Friday, February 29, 2008

Russia (2)
The Slavic Anglo-American School

by Rocky Macy

As noted in a previous entry, I was a participant in a social work tour of Russia and Sweden during 1999. While our group was in Moscow we were able to visit three types of institutions for children. The first was the Slavic Anglo-American School that was for English speaking children who were living in Moscow. The second was an orphanage and school for children who were separated from their parents called The House of the Child. It contained children of all ages, including infants. The third facility, 24th Hostel for Orphan Children, took in parentless and homeless street youth between the ages of six and nineteen. The information that follows is from my sketchy notes and memories from that time. I believe that it offers an accurate reflection of what our group saw and experienced.

The Slavic Anglo-American School was an independent school that established in the early 1990’s during the period of Perestroika. There were also Christian schools created in Russia at about the same time. By the time of our visit there were 47 accredited private schools in Moscow. Some of those were elementary grades only, while others went all the way through grade eleven.

In 1999 there were 230 students attending the Slavic Anglo-American School in grades one through eleven. They ranged in age from six to seventeen. We were told that the maximum size of each class was eighteen. Those who fell behind could be mandated to stay late or to come in during breaks. They could also come in early in the mornings for tutoring. The school year was from September through May, and the hours were 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Summer school was offered each June for new students to catch up with the established classes.

Many of the students at this school were the children of Americans working in Moscow, or the children of Russians with means who wanted their children to become conversant in English. Students were interviewed by school personnel prior to being accepted. Parents were responsible for arranging transportation for their children to and from school.

Russia gave minimum financing to the school amounting to $10 per student per year. The remainder was financed through tuition of $2,000 to $5,000 per year, with brighter students getting price breaks. The actual cost of a year of education at the school was $4,500, so the students who paid more than that were helping to subsidize others. Children of teachers at the school attended free. The principal was quick to explain to us that he did not regard the cost of tuition as being prohibitive.

The students were divided into three groupings: Elementary School (grades 1-4), Middle School (grades 5-9), and High School (grades 10-11). They followed a national curriculum, with twelve or thirteen subjects per week. Some subjects were taught twice a week, and others were taught five times a week. The “O” level exams (“ordinary” level) were given after grade nine to determine who could go on to higher education and who would be redirected to the job market.

Language instruction began at the age of six when students were taught Russian and English. When they entered 3rd grade, students chose a second foreign language, either German or French. Upon reaching 9th grade, those students who had chosen to learn French in 3rd grade now had to also take up the study of German language, and vice-versa. The minimum amount of time that a child had to take any language was three years.

Students at this school also studied literature, science, biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy and math. School personnel said that American parents told them that American schools were behind this school in math. The principal talked about Microsoft helping schools in America get on the Internet, and noted that no programs like that existed in Russia.

The Slavic Anglo-American School had snacks for students in the mornings and lunches at noon. The school owned a van to use for student field trips. The school had a contract with the Bolshoi Ballet that allowed them to get tickets to the best ballets for only $5.00 each. Another interesting activity that our group was told about was the school’s support of the Moscow Zoo. The school sponsored a “Read-a-Thon” where sponsors paid students 10 rubles for each book they read. That money was then used to adopt an animal at the zoo. The principal also said that the school gave soft toys to a maternity home.

What about children under the age of six? The principal told us that children could attend kindergarten in Russia from ages three to six, in both public and private schools. The school day for kindergarten went from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. allowing parents to work without childcare issues. He said that in most households both parents have to work, and kindergarten was obviously a very popular and necessary program.

(Note: There is a more current write-up on this school on the Internet. It is now called the Slavic Anglo-American School ‘Marina’. According to that article, the school's present enrollment is three hundred. It still utilizes the national curriculum of Russia, but it also draws from the curriculum of the American state of North Carolina. The full article is at

Coming Next: The House of the Child Orphanage and School

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Rusty Pails #19
A Night in the Woods

by Rocky Macy

“Do you suppose they’re still out there?” Heck whispered across the scattered coals of our dying campfire. “I ain’t heard nothing in the last hour except that old screech owl.”

