Friday, September 30, 2016

Well Intended Stupidity In The “Saving” Of Elephant Herds

 Not long ago, I saw a video of an African country burning a huge pile of elephant ivory. All I could think of as I watched the flames was, “What an ignorant waste of a beautiful resource!” No doubt they were proud of themselves for catching the poachers, and they should have been. But to deliberately waste such a valuable resource is unconscionable. I’m sure that they never stopped to realize how self-defeating their ivory arson really was.

There will always be a demand for elephant ivory, legal or not. Not surprisingly, the illegal ivory trade works like every other business—the value of the product is determined by supply and demand. By destroying all the ivory belonging to the poachers who’d been caught, they greatly increased the value of the ivory held by those who HADN’T been caught. Since the price will be driven up, those poachers will try to kill even MORE of the dwindling elephant population. The foolishness of the authorities literally guaranteed increased killing of elephants.

Think what that ivory would have brought if auctioned off by the government. Think of the many starving people of Africa who could have been fed with that money. Think of all the beautiful things that could have been made from that same ivory and the jobs those items would create in commerce. But it all went up in smoke. It was just another case of some of God’s beautiful art material being destroyed by ignorant men.

I’m not for the slaughter of elephants. I’m not even sure they should be hunted normally anymore, even where legal. However, there will always be rogue elephants that will HAVE to be destroyed. There will always be unhealthy animals that need culled from the herd and old animals that are nearing death. If killed legally, the meat from those animals would feed many villagers, and the ivory could be sold to help the native tribes. AND they could get money from those willing to come and shoot the animals, think of them what you will.

Until the powers-that-be understand that banning the use of ivory only makes it more valuable, we are doomed to watch the elephant herds of Africa slide closer and closer to oblivion. © 2016

Is The Drought Over?

Only time will tell, I guess. The last couple months have been very dry here. That’s not a good thing for a guy whose house is surrounded on three sides by forest, especially with leaf fall beginning. Still, the last couple days and nights have been drizzly and rainy, with a little thunder and lightning. The total rainfall, so far, is about an inch. That’s too little too late to help the farmers, but it may still help the gardeners some.

I’ve enjoyed the rainy weather, but my wife isn’t keen on it. Like most of us, she’d be happy if rain only fell at night. The dog doesn’t mind rainy weather, until she has to go out in it to relieve herself, then she prefers that I hold an umbrella for her. However, I only do that if it’s pouring and she’s getting desperate. She doesn’t like the thunder, though, and barks and growls at it until it either stops or she wears down.

Our electric went off at 6:30 this morning. I was slightly awake and noticed that my C-PAP had stopped working. I got up, knowing that my wife and the pooch would be beside themselves. My wife hates a dark house and the dog has been used to 24-hour-a-day light and television for all of her seven years. At 9:30, I called the power company and got their wonderful little canned message with its handy-dandy little menu. It seemed to have trouble differentiating between my “yes’s” and “No’s,” so I ended up having to yell my answers into the phone. They predicted a return of power by 12:30, so I offered to take my two housemates out for a while, and they both accepted.

First, I took the missus to the big craft store in town, where she wandered around for about an hour, too poor to buy anything. I scouted for wild edibles while she was there, but found only a few “second cutting” milkweeds. Afterward, we had lunch at the fallen arches restaurant. The pooch ordered her usual double cheeseburger, plain.

Then, I took the missus to the mall, where she wandered a bit more, before tiring out. While she was inside, I found a private place for the pooch and I to relieve ourselves (THAT’S not easy anymore) and let her walk and sniff a bit. I also scouted for wild edibles, but this time of year, that place is pretty barren. I ended up having to pick my wife up at a different door since she didn’t think she could make it back to where I’d parked. Part of the problem, though, is that one of her hips is bothering her so much anymore.

We then left for home and got back at 12:30 on the dot, and the power WAS on. The pooch and I sat on the porch a while and I noticed a couple big grapevines in the edge of the woods that I’d planned on cutting. I think I’ll try making a big wreath out of them, since that’s what my wife wanted this morning, but couldn’t afford. They wanted $20 for a large plain one, which is ridiculous. I used to make them for people all the time, but never sold any. Guess it’s time to make another one. © 2016

Monday, September 26, 2016

And Then There Were Chainsaws

I mentioned in a previous post that my dad used an old-fashioned crosscut saw to cut timber when he first came home from WW II, as my granddad had always done when the need arose. Sometime in the late 40’s or early fifties, though, they got a two-man chainsaw put out by McCullough. It was a beast of a machine. It was powerful, but it was big and it was heavy (about 50 pounds). Even then, it was only half the weight of its closest competitor.

Click images to enlarge.

The end that the sawyer used had bicycle-like handlebars, with the gas feed controlled by one thumb-lever and the manual oiler controlled by the other. On the far end of the bar was a handle for the second man. With it, he could help control the direction of the saw and put some down-pressure on if desired. Since all-position carburetors hadn’t been invented yet, the engine had to stay fairly upright to run. To offset that problem, the bar could be locked into three different positions—level, for starting the felling notch and cutting down the tree—45 degrees for cutting the top of the notch—and vertical, for cutting logs to length (bucking).

The bar they used was five feet long, I think, but the attachment to the engine took some length off the back end of the bar, and the handle for the second man took off a bit more at the end of the bar. If you really needed the extra length, you could take off that handle and use the saw as a one man, gaining about three inches. It shows you what the old virgin timber could be like, even in my neck of the woods, that they sometimes had to notch both sides of the tree before they could get the blade to reach through to cut the notch. That was before my time, though. I think Dad and I only used the thing one time together, to saw down a huge old dead elm tree in the pasture field near the house. One of my older cousins remembers Granddad climbing onto the old Ford Golden Jubilee farm tractor and heading over the hill behind the sawmill with the big McCullough on his shoulder. A little later, he’d come back up the hill carrying the saw the same way, but dragging a big log behind the tractor, and steering with the brakes, since the front end was in the air. He was about 75 at the time. When I sold the farm, I gave the old saw to a local collector.

