Monday, August 26, 2013

Guinea Update v2.0

For the last couple of days I've been letting the guineas roam free for awhile in the afternoon.  It is a lot of trouble but I hate seeing animals caged and these guineas are teenagers - so to speak.  And much like teenagers they have become a daily dose of irritation and amusement.

Yesterday I saw them in real flight for the first time.  They flew up in unison.  There was no getting a running start or any of that chicken stuff.  One second they were on the ground, the next airborne!  For me it was spectacular.  The reason for this sudden flight?  They were spooked by a butterfly.

Before I got these fowl, my thinking was they would wander about the yard eating insects, making little guinea noises and generally just be cute and useful.  I could nod proudly when people said things like, "those guineas sure are pretty" and "I bet they eat a lot of bugs."  So far the first one is true and probably the second although I cannot yet verify that.

The trouble is they spend very little time in the yard.  They like the woods.  Yesterday afternoon I got worried about them.  It wasn't really time to bring them inside but it was getting kind of late and I wondered if they were okay.  I found them fairly easily but they were a fair distance from the house.  The ground back there is rough due to several old uprooted trees.  We've had some bad and unusual weather here in the last few years.

I start heading the guineas back to the house.  Soon I realized I should have put on shoes because the guineas decided they wanted to go under every vine and brier along the way.  Here I should interject that I wear shoes only when it is absolutely necessary.  If I get a brier in my foot I just pull it out and limp on; scrap my foot on a stob or sharp rock, no biggie, it's the price for going around without shoes.  So my progress was slow compared to theirs as I had to pick my way carefully as I could.  The guineas would stop anytime I got too far behind them and tarry but I knew that would not last for long.  So I tried to keep up.  They stopped just on the other side of an uprooted tree.  Rather than go around it, I stepped high up on the mound.  The dirt felt kind of soft and as soon as I put my weight on it, whoosh!  I sank to my knee as I fell backward, flat on my back.

A lightning fast thought crossed my mind of what might be hiding down there in the hole so I jerked my foot out immediately.   When I did a pile of dirt came with it, spraying me all the way to my belly.  Oddly enough I was not hurt at all, not even bruised, there were lots of leaves under me and the ground was soft.  It just looked really bad with my head downhill from my body and half of me covered with dirt.  I got up and dusted myself off.  In the most determined voice I could muster I told them, "okay little guineas, we are going home now and no more tricks!

Which we did.

Today though they learned a new trick:

It was only about 4:00 PM when this was taken and the sun doesn't set until around 7:30 PM but they seemed to have settled in.  I was planning on leaving them there for the night but they were just foolin'.  So about seven I rounded them up and they went into their cage.  I didn't bring them inside though.  They're spending the night outside and seem very pleased with that.

Sorry about the quality of the picture.  They are not as big as they appear.  I'm obviously no photographer.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

127 Hours

copyright 08/21/2013

I should have called this 48 hours because that's about the length of time I'm going to cover - my last 48 hours.  But how boring can I get?  So I'm calling it 127 hours.  Much better, don't you think?  Anyway I sort of have a reason for the name.

It began late afternoon, day before yesterday.  I have been taking the guineas outside and putting them in Mr.Buns' old cage.  He was a rabbit.  Enough said about that, for now.  I was just about to bring them inside when the phone rang.  It was the Elder.  He was sitting in traffic in Houston.  We talked about this and that, movies mostly, while he intermittently cursed the traffic until he got home.

Back to the guineas.  I have seen them all my life but never up close and personal.  We didn't have any nor did my family or neighbors.  I had not had these long, maybe at the first sign of feathers, when I realized they were not like chickens.  They were wild.  And these were still little.  I had been taking them outside during the day.  I kept an eye on them because of predators and the cage being somewhat flimsy.  I have a sturdier cage but it is smaller and they can get out of it when the tray is removed.  So I've been putting them in the bigger cage during the day and cleaning the smaller cage.  Then bringing them in at night because I really don't trust even the smaller cage against dogs and coyotes

So I went outside to bring the little darlings in.

The door to cage was open.  The cage was empty.  Gone.  That's all I could think.  All of them.  Gone.

