Monday, January 26, 2009

Work, Weather, and Stamina

Years ago my grandfather shouldered a 100 pound sack of cow feed—literally carried it on his shoulder—and took it to the top of the hill to feed the cattle.  The truck would have sunk in the mud the day he carried that feed to the cattle, so he had to be the “truck” that day.  Other mornings he got up well before daylight to go check on the new lambs in such cold weather that the lambs’ ears and tails would freeze if he left them to dry in the lambing pens.  Grandmother’s stove quite often had a lamb drying on the open door when Granddad would get me up to watch the lamb while he went to get another one.

In the really freezing weather Granddad had to cut ice on the tank to keep the cattle from going out on the ice to try to get to the water.  Of course, they would have fallen through and possibly drowned or injured themselves.  But I still think of that little man out there with an axe cutting ice along the edge of the tank.  He wore a farmer’s hat with flaps that covered his ears and heavy gloves and boots with his coat and overalls, but I know Texas cold and wind.  It hurts to get that cold.

The chickens were never a real problem in the winter.  They were kept up—not that they would have ventured forth in that cold.  But someone still had to take them water and put out feed no matter what the weather did.

As much as I appreciate seeing the cattle in the fields and the flocks of sheep and goats in the pastures, it is in weather like we are having now that I am so very glad not to be responsible for feeding and caring for livestock.  It takes a measure of devotion and stamina to be a farmer or rancher.  Even those who own horses for pleasure riding still have to feed and care for them in this weather.  Barns and stables make life much easier for both owners and animals, but the expense and worry that go into caring for any kind of livestock is not for the faint of heart.

Faith Mission provides the equivalent of a stable for those who would otherwise suffer terribly in this freezing weather.  Perhaps someone shoulders a 100 pound sack of feed for them tonight.  Perhaps someone provides a cup of hot coffee—much better than broken ice on a stock tank.  It takes a measure of devotion—and stamina—to care for our fellow man.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Mustangs and Jackasses--Religions and Criticism

President Obama made an inclusive remark during his inaugural address which recognized that not all Americans were believers in the standard religions.  Some, in fact, are non-believers.  What they believe is not as important as how they live in my estimation.

“For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves.”  Rm. 2:14

A student taught me a good lesson that I hope not to forget.  She was very kind to another student who could not read or write.  The more advanced student was very patient and supportive of the struggling student.  In front of both students I thanked her and told her that she had a very giving and Christian attitude.  She looked at me with a puzzled and surprised expression.  Before she left for the day, she put a note on my desk.  It seems that she was Buddhist and felt that the Christians had no more market on kindness than any other religion.

Our nation has laws that prevent discrimination due to sex, religion, age, or whatever.  At the moment, many older men and women don’t believe that the law is very helpful.  Realities for them more often prove that hiring preference is given to younger, cuter girls or given to younger, cuter guys.  And, of course, preferential treatment is just reverse discrimination when men are hired because a woman “can get pregnant.”  But treating one person differently from another because of our prejudice is really the point in President Obama’s reference.  We cannot differentiate because of our religions, our politics, our sex or sexual preference—the people of the United States are one people—no matter where we placed our votes.

If more of our God-given energy were put into helping others rather than criticizing those who don’t see things just the way we do, unimaginable feats could be performed on a daily basis.  But the constant critical attitude washes over our vision, pollutes our attitudes, and otherwise inhibits the growth of gratitude.

Rather than criticize the man, let our ministers and our people pray for our president and the ones who must make the decisions for this nation.  It takes courage to be a leader; it also takes courage to be willing to let someone else lead us.  But be led we must.  We are domesticated critters and need a good lead mare and a stallion to watch the rear.  Let the jackasses take care of themselves.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Time for Blessings

Years ago parents taught children from an early age to respect their elders and to show respect for authorities. It didn’t matter if old man Frost kept a bottle of brandy in his tool box, young ones and semi-young ones called him sir and said good morning with respect. And if the ranch hands came into the café smelling like cattle dip and Smear 62, everyone just acted as if the roses were blooming indoors.

It is not without reason that parents taught such respect. Children and parents alike spoke and acted respectfully to everyone from the post master to the waitress at the café. In small towns, everyone knew everyone else, but the same manners went with them to the cities, and eventually overseas when the boys went off to wars.

Respect for others is an outgrowth of self-respect. Knowing that we answer to a higher authority on an equal basis with others can help us keep life and relationships in perspective. Today the nation has a new president as its leader. In the same manner as our elders taught us, we should be teaching our children to be respectful of our leaders.

In Numbers 6:23–26, God instructed Moses that Aaron and his sons were to bless the Israelites in this way: "The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace."