In the late 50’s but still before I was old enough to pay any attention, Dad bought a Mac 35. It was a one-man saw, weighing about 20 pounds. Dad used a 20” bar on it I think. It’s the saw that I remember him using when he cut timber on the ridge here where I live now. It cut a LOT of oak timber over the years.

Sometime in the mid 60’s, Dad got a blue Homelite XL-12. He was cutting a lot of pulpwood on the farm at the time, and the reduced weight (about 12 pounds) was a real advantage. He cut a lot of hardwoods with it, too, but he never put any dogs on it. The dealer said that if you needed dogs, your chain wasn’t sharp enough, or you were lugging the saw too much. Dad tended to agree. He used it for years and then accidentally put the wrong gas in it and locked it up. He dearly loved that saw and hated what he’d done, but the dealer, a friend of his, said it would cost more to repair than the saw was worth.

He’d been using my Stihl 041 Farm Boss and liked it, and thought that it would do for most regular cutting chores, so he got a Stihl 032 AV since he was getting older and the 032 seemed to balance well for him, plus, he was getting “white finger,” and the anti-vibration was a consideration. It weighed about 15 pounds, a touch more than his Homelite, but it became his favorite saw ever. As with the Old Mac 35, Dad always ran 20” bars on the Homelite and the Stihl.  The 032 AV was still the saw he used when he passed away in 1984, so I inherited it and used it even more. After Dad passed away, I gave the old Homelite to a friend and he had it running in no time.

There have been a couple more Stihl saws in my truck since then, but they were purchased for particular reasons and were part of my history, not Dad’s, so this is where I’ll end the story. © 2016

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Bad And The Good

I went to Lowe's today to pick up some black mammy and a roll of aluminum flashing to repair my roof. Both were about $10 when I checked two or three weeks ago. The flashing was still the same price, but I swear it was a shorter length roll, though I could be mistaken. The black mammy was $14.50, nearly a 50% increase in less than a month! Between that and needing to buy TWO rolls of the current sized flashing, I would have needed to spend nearly double what I'd planned. I was so disgusted that I left without buying anything.

With our tight budget these days, I've been buying a thing or two at a time that I would need to repair my roof, including a cheap but safe pair of shoes to wear up there. If I have to pay that much for the black mammy, I may check with the local mom and pop to see if their price is anywhere close. I also think I'll check with my roofer neighbor to see if he has any stray shingles that he'll sell cheap, instead of using flashing, like I'd planned. Then, all I'll need to do is cut a hole in my bedroom wall where the window is, so I can get out onto the roof, since I can't climb a ladder anymore.

My wife doesn't want me on the roof, since I usually walk with a cane, but I usually have it with me more as a precautionary measure than anything, including for self defense. I WILL use a rope to be sure that I won't go rolling off the 28 degree angle roof (almost a 1/3 pitch). I'd probably make an awfully big grease-spot after falling two stories. Old folks don't bounce like young ones. I wish I could just afford to hire it done, but I never have the winning ticket, probably because I rarely BUY a ticket.

On another note, something has apparently crawled under our front porch and died. I suspect a cat that hung around here some, and may have been a stray. I couldn't be sure if it WAS a stray, or belonged to one of the neighbors, though. I guess I'll find what it is tomorrow, because the smell is getting noticeable. Of course, if it's a mouse, I'll never see it anyway; there's only about four inches of clearance some places, and the best I could do would be to hook something with a pole.

On a BRIGHTER note, while my wife looked through one of the local craft supply stores, wishing she had the money to spend that she once did, I scouted for future foraging. I found a couple small patches of wild Jerusalem artichoke that I can dig later for "seed." I'm not big with them, but if I can keep the deer and the voles out of them, they certainly don't take any effort to grow. I haven't had much success yet, but my plan is to have several wild edible plants around that don't require honey bees to pollinate, or much effort to grow. I'm going to have to build a deer fence before I have any luck, though. Thankfully, I can build it out of poles from my woods and spend little or no money. It's something to work towards. © 2016

Bah! Humbug!

Old Ebenezer and I might have seen eye to eye on a few things. I went to Chinamart today and was accosted by some little (and not so little) girls in skimpy little outfits, some of them holding batons. They were collecting for their cheer-leading club, I assume. I only half heard what they were pitching. It wouldn’t have mattered; my response is always the same anymore, except for some veterans groups and the Salvation Army. Besides, I’ve seen a few of the routines they teach those girls, and some were called “bump and grind” back in my day.

I was a Boy Scout, but I no longer donate to them. It’s been a long time since they taught kids the things that they SHOULD be teaching them. It tells you something that the “God and Country” award is no more, nor are most of the merit badges that once required that they know survivalist and preparedness skills. Most things that I saw the last time that I tried to look it up were either rather useless in real life, were about social issues, or were downright PC. THEN, they decided that it was okay to have gay scout masters. Nope; not on MY nickel!

I don’t donate to the Girl Scouts any longer, either, OR buy their cookies. Their cookies have been notoriously over-priced for years anyway; you really were just donating, not BUYING anything to speak of. Their agenda is all PC now, and rather urban-oriented from what I can tell. Then there’s that whole link to Planned Parenthood thing that they try to deny, but which is as real as the murder that group perpetuates. Nope, once again, not on MY nickel!

Then there are all the various school teams and little leagues and peewee football teams wanting help. I really couldn’t afford to help them all if I wanted to. Besides, I’m not as sold on sports as most folks. Then again, when I was a kid, those who needed money for sports mowed yards, raked leaves and ran errands to raise funds to pay for what they needed, even fairly young kids. Now they stand at the door at Chinamart and look at you like you’re from outer-space if you give them a smile and a “no thank you.” Begging is socially acceptable these days; work apparently isn’t.

Maybe I should just start saying “Bah! Humbug” when I get accosted by the little beggars. Then again, most would probably have no idea in the world what I was referencing, since neither schools nor parents seem to teach their kids anything of value anymore. It’s a different world these days. © 2016

Friday, September 23, 2016

Crosscut Memories

This is a long one, folks. Save it until you can sit a few minutes.

