Friday, October 21, 2016

Where the Deer and the Coyotes Play

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

I met friends for dinner last night in West Plains - old teaching comrades from Mountain View whom I had not seen in more than thirty years.   After the meal and quite a bit of catching up, we drove out to the farm.  It was getting close to dark as we walked toward the barn and aviary to see the peacocks - when one of my friends noticed several small deer playing on the far side of the pond.  The frolicsome fawns added the perfect touch of rural charm to my little place in the country.

(Sadly the inside of my house, which is in a state of upheaval, was far less charming!)

I walked out to the coops to close the chickens, guineas, and duck up for the night when my friends left shortly after dark.  All of the birds had gone to their appropriate homes as darkness descended, leaving Pa Rock with the simple task of closing a couple of doors and securing them so that they would not blow open during the night..  It's a routine that gets played out every evening.

Usually the most deadly nighttime prowlers are the neighborhood dogs, but owls and raccoons can also be a problem.  Later, however, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by a new sound at The Roost.    Coyotes were yipping somewhere out in the night lands.  I stayed in bed knowing that all of the poultry was safe, but my thoughts and concerns were with the young deer.

I know that coyotes inhabit the local area, but last night was the first time I had actually heard any since leaving Arizona.  Out there even the nicest of neighborhoods can be plagued with nuisance creatures like coyotes. 

A friend of mine was living in a Phoenix suburb when she took her two dogs out for a walk one evening.  She had an older large dog on a leash and a happy little Chihuahua scampering along beside the big dog.  Suddenly a coyote ran through the group on the city sidewalk and grabbed up the Chihuahua in his fearsome jaws.  The predator eventually dropped his prize before fleeing into the neighboring hills.  He left bite marks on the Chihuahua which required the attention of a veterinarian.  (My friend decided that the coyote had abandoned her little dog when he discovered that he really didn't have a taste for Mexican food!)

Another friend was walking along the sidewalk in her very posh suburb of Phoenix when she heard something snort and brush against her leg.  The friend gazed on in shock as a rampaging javelina pushed past her!  And then there are the scorpions!

Close encounters with nature in the city can be surprising, but out here in the woods, where I live, one has to expect the occasional snake to slither across his path.  Life isn't all playful deer and meandering wild turkeys, sometimes there's a skunk in the barn, an armadillo poking holes in the yard, and mice menacing the chicken coop.   Hawks and raccoons also do their share in keeping farm creatures alert.  A small black bear has even been spotted loping around the neighborhood.

But that's nature, and it's a big part of the reason that I chose to live beyond the sprawling concrete and asphalt of the city.   Everything is entitled to a shot at survival, from playful deer, to loathsome predators, to crusty old farmers.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Such a Nasty Man

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I was in town playing pinochle during the first part of last night's presidential debate and missed Donald Trump's refusal to say if he would abide by the election results or not.    The Republican candidate said that he would keep the country "in suspense" regarding his acceptance of the results until after the election.   The implication seemed to be that if he didn't win, then of course the election was rigged.  How could someone as great as Donald J. Trump possibly lose at anything?

Trump's refusal to acknowledge the idea of free and fair elections in the United States seems to be the major takeaway from the debate by news organizations - with many portraying it as a full-frontal assault on the most basic tenet of democracy.  And I missed it.  But there was a moment in the final third of the debate which I felt was almost as revealing about the deplorable character of Donald Trump - and I was in front of the computer to witness that one.

Hillary had been talking about the importance of pumping more money into the Social Security fund, and said she would do that by increasing taxes on the rich.  She noted that meant she would pay more in taxes and so would Trump - unless he figured out a way to avoid it.  Trump interrupted at that point and said (about Hillary), "Such a nasty woman."  Well, to be completely honest, his words were more of a snarl than a statement.  Not only did the word "nasty" have a strong perjorative sting to it, but so did the word "woman."  Hillary was being "nasty," and she was a "woman"  - a strong double negative in Trump-speak.

Trump's "nasty woman" comment was more than just bad manners, it was yet another example of his male arrogance and active disdain of women. 

The only nasty thing on that stage last night was Trump himself.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Waiting for Hillary

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of the things that I most dislike about Hillary Clinton is her almost maniacal obsession with fundraising.  Yes, I understand that money makes the world go round and it is also the lifeblood of elections - particularly in the United States of Graft and Greed, but at some point enough should be enough, and the candidate should come forward, like traditional politicians, and begin wading through crowds and pressing the flesh.   Poor Hillary, however,  seems to be giving dollars more weight than votes, and sees victory as being represented by a gigantic number preceded by a dollar sign.

Hillary, there are more babies to be kissed than just your grandchildren.

My other concern with Hillary is that she continues to basically ignore my state - Missouri - and seems to have written it off to Trump.  Yes, I know that last week her campaign promised to split a million dollars between Missouri and Indiana in the slightest of nods to those two red states, and I'm certain that our statewide candidates appreciate every Democratic dollar that comes into the state, but a portion of a million dollars is a pittance in a national election, an insignificant sliver of what Clinton has taken out of the Show-Me state.

Whichever candidate carries Missouri gets its ten electoral votes - all of them.  If Hillary concedes the state to Trump, what is my motivation for voting for her?  He will get the ten electoral votes regardless of how I vote - unless, of course, Hillary has a change of heart and decides to really work the state like an earnest candidate.

But Team Clinton has gotten ahead of me on that train of logic.  Now, with the election safely in hand as far as electoral vote totals go, Hillary and her people are out addressing the next big contest - the one where Trump the Loser storms in to question her legitimacy - because of "rigged elections" and all that conspiracy stuff that Republicans do so well.  One way they see for her to combat that is to win over fifty-percent of the popular votes, hopefully with a number so big and convincing that rational people will have no recourse but to accept the results.  If the emphasis is on popular votes, then my vote is as important as that of anyone else.

So now my vote suddenly is important in the popular vote scheme of things.  Donald Trump will not get my vote, but beyond that I have made no decisions.  It would help Hillary's case, however, if she would quit begging cash from lobbyists and Wall Street long enough to stop by the farm and solicit my vote in person.  (I'm waiting on the front porch, Hill.)  When that happens - or when she shows any interest at all in winning Missouri - my vote will go to Hillary Clinton.  

Until then, Jill Stein still looks mighty fine.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Economic Wall Around Cuba Is Falling Fast

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The once formidable economic embargo that the United States instituted against Cuba after the missile crisis more than half century ago is finally beginning to collapse - much to the chagrin of certain American politicians who have built their careers on vilifying the socialist mainstay of the Caribbean.

Many Americans have openly flaunted travel restrictions to Cuba by flying in via Canada or Mexico - or through other countries - for years, and this past March the visitor's door to Cuba was kicked wide open when the Obama family landed on the island for the first visit by a sitting U.S. President in decades.  Within a month of the President's visit, American cruise ships began stopping in Cuba, and next month, on November 13th, Southwest Airlines will begin regularly scheduled flights to the island nation.

With just three months left in office, President Obama has chosen to twist the tails of Cuban hardliners like Little Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz one more time by lifting the decades-old embargo on Cuban cigars and rum.  Effective next Monday American citizens who travel to Cuba will be able to bring home the famous cigars and rum in unlimited quantities - for personal use only.  The catch is that those wanting the smokes and booze must go to Cuba in person to make the purchases.   Internet sales are not permitted. 

All of which sounds likes a good reason to visit Cuba.  Twist, twist, twist!

Journalist Peter Kornbluh tells an interesting tale of Cuban cigars and the U.S. Presidency in his book, Back Channel to Cuba:  The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.  It seems that President John F. Kennedy was a big fan of Cuban cigars.  The night before Kennedy signed the comprehensive economic embargo of Cuba in 1962 he summoned his press secretary, Pierre Salinger, and instructed him to get out into the community and buy up all of the Cuban cigars he could find.  The next morning Salinger reported back to the President with 1,200 of Cuba's finest.  The satisfied Kennedy then signed the embargo making it illegal for other Americans to enjoy the world's best cigars - like the ones he was hoarding.

Peter Kornbluh was one of the guides on the trip that I took to Cuba with The Nation magazine last April.  I enjoyed hearing him repeat the Kennedy cigar story over a late lunch one afternoon in Havana.

And, at the risk of repeating sentiments from earlier blog posts regarding my visit to Cuba, I found the Cuban people to be friendly, courteous, hospitable, and as curious about their neighbors in the United States as we were about them.  They were warm and welcoming human beings - and it is high time for the embargo to be gone.