A president is not a priest, but he must seek peace and pursue it diligently for those he leads. God bless this nation.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Broken Breezes and Other Weather Related Incidents

When it gets cold in this country, we seem to try to outdo one another with our examples of how bad it really is; and the first liar never stands a chance!  On AOL we saw a video about living in Antarctica during Condition One when no one could leave the dorms.  The walls of the entrance looked like the inside of our deep freeze and the wind howled as viciously as any banshee ever could.  Sometimes it does do well to put things into perspective, but who in his right mind would choose to spend his or her life down there with the penguins?

In various places around the country, the temperatures have been WAY down the scale; so common sense has had schools closed and folks staying home from non-essential work.  And folks whose birthdays landed in this cold month just toss up their hands at another year of party-less fun and snuggles.  Every year since the oldest grandson was born, I keep thinking we will actually manage to be at his house for his birthday.  So far, that has happened a grand total of ONE time.  Having a birthday in January is almost as bad as having one on December 23, 24 or 26.

No, cold weather definitely makes a difference in how we do things.  For over 40 years now my dad has called us up the first time it really freezes the stock ponds solid and asks us if we would like to go seine minnows with him.  This morning I had to call him to ask if he had the minnow seine ready.  He said something about the wind.  I told him that the wind wasn’t blowing unless he wanted to count the little breezes that had been moving so slowly the other night that they froze solid and broke on the ground.  Every once in a while one of those would take off after it thawed out.

About the only thing worse than the cold is freezing rain.  As desperately as we need rain, it really would be nice if it held off long enough to come on a decent day when the temperatures are above freezing.  Here in Texas it would have to rain long enough to settle the dust and fill the tanks to do us any good.  Some ranchers don’t even need to see their cattle because they can just eyeball the dust clouds where the cattle walk.  And that is not an exaggeration, either.

Winter must have some very good purposes:  freezing out some insects, giving the trees time to think about spring, and allowing hope to dwell in the hearts of men.  Animals don’t have to hope for spring because they know how to react when it gets here:  kicking up heels, snorting and running with tails in the air, and just busting a gut trying to eat every green thing.  I guess winter just proves that we have more to look forward to this year.  Maybe the seasons are an assurance that life does go on.  If everything else goes to heck in a hand basket, at least we can still see the changing of the leaves and the coming of the rains.  Blessings.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stone Soup and Other Facts

My dad always said that truth was always more interesting than any made up story, but for humor, sometimes it doesn’t hurt to embellish or stretch the truth a bit. The first time I heard the story of stone soup, I wondered if anyone would ever really be able to get someone to believe in a “magic stone.” Well, obviously some people will believe in almost anything if it sounds as if they might get something more than they are willing to put into a deal—does the name Madoff (as in made off with a fortune) sound familiar?

Photoshop has definitely proved that pictures DO lie—or at least that they can be made to lie. And sometimes we simply can’t believe what we see because whatever it is remains outside the scope of our understanding. And sometimes the entire picture is necessary for the truth to be obvious. We might see someone run out of a bank in a hurry carrying a bag or something. Our minds may interpret that in various ways, but lately mine would go toward the “bank robber” scenario. And it might not pay a person to park in a neighborhood for any length of time without at least some kind of identification on the vehicle. People have learned to be suspicious for good reasons.

Now numbers DO lie, but it takes an interpreter to MAKE them lie. Proving ideas with numbers becomes more suspect when we consider the reasons offered for the proof. Look at the numbers for unemployment. It will change again tomorrow or the next day, but the point is not how much it is changing but who the numbers actually represent. How many unemployed or underemployed are actually about at rope’s end and have no hopes of finding ANY employment? How many who have gone through the process of seeking unemployment benefits have run out of options? Are they still in the count of unemployed? Are these people simply invisible because they are no longer numbers to be counted?

Now the stone soup story is a good story to teach a moral, and many a good teacher has turned it into a lesson for his or her class. And our dog barking at the strange apparatus that turned out to be an ironing board just gave Fang an opportunity to mention that HE wasn’t sure he had seen it before either. Hmm.

Some things are funny. Some are not. Counting people and adding up facts may change many ideas in the days to come. Oh, we get our share of numbers every day—this state has the highest teen pregnancy rate; that state has the highest unemployment rate; this state has the highest tax rate; that state has the highest rate of illegal immigrants. We have become number-saturated Americans. Do other countries count the water levels of lakes? How can we know when numbers really matter?

Unless we tell stories that make connections with numbers and images, our minds simply run right on by the facts represented by all these counts. Numbers are like the stone in stone soup. We need a pot, some water, some seasoning, a few potatoes, carrots, and whatever the neighbors can bring before we can produce something of benefit to all. Bring on the pot—soup pot, that is!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Whitman's Complaint

Walt Whitman wrote consistently and conscientiously. However, one of his major concerns was constipation. He was always afraid that it would show up in his writing as he felt it affected his ideas and inspiration. That would be funny, but I look at the world around me and wonder what particular malady is affecting our society and its significant aspects: economy--now is that constipation or diarrhea? Morality: definitely diarrhea. But what about our ability to hear what is being said? What part of our body is attempting to tell us something? Somehow I don't think it has anything to do with the alimentary canal. Maybe it is closer to the other end of the body.