“They’re close by.” Shadetree Mike answered from the safety of his bedroll. “They’re probably hunkered down in the dark and waiting. I still say we should have hightailed it back to Rusty’s cabin.”

“And miss all this excitement!” I chimed in from the creek bank. “Why, doing the dishes in the sink at home ain’t nearly as much fun as scrubbing them out here.”

Shadetree Mike, never one to take an insult lying down, sat up. “We’ve done gone over that, Rusty. Heck eats off paper, and Ermine never lets me help with any of the housework. You’re the only one qualified to do dishes!”

“And if you don’t do them a little quieter,” Heck warned, “they’re gonna figure out where we’re at. You wouldn’t want that on your conscience, would you?”

I pulled the old enamel coffee pot out of the water with the idea in mind of slinging it at one or the other of my buddies. Before I could take aim, however, the woods exploded in screams and war whoops!

“We got him! We got him!”

The yelling set Baker to howling and every varmint in three counties woke up and joined the fracas! As I tried to get my bearings on where this storm was blowing in from, Shadetree Mike’s illustrious nephew, Spuds, spilled through the brambles and landed spread-eagle on Heck’s tent.

“Uncle Shadetree, we’ve done it! Me and Max have gone and bagged ourselves a snipe!”

“But there ain’t no such…”

“Shut up, Heck!” Mike warned in a panic. If word ever got back to Ermine that he had left the boys out in the woods to catch snipes so we could relax with our root beer and fishing, there would be no controlling the woman!

Just then Max tumbled out from the bushes and landed on his brother. As he opened the feed sack, we all knew what he had! The angry “snipe” sprayed us seasoned woodsmen with a good dose of country cologne, and exited, amid much confusion, back to the sanity of the wilderness!

What a picture that was the next morning! Five fools and one very angry dog sitting neck-deep in the creek! “You know,” Mike lamented, “It ain’t so bad. We’ve still got each other.”

Baker lunged for his throat and sent the Dean of Dominoes scurrying to the shore and up a sycamore – but that’s another story! And stories, like snipes, just seem to abound here in Sprung Hinge. Leastways, that’s how I see it!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Good Day in Arizona!

A friend from Ft. Campbell, KY, sent me an email this afternoon. She lamented that it was snowing there for the second day in a row, and that all of the area roads were icy. I immediately wrote back and told her how badly I felt for her and all of my old friends at Ft. Campbell. Then I went on to add that it was eighty degrees in Arizona and I put the top down on my little convertible when I went to lunch today. She never wrote back after that!

I miss winter - just a little - but I am going to Washington, DC, in a couple of weeks and will probably get a dose of it there. I hope that it is nice, though, because I want to get over to Baltimore and have seafood at one of their beautiful restaurants on the harbor.

The last time that I was in our nation's capital was in 2003 when my friend Millie Crossland and I went to see one of my son Tim's plays that was being presented in a competition at the Kennedy Center. Millie and I managed to get over to Baltimore where we had a great seafood dinner and a boat ride with Michael Hyman, my roommate from the Russia trip.

I was also there in 1999 with my social work classmates from the University of Missouri. We developed positions on a set of issues and proceded to lobby Missouri's Congressional delegation. During that trip I also went to the outdoor inauguration of the new Teamster's President, James Hoffa, Jr. It was being held next door to our hotel and I just admitted myself to the boisterous gathering. I met a lot of very interesting people there! One member of our social work group had a cousin who flew Al Gore's plane, and he got us night time passes to tour the White House. We saw it all, from the kitchen to the Oval Office. Later our Navy tour guides joined us downtown at the bars! One other highlight of that trip occurred when we got off of the tram from the airport and were dragging our baggage to the hotel - looking somewhat like the Beverly Hillbillies. As we were crossing a street, one of our group saw Vice-President Gore walking out of a building where he had been attending a fundraiser. He jogged to his limo and then made a point of waving to our group and smiling as he was chauffered by us. Big Al was almost skinny in those days!

