Monday, June 26, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "The Sheep-Herder's Lament"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

There is an overused joke about degrees of difficulty in which a task is said to be "tougher than herding cats," and cats are indeed difficult to organize and direct.  I currently have six - Fiona and her five little ones - and the only time they seem to be focused a single goal is when I open a can of cat food.

Geese are also difficult creatures to direct.  My five Baby Huey goslings do tend to stay in a group, and if I am outside they quickly get underfoot.  But when I try to get them to leave a certain area, or go into the chicken coop in the evenings, well - that is a different story.  When I want them to do something they can be quite difficult.

Yesterday I began my sixth mowing cycle of the season, a process that usually takes five days to complete.  The first day is spent with a push mower trimming around buildings and obstacles, and mowing the slope along the roadway.   Normally the geese stay in the backyard and are not a problem.  Yesterday, of course, proved to be the exception to that rule.  As I was trudging along the roadway I suddenly sensed a commotion and turned to see that all five geese had not only come into the front yard, a place where they are definitely not welcome, but all five had decided it would be fun to gather in the road.

I quickly turned off the mower and ran to get the naughty geese out of harm's way.  I was waving both arms to slow an approaching car - a car which turned out to be a sheriff's department vehicle being driven by a Howl County deputy.  The nice law enforcement officer stopped as I chased the bad geese back into the yard - and then, instead of giving me a ticket or a lecture, he laughed and declared, "They do what they want, don't they!"

Yes sir, they damned sure do!

To memorialize yesterday's battle of wills with the geese, I determined to find a poem on "herding."  Unfortunately, I could not come up with any that focused on geese - or even cats - but I did find one that I liked, a piece about the loneliness of herding sheep.  It is an example of "cowboy poetry," a form that has graced this spot many times in the past.

Different countries have foster different poetic forms.   Italy and England brought forth sonnets, Ireland brought us limericks, and Japan introduced the world to haiku.   Cowboy poetry, the rough-and-tumble rhyming verse that captures the hardships and joys that cowboys experienced on the American frontier, is a decidedly American form.  

Today's selection, "The Sheep-Herder's Lament" by Curley Fletcher, is a classic of the genre.  It is from his collection, Songs of the Sage, which was published in 1931.


The Sheep-Herder's Lament
by Curley Fletcher


I have summered in the tropics,
With the yellow fever chill;
I have been down with the scurvy;
I've had every ache and ill.

I have wintered in the Arctic,
Frost-bitten to the bone;
I've been in a Chinese dungeon,
Where I spent a year alone.

I've been shanghaied on a whaler;
And was stranded on the deep,
But I never knew was misery was,
Till I started herding sheep.

The camp boss now is two weeks late
The burro dead three days.
The dogs are all sore footed, but
The sheep have got to graze.

They won't bed down till after dark,
And they're off before the dawn;
With their baaing and their blatting
They are scattered and they're gone.

I smell their wooly stink all day
And I hear them in my sleep;
Oh, I never knew what misery was,
Till I started herding sheep.

My feet are sore, my boots worn out;
I'm afraid I'll never mend;
I've got to where a horny-toad
Looks like a long lost friend.

The Spanish Inquisition might
Have been a whole lot worse,
If instead of crucifixion, they
Had had some sheep to nurse.

Old Job had lots of patience, but
He got off pretty cheap--
He never knew what misery was,
For he never herded sheep.

It's nice enough to tell the kids,
Of the big old horny ram,
The gentle soft-eyed mother ewe,
And the wooly little lamb.

It's nice to have your mutton chops,
And your woolen clothes to wear,
But you never stop to give a thought
To the man that put them there.

The blind and deaf are blessed,
The cripples, too, that creep;
They'll never know what misery is,
For they never will herd sheep.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Rep. Jason Smith Serves Up a Heaping Helping of GOP Baloney

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

My congressman, Jason Smith, a Republican from Missouri's 8th district, comes out with an email newsletter each Saturday.   The missive always contains photos of Smith standing next to various farm implements and machinery or posing among the throngs of student groups who visit the Capitol each summer.  It also contains obligatory snippets of GOP orthodoxy.

For the past several week's Smith's newsletter has been light on his once effusive praise of Donald Trump. reflecting, one must suppose, growing Republican concerns over Dear Leader's escalating scandals and seeming inability to keep his self-incriminating mouth shut.

But that ban on all-things-Trump appears to be subsiding.  The much anticipated Senate version of Trumpcare came to light this past week, party talking-points have been drafted, and the loyal foot-soldiers, people like Jason Smith, have been sent forth to disperse those talking points to an adoring and gullible public.

Congressman Smith's stirring defense of Trump and Trumpcare is a mere five paragraphs long, yet it is chock-full of Republican whimsy and fantasy.

In the first paragraph he lambasts "Senate Liberals" for "ignoring the will of the American people and obstructing the democratic process" because they took so long to approve Trump's cabinet choices and because they tried to stop the Supreme Court appointment of Neil Gorsuch.  Smith, of course, didn't mention the inordinate length of time Trump took in nominating his cabinet choices - due in some degree, no doubt, to the many vacations he took during his first months in office.  Nor did the outraged congressman make any reference to the Supreme Court nominee who preceded Gorsuch - Judge Merrick Garland - whose nomination was before the Senate for nearly a year with NO action - due to Senate Republicans refusing to act.  A year - and yet Congressman Smith chooses to whine about Democrats taking a much briefer period of time in careful consideration of a nominee - one who actually did get a vote.  That's just a tad hypocritical, Congressman.

The second paragraph of the congressman's newsletter was a regurgitation of the old lie that Democrats did not want to be involved in "fixing" health care.  That presupposes that Republicans ever had an interest in fixing health care - when their stated intent was to repeal and destroy a working health care system. If they had actually wanted to "fix" health care, Democrats would have been eager participants in the process, but that was never the GOP intent.

Then the second paragraph gets really interesting with this statement:  "Some Senators even tried to make it sound like the people who were working together on the senate bill were doing so in secret."  Yes, some senators did make it sound like that - and some of those senators were Republicans - and the plan was being drafted in secret.  To say otherwise would be a bald-faced lie. 

Then Congressman Smith complained about "Obamacare-Loyalist-Senators" slowing the Senate's business processes - and, of course, the Senate must not be slowed as Mitch McConnell rushes to  get a bill affecting one sixth of our national economy pushed through in just a couple of hours - effectively denying input from "Obamacare-Loyalist-Senators," health care stakeholders, and the general public - people like you and me - and ripping health care from millions and millions of people.

The third paragraph berates "liberal Obamacare loyalists" for trying to thwart the will of people as expressed in last November's election - as if that election was a referendum on Obamacare.  But, for the sake of argument, let's say it was.   Let's say that every person who voted for Trump did so because they did not like Obamacare and wanted to see it repealed and replaced - as Congressman Smiths' regurgitation of the GOP talking points would suggest.  And then let's say that every vote for Hillary was an affirmation of the people's desire to maintain Obamacare.    Hillary received nearly three million more votes than Trump.  The people spoke, Congressman Smith, and they did not say what you wanted to hear.

The fourth paragraph whines on about the very real problem of rising health care costs - something that Congressman Smith and the GOP would like to blame on "Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi."  There are a multitude of reasons for rising health care costs, many generated by corporations who donate quite generously to members of Congress to insure that their abilities to profit off of the illnesses and injuries of good Americans is not limited by any program or government fiat.  Does Congressman Smith need to be reminded that even though he has been a member of the House only a very few years, he is already sitting on a massive war chest of campaign cash, some of which was donated by individuals and businesses who profit off of America's health care situation and are vested in the advantages offered to them by less government oversight?  No, he is probably well aware of that political reality.

The final paragraph of Congressman's Smith's newsletter is more regurgitation that "liberal Senate extremists" are ignoring the November mandate (the one Hillary actually won) and are being obstructionist.  It also accuses them of "political grandstanding" and "playing games."  All of that is so rich - coming from the party of Mitch McConnell!

The GOP talking points on Trumpcare are chunks of pure baloney, and Jason Smith is serving them up on Ritz crackers.  He undoubtedly has constituents with their minds closed and mouths open, eager to swallow whatever he feeds them - but he also represents people who know better.  The numbers may be with Smith today, but as access to health care begins to dry up with the elimination of Medicaid, those numbers are going to change quickly and drastically.