Maybe not.

In the edge of the woods I heard a peep, a chirp, a guinea sound.  Yes!  There were four bunched together and they wanted something.  From their body language, (I know *snicker* please) they weren't at all sure it was me they wanted.  So slowly I began trying to herd them toward the cage thinking any second they would go running, even flying off in four different directions.  But, no worries.  I might as well have put a big sign on the cage in guinea speech saying home.  All they needed was pointing in the right direction.  They showed no desire whatsoever to pass GO and collect two hundred dollars.  They wanted to go directly home.

My search for the remaining eight yielded no clue.  Not a sound could I hear.  No track or blood or feather could I find.

I beat myself up for awhile before deciding shit happens.  I had done the best I could or at least what I truly believed was adequate.  Because these were, after all, animals whose lives were always to be in jeopardy.  There was no safe barnyard with a friendly old dog and a youngster with a shotgun to protect them.  I had them for a purpose and they would have to survive in the wild as was their want.  I couldn't afford to get emotionally attached.

Emotionally attached or not, I went outside a couple times that night but heard nothing.  The next morning...nothing.  Around noon I went outside again to look.  Guineas!  All eight pecking happily in the grass.  Now it would be just a matter of herding them up.  No.  They had gotten a taste of freedom and they were not about to go anywhere near the cage.

About every hour or so I would go out to see how it was going.  And how it was not going good, err well.  The guineas were gone again.  Later in the afternoon though, I heard chirp, chirp, chirp.  It was a lone guinea saying I'm hungry or I want my mama.  Not sure which I still get confused on those two sounds.  Regardless, it did not want to be herded but it did go in the general direction of the cage.  Until it stopped.  It stood there with its feet spaced apart and firmly planted, head raised as if to say, "I won't come to you but I'll allow you to catch me."  I thought, "okay, I've never played this game with my clothes on but I'll give it a shot."  As stealthily as I could, which is not saying a lot, I lunged and grabbed.  Success!  I now had five guineas but neither of the little light gray ones.

It must have been around 5:00 PM when I went out intending for it to be my last trip.  The Younger was coming later, I was cooking supper and he was going to spend the night.

The rest of the guineas were back!  And this time they were wandering toward me!  Incredibly they just came up and walked right into the cage.  As soon as I gave them food I knew why.  Guineas are not entirely stupid.  They know which side of the bread the butter is on.

About 8:00 PM, the Younger came in.
He said, "Dad, I brought us a movie to watch if we don't spend all our time talking.  I have been kind of wanting to see it.  It's a true story.  I know what happens but I like the director.  Since you like true stories so much it would be a good time to watch it if you want."

We ate and talked.  Watched the movie and talked during it because I knew the story too.  It was about the guy was had gone out to propel off a cliff and gotten his arm wedged between a big rock and the opposing rock face.  Shit happens.

We talked mostly about writing and writers.  I had thought Hemingway was a much more admired writer than Fitzgerald.  He said that was probably true at one time but not anymore.  I won't get into that.  He said Hemingway was a minimalist and talked about that for bit.  He told me that once some of the writers had, had a contest to see who could write the shortest story.  Hemingway won.  This is the story he wrote:

For sale baby shoes.  Never worn.

Many things can be deduced from this story and and perhaps none of them are trivial but something happened.  I think Hemingway probably invented the phrase shit happens.

I said, "oh by the way, what is the name of the movie?"
The reply, "127 Hours."

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Like me, please.

copyright 08/17/2013

No I'm not talking about those little "like" boxes you see on Facebook and showing up everywhere else now.  Not yet anyway.  I'm talking about things we want.  If  your thinking food, sex, booze,, none of those.

The one thing all of us humans want and I never hear anyone talking about is approval.  Yep, approval.  And it is certainly not the same for people.  I would go so far as to say there are not any two people in this world whose approval needs are the same.  Oops, I said needs, didn't I?  The thing is, theoretically  we don't need approval.  We need food, shelter and clothing.  The trouble is, in our society how we get those three needful things, is approval.  That's the rub.  That's where we have to do a lot of things we really don't want to do.  And most of the time we have to try to get liked before we get approval.  And getting liked is tricky because it is really easy to convince ourselves we like something just because we don't hate it.  And it is even easier if someone says, please!

