Saturday, October 30, 2010

Just Saturday stuff . . .

Saturday. Sofa. Coffee.

It is quiet this morning. It is perfect.

I love autumn, especially now that the weather has caught up with the calendar. The sun is brilliant, there is not a speck of cloud against the cornflower sky, there was a touch of frost this morning, and the leafy mosaic outside my window is awash in the golden shower of early morning sunlight.

It seems as if my eyesight has been tweaked overnight as edges and outlines previously blurred are now distinct. There is a dead tree in the distance that rises above its neighbors. The squirrels are putting on a show in the high leafless branches that would put fear into the Flying Wallendas.

And Alabama basketball starts Tuesday. Life is good . . .

Lately I've seen of lot of folks wearing those bracelets that are supposed to help you maintain your balance. I'm thinking of buying one. It is hard to keep balance these days. I am amazed this morning as I look out at those squirrels doing their high bar acts without a net or mat so high above the earth. The run deftly to the very end of a tiny branch and the leap confidently into the air to catch the very tip end of another branch. No hesitation. No faltering. If they have a thought about what might happen if they miss or slip they never let on.

Those squirrels up there have balance.

I doubt they watch cable news.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

It only takes a spark . . .

A neighbor up at the farm decided Saturday was a great day to burn trash. Yes, folks still do that up in the country. His method was not quite as sophisticated as most folk, who incinerate their refuse in a "burn barrel." His was the "burn pile" motif, a bit more primitive. It was in fact a perfect day for burning. The forestry service thought so as well.. They had banned all burning of any kind. It was so hot, dry and windy Saturday they wouldn't let you walk outside with heartburn for fear it might spread.

Anyway, the trash burned well in his backyard, followed amazingly quickly by about a hundred acres of our family farm being scorched. I heard that more than a hundred or so folks from around there tried to contain it, and they did. It could have been much worse if it had spread. I didn't hear about the fire until the next day.

The farm will be okay. The gazebo by the fishpond was consumed, along with the swing and all the broken fishing rods and reels and leaky rafts and odds and ends stored inside. The Lowry's old travel trailer which had been sitting up above the pond for a couple of decades collecting varmints was also in the path of the inferno. All that remains are the metal shells of the appliances. That may have been a blessing. The early sixties model trailer had been sitting there for years with some of the original stuff still in it from the last time it was actually slept in by humans. Sweatshirts, tennis shoes, cans of beans, pots and pans, old pillows, towels, blankets, trivial pursuit, playing cards, old batteries, flashlights, a radio, matches and lighters. Good times. Great times. But it was not pristine, even then. Now non-humans had been its tenants in the past few years and brought along some of their own stuff. Last time I was in it I was trying to find a match that was dry and it was getting dark. I'm not ashamed to say I was scared. If I were a snake, I would have lived in that trailer. Nobody really wanted to clean it up. There's nothing to clean up now.

Daddy's tractor was parked under a water oak tree between the gazebo and the travel trailer. It is a fine old rusting red diesel with a bush-hog and a front-end loader. Daddy spends most of his time keeping air in the tires, re-charging the battery and getting it to run. But it usually starts for him. He knows the combination of starter, throttle, and accelerant and it is quite the sight to see him execute the starting sequence. I never saw a tire melt completely away and disappear off a vehicle. But I have now. So daddy will have some work to do before he worries about trying to start the tractor again. New tires, new hoses, new wiring.

The big old barn had mostly fallen down in the last couple of years. It had some good wood in it that we meant to use for some other project. Turns out that good wood burned good. All that was left of the big, old falling down barn was sheets of tin covering a layer of ashes.

Tommy will have to get a new trailer to haul his tractor.

The outhouse stands unscathed.

As I walked the length of charred field from the gate to the pond, the place seemed so much bigger. All of the hedges and undergrowth were gone. About halfway I saw something moving toward me from the right. I turned my head and saw two deer running through the barren open field. It was a long run in the open. There was something unnatural about watching them run so far without cover. They looked annoyed and winded when they finally made it to the other side of the burnt field. As I got closer to the pond I watched one of those big water birds with the legs that bend funny and that have a wingspan of about 6 or 8 feet rise up and began to fly. He flew to the horizon and out of my sight.

I got all philosophical as I finally turned to walk back to my car, which is a fairly common occurrence for those who have spent much time alone at the farm.

The farm will be okay.

And that makes me feel a little more okay too.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Show me the money . . .

I haven't been able to put a finger on what is bothering me about the current political climate. I don't mean the obvious things like Sarah Palin, John Boehner's dimming orangeness, or wicken candidates (although I am surprised that FOX missed the obvious angle on the Christine O'donnell story. The lead in:
"Witches, from being the hunted to being in the hunt for the U. S. Senate, there's a lot at stake in the heart-warming story of Christine O'Donnell.")

No, I have been plagued by something indiscernible, something more pervasive, an overlay that might explain the inexplicable absurdity of what American politics has become.

I thought about deregulation of the media and the loss of the fairness doctrine. The Tea Party. FOX news and its nutty talking heads. But these are just a few symptoms of something deeper, something profound.

I think it has come to me, courtesy of Benjamin Franklin. No, not any of the wise sayings or writings of the original American philosopher.