But, back to the topic of Arizona. It is what it is - a beautiful place to spend the winter!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Final Democratic Debate

I have been sitting at the computer quietly typing in another old Rootbound column into the new blog ( while using tonight's debate for background noise. Tonight is debate number twenty. Can there be anything left that Billary or Obama have yet to answer? I have been especially alert all evening listening for the sound of a kitchen sink being thrown, but so far the closest thing that I have heard to a big attack came from Billary when she tore into Tim Russert for always asking her the first question. What a whiner!

Cretins of the week: Yesterday Billary's campaign sent out a photo of Barack Obama in a Somali turban in an attempt to make him look like a Muslim, or a terrorist, or simply unAmerican. Then they couldn't decide whether to take credit for the sleazy tactic or not. Today, McCain was introduced to a crowd in Cleveland by a racist radio personality who kept repeatedly referring to Barack HUSSEIN Obama. McCain distanced himself from the speaker and said that it would never happen again at one of his events - after the crowd had left.

Yes, we all know that Obama is Black and had an African father, and we all know that his middle name is Hussein and that his last name rhymes with Osama. So what? If that's your best shot Billary, and if that's your best shot McCain, it is time to get out of the way and watch the future emerge! Our kids and grandkids deserve something better than a couple of tired, old has-beens whose primary tactic is name-calling.

Say goodnight, Billary. Say goodnight, McCain.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Rusty Pails #18
Cleaning the Cabin

by Rocky Macy

When the clutterment gets so high that you have to go outside to get from room to room, it’s time to clean the cabin. I push a path through mine on a regular basis – annually!

Last Saturday was the big day. Heck Frye, my usually too-close neighbor, came by at daybreak to help me out so he and I could get to the big auction that afternoon. We planned our strategy over coffee.

“Heck,” I said, “Let’s start by wiping out the things that breed. If you’ll tackle the dirty dishes, I’ll do the laundry.”

“And after that,” he laughed, “I want to have a go at those cobwebs. Some of them look old enough to qualify as historic landmarks.”

“It wouldn’t surprise me none. The dust bunnies under the bed are drawing social security!”

As I poured our third or fourth cup of coffee, Heck got up and made a trip to the latrine, carefully checking the lay of the land en route. Kicking his way back to the kitchen table, he observed rather wryly that several visits to the dump would be in order.

“Just back your truck up to the window,” I told him. “We’ll toss out everything that doesn’t fight back – and some of the things that do!”

“What about that colossal ring in your bathtub?”

“It goes, too!” I snapped. “This is no time to get sentimental.”

We got the place in order, and had a lot of fun doing it. That afternoon at the sale, Heck told Esther Pearl about our adventures in housecleaning.

“Why, Rusty,” she cooed, trying a bit too hard to sound like Gladys Clench. “It appears as though you need a wife.”

“Esther,” I fought back, “I’m busy enough as it is. When would I find time to pick up after a wife?”

Leastways, that’s how I see it!

Auction Tip: If two auctions are scheduled for the same time, try visiting both locations on the evening prior. An advance look at the merchandise will help you decide where to spend your money and your time.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rootbound in the Hills

Over twenty years ago I began penning a column on Ozarks genealogy that wound up being carried by fifteen small newspapers in southwest Missouri. That column was called Rootbound in the Hills. It ran for 242 continuous weeks.

Today I have begun posting those old Rootbound columns on the internet. It will take several months before I will be able to get them all up. When that is accomplished, I will also post a comprehensive name index so that the collection will be easy to access for family research.

You may view the Rootbound collection at:

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Transfer (3)

by Pa Rock

Ginger was backed up against the counter taking a long drag off of her cigarette and surreptitiously rubbing her posterior against the counter’s metal edge. One more hour was left on her second shift of the day, her third double this week. All of her tables were filled with truckers and other assorted miscreants who seemed to be grazing happily, except maybe for Fat Boy at number six who was probably out of coffee by now. Yep, there he was lifting his cup and trying to catch her eye. She would attend to him in a minute.

