Category Archives: humor

The Care and Feeding of a REALLY BIG DOG

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My neighbor, Wendy Wackyname, is the owner of a really big dog.  I asked her how she managed a dog that was bigger than a moose and weighed more than an elephant.

“You have to be able to solve problems you never thought you could have,” she said.

“Problems like what?” I stupidly asked.

“Well, a dog that big not only chases cars, he often catches the littler ones like yours.  It became a real problem when he finished chewing on them and wanted to bury them in the back yard.  When we lived in Oklahoma, our back yard just wasn’t big enough, and the local police kept wondering about what might be buried there.  I guess they had a lot of missing persons cases.”

“Oh, that does sound bad.”

“Yeah, but moving here solved that problem.  We now live next to this nice big park with lots of room for a dog to bury stuff.”

“So he isn’t cured of chasing cars?” I asked nervously.

“No.  But that isn’t the worst problem.  Feeding him is really expensive.  We have to buy a truckload of dog food every week.  That problem has gotten worse since we left Oklahoma.  There used to be a cattle ranch nearby.  At least until the last of their stock mysteriously disappeared.”

I decided I should probably change the subject a bit.

“How do you walk a dog that big?”  I asked.

“Oh, I don’t.  I climb up on his neck and hang on to the collar as hard as I can, and we go for a run.  We ended up in Waxahachie, Texas last week.”

“Does your mother ever let the dog in the house?”

“Oh, no.  Foozy is an outside dog.  If he wags his tail indoors, he breaks all the furniture in the room.  Besides, the doors in this new house aren’t big enough for him to fit through.”

“Wendy, did you ever read those kids’ books about Clifford the Big Red Dog?”

“Oh, sure.  But life with Foozy is nothing like that.  Giant dogs are a much harder pet to take care of than people think.”

I remembered then how my little dog somehow managed to make five poops a day.  Did Foozy do that too?  And how did poor little Wendy go about bagging it and depositing it in the trash?  I finally decided I didn’t want to know.

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Filed under goofy thoughts, humor, Paffooney, pen and ink, pen and ink paffoonies, satire

Why Farmers Ain’t Millionaires

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A professional baseball player goes up to the plate.  A hulking six foot man goes up on a little mound and hurls a stitched horsehide sphere at him, ideally around ninety miles an hour, hoping to throw it past him three times, or, failing that, coming close enough to his head that he forfeits the next two.  If the baseball guy swings his hitty-stick at the ball and smacks it into the field in a place where nobody can catch it three out of every ten times, that man will soon be a millionaire if he isn’t one before swinging the hitty stick for the first time.

As a public school teacher it was my job to teach kids how to read and write.  It is a lot harder thing to do when you consider how teachers are expected to do that job.  You are in a classroom of up to thirty kids, no more than ten per cent of whom are self-starting and self-maintaining.  The rest are problem-filled haters of reading and wordless when it comes to writing.  You have to lead them into the land of joyous literacy.  And when you step up to that plate, if you are getting a hit only three times in every ten at-bats (as measured by beloved state tests that are inherently biased in a multitude of ways) you will lose that lovely teaching job.  You are expected to hit 8 out of 10 or higher.  And that is just to keep your job year to year even though you make less money per year than a city garbage man.  No chance you will ever be a millionaire.  And they don’t even let you use a hitty stick to do your job.

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But I promised you this rant was about farming and farmers.

My roots are in the farmlands of Iowa.  I am the result of the union of the Beyer family farm and the Aldrich family farm.  I know what farming is all about.  And we do the job of feeding the nation, and possibly the world.  But it is not an easy job.  You gamble each year that you will be able to produce corn and soybeans and possibly beef or pork, and when the harvest comes, you have to hope you can sell it for more than it cost to produce it.  Tornadoes, hail, floods, and droughts get more than their fair say in the outcome.

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So, why isn’t what the farmer does worth more?

The answer is simple.  People with money and power are the ones who control who makes money and who doesn’t.  Through speculation and commodity trading they control the price of corn and beans, and they control who makes the profit.

