unaccented positions, as in I saw it yesterday. Gradually, h also came to be lost in accented positions, although hit persisted in socially prestigious speech well into the Elizabethan period. Some relatively isolated dialects in Great Britain and the United States have retained h, since linguistic innovations such as the dropping of h are often slow to reach isolated areas. But even in such places, h tends to be retained only in accented words. Thus, we might hear Hit's the one I want side by side with I took it back to the store. Nowadays, hit is fading even in the most isolated dialect communities and occurs primarily among older speakers. This loss of h reflects a longstanding tendency among speakers of English to omit h's in unaccented words, particularly pronouns, such as 'er and 'im for her and him, as in I told 'er to meet me outside. This kind of h-loss is widespread in casual speech today, even though it is not reflected in spelling."

... emphasis mine, of course, but wow!..... all this time I have assumed that my Grandparents were just speaking with an accent..... but actually, it is just an ancient (and correct) form of English......

.... that's just plain cool.....

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Beauty.....

...... not a whole lot going on around here this evening...... I spent most of the day reading, writing, and committing horrible acts of genocide against the various fire ant mounds out back while the lawn pixies mowed my yard.......

..... so since I have been so otherwise withheld today, I will take my leave and find comfier climbs than may be found here at the computer desk..... the patio is beckoning...... having said that, though, I can point you in the direction of a few interesting folks who definitely have things going on..... for instance:...

.... Sugar Britches has backslid.... and it is a beautiful, beautiful thing....

.... Boudicca gave me a splitting headache....... FIRST thing this morning....


.... Oom Keesie thinks I'm slothful..... hey, brother, I ain't slothful...... I'm just misunderstood...... I assure you that I am quite vigorous.....

..... The Piper is polishing his poetic side to a fairly bright luster...... brighter than usual, actually.....

.... Elisson has returned safe and sound from Nippon.... AND he has photos of himself in some odd silk dress and with matching waistcoat.....

.... and The Bitterman has an interesting post about 'being Southern' that definitely strikes a chord...... yes, sir, it surely does.......

..... there, see?..... plenty of lovely reading for y'all to do without me having to turn the proverbial finger!...... slothful, indeed...... humbug!....

..... so, with that, I'm off to sip a lovely 28 year old Dalmore and hold down the patio furniture......

... peace be upon you all..... oh, and before I forget.... hey, thanks for all the corn information you guys provided in the previous post...... I ate very well last night thanks to y'all.......

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Corn.....

.... another day winding down...... and it has been a very good day...... I'm off to sit on the patio and treat myself to a gin and tonic.......

..... and hey, hammock weather has finally arrived..... and brothers & sisters, it has been sorely missed..... of course, this lovely weather has arrived on purpose..... nothing ever happens without some sort of Divine Good/Evil purpose around here..... indeed, Mother Nature is just teasing us with this 80-degree weather.... she knows that in a week or so we'll be knee-deep in the sub-Arctic Scottish springtime..... so yeah, she definitely likes to play her jokes...... and come to think of it, nobody ever brings anything small into a bar around here, either......

.... for the uninitiated, I stole that last line..... 'Harvey' was on yesterday and I re-watched it..... what a great, great movie..... and I quote:

Harvey and I sit in the bars... have a drink or two... play the juke box. And soon the faces of all the other people they turn toward mine and they smile. And they're saying, "We don't know your name, mister, but you're a very nice fella." Harvey and I warm ourselves in all these golden moments. We've entered as strangers - soon we have friends. And they come over... and they sit with us... and they drink with us... and they talk to us. They tell about the big terrible things they've done and the big wonderful things they'll do. Their hopes, and their regrets, and their loves, and their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar. And then I introduce them to Harvey... and he's bigger and grander than anything they offer me. And when they leave, they leave impressed. The same people seldom come back; but that's envy, my dear. There's a little bit of envy in the best of us.

Elwood P. Dowd, 1950

.... kinda reminds me of blogging..... no?

... by the way, anyone know how long you're supposed to boil corn-on-the-cob before it is ready to eat?......

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Real....

..... it is amazing to see how a little white lie can snowball....

..... I mean, we all lie, don't we?... just a little bit?...... "does my ass look fat in this dress, these slacks, this hemisphere?"...... for god's sake, we all lie...... the little white lie is what keeps society civilized..... Elisson said it once far better than I ever could.....

.... and while we all lie from time to time, I have to imagine that we all don't lie on the same skill level........ in fact, I imagine that we vary VASTLY in our ability to convey a convincing lie........

..... and I humbly offer as a case in point, that was told to me this evening by The Missus.....

.... it seems that a girlfriend of hers (about two years ago) had visited the Knoxville Zoo and photographed a bunch of penguins that were milling about in their enclosure....... knowing that my Missus is absolutely nuts about penguins, she gave her a copy of the photo..... well, the photo has been sitting on her keyboard at work ever since....

..... so, fast forward to about six months ago.... the following conversation took place.....

..... a guy that she works with notices the penguin photograph and says, "wow, what a great group of penguins!"

..... herein begins The Lie....

..... "yeah, those are MY penguins..... my husband stays home from work and takes care of their cage when he isn't doing other things...... so, yeah, thanks!..... those are my penguins, yes sir..... I just love them...... you'd never know the hoops you have to jump through when you want to own a penguin or two....... we had to get lots of special permits, but in the end, it was worth it.... I love hanging out with those penguins in the evenings...they make my day.....that one on the left is Pengy, and next to him is Robbie.... Robbie is SO funny sometimes..... they make excellent pets..."

.... "wow!... that is SO cool!.... I had no idea that you could own penguins as pets!..".....

..... the conversation went a bit further.... explanations about Tennessee State Penguin Permits, special dietary requirements, how we keep them cool in the summertime, etc, etc..... resulting in this man being completely convinced that we had a pen full of penguins in the back yard.......

..... well, yesterday she was asked about how 'her penguins' were doing....... this, of course, being six months later and she has completely forgotten the lie that she told........ here is the result....

"Hey! I haven't asked you about your pet penguins in a while, how are they doing?"

....."... penguins??... what penguins?"

"oh, the ones that you had in that giant air conditioned cage in your back yard!"

.." .... what??"...

"Your penguins. I bet you guys are not looking forward to summertime and that cooling bill! How are they doing? They still hanging out in the back yard?"

... "mmm..... no..... they are in my spare bedroom right now....."

"Your spare bedroom?? Aren't they smelly? How do you keep them from crapping all over everything??"

"... ummm.... no, they don't crap on anything.." ...