Viva Obama!

Monday, October 17, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Mr. Tambourine Man"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It was announced last week in Stockholm that American songwriter and folk artist Bob Dylan had won the Nobel Prize for Literature.  The committee cited Dylan for "having created new poetic expressions within the American song tradition."  It is an honor that is both well deserved and long overdue.

One of my college professors, a lady who was steeped in the works of the romantic poets of an earlier age, once lamented that there were no poets currently capturing the essence of the world in the way the Byron, Keats, and Shelley had done.  She had her nose far too deep into the Norton Anthologies and wasn't listening to the music of her own time - much of it written by twentieth poets like Woody Guthrie, Jimmie Rodgers, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, Elton John, Carole King, the Beatles, Carly Simon, Kris Kristofferson, and perhaps the most prolific and enduring of them all, Bob Dylan.  There was poetry a-plenty being written, but the sad old professor wasn't listening.

Last Christmas I bought my musician grandson, Boone, a copy of the Bob Dylan Songbook.  That sucker was over two-inches thick!  Dylan's music, much of it tied to the civil rights movement and war protests of the mid-twentieth century, was the soundtrack of America in turmoil as the country struggled to establish it's post World War II identity.   Bob Dylan, perhaps more than any other artist, helped us to grapple with the questions of who we were and where we were heading.

Over the years I have highlighted the lyrics of three Bob Dylan songs in this space:  "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" on 6/28/10,  "Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie" on 7/9/12, and "Only a Pawn in Their Game" on 2/24/14.

Selecting one song to identify with Bob Dylan's poetic genius is a nearly impossible task.  The Nation magazine published a list of the top ten protest songs of all time (compiled by Peter Rothberg) several years ago.  That list had Dylan's "The Times They Are a-Changin'" as number six.  "Like a Rolling Stone,""Subterranean Homesick Blues," and "Rainy Doy Women #12 and 35" are all quickly recognized by people of a certain age.  (I had the good fortune to attend a Dylan concert at an outdoor venue twenty-five years ago where much of the crowd joined in singing along with the artist who had penned the words and music.  It was a sheep-and-shepherd spiritual experience!)

To honor Bob Dylan's ascension to the heights of Nobel Laureate, I finally settled on one of his most recognizable pieces, one that while easy to remember and sing along with, is nevertheless steeped in"new poetic expressions within the American song tradition."   Please enjoy reminiscing to Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man."

Mr. Tambourine Man
by Bob Dylan

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Though I know that evenings empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I'm branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street's too dead for dreaming

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirling ship
My senses have been stripped
My hands can't feel to grip
My toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wandering
I'm ready to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade
Into my own parade
Cast your dancing spell my way, I promise to go under it

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Though you might hear laughing, spinning, swinging madly through the sun
It's not aimed at anyone
It's just escaping on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facing
And if you hear vague traces of skipping reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time
It's just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn't pay it any mind
It's just a shadow you're seeing that he's chasing

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time
Far past the frozen leaves
The haunted frightened trees
Out to the windy bench
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky
With one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea
Circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate
Driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow

Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I'm not sleepy and there ain't no place I'm going to
Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I'll come following you

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Write a Novel in a Month

by Pa Rock
Hardcore Typist

November is National Novel Writing Month - and an international writing group challenges its members to do just that during the thirty days of each November.  There is no fee to join NaNoWriMo and anyone with a desire to work that long-dormant novel out of their system is encouraged to become a member and chase the dream.  People who accept the challenge are expected to crank out a novel of 50,000 words or more between November 1st and 30th.

NaNoWriMo is divided into many geographic regions, each with several thousand members.  While I have never chosen to participate in the group's annual challenge, I did officially join the Japan region several years ago while I was living in the Orient.  Being a member gets me onto their email list, and it is an annual reminder that life is slipping away without benefit of the powerful novel that I always intended to write.  This year I am once again thinking of taking the challenge.  I have been studying the group's materials and writing tips on their website, as well as digging into advice from other members.

NaNoWriMo has several regions within the United States.

In addition to offering a constant stream of support, NaNoWriMo monitors each writer's progress through the self-reporting of word counts.   At the end of the challenge writers are invited to post their work on the group's website.  Writers can also offer support to one another through the website.   A local coffee house in my community features an array of books by local authors, and I happened to notice that a couple of those on display had received awards from NaNoWriMo.

Fifty thousand words is a lot to crank out in thirty days - although I have probably hit that mark with this blog during some thirty-day spreads.  For me to be successful at the project, I would need a story idea, an overall outline, a scene-by-scene outline, and summaries of the main characters which detail their motivations, histories, and quirks - all prior to facing that first blank page of the novel.  In other words, a minimum of two weeks of pre-novel work - which would begin about tomorrow!

With that self-imposed deadline looming, I may do some pre-pre-novel work today.

I think I can, I think I can, I think I can!

If anyone would like to join me in this rigorous bout of self-flagellation, the website is  Who knows - maybe this time next year we'll be signing books at Barnes and Noble!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

If Trump Can't Win, then Nobody Can

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Donald Trump, a man obsessed with beauty, is hellbent on turning the 2016 presidential election into the ugliest political contest in the history of our republic.  Trump, through his own deliberate words and actions, has gotten himself into a place from which it would be virtually impossible to win the election - a big electoral hole, and, as the old joke goes, he just keeps on digging.

The absolute backbone of the GOP over the past several elections has been white men without college degrees and white suburban women.  Trump's appeal among the lesser educated voters appears to remain strong, but his unfettered and bizarre rants against women have left that once mighty GOP block of votes in disarray, with many fleeing the party altogether to support the nation's first female presidential candidate.

This probably wasn't the Republican Party's optimal election cycle in which to nominate a raging sexist.

The Trump campaign suffered an apparent mortal wound last week when a "hot mic" tape surfaced which revealed that ten years earlier the candidate had talked about women to an interviewer in extremely lewd terms, a conversation that stressed how easy it was for him to force his way on women, sexually, and get away with it because he was "a star."  It was a pig narrative delivered by a pig.  That revelation came on the heels of his public shaming of a former Miss Universe over issues of her weight and appearance - and it was followed by a series of women coming forward and revealing that they had been insulted, groped, and/or otherwise sexually assaulted by the billionaire blowhard.

But the pig keeps digging.  Trump has shot back that not only are these new accusing women a pack of liars, but they are ugly as well.  Take that, bimbos!  Donald Trump, Jr. has even seem fit to add to his father's defense by declaring that women who can't handle harassment don't belong in the work force.  Dig, dig, dig!

It's no small wonder, one must suppose, that some news sources are giving Hillary over a 90% chance of winning the presidency.  Several states are already voting and the election itself is just a little over three weeks away.  The odds of Trump pulling a come-from-behind win decrease daily and are now literally almost non-existent.

The election train is barrelling down the tracks and at this point it has to be obvious to even The Donald himself that the man who always sees himself as a winner is not going to win this one.  Donald Trump in all of his bluster and bombast is heading into the history books as little more than a footnote.  He's going out, but he will not go quietly.

This morning at 7:23 a.m. Trump was back at his keyboard banging out tweets and desperately trying  to right the world.  The man who threatened Hillary Clinton with investigation and jail if he becomes president, knows he is about to be beaten by a woman - and he is furious - and he is still digging.  The Donald tweeted this:

"Hillary Clinton should have been prosecuted and should be in jail.  Instead she is running for president in what looks like a rigged election."

Morons arise!  If Hillary wins it is because the election was rigged.  It will be as outrageous as when that Kenyan Muslim was illegally elected President of the United States.  Obama's presidency wasn't legitimate - and Hillary's won't be legitimate either.

Donald Trump will lose the presidential election, he knows that.  The objective now is to delegitimize Hillary's victory - to convince a large block of Americans that she stole the election.  The people who will believe Trump and wallow in his delusions are angry, well armed, and easily manipulated.  They won't be any more accepting of Hillary's leadership than they were of Obama's. 

Trump will lose, but he and his rabble may ultimately prevail by insuring that nobody really wins. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Local Eateries

by Pa Rock
Tour Guide

My company left about noon and at last report had arrived safely at the airport in Springfield.   The house is quiet, and the dogs are bereft at the sudden loss of attention that they had been basking in all week.  Rosie, who had met Daniel and Valerie each on a previous visit, was particularly sad to see them go.