The political landscape will be in upheaval, and people like Congressman Jason Smith will be in for one hell of a bumpy ride - a ride they brought on themselves.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Trumpcare Is Not Health Care

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The week the thirteen Republican senators who crafted their party's response to the House version of the Affordable Care Act (Trumpcare) in secret finally trotted their monster out into the cold light of day, and to no one's surprise, the proposal benefits no one - except big corporations and America's richest people.  Bernie Sanders described it this way:

They call it a health care bill, but how can it be a health care bill when it throws 23 million people off of insurance, cuts $834 billion from Medicaid, and defunds Planned Parenthood? God knows what the implication of this legislation will be on our children, the elderly, and those of us with chronic illnesses.
It will take a minimum of fifty Republican votes to pass this bill - assuming that all of the Democrats can stand together in opposition.   There are only fifty-two Republican senators in the current Congress, so defeat of the bill is possible, but I fear, not likely.  Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will exert his considerable political power and evil influence to threaten and cajole wayward senators into holding the party line.  Unrelated spending projects will either emerge or disappear in certain states, depending on their senators' support of Trumpcare.  Mitch is not a nice human being, and he certainly doesn't lack the political resolve to twist and break a few arms.

That said, McConnell will still have to work to get this lemon off of the lot.  Four Republican senators - Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Mike Lee, and Ted Cruz - immediately announced their opposition to the bill because it wasn't mean enough.  The next day Republican Senator Dean Heller said that he can't support it basically because it is too mean.

Senators Collins, Murkowski, and Portman have also said that they have problems with the bill in its current form.

McConnell, it would seem, has his work cut out for him, but as the Republican leader he has control of all of the political toys and candy - and his children will eventually bend to his will - or be broken in their pointless defiance.

But Mitch McConnell isn't the only one exerting pressure on senators.  Bernie Sanders, the independent senator from Vermont, is partnering with Move On to hold rallies in opposition to this bill in states with Republican senators who appear to be less than enthusiastic about its passage.  Sanders will hit some of the big concerns regarding health care in the United States:

On this tour I will ask why it is that the United States is the only major country on earth that does not guarantee health care to all of its people as a right. I will ask why we pay far more per capita than any other nation for health care—with worse outcomes—and the highest prices for prescription drugs. And I will discuss the Medicare for all, single payer legislation that I will soon be introducing in the United States Senate.

A wide range of big organizations like the American Medical Association and AARP are also openly opposing passage of the measure.  All of that, and the internet is awash in anti-Trumpcare petitions and letter-writing campaigns.

And then there was this:

On Thursday a group of disabled individuals held a protest outside of Mitch McConnell's office.  Capitol police arrested forty-two of the protesters, many of whom were in wheel chairs!  The photo ops were endless - and priceless!

Mitch is likely to win the fight, but he is damned sure going to get bloodied in the process!

Obamacare provided access to health care to millions of Americans - and Trumpcare takes it away.

Bottom line:  Trumpcare is not health care.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Collectors

by Pa Rock
Bestower of Trash

For the past couple of weeks I have been way too involved in cleaning out a garage packed with trash and treasure - stuff once thought permanently hidden beneath other stuff.  As I pull these chunks of history out into the cold light of modern times, I am astounded to find that much of it is completely worthless and had no business being "stored" in the first place.  (To my credit, much of it was never mine to begin with but was the accumulation of an errant adult child whose world collapsed.)

When I first moved to The Roost I struggled with getting rid of all of the "stuff" that the previous owners chose to just walk away from.  I brought in a dumpster and spent weeks filling it with multiple loads of trash and crap left in the various outbuildings.  This time I have not brought in the dumpster - yet - because I have found a cheaper and more sensible way to redistribute the booty.

I put it out by the road a piece or two at a time along with a sign that reads "free."   It all goes quickly.  So far I have gotten rid of an empty stereo cabinet, a busted baby stroller, a plastic file box in pieces, and a wealth of other useless stuff.

A few days ago I took a half dozen partial cans of paint of various colors to the local dump, a place that had taken paint in the past after my trash man refused the honor.  This time the young man sent me away and told me to first dry the paint with cat litter.  Then, it would cost me twelve dollars to leave it at the dump.  Twelve dollars is the minimum and would cover up to five hundred pounds.  I brought the paint home, set it out by the road, and it was gone within an hour.

I haven't seen all of the people who stop by and load up my discards, but I did catch a glimpse of the couple who took the paint and the busted baby stroller.  They were older and driving a dilapidated pick-up truck.  He looked like Santa Claus after a rough night of drinking with the elves, and she resembled Elvira at about eighty.  The baby stroller obviously wasn't for their personal use!

Back when I first moved to The Roost  and was getting rid of other people's trash, I set some aluminum-framed windows out by the road,  Most were bent and twisted and had glass that was either cracked or broken.   Two guys pulled up at nearly the same time and almost came to blows over that treasure.  The first guy wound up taking the windows because he was first - and that's the law of the backwoods.  He bragged to me that he had a pasture where he kept piles of stuff that he might need someday, and those windows would go to that pasture storage.  The second guy whined that he could actually use them now.  Figuring that both were undoubtedly armed, I let them settle it.

Today I have some real treasure to place out by the road - a long piece of black dryer hose, a ten foot section of plastic sewer pipe - with a large chunk missing, and a truck tire.  Mayhem is anticipated.  I am thinking about cancelling my trash service and several times a week putting a bag full of trash out by the road with a sign saying "Free!  Grab Bag Special!"  Somebody is sure to take them!

And I'm singing Elvira - 
My heart is on fire-uh for Elvira!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hell on Earth

by Pa Rock
Former Desert Rat

Even in the time of Trump, I still have one thing for which I am eternally grateful:  I no longer live in Phoenix, Arizona!

Four years ago this very month, at about this same time of the month, Phoenix suffered a heat wave that was unbearable by human standards.  For nearly a week the desert death bowl had daytime temperatures in excess of 120 degrees, and nighttime "lows" in the mid-nineties.  I was three months out of open heart surgery and not feeling my best, and that insufferable heat added layers of misery to my already fragile condition.

My good friend, Daniel Murphy, came to visit from Okinawa during that week, and as we raced from air-conditioner to air-conditioner, I remember him saying to me, "My God, Rock, how can you live like this?"  At the end of that week he and I both booked flights out of Phoenix - which was lucky because many flights had been cancelled during the week due to the excessive heat.  Daniel flew off to see other friends in Seattle, and I headed back to the Ozarks for a visit with family.  While I was in the Ozarks I found a little farm that caught my eye - full of green trees growing out of a cover of green grass - so different from the never-ending browns of Phoenix.   I determined on the spot  to put in retirement papers and move home - and I bought the farm.

Now, four years later, my friends in Phoenix are suffering the same killer heat.  All week the temperature has climbed above the 120 degree mark, and flights are once again being cancelled at Sky Harbor Airport.  The people of Phoenix, a few of whom I love dearly, are living on a stove top with all of the burners blazing.

There are some places on earth where human beings were just not intended to live, and the scorched bowl that is Phoenix is one of those places.

I called my friend Marjorie in Phoenix yesterday afternoon to see how she was faring.  Marjorie, who grew up in Jamaica and loves warm weather, is not enjoying this summer in the desert.  She said that she does her daily walk every morning at five a.m. while the temperature is still "down" in the nineties, and then once she gets to work she stays indoors until it is time to leave.  There are no leisurely drives around town looking for a nice place to do lunch.

Hang in there, Marjorie - it will get better - usually by November!

My two favorite nephews, Reed and Justin, are driving to Las Vegas from northern Arkansas this week.  Reed has lived in Vegas and hopefully still remembers the dangers of the desert heat, but Uncle Rock has gnawed at each of them anyway with warnings to be careful and to take along twice the amount of water in ice chests that they think they could possibly need.  (I never drove anywhere in Phoenix, regardless of the season, without several bottles of water rolling about under the seats of my car.)