"They DON'T??"

..... "no, of course not..... dude, they are stuffed penguins......"

"Stuffed?!?! That is so horrible! I am SO SORRY! When did they all DIE?!?"

..... it was at this point that The Missus realized that the hammerhead she was talking to had confused her real collection of stuffed, plush-toy penguins with her imaginary collection of real-life penguins...

.... oh, and for those of you who have never set foot in the spare bedroom of my house, let me just say that it is the home to between 250-400 plush toy penguins..... hey, don't look at me like that.... they aren't MINE...... the Wife has collected them her whole life....

..... but yeah, a nice lie, eh?.... the scary thing is, she is just so good at it..... I couldn't have gotten some guy to believe I had penguins in a cage in my back yard even if I DID have penguins in a cage back there..... but her?...... she definitely has talent....

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Chili....

.... I'm just back from a quick nip into town to visit the chiropractor..... and now that I've been popped, kneaded, and stretched back into place, I'm as good as new... well, perhaps not 'new', but as close to 'new' as they could pop me......

.... anyway, it is an absolutely beautiful day here..... not a cloud in the sky, and the sun is shining bright..... I've got a pot of chili simmering away on the stove, the dogwoods are covered in white blooms, the cats are watching the bird feeders with devilish intent, the goldfinches are dauntless, and about two hundred Crane flies are making whoopee on the front porch.....

.... baked potatoes with chili, cheese, and sour cream has been requested for tonight's meal..... and I predict that it should be quite tasty...

.... oh, and some old lady stopped me in the grocery store parking lot to say how beautiful she thought Sylvia was... I was slipping my two bags into the back seat when she pulled up beside me with her window rolled down...

"Beautiful car, sir."

"..... thank you, ma'am..... I certainly enjoy her.... "

"Well, she is gorgeous. You hardly ever see Audis around here. I'd almost forgotten how pretty they are to look at."

"...... it's a shame, really.... they really are great cars..... this is my third one, and I love it...."

"I've always wanted one," she said, peering from the square window of her Grand Marquis. "Perhaps I'll get an Audi when this boat wears out."

".... well, you could certainly do a lot worse than an Audi...... you'll enjoy it if you get one..."

"Oh, I know. Anyway, I just wanted to say that I love Audis. And the color of yours is just beautiful."

"..... yeah, the convertible top definitely gives it a different look than most of 'em.."

"Indeed. Have a nice day! Travel safe!"

... and with that, she was off.......

.... she seemed like a nice old lady...... I hope she gets herself an Audi....

... anyhoo, since the cats are both hard at it, I'll share a few shots of their highly-mobile prizes......

... from the front yard just five minutes ago, we have this guy....

goldfinch_small.jpg

.... and from the back yard, we have this little fellow wondering why I haven't filled the feeder.....

goldfinch2_small.jpg

..... I think that they prefer the tiki bar style feeder more than the shiny one......

.... enjoy your day, rubberneckers.... I'm off to sit on the patio.....

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Wax.....

..... a rather interesting and slightly unsettling thing happened today, and I am not sure of the full implications of the 'realization'....

... it all started innocently enough..... The Missus arrived home from work and smilingly shoved a packet of earplugs towards me...... at first, I was confused by this odd gift, but after a few seconds, I came to understand that these were for 'her' to use on our upcoming trip to Europe..... charming, no?....

..... see, I snore..... I snore really, really, really bad...... and here in Tennessee, our sleeping arrangements are extremely flexible.... I've slept on bathroom floors, either of the two couches, the spare bedroom, and the walk-in closet from time to time..... she has too in an effort to escape my late-night bellowing........ but when we travel, our options are cut short a bit..... I mean, you can't just wander down the hall to the next hotel room when your mate boots you out of the bed at 2am........ so having said that, today she showed up with a packet of "snore-proof" earplugs......

..... the quick end to the story is to say that she eagerly tried them on, and then asked me for a 'demonstration snore' to test their effectiveness....... to which, of course, they failed miserably...... but the 'long' end of the story is that I immediately laughed and said, "see, I knew that would happen.... what you NEED to use are the earplugs that I use when I go to the range!"...... she nodded expectantly and I sent her to fetch my 'shooting bag"......

..... it at this point in the story where things get a bit weird and unsettling..... and deeply, deeply strange.....

..... I took the bag and rummaged through it thoroughly....... I dragged out ammo, balloons, targets, felt pens, empty magazines, and finally found a set of industrial strength earplugs...... I smiled at my prize and offered them to her...... orange plastic lifesavers, that they are..... and as I was busy trying to cram everything back into the Cordura bag, I noticed her gazing in abject horror at the little rubber devices that I had given her......

..... see, the plugs that I normally use are not the squeezy foam ones.... they are the are of the 'multi-layered', hardened-rubber variety..... and by that, what I mean is that they consist of a solid core with circular 'flaps' in increasing sizes - perhaps three rings - that reach into your ear to a depth of about 1/2 an inch.... very, very, very good hearing protection...... heavy duty, folks......

.... and as I watched her, I could not understand what she was looking at...... so, I spoke.... "what's wrong?.... they work REALLY well.... put them in!"....

..... she looked up at me and nearly gagged...... and then, she held the ear plugs out to me and flexed one of the little disc-like structures so that I could see......

.... good god, rubberneckers....... each flimsy flap was caked with putrefied little bits of somebody's earwax...... and I say 'somebody's' because I have no idea who I last loaned those earplugs to..... I know it wasn't me, though, as I swab my ears out every single morning...... but wow...... one of you who has visited my house and gone shooting with me is one nasty sumbitch.......

...... I have to admit that I would never have noticed what she noticed..... if I had been out at the range, I would have just popped'em in and never given it a second thought...... they do say that the "devil" is in the "details", I guess.....

.... and that is just the thing, right?..... how many hundreds of times have I put those plugs in my ears, shot to my heart's content, and then plopped them back into the shooting bag without a second thought?..... I admit that it is kinda disgusting when you think about it.... but really?..... it hasn't bothered my up until now...... so should I truly be disgusted now?..... I know that it sounds odd, but no, I don't..... it's just one of those things.....

.... but what did SHE do?..... she ran off gagging towards the bathroom where she immediately cleaned and disinfected my earplugs...... they're lazing on the ottoman right now while she watches "Blood In The Wire" on BBC America....... at least as clean (and probably cleaner) as the day they rolled off the Chinese assembly line and arrived on the hallowed shelves of the nearest Wal-Mart......