The ancients believed that man was affected by four distinct influences that were associated with fire, earth, water, and wind. But back then, men were nearer to the sources of those four elements. Today we would have to get outside and away from the artificiality of life as we know it. Fang takes the boys out in the back yard and lights a fire in the firepit so that they can know what it is like to start a fire and get to (safely) play in it. When we were children we started fires well beyond the confines of a nice little metal pit. But laws protect our neighbors from our stupidity or carelessness and we have to use this pit now. At least we can let the kids play in the rain and dig in the dirt. Since this is Texas, the wind is a given. I have been caught in sand storms that chapped my cheeks and burned my hands where I held the horse's reins. But that is another story and another way of life. I can only wish for our grandchildren the joys of being on their own with a half ton of gentle giant and a blowing Texas storm.

No, Whitman's complaint can't be the answer for our way of life. It is not our alimentary canals or even our sinuses that cause us to be grouchy or whatever. Life has just changed and we no longer make good connections to the natural world around us. So we adjust to the technological and the biological without benefit of the joys that we used to have in nature. It's time to remember those joys before they are totally forgotten. Somehow the memories must be saved for some who will need them most. Getting out the old quill pen....rolling eyes at the thought of having to make ink work for me...


Monday, January 5, 2009

Computer Confusion

Ok, educated and computer literate person that I am, somehow I managed to mess up my computer, so Fang is allowing me to use his computer tonight. Today I received a laptop from the Census Bureau and discovered that I could be a criminal just for thinking thoughts or taking a nap without the proper forms [being only slightly silly here]. Tomorrow we learn how to USE the computer. Rolling eyes and wondering if it is possible to mess up one without even trying. If it is more complicated than a biscuit recipe, they may have to find a place to detoxify the thing after I am through with it.

Fang uses Firefox as his browser. I keep expecting to hear the sound of horns and hounds. As it is, I may have to call in Harley and have him lick the stuff off the screen to clean up the monitor. We bought a little bottle of screen cleaner (probably just Windex in a small bottle) and a tiny little cloth to go with it. I cleaned my monitor screen, but I haven't cleaned this one yet. Now I have no idea what we did with that little bottle and its little cloth. Obviously one of us was not overly concerned about cleaning the screens.

This morning the rain falling on my windshield was freezing faster than I could get it wiped off with the blades. It took almost two miles just to get a nice big spot cleared for a looking place. Yes, I know. It should have been cleared BEFORE I left home. Actually it WAS clear. I had turned on the wipers and cleared the windshield, but it started raining ice over near Highway 79 and my glass just wasn't warm enough for it to melt off. But it turned out to be a decent day simply because the wind didn't blow a gale.

Well, life gets more interesting every day. I had lunch with one of my former students today. She was an administrative computer person who graduated with a pretty high grade point average. She has not been able to get a permanent job since graduation. THEN she got a letter from the school congratulating her upon being hired as a medical assistant. WHOA there! Where did medical get mixed in with administrative assistant? We just sat and shook our heads. Oh well. No wonder the government can't get DNA from all the prisoners like they were supposed to do five years ago. At least one school can't tell the difference between a stethoscope and a computer program. Rolling eyes.

Tomorrow is another day. Maybe the wind will stay down and we can all enjoy another quiet day. I know the chickens out on the farm can't take much more of these high winds. Why one old hen laid the same egg three times during the last blow!


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Friends and Feathers

Years ago people seemed to pay more attention to what animals did and how they acted around people. Mother’s family had a dog named Bob that everyone called “Barker” because he did so much of it. Bob announced every event on the place and probably a few off the map. For some reason he took it upon himself to be Mother’s guardian. Children back then ran barefoot everywhere they went, so when Bob pulled on her bloomers to get Mother away from a small mud puddle, it was somewhat exasperating to her. When the rain dried up later, the puddle place was filled with broken glass. Bob was a pretty smart German Shepherd.

Ownership of animals has long been a thing of joy as well as anguish. Pets were not as common once as they are now because of the expense of feeding them. An animal more or less had to prove its worth. The cats that kept snakes and lizards out of the house or mice out of the barn had less trouble proving their worth, but a dog such as Bob was more than a companion. Dogs were guardians. Only one event could remove every pet in a neighborhood: rabies. During those times, few people knew that animals could be locked up to see if they showed any sign of rabies. No, if one animal had rabies, everyone destroyed their cats and dogs to protect their families. It was a harsh solution and caused considerable anguish for those who had the job of eliminating all those pets.