Don’t think for a second that I really know what I’m talking about. I’ve probably felled about two trees with a crosscut saw in my entire lifetime, though I HAVE cut THOUSANDS of Christmas trees and similar-sized hardwoods over the years with a bow saw. However, my dad grew up when that was how things were done, and he told me and showed me a few things.

You’ll notice that I speak of “felling” timber instead of “falling;” maybe that was a colloquialism, or maybe it was just a family thing, but the first term was used at least as much as the second. Plus, there were felling axes and felling saws referred to by others, so maybe the usage was more common at one time.
Old photos of my country neighborhood from 1940 and earlier show hills largely denuded of timber to make pasture for milk cows and horses. I know the last time that much of my home farm was mowed was in 1937, by my 12-year-old father, using a one-horse mower and a horse named “Duke.” The hillsides that he mowed then became the second-growth pine woods that I grew up with. Dad, on the other hand grew up with a little virgin timber that NEVER got cut, and the very steepest of hillsides that had returned to second-growth hardwoods (mostly oak) from being cut long before he was born.

Like most farm families back then, my ancestors heated, at least in part, with wood (mostly hardwood) and some coal. That was before the days of chainsaws, so they used axes and crosscuts, naturally—axes for the smaller trees, say six inches and down, and crosscuts for those that were over that size. Of course they used crosscuts for cutting their wood to length, until it got too small to hold still for them. A sawbuck always helped with that task. Smaller diameter limbs and saplings were cut to length with a bucksaw. Really small pieces (kindling) were simply lopped to length with an axe on a stump or wood block. They cut enough firewood that they actually sold some in town during the winter.

crosscut saw

If a tree was perfectly straight and balanced-looking, it could be cut with most any kind of crosscut saw. You just made a level cut for the notch above the worst of the butt-swell, and in the direction that you wanted the tree to fall. Then you chopped out the top of the notch with an axe. OR, you could just chop the entire notch with the axe to save wear on the sharpened saw teeth.

You then went to the opposite side and made another level cut a couple inches or higher above the deepest part of the notch. If you were dead sure that the tree would fall okay, you just kept sawing until the tree started falling. Otherwise, you put a thin felling wedge in the second cut as soon as you could, so the saw wouldn’t get pinched while you were sawing. If the tree wasn’t very large, though, this situation would be where you needed a narrow felling saw. While felling saws came in many lengths and widths, I’ve seen two man felling saws as short as five feet and as narrow as three inches from the gullet to the back of the saw.

felling saw


Once you sawed as close to the notch as you deemed wise, you’d take the handle off one end and slide the saw from the cut. That would leave a “hinge” of wood to control the direction of the fall, in conjunction with the notch. Then, you’d begin driving the felling wedge in until the tree began to fall. If the tree had a back-lean, or heavy limbs to the back, you might have to use a second or third wedge closer to the hinge. Whenever a tree began to fall, you’d take your saw and walk back, at a 45 degree angle, away from the stump. Naturally, you always checked ahead of time to be sure the path was open.

There wasn’t much pulpwood cut in my area before the days of my childhood. Since pine is a pioneer species in my area, the fields that began growing up during the Great Depression were just coming to maturity. I was probably about five years old before Dad began cutting any pulpwood to reclaim some of the fields on our farm that had been lost since the lean years of the depression. By that time, he had a chainsaw but, in the old days, pine trees would have been cut the same way as hardwoods. The buyers around here purchased pulp only in five foot lengths back then, so the crosscut was used to cut the logs to length, until they got down fairly small, then they might have used a bucksaw, since pulpwood was taken down to 3-4 inches in diameter. I remember reading somewhere in the 1949 Yearbook of Agriculture that the BOWSAW revolutionized the pulpwood industry. Can you imagine, then, what the chainsaw did for timbering in all forms?



Here’s a little story about crosscuts from my paternal grandfather: The two sons of a gentleman he knew had filed their father’s saw “really sharp,” and the guy was impressed. He wanted granddad to see it before they began using it. Granddad said it WAS really sharp, but when the boys tried using it, it wouldn’t go into the wood, but kept jumping all over the place instead. The guy couldn’t figure it out and wanted granddad to look at the saw again. The father and boys were in shock when Granddad ran a file down the length of the saw two or three times, right on the sharp points of the teeth. He then handed the saw back to the boys and told them to try it again. They couldn’t believe how well it cut with dulled teeth. He told them to be sure and stop filing the split second the shiny spot disappeared when they were sharpening a floated (teeth made the same length) saw. Otherwise, the teeth would be all different lengths and the saw would jump around. Incidentally, Granddad always said that the rakers should be filed “the thickness of a thin dime” shorter than the teeth.

As a reminder of the physical condition that folks were in back in the days right after World War II, my dad and a friend used to take the old farm truck (’37 Ford ton-and-a-half) into the woods of a morning, fill it with wood as they cut and split it, eat lunch and deliver it. They’d then return to the woods and load the truck again with wood they cut and split that afternoon, eat supper and deliver that load. All the cutting was done with axes and crosscut saws. They would fall a tree and cut everything possible into firewood, including the larger limbs, before stopping for a breather.  Heck, I had a hard time doing that with a chainsaw!

A funny, but dangerous thing happened on one of those trips to town. Dad was driving and Bill, his friend, was sitting on the passenger side. The latch on the passenger door was getting a little squirrelly, and Bill was sitting with his arm out the window, leaning slightly against the door, as they went down the left-hand bend above the old bass hatchery in town. Suddenly, the latch gave way and Bill caught hold of the door and was swinging out alongside the truck’s cab as it went down around the hill. Dad slowed to a stop and Bill climbed back in. They had a good laugh, but Bill never leaned on the door anymore! © 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

You Never Know

I bumped into one of my neighbors I hadn’t seen for a while when I was in the restaurant in Chinamart the other day. We sat down at a table and chewed the fat a spell, caught up on some things and swapped a couple jokes. At one point, we mentioned that our wives were as likely to bump into one another as they shopped as we had been while beating in time at the restaurant. He said something that I now forget, but I remember making the wisecrack that wives are always “right.” Suddenly, his face took on a serious, in fact a sad look about it. I sort of wondered what nerve I’d struck.