..... while I recognize that they weren't the cleanest pieces of shooting equipment that I own, I still don't really understand why she reacted in such an excited way....... I mean, it's not like putting those things in your ears is actually going to LEAVE any of it there...... if anything, you ears will be cleaner (by design) once you REMOVE the earplugs..... right?...... sure, it was a failing on my part to not have noticed AND to not have cleaned them much earlier..... but really, using those plugs - even if dirty - would have been much better than having your hearing permanently damaged by unprotected gunshots...... right?....

.... either way, it is a moot point now..... they've been scoured, boiled, scraped, and bleached...... hell, I bet I have the cleanest set of ear plugs on the planet right now........ and I have sworn to clean them vigorously after each visit to the range....... and I will...... like I said, sometimes we just overlook the details, I guess....... but now, hey, I know.....

.... oh, and let me just say now to all of those beautiful bloggers who made the trip up here to my October blogmeet, barbecue, and shooting-fest two years ago..... rest yourselves....... never fear...... ALL is WELL...... when I took y'all shooting, I gave you each a brand new set of the 'squeezy' variety of ear plugs....... at no time were you guys & gals anywhere near my personal earplugs...... except, of course, when my head was somewhere near your body...... so, everyone is safe..... your ears do not have any kind of strange cancer caused by a foreign infusion of hillbilly earwax.......

.... still, though, I suspect that there is much more to this Mars/Venus thing that we fully understand.......

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Waits....

.... tonight I've been listening to Tom Waits while I've worked on a few projects around the house..... and since I plan to not post tonight, I will simply leave you with one my favorites of his....... one that has been on the player here......

.... how absolutely marvelous....... I just love it........ so enjoy your evenings, rubberneckers....... you guys all know that I love ya...... let us see what the morning brings.... I am off to ponder great things.....

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Mugging....

.... beautiful springtime has birthed her blooms and sprouts around here, but she's also brought along something else.... the insects.....

.... I watched a fat, long-legged Crane fly get predated by a jumping spider this morning while I sipped my coffee and read blogs.... I felt kinda bad for it, actually.... I mean, I understand that it is just Nature doing her thing, but still.... I can imagine a lot more ways of checking out that would be much better than having your innards liquefied and greedily sucked out by some spider... then again, I haven't heard of any spiders that are large enough to chase me down and suck out MY guts.... but even though I am safe, part of my psyche just can't help but do a little projecting.....

.... anyway, I bring this up merely to highlight the fact that today's 'spider watching' was completely different from all the other 'spider watchings' that I've written about before....

.... today's voyeuristic viewing was much, MUCH more violent...

.... all of the other times in which I have sat and philosophically watched a spider do its thing, there has been a web involved..... and with the web comes the tangling, the writhing, and an incredibly hopeless terror .... and as the web vibrates the spindly spider cautiously approaches the struggling prey... then, once in range, a quick bite... and then a retreat for the venom to take hold...... the victim slows, attempts to resist, strains to flee, and slows a bit more.... and then, once the web is completely still, the owner of the web creeps in for the feast......

... it's a marvelously thought-provoking thing to watch... on lots and lots of levels.... there is the quiet, delicate inevitability that the spider represents.... the fear of the web... the hopelessness of The Trap.... immobility, fangs, life, fear, struggling, death.... trust me, folks... watching spiders is a goldmine if you lean your mind to just the right angle.....

.... but what I saw this morning had nothing 'delicate' about it.... from beginning to end, it was more akin to a mugging... or a prison-yard gangland shanking.... it was quick, it was overpowering, and it was fascinatingly brutal..... I'd like to say that the Crane fly never knew what hit him, but I can't.... the spider grabbed him by the head - and eye-to-eye as he was slowly sucked dry - he definitely knew what had him.... they were face to face as one fed and the other watched....

.... what a helluva way to go.... it's one thing to be helplessly tangled in a web as some weedy little spider slowly creeps towards you.... but it is another concept entirely when a spider built like a linebacker runs up, grabs you, and holds you nice and still while it does as it pleases with you....

... the whole scene was just so odd, really........ I'd always thought of spiders as predators..... but I'd never thought of them as aggressive until today.... in truth, it it is quite a frightening concept to wrap your mind around.....

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Flash.....

..... you know, it was ok to watch "Flash Gordon" when you were ten and it had just come out..... it might even have been ok to watch it when you were 16 and it first appeared on the big screen..... but to watch it when you are over thirty is just bone-crushingly surreal.....

.... a few notes....

1. I cannot believe that they ever let some hammerhead who was a main character in "Flash Gordon" end up playing James Bond..... good god, the horror..... that just isn't right, I'm sorry.... someone should be dragged off and shot for allowing that to happen....

2. What's up with the scorpion-thingy in the stump?...... when I was 8, that scene scared the shit out of me...... but now?...... what a bunch of dimwits...... like we're supposed to believe that there is a race of people out there with space travel, telepathy machines, and ray guns?.... and they still feel the need to make some young person stick his arm randomly in a stump containing a deadly scorpion-thingy to make sure he is "man enough" to live in a world that won't stand up to Ming The Merciless when they aren't 'standing up' in the first place?.... how the hell did those idiots survive before Flash showed up to 'save' them?.....

3. Those guys with the wings are just plain funky..... how do they fly around like birds when they never flap their damned wings?..... and hey, trust me, I've been WATCHING birds for the past three months...... you don't just hover around up in the sky when you're flapping like a bored Fatima of the Seven Veils holding a limp palm frond......... if there isn't a breeze, you plummet!.... plummet, I say!.......

..... and hey, any movie where Brian Blessed gets to wear a mini-skirt AND carry a sword is just plain odd...... don't get me wrong, I like Brian Blessed just fine..... I'm a fan....... he's a helluva actor...... and he can act "batshit-crazy psycho nutjob" better than anyone that I can imagine... he was brilliant in 'Henry V' with Brannaugh playing lead..... but to see him flashing those teeth of his and sporting those huge fake wings?....... let me just say, I could go the rest of my life without ever seeing Brian Blessed's bulging thighs again.....

4. ..... sorry, I still can't get Brian Blessed out of my head right now.....

5. ... ok, he's gone for a minute.... what's up with that elixir that they kept spoon-feeding Dale?..... so far, from all that I have seen in ANY science fiction flick EVER, that stuff has to be the greatest invention since the wheel....... "drink this, my dear..." ..... "will it help me to forget?"..... "no.... no, it won't.... but it'll help you to not mind remembering.."...... that's just kinky, folks..... deeply, deeply kinky......