Justin suggested that he and Reed might make a YouTube video of themselves frying an egg on a sidewalk while on their drive-about.   I suggested that they add meat and toast - or perhaps make it a "full" English.  Hash browns would probably fry up nicely (and quickly) on a Vegas sidewalk!

(Years ago when I was dating a school teacher, we would fly to Vegas each August as an end-of-summer getaway.  There, while wilting along the streets of Las Vegas, we would watch the desert birds diving into the motel swimming pools!)

Stay safe, guys!

(Just so you know, Reed and Justin are my only nephews - and definitely my favorites!)

And for all of my friends still trapped in the hellhole of Phoenix, come see me at The Roost.  It's supposed to rain today!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Effort to Take Down "Right to Work" in Missouri

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

An old friend of mine who, many years ago, served in our state legislature, used to offer this sage political advice:  "If you want to pick apples, you go to where the apples are."  Or, more to the political point, if you are a Democrat or a "progressive" running for office, get out and work those areas where Democrats reside - and work them hard!

Missouri is a conservative state with three sweet spots for Democrats:  Kansas City (Jackson County), Columbia (Boone County and the home of the University of Missouri), and St. Louis City.  Other than those limited areas, the state is awash in red.

Democrats do manage to get elected to statewide office in Missouri, but to do so, they head to the three orchards and shake the hell out of those apple trees.   Many times out in the rural hinterlands the only real contests are in Republican primaries, and the winners of those often run unopposed in general elections.

And those hinterlands control the state legislature, a body of self-serving lunatics and greedy opportunists who see their duties to the citizens of Missouri as five-fold:  to protect and expand the rights of gun owners, to give free rein to business, to ensure that women have no rights whatsoever over their own bodies, to harass immigrants, and to never, ever, raise taxes.  Fortunately, we do have term limits and all of these elected despots have to return home and find real jobs after ten years of feeding off of the state treasury and the largess of lobbyists.

Missouri has been able to keep the legislative craziness in check throughout much of the past couple of decades thanks to having Democratic governors who were not afraid to use their veto pen.  In fact, twenty of the past twenty-four years the state has benefited from having a Democratic governor on hand to apply the brakes and save the legislature from itself.

But that was then.

Now, as of this past January, the state has a Republican governor who is rushing to embrace every nutball scheme ever dreamed up by hillbillies and tools of special interests who populate the legislature.  Governor Eric Greitens, in fact, has just called a special legislative session, his second since taking office - in addition to the regular session which ended in early May.  The upcoming session will focus on ways to curtail abortions in the state.

One of the first bills that Greitens signed as governor was one which made Missouri the 28th "right to work" state in the nation.  Right to work bills are tools designed by big business to curtail the power of unions by giving employees who work in union shops the "right" not to pay their union dues if they don't want to.

There is an effort afoot in the state to roll back that affront to workers.   Some groups, primarily labor unions, are trying to get "right to work" on the ballot so that people will have an opportunity to go around the will of their legislators.  The effort is to get the proposal on the ballot and then vote it down.

The voting public and the legislature don't always agree - again, thanks to shaking the hell out of those apple trees.  Years ago the when the state legislature was trying to pass a bill allowing the "concealed carry" of firearms, they lost control of the issue when opposition groups succeeded in getting it before the public in a vote - a vote where "concealed carry" failed.  A year or so later the legislature harrumphed mightily and passed a bill allowing the concealed carry of weapons, or, as many of them saw it, correcting the public's mistake.

The public is now attempting to correct the legislature's mistake with regard to "right to work."

There was a rally at one of our city parks in West Plains last Friday where, amid free food and sodas, petitions were being circulated to get right to work to the ballot.  The representative from the Machinists Union who visited with me as I signed a petition explained - carefully - that the group was not promoting any particular position..  They just wanted to give the people a chance to express themselves on the topic.

Yeah, right.

He was advocating for repeal of the phony "right to work" legislation - and so was I.

My state representative was noticeably absent.  These were not his people.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sullivan Macy Is One-Year-Old

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My youngest grandchild, Sullivan Charles Macy, is one-year-old today, yet another reminder of how quickly time is racing by.   I was at the hospital in the Kansas suburbs of Kansas City on that bright June morning when little Sully entered this world, and over the past year I have enjoyed several opportunities to spend time with him and watch in amazement as he changes and grows.

Sully is a very happy child, with a smile that almost constant and sporadic laughter that is rooted in the warmth and safety of a loving family.  He is, at the tender age of one year, living an ideal life that all children deserve.

The last time I saw Sully, two weeks ago at his home near Kansas City, he was almost walking, and perhaps when he visits Pa Rock at The Roost in two more weeks he will be ready to take off across the yard and chase some chickens!  He really focused in on Rosie when we were at his house, and she is more than ready to show him her home and share all of her toys!

Happy birthday, little guy.  Pa Rock loves you and is very anxious to see you!

Monday, June 19, 2017

Love in the Time of Trump

by Pa Rock
Observer

I'm just back from my morning trip to the local quick stop where I habitually begin my daily iced tea regimen and throw away two dollars on the lottery.  Invariably the people I stand behind in line are there to purchase lottery tickets, giving the place more of an appearance of being an over-the-counter casino than of a place designed to dispense gas and basic groceries.

Today, however, I got behind someone far more interesting.  The lady, who had to make a couple of trips to get her wares to the counter, bought two name-brand cartons of cigarettes, and four thirty-packs of beer.  Oddly, she bought no ice - which I suspect was an oversight.  Her bill was a jarring $139.27.

But, as Paul Harvey would have been quick to point out, there was more to the story.

She took the cigarettes and one thirty-pack and left as I stepped up to pay for my anemic, single-digit purchase.  I might have volunteered to lug one of her beer suitcases, but she was not present when I finished my business, so I returned to my car (semi-guilt-free) to go through my daily ritual of studying the numbers on the new lottery tickets.  It turns out the cigarette-and-beer lady was parked next to me - and was lugging her Ozark breakfast into a new Ford pickup, one case at a time.  A nice looking young man was in the truck sitting behind the wheel soaking up the air-conditioning as his girlfriend (or mother) wrestled the booze into the vehicle one case at a time.

It took her three trips to carry and load the goods.  I drove off before seeing whether he sent her back for ice or not.

And as I pulled out of the parking lot, I thought "Ain't love grand!"

Monday's Poetry: "I, Too, Sing America"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today is "Juneteenth," the oldest known holiday to celebrate the emancipation of America's slaves.  It is a commemoration of June 19th, 1865, the date on which Union soldiers landed at Galveston and brought news that the Civil War was over and the slaves were henceforth free people.

To honor the 152nd anniversary of Juneteenth, I have selected the poem, "I, Too, Sing America," by Joplin, Missouri, native and world-renowned poet, Langston Hughes.  The works of Mr. Hughes, a formidable American literary force, have appeared in this space on numerous occasions.   Langston Hughes' keen eye and lyrical inner-voice captured the desperation and hopes of the children and grandchildren of slaves as they sought to survive and thrive in a quickly developing modern culture.  He distills the very essence of the black experience in twentieth century America.


I, Too, Sing America
by Langston Hughes


I, too, sing America.
I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.
Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
When company comes.
Nobody’ll dare
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
Then.
Besides,
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Pa Rock's Babies

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Late Spring

Today is Father's Day, and while I wish the three most important fathers in my orbit well - Nick Macy, Scott Files, and Tim Macy - young men who are responsible for the care and well-being of my grandchildren, it is my own little family here at The Roost that I want to highlight this special day.

There are currently ten babies in residence at The Roost, five fatherless kittens and five goslings who are learning the ways of the world without benefit of parents.

The kittens were born in the barn on May 8th and are just now learning to eat solid food.  Three already have homes waiting in the Kansas City area, and the other two are hoping to be adopted as well.  The five are the first litter of Fiona, a good mother who came to the farm last year as a kitten herself.   Fiona was brought in to be a mouser, a field at which she excels.  She stays in the barn and other farm outbuildings - and never ventures far those environs.  Young animals, like young humans, don't always make the best of parents, but Fiona is proving to be an outstanding mother.