We stayed in the local area the whole week with outings to Hardy, Arkansas, and Mountain View, Missouri, being our furthest outreach.  The last time each visited we went to several of the scenic local mills.  This time we were  more content to just sit around the house and visit.  We had several home-cooked meals - Valerie likes to cook and Daniel and I like to eat - and had some good dining-out experiences as well.

We had two meals, a breakfast and a late lunch, at Grump's Grub in West Plains.  Grump's is the former Brenda's Cafe, and I am happy to report that the food is every bit as good as it was when Brenda was cooking.  Three people can eat very well on a twenty dollar bill.

One of our evening meals was at T.J.'s Hickory House just south of West Plains on Highway 160.  T.J's has a nice variety of dinner selections.  I had the evening's special which was a large portion "chicken fried chicken" served with mashed potatoes and gravy and some wonderful green beans - plus a trip to the salad and soup bar - literally more than I could eat.  My friends had two different varieties of fish.  T.J.'s has a full bar for those who want to wash down their meal with something a bit stronger than water or iced tea.  I've eaten their several times and always been pleased with the food and the service.

We also tried to dine at the Three-Legged Mule in Caulfield, but sadly hit on one of the several nights a week that it is closed.  The Three-Legged Mule doesn't have much floor space or many tables, so hungry diners might have to sit at the counter - but the grub is good!  It's just off the highway, easy to find - one of only a handful of businesses in Caulfield.

Valerie lives in Phoenix which is home to some great Mexican food, and Daniel has been in the Orient for so many years that he has developed a fondness for rice and fish dishes - but both seemed to enjoy our home-style Ozark fare.  All of that - and the meals we had at home always included farm fresh eggs!

Pa Rock knows how to show his guests a gastronomical good time!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Humpin' the Devil's Backbone

by Pa Rock
Local Tourist

My out-of-town company and I have spent the past couple of days exploring West Plains and the surrounding area.  Yesterday we visited Howell County Democratic Headquarters in West Plains where I managed to come away with a yard sign for Jason Kander, Missouri's U.S. Senate Democratic candidate.  Murphy found a bumper sticker with the message, "I'll know corporations are people when Texas executes one!"  That represents a powerful truth.  We also spent time in one of the local flower shops ordering flowers for a friend of ours from our years on Okinawa who recently lost her brother.  Nefredia, our friend, is staying with family in New York City this week.

Yesterday evening Murphy and Valerie went to the gym in our local civic center for a workout while I stumbled around in the rain trying to convince the chickens to turn in early.  Eventually they cooperated.  I probably got more of a workout than Murphy or Valerie.

Today we had breakfast at a neighborhood coffee house and then took off to explore some of the area scenery.  Our first stop was at a state park fifteen miles west of West Plains in Ozark County.  The place is called Devil's Backbone.   We enjoyed a good time exploring the park and walking the hiking trail along the riverbank.  Devil's Backbone is where little Olive likes to go to swim when she visits Pa Rock.  This afternoon we explored Mountain View, Missouri, an excursion that wound up with a trip down a lonely dirt road to a place called Blue Spring.  My family used to do outings at Blue Spring when the kids were little.

Tonight we had planned to have a cookout at the fire pit in the backyard, but the weather was so cool and rainy that we elected to bring in some Little Caesar's pizza instead.   We dined in front of the television while enjoying streamed episodes of Stranger Things.

Valerie and Daniel will leave in the morning.  They are catching a plane in Springfield in the afternoon where they will both fly to Texas.  From there Valerie heads home to Phoenix and Daniel is off to see friends are relatives in Nashville and Indiana.   He will be back at work in Tokyo at the end of the month.

We have had a great visit - and old friends continue to be the very best!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ol' Roy Blunt: The Worst of Washington

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Senator Roy Blunt, a Republican of Missouri and patriarch of a family of Washington lobbyists, had been expecting to stroll to re-election this fall in a cake-walk, but Blunt's easy path to victory has been complicated by the emergence of a strong and very popular opponent.  Jason Kander, Missouri's secretary of state and the youngest statewide office holder in America, is giving Ol' Roy the run of his political career.  Now, in fact, most reputable news sources are labeling Missouri's hotly-contested senate race as a "toss-up," and some are even giving the edge to Kander.

Jason Kander volunteered for service in the Afghanistan War.  Roy Blunt, who was of military age during the Vietnam War, demurred from wearing his country's uniform through acceptance of multiple deferrals.

The political sands began shifting a few weeks ago when Kander put out a brilliant ad in response to the NRA endorsing Blunt.  The Kander political commercial featured him assembling an automatic weapon - blindfolded - while he discussed his patriotism and military service.  Blunt and the NRA were left firing blanks, almost literally.

Today a new political ad emerged in support of Jason Kander.  It discusses the fact that Kander volunteered to serve his country, and that Roy Blunt's contribution to the war effort was to slip an amendment into the Homeland Security Bill to benefit a tobacco company - Phillip Morris - which was the employer of his lobbyist wife and one of his lobbyist adult children.

Kander served in uniform in an active war situation - while Blunt tried to make a buck.

The ad concludes by saying that Jason Kander represents the best of America - while Roy Blunt is symbolic of the worst of Washington.

Voter registration ends today in Missouri.  Signing-up to vote is the first step in the process to remove Ol' Roy Blunt and his family of greedy lobbyists from the hallowed halls of Congress.

Jason Kander represents the future of Missouri and America, while Ol' Roy Blunt represents self-interest and the world of Donald Trump.

The choice could not be clearer.  

Forward, Missouri!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Magnificent Three Ride into Hardy, Arkansas

by Pa Rock
Tour Guide

My visiting guests and I enjoyed a beautiful fall drive down to the quiet community of Hardy, Arkansas, yesterday.   Hardy is a small town consisting primarily of a short Main Street.  Like so many towns in rural America, the family businesses that had built and sustained the struggling community all began shutting down as the Walmart cancer devoured America.  Now, those unique old buildings are being converted to flea markets and craft stores. 

We visited several of Hardy's flea markets and chatted with some of the locals.  Daniel came back from the outing with a unique Christmas ornament, something that will travel back with him to Japan - and I found something that I needed - a walnut and oak cutting board.  Valerie put the cutting board to good use this morning when she fixed us all delicious veggie and egg scrambles for breakfast.  You just can't beat those farm-fresh eggs, especially when they are whipped into shape by a master chef like Valerie!

Last night we went to the local movie theatre and watched the remake of The Magnificent Seven.  It's a real shoot-em-up, something my Dad would have loved!  Movie selections right now are rather thin.  After returning home late in the evening our efforts were focused on trying to find complete episodes of Green Acres on some of the streaming sites!

Most of the conversation between the three old friends focused on the current national political situation, and the dark and foreboding presidential debate from Sunday evening.  As of this morning we are each talking about writing ourselves in for President.

Today we will be out and about exploring more of the Ozarks in this beautiful fall weather!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Old Friends are the Best

by Pa Rock

Two of my best friends from the years on Okinawa are at the farm for a visit.  Valerie Seitz, a social worker who now lives and works in the Phoenix area, and Daniel Murphy, a psychologist who still works with the military - now on mainland Japan, arrived late last night and will be here most of the week.  Each visited The Roost individually two years ago, and this trip is the first time that the three of us have been together since Valerie and Daniel drove me to the airport in Naha, Okinawa, in July of 2012 for my return flight to the United States.

So we have a lot to catch up on!

My company arrived last night while the bitter presidential debate was in progress.  Daniel, in particular - and due to living overseas, was astonished at the sordidness of the current political situation.  And he is right - it does seem like we are circling the drain and heading into the sewer.

More on the debate later.

Welcome friends!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Ol' Roy Blunt Stands by His Man

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Things are happening fast in the U.S. political arena, almost too fast for comprehension.  I half expected to wake to news this morning that Donald Trump had dropped out of the presidential race, but, alas, that is not the way narcissists and bullies roll.  He's still running, he will not quit - and the fun continues!

There has been a sizable contingent of Republicans who have stood up to the bully since almost day-one of his campaign.    Many in that force for sanity are now calling on him to drop out of the race.  These hardcore Republican anti-Trumpers from the U.S. Senate include the likes of Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona who preferred spending time with his lawnmower over supporting Trump, and Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska whose druthers included taking his children on a tour of their home state to watch dumpster fires.   Other Republican Senate defectors from the get-go include Mark Kirk of Illinois, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, and Ted Cruz's faithful right hand - Senator Mike Lee of Utah.