We do the majority of the work and take the majority of the risk.  We don’t get the majority of the rewards.  Other people than farmers decide who does, and only rarely do they decide those matters fairly.  But thus the world is.  Or rather, thus we have let it become.

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Stardusters… Canto 52

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Canto Fifty-Two – In the Flower Garden

Shalar was amazed at the tadpoles’ reactions to Harmony Castille when they saw she had come to rescue them.  First Davalon and Tanith had hugged her and kissed her and then obediently put on clothing as Harmony directed, so that they might cover their sinful and shameful nakedness in the sight of God and everybody.  Then Menolly and George Jetson had done exactly the same when Harmony and Shalar wandered into the Arboretum to find them.  Only Brekka whined.

“I like being naked with my friends and family,” Brekka complained.  “You haven’t made Sizzahl get dressed!”  Brekka was lounging on a large leaf of a plant that seemed almost animated, and seemed to be cradling her like a loved one.

“I can’t get dressed,” said Sizzahl.  “I no longer have any clothing in the whole complex that fits me.  My clothing was destroyed by scabbies and the soldiers Gohmurt brought with him when he slew my father.”

The Galtorrian Makkhain was looking rather perturbed when Sizzahl mentioned her father’s death again.  At least, that was what Shalar thought as she looked at his inscrutable lizard-face.

“I will use my sewing skills to make you some, child,” Harmony said.  “We don’t want to have your soul lost to Christ either.”

Sizzahl frowned.  “I feel a lot the way Brekka does, human.  I have gone without clothing long enough that it doesn’t feel natural anymore.”

“How it feels is not the point,” seethed Harmony.  “Christian souls can’t be saved if they are still in a state of unforgiven sin just as naked Adam and naked Eve were.”

“I don’t see how your silly Earther superstitions apply to me,” Sizzahl replied heatedly.

“They apply to anyone whose soul I can save through Christian love and concern.  That is how you recognize a Christian… by their love.  Race, sex, creed… or species… makes no difference.  I love everyone and want everyone to be saved in Christ.  I can beat that notion into stubborn heads if necessary.”

“I think I see now what makes a church lady such a formidable warrior on your world,” interjected Makkhain.  “You have a single-mindedness of purpose that brooks no argument.  All great leaders can bend the masses to a single, over-riding purpose.”

Harmony looked at him with doubting eyes.  Shalar knew the old church lady, turned beautiful young woman, had no idea what the Galtorrian was talking about.  Harmony didn’t realize he was, in his own lizardy way, complimenting her.

Alden and Gracie Morrell had finished dressing themselves, and Gracie offered, “I can help you with the sewing, Harmony.”

“It isn’t really necessary,” Shalar pointed out.  “Studpopper is carrying a portable material synthesizer.  We can make clothing with any fibrous material you can gather.  There are lot of things in the rubble around here that will transform into cloth.”

“You can make clothing out of rubble?” Makkhain asked, surprised.

“Of course,” said Studpopper, putting the small portable synthesizer down on the potting bench where numerous withered flowers in flower pots were arranged.

“Two bad you can’t make food.  You could save a lot of Galtorrians.”

“Oh, we can make food.  If we round up all those dead scabbies, bones and all, and the dead plants, that will give us enough organic molecules to make good food for years.”

“Lester has volunteered to make plant shoots and runners for food too,” offered Brekka.  “George and Menolly were supposed to tell you all of that.”

“Who is Lester?” asked Shalar.

“My friend the man-eating plant,” said Brekka with a huge grin.

“We will definitely be making a lot of food, Makkhain,” said Shalar.  “And we will freely share it with your people if it will help your planet.”

“It really won’t make a difference,” said Makkhain.  “The atmosphere of Galtorr Prime is degrading at an alarming rate.  Soon we won’t have any air to breathe.”

“This Bio-Dome and the five thousand other sites that my father helped set up have working air-scrubbers that will convert the carbon dioxide and poisons into carbon blocks and trees,” said Sizzahl.  “My instruments have been showing that they are winning the air war since you war-guys destroyed all the factories and energy-making facilities.  We will have a fully restored atmosphere in five years.”

“Okay,” said Makkhain, “but we can’t solve the disease problem that turns us into scabbies.”