6. .... why was Flash Gordon a football player?..... and a quarterback to boot?....... I protest that fact on behalf of every former baseball player on the planet....... you want someone to save the planet?..... pick a second baseman, a pitcher, or a catcher....... them's the facts........

7. ...... can you imagine what the band 'Queen' was smoking when the decided to do the soundtrack?..... good god...... sure, the music was ok...... but screaming "Flash!!... aHHHAAA" every thirty seconds for two hours just had to crush their artistic genius into teensy little bits of "I wanna die" dust......

...... sorry for the foul mood tonight, guys....... but hey, everything that I've said is the absolute truth...... and the truth shall SET YOU FREE!...... right?.......

..... so if you are so inclined to revisit that old flick from your childhood, a word of warning...... re-rent "Jaws" instead...... I know, I know.... but just trust me....... I hate scary movies as much as the next guy...... but in the long run, you will thank me...... it's always better to watch Richard Dreyfus fling chum, and lose the battle when comparing scars with The Captain than it is to have two decades of loving memories crushed by the awesome reality that is achieved by re-watching 'Flash Gordon' as an adult.........

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Henna....

.... well, the Deed is Done....... and the planning for this year's springtime visit to Ecosse is actively afoot.... the tickets have been purchased....

.... it appears that May the 7th shall find us jetting jetlaggedly from Manchester northwards to Aberdeen.... upon arrival, there shall be a groggy Mercedes ride from the airport to the tiny town of Ballater..... once there, we'll spend the remainder of the week at The World's Smallest Hilton playing snooker, drinking scotch, and gazing out the windows at the Highland Countryside....

.... my goodness, time seems to by flying by...... it feels like just yesterday we were wandering around Belgium, France, and Germany..... but, wow, that was September....... and last October saw my house filled again with insane bloggers....... and now it is already almost time to jet off again......

.... last year my Brother in Law made the trip.... and this year he is planning to do so again AND bringing his bride with him as well.....it will be nice to see her again after all this time.... the last time that I saw her she was swimming in silk, dripping in gold, covered in henna scribblings, and saying goodbye to all of her wedding guests in Dhaka...

... 8 years...... wow...... it certainly doesn't seem like 8 years ago.....

..... the beautiful Miss Time, boys and girls, she certainly is a zippy one.....

.... I awoke this morning remembering my Herrick.... and now that I've got some coffee down me, I guess I'll share.....

To the Virgins, to make much of Time, by Robert Herrick

GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles today

To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,

The higher he's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,

And nearer he's to setting.
That age is best which is the first,

When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst

Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,

And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,

You may for ever tarry.

..... and with that, I'm off..... for in a strange fit of un-Eric-like behavior, I actually have a few charitable tasks that I must perform today...... y'all be good...

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Weight....

... I just want to take a minute to say thanks to Erica, Teresa, and Kudzu for being so concerned about my lack of bodyweight back when I was 17..... I truly do appreciate y'all's opinions.... and to think that my lithe frame gave you guys cause to worry, well, it just warms my heart......

... but as of right this minute, I'm 35 and weigh an enjoyable 200lbs...... but just to quell all of your worries about me being the world's tiniest Marine back in the day, I will point you all to a post that I put up just over two years ago...... photographic proof that - even at 160lbs - I would not blow away in a strong wind.....

.... still, though, you guys rock...... and Old Cloots finding it in his heart to offer me some of his mustache?...... I am without words, rubberneckers..... the kindness of bloggers knows no bounds.......

.... in other news, it is nearing the 8 O'clock hour here at The Compound..... and seeing as today is April 14th, that means that "The Professionals" is playing soon on Turner Classic Movies...... and it just so happens that "The Professionals" is one of my favorites!...

.... Lancaster, Lee Marvin, automatic weapons, buxom maidens, and whirling dervishes await...... I trust that you all will enjoy a wonderful evening...

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Bears......

.... .there is something undeniably manly about having body hair, or so I am told.......... hey, I don't really get it, but I see the reaction that women have when they see a hairy, Magnum PI chest occasionally pop across the television screen....... those pumped pecs covered in dark fuzz, salt water, and a smiling mustachioed man grinning over a bikini-clad backside pretending to free-style?...... it's just all too much...... and hey, those old 80s reruns should be fucking banned, if you ask me........

...... no one has chest hair like that........ besides, Higgins was much more my style anyways........ AND he had a pith helmet and had fought off the Mau Mau back in the fifties....... that's a lot more hardcore than sipping German beer and driving around in a Ferrari and gazing down at bikini'd backsides........... right?....

.... anyway, on to the point..... when I was a little boy, I was slightly underweight for my age group...... scrawny, really...... and now that I look back, I was pretty geeky too........ the latter being more a matter of perspective that the former..... but I was lanky and thin and covered with freckles...... it's one helluva cross to bear, let me tell you....... when I graduated from bootcamp at the tender age of 17, I weighed 160lbs soaking wet..... 6'2" and 160lbs is pretty lean.... malnourished, in fact...... and while I'm bitching, being a redhead is just a complete curse for a guy, folks........

.... you dark-haired fellows have no idea what a bonus you've been gifted with from birth...... hell, I wrote years and years ago about the perils of being a redheaded guy..... and now?.... even at 35, I still can't grown a damned mustache....... but once I hit puberty though, y'all watch out...... I'll be a live friggin' wire.......

.... it's funny, I guess..... I must have watched that "Pathfinder" movie ten times in the past month on HBO, and every time I see that guy who whips the shit out of the Vikings, I cannot help but think, "hey! what a badass!.... but his chest is hairless?!.... bravo for recessive genes!!.... wait!...... FUCK, he was a Viking!!!!..... where'd his chest hair all go?"...... "300" has been airing on Cimemax every four hours too, but I bet those Spartans shaved their chests....... Hollywood smoke & mirrors, I suspect..... in truth, I've only met three honest to goodness Greeks before - two men and one woman - and they were all pretty frickin' hairy..... the woman especially......

..... but be that as it may (right or wrong), you dark-haired bastards continually piss me right the hell off........ you who have descended from the English, the Scots, the Italians, Greeks, Arabs, Indians, and Jews....... you guys just piss me off...... ALL of you..... with all of your out-of-control sprouting eyebrows and your curling mustaches, and your five O'clock shadows........ y'all can just kiss my lily-white (and hairless) ass......

.... I have hair on my arms an inch long, for God's sake.... but can you SEE it?..... no..... not unless the moon is just right & the Sun is in Venus and swamp gas is reflecting moonbeams off the rings of Saturn.....hell, it's easier to be dazzled into seeing a UFO than it is to ascertain the presence of a translucent, straight, slightly-coppery hair on my upper torso...... and I'm nearly 36 years old!.....