Nine Republican House members of the current Congress have also been on record as opposed to the Trump candidacy, even before the latest catastrophe landed in the press.  For the record, those representatives include Mike Coffman of Colorado, Barbara Comstock of Virginia, Fred Upton of Michigan, Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania, Frank LoBiondo of New Jersey, Will Hurd of Texas, John Katko of New York, Erik Paulsen of Minnesota, and Pat Tiberi of Ohio.

Then this week happened and the nation reeled after watching an old tape of the Republican presidential nominee talk of sexually assaulting women and discussing them in lewd and disgusting terms - the worst of which were repeated verbatim in the national press.  The emperor was standing on the stage buck naked as the whole world looked on.  It was suddenly impossible to minimize his vulgarity, arrogance, or ignorance of common decency.  The real Donald Trump was exposed, fully and completely, as a shocked world looked on.

The list of Republican officials eager to climb out of the Trump train wreck began to immediately swell.  Representative Jason Chaffetz of Utah bailed first, and had, at last count, been followed by an additional ten members of the House of Representatives.  Additionally, nine Republican senators quickly joined their five smarter colleagues who had already sworn off of Trump.  Senator Kelly Ayotte, who had struggled to regain her political footing all week because of her statement that Trump was "absolutely" a role model for children, had finally had enough - way too much, really.  John McCain, who is in a tough reelection fight with a female opponent in Arizona, also publicly dumped Trump.  Other senators who were quick to run away from their presidential nominee include Mike Crappo of Idaho, John Thune of South Dakota, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Rob Portman of Ohio.

Republican governors Gary Herbert of Utah, Dennis Dauggard of South Dakota, and Robert Bentley of Alabama have also bailed in their support of the controversial candidate.

And then, to frost the cake, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus announced that the national committee was pulling out of their joint fundraising effort with Donald Trump - an effort labeled the "Trump Victory Fund."

Republican office holders in my home state of Missouri are remaining oddly silent on the Trump situation - with the lone exception being Rep. Ann Wagner of Missouri's 2nd congressional district.  Wagner, a former State Republican Party chair, is openly disgusted with her party's nominee and calling on him to withdraw from the race.  Missouri Republican gubernatorial candidate Eric Greitens is keeping mum on his party's seeming disintegration, as is my congressman, Jason Smith of the 8th district.

But the biggest disappointment has to be our Republican senator, Roy Blunt.  Senator Blunt, the patriarch of a family of lobbyists, is in a very tough re-election campaign and very much resembles a Missouri deer caught in the headlights of an approaching mack truck.  The normally very pious Blunt, a man who graduated from Southwest Baptist College in Bolivar, Missouri, and later served as the school's President, can't be happy with the image that Donald Trump is blatantly showing to the world - but - Trump is still leading in polls of Missouri, and lots of relatives are depending on Ol' Roy to keep his seat on the government gravy train.

Missouri is home to a bunch of damned deplorables, and nobody knows that better than Roy Blunt.  The other rats may be racing down the gangplank and onto the shores of sanity, but not Ol' Roy.  He'll stand by his man, thank you very much, and hope the votes are there for another term at the government trough.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Race to the Bottom

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It's literally been years since I have cast a general election ballot on election day itself, but it looks that is what will happen this year.  I was living in Arizona in 2008 and 2012, a state where I was able to cast my ballot weeks before the election - by mail, no less.  I remember voting by absentee ballot at the McDonald County courthouse in Pineville in 2004, probably more as a matter of convenience than anything else - and elections before that are lost in a fog bank of hazy memories.

Being sixty-eight-years-old, I was sorely tempted to vote absentee this year - as a countermeasure against my possible demise in the days before the election.  I would hate to think that I got this close and failed to cast a vote against Trump, the racist sex pig.  I even pulled down an application to vote absentee off of the internet, but never got around to filling it out.

The problem?

This year I know who I am against, that isn't an issue.  The question still looms, however, as to whom I am for?  Sadly, both of the major party candidates are seriously flawed.  Yesterday, just as the most immediate example, the Trump "hot mic" tapes were released by the Washington Post and minutes later Wikileaks coughed up emails from Hillary's campaign manager that offered a look at some less-than-positive remarks from her paid speeches to Wall Street.  While Donald Trump  remains a total anathema to human decency, Hillary has trouble elevating herself above the level of common grifter.

Senator Kelly Ayotte may have hit the nail on the head as she struggled to regain her political footing after declaring Donald Trump was "absolutely" a role model for children.    Ayotte came back with a statement that she had "mispoken" and that not only was she not perfect, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were neither one acceptable role models.

I have a friend who lives in a hotly-contested battleground state who says he is going to leave the presidential portion of the ballot blank.  I can't go that far, but neither do I feel morally mandated to choose between the lesser of two evils.  A vote for a third-party candidate is not a wasted vote - it sends a message also.   That message is for the national parties to quit presenting us with crap candidates. 

I will undoubtedly vote in the general election - in person, at the polls, on election day.  Chances are excellent that I will cast my first vote for a woman for President - and I feel privileged to have lived long enough to do that.  The question remains, of course, which woman?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Holy, Moly - People are Already Voting!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

While Donald Trump stumbles around saying what he pleases, when he pleases, and where he pleases, the Clinton team, by comparison, is following a solid ground game where everything is planned, scripted, constantly evaluated, and tightly controlled.  Hillary has a war room set up in her Brooklyn headquarters which has a focus on things like voter registration deadlines and the first dates of early voting in the various states.  Clinton has a firm grip on the process of voting.  Trump has instinct and bellicosity.

Thirty-seven states and the District of Columbia allow some type of early voting - and, in fact, voting in this year's general election has already begun in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.   That's right.  People have already been casting ballots in ten states.   Seven more - Arizona, California, Georgia, Indiana, Maine, Montana, and Ohio - will follow suit within the next week.  The election of 2016 is being played out in America's living rooms and voting booths right now, well ahead of the scheduled election on November 8th.

It is possible to cast "absentee" in-person votes in six other states if the voter can provide their county officials with an appropriate excuse for doing so - such as "I will be out of town on election day."  (I used that excuse, verbatim, with a county clerk in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, once and was met with a very uncooperative response.  She eventually relented and let me exercise my rights as a citizen.)  Those states where a voter can cast an early ballot if he or she isn't above lying to a county official are:  New York, Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, South Carolina, and Mississippi.

Additionally, seven hardcore states do not allow any form of early voting or in-person absentee voting:  Those include, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, and Alabama.

Florida's right-wing governor, Rick Scott, has made news this week by vowing that the voter registration deadline of next Tuesday will not be extended - in spite of the fact that Hurricane Matthew is tearing up his state at this very moment.  Republicans, like Governor Scott, have a real thing about controlling access to the ballot boxes - and a real fear of too much democracy.

And then there is The Donald.

Donald Trump has reportedly encouraged his supporters who are suffering from terminal illnesses to "hang on" until election day.  Sadly, some may wish they hadn't waited around to see the headlines on the morning after the election!

Democracy flourishes when people have the opportunity to vote.  Instead of making the process more difficult as many Republican legislatures and governors seem hellbent on doing, the process needs to become easier and more inclusive.  Things like early voting, weekend voting, and making election day a national holiday would provide opportunities to vote for many people who currently can't get to the ballot boxes due to work schedules and long lines at the polls when they do get off of work.  It's time to bring on ideas like universal registration, mail-in ballots, extended voting periods, and ultimately even internet voting.

Democracy describes who we are as a nation, or, at the very least, who we aspire to be.  Democracy is a good thing and it is fed and nourished by voters casting ballots.  Disenfranchisement of voters weakens, and ultimately kills, democracy.  It's time for America to retake the moral high ground of having a government of and by the people - all the people and not just the privileged few..    It's time to let people vote!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Paul Babeu, the Other Arizona Sheriff

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

For those who think Joe Arpaio is the most interesting lawman in Arizona (or west of the Mississippi, for that matter), you might want to take a gander at the current sheriff of Pinal County, Arizona, and then think again.

In 2011 the National Sheriff's Association named Paul Babeu, the sheriff of Pinal County, as the organization's "National Sheriff of the Year."  That was fairly heady stuff for the young lawman who had only been a sheriff for three years and had less than a decade of law enforcement experience under his belt.