He said quietly, “You know, I don’t know how true that may be for other couples, but it’s sure true in my marriage. I’ve been told that my wife and I both have a reputation for being a little difficult, but in going on 40 years of marriage, my wife has never started an argument.” I almost smiled, thinking he was going to make a wisecrack, but something told me not to do it.

“According to her,” he went on, “every argument we’ve ever had has been MY fault. Now, I don’t buy that, but that’s what she says, and I think she really believes it. In the beginning, when I realized that I was in the wrong, I’d apologize, but you know, she never once accepted one of those apologies. And of course, since she’s never wrong, she never once made one to me. In fact, I eventually quit apologizing, not because I’m too proud, but because she somehow figured that she then had the right to try brow-beating me all over again. Sometimes, I just gritted my teeth and bore it, but sometimes it was just too aggravating and the fuss would be on again. It ended up being simpler to just not apologize in the first place.

“Of course that means I get the silent treatment. Usually it’s only for an hour or two, but it went one for three days once. It was kinda peaceful, but it likes to break my heart to be on the outs with her. She really IS a good woman at heart, and I still love her, though I don’t think she’s ever believed that. I used to tell her every day, but she just acted like I was lying to her.

“There are times when I think down deep she realizes that she’s been unfair. If it was a really minor squabble, she’ll eventually just act like nothing has happened and go on. There are other times when she’ll fix one of my favorite meals, or bring me some unexpected snack at my desk. I guess it’s her way of trying to make amends without having to admit that she was wrong. You know, though, I’d trade all those years of fine meals and treats for just one time that she said simply, “I’m sorry, I was wrong.”

“It’s not that I want to feel that I’ve finally won an argument, it’s just that I wish she had enough respect for me, and enough confidence in herself to do it. I think maybe it all goes back to the rough treatment she got as a kid, and she’s trying to avoid blame by “being perfect.” It seems to me that would be an awful burden to bear. I suspect a lot of guys would just stay angry at her, but I can’t do that. I do feel sorry for her, though, because I think she puts herself through a lot of unnecessary misery”

He sat silent for a second, then smiled and changed the subject. We chatted a few more minutes and then went our separate ways, looking for our wives. I’ve been thinking about the conversation ever since, though. It just kind of makes me sad for the both of them. © 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

Ya Can’t Find Nuthin’ No More!

A few days ago, I bought an eye-bolt to put in the end of a “tongue” on my chainsaw mill-frame so I could pull it like a trailer. I’d have liked to have gotten one large enough that I could drop it over the 1-1/2” ball on the back of my lawn tractor to pull it. Unfortunately, the little mom & pop hardware that I went to didn’t have one that big, so I got a smaller one, planning to use a short piece of rope to make a loop to pull with. Today, I checked Lowe’s, just in case they had something larger. They didn’t. The best they had was one with a 1-1/4” eye. I thought about widening the eye to MAKE it work, but the threaded section was so short, that I was afraid it would pull from the wood. I think it was only 5/16” stock.

At one time, the mom & pop would have had larger sizes. At one time ANY building supply place would also have had larger sizes. That was then, this is now. Apparently, no-one does anything anymore, and those that do have to custom-make the things they use for their projects. It was the same when I tried to buy some rope recently. These days, if you want something particular, you have to order it from a specialty supply place, like timbering and arborist supply companies.

Take axes for example. You used to be able to buy good quality axes all over town, but very few folks use them anymore. I can only think of one place where I can buy a good axe, and it’s at a chainsaw dealership a few miles out of town. Crappy axes are still available at some hardware stores and, naturally, you can buy SUPER CRAPPY ones at Walmart. Replacement axe handles are another example. There are only two, maybe three, places in town where you can buy them, and the quality isn’t what it SHOULD be. You can’t buy a good scythe blade in this town to save your soul, either, OR a good snath.

The bottom line is that stores only stock what they sell a lot of these days. It’s a financial necessity in these troubled times, I guess. Plus, the fact that I even know how to swing an axe and a scythe makes me a living anachronism. Even the Amish don’t use such things anymore. Apparently, no-one uses eye-screws anymore either. In fact, I doubt if most folks even know what they are, except for builders and country folks.

Someday, our technological world may come crashing down around our ears. If that happens, neither the knowledge nor the equipment may be available for most folks to rebuild their lives. It’s a sad state of affairs. © 2016

Saturday, September 17, 2016

My Feelings On Sports

I’ve probably said all I’m about to say in earlier posts, but probably just as bits and pieces. Today, I’ll lay it ALL out.

My dad grew up when baseball, not football, was the American game. He lettered in it in high school, and I’m sure he was in on the action at the game shown in a photo taken on March 31st, 1946 at Ashiya Airbase in Japan, that I posted earlier (now deleted). When I was little, I remember him sometimes having a small game or doing some batting practice with my older cousins and an uncle or two. When I was a little older, he’d pitch for me as I worked to improve my horrible batting ability. If he was in the house for some reason, and a baseball or football game was on, sometimes he’d watch it, sometimes he wouldn’t. He NEVER passed up a chance of gathering at the table with his family for eating in front of the TV to watch a game. Even on holidays, he’d often go back outside after lunch and tinker on small farm chores that got put off through the week, rather than sit and watch the game. He WAS a little more likely to watch a game during bad weather.

When I was in school, we played the usual games in PE, and I noticed the coaches assumed that we all knew the rules already. I guess it’s supposed to be genetic if you’re an American. I never joined the other teams, but I did throw the shot-put and discus in 9th grade. Amusingly enough, a homeroom buddy and I were the school badminton champs in high school (because he was tall and I was sneaky). I went to most of the home games in high school, partly because I knew the boys playing, and partly because it made for an inexpensive date for a poor country boy. After high school, I made a slight effort to follow the boys that went to college and played on their teams, but after they graduated college, I couldn’t have cared less about the games.