.... quite frankly, I'm done with it..... and in my next life, I want to come back as a grizzly bear...

.... they are hairy, you can TELL that they are hairy, and they like to roam around looking for things to bite.... and I already know that I like the taste of moose...... I figure it'll be A LOT easier than being a redhead.....

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Festival.....

.... the resilient white, cross-like blooms of the dogwoods survived last night's thunderstorm just fine..... they are strongest when they've first opened, I suppose...... either way, they did well..... and this morning found them open, clean, and damp from the pre-dawn rain showers..... the pollen that had accumulated and coated every outside surface was washed away in the night..... this morning the colors were amazing.....

..... nothing truly says 'springtime' in Tennessee like the arrival of the dogwood blossoms...... and with a windy blue sky beginning the day, The Missus and I set off towards Knoxville and her "Dogwood Festival" in Market Square....

.... Knoxville is a wonderfully small 'big' town..... and we opted to wiggle our way through the old county road system until we hit Highway 11 (Kingston Pike) - instead of jumping on the Interstate.....it was a welcome adjusting of plans...... Kingston Pike used to be the main north-south route between my town and Knoxville back in the day until I-75 was built..... but wow, what a difference fifty years makes to a traveling experience..... even with all of the lights, the hammerheaded drivers, and the chock-a-block traffic, I'd still rather arrive in downtown Knoxville via Kingston Pike instead of I-75.... there is just so much more to see when you go that downtown route......

..... anyway, a good time was had by all...... and The Missus picked up a hand-made silver & brass bracelet from one of the stalls, so she had a good time..... as for me?..... well, I managed to stop by a fresh market near Bearden and procure myself six beautiful never-frozen New Zealand lamb chops....... which, incidentally, will find themselves on a nice, hot grill in just a very few minutes...... so with my "parmesan & Worchester" potatoes roasting in the oven, the day is winding down.....

.... apart for a tiny bit of sunburn on my giant, round noggin, the day went off without a hitch........

.... so y'all have a nice night...... I'm off to grill some baby mammal.......

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Blooming...

..... a balmy, high-clouded afternoon that has promised rain all day is finally delivering..... heavy, fat raindrops are dully thudding on the roof, thunder is grumbling off in the distance, and occasionally a drop hits the gutter outside the window with a metallic "tink"...... oh yeah, the storm is coming.... hopefully it's spare the blooms on the dogwoods.... they've only been open for two days or so...... so they should still be strong enough to weather the thunderstorm....... I guess we'll find out.....

.... so, gentle rubberneckers, thus is my evening..... contemplating the fate of a few brand-new blossoms and watching what nature has in store for my little neck of the woods..... it should be quite a show.....

... in other news before I amble off towards the History Channel, I'd like to say that I enjoyed a very nice meal today with Big Stupid Tommy, another McMinn County blogger.... he and I worked our way through an absolute mountain of food this afternoon at the local Applebee's..... ole Tommy, he's good people......

... and with that, I'm off.... I hope that y'all's evening is half as good as mine is going to be..... I do love me some thunder and lightnin'.....

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Wealth.....

..... I drove into the tiny town nearby today for a haircut.....Eva, the ma'am who owns the shop, was found well, smiling, and deeply-into knotting some poor elderly lady's hair around about 1600 pink plastic curlers..... I took my leave when I saw the scene and headed across the street to the bank..... both out of respect for the poor lady's predicament AND the fact that I had only one lonely dollar in my wallet..... and, of course, Eva charges THREE dollars to snip my noggin into military regulation......

.... I've written about Miss Eva quite a few times here...... and a few of you have seemed to connect somewhat with the tales that I've shared of Just What It Is Like To Get A Haircut In The South For Three Dollars...... but today a bomb was dropped that I never saw coming...... and for the life of me, I still cannot truly imagine just what Eva's smile meant as she told me the story.....

.... first off, the building that her little barbershop inhabits is quite literally falling down around her.... the door is continually ajar in all weathers since it won't bolt properly.... the center of the tiny shop is alternately littered with fans, air conditioning equipment, or portable heaters..... all depending upon what the weather is like outside...... and her barber equipment is ancient by any standard..... and yet three days a week - all year long - she plies her trade on the local population of antique pensioners..... and she is in VERY high demand, I might add...... as her youngest customer, I usually have to call a week in advance to see if she can fit me into her tight schedule of musty, sweet, matronly Southern Women.... oh, and she has a 'pact' of sorts with her lady-customers...... once they finally pop their proverbial clogs and ascend towards their Baptist Heavens, she will visit their funeral home of choice and coif them one last time before their eternal rest..... and to ensure that archeologists in the far, far distant future will have excellent evidence of ancient hairspray technology....

.... be that as it may, I visit Eva loyally every three weeks..... it's not that I'm a skinflint.... far from it, actually.... hell, if anything, I'm a spendthrift of the highest order........ no, it's just that each visit to her little World offers some sort of revelation that just isn't to be missed.... every visit - just like clockwork - something happens or is heard that amazes me...... I don't always get the deeper meaning or much of the subtlety.... but I definitely leave there feeling like something unique happened... something important and profound..... something beautiful..... I don't always understand it, but I do know that it is there....

...I once inquired about an extremely elderly lady whose head was baking gently under some dome-shaped apparatus.... the reply boggled my weak little mind....

.... in a Southern accent that melts in your mouth like fresh honey, she spoke..... "Oh, her?..... ahhh.... that's Ms. Gentry..... her husband, Bob, he must have passed away ten or so years ago..... her granddaughter told her she should get her hair colored.... so, here she is.... "

..."wow... that looks like a lot of work..... how much do you charge to do that?".....

.... "oh, I charge 26 dollars...... I've charged 26 dollars since 1974...... trouble is, now that darned old coloring kit costs 23 dollars..... "

...."ok.... wait just a minute.... so the kit costs 23 dollars and you only charge 26?".....

... "..... yes, Eric..... that's right.... times certainly change, don't they?..... still, I do so enjoy chatting with Ms. Gentry when she comes in..... it takes about an hour to do the full process, but I do believe that she'll enjoy the results when her hair is finally dried and I've fixed it up nice for her.." .....

.... "so you work for an hour and get paid three dollars?"

.... "awww... I wouldn't call it work, really..... it's just what I do.... and I do enjoy seeing the ladies...." ....