Babeu, who grew up in Massachusetts and had a background in local politics and running a private school for troubled teens, showed up in Arizona as a member of the National Guard with service experience in the Iraq War.  His Guard duties in Arizona brought Babeu into the realm of border security and honed his rhetoric as a spokesman against loose immigration policies.  By 2008 Paul Babeu had sharpened his anti-immigration message to such a fine edge that he was able to use it as a jumping-off point in a successful campaign for sheriff of Pinal County.  Three years later, after serving as an officer in the National Sheriff's Association, he reaped the benefits of his dedicated work for that organization when it named Babeu as the National Sheriff of the Year.  His political experience was proving invaluable in climbing the ladder of law enforcement celebrity.

The next step in Paul Babeu's ascension to the political heights was to run for federal office.  He filed as a Republican candidate for Congress in Arizona's 4th congressional district in 2012.  However, not long after that bold political stroke, the candidate's personal life began to get dicey.  A spurned lover who was also an illegal immigrant revealed that Babeu had threatened to deport him if the lover went public with their relationship - which he did anyway.  Babeu steadfastly denied that he had threatened to deport the man, but he soon bit the bullet and admitted that he was gay.  He withdrew from the Congressional race and was re-elected sheriff of Pinal County by a comfortable margin.  One of his allies in that race was Senator John McCain who declared Babeu to be a "friend" of his.

During that tumultuous time there were also allegations that the state of Massachusetts had investigated the school Babeu had led over alleged physical abuse of students, and Babeu's sister said that he had been romantically involved with a male student at the school.  Babeu denied any knowledge of physical abuse of students at the boarding school for at-risk youth, but recently a private video has emerged in which he reportedly boasts of being involved in the abuse.  Former students are also speaking out and accusing Babeu of perpetrating physical abuse against students at the school.

Now Paul Babeu has again filed to run for Congress, this time in Arizona's 1st district, the spot being vacated by Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick who is trying to unseat John McCain.  Babeu won the Republican primary in August by taking 32% of the vote in a heated six-way contest.  He now faces another lawman, Tom O'Halleran, of Sedona in the general election.  O'Halleran, running as a Democrat, was once a Republican state legislator in Arizona.

Paul Babeu's sisters have endorsed O'Halleran in the upcoming congressional race.

Joe Arpaio and Paul Babeu are both natives of Massachusetts who relocated to Arizona and made names for themselves in the field of law enforcement - names so big that they resonate well beyond the borders of their desert fiefdoms.  Both are accomplished glory hogs and both have generated more than their fair share of tawdry publicity.  Now Arpaio and Babeu are both entangled in tough election battles that may ultimately spell the end of each of their political careers.

But the dust never settles in Arizona, so who knows?   One thing is certain, however:  law enforcement hasn't been this entertaining in the Scorpion State since the Earps ran Tombstone!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Best Campaign Question Ever!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This past Monday evening at a debate in New Hampshire, Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican who is struggling to keep her seat on the gravy train, got a surprise question - one that sent her sputtering into near incoherence.  Senator Ayotte was asked if she would describe Donald Trump as a role model, and would she tell children to be like Donald Trump?  After regaining some semblance of composure, she spit out that she "absolutely" would describe Trump as a role model for children.  Later when social media deep-fried her for that response, Senator Ayotte tried to wriggle out of the hot grease by saying that she had "misspoken."

"Mispeaking" was coined during the Nixon years as a euphemism for "lying." 

The crux of this story isn't that a seasoned politician got caught with a "gotcha" question, although she certainly did, the real story here is the question itself.  It cut across the cat crap of canned campaign talking points and came to rest on something vital:  Is Donald Trump the type of person that we would want our children to emulate?  Surely that would be difficult for any parent to answer in the affirmative.  Most people, regardless of their political orthodoxy, do not want their kids to grow up to become narcissistic loud-mouthed bullies, serial philanderers, greed-heads, racists, and misogynists. 

Every politician in America ought to be measured against the standard of whether he or she would be a good role model for children.  Senator Ayotte said, upon reflection, that Trump would not be a good role model for children - and neither would Hillary Clinton, and many would concur in that opinion, this poor typist included.  But the parties have made their selections, and now the voters must decide which of the two is the better role model for children as well as for the nation.

Somehow I suspect that deep in her gut even Senator Ayotte knows the answer to that one.

A person who would be unfit to teach in an elementary school would absolutely be unfit to serve as President of the United States.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Trump's Free Ride

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The late New York City hotelier, Leona Helmsley, once famously said "Only the little people pay taxes."   Now, decades later, another New York City hotelier is proving her right.

Donald Trump, who a mere four years ago was goading Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney to release his tax records, is now in the spotlight himself as a Republican presidential nominee who, like Romney, would rather not share his tax strategies with the little people - the ones who actually do pay taxes.

But last week a crack developed in the Trump tax dam.  Some nefarious soul - possibly wife number two or the offspring of wife number two - gave the New York Times a copy of Trump's 1995 tax return - a document showing that his businesses lost an amazing $916 million that year.  Tax analysts were quick to point out that if Trump took full advantage of the tax code, that loss could have resulted in him paying no taxes at all for up to eighteen years.

After the blowhard's initial fury at the unauthorized peek into his private finances subsided, he seems to be warming to the idea that avoiding taxes is a measure of his business cunning, and that ordinary people admire bigshots who openly shirk their responsibility to help fund the government that has already given them so many breaks.  Governor Chris Christie, a man who is Trump's equal in body fat, and former NYC mayor, Rudy Giuliani, a man who is Trump's equal in philandering, both seized on the developing tax story and tried to re-label it at a sign of the presidential candidate's "genius."  Trump himself told a group of knuckle-draggers in Colorado yesterday that he had "brilliantly navigated the tax code."

Trump also responded to Hillary Clinton at the debate when she asserted that he hadn't paid taxes with "That makes me smart."

(Just how smart is a fellow who could lose $916 million in a single year?)

But Trump thinks he's smart, and Christie and Giuliani consider him a genius - and they are probably all three right.  Donald Trump takes full advantage of everything the government has to offer, and he makes a practice of paying as little as possible for the use of those benefits.  He is a moocher, a freeloader, and a big, bloated welfare king.  Us little people pay taxes and keep the country running so important people like The Donald don't have to.  We perform our civic duty, and he reaps the rewards.

The U.S. tax code is a patchwork of crazy loopholes and special exceptions that was pieced together over many years by legislators looking out for their own peculiar self-interests as well as those of their rich constituents.  It is a gilded tribute to the power of wealth and privilege - and a hoary testimonial to the fact that Leona Helmsley was right.

I am proud to pay taxes and do my fair share to keep our country functioning, even if that makes me a little person - and I am ashamed of Donald John Trump.  He represents little more than our basest instincts.

Trump is taking a free ride while the rest of us pull the wagon.       

Monday, October 3, 2016

Preparing for Old Friends with a Big Mow

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

Yesterday I began the 13th lawn-mowing of season.  Hopefully it will be the last.

My yard is huge and I mow six acres or better, most of it with a rider, but some of the trickier areas have to be trimmed with an old fashioned push mower.  I did the hard stuff yesterday, moving some yard furniture around and then mowing all that requires the push mower.  This afternoon I will climb on the rider and begin to tackle the rest.  The riding portion will take up a big chunk of three or four days.

It's been three weeks or more since the last mowing.  The unusually long delay between mows was brought about by damage to the rider on the last mowing that resulted in it being sent in for repairs - and some family emergencies. Fortunately, fall was beginning to set in and the growth of the grass (and weeds) slowed noticeably during that time.  That is why I am hopeful that I am heading into the last mow of the season.

Company is headed this way next weekend, and that is my primary motivation for wanting the place to look nice.  Two old friends from my recent time on Okinawa, Daniel and Valerie, will be arriving next Sunday evening.  Both have been to the Roost one time previously, but on separate occasions.  This will be the first time that we've all been together since the morning that they took me to the airport in Naha, Okinawa, for my final trip home.  That was in July of 2012.

Daniel Murphy will be flying in from his current work station in Japan, and Valerie will be coming from her new home in the Phoenix area.  They will meet at the airport in Springfield on Sunday and then drive to the Roost where we will have a week together of exploring the beautiful Ozarks.

Old friends are the best!

Needless to say, I am also busy cleaning house!

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Two Little Deer

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

Two young deer have been visiting Rock's Roost on an almost daily basis.  They come up close to the farm buildings in search of food just as dawn is breaking and during the last light of dusk, dining on the grain that the farmer has scattered for his chickens.    With each visit they become braver and a bit more comfortable in the farm surroundings.  The little deer are as observant of the farmer as he is of them, and they show almost no concern as he putters about doing his chores.