Ginger’s feet hurt, her back ached, and her butt itched the way it always did when Leonard the Love Muscle was about to make an appearance. Sixteen straight hours of slinging grub and making nice to over-sexed halfwits was more than any self-respecting tip-slave should have to endure. Tonight she was headed home to a hot bubble bath and at least two shifts of sleep – and God help the poor soul who tried to get in her way! Leonard would have to find somewhere else to exercise his muscle on this trip.

There were two people at table six, a rotund man of forty or so and a teenage girl wearing sweats who could easily pass for a rather rough young male. Carmen sat picking at her fruit plate and watching as her father heaped several soft-cooked eggs onto a stack of pancakes, broke the centers with his fork, and then covered the steaming mess with a thick coat of blueberry syrup. “That’s disgusting!” she snarled.

“No, that’s delicious.” Henry smiled across the table at his problem child. They seldom got to see each other any more, and in a way Henry regretted that fact. Ellen had passed away when the girl was seven, and Henry had never tried to delude himself into believing that he could parent. His role in her life had been to provide opportunities, but Carmen had parried each “opportunity” with contempt, insolence, and now violence. He knew that her mother’s death was a large part of Carmen’s continuing rage, but other kids lost parents without turning into what the Braden Academy had termed a “a budding young terrorist.”

“What are we doing here?”

“You can’t beat a truck stop for good food, Cow Pie.” Henry Gaston belched at his angry daughter. “These are the places that keep America moving.”

“Yeah, straight to the crapper.” She continued, “What are we doing here? What’s the point of this daddy-daughter road trip? Where are you taking me this time?”

“Home.” Henry replied simply.

“Home! I’ve got a home? Since when?” Carmen laughed bitterly and a little too loudly. “I’ve been living in dormitories since I was nine and now I’m going home! Well, you can just take that idea and cram it right up your fat…”

“So, you would rather go to another academy? I’m not sure there are any left that haven’t heard about you.”

“Emancipate me! I can take care of myself a hell of a lot better than you can or any of those adolescent prisons that call themselves schools can. I’m not going to be locked away again.”

Henry belched and smiled.

Carmen resumed picking at her fruit as she scanned the restaurant taking in the sideshows. The purpose of truck stops, she surmised, was so mutants like these would know where to find each other. This was like seeing the zoo from inside one of the cages, the one reserved for inbred baboons! One nearby tattooed primate was entertaining himself by flipping a spoon in the air and trying to get it to land in his coffee cup. Hopefully, Carmen thought, he was better at driving than he was at spoon-flipping. Another cretin at the same table was busy making art on his empty dinner plate with salt, pepper, mustard, and ketchup. From Carmen’s vantage point the emerging painting appeared to be a tiger with bloody fangs, or maybe some painted rocker from the eighties.

As Carmen’s gaze continued to take in the panoply of weirdness, she suddenly spied something with potential. A road-hardened specimen of a Big Rig Mama was sitting a couple of booths away enjoying an after dinner smoke and staring at Carmen. When their eyes locked, the trucker winked.

“More coffee, Sweetie?” Ginger leaned across the teenager and filled Henry’s cup without waiting for a reply. “How’s the grub?”

“Wonderful!” the fat man gushed.

“A sure cure for constipation,” his daughter interjected.

“That will do!” Henry banged the handle of the butter knife on the table to emphasize his sudden command of the situation.

“Don’t get riled up, Sugar. I’ve got a smart-mouthed kid at home just like him.”

“Stupid bitch!” Carmen snapped.


The tip be damned! Ginger had been through one hell of a hard day and she wasn’t going to take that kind of mouth off of anybody! Hands on hips, she assumed a power position by leaning in over Carmen. “What the hell did you just call me?”

The girl jumped to her feet without warning, a maneuver that caused their heads to collide and sent Ginger reeling backward into, and then over, a cart of dirty dishes.

It was now Carmen’s turn to assume the power position above the waitress who was flailing about on the floor amid the broken plates and table scraps. “I said that you are a stupid bitch. And while you’re wallowing in the garbage, remember this.” Carmen lifted her sweatshirt to reveal a pair of unbridled, hefty boobs. “It wasn’t a boy who put you there!”