..... that was two years ago.... 2006...... fast forward to today..... I get up and try to pay five dollars for my haircut... only to have Eva rummage through her purse for 10 minutes looking for two dollars in change..... she was absolutely determined that I get 17 dollars back after I handed her a twenty...... I even said that she could consider the other two dollars as a 'tip', but she was not about to budge......

.... I thanked her as I turned to leave...... but she began to speak, so I turned back around to listen..... she'd lit a cigarette and had taken a cross-legged seat in the chair that I had just risen from...... all five feet of her was delicately sat in that old Naugahyde chair as if she had been born to be sitting just so, in that seat, with a cigarette in her wrinkled hand.....

..... "Have y'all done your taxes yet?...... My husband and I, we drove into Athens last week and did ours..... which is unusual for us, actually, since we normally wait until the very last moment.... but last week, we went..... we went to that 'H&R Block' over near Ingles?...... well, I have to tell you this, Eric...... and I know that I should be embarrassed, but I'm really not..... in truth, I giggle every time that I think of it....... see, we took all of our records and such over to The Tax Man last week.... and do you know what I cleared on my business for last year?...... ha!.... forty-six hundred dollars!..... can you imagine that?..... I still giggle a little bit every time I think of it...... but, ahhh, it's not about the money, now is it, honey?".....

..... I laughed with her and shook my head...... "no, ma'am, it isn't...... but I honestly don't see why you do it.... and thank you for fitting me in, Eva...... you're a one of a kind...... I'll see you in three weeks, ok?.."

.... she laughed again and smudged out the smoking end of her cigarette against the sides of a Rock Top Market ashtray.....

.... "I'll be right here, honey...... just remember to bring ones next time, please...that twenty made me nervous..... I hate looking for quarters.." ....

.... I walked my way out to where I had parked the car and simply could not get "$4,600" off of my mind.....

.... Eva isn't a wealthy woman.... far from it...... sure, her husband is living on a very nice retirement, but they are a long, long way from being wealthy...... and yet she laughs and smiles and says "forty-six hundred dollars" as if it is a great cosmic joke on The Taxman..... and then she charges me three dollars for a 1/2 hour haircut..... I just don't get it........ I really don't....

.... having pondered this story a few times whilst sipping a Scotch, I wonder if Eva is the last of a dying breed of Original Community Service Volunteers.....perhaps she just enjoys providing those old ladies with a friendly face to chat with, a new hairdo, and a few hours out of their houses..... god knows that she certainly isn't running the business to make money....... $4,600....... I swear...

.... perhaps she has more Love of Community.... or Love of Humanity, perhaps..... than anyone I have ever met.....

.... perhaps she is happier at work than she is at home.....

.... perhaps her work there in her squalid little shop is much more rewarding than I can imagine......

.... perhaps she is afraid of NOT working.... afraid of being idle...... does her work define her somehow?......

..... I don't really know what to think...... but I do know what I would LIKE to think..... and that is that she is doing what she is doing because she loves seeing people walk in her door in need of a haircut.... and watching them walk out with zero need for a haircut..... a haircut, a smile, some mild chitchat about the lottery, places you've been, what's on Oprah, etc......

.... either way, I don't know for sure why it is that she does what she does...... but one thing is for certain...... three weeks from today, I'll be seeing her again...... and believe it or not, that idea makes me happy..... three dollars more or less really doesn't factor into it all that much......

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Reptiles.....

..... I don't know about you guys, but it is definitely springtime here...... I even happened to see The First Reptiles (or amphibians, if you're splitting hairs) of the year today...... first off was a nice, spindly snake that slid across the road as I drove into town..... couldn't snap a photo, though - he was too quick...... but the second one was a bit less active....... here he is.....

white_tree_frog_smalll.jpg

.... feel free to click here for a bigger version......

.... still can't see him?.... well, here you go......

white_tree_frog_big_closeup.jpg

..... it was written by the ancients many, many moons ago..... that when the Great White Tree Frog emerges from his lair and nips flies while the honeysuckle soaks up the Sunshine, Spring has arrived.......

.... yeah, I made that last part up, but still, it's good to see the world emerging...... hey, it's been a long time a'coming......

..... oh, and before I forget, here is a snippet of those steaks from yesterday...... you'll have to forgive the camera angles and general lack of effort on my part..... but in my defense, I was trying to catch a pair of woodpeckers who were scuttling about through the trees...... thus all the footage of the concrete in my garage as I tried to find the beasties without using the viewfinder on the camera.......

.... bad video, sure.... but it is a nice shot of Sylvia and Cary resting.... sheesh, who would have imagined that someone would name a Cadillac 'Cary'?.......

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Pollen.....

.... well, it appears that we're having New York strips for dinner..... The Missus plonked them down on the bar and made a beeline for the hammock as soon as she arrived home from work...... I'd had my heart set on two nice lamb chops, but the steaks are definitely fair replacements..... they're currently snuggled together in a plastic bowl in the fridge liberally doused with Worcestershire sauce..... it's mild and breezy here.... so manning the grill this evening should be quite a pleasant chore....

.... I opened all of the windows around lunchtime today.... and the breeze has filled the house with the smells of springtime... it's a good thing that I don't have allergies.... since - along with the smells - a fine dusting of pollen is now also throughout the house.... I suspect that 'spring cleaning' will commence officially in the morning..... but hey, that's cool..... it was completely worth it.....

.... anyway, boys and girls, I'm off to roast some potatoes..... but I will leave y'all with with an earworm that's been wiggling away in my head for the better part of the day..... damnable television commercials.....

... later, y'all..... I'm off to grill......

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Connections....

..... I watched Errol Flynn in an old movie this morning and loved every second of it.... from the tale, to the cheesy costumes, and everything in between...... it was a movie adaptation of one of Rudyard Kipling's tales called "Kim"..... there is just something about British Colonial India that pushes every one of my buttons, but I just can't put my finger on exactly what it is.....

.... it is uncanny, actually.... I can catch a glimpse of a crowded street in Lahore, and I have an overwhelming desire to rush off to EBay and order a pith helmet.... I see a sahib sipping a gin and tonic and I immediately can close my eyes and smell the aroma of curry & coriander wafting through the tropical night.... every image zings my imagination.....

..... the first time that I visited the subcontinent, I was enthralled by how exotic the land and people were.... but there was an strange undercurrent of 'normality' that I couldn't understand..... it was as if I had been there before.... that I belonged there somehow.... that each new sight, sound, smell, or taste was actually something that I had already come to know, accept, and enjoy.....