Though even some of my country class-mates were into organized sports, I was into archery, hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, horseback riding, wild foods, farming, sawmilling, old-time country ways, history, target shooting, coin collecting, stamp collecting and trapping. You’ll notice that most of those things have an obvious practical tie-in for a guy who likes country life. Nearly all can be handy skills in hard times, even history, if you’re willing to learn from it.

Now, a lot of those defending sports tell how it fosters teamwork. Yet, even though my interests were sometimes solitary pursuits, I’ve never had any problem with teamwork on the job. I think it’s simply a matter of maturity. Sports ARE good exercise for folks who might otherwise be lying around watching TV, but ONLY if THEY are the ones playing them! THERE, is my main point. Sports should be played, not watched. If you’re only watching someone else play a game, you need a life. Yet, sports ARE some people’s life. They spend enough money to take their family on a week’s vacation just to go to a big game and eat, drink, scream and cuss. Parents have literally killed referees and parents of the opposite team at their child’s game. “Sports fans” have literally killed gotten into arguments, and then fights, with supporters of opposing teams and killed them. Thankfully, very few fans are that extreme, but I’ve seen MORE than a few ready to throw punches over a ballgame. It’s childish and it’s ridiculous.

We don’t want to admit it, but many of us are no better than the heathens who filled the ancient coliseum, to watch gladiators fight to the death. The guy that yells “kill the ump” is no different than the fellow who gave the “thumbs down” at the coliseum. Football, boxing and cage fighting are all gladiator “sports.” People are perfectly fine with the “players” getting hurt. In fact, I believe many WANT to see that sort of thing, just like some race fans love the crashes and some folks watch high-wire acts waiting for someone to fall.
With all the concussions they’re discovering in football players, I think it’s time we go to flag football. Boxers should wear helmets and win by points, not knock-outs. Cage fighting, like dog fighting and cock fighting, should simply be illegal. Yes the games would change, there would be fewer concussions and other injuries in football and it would become more of a running game, and less about bone-crushing force. Boxing fans would no longer get the satisfaction of seeing a man lying unconscious in the ring. Maybe it’s time we act as civilized as we like to think we are.

And then there’s the money. Some folks will jump to the conclusion that I’m jealous, but no, I don’t mind folks who become HONESTLY rich in business. Others will say that it’s entertainment (which it is) and singers and movie stars make big money, which is true. But who says that they SHOULD? Yet, we live in what remains of a free market society, so people with warped priorities will continue to support the huge salaries of sports figures, while sometimes lying on their couch at home, not even bothering to vote or go to a town council meeting. (Yes, I KNOW that many of you are active, but fewer than would want to admit it.) Some folks will point out that sports figures only have a few prime years and that they have to make their life’s fortune while they can. No-one can argue that point, but that is why they SUPPOSEDLY went to college on scholarships, so they would have something to fall back on when their glory days are over.

All-in-all, my view of sports can be summed up in the photo below. © 2016


Friday, September 16, 2016

Fat Guy Jeans

Like a lot of fat folks, I didn’t start out that way (see photo at bottom of post); things just sort of crept up on me. Even during my teen years, work on the farm and sawmill kept me reasonably trim and muscular. My uncle had a clothing store downtown at the time, and I bought a lot of my clothes there. His son (10-15 years older than I) worked there and was often the one to fit me. (Remember those days, when stores had seamstresses?) He always laughed and told me that I had a “nigger butt.” I was wide enough in the shoulders, and less so through my stomach and hips, and actually a bit narrow front to back through the waist. He was right about my butt, though. Needless to say, as my belly got bigger over the years, so did my backside. I guess that makes me better balanced, front to back, but I don’t know if that’s a good thing.

Starting about 20 years ago, most stores quit carrying sizes for fat guys. There was only one place left in town where I could still get jeans and, sadly, they were made in China. I always got about three sizes too large, so I’d have plenty of room in the seat and thighs. Then, the manufacturer got the bright idea of cutting 8 inches of fabric from the seat and 4 from each thigh. They no longer fit well enough to be worth buying. I checked even larger sizes, but they keep the same seat and thigh sizes and just blow out the waist.

SO, I found ONE place on the internet (DXL) that stocked what was supposed to be my size. Knowingly, I STILL ordered a waist size 6 inches larger than I should require. The jeans came in two days ago. They SEEMED to fit at first. They didn’t give me as much room as I expected, but standing there, they felt okay and my wife said that they looked good. They COULD have used a couple more belt loops. It always amazes me that companies add inches to the waist, but never add belt loops. They sure try to save money in strange places.

Then I tried to squat to put the leash on the dog. It might have worked if she was an Irish wolfhound, but there was no way that those jeans were going to let me put a leash on a dachshund. Then, I went to put my wallet in my hip pocket and there WAS none. My wife assured me that there was, but it was clear around just at the back of my hip bone. When I went to put my penknife and keys in my front pockets, I discovered that they, too, were around by my hipbone, only about two inches in front of my “back” pockets. Plus they were barely big enough to put my hand in. I guess I’ll keep them, since the only pair of jeans I own that isn’t patched currently NEEDS patched. I won’t be ordering any more of this type, though. I thought that it was interesting that they were made by Wrangler, yet Wrangler’s website doesn’t list anything beyond 6 sizes below what I ordered. If I ever get the money to spare, maybe I’ll try their carpenter jeans, but I suspect they’ll fit even worse. I realize that some fat guys are buttless wonders, buy I ain’t one of them!

Maybe I’ll just get me some burlap bags at the feed store and start making myself burlap kilts to wear. THAT should certainly raise a few eyebrows! © 2016


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

War Memories

My dad didn’t go into the Philippines during the main assault, but as part of the “mop-up crew.” Their job was to bury any dead Japanese that they came across and to root out any hold-outs hiding on the islands. One of the first things he came across was encountered while taking a stroll on the beach. There in the sun was a huge pile of dead Japanese, stacked up like cordwood, awaiting a bull-dozer to excavate a mass grave. As he walked by, he noticed the smell of the dead bodies and the flies swarming over them. He said that a deep sadness came over him to remember that each one of the young men lying there was some mother’s son.