The kittens were several weeks old before I finally came upon them in the barn.  I was in the process of getting them used to being handled by humans when, this past Thursday, they suddenly all disappeared.  After a search of the barn, I determined that they were gone.  I was hopeful Fiona had moved them and that they had not been eaten by a predator.  I was relieved yesterday afternoon when all five came tumbling out of a shed that is attached to the chicken coop.  Their new living quarters have easy access to a nice penned-in area where they can play in the sunshine in relative safety.  They are happy, and healthy, and growing like cats.

The goslings, who are about three months old, are the size of adult geese - but still babies.  When I step outside and they see me, they come running, with wings flapping, and honking "Play with us!  Play with us!"  They follow happily along wherever I go on the farm.  The young geese are just learning about their ability to pick on poor Fiona, but to her credit, she fights back and does not cower before them.

I have also contracted for the delivery of a little goat, a male Nigerian, who should arrive, fully weened, just before all of my grandchildren get here in early July.  The Roost will be rockin' then - you betcha it will!

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Bring Out Your Dead!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As thirteen old, white, male senators meet somewhere in the bowels of the Capitol Building to draft the Senate's version of Trumpcare, in absolute secrecy,  their vainglorious leader at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is suddenly encouraging them to be a little more generous toward the medical needs of their fellow citizens than the House was with their bill.   In fact, in a luncheon with some of those senators this week, Trump allegedly described the House version of the bill as being "mean" and "a son of a bitch."

Not surprisingly, many Republican members of the House were not amused.  They crawled out on a limb to support a measure that would bring physical and economic harm to many of their constituents, and then were shocked to find Dear Leader was behind them sawing through that limb.

The Senate's version of Trumpcare is due out any day.  It will not be slowed down and possibly amended through committee hearings, but instead will go directly to the floor of the Senate for an up-or-down vote through a fast-track procedure called "Rule 14."  Senators will not have adequate time to digest the intricacies and nuances of the bill, much less seek input from constituents or stakeholder groups.  

Trumpcare is being drafted in secret and will be shoved down the throats of Americans without so much as a discussion.  It is American politics at its absolute worst.  It's going to be bad - so bad that even Trump is nervous about the havoc that  the new plan (or, more accurately, lack of a plan) could reap.

Somehow, the Senate version of Trumpcare, or "The American Health Care Act," does not sound very "American."

But Donald Trump is primarily focused on saving his own skin as the Russia investigations intensify, and Republican zealots are galloping free rein.   Today they are focused on destroying the Affordable Care Act.  After they drive a stake through the heart of that socialist aberration, then they can shift their focus to dismantling the Great Society and then, finally, the New Deal.

When health care, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are all gone, what a wonderful world this will be.  The rich can keep their money, holed up in their gated communities and private estates - while the rest of us enjoy the lives that our ancestors led in the fourteenth century as the Black Plague swept through Europe.

Bring out your dead!

Friday, June 16, 2017

Make Congress Safer: Bring in More Guns

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

One of the old farts at pinochle this past Wednesday night was droning on about that day's shooting at a congressional baseball practice outside of Washington, DC.  "Now," he reasoned, "all of those politicians are going to want to start carrying guns."  Most undoubtedly already do carry weapons as they traverse the poor urban landscape of our nation's capitol, a place as foreign to many of them as the wild shores of faraway places that they witnessed in the pages of National Geographic as they were growing up.  They have accepted the unrelenting fascist rhetoric emanating from the headquarters of the National Rifle Association which states emphatically that more guns make us safer.

What my friend was trying to say was that now those elected politicians will be wanting to carry their weapons onto the floors of the House and Senate.  By openly carrying throughout the Capitol building Representatives and Senators will have more control over their own safety.  They will be able to ward off attacks by crazed reporters in the hallways of Congress, and fire back at would-be assassins shooting from the spectator galleries.

It would just be a basic safety measure - much like allowing all passengers on airlines to carry loaded weapons to keep potential hijackers at bay.

And, as an extra security measure, the House of Representatives could appoint Ted Nugent as its Sergeant at Arms.   Old Ready Teddy with an Uzi could maintain order in the House - you betcha he could!

All manner of scary legislation is likely to emerge as a result of Wednesday's tragic shooting - all manner except one.   Under absolutely no circumstances will Congress adopt any plan that would impede the sale of guns in America.  Angering Wayne LaPierre is a risk that most congressmen and senators are unwilling to take.  They would rather dodge bullets.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Yesterday's Other Mass Shooting in the United States

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Congress and the various state legislatures go to great lengths to keep from doing any official tallying of gun deaths and injuries in America - because those are numbers that the National Rifle Association and gun manufacturers and arms merchants would prefer we don't have.  But there are private individuals and independent groups keeping track of the carnage.  One such group is Gun Violence Archive, an organization which is reporting that so far in the year 2017 there have been 154 mass shootings in the United States - and 6,880 gun-related deaths - and 13,504 injuries from firearms.  That's one big, bloody mess!

Needless to say, many of these shootings don't make the news, and if they do, coverage often does not go beyond local media markets.  Americans only have time for the highlights - big, sexy shootings that capture the interest - like the one yesterday where a shooter with a political agenda opened fire on a Republican baseball practice.  Several people were injured in that shooting, including one, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who is reportedly in critical condition.  There was, however, only one fatality - and that was the shooter.

But it was a high interest story, one that inspired presidential tweets and coverage by all of the country's major news outlets.

Sadly, that was not the only major mass shooting to go down in the United States yesterday.  A lone gunman opened fire at a UPS facility in San Francisco where he managed to kill three people before being shot and killed himself.  A body count of four - versus only one in the Washington, DC, area shooting - yet the one involving congressmen got nearly all of the press oxygen.

I would not have heard about the San Francisco shooting except for the fact that when I ask Alexa to play NPR, she defaults to KQED in San Francisco - rather than to my local public radio station, an outlet that did not report on the shooting in San Francisco at all.  Last night at pinochle as the other old farts were busy chattering about the awful shooting outside of DC, all were surprised when I mentioned the shooting with multiple fatalities in San Francisco because no one had heard about it - so obviously Fox News did not cover that story either.

The point of all of that is that gun violence is more prevalent in America than most of us can even begin to imagine.  It has become so commonplace that only truly horrific incidents or those involving celebrities ever make it into the national news cycles.  The numbers of gun deaths in our country is huge - but the NRA would rather we stayed ignorant on the subject, and the news outlets just cherry pick the stories that they think we want to know about.  They would all have us bask in blissful ignorance until that fateful day when gun violence finally blasts its way into our sheltered lives.

Keep those heads firmly buried in the sand, America.  The world isn't really dangerous until those bullets start striking close to home.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

No One Is Safe. Nothing Is Sacred.

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This morning there is more blood on American soil as yet another senseless shooting has taken its toll.  Over just the past few years the country has witnessed the shootings of a Democratic congresswoman and the people gathered to meet with her, people packed into a movie theatre for a midnight showing of an action film, worshipers at a couple of churches, celebrants at a gay nightclub, patients at a women's clinic, and small children children who were attending school in the days just prior to the Christmas holidays.  And those are just a few of the incidents of gun carnage that are running rampant over America.

It's a steady, incessant drumbeat of gunfire.

And now we are back to members of Congress taking fire.

This morning a single gunman - described by some as white, overweight, and in his forties or fifties - opened fire on a group of Republican senators and congressmen and their aides as they held batting practice in preparation for a charity game against Democrats to be played later in the week.  Several individuals were wounded in the attack including two members of a congressional security detail, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, and the gunman himself.  The security detail was on hand solely due to the presence of Congressman Scalise, by virtue of him being a member of the House leadership team.

Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Rand Paul (R-KY) were both present and have been on radio and television this morning giving their accounts of what happened.  Senator Flake was apparently one of the first to reach Scalise and applied pressure to his hip wound until medical help arrived on the scene.

Both senators, as well as other witnesses, have indicated that the shooting began with an automatic rifle - and, indeed, someone who was present reportedly saw the assailant carrying the weapon in a case before the shooting and remarked that the guy must be getting ready to go "bird hunting."  Witnesses are claiming to have heard in excess of fifty shots, and Rand Paul reported hearing the shooter stop to reload.  Paul said the weapon "sounded like" an AR-15.