..... as I sat on the couch this morning drinking my coffee, The Missus looked up from her Wheatabix and laughed....

"What's on TCM?"

".... it's from a Kipling story called 'Kim'..... wow, look at that..... I am so completely diggin' this.."

"Errol Flynn was pretty buff."

"... Perhaps, but hey, everyone looks handsome and dashing when they're wearing a pith helmet..."

"Perhaps."

" .... You need to buy me a pith helmet for my birthday..."

"We've had this conversation before, sir. We're having curry for dinner tonight, aren't we?"

".... absolutely...."

..... so here I sit...... freshly baked naan bread is cooling on the kitchen counter.... the smell of curry and coconut milk is hanging thick in the air.... the Tennessee dogwoods are beginning to show their first blushes of their impending blooming.... and my fingertips are fresh from turning pages about Lucknow and Jagdishpur.... I am not sure why I am so drawn to India, but I am.... and I read of sepoys and lancers with equal amazement.... and my crushed-silk punjabi fits just as well as I know that pith helmet will when it arrives...

.... what an absolutely odd day....... dinner is going to rock, though......

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Re-post....

.... The Missus has requested bbq'd pulled pork sandwiches and my garlic baked beans for dinner tonight..... and since I have been a complete slacker today and not posted, I figure that it is just about time to start mining the archives.... hey, content is content, yes?.... besides, I've got to go and cook dinner..... so here's one from late-January 2006..... (and yes, I wish that I were at the blogmeet in New Jersey instead of standing around here stirring beans..... ) .... I hope that you enjoy.....

... last night was spent tossing and turning... two distinct dreams woke me in the early hours... around five, the most erotic dream of my quiet, simple little life was experienced... mercy sakes.... I nearly had a damn heart attack.... I drank some water and had a cigarette as one does, and then returned to sleep...

... the second dream was more confusing... it involved an old barn that my Great Uncle owned... an ancient and weather-worn structure... bleached gray from years of enduring all-weathers, it stood at the edge of his tobacco patch beside a stand of hardwoods...it was tall and had a stone foundation... each end was open as to allow tractors pulling wagons to enter or exit from either side...

.... many was the day that I rode on the back of a tractor laden with thousands of pounds of freshly cut tobacco.. late August usually... hot sun and dust... hands caked with the sticky dried tobacco juice...

... once in the barn, all of us workers would take our places... climbing higher and higher into the rafters of the barn... stopping at our allocated places and balancing ourselves on the beams.... Then the tobacco would start moving... the man on the wagon would take a runner full of stalks and pass it to the first man... then up and up until the runner reached the top man... on and on this would be repeated until the barn was slowly filled - from top to bottom - with an entire field full of tobacco...

... the top man was probably fifty feet off the ground... I was always one rung below him... see, the higher you were, the less work you had to do... and as I was very young and the Top Man was very old, we took positions higher up.. lots of times I would hear his head thump the tin roof as he tried to straighten himself or swat a wasp... I'd laugh and he'd cuss... which ended up making me laugh even harder... (I wasn't old enough yet to be allowed to cuss)....

... anyway, the point of all this is to get to the dream... after all, if I could afford therapy, I surely wouldn't be writing and telling these stories to YOU people.... so, on to the dream...

... the guys on the wagon were acting up... they seemed to think that the Top Man and I were having it too easy... not pulling our weight, so to speak... but unknown to them, he and I had a problem...

... now, here are the mechanics of the situation... all of us, as we fill up our rows, are slowly backing up all the time... legs spread wide with our feet balancing on a old, slow-cured sapling that had been worn smooth by years and years of use... it was a precarious situation, to be sure.... but here is where it gets worse.... as we inched backwards, our backs were getting closer and closer to the other wall of the barn.... and it just so happened that a group of wasps had built their nest in the very top of the barn where the tin roof and wall met... the Top Man was backing up to the nest and he wasn't really too happy about it...

... so the guys down below are giving us grief... me and the Top Man were eyeball to eyeball with those wasps... the nest was a large one... about the size of a grapefruit... and it literally crawled with probably 150 red wasps...

... I asked the Top Man, since he had more experience, what we were going to do... he winked at me and said... "those fellers down on the wagon had better shet up... they're bout to see why I'm REALLY the Top Man... but don't you worry about them bees, boy... we'll be just fine up here... "

.. I watched in amazement as he took off his battered John Deere baseball cap and gingerly turned himself around on the spindly rafters.... deftly holding on to the tin, he moved both feet to the same support, spun himself, and then balanced again facing the opposite direction... and in one movement, he cupped his baseball cap over the entire nest and squeezed it hard.... he pulled it away from where it was attached to the wall and then released it... as long as I live, I will never forget watching that cap fall... it was almost in slow-motion...

.... it was like watching Slim Pickens ride that A-bomb.. the cap dropping directly towards the wagon... the doe-eyed farmboys looking up at us and laughing....

... sheer pandemonium erupted when that cap hit the wagon.... grown men and boys leaped from the wagon as a cloud of pissed off wasps began swarming... hardened, tobacco-chewing workmen loped like schoolboys and screamed like girls...

... me and the Top Man... we watched it all as it happened... safely perched as chaos ensued...

... so here I sit this morning.. half a pot of coffee down me, and I still can't figure out why I dreamed of the Top Man... and I shudder to think of the wasps..

... goodnight, rubberneckers!....

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Angry....

..... via The Count, I read this earlier today......

..... I don't talk about politics here on my blog..... the way that I see it, what you choose to believe is none of my business.... just as what I believe is none of yours in regards to politics..... but as I read the article, I knew it was worth sharing......

.... I don't know if there really is an "Angry White Man" roaming the streets and fields of America or not.... or even if there are millions of them...... but I thought that The Idea was a truly interesting one..... either way, it is definitely worth your time to read..... if simply for the difference in perspective that it offers.....

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Notions.....

.... earlier today I photographed a Northern Flicker as it vied with a blue jay for some doomed insect beneath the purple blossoms of my tea cup magnolia..... it was a large bird and caught my attention because of its size..... my lawn is seldom visited by avian visitors that are larger than a blue jay, so it was a bit conspicuous.....

.... I snapped a few photographs as he flitted about, but didn't really get any good ones....... still though, here he is....

flicker_small.jpg

.... quite a pretty bird, really...... and if you happened to dig into that wikipedia article that I linked above, they are evidently known as 'Yellowhammers" down in Alabama..... what an excellent name.... "The Yellowhammer".... the Alabama state bird...... Confederate troops from Alabama were known as Yellowhammers as well...... pretty interesting......