They slept under shelter halves, buttoned together at the top to make what we would call a “pup-tent.” Each tent held two men. Several times, camps had been attacked at night by Japs running through the camps in the darkness, stabbing their bayonets into the tents where they thought a GI would be lying. Word soon got around to other camps, of course. One night, Dad looked out the open end of his tent and saw a “bush” that he didn’t remember from earlier. They were taught not to stare at something they were unsure of, but to look away and then look back. Otherwise, the human mind can convince itself of most anything. Not quite sure what he was seeing, he clicked off the safety of his M1. After a few more minutes, he was convinced everything was okay, clicked the safety back on and went to sleep. The next morning, when he told the guard, the guard said he’d heard the safety go off and was just waiting for all hell to break lose. Dad joked that if that bush had moved, it would have been a very DEAD bush!

Another time, it started pouring down the rain while they were sitting in their tents, out of the sun. They hadn’t had a shower in days, so nearly all of them grabbed a bar of soap and quickly lathered up. Then the rain stopped as abruptly as it had begun. Dad said that one feeling worse than being unwashed for days on end, is being in the jungle as soap dries on your skin. Of course, they tried to wipe off all they could, but they had limited success. Copyright 2016

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Saving Pee And Mouthing Off

I took the Mighty Dachshund out to take care of business yesterday morning and the first thing she did was to drop right by the front porch and soak the place where we step up. Apparently, she was in more dire need than I realized. She was down so long that I thought, surely, she couldn’t have another drop in her. However, on our way over to the “dumping ground,” she stopped, smelled a spot where I was sure that SHE hadn’t peed for ages, dropped and marked her territory. Both before and after dealing with the other matter, she stopped, apparently smelled some night-time interloper and marked territory again. She obviously saves a little bit back at all times, just in case she “needs” it!

I’ve read that dogs can decipher an amazing amount of information from smelling the “scents posts” of other dogs. They say that they can get a good indication of the other dog’s age, health, breeding readiness and, of course, sex. I guess you could say, then, that a doggie toilet is a cross between a community bulletin board, a gossip column and a singles site. All from a few drops of pee. That’s some way to communicate. I won’t even go into their butt-sniffing ways!

It was a nice morning, so I sat in the porch swing a while, with her at my feet. A little tufted tit-mouse was in a white oak 30 feet away, at the edge of the woods, raising all kinds of racket. Between bursts of chatter, it was pecking the bark looking for bugs and worms. Soon, I heard another one about a hundred feet down in the woods, then a third, and then a fourth. All seemed to be hunting for food, as I slowly located each one, but they made sure that all the others knew where they were. They may have been having actual conversations for all I know, but I don’t speak tit-mouse.

Before long, a bunch of crows invaded the woods, also looking for food no doubt. You could tell that they were some distance apart from one another, but staying in touch with constant chatter. That went on for perhaps twenty minutes until they worked their way out of my hearing.

About then, a car pulled into the driveway across the road. Soon, three women walked arm-in-arm toward the house, chattering and laughing as they went. The two younger women were on each side of an obviously elderly lady, so I’m sure they were being certain that she didn’t stumble. They were having a good time as they went, though. A member of the little herd of deer grazing about 100 feet from that house gave a warning snort and all looked up from their dining. They decided that the ladies presented no danger, though, and soon went back to grazing.

I thought about the things I’d seen and heard. There are solitary people, just as there are some solitary animals (mountain lions and such) but most creatures, man included, are basically herd (or flock ) animals, and communication is a big part of their lives. Even the fish of the oceans usually travel in schools and have ways to communicate. To prove my point, here I sit at my computer, and there you sit reading what I write, and vice versa. We aren’t so different from the little tit-mouse, I guess, doing our own thing, but still wanting to keep in touch. Thanks for being there folks, otherwise, who would read this drivel? © 2016

Monday, September 12, 2016

War Memory 3

When Dad was at one location in the Philippines, they had to watch showing themselves too long at a time. The Japs had a big gun up in the mountains mounted on a short section of railroad track. Normally, the gun was hidden either in a brush arbor or a hand-dug “cave;” I don’t remember which. When they wanted to fire it, they’d pull the brush off the track and roll it out. It had a range of several miles, and was high enough up in the mountains that it could see much of the land, clear down to the seashore. There were some forested sections and small hills, however, which did provide some places for our troops to hide and stash their equipment.

One day, a truck stopped in too open of an area to load some soldiers. Right after the first few got on, the Japs lobbed a shell at the right range, but too far to one side. The soldiers kept hurriedly climbing on the truck. A few seconds later, a second shell hit, also at the right range, but exactly the same distance to the other side. Dad said that he couldn’t help but laugh, despite the danger, as he watched from safety, as the men jumped in the truck like jack-rabbits, not even worrying how they’d land inside. The truck quickly sped away before a third shot was fired. Had they been a couple seconds longer, the whole group would have probably been wiped out.

Another day, a Seabee was trying to take a dozer across a solid rock ridge that lay between it and the big gun. Unfortunately, every time he just topped the ridge, the cleats would lose traction and he’d spin the tracks. Then, a shell would land nearby and he’d have to back down before the gun could zero in on him. He’d try again soon, in another location, but it would be the same thing. A guy in a jeep, though, drove up and over before the gun could get off a shot. Dad said that just proved that everything has its place. Cleats don’t work well on solid stone, but rubber does fine!

Another War Memory

Dad was lucky to have never been on the leading edge of the fighting. Once they learned that he could type, he spent way more time than he wanted in Headquarters Company. Still, he made it out near the front at times. The only time that he was actually on the front was when he was assigned to help carry some wounded guys off a mountain the Philippines.