The deer have eaten the pears that have fallen from the farmer's pear tree, and when there isn't enough fruit on the ground to satisfy their hunger, they butt their heads against the tree trunk trying to get more pears to drop to the ground.  They also stop by the salt lick that the farmer set out just for them, and there is enough water in the pond to quench their thirst.

The other day the farmer had to drive to town to do some errands.  The two deer, standing at the edge of the wood, saw him leave and decided it would be a good time to visit the farm in daylight.  Some people on the adjoining property watched them scamper up to the chicken coop and begin to eat out of the hen's feed pan.  Suddenly the deer jumped away, then returned to the pan, and then jumped away again.  As the neighbors watched they finally were able to see what was occurring.  Fiona, the cat, was guarding the feed and would jump at the deer as they got close.  It turned into a game with the deer darting in and out of Fiona's area of dominance and getting what food they could.

Silly cat!

Most creatures at Rock's Roost eat well every day, and the little deer are welcome to what they can forage, regardless of how Fiona feels about it.  (Rosie also enjoys giving them a merry chase when she is outside.)  Times are good, and the farmer hopes that the hunters don't figure just how tame the little deer are because they are important members of the little farm community.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Landry Elizabeth Smith

by Pa Rock

My nephew, Justin Smith, and his wife, Lisa, spent last weekend unpacking into their new home, a beautiful stone showplace on a corner lot in a nice part of Fayetteville, Arkansas.   It was the "forever" home of their dreams.  Sadly, tragedy struck the young family just a few days later - before the boxes were even empty.

On Monday evening their little daughter, Landry, suddenly became so ill that her parents rushed her to a local emergency room.   To everyone's shock and horror the youngster passed away in the early morning darkness of Tuesday.  She was just sixteen-months-old.

The next day, Wednesday, September 28th, Landry's only sibling, her older brother Graham, turned five.

Last night there was an emotional visitation for little Landry at a funeral home in Fayetteville.  Family and friends hugged and cried and thought of the Smith family as a slide show of happier times played above her small, open casket.  The funeral was this morning at the Main Street Baptist Church in Farmington, Arkansas, followed by burial at the Farmington Cemetery.  Two pallbearers, Landry's uncles, Reed Smith and Jason Morgan, brought the casket to the graveside.

As another uncle told me at the cemetery, it's just wrong when a casket is so small that it can be handled by two pallbearers.

And it is just so wrong when a child dies - and so very, very heartbreakingly sad.

Rest in peace, Beautiful Child.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Fat Boy Points his Chubby Finger

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One has to wonder just how many feet Donald Trump is capable of stuffing into his large mouth at one time.   Trump has referred to American troops who fought in Iraq, brave individuals one and all, as "pussies and losers."  Then he went on a protracted tirade against a Muslim-American Gold Star family who lost a son in battle in Iraq.  But it is his senseless attacks on women, often over their appearance, where Trump really shines - like the highly polished pig that he truly is.

Donald Trump seems to have issues sharing the planet with women who look less than stunning in g-strings.  The flamboyant showman owned - until recently - the Miss Universe organization, as well as Miss USA, Miss Teen USA, and on ad infinitum - all of which seems to have granted him some degree of "expertness" on the female face and form.   Donald knows beauty when he sees it, and he is not above name-calling and shaming women who don't live up to his high ideals.

Trump is also a person who has to have the last word on everything.

A beautiful young Venezuelan by the name of Alicia Machado won Trump's Miss Universe pageant back in 1998, but then fell out of favor with her lord and master during the year of her reign when she began to gain weight - a situation she blamed on The Donald constantly sniping at her with his sarcastic insults.  The topic of his treatment of Machado came up during last Monday night's debate, and Trump couldn't let it pass.  He had been baited and hooked.

Last night Donald Trump apparently went on a "tweet storm" during the middle of the night, a typing tirade on Twitter that took shots at Hillary for mentioning his fat-shaming of Alicia Machado, and some more insults for the former beauty pageant winner.  Trump is now calling her "Miss Piggy" for her weight issues, and "Miss Housekeeping" as a slam on her latina ethnicity.   Trump's outburst of tweets was so venomous that Hillary today used the term "unhinged" when discussing Trump's long night at the keyboard.

Donald Trump is out there telling us how real women should look and act.  The problem is, of course, that he doesn't know any real women.  He's talking about the Barbie Dolls that he pays to populate the bubble that he lives in.  But there are millions of real women out in the world that lies beyond the Trump bubble. and most of them, like most of the men who also live beyond the bubble, are not picture-perfect.

That is going to be a problem for Donald Trump because the Republican Party has yet to figure out a way to disenfranchise the overweight and ugly - although they are undoubtedly working on it!

Keep bellowing and typing, Donald.  You are literally your own worst enemy.  And Alicia Machado, now a United States citizen and voter, you are one heck of a hottie - regardless of what the pig says!

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Why Black Lives Must Continue to Matter

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A trip through the archives of this blog reveals that I have discussed the "Black Lives Matter" movement on multiple occasions.  In those postings I have attempted to argue that black lives matter not to the exclusion of other races, but simply as a statement of affirmation.  While some conservatives and social malcontents constantly attempt to downplay the importance of the movement by painting it as something that glorifies "them" and by the same reasoning minimizes "us" -  that really isn't the case at all.

Black lives really do matter, and the reason that statement must stand on its own is that black lives have a long history of being ignored, endangered, and terminated by the majority white elements of society.  For centuries black lives did not matter - at all - and today they remain, at the very least, seriously undervalued.   Yes, white lives matter - they always have.  It's an argument that doesn't have to be made because it's readily apparent.  But black lives matter, too - and to point that out is anything but racist.  Saying that black lives matter is an affirmation of their humanity and human worth.

Perhaps the movement should have coalesced around the motto:  "Black Lives Matter, Too."

"White Lives Matter" and "All Lives Matter" are examples of what the media has taken to calling "dog-whistle racism," statements that are true standing alone, but when stapled to rejoinders about the "Black Lives Matter" movement serve as little more than racial taunts.

There is a sign along a major roadway close to where I live that declares "Blue Lives Matter," an obvious nod to police.  Law enforcement is a necessary and important part of society, no one denies that, but the "Black Lives Matter" movement was been born of the brutalization and deaths of members of the black community by rogue police officers who hopefully do not represent the norm of their departments.  Yes, blue lives do matter, but so do basic human rights - and the safety and lives of America's black citizens - people who have been ignored and kept on the edges of society for far too long by the force of unequally applied law.

"Black Lives Matter" isn't a statement of independence or a call to arms, it is a plea for understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and unity.   When we reach the point where we can welcome all of our brothers and sisters with open arms - regardless of their skin color, language, or religion - we will be able to move forward into better times - times when all lives actually do matter.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Tough Winter Looms for Farm Mice

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

Everything is seasonal on a farm.  The spring bears witness to regeneration as the new plants push through the warming soil, and the livestock begins the frolicsome and necessary task of procreation.  The trees green in spring, and the peacocks lay their eggs.  If the hens are going to get "broody" and sit on some eggs, that usually happens as the weather is warming and the days are lengthening.  Spring is also the time when the little mice begin abandoning their winter homes in the farm's outbuildings and head into the nearby tall grasses and weeds for a summer of camping out.  Summer on the farm is a period of of sustained growth, fall is the when the fruits of summer are gathered and stored in preparation for the coming cold, and winter is for hunkering down and trying to survive the rigors of short days and frost-laden nights.

We are in the fall season now, and one sure sign of autumn is that the mice have begun packing up their camping gear and moving back into the out buildings - the barn, chicken coop, and garage.  Last winter they found warm hidey-holes in those old buildings and spent their days scurrying about living large on the grain that had been scattered for the poultry.  The chickens seemed to leave the little guys alone, and there was no cat.

This fall things are shaping up differently.  Fiona the cat has moved to Rock's Roost, and she considers the barn and the chicken coop to be her own special hunting grounds.  Some days she spends her waking hours exploring the barn, and many nights she chooses to sleep in the chicken coop.   When the little mice rush from one spot of safety to another, Fiona is often lurking enroute to meet them.