... it was good to see another bird sit on the ground and intimidate an evil blue jay, though...... the jays around here have been mortal terrors to most of other songbirds this spring...... every spring, in truth....... but wow, trust it to be a humble woodpecker that could finally cow a blue jay.......

.... I've always thought that blue jays are just plain evil....... they are tormenters and thieves...... and while they may be quite fetching in their blue and white suits, their screeching calls are enough to send chills up the backs of the most fortitudinous of animal husbanders.....

.... my Grandfather once spent a long winter & springtime staying with my family when I was a teenager...... my Mother had endured a fairly severe back surgery in the autumn, and dear ole Grandpa volunteered to stay with us and look after her while she healed.... so while Dad was away at work & my brother and I were away at school, Grandpa puttered around the house, did the dishes, planted a garden, and looked after his eldest daughter.......

..... I remember arriving home from school on spring afternoon and having him take me by the elbow and escort me outside....

.... "boy", says he, "I have a mission for you."

.... intrigued (and slightly scared), I asked him what he required of me.... (you always did what Grandpa said..)

..... "Them damn blue jays", he began.... "they're eating the hell out of my strawberries.... and they've run off with each and every cherry that your Dad's cherry tree produced this year...... you've still got that old Hopkins & Allen shotgun that I gave you when you turned 10, don't you?"....

... "yes, sir..."

.... "good.... because you are going to need it..... go and fetch that shotgun, Eric....... and for every blue jay that you bring me this spring, I will give you a dollar.... "

.... I nodded knowingly and went off to fetch it....... two months and three boxes of shells later, and I had managed to cull 28 blue jays from our 1.5 acre back yard in the hours between schools-out and bedtime.....

..... looking back now, a dollar was a lot of money for a 12 year old back in 1984..... and now that I think of it, hell, a dollar is still a lot of money to me now in 2008..... but I'll never forget that spring.... and just how happily Grandpa parted with his money each time I showed up holding a mangled blue jay by their cold, scaly, little black feet....

.... it must be genetics, I guess...... since I have completely inherited his hatred of blue jays....... then again, after having watched them mob a mama-bird and father-bird, drive them from their nest, and then eat their struggling fledgling alive on the wing, perhaps a hatred of jays is a learned behavior....... and not genetic after all...... I just don't know.....

.... but it is an interesting idea, I suppose - where we choose to draw the line.... that line where we, as human beings, deem something vile simply because it harshes our mellow, or drives away our joy.... where we imagine that a beast is imbued with the same characteristics as we....... we have a power that we must be very careful with.....

...... "It destroys that which I enjoy... therefore it must go." ...... "It is a bully!"..... "It preys upon the weak... and the weak are to be nurtured and made well."..... it is an interesting paradox......

..... often we look at the world that surrounds us, and we sometimes interject morals of our own which are not shared by our animal cousins..... and that is a scary, scary thing...... but it is an incredibly easy thing.....

.... it is all too alluring to get caught up when watching birds, bees, and deer....... and then to measure their predators with our own internal yardsticks of morality....

.... but in reality, there is no malice in the actions of a crow, blue jay, coyote, or wolf...... they are just filling their niche.......

..... but I'm still going to hunt coyotes...... but not out of some internal moral juxtaposition....... I am going to hunt them because I like it....... the bunnies be damned.......

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Nothing....

.... the hunt went off today without a hitch..... the rain that I had expected (and that the lying weatherman had predicted) ended up completely abating by half-past 8 this morning....... so while I did get a bit damp from crawling around in the wet grass and bushes today, I didn't actually get completely soggy from a steady rain......

.... but in regards to the "focus" of the hunt, I regret to say that every coyote in my vicinity remains as healthy this evening as they were when dawn broke this morn........ but hey, it wasn't from lack of trying on my part....... I did do my very, very best....... and if the truth were to be told, I'd sleep a lot more comfortably tonight if I'd arranged for a few of them to have met their makers before lunchtime today....... but alas, it was not to be so......

.... that said, I have to admit that I really did enjoy myself this morning......

..... after a fierce bout of heavy rain at daybreak, the skies started clearing.....slowly, gently, with a wind coming in from the west...... and by the time that I was easing through a ditch to position myself for my first calling session, the sky had already blued...... and when the time arrived to abandon that position, the air was humid, the Sun was shining, and an orchestra of songbirds were singing...... the cacophony was almost distracting..... trust me, it was a very good morning to be pretending to be a leaf....... I am very, very glad that I made the trip......

..... in other news, I was a bit shocked to see the emails and comments regarding my previous post...... I assure each and every one of you that there was absolutely ZERO chance of me getting shot today....... first of all, I was actually over a hill from the designated shooters..... secondly, they are trusted and experienced hunters..... and they are NOT gong to shoot at "the sound of a coyote".... especially when they KNOW that I am out there somewhere..... they are only going to shoot at a REAL coyote that they have identified and know isn't anywhere NEAR me........ and lastly, they knew where I was...... they couldn't see me, but they knew the direction in which I was hiding...... and I made sure at least three times during the drive to the hunt that I let them know that I did NOT want to get shot........ they understood my concern........ so, all is cool....

.... but having said all of that, the fact remains that today's hunt was fruitless..... fun, sure...... filled with anticipation?..... of course....... dead coyote off to the taxidermist?...... hardly....... but you know, that doesn't really matter...... not really...... today's pleasure was much more about being out in the field..... watching the sun dry the ground around you...... listening to the birds hush as you pretended to be a predator...... and waiting for them to start back with their springtime courting........ it is a truly rare moment to be so invisible.....

.... I'd have been just as happy if I'd been armed with a camera instead of a Winchester...... although the owners of the property did seem a bit disappointed that I didn't use either the camera OR the Winchester today...... and hey, they were definitely leaning towards the use of the Winchester rather than Sony.........

.... we're surrounded by wonders, folks..... we just have to choose to see them......

..... there is nothing in the world like the feeling that you get from becoming one with your environment and disappearing......

..... I've written about it many, many times...... from how movies escort us away to different places...... to how music can seduce our souls and transplant us without our even realizing........ but to do something in the flesh, in the woods, in the brush, in the rain, in the sunshine, something visceral......... it makes you want it all that much more...... it does not quench the thirst...... it makes you much more thirsty..... much, much more thirsty......

.... nature is The Great Seducer, ladies and gentlemen...... both in her beauty and in her violence......

..... to sit under the branches of an ironwood tree and watch the dew drip, good god....... we should all hide ourselves more often.......

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