One guy was wounded in the leg and bleeding heavily, but the medic insisted on sending him down the mountain without treating him. Either a compression bandage or a tourniquet would probably have stopped the bleeding, but the medic insisted that the guy would be okay. Dad watched the life drain from the boy’s body as they tried to hurry him down the mountain. At the bottom, the next medic pronounced him dead. I do believe if the first medic had been there, Dad would have given him a piece of his mind (at the very least). He still got upset telling me about it thirty years later. © 2016

My Email Accounts

My service provider allows you to have up to five email accounts. I’m not sure why most folks would need that many, but that certainly seems generous. At one time, I actually used all five. I had my personal account, my blog account, my “legal” account where all official stuff went and one account each for two small LLC’s that I then had. When I closed the LLC’s, naturally I closed those two accounts. I also used my legal account for online ordering and such. Over the years, despite clicking on every company’s unsubscribe option, nearly every one of them continues to spam me to this day. I even went through the process to bar them from the account that the service provider offers, but I either don’t know how to use it or it doesn’t work. The few times that it did seem to work, the companies just used a different account and spammed me anyway.

It’s gotten so ridiculous that I recently considered closing the account altogether. I moved the three folks that I actually wanted to communicate with to another account. Then, I had to order a pair of jeans online, since no-one in town wants to stock clothes for blubber-butts anymore. I KNEW that if I gave them one of my other accounts that the whole cycle would start over again, so I gave them my “legal” account when I saw that it was a “required” field. So, my new plans are to keep that account after all. Anytime I check it, I just delete everything, unless I’m expecting something particular.

The companies know that people get fed up with them and are beginning to pull a few stunts to pique people’s curiosity. Some are acting like the pitches are actually personal messages from individual people. Others are using single letters as being the name of the sender, instead of using the company name. One company has even found a way to send an email with no name at all as to who sent it; it’s just blank until you click on it (which I did only once, just to see who the jerk was). I guess tolerating spam is just one of the necessary evils in life. At least I don’t have to check each source anymore; I can just delete them all without looking, unless I just ordered something, of course. © 2016

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Annie Weber – Installment 20

Life was certainly different on the base. Back home, I had the whole house, a big garden and half the farm chores to do, it seemed. On the base, all I had to take care of was a tiny little trailer. It was kept spotless; you can be sure of that. I was used to working all day, so I couldn’t just sit around. I cleaned just about everything every day. The mahogany walls and ceiling were kept polished and the outside of the trailer washed. Occasionally, I even took my little cookstove apart and cleaned it, including all the screws and the holes they went into. At monthly inspection, the sergeant always said that it was the cleanest trailer he’d ever seen. That was why, when I finally wrestled the bed upright and found a hole underneath big enough for an animal to crawl through, that it got fixed so quickly. The sergeant replaced the whole floor in the bedroom and then went on to do the whole trailer. Some of the other wives were jealous, but I never told them the reason that I got it. I figure they’d have been offended.

Roy was thrilled to discover what a good cook I was. I guess he figured most girls my age didn’t know their way around a kitchen, and maybe that was so. However, I’d been cooking for a large family almost from the time that I could stand at the kitchen stove. When we had money to spare, I’d bake cookies and he’d have his friends and their wives over for coffee.

“Money to spare,” that was a dumb thing to say, I guess. No military couple or family ever has money to spare. It was made worse for me and Roy because neither of us had ever lived on our own and didn’t know how to shop for groceries or manage our food supply. Roy had lived at home until he entered the service, and while I knew how to cook, I never shopped for groceries. Dad always stopped at the store on his way home from work if we needed anything, and we always had big gardens and home-grown meat, eggs and milk. We tended to buy too much of the wrong things and then eat it up too soon. Before Roy’s next paycheck would arrive, we’d be living on coffee and donuts that he’d sneak home from the mess hall, and there was precious little of that.

I remember that a sergeant that lived close by once bought a huge pizza, ate a couple pieces and gave the rest to use, saying that he knew that he just couldn’t eat it all. We didn’t like pizza that well, but we were so hungry that we didn’t care; we were thrilled. We knew, though, that he just did it because he somehow knew that we were going hungry and wanted to help us out. May God bless that man!

I practically owe my life to Maria, my Panamanian friend next door, for teaching me to plan our meals ahead, buy food accordingly and to ration everything so it would last. Things got easier after that, but they NEVER got easy. The military doesn’t really give couples or families enough to live on, and then they wonder why so few good men re-up. (Unless you’re an officer, of course, then you get the best of everything.)

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

My Time As A Union Man

Click image to enlarge.

I grew up on a farm. My paternal grandfather had been a rig-building contractor who’d remarked that “unions will be the ruination of this country.” My dad didn’t feel quite so strongly about it, but his feelings were similar. I must confess, due to their influence, my feelings were also similar. It didn’t help any that I saw unions on strike for wages and benefits far greater than anything we earned as farmers, even though we had to buy some of the high-priced products that they produced.

Times changed, though. My grandfather died when I was eight and my dad when I was 29. We’d given up regular farming by that time and concentrated on Christmas trees and sawmilling. Nine years after Dad passed away, lumber and Christmas tree prices both tanked, so I began looking for work off the farm. It took a year, but I finally was hired by O. Ames Company, then the world’s largest producer of lawn and garden tools. Lumber prices were back up by that time, but not Christmas trees, and I was playing catch-up so badly that I had no choice but to accept the job.

The main thing that I disliked was that it was a union shop. If you survived 90 days of work there (many quit), you automatically became a member of United Steel Workers of America Local 1651. I wasn’t all that pleased, but I had to work. Interestingly enough, I had already begun to see why the union existed. You had no protection from the union those first 90 days, so the company really took advantage of their new hires. People were asked to do things that wouldn’t have been allowed for a union man, and they worked us a ridiculous amount of overtime. All we could do was work, sleep, eat and go back to work. The first thing I did, once I was sworn into the union, was to turn down about half of the overtime that I was offered.