I mentioned last week that I had watched Ol' Speck, one of three farm guineas, swallow a mouse - a feat that took about ten minutes from whiskers to tail.  I've got a duck also which I expect to turn into a mouser.  If guineas and ducks can swallow mice, there should be no anatomical reason why a chicken could not do the same thing, but last winter I never observed that happening.  Yesterday, however, I did see the two young Red Jungle Fowl roosters sharing in a mouse kill, so perhaps they will educate the hens and get them inspired to eat the warm little rodents.

All things considered, it is shaping up to be a tough winter for the mice at Rock's Roost!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Havana Red: A Review of the Novel by Leonardo Padura

by Pa Rock

One of the ways that I prepare for a trip to a country where I have never been before is to read some good fiction based in that country.  In the late 1990's, for example, in getting ready for a trip to Russia, I read Gorky Park and several of the other police novels of Martin Cruz Smith.  Smith's descriptions of contemporary Moscow provided far more accurate glimpses of the people and the culture than could have been obtained from any guidebook.   The streets of Moscow seemed a little less foreign to me because I had already experienced them through the eyes of Detective Arkady Renko.

This past spring I had a sudden opportunity to visit Cuba, a country that had been essentially closed to America for more than half a century.  My own view of Cuban culture through literature was limited to Dirty Havana Trilogy:  A Novel in Stories by Cuban author Pedro Juan Gutierrez which I had read several years earlier.   Gutierrez told darkly humorous tales of street people and prostitutes as they scratched for a living along the impoverished edges of Havana society.  I would have liked to have had a more rounded view of Cuba through its literature prior to my trip there, but time did not cooperate.

One of the Cuban authors that I would have liked to have read before traveling to the island nation was Leonardo Padura, a novelist and short story writer.  Padura is best known for the Havana Quartet, a set of four novels (Havana Red, Havana Black, Havana Blue, and Havana Gold) focusing on a fictional police detective by the name of Mario Conde, a frustrated writer who has spent so many years with the police that he now bemoans the fact that he looks like a policeman.  Conde, whose friends call him The Count, is also a philosopher and former athlete who would rather be playing sandlot baseball with the neighborhood kids that wading through urban crime life.

The first book in the Havana Quartet, Havana Red, is set in the 1980's, a time when no one doubted the ultimate control of Fidel Castro and the Revolution.

The presenting crime in Havana Red is the strangulation death of a transvestite in a wooded area of Havana.   The young adult, dressed in a beautiful red dress, was the son of a prominent political family in Cuba.  His death is intriguing because there are no signs that the victim tried to fight off his attacker, and two Cuban pesos had been inserted into his anus.  As the philosopher/detective is drawn into the case, he becomes fascinated with the transvestite and gay subcultures of Havana.  While the Count is learning hidden truths about the city in which he has always lived, so are Padura's readers.

This book illuminates the lives of ordinary (and some not so ordinary) Cubans as they struggle to survive and achieve a certain amount of personal satisfaction in a state that places the needs of society well above those of the individual.   I hope to be able to explore the works of Leon Padura more thoroughly in the future - as well as the city that has always been his home.

Havana Red is a captivating work by a very talented author.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "Gunning for Debate"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's poetry selection was penned by writer Erika Fine shortly after she heard about Donald Trump's plan to ban all Muslim's from entering the United States.  Her poem does a beautiful job of castigating the combed-over blowhard as well as exposing the amoral culture that spawned him.  It is being presented here in recognition of tonight's first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

I like this piece very much.  It flows nicely, is crisp and clever, and zings home the point with pinpoint accuracy again and again and again.  May Hillary's aim be as true - and as deadly - as that of Ms. Fine.

Erika Fine is a contributor at WBUR's "Cognoscenti" where this poem first appeared.

Gunning for Debate
by Erika Fine

“The Donald” is a demagogue,
A xenophobic camera hog.
“Pack your bags and go away.
Stay outside the U.S.A.!”
That’s his anti-terror plan --

A Muslim inbound-travel ban.

The theme of Trump’s extreme regime
Brings to mind another scheme --
Internment for the Japanese
To “make us safe” and cure unease.

But help! We face a larger threat,
A bigger group we need to vet:
White Christian men who live alone
Are sadly more than Muslims prone
To kill and maim in random acts.
You don’t believe me? Check the facts!

And deadlier than all the others
Are white men living with their mothers!

So round 'em up and ship 'em out
We’ll all be safer, have no doubt!
What, you think that’s not allowed?
We’ve learned from Trump; we won’t be cowed!
We’ll put them in a DATAbase!
We’ll make I.D.s that show their face!
For those still living with their moms --
It’s not just guns; they’re into bombs!
For them a smart computer chip
Will catch them at a faster clip!

Our database will flag a name
And then in pulsing text proclaim,
“This loner guy is very white
He’ll take his gun and find a site --
A movie, church, perhaps a school --
Don’t let a shotgun be his tool!”

Oh, you interrupted me
You say you strongly disagree?
You say a person’s lawful right
To keep and bear a gun’s airtight?
You say a no-fly guy can buy
A gun because we can’t deny
His right to cherish and adore
A weapon meant for waging war?

The NRA’s influenced you
With voodoo through Amendment Two!
Your fetish for that fitful clause
Would give the Founding Fathers pause.
In fact, they’d rise as one and say,
“You’re off the mark now, NRA!”

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Front Row and Who You Know

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Mark Cuban of Dallas, Texas, is a billionaire - a real billionaire and not a purported billionaire like Donald Trump of New York City.  Over the past few months Mr. Cuban has shown a sustained disdain of Mr. Trump by saying impolite things about him and referring to the reality television personality on multiple occasions as a "jagoff."  Clearly where Donald Trump is concerned, Mark Cuban exhibits a flagrant lack of respect.

This past week Cuban and Trump took their gentleman's war to Twitter.  Cuban dropped this aerial bomb that informed the Twitterverse that he had secured one of Hillary's front row seats at next Monday's debate at Hofstra University.  Mark Cuban crowed loudly:

"Just got a front row seat to watch @HillaryClinton overwhelm @realDonaldTrump at the "Humbling at Hofstra" on Monday.  It Is On!"

Not to be outdone, Trump fired this little gem back yesterday:

"If dopey Mark Cuban of failed Benefactor fame wants to sit in the front row, perhaps I will put Jennifer Flowers right alongside of him!" 

Gennifer (not "Jennifer") was one of more than a dozen women who claimed to have been involved in extra-marital affairs with Bill Clinton during the years he was governor of Arkansas.  She says the affair lasted twelve years, while Big Dog says that he had sex with her only once.  Ms. Flowers, who now claims to be an actress, was reportedly the inspiration for the famous line by James Carville, "Drag a hundred dollar bill through a trailer park, you never know what you'll find."

Before Trump's people could get out and officially deny that he had invited Gennifer Flowers to the debate, the eager actress, never one to pass up free publicity, accepted - on Twitter, of course.

"Hi Donald. You know I'm in your corner and will definitely be at the debate!..."
Then Trump campaigner manager de jour, Kellyanne Conway, managed to elbow her way to the microphone and un-invite Ms. Flowers.

Now the Commission on Presidential Debates is asking both camps - Clinton and Trump - to take a step back and calm down.  The commissioners say they would not like to see any controversy related to front row seating.  They would prefer that the political maneuvering be kept on the stage - and out of the audience.

Clearly who is sitting on the front row on Monday night will be part of the message that the two candidates are trying to get out.  In the end, it's always about who you know.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

They'll Have to Parade without Me

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

My sister, Gail, and I had been planning a big autumn adventure.  We were going to hop on a tour bus with a bunch of old people in November and travel to New York City where we would watch the famous Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade live from the sidewalks of the Big Apple.  Our money was paid and our bags were packed.

But those plans came crashing down yesterday afternoon when the tour operator called to inform us that the trip had been cancelled.  Some of our fellow travelers had backed out, leaving too few for the tour company to make a profit.  Those suddenly deciding not to go had used terrorism as their excuse - fear brought on by the pressure cooker bomber who set off a few non-fatal blasts around the city last week.  Never mind that the guy has already been arrested and now poses no threat to anyone outside of Riker's Island.

Didn't those old farts realize that New York City - or any large urban area for that matter - is a dangerous place when they signed up for the trip?  Now when a terrorist weasel suddenly pops up, it dawns on them that they will be traveling beyond their comfort zone of northwest Arkansas and southwest Missouri.  In the eloquent words of our Most Beloved Dear Leader Wannabe, Donald Jong John Trump, they are "a bunch of pussies and losers!"