“That one is no problem,” said Sizzahl with a shrug.  “Any Galtorrian who is still alive is immune.  All the people susceptible to the virus have already succumbed to it.  I saw that in the genes we used to make the Human/Galtorrian fusions.  We have the same gene to battle the disease that the Tellerons and Humans have, otherwise we would be scabbies already.”

The old warrior seemed somehow deeply shaken by what he had just learned, which didn’t really make sense to Shalar.  It sounded to her like the evidence proved that Galtorr Prime and its people would survive after all.

“We… we can still save the planet!” gasped the old warrior.  “I… I have made a very grave mistake!”

All the others looked at Makkhain in wonder.  All but Brekka.  Shalar noticed the little naked tadpole had cuddled up against the plant-thing called Lester and fallen asleep.

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Filed under aliens, humor, novel, NOVEL WRITING, Paffooney, science fiction

Opening Windows on the Past

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This particular Iowa trip has me thinking hard about mortality and the cold harsh wind that blows toward us from the future.  My cousin’s only son lost his battle with depression, and his family finally came to terms with the loss.  But the sadness is past.   The responsibilities of the living is what remains.

I was born while Eisenhower was President.  I was alive and aware when Kennedy was assassinated and when men first walked on the moon.  I was teaching in a classroom when the first teacher in space was killed on the exploding space shuttle.  And I was also in the classroom when the twin towers fell on 9-11.  It is an important part of the responsibilities I have for being alive to keep that past alive too.

 

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My mother’s knickknack shelf.

The reason we collect and care about little extraneous things like porcelain eggs, angels, fine blue china plates, and the California Raisins singing I Heard It Through the Grapevine is because those little, otherwise unimportant things connect us to memories of important times and places and people.   We keep old photographs around, many of them black and white, for the same reasons.

 

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The fiction I write is not contemporary.  It is mostly historical fiction.  It is set in a recent past where the Beatles and the Eagles provided the sound track to our lives.  It does not cross the border into the 21st Century.  The part of my writing that is not about the past is science fiction set in the far future, entirely in the universe of my imagination.  It is my duty to connect the past to the future.

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And I share that duty with everyone who is alive.  My great grandparents and grandparents are now gone from this world.  But their horse-and-buggy memories about life on the farm before electric lights and cars… with humorous outhouse stories thrown in for comic relief… are in me too.  I am steeped in the past in so many ways…  And I must not fail to pass that finely brewed essence on to my children and anyone young who will listen.  It is a grave responsibility.  And it is possible to reach the grave without having fulfilled that important purpose.

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In times of great sadness and loss we must think about how life goes on.  There has to be a will to carry on and deliver the past to the future.  Every story-teller carries that burden, whether in large or small packages.  And there is no guarantee that tomorrow will even arrive.  So here is my duty for the day.  One more window has been opened.

 

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Filed under autobiography, battling depression, blog posting, family, healing, humor, insight, inspiration

This is How the World Ends…

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The T. S. Eliot poem “The Hollow Men” talks about the disappointing nature of human beings and ends  with a dire four lines quoted more often than any poem’s end in the history of poetry.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Now I have revealed this particular truth more than once.  I am not prescient.  I am an idiot.  And the only things I know for certain about the future are that I will die one day, and so will everyone else.  But knowing those things  is wisdom.  Especially the idiot part.

And I can see how things are progressing.  I know what people are like at their core.  If humanity is doomed to die out in the next century, or even the next decade, it will not be because of nuclear war.  It will be something sneakier, quieter, and more permanently lethal.

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It will be the fact that people are capable of heartlessness and cruelty.  Adolf Hitler turned the full power of government-focused hatred on those he defined as less than human; Jews, gypsies, gay people, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the mentally handicapped.  He used that focus to burn those peoples out of existence.  But many forces in the human character rose up to shield the victims, saving some and avenging the others.  Hitler learned the hard way that he was not the end of the world… from a bullet, in a bunker, having lost an empire.

Now, the Republican clown show in the United States is turning into Killer Klowns from Outer Space.