You are probably thinking I'm putting way too much importance on this like thing.  Oh yeah?  Given a choice between two candidates, how many employers hire the guy they like the least?

This approval thing begins early in life.  Because once we get big enough to realize there is something more to living than our belly and our butt, whether we are too cold or too hot, we want entertainment.  It is not hard to imagine us parents thinking this, "okay kid you can have that toy if you're good and maybe, just maybe you can have it anyway just because I like you."

Al Capone said, "You can get some of what you want with a kind word but you can get more of what you want with a kind word and a gun."  I'm going to paraphrase and apply it this way, "You can get some approval by doing only what you want to do, but you can get a lot more by doing things you don't want to do."  And it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out, little kids figure it out.  It is just not conscious in our minds, at least it wasn't in mine until I began thinking about this blog.

Now the question becomes so what?  We have to do things we don't want to do.  That's not news.  Maybe it kind of is.  How many of us have done things we regretted later?  And often it begins with something trivial.  It starts out by clicking like on Facebook or Google+ to some stranger because you don't want to hurt her feelings.  First thing you know you are in a conversation with this person you really don't want to talk to and she is online every time you log in!  And she has friends!  Oh jeez.

But all kinds of things happen.  I decided to begin blogging and thought I would spend maybe an hour or two each day on it.  So I began and nothing happened.  No one read it.  I told myself that didn't matter.  I had begun the blog for several reasons and approval had nothing to do with it.  But it did.  Because why was I  looking at those stats?  We can't get away from that damn approval.  We seek it in about everything we do.

I've spent a couple days working on this thing and at least 50% of the time I thought I would never publish it.  Mainly I kept writing to get a handle on what I was doing as a new blogger.  How had it gotten out of control?  Because it had.  I was spending much more time on it than I had intended and a lot of that time was reading other blogs.  And the reason, honestly, get those stats up!  Of course I did find blogs that I really liked but I found a lot that didn't exactly crank my tractor.  And then I realized that sometimes, approval, as much as we like it, isn't worth the cost and it doesn't matter if it is blogging or some other endeavor.  So how many "like" boxes are checked or how many followers I have is a whole lot like money.  I will never know when I have enough but I will know the cost is too much if I get to thinking like me, please.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

What do you think?

I say think and thought a lot.  Too much I know.  Blame Mr. Foster.  He was my 10th grade algebra teacher.  He never talked about thinking but he had, on his cork board, a big poster with one word.  With a blue background and big black letters, it said - THINK.

Truly, by then I didn't need much encouragement.  I had already begun to question some of the things I was brought up to believe.  Sure, Muslims were infidels.  But were Catholics and campbellites* and holy rollers* going to hell too?  Just because they weren't Baptists?  And what about those names?  Wasn't that the same as the jerk who had failed two grades by the 7th and lived just to torment us?  Hey fatty!*  Hey sissy boy!*  I think it was about that time I learned my first curse word - asshole.  But it was awhile yet before I began to think.

It was about the time I saw Mr. Foster's poster.  By then I had become aware of things like segregation and labotomies and hate crimes.  But it really didn't take much thought to hate these things.  Just a little would do.  Because society outside of my little backward part of the world had already begun to grapple with those issues.  So my first thought was that all you need do is accept change as it comes along, just stay current, just stay in

And that was fine for awhile.  But only awhile.  Soon there was this nagging realization that somewhere somebody had to think first - that nothing changed as long as everyone just kept up.  It wasn't good enough.  That society does not lead enlightenment, it follows.

Somebody has to look at integration and think and say that it is not enough.  Somebody has to empathize with the people and groups that suffer the humiliation of degrading names and say that's wrong.  Somebody has to say Muslims are not infidels.

I will throw in one caveat here.  There are some things I doubt I will ever accept.  For example, snake handlers.  I'm sorry folks but I can't wrap my arms around that.

So what is the point?