Not every animal kept by a family deserved any affection. Back when my mother was a freshman in high school, a tornado dispatched their facility for elimination out by the chicken shed. Granddad K was a hard working man who worked from “can ‘til can’t” and he did not have time to rebuild that important facility right then. Therefore, Mother and everyone else had to take a trip to the barn for their daily constitutional.

Now Mother was a flighty thing and always busy doing something outside, but for whatever the reason, she had picked up a total enemy in her mother’s old rooster. Each day when she made her trip to the barn, that sneaky rooster would chase her and flog her for all he was worth. One day Mother was carrying her baton—she was a drum major in the band—and when the rooster attacked, she wrapped his scrawny neck around that baton a couple of times. When she came back from the barn she announced to her mother, “Well, I killed your mean old rooster!”

World War II had created some strange situations, but one that mattered that day was the first aid class that Granny Connie had taken. She gave that silly rooster artificial resuscitation and brought it back to life. It lived long enough to attack Mother’s brother out at the barn. Uncle T did a thorough job of killing the rooster—removing its head completely—so Granny Connie couldn’t use her first aid class that time.

Not every feathered creature causes so much havoc. The parakeets and assorted pet birds that have flown through our lives have given us hours of pleasure and entertainment. But the screech owls out in the old water tower won’t win any awards from our family. These owls regularly catch rabbits, small cats, bats, and elephants to feed to the fledglings. Then they leave the residue on the ground under our elm tree. And their noise causes every dog in the neighborhood to bark early in the evening and in the wee hours of the morning. Blasted birds!

Growing up with a brother who had some strange pets, I learned to take a snake or possum from his hands and hold it until he wanted it back. No, I would not do it now, but back then I thought my brother was infallible. That proved to be totally untrue one summer when we were picking up water bottles from Granddad’s chicken houses. Earlier in the day I had nearly stepped on a colorful snake and screamed. Granny Connie told me it was just a milk snake. She was not the least bit concerned by it. So when my brother and I saw another smaller version of that snake, I told him I thought it was like that milk snake that Granny Connie said was harmless. We took it to the house later and showed it to our granddad. He told my brother to throw it on the ground, and he killed it. It was a copperhead. Rolling eyes and still getting the chills after all these years.

My brother still did not give up his love of snakes. He collected black snakes for some reason and had one he called Blackie. How original, right? He was sitting on the front porch swing playing with Blackie when Granddad called to him to help with something. Of course, he left the snake on the swing. Granny Connie had been cooking all morning and came outside to sit in the cool air on the porch swing. She put her arm up on the chain above the arm of the swing and screamed for all she was worth. After Granddad explained about her heart condition to my brother, he told him that snakes were off limits to him the rest of the summer. Oh, the joys of being a grandparent!

Sam the Pos’ Sam left an impression on our lives when we were young. Possums are definitely not good pets. They roam around after dark and get in the least acceptable places. One morning Dad opened his dresser drawer to get some clean underwear. Sam opened wide his mouth and hissed his displeasure. If Dad had not already needed clean underwear, he definitely would have after that display! Sam disappeared shortly after that episode.

No, I guess dogs and cats make the best pets for most active children. In our neighborhood we had SIX black dogs—none related. It was strange, but they all got along just fine when they were together. Then the boys got the idea of making a dog team out of them. Now these six dogs were NOT equally matched. The Mahaechek’s dog was short legged and stout. Benny’s dog was tall and skinny. George, Jim’s dog, was just happy to have a place to hang out and slobber on everyone. Tar Baby was a boss dog—about the size of a Cocker Spaniel and with the attitude of a Great Pyrenees. Anyway, all the dogs were roped to the wagon and one of the boys rode while the others tried to get the dogs to pull together. Someone should have taken time to explain to the dogs that they were all supposed to go the same direction and more or less at the same speed. It’s a good thing that wagon was made of good tough metal or it would have been in splinters. As it was, the boys were pretty disgusted with their efforts. They decided the only way they would get the dogs to go the same direction was to turn a cat loose in front of them, and I wouldn’t let them use my cat. Boys!

Boys always come up with some strange ideas. One time my brother and his friends decided to bring a bucket of tadpoles home so that they could raise frogs at home. But that is another story.

Friday, January 2, 2009

On My Own--Not!

A friend sent me a link to prosperity. Well, we shall see.

Sometimes I wish for a little fairy who can help me out. Other times I am quite content to do things "on my own." Sitting here with a silly grin on my face. I really do realize what doing things "on my own" gets me. When I trust that God knows best, then things work out much better and my attitude doesn't get me in trouble. Now, let's see what "prosperity" feels like. I have no idea what to expect, but I love the two people who sent me the link.  I really like being on God's list best, but it is hard to count "clicks" on that one. Counting doesn't seem like the way God does things, however. Silly grin. Counting blessings and letting Him take control.