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They show lack of concern for anything but corporate profits.  They will undo Medicare and cancel the Meals on Wheels program because, according to evil leprechauns in charge of the budget, we can’t afford to feed people, or educate people, or do anything to dry up the painful ocean of poverty capitalism is creating.  No, we must bury our pots of gold and any magic they have left in them.

They have changed the laws on environmental protections to allow themselves to profit by pouring pollutants into rivers and water supplies.  They pull out of world-wide agreements to work towards saving the environment from climate change.

They may have found a way to focus hatred through the lens of indifference.  Hitler’s mistake was in thinking most humans could be manipulated only through fear and hatred for those who were different.  Trump’s troll army has added stupidity and greed to the lenses the light can be filtered through.  And so, they may well succeed where Nazis failed.

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

 

 

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Filed under angry rant, humor, insight, pessimism, politics, self pity, sharing from YouTube

Catching Up on Movie Masterpieces

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What do you do after a long, hard journey home when your arthritis is making you house-bound and bad weather is making it worse?  Well there is the miracle of Amazon and Netflix and the movies that you desperately wanted to see, but didn’t make it to the theater for.  One such movie is… um…  What was the name of that movie that all my radically Christian friends said we couldn’t see because of the gay character?  Well, it wasn’t the movie I’m talking about first.  If there is gayness there, it is so intrinsic a part of the story and so artfully slipped in that you really have to intend to be offended to actually be offended by it.    This movie was simply an amazingly beautiful live-action adaptation of an animated classic that morphed into a hit Broadway musical and then morphed back into a movie.  It was brilliant on so many levels.

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The cast is so completely unexpected, yet so completely perfect.  Obi-wan Kenobi plays the Candlestick.  The snowman from Frozen plays the toady character, Le Fou.  Nanny McPhee plays the talking tea pot.  Gandalf plays the clock.  And who knew that Hermoine could sing so well?

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I loved it for so many reasons that I can’t begin to name them all in only 500 words.

And I had more than one movie I simply had to see.

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Moana is an engagingly bright archetypal experience full of bold color and comic relief and breath-taking artistry.  The heroine is a step forward not just for Disney, but for Hollywood as a whole.  The songs are energetic and soul-lifting.  The magic is truly magical.  Both literally and figuratively.

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If I ever have a chance to see this movie in a theater, I will leap at the chance.  Of course, I have arthritis and will probably break my leg.

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And I am watching these things on my parents’ TV.  So I felt compelled to throw in an old favorite as well.

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Lucille Ball, Henry Fonda, and Van Johnson have been dead and gone for a long time now.  Yet this sensitive and beautifully crafted comedy is still as alive as it was in 1968 when it premiered.  I laugh harder now at it than I did when I was twelve, because I was looking at it from the other side of the divide back then.  Rediscovering the charm of old movies is one of the great joys available to the old.

So, my vacation time is definitely not wasted even though I can’t get out much and do much.  Time spent watching good movies with family is a very good thing.  It allows me to catch up on some of the new lights that illuminate the whole of culture.

 

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The Cottonwood on the Corner

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The old cottonwood tree on the Aldrich farm corner has been there for as long as I can remember.  It was there when I was a small boy visiting Grandpa Aldrich’s farm.  It is still there 55 years later as I visit Mom and Dad who are still living on the farm.  A lot has changed.  Time has passed.  It is a different decade, a different century, a different millennium.

The old tree is like an anchor in time.  I can come home and look at it and be taken back in time.  I know that tree.  And he knows me.

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That isn’t true of all of the trees on the farm.

 

 

 

 

This pine by the house is tree who is younger than me.  I can remember when it was planted.  It was not so very many years ago.

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This gnarled old tree in the grove may be about the same age as I am.  I remember it when both it and I were small and we played together in the grove.  I was Tarzan, Jungle Jim, and the Lone Ranger.  It was the post I leaned on in my secret lookout post.  Back then my hand went most of the way around the trunk.

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It is good to come home to a place where you know the trees personally.  You can revisit old haunts, see old friends and acquaintances, and walk along gravel roads in a place where there is little traffic and no smog.

So I came back to Iowa to visit a tree.  Well, the farm place and aging parents too.

 

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