Now, I’ve always been one to take the bull by the horns, so I figured that if I had to be in a union, I wanted to know what was going on and I wanted to have my say. The first year, I don’t think that I missed a single monthly meeting. They had one meeting for first shift, and one for second (afternoons), which I worked. I only went to the one for afternoon shift, of course. At about the one year point, the president of the local came to me and asked me to be shop steward on second shift. Apparently, none of the older guys would accept the job. I guess they had better sense. It didn’t pay anything, involved a lot of paperwork and required a high tolerance for temperamental people on both sides. The president warned me that by the time that I left the position that I wouldn’t have any friends in the company OR the union. I laughed and told him that was okay, I didn’t have any friends the way it was.

The position was certainly an eye-opener. I would never have dreamed how petty, immature, hot tempered, and/or whiny some of my coworkers could be, especially the “veterans.” Nor could I believe all the stunts the company tried to pull, especially a couple of the foremen. It did keep me busier than I liked, but I certainly learned what was happening on second shift!

It wasn’t exactly true that I’d leave the position with no friends. I didn’t really do much to irritate the higher-ups. Plus, the second shift supervisor was a fellow Christian, so we didn’t give each other any unnecessary grief. A couple of the foremen thought I was a jerk, but they were always trying to do things that weren’t allowed in the contract. A handful of veterans considered me a company s_ck, since I would also remind them that they had to honor the contract the same as the company. Some folks always think they’re special.
Something that amused me was the union elections. The things that people would do to one another and the things that they would say about their coworkers amazed me. You would have thought that they were 
running for president of the United States, not for an office in a piddly little union local. There was corruption right in our own local. There was even more on the state and national levels. As we were losing our jobs, we had several thousand dollars in our local’s bank account that we wanted to donate to local charities, but the powers-that-be wouldn’t allow it. Interestingly enough, we could have had a big party and spent the money on booze and hookers and they wouldn’t have cared a bit. That was how they rolled.

Contracts were interesting, too. The first two years after a three year contract went into effect, the company would brag to the high heavens about how great our productivity was and how much money they were making. Contract year, though, they twisted and massaged the numbers to make it look like they were losing their shirts. Once the contract was settled, they returned to bragging all over again.

I remember in one of the meetings they had with the workers before contract negotiations, that one of the brass was whining about the fact that they paid us more than their non-union plant in Pennsylvania. I stood up and asked if their production per man-hour wasn’t only about 2/3 of ours, while their wages were ¾ of ours. He admitted that was true. So I asked if, based on man-hour production, were we not underpaid compared to the Pennsylvania plant. He hemmed and hawed and finally admitted that someone could look at it that way. As I sat down, I heard him whisper to the guy next to him, “Who was that man?”

I worked there 11 years and 9 months; I was a shop steward about ten of those years. What I learned was that nearly every company that had a union, DESERVED that union, due to the mistreatment of their employees. The local companies that treated their workers well managed to stay non-union. Ames had a history of conflict; their strikes in the old days were famous. By the time I got there, times were changing and the union couldn’t make the demands that it once did, even to keep up with inflation.

The chains in the basement where convict workers slept during WWII were still there. They probably volunteered to be there, but you can be sure that Ames profited immensely from their presence. I truly believe that had slavery still been legal, Ames would have had slaves, and color wouldn’t have mattered.

Had the company not sent their work to China (and to Pennsylvania, to be done by Mexicans, probably illegals), I would probably be working there yet. Still, I don’t miss the place, though I miss the paychecks. I really don’t miss the union, either, but I’m very thankful it was there. © 2016

War Memories

Posting the old war bird photos brought back some memories of things that my father told me. I really should write them down.

For a while, he worked driving a fuel truck (straight frame, I think) to refuel planes, probably at the airfield where the photos all appear to have been taken (Ashiya, Japan). Remember that he was only 18 when he went in and 21 when he came out. One day as he followed another driver, he eased up against him and slowly accelerated, the other driver thought his throttle was stuck, so eventually applied the brakes. Dad then eased back and let the guy go on. When they got to the airstrip, the guy was telling Dad that his truck was acting goofy, so Dad let him in on what happened.

Another time, he went up in a B-25 to help look for a downed plane. They found that it had crashed nearly straight down in a swampy area. When they went there on foot, They learned that the engine had gone down 20 feet or more into the muck. I don’t remember if the pilot got out first or not.
Copyright 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

This MAY Ruffle A Few Feathers!

I’ve been watching along a bit as my wife has watched the Downton Abbey reruns on PBS. I was disappointed to see that the writer couldn’t keep a civil tongue about America, just like the writer of Anne of Green Gables a few years earlier. The former was set in England, the latter in Canada.

In the old days, I suppose the Brits had a burr up their backside that The U.S. was the first nation to be successful in casting off the yoke of British oppression. That was no doubt part of the reason for the apparent hatred so many had for America.

Let’s face it; all empires are set up to steal everything of value from the countries they put under subjection. Since the British Empire was the largest in history, it was automatically the greatest thief. Just look at India, once the richest nation on earth. Britain stole everything it had until it became the poorest nation on earth. Since the U.S. ultimately spread to the far coast, can you imagine the riches that Britain missed out on by losing first our war for independence, and then the War of 1812? Some of them apparently never forgave us for winning those two wars.

Today, there is a second embarrassment. It would have been ALMOST impossible for them to have won WWI without our help, but they MIGHT have survived. Had we not helped them in WWII, though, they would now be speaking German, plain and simple. To be crass, that means America kicked their butts twice and saved their butts twice. I guess that’s enough to give some of their folks a bad case of insecurity. (I guess it would be mean to point out that Germans are still on the throne there.)

As for any bad blood any Canadian may have for America, I guess it can either be written off to ignorance, or else the arrogance absorbed by too long of an association with England. In fact, some of their money still sports the likeness of the queen. There’s nothing specifically wrong with that, but it DOES prove my point.

As for my readers who live in Canada or the U.K., rest assured that I have absolutely nothing against the good and decent people of either nation. We are far more similar than we are different. However, if this shoe fits anyone reading this, please feel free to wear it! © 2016