Now those cowards will be free to partake of safer activities over the long Thanksgiving Day weekend, like storming the Bentonville Walmart before dawn on Black Friday and risk being trampled to death for a flat-screen television or cheap clothing made by slaves in Bangladesh.  Personally, I'd rather take my chances with the New York City terrorists!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Famous Offspring Turns Thirty-Seven

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

Noted screenwriter and producer Tim Macy was born on this date in 1979 at St. Francis Hospital in Mountain View, Missouri.  It was a Sunday morning, the first day of autumn.  Tim grew up in the small communities of southern Missouri and now resides in the Kansas suburbs of Kansas City where he spends most of his time being an active family man, teacher, and writer.

This week Tim is in Los Angeles where he is "taking" meetings and hobnobbing with movers and shakers in the film industry.  Erin and the kids are out there as well, but while Tim is busy making contacts, his family is at the beach having some real fun.

Happy number thirty-seven, Tim.  May you have an Oscar by the time you are forty!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Bagworms and Webworms and Trump, Oh My!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Fall

I noted a couple of days ago all of the "Trump-Pence" signs that I saw while driving west across northern Arkansas.  Today, while driving the same route, only headed east this time, I noticed evidence of other pests.  The trees, in the early morning mist and fog, were startling white with the webs of leaf-eating worms.  Especially hard hit were walnut trees, many of which were plastered with the webs (each holding hundreds of hungry moth caterpillars) and a few dangling walnuts.  Thankfully, most of this raping of the green ended about the time I got to the Missouri state line,  a situation I credit to the "show me" state having the good sense and common decency to elect a Democratic governor - although there were still a few infected trees, due no doubt to the failings of our Republican legislature.

I had always referred to the caterpillars living in these large webs as "bagworms," but wanting to write about them I decided to telephone the Howell County Extension Office and get the definitive name from someone who actually knew.   I talked to a young man who just happened to be there answering the telephone while the other workers were at lunch.  He readily admitted that he did not know the answer, but volunteered to look it up.  The fellow finally came back to the line and said, "Yes, you are right.  They are bagworms."   He even offered to provide the Latin name, but I declined on that.

(For those who suspect that Pa Rock might be a tad bit too lazy to learn a Latin name, chew on this:  "Agricolae et puellae in silva sunt."  Don't ask me why I remember "The farmers and the girls are in the forest" from my high school Latin class, but I do.  It must have been important at the time!)

Then, as I began writing this piece, I decided to fact-check the fellow at the University Extension Office because I had some lingering doubts that I could so easily be right about anything.  It turns out, according to the Google, that bagworms are the small worms in individual bags that cling to expensive shrubbery.  The worms in large webs high up in the trees are a different creature altogether and are called "webworms."

(An uncle of mine once offered to pay me and my cousins two-cents for each bagworm we picked from the shrubs in front of his house.  Not only did we clean out the shrubs, we cleaned out Uncle Bob as well.  That offer was never repeated!)

Fortunately, Rock's Roost is currently free of bagworms and webworms, but should any arrive, I will know what they are and the appropriate way to treat them - such as with love and respect - or with disdain and chemical violence!

One must wonder, I suppose, whether Donald Trump has an official position on bagworms and webworms - or will he just make fun of them.  It's a situation that has a direct impact on his supporters, many of whom still live in trees!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Raising Money and Spreading Manure

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

When Hillary was sidelined by pneumonia a few days ago, it wasn't campaign appearances and stump speeches that she had to step away from - it was some heavy duty fundraising in southern California -  an activity so important to her campaign that Bill was rushed out to the coast to take over.   But while the Clintons were begging for cash, once the lifeblood of political campaigns, Donald Trump and his children were saying outrageous things and generating far more printer's ink and air time than a boxcar-load of Hillary's money could buy - and they were getting that coverage free.

Trump, the consummate manure-spreader, slings his stuff everywhere, entertaining and inspiring the low-information, well-armed, Jesus-loving, rebel flag-waving boneheads who, along with America's greediest millionaires and billionaires, make up his base.   Meanwhile Hillary spends big hoping her well-reasoned and highly-polished message will resonate with ordinary, sensible Americans.

Hillary was out-of-sync with America in 2008 when Barack Obama swooped in from the left and took the nomination away from her.  She was out-of-sync with party progressives again in 2016 when a Democratic Socialist mounted a surprisingly strong campaign and forced her from her comfortable, centrist perch.  And now, as the general election approaches, she is out-of-sync once more - fighting a modern war with obsolete tactics.

Hillary Clinton is running a campaign crafted for the 1990's, a time before the emergence of reality television,  a time when campaigns promoted sensible ideas, and a time when journalism was far less ignoble than it is today.  She is well informed, articulate, and able to generate responsible solutions to the problems that impact Americans at every level of society.  But the times have changed, and a well-rehearsed policy wonk doesn't fit the fickle needs of a volatile nation.   Hillary is old school, but she recognizes her anachronicity and is trying desperately to grab onto a movement that she doesn't really comprehend - or like.

Trump, on the other hand, is loud, and crude, and not weighed down by a conscience or facts, but he plays well to the masses - and every word he utters feeds a ravenous press corps.   He is campaigning much like he runs his businesses - on the cheap.  He may ultimately be voted off the island, but if that happens he already has an established conspiracy theory assembled and waiting in the wings:  the election was rigged by "Crooked Hillary."  It will be as good as birtherism and should keep him in the news and selling taco bowls to suckers for several more years.

Hillary sees making money as a way to capture votes, while Trump sees capturing votes as a way to make money.   Both views are flawed, and both are just a tad deplorable.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Out and Proud Trumpbillies

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

The presidential campaign has found its way into the hills and hollers of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas.  This morning I took a leisurely road trip between my home in West Plains, Missouri, and my sister's place in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and was genuinely surprised by all of the presidential campaign paraphernalia scattered out along the backwoods roadways - all of it supporting the hillbilly favorites, Donald Trump and Mike Pence.  The goobers are out with their signage, and they are damn proud of it.

A few of the signs were out in front of the large, manicured farms, properties owned by the landed gentry who would benefit directly by having rich white guys with little or no social conscience running the country.  The remainder were where one would expect them to be - next to double-wide trailers and dilapidated shacks, properties rented or squatted upon by people dependent upon government for their survival, but with lottery tickets in their pockets and hopes to one day be part of the landed gentry - and maybe even own a bass boat.

There are undoubtedly a few Hillary supporters living along the same roads, but they collectively know better than to draw attention to themselves.  Trump should carry the entire area by seventy percent or more.

Thank God for the cities!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Monday's Poetry: "To Kill a Deer"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Yesterday I commented on some of the deer that have been roaming about Rock's Roost in the early morning hours.  They are beautiful creatures, serene and graceful, whose only crimes are occasional forays into gardens, unauthorized pruning of fruit trees, and jumping in front of vehicles driven by wild-eyed hillbillies as they barrel recklessly along our country lanes.  Deer can become pests, and for that reason this state, and most others, allow humans to kill the regal animals at various times during the year.

Through her poem, "To Kill a Deer," the poet Carol Frost takes readers along on a hunt in which she shares the feeling that comes with shooting a deer.  She also talks of gutting the animal and harvesting some cuts of meat.  Although her motivation for hunting was not expressed in the poem, it is doubtful that Ms. Frost, who at one time studied at the Sorbonne in Paris, needed the carcass to stock her freezer and sustain herself through a hard New England winter.

Still, many people do.

To Kill a Deer
by Carol Frost

Into the changes of autumn brush
the doe walked, and the hide, head, and ears
were the tinsel browns. They made her.
I could not see her. She reappeared, stuffed with apples,
and I shot her. Into the pines she ran,
and I ran after. I might have lost her,
seeing no sign of blood or scuffle,
but felt myself part of the woods,
a woman with a doe’s ears, and heard her
dying, counted her last breaths like a song
of dying, and found her dying.
I shot her again because her lungs rattled like castanets,
then poked her with the gun barrel
because her eyes were dusty and unreal.
I opened her belly and pushed the insides
like rotted fruit into a rabbit hole,
skinned her, broke her leg joints under my knee,
took the meat, smelled the half-digested smell
that was herself. Ah, I closed her eyes.
I left her refolded in some briars
with the last sun on her head
like a benediction, head tilted on its axis
of neck and barren bone; head bent
wordless over a death, though I heard
the night wind blowing through her fur,
heard riot in the emptied head.