We have not reached the epitome of human enlightenment and understanding in August of 2013.  I am not sure we have even come close.  And here is the point - just because society deems something acceptable or unacceptable doesn't make it so.  We need to think, to examine our beliefs and not be satisfied to simply stay current.  And folks I may lose some of you here but I have to be honest.  That includes our religious beliefs.  My Father was a fundamentalist Baptist preacher, he practiced what he preached and in many ways he was a wonderful man.  In fact that is what was said at his funeral.  But there are many things he was wrong about and it was not easy coming to terms with that.

*I apologize for the names I've used here.  I felt I had no choice since I needed to establish a base for my argument.  And all of the concepts are things people have heard before.  I needed to refresh people's minds if possible so I decided once again to walk on the razor's edge.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Something Blue

Somewhere out in the blogosphere, there is a blue blogging initiative going on.  Carol suggested I join it so here is my effort.

The first thing that comes to mind is awhile back my elder son gave me some songs, album, re-release or some such that he had bought.  It was songs by Willie Nelson and he wanted me to listen to it.  A few days later he called and asked if I had been listening.  I said I couldn't listen to it, it made me cry.  So he asked what I had been listening to and I told him Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain.  He laughed.

It had to be blue eyes crying in the rain, not brown, green or hazel because it is blue we associate with sadness, melancholy, the Blues - and even Fats Domino singing Blue Monday - for crying out loud.

So why with all this blue, depressing stuff would Elvis care a whit about his shoes?  He did though and a lot as he warned his honey, "don't you step on my Blue Suede Shoes."  Apparently he set a great store by those shoes.  I'm guessing it is because blue is also the color we associate with calm and serenity and even safety.  So maybe those shoes were like a baby's security blanket.  Oh and by the way, I guess you can get your very own pair for as low as $38.99 if the ads are to be believed.

This is probably enough about songs but there's one more - Crystal Blue Persuasion - which was a huge hit and quite controversial as many people thought it was about crystal meth.  I'm not sure it was blue but it certainly is on that show we all love for no good reason, Breaking Bad.

There are blue babies.  So called because they look blue and their story before the advent of modern heart surgery was blue indeed - heart breaking to their parents.  HBO made an absolutely wonderful movie about how that surgery came to be and it is called Something the Lord Made.

There is Blueberry pie which is pretty wonderful as is Blackberry Pie which is also blue and wonderful.

Lest we forget, a bride needs to carry a few items with her to the wedding - something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

And finally our national flag - The Old Red, White and Blue.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

This Wonderful World

You sometimes hear people say what a wonderful world God or Nature has created for us to live in.  This never fails to irritate me.  Maybe they are talking about beautiful.  I'll buy that.  I can appreciate beauty.  I'm no oaf.  I think trees and rocks and water and the sky...okay, you get what I'm saying - they're beautiful.

But wonderful?  I dunno, that's a whole other can of worms.  And how do you feel about those?  Or gnats, chiggers, fleas - the list is endless.  The weather is not wonderful.  Quite often it is not even nice.  My air conditioner is running right now.  And Leo would probably be inside stretched out cooling off but I guess he's out answering the call of nature to try and produce more of his kind.

Because that's the thing you know.  That's what got all these creatures and us here struggling to survive and get along in this "wonderful" world.  And it is one of the things that makes it not so wonderful.  Our lives are filled with decisions and way too often none of the choices suit us.

Yes, I'm aware I'm rambling.  I tried to write down my ideas serious and proper like but I got bored.  Bored, bored, bored.  So I'm having fun now and if you hate this, it's okay, just go to the next guy or gal's blog and really, I'll be serious here, I'm sorry I wasted your time.

This is the point I was going to make.  This is not a wonderful world and I have proof!

There is a TV show on Discovery channel called Naked and Afraid.  They drop off two people in the wilderness completely naked.  I think what they get in the way of survival items varies but it is always almost nothing.  Maybe flint and some kind of blade.  I haven't seen the show yet; my elder son was telling me about it.  At some point I will watch it but don't need to as far affecting my view of the world.

And that view is - this world would just suck big time for us humans were it not for the many, many, many wonderful human beings who have made this beautiful world a place where we can actually live comfortably and be happy.  If I could I would buy 'em all a drink and say, "fellow human beings, you did good, real good!"