The more reserved patrons began applauding, while their less couth road cousins were whistling and yelling for more. It wasn’t often that they were treated to a floorshow for the price of a burger and fries! Ginger was struggling to get up off the floor and screaming about stomping a hole in the smart-assed little dyke, but a wayward pat of butter sent her back into the mess, this time face first.

Carmen considered giving an encore by jumping onto the waitress and riding her around the restaurant like the rodeo cow that she obviously was, but that plan derailed when Big Rig Mama john-wayned her way into the fracas and began ushering the girl toward the door. An unlucky busboy pushing a mop bucket toward the calamity de jour got in their way, and the lady trucker deftly pushed him aside and into a table of six. The boy fell across his mop handle as he crashed into the table, a move that caused the bucket of sudsy water to pour out across the floor amid the carnage of the upended table. The mess was expanding exponentially, and fists and dishes were beginning to fly. Carmen and her escort managed somehow to navigate the mayhem and made it safely outside into the parking lot. A coffee cup crashed into the glass door as it closed behind them.

“I can take care of myself.” Carmen declared, trying to break free of the trucker and return to the melee.

The trucker let her go. “I know that. I brought you outside so you wouldn’t hurt anyone.”

“Well color me stupid. I figured you just wanted to get in my pants.”

The trucker laughed. “All in good time, Sweetness, all in good time. By the way,” she said, extending her hand, “I’m June.”

“Carmen.” Her name was punctuated by the shattering of the front window as it stopped the flight of a dinner plate that had been used as a frisbee.

“Come on,” June said, turning to walk away. “Let them peckerwoods percolate for awhile. We can climb back in there later and bust up the leftovers – if some pussy hasn’t gone and called the cops by then.”

Carmen hurried to keep up. “Where are we going?” she asked as they neared the far end of the building.

“I’m going to show you my rig. You’re up for some fun, aren’t you?”

“You bet.” Carmen was up for anything: drugs, sex with a stranger, canasta. She knew that no matter what the current level of violence was inside of the truck stop, Fat Henry would still be focused on his food. Anything would be better than watching her father as he struggled to test the limits of cholesterol tolerance and flatulence control.

When June led her around the corner of the building, Carmen found herself nose-to-fender with the largest truck cab that she had ever seen. “Holy shit!” she stammered. “You could live in that thing!”

“I do, as a matter of fact. That’s why the cab and sleeper are too junked up for company.” June led the girl past the cab and down the length of the extra-long trailer to its terminus which was planted firmly in the darkest part of the parking lot. Carmen stood aside while her new friend opened the right panel at the back of the truck. June lifted herself into the truck with the ease and grace of one who has performed the act innumerable times. She turned back and offered a helping hand to Carmen who allowed herself to be hoisted into the pitch-black chamber. “Follow me.” June directed. “Just two steps.”

The second step brought Carmen up against the back wall of the chamber, a wall that logically should not have been there. “Where is the rest of it?” she asked.

June had situated herself on the floor at Carmen’s feet and was leaning against the wall. “Hermetic seal,” she explained. “I’m picking up a load that I don’t want the dogs finding, if you get my drift.”

Carmen slid down beside June and assured her that she had caught her drift. She commented wistfully to the trucker that she wished she had already picked up her load so they could check the quality.

“It’s always primo.” June reached into her flannel shirt pocket and pulled out a nicely rolled, fat joint. “Here is a sampler from the last batch. I never leave home without a healthy supply.” She fired it up, took a long hit, and then passed it to Carmen. As Carmen took a couple of grateful pulls on the weed, June continued describing her transport business. “The real merchandize goes behind the wall, and this section is crammed to the rafters with bales of chicken feet.”

“Chicken feet!”

“Yep, chicken feet. The Chinese grind them into an aphrodisiac. Just what they need – more sex!”

Carmen was giggling as she passed the joint back to June. This was beginning to be one of the best times that she had had lately. Henry would just have to amuse himself with his pancakes until this scene in the truck played itself out.