And for a few minutes some of America may focus on the craziness of allowing almost any member of the public to own a fully-automatic rifle with a gigantic magazine - but soon the identity of the shooter as well as his motive will be known, and the focus will shift back to the individual - and easy access to horrendous murder weapons will no longer be an issue.   Our national amnesia to one of the major causes of gun violence will vaporize and disappear - at least until the next outrageous act of carnage - perhaps tomorrow.

This is America in the twenty-first century and the gunfire is coming from all directions.  Muslim extremists are shooting at good, God-fearing Americans, and so are Christian extremists.  The seriously mentally ill have guns, often legally, and they are shooting, and so are homophobes, "right to life" advocates, and disgruntled employees.

No one is safe.  Nothing is sacred.  Even starchy white politicians who have done so much to relax our country's gun laws and insure that every nut job has access to firearms are coming under fire.

Take cover, America.  The war at home is raging - and we have brought it upon ourselves!

Prayers and blessings to those who suffered in today's atrocity.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Senate's Back Door

by Pa Rock
Concerned Citizen

I don't pretend to know how easy it is to contact every United States Senator, but for the two from Missouri there are basically two options:  either take the time and effort to write a personal, snail mail letter - which is probably the best option under any circumstances - or telephone and state your business to a bored telephone operator who will put a check mark in the appropriate column.

Email?  Dream on!

Well, to be honest, Ol' Roy Blunt does have information on his website about how to send him an email.  In order to use the supplied email form, senders must answer several demographic questions and pick a specific category of request before adding the message.  The process gives aides the opportunity to pigeonhole the request without actually having to dwell on the message itself - the email equivalent of putting a check mark in the appropriate column.  "Yup, Senator.  Here's another liberal with his hand out who wants free government health care - like yours."

Not to be outdone by Ol' Roy's cavalier attitude toward the rubes back home, Claire McCaskill does not even offer an email option on her home page.  If you want to email Claire, tough bananas!

So, with those burrs already under my saddle blanket, imagine my delight when I came across a listing of Senate aides along with their unencumbered email addresses.  Two were listed for Blunt and one for McCaskill - as well as listings for the aides of most other United States Senators.  That very useful information is listed in an article today on Daily Kos (www.dailykos.com) entitled:  "Republican senators say their phones aren't ringing to save the ACA, so here's the contact list."  (http://www.dailykos.com/stories/2017/6/12/1671161/-Republican-senators-say-their-phones-aren-t-ringing-to-save-the-ACA-so-here-s-the-contact-list?detail=emaildkre)

If you miss it, I am saving a copy - so just drop me at note at this blog.  It's good stuff, really good stuff!

Here is a copy of the note that I forwarded to those Senate aides:  

Message for Senator Blunt and Senator McCaskill:

I am very concerned about what seems to be happening in the United States Senate with regard to the future of access to health care for all Americans.

If  there are problems with the Affordable Care Act, then by all means address those issues and work on fixing them - with public hearings and input from people who actually use the services.  Throwing out this important program would be a mistake, one that most Americans will not overlook or forget.

In that same vein, deliberations on the proposed replacement plan, the American Health Care Act, should be held in a public setting with public input solicited and given careful consideration.  Drafting the replacement bill in secret doesn't sound very "American" to this concerned senior citizen.

If you are proud of the work you do in representing Missourians, do it out in the open where we all can watch and comment.  After all, we are the "Show Me" state.

Respectfully,

Rocky G. Macy

I also included my home address and telephone number.

The process was very convenient and easy.  I may become a regular at sharing my insightful views with these two august Missourians!

Thank you, Daily Kos, for kicking open the back door to the United States Senate!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Touched by an Angel"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of "Loving Day," the date on which the Supreme Court gave interracial couples the right to marry throughout the United States.  Unbelievably, until the Court announced its ruling in Loving v. Virginia, fifteen states still had laws on the books preventing marriage between individuals of different races - all either in the American South or contiguous to that region  (Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia).

Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a black woman with some American Indian heritage, had been legally married in Washington, DC, but the couple later chose to relocate to their home state of Virginia for economic reasons.  They were brought to trial in Virginia for breaking the state's anti-miscegenation law and sentenced to a year in jail.  The state offered to suspend the sentence if the Lovings would agree to leave Virginia for a period of at least twenty-five years.  With an able assist from the good people at the American Civil Liberties Union, the matter was appealed in the courts with the result being the end of bans on interracial marriage throughout the United States.

America is a much better place today thanks to the bravery of people like the Lovings, Rosa Parks, the Freedom Riders, and everyone else who rose to challenge the unjust dregs of Jim Crow laws .

To commemorate this special day, I have chosen to present a "loving" poem by the late Maya Angelou.  Please enjoy "Touched by an Angel," a poem that seems to speak directly to people like Richard and Mildred Loving.


Touched by an Angel
by Maya Angelou

We, unaccustomed to courage
exiles from delight
live coiled in shells of loneliness
until love leaves its high holy temple
and comes into our sight
to liberate us into life.

Love arrives
and in its train come ecstasies
old memories of pleasure
ancient histories of pain.
Yet if we are bold,
love strikes away the chains of fear
from our souls.

We are weaned from our timidity
In the flush of love's light
we dare be brave
And suddenly we see
that love costs all we are
and will ever be.
Yet it is only love
which sets us free.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Trump Won't Be Able to Close the Doors to Cuba

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

In his never-ending quest to obliterate - or at least tarnish - all things Obama, Donald Trump once again has his sights focused on dismantling another part of Barack Obama's formidable legacy.  This time The Donald is stoking fear and hatred in Florida by threatening to roll back Obama's positive moves toward rapprochement with Cuba.

According to various news sources, Trump's plans for mixing things up with Cuba are being drafted this week - by aides - and will then be quickly reviewed by Trump's security team and then given to the former reality star late in the week so that he can announce them in a speech in Miami on Friday.

It sounds like everything is leading up to another weekend of feasting and golf at Mar-a-Lago.

Obama opened diplomatic relations with Cuba two years ago with an exchange of embassies.  He also sponsored moves which charted new channels of trade and travel between the two nations.  The entire Obama family visited the island of Cuba for several days in April of 2016.  Today daily commercial flights are traveling between the two countries, and American cruise lines are also regularly visiting several ports-of-call on the island.

It is unclear how any moves by Trump could successfully sever all of this new contact.

What is also unclear is how any new policies from the Trump administration could erase the growing bonds of good feelings that are developing between the two nations.  Americans - many Americans - have been there, and they know first-hand that that the cold war reality that once characterized the Castro regime no longer blankets the island in political darkness and fear.

As a tourist to Cuba myself, for a week in May of 2016, I was startled by the openness and friendliness of the Cuban people.  There was no overt police or military presence, and in those seven days in Havana and in the countryside, I saw less than ten individuals in any type of uniform.  I walked the streets of downtown Havana alone at night on several occasions free of any concern.  (The complete visit is discussed at length in earlier postings in this blog.)

The tourists are enjoying Cuba, and they are spreading the word about how open and friendly the Cuban people are.  Returning the United States to an adversarial position toward Cuba will be a very hard feat for the Trump administration to accomplish - and it makes no sense from an economic perspective.  Trade has opened between the United States and Cuba that benefits both of the countries.

So why is Trump posing as being so intent on making things worse with Cuba?  First, he is intent of destroying Obama's accomplishments.  That's the way bullies operate - by making themselves look bigger as they tear down others.  But he is also cultivating the Cuban-American vote in Florida, older people who have spent their entire lifetimes demonizing Castro and his socialist state.  In particular, Trump is also playing Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a staunch anti-Castroite.    As the Russia scandal intensifies and Trump's political hole gets bigger and bigger, he is looking to cultivate all of the friends in the Senate that he can.

Trump can play at being the big, mean American bear, but when it comes to Cuba he is likely to find that he is toothless.  American farmers and businessmen by-and-large don't want anyone screwing up their new trade agreements with the island nation, and the travel industry doesn't either.  People are making money off of the new situation, and Trump would be sorely pressed to take any substantive actions which would begin closing those trade doors.

When it comes to Cuba, Marco Rubio will likely have to lump it - and so will Donald John Trump.  The doors to Cuba are open - and they will be damned hard to close.  And that is as it should be.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Trump's Cockroaches

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Cockroaches are a ubiquitous part of civilization.  They have always been with us, but usually they have the good manners to stay concealed during daylight and emerge to prowl and forage for bits of food and garbage in the relatively safety of darkness.  Most people regard cockroaches as vermin, and a sure sign of poor housekeeping.

America, itself, must have some housekeeping issues because ever since the specter of Donald Trump descended over the country his cockroach minions have been swarming.  It didn't take too many generals, lobbyists, alt-right cult personalities, segregationists, and general purpose crackers being appointed to Trump's cabinet and inner-circle for America's human cockroaches to begin to feel secure in showing themselves in public - even in the daylight.  They learned early on that Trump's incessant demeaning of immigrants, the poor, women, and minorities provided a bountiful feast to assuage their ravenous hatred.  Trump was speaking for their America.

A group calling itself the  American Congress for Truth (ACT) is planning a series of demonstrations around the United States today protesting Sharia Law, a red herring commonly used by hate groups, like the ACT, whose actual purpose is to demean and vilify Muslims.  It is now acceptable to link arms and march in protest of the religion of others because of . . . well . . . Donald Trump.

It's springtime in Donald Trump's America - and swastikas and Confederate flags and morons with guns are popping up all over.  If there is any good news to be had, it is this:  the cockroaches are finally coming out into the daylight where we can deal with them.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Karen Handel Unfiltered

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

A special election is occurring in Georgia to fill the 6th District House of Representatives seat that was vacated by Congressman Tom Price when he left to join Trump's cabinet as the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The actual date set for the election is June 20th, but Georgia has "early voting" and ballots are already being cast.

Georgia's 6th is in the suburbs of Atlanta and has been represented by Republicans for the past forty years.  Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich held the seat for twenty of those forty years.  But demographics are changing, and the young people of the district are proving to not be nearly as conservative as their parents and grandparents.  While Price won the seat comfortably in 2016, Donald Trump eeked out a bare win in the district by less than two percentage points over Hillary Clinton.

The two candidates who placed first and second in an April primary and thus earned a spot in the runoff election are Democrat John Ossoff, who received 48.1 percent of the primary vote, and Republican Karen Handel who pulled out 19.8 percent of the vote.  If Ossoff had received over fifty percent of the vote in April he would have won the seat outright, but as a result of not hitting that mark he now has to face Handel in the runoff.  Most political strategists agree that the race is very close, with a few giving a slight edge to Ossoff.

John Ossoff, who resembles a young Abe Lincoln without the beard, is a former congressional aide as well as a journalist and documentary filmmaker.  He has a bachelors degree from Georgetown University and a masters from the London School of Economics.  He is on record as opposing the American Health Care Act, also known as "Trumpcare."  Ossoff has raised massive amounts of campaign cash in small donations from across the United States.

Karen Handel is a career Republican politician who one time served as Georgia's Secretary of State.  She lost the Georgia Republican primary for governor in 2010, an election in which one of her campaign platforms was the elimination of funding to Planned Parenthood.  Shortly after that political race, she accepted an executive position with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, but resigned when that organization became embroiled in a political controversy after it cut off grants to Planned Parenthood.  Handel, who supported the move to drop financial support of Planned Parenthood, left  the Komen group when it reversed itself on the matter.  She was widely credited with throwing Komen into turmoil during her brief tenure there.  Handel is on record as saying she would have voted to support the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare).  She has also raised large amounts of campaign cash through donations, but from a much narrower donor base than the one assembled by Ossoff.

Karen Handel made national news this week when she gave an honest answer, one that apparently came straight from the gut, to a question posed by a journalist during a debate with John Ossoff.  The questioner asked Handel about her position on minimum wage, and the Republican candidate responded:

"This is an example of a fundamental difference between a liberal and a conservative.  I do not support a livable wage."

Those actual words came from her mouth - the candidate does not support a "livable wage."  No one should be guaranteed survival just because they hold down a job - what an outrageous concept!  The gospel according to Karen Handel would have us believe that business is about profits, and it has nothing to do with meeting the basic needs of the workers who produce the goods and services that actually power the American economy.

She did add that she is a proponent of low taxes and fewer regulations on businesses - positions that would feed into maximizing profits and decreasing employer responsibility for things like worker safety and fair labor standards.

Get to the polls, Georgia.  This election is too important to sit out.  Our national redemption begins with you!

Thursday, June 8, 2017

The Brits Should Block Trump's Visit

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The British people are holding parliamentary elections today, and the results will determine not only which party, the Conservatives (Tories) or Labour (Liberals), controls Parliament, but which of the party leaders will serve as the Prime Minister of Great Britain.  The current prime minister, Theresa May, assumed the office last July when the former prime minister, David Cameron, resigned after his country voted in a plebiscite to leave the European Union.

Prime Minister May, the leader of the Conservative Party, felt so confident in the world's seemingly conservative tilt and her own abilities to lead, that a couple of months ago she called for a special parliamentary election to strengthen her party and solidify her own position as the country's political leader.  That election is today, and much to May's dismay, her once strong political lead seems to be slipping and she could wind up with even less support in parliament - or out of power altogether.

A couple of things have worked to undermine Theresa's May's political strength.  First, Great Britain has suffered two serious terrorist attacks in the past three weeks, attacks in which dozens of Brits were killed or maimed while going about their daily lives.  Added to that is the fact that the British public is just now beginning to learn that their national police force suffered significant cuts under May during her previous tenure as Home Secretary.

Another thing that is impacting Theresa May's popularity at home is her overt admiration of Donald Trump.  Not long after Trump's inauguration last January, May issued an invitation to him for a "state visit" to Great Britain, a move that was singularly unpopular with a large segment of the British public.   Over a million people signed a petition to Parliament asking that the invitation be rescinded - and at one point more than a thousand people per minute were adding their signatures to the on-line document.

Then, of course, Trump put in his two-cents worth and started telling the Brits what he wanted in the way pomp and circumstance during his visit.  First on Trump's list of demands was a ride in Queen Elizabeth's royal, six-horse-drawn, golden carriage.  He expects to tie-up traffic across London as he is carted, Cinderella-style, through town and dropped off at Buckingham Palace with Her Majesty sitting dutifully at his side.  If his body weight did not pose a hazard to the horses, the weight of his arrogance surely would.  The Queen deserves better.

This week Trump further enraged many Brits when he cut loose with a Twitter attack on the Muslim mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.  Trump, while deliberately taking a quote from the mayor out of context, implied that Khan was downplaying the severity of the terrorist acts that had befallen his city and his country.   To Mayor Khan's credit, he declined to roll in the Twitter cesspool that Trump was digging.

Mayor Khan is now proposing that Donald Trump have his invitation for a state visit to Great Britain rescinded.  The Brits already have active terrorism to contend with - and Donald Trump would be an unnecessary addition to their security burden and a major distraction to the dialogue that they need to be having on how best to navigate the troubled waters of life in a pluralistic society.

And besides, would it be fitting - or safe - for the Queen of England, a petite 91-year-old woman, to be constrained in a rolling cage with Donald John Trump?  The mind boggles!

Even if Theresa May pulls out a win in today's parliamentary elections, she should take a long, hard listen to what her public is saying - and the British people, by and large, are not as enamored of Donald Trump as she is.  If he wants to be seen as a monarch, let him do it from his golden penthouse atop Trump Tower - and not in the middle of a completely unnecessary London traffic jam.

America is stuck with Donald Trump, at least for the time being, but the good people of Great Britain still have choices.  One of those choices is being made today.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Barn Full of Cats

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Spring

I knew that Fiona, the farm cat, was pregnant with her first litter of kittens back in late April, and then on the morning of May 8th (Harry Truman's birthday and an official state holiday here in Missouri) when she pranced out of the barn suddenly skinny and demanding a big breakfast, I assumed there was a new litter of farm life hidden somewhere in the loft.

But as the days drug  on, and I neither saw nor heard the hungry mews of young kittens, and as Fiona began spending more time away from the barn, I made the assumption that something had feasted on her young - perhaps the skunks who occasionally traipse through the barn.

Yesterday afternoon, however, the truth was revealed.  Fiona had spent most of the morning accidentally locked in the garage where she had a pan of food available as well as the odd mouse.  When I freed her at noon she did not act overly upset - like a mother who needed to rush off and check on her babies.   Then, in the early afternoon as I was walking toward the barn, Fiona came trotting along the fence row and through the gaggle of geese who normally harass her - and stumbling along in her wake was a small kitten, black and brown, the very picture of a little Fiona.

I picked the baby up and carried him (or her) back to the barn, followed closely by the now solicitous mother.  As I opened the barn door, I heard other kittens mewing among some rolls of fence wire stored on a platform beneath the loft.  I caught glimpses of a couple.  I set the baby down to rejoin his (or her) siblings, gave Fiona a congratulatory pat on the head, and left.  A few minutes later I crept back in hoping to see more of the cat family.  This time I spotted four kittens - two who looked like their mother, one who was black, and a totally orange one.   Beautiful, beautiful farm babies.

Now, of course I have more cats than any sane person could possibly want or need.  All of the kittens are available for adoption, and Pa Rock will ship or deliver anywhere within the continental United States.  They are all adorable - including the one wearing the little button that says "Merriam, Kansas, or Bust!"

Get your order in today!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

"Your Blues Ain't Like Mine," A Reaction Paper

by Pa Rock
Reader

Last week I posted a copy of one of two "reaction papers" that I wrote for Dr. Marjorie Sable in the Social Work Graduate School at the University of Missouri.  That paper dealt with the novel, "Snow Falling on Cedars" by David Guterson.  Today I am posting the other paper in that set, my reaction to "Your Blues Ain't Like Mine" by BeBe Moore Campbell.  Both of these papers were written in the fall of 1997.

"Your Blues Ain't Like Mine" is a fictional novel, but the incident which triggers the story's action is based rather closely on the 1955 lynching of 15-year-old Emmett Till by a group of angry racists in rural Mississippi, a crime that played a pivotal role in the rise of the civil rights movement of the 1960's.

This is what I had to say about that novel twenty years ago:

Reaction to "Your Blues Ain't Like Mine"
by Rocky G. Macy

October 22, 1997

What a read!  In her book, "Your Blues Ain't Like Mine," BeBe Moore Campbell serves up thirty years of our national history as it was lived and endured by the residents of Hopewell, Mississippi.  The characters are fictional, but the author has imbued them with a sense of suffering and vitality that is as deliciously real as the smell of fried chicken and tamales wafting from Ida Long's kitchen window.

Even though this story begins almost a century after Lincoln "freed" the slaves in the South by signing the Emancipation Proclamation, it is still a tale of slavery and of people's struggles to be free.  Not all of the "slaves" in this novel were poor, and not all of them were African-Americans.  Indeed, the author uses this intricately detailed tapestry to show that slavery is what happens when a person quits fighting for freedom and acquiesces to the dominance of others.

It was the mid-1950's and the Supreme Court had ordered the states to integrate their schools.  Lily Cox, a young abused wife and former "Magnolia Queen," set the story in motion when her innocent encounter with a black teenager, Armstrong Todd, led to his murder by her husband, Floyd.  Lily grew up watching her father beat her mother.  Her expectation of men was that they ruled the family and made the decisions.  Lily, true to her mother's example, entered marriage as an emotional, if not physical, slave to Floyd, and she never tried to escape her bondage.  Floyd abused her when he was home, and when he was in jail for extended periods of time, Lily sat at home waiting patiently for his return.

Delotha Todd, Armstrong's mother, had escaped life in the Delta and fled to the "promised land" of Chicago.  Sadly, though, when her life became too complicated in Chicago, she sent Armstrong back to Hopewell to live with his grandmother.   After Armstrong's murder Delotha was consumed by guilt and she spent the remaining decades of this story as a slave to her dead son's memory.

Clayton Pinochet was white and rich, but, much to his father's consternation, not a stereotypical southern aristocrat.  Clayton's parents abdicated his nurturance at the moment of birth to a black nanny who managed to implant the seeds of a social conscience in Clayton.  It was Clayton who turned the Armstrong Todd murder into a national story when he surreptitiously phoned his former editor in New York and requested coverage.  It was also Clayton who alerted Delotha Todd as to the desire of the "Honorable Men of Hopewell" to bury Armstrong in Hopewell so that he would not become a martyr, thus setting the stage for her fleeing to Chicago with her son's body.

Clayton was enslaved to his father, bound by the money and prestige that allowed him to live well, travel, and collect beautiful things.  It was the power of his father's money and prestige that forced Clayton into abandoning Dolly Cox, the daughter of poor "white trash," after he persuaded her to abort their baby.  It was also his father's power that kept Clayton from marrying his true love, Marguerite, a black woman who was the centerpiece of his collection of beautiful things.

Stonewall Pinochet, Clayton's father, himself a slave to his social status and to a life dependent upon the obedience and servitude of Hopewell's poor, was a man who sought to ensure not only his own dominance, but the dominance of his descendants as well.  He constantly badgered his son to marry a white woman and produce some white grandchildren.  Ironically, Dolly Cox, had aborted his one white grandchild because her pedigree did not rise to the high standards of the Pinochet family.  Even more ironic was the fact that Stonewall Pinochet did have a grandson.  William "Sweetbabe" Long was the son of Stonewall's illegitimate, half-black daughter, Ida, whom he never acknowledged.  Sweetbabe grew up to become a school teacher and returned to Hopewell to help bring education and success to others.  He developed into a man who would have made almost any grandfather proud.

Ida Long was a slave to Hopewell, chained there by circumstances over which she had little control.  Ida's dream was to take Sweetbabe to Chicago so that they would have a better life.  When she almost had enough money saved to flee the South, her step-father suffered a permanent injury and she lost her chance to move.  Ida's situation, however, made her all the more determined to see her son, Sweetbabe, succeed.

Clayton Pinochet and Ida Long interacted with each other in a way that eventually broke many of the chains that bound the poor of Hopewell.  When Sweetbabe ran into difficulty at school because he couldn't read, Ida talked Clayton into tutoring him.  Ida knew that Clayton had taught Marguerite to read, and with that education Marguerite had freed herself from Hopewell.  Ida wanted Sweetbabe to have that same opportunity.  As the word spread throughout the black community that Clayton had taught Marguerite and Sweetbabe to read, others began bringing their children to him.  Eventually Clayton's newspaper office became a reading instruction center for the poor youth of Hopewell.

After Stonewall Pinochet died and Clayton felt the momentary exhilaration of being able to live life on his own terms, Ida came forward to claim her share of the inheritance, and, in so doing, once again impacted Clayton's future.  As the story concluded, the siblings, Clayton and Ida, had joined forces to right the family wrongs that had shackled the poor of Hopewell for generations.  The irony was rich:  Stonewall Pinochet, the pillar of the "Honorable Men of Hopewell" and the personification of a class whose privilege was built of the suffering of others, had produced offspring who truly were honorable and who would use his money and power to undo the social wrongs that he nurtured and cherished.  A way of life had been buried and a new one was beginning.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monday's Poetry: "Summer Storm"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Though summer is still officially a couple of weeks away, I have chosen to share the following poem, "Summer Storm" by 19th century American romantic poet James Russell Lowell to present today because it so aptly describes some of the natural phenomena that I experienced yesterday at dusk as I was rushing to get the poultry safely inside the coop before a gathering storm cut loose.  Great dollops of rain began to fall, livid flashes of lightening danced across the sky, and thunder muttered its rolling menace in the background - it was all happening as I raced to get all of the birds to safety.   The preamble to the storm was a bit harrowing, and with just a flash or two of actual danger - an exciting way to close out a day at The Roost.

James Russell Lowell captured the intensity and magic of a summer storm and preserved it for the ages, somewhat like lightening in a bottle.  Here is his storm, which bore great similarities to my own.


Summer Storm
by James Russell Lowell


Suddenly all the sky is hid
As with the shutting of a lid,
One by one great drops are falling
Doubtful and slow;
Down the pane they are crookedly crawling,
And the wind breathes low;
Slowly the circles widen on the river,
Widen and mingle, one and all;
Here and there the slenderer flowers shiver,
Struck by and icy rain-drop's fall.

Now on the hills I hear the thunder mutter,
The wind is gathering in the west;
The upturned leaves first whiten and flutter,
Then droop to a fitful rest;
Up from the stream with sluggish flap
Struggles the gull and floats away;
Nearer and nearer rolls the thunder-clap,--
We shall not see the sun go down to-day:
Now leaps the wind on the sleepy marsh,
And tramples the grass with terrified feet,
The startled river turns leaden and harsh,
You can hear the quick heart of the tempest beat.

Look! look! that livid flash!
And instantly follows the rattling thunder,
As if some cloud-crag, split asunder,
Fell, splintering with a ruinous crash,
On the Earth, which crouches in silence under;
And now a solid gray of rain
Shuts off the landscape, mile by mile;
For a breath's space I see the blue wood again,
And, ere the next heart-beat, the wind-hurled pile,
That seemed but now a league aloof,
Bursts crackling o'er the sun-parched roof;
Against the windows the storm comes dashing,
Through tattered foliage the hail tears crashing,
The blue lightning flashes, The rapid hail clashes
The white waves are tumbling,
And, in one baffled roar,
Like the toothless sea mumbling
A rock-bristled shore,
The thunder is rumbling
And crashing and crumbling,--
Will silence return nevermore?

Hush! Still as death,
The tempest holds his breath
As from a sudden will;
The rain stops short, but from the eaves
You see it drop, and hear it from the leaves,
All is so bodingly still;
Again, now, now, again
Plashes the rain in heavy gouts,
The crinkled lightning
Seems ever brightening,

And loud and long
Again the thunder shouts
His battle-song,--
One quivering flash.
One wildering crash,
Followed by silence dead and dull,

As if the cloud let go,
Leapt bodily below
To whelm the earth in one mad overthrow,
And then a total lull.

Gone, gone, so soon!
No more my half-crazed fancy there
Can shape a giant in the air,
No more I see his streaming hair,
The writhing portent of his form;--
The pale and quiet moon
Makes her calm forehead bare,
And the last fragments of the storm,
Like shattered rigging from a fight at sea,
Silent and few, are drifting over me.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Trump Gets Stupid(er)

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I just climbed out of the car following a long drive home from Kansas City, and during the several hours on the road I had time to compose, in my head, musings for today's posting.  By the time I reached home, my thoughts were tightly organized and damned near grandiloquent.  Now, however, as they finally spill onto the keyboard, all of that righteous indignation may fizzle and frazzle in the process.

I hope not.

Let me begin here:

I am sick and tired of having to be ashamed of our country's leaders.  From Nixon's ever-expanding web of deceit and revenge known as "Watergate, through Reagan's secret sale of arms to Iran to surreptitiously fund  revolutionary activity in Central America, to Bill Clinton's barely legal, frat boy dalliance with a White House intern, to George W. Bush's misdirected war in the Middle East, I have shuddered in disbelief for far too long as the American presidency gets dragged through the mud by sleazeball politicians whose personal and political ambitions seldom match the needs and desires of the people they were elected to lead.


Thank heaven we had an eight-year respite from the madness with the election of Barack Obama, an individual of honor and integrity, a leader respected around the globe by individuals yearning for fairness and freedom as they struggle to conduct their lives in a world that is all too often controlled by gangsters and greed-heads.

But the pendulum has swung back toward intolerance again, and the United States now finds itself entering the era of Trump, a man who, with barely four months in office, has offended our allies, enriched his family and friends, weakened protections for the poor and suffering, and emboldened the worst elements of American society.   The word "Orwellian" seems grotesquely inadequate to describe the world being created by Donald Trump and his rich, uncaring cronies.

My initial plan was to use this posting to go off on Trump's absurd withdrawal of the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, a decision that will ultimately hurt all Americans as well as American businesses.  But Trump was stirring his base with bravado and bullshit, and managed to make "climate change" sound like a liberal conspiracy to people who can't count past ten without taking off their shoes.

To criticize Trump, however, speed is of the essence.   Before I could begin banging out my thoughts on this egregious betrayal of the planet and the future generations who will try to inhabit it,  Trump had shot off on another outrageous tangent, one that also merits painful examination.

Yesterday Great Britain suffered its second terrorist attack in two weeks - and its third in three months - with the massacre that occurred on London Bridge.   Donald Trump, being the consummate narcissist, sprang to his Twitter account and quickly tried to make the whole thing about him - in particular about how the American courts are thwarting his will by blocking his travel (Muslim) ban.   If the United States of America would give him complete power over travel and immigration, our country would never have to worry about terrorism again - or personal liberties.

Except, of course, that isn't true because a big crop of terrorists already reside and operate in America - only they are by-and-large not Muslims.   Over the past two weeks two outrageous incidents occurred in this country, both inspired by racist beliefs and both committed by people who could have very likely been Trump supporters.  Trump, or more likely his staff, acknowledged one of the incidents a couple of days after it occurred, though the tweet bearing the acknowledgment did not use the word "terrorism," and the second incident apparently drew no White House notice whatsoever.   Obviously, it is only terrorism if Muslims are the perpetrators.

The first incident happened two weeks ago when a madman in Portland, Oregon, was interrupted in his loud harangue of two Muslim women by three men who sought to quiet him and protect the women.   The mouthy provocateur pulled a knife and stabbed all three good Samaritans, killing two and severely injuring the third.  Call it what you will Donald, but a hate crime inspired by religious intolerance that results in murder is terrorism by almost anyone's definition.  And in this case the terrorist was a white U.S. citizen who had not entered the country as an adult.  He was born here and lived here - and he resided in a shell of ignorance and intolerance that was undoubtedly formed by listening to pundits and politicians whose goal was to make America hate again.

Last week in Washington state, a young white man driving a large pick-up truck intentionally ran down two American Indian men while shouting racial slurs out of his truck window.  One of the men died and the other was hospitalized.  Again, it doesn't take a Constitutional lawyer to recognize this as a hate crime - one committed by a terrorist.  The terrorist, however, was not a Muslim and therefore did not merit the tiniest of tweets from you.

Terrorism is already here, Donald.  It is all around us.  Some of it may be inspired from holy books like the Koran and the Bible, but most comes from hatred and intolerance that is propagated and learned in society.  Building walls and enacting travel bans makes segments of society feel marginalized and threatened - and those same types of acts serve to empower people who feel their own places on the social and economic ladders are threatened by these culturally diverse newcomers.

Ignorance and insecurity breed fear, fear breeds contempt, and contempt breeds violence.

But you already know that, don't you, Donald.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Rumors at The Barn

by Pa Rock
Theatre Fan

Last night my son, Tim, and I were at The Barn Theatre in Mission, Kansas, for the opening of their production of Neil Simon's Rumors, a show which will run through June 18th.  This is the third show that Tim and I have seen at The Barn, and all have been exceptional.

Rumors is Simon's wit at its sharpest.  The setting, a large house somewhere in New York City, features six doors with characters flying on and off stage almost as fast as the zingers they lob at one another as they try to make their way through an evening of bizarre complications.  The deputy mayor of New York City and his wife have invited a few friends over to help celebrate their tenth wedding anniversary.  The first guests hear a gunshot as they arrive and find the husband upstairs with a bullet hole in his ear and whacked out on pain killers.  The wife is nowhere to be found, and the servants have disappeared.  As more and more guests arrive, the story about what has happened becomes more complicated and convoluted until, by the time the police finally show up, a three-ring circus has developed in the living room that could only have sprung from the mind of someone as ferociously clever and cunning as Neil Simon. 

My late friend, Mollie Carroll.spent much of her life living and teaching school in New York City where she was also involved with the theatre community.  Mollie liked to tell the story of the day she met Neil Simon.  She said she was getting on the subway as Simon and a "very young" lady were getting off.  Mollie, never one to be at a loss for words, found herself almost speechless as she came face to face with the famous playwright.  Finally she stammered a recognition and blurted out, "Thank you for all of the laughter!"

Mollie is gone now, but the world is still laughing at the comedic situations and words of Neil Simon, and that laughter will still be happening long after the playwright himself is gone.    Yes, thank you, Neil Simon, for all of the laughter, and thank you, The Barn Theatre, for giving the Kansas City area a chance to join in that laughter.

Rumors is a fantastic show - enjoy it at The Barn.