While I'm on the subject, humans are not done with doing good.  Nature did not create the best.  In many cases it only created what was barely good enough to survive.  When it comes to creating things, man can and has done better and will likely continue to do so in the future.

One more thing I want to say before I wrap this up.  Man has made his share of mistakes.  Our natural environment has suffered tremendously in some cases because of it.  I do what I can to insure I leave as small a footprint as possible.  But I won't throw the baby out with the bath water.  I love all my stuff and I hope I'm never naked and afraid.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Boss

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.  My memory, as I've stated on several occasions is not perfect so some of this may not be exactly as it happened in the book.

Some people say the book is a satire on English royalty.  Some say it is a satire on Yankee ingenuity.  I think it is neither.  The thing about Twain's portrayal of 6th century English royalty is it is just handy as a pocket to illustrate how power and greed can obliterate any feeling for humanity.  All that ensues about Yankee ingenuity seems to say a lot more about humanity's reluctance to accept new technology than a satire about its failures.  But all that could be argued, and by people much better educated and much smarter than I am.

What I am going to do is relate some of the events that happened when the Yankee, from now on referred to as the "Boss" visited Arthur's sister, Morgan Le Fay.

First let me say that either I can't remember or it was never explained why everyone called the Yankee the Boss but he had impressed Arthur tremendously and so was given a wide range of political power.  The Boss had two goals.  One was to introduce 19th century technology to 6th century England.  The second was to eventually eliminate (upon Arthur's death) their system of government including the royals - I think especially the royals - and institute a republic.

I won't try to mimic Mark Twain's prose.  Forsooth, it would be impossible for me to do that.

There was royal banquet held at Mrs. Le Fay's castle.  During which the band performed "In the Sweet Bye and Bye."  The Boss described this as a horror.  Mrs. Le Fay agreed that it was and decreed that all the band should be hanged.  The Boss thought this punishment was harsh and protested but other events gave him pause.

He wanted to see the dungeon.  There a young man was being tortured on the rack while his wife, holding their young child, cried piteously.  The man was accused of killing a deer and was being tortured to make him confess.  Mrs. Le Fay could have him killed for no other reason than it suited her fancy.  But the accusation of killing a deer and the fact he was found near the deer's body was more than sufficient justification.  In the Boss's mind, it wasn't so much that the man was going to die for his alleged crime but why was he being tortured?  Witnessing the young man's slow and painful demise while listening to the young wife's pitiful cries was more than the Boss could bear.  He implored the young man to confess.

Eventually he gained the young man's confidence and learned that he had killed the deer.  It had been eating his crops.  However, he could not confess publicly.  By law his confession would give Mrs. Le Fay the right to take his land leaving his young wife and child penniless.

The Boss was sympathetic to the young man.  He struck a deal with Mrs. Le Fay.  She agreed after some haggling.  The decision was this.  The young man would go free.  The band would be hanged.  The Boss would get together a new band.  He made the executioner the new band leader.  When the executioner protested saying he didn't know how to play a musical instrument, the Boss replied that was an insufficient reason since no one in the kingdom knew how to play a musical instrument.

For me this book was emotionally disturbing but then I can't watch a horror movie without being horrified.  Still, at times it made me laugh.  I can't say I loved it but I can't say I regret reading it.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Guinea Update v1.0

Since some of y'all might want to see and hear how the guineas are doing, here's a picture made this morning.

Some are still camera shy!

All are doing fine.  They peck constantly, too often on the side of box and loud enough I sometimes think there's someone at the door.  Lately, the only time they are totally quiet is when they're asleep.  I've been taking them outside every day lately and putting them in a box with the bottom out.  From the moment their feet touch the ground they begin pecking and scratching the earth.  I think the days of the insects having their way around here are few.

I've been putting cat litter and shredded paper in the bottom of the box that I keep them in when inside.  While they are outside I change this out.  So far this has worked fine.  I'm not sure how long this will work but I'm taking Scarlett Ohara's view on what comes next - "I'll think about that tomorrow."