“Seriously, I haven’t found a County Mountie yet who was willing to help off-load a truck full of chicken feet just to satisfy his idle curiosity.”

Somewhere toward the end of the second joint, June was lying on her back with her head in Carmen’s lap. A grope here, a squeeze there; it really was turning into a beautiful night. It was with a considerable reluctance that she finally disengaged and walked to the door. If Carmen would stay there (an easy option since she couldn’t move), June would go to the cab and retrieve her massage oils. The best part was yet to come.

Carmen thought it was hysterical when June jumped from the trailer and yelled “Geronimo!” like an airborne ranger. She was still laughing as June closed the trailer door and dropped the latch into place.

* * *

Never one to let good food go to waste, Henry Gaston had finished his meal in the midst of the riot that his daughter had precipitated. He folded a hundred-dollar bill and placed it under the coffee saucer, then rose and managed to dodge and weave his way out of the eatery with surprising agility for a man of his rotund stature. Minutes later he watched comfortably from his glossy black Hummer as an oversized tractor-trailer rig emblazoned with the words “Hendershot Collections” turned east onto the service road fronting the truck stop. Henry headed west.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Power of Words

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

America has made some wonderful strides toward ending racism during my lifetime. Gone are the days when bigoted simians like Bull Connor, George Wallace, and Orville Faubus built careers on denying civil rights and human rights to people of color. The past fifty years have witnessed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act, freedom marches, bus strikes, school integrations, and the slow and steady eroding of the old segregationist mindset. Indeed, America stands poised to elect a black President, something that was not even conceivable just a few short years ago.

We are witnessing the birth of a new America, an America of which all citizens can be proud. Unfortunately, not everone seems to have gotten the memo.

A clash occurred in 2006 in Jena, Louisiana, over nooses that some white students hung in a tree on the campus of the local high school. They were given a slap on the wrist by school officials. Later six black students were accused of beating one of the whites invovled in the noose incident, and they were jailed and treated as dangerous adults. Many in the community felt that situation and the perceived unequal justice harkened back to the bad old days of segregation.

Last April radio personality Don Imus opened the old wound of racism by referring to the ladies of the Rutgers Women's Basketball Team as "nappy-headed hos." His thoughtless and hurtful remark went out nationally over radio and television. Mr. Imus was subsequently fired by his employers.

Earlier this month things seemed to take a turn for the better. President Bush gave a speech at the White House to mark African American History Month. In that speech the President addressed America's awful history of lynching. He said,

"The era of rampant lynching is a shameful chapter in American history. The noose is not a symbol of prairie justice, but of gross injustice. Displaying one is not a harmless prank, and lynching is not a word to be mentioned in jest."

While I am admittedly not much of a fan of President Bush, I respect what he had to say on that subject. My thought with regard to lynching is that if someone like George Bush can understand the significance of the subject, the power of that word, then anyone should be able to comprehend it. Hate is not rocket science, it's just plain-old-stupid hate.

Fast forward to this week. Michelle Obama, a woman who stands an excellent chance of becoming our next First Lady, made a statement Monday at a rally for her husband in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her exact words, their meaning, and the context in which they were said have been a subject of continuing controversey this week, and they stirred a small firestorm, particularly on conservative news outlets. I have searched the Internet and I believe this to be an accurate quote of her remarks:

"Hope is making a comeback and, let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change. I have seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues and it has made me proud."

Admittedly, she opened herself for criticism from certain quarters, but I think she spoke from her heart. Wouldn't this be a far better place if all people in the realm of politics would do that, instead of pandering to the masses by trying to tell them what they want to hear?

The following day, Bill O'Reilly, a staple of the Fox News Network, made the following statement on his national radio show:

“I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels.”

There it was, the "L" word. And, he doesn't want to go on a lynching party against this prominent black woman unless...Unless? Does O'Reilly not get it? Does he not even listen to his own President? Is he at worst a hate-mongering racist, or at best just stupid?

Yesterday I sent the following email to Fox News:

From: Rocky Macy []
Sent: Thu 2/21/2008 8:51 PM
To: Web -Fox News Online
Subject: Bill O'reilly

Whether Mr. O'Reilly is a racist or simply ignorant of socially appropriate behavior, his continued presence on the Fox Network diminishes its relevance as a news source. He needs to go the way of Don Imus for his crude and insensitive behavior.

Rocky Macy
Goodyear, AZ

Today, I received this reply:

Dear Rocky,

Thank you for your e-mail. We appreciate your comments on our site, and are sorry to hear that you are offended by some of its content. As a reader your opinion is very important to us, we know that you are the reason we are here. Please feel free to stay in touch.


(God, I hope that I'm not the reason Fox is there!) It was, of course, a form email. I wonder how many of these dismissive missives they had to send out?

The problem is not O'Reilly. He is a symptom, just as Fox News is a symptom. The disease is hate and stupidity and fear. The disease is racism. Fortunately for America, this disease is finally being eradicated. We are verge of a beautiful future, and I, also, am becoming very proud of my country!

There is good news at hand, America. Just don't expect to hear about it on Fox!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Neighborhood Excitement!

I've just come in from hustling my little convertible out of harm's way. A neighborhood girl came to my door thirty minutes ago to alert me that a car was on fire in the parking lot. I ran to investigate and found that the vehicle in flames was just two spaces down from my own. I got mine safely out of the way shortly before the fire department arrived. They were able to put the fire out before it reached the fuel tank, and all is now returning to normal in Goodyear Towne!

Firemen put their lives on the line every time they are called out. They truly deserve our respect and admiration!

Paladin and Paloma

Paladin and Paloma, a pair of beautiful Great Pyrenees, were the King and Queen of Rock’s Roost. Both dogs were pedigreed, bred to look after farm animals, and both took to the task as naturally as ducks take to water or birds take to flight.

Paladin came to the Roost as a puppy, barely weaned. When he was several months old, I brought Paloma to join him. Although he was older and more independent, they immediately formed into a playful pair of young canines. As they got older Paladin learned that no fence could keep him in. He would scale the chain-link and leave tufts of his white hair in the barbed wire that ran along the top of the fence. Once over he would patrol the yard and along the property boundaries while Paloma stayed inside watching the livestock. In the evenings I would lead him back into the barnyard to feed, but he would soon be back out in the yard. It actually worked well, because if a strange dog ambled by, Paloma (and the guineas and peacocks) would set off the alarm and Paladin was free to give chase.

Great Pyrenees are big dogs, looking much like St. Bernards, only white. They are gentle souls, but there massive size (Paladin weighed over 110 pounds) and thunderous bark would give pause to any hardened criminal. They do most of their patrolling at night and like to sleep during the day. Paladin’s favorite place to siesta was on the dirt road that bordered the farm. Fortunately for him, the neighbors always gave him a wide berth!

When Paladin wasn’t sleeping during the day, he was roaming. Most of the neighbor’s knew him and didn’t get out of sorts when they found him stopping by their dog’s dish to do some comparison shopping. One day, however, he roamed too far and got into some serious trouble. A neighbor called and said that she had seen him walking along the highway about a half-mile away and that he was bleeding. I hurried out in my old pickup truck and managed to get him loaded up and home. He had been shot in the stomach and didn’t have the strength to get out of the truck bed. After several frantic telephone calls, I was finally able to get a vet to agree to come into his office (it was a Sunday afternoon) and treat my big, gentle dog. The vet examined Paladin and determined that a small caliber bullet had passed through his mid-section and not hit any vital organs. The poor dog spent the night at the vet’s clinic and was back at the Roost the next afternoon.

While Paloma was kept away from her partner by a fence most of the time, Paladin would make the occasional conjugal visit, and Paloma was blessed with several large litters of puppies. I came home one day for lunch and found Paloma in the barn dug into the straw and just beginning to deliver a litter. When I returned that evening, I went out to check on her and was met by quite a surprise. The weary mother was laid out in front of a pile of squealing puppies. I had expected that. What I hadn’t expected was to find a dozen or so little white puppies with one that was solid black