Just the realization provided by his picture.

It's all about the Benjamins.

All the craziness is just window dressing, like the puppets on display in the department store windows around Christmas, a way to draw us in, a distraction from what is really going on, so that we feel good about giving up our money for something shiny.

Our elected offices are sold to the highest bidder, and that isn't the candidate.

Polls of potential voters are passe'. Comparison of campaign spending is the new measuring device.

And it has only become worse as corporations and unions have been designated as persons by the non-activist U. S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United case, and are therefore not subject to previous limitations in campaign contributions.

I don't know how to change it.

So, I've got a proposal.

Money is going to control who wins, right?

Our country is in dire financial straits, right?

Then let's quit pretending and cut to the chaste. Auction off the offices. The highest bidder wins. No restrictions on contributions.

Think about it. All the money goes straight to the federal government and no more ridiculous television advertisements. A win-win.

Well, I feel better.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Where did we put that collective mind?

Shortly after our country became constitutional, Thomas Paine, the author of "Common Sense," the political pamphlet said to be responsible for convincing the common man to rebel against England, exercised his brand new first amendment rights and published another influential pamphlet. It was called "The Age of Reason" and dealt with what he considered to be the problems and excesses of the Christian church. He advocated Deism.

It would be interesting to see what Paine might entitle a pamphlet about today's American political and religious scene. I suspect he would have to change directions to come up with something relevant. Common Sense and Age of Reason have no place.

We have lost our collective minds.

You believe that somebody has taken God out of our public schools? What kind of God do you worship? One of those little statues with fake ruby eyes? A small simulated golden calf? Something that can be conveniently carried from place to place and stored on a shelf when a more prominent place would be uncomfortable?
God with a big G doesn't need defending. He cannot be removed from anyplace that He doesn't want to leave. Wouldn't be much of a God if that were true. He promised that He would always be with anyone who wanted Him around, and when two or more are gathered in His name, you can count Him in. He never asked us to fight for Him. He asked us to love and serve. Everyone. Quit worrying about whether God is at school. I wouldn't blame Him for leaving considering how small we have made Him with our ridiculous, self-serving distractions about Him being expelled as if He had been just another victim of zero tolerance . . . hmmmmm.

You're just concerned that the first amendment right to free exercise of religion is being eroded, right? What about the right of the Muslim, or Jew, or atheist whose child is in the class? Quick, hand me the irony-meter. The reading should be off the charts.

You want government out of your life? Maybe Hollywood could make a movie. . . call it "It's a Not so Wonderful Life." No roads. No clean water. No safe foods. No safe transportation. No child labor laws. No secure monetary or banking system. Quality medical care only if you can afford it. No medicaid. No social security. No military. No protection of your rights by the courts. No prosecution of criminals. No recourse for civil wrongs. No protection of minorities. No protection of exercise of religion and speech. No regulation of utilities. No guarantee of education for children. No organized and funded relief effort for major natural disasters. No regulation of electronic media, communication, or the internet. No restrictions on business.

You don't want government out of your life. You just don't want to have to pay for it.

You believe the deficit will be our downfall, but you insist on cutting taxes? Cut spending you say? Good idea, actually. Medicaid, Social Security, and military. That's where the cuts must come. Cut the pork, you say? Another good idea, except cutting all the pork would not make a dent in the deficit. Besides, you don't mean it. Oh, you mean cut my pork, not yours. But we can't cut enough to handle the deficit. We must reduce it with taxes. Enough to make you tolerate the deficits, is it?

President Obama and the Democrats are to blame for the situation we are in? Finally, you got one right. The economy did not collapse. Financial institutions did not fail. We are not in a depression. The abysmal economic free-fall that began in 2007 was halted and reversed within months. America's standing in the world has recovered. A discernible foreign policy has appeared. Government is acting like government; addressing the economic crisis, making progress on healthcare, financial reform, and justice for minorities.

But that's not what you mean. President Obama and the Democrats are to blame for the bad economy. Really? In the month or two before President Obama took office responsible economists were talking global economic doomsday. Offices with windows on Wall Street were only valuable as a means of potential escape.

Ezra Klein of the Washington Post recently quoted economist Ron Shapiro who dug into labor statistics. Starting in early 2007, the U. S. economy began losing jobs at an alarming rate. During the last two years of the Bush administration and the first six months of the Obama administration, before any of his policies could have taken effect, about 7.7 million jobs had been lost. But three months later,the job loss bottomed out in December, 2009, and job increases, however slow, have continued since. The Bush Administration was responsible for more than 7.7 million of the job losses before the turn around. The Obama administration was responsible for less than 250,000.

The sorry mess we had gotten ourselves into was not President Obama's fault. But this is his recovery, for better or for worse. I think he would be satisfied with that.

And one last thing before I turn in for the night. Good, intelligent people have sent me emails and facebook posts saying that President Obama is an illegal alien, a communist, a socialist, an atheist, a Muslim, a boob, an idiot, a Manchurian candidate, and a liar.

Why? You don't know the guy. He has done nothing that would support any of these assertions.

I guess its the Rage of Treason, or perhaps Common Dense.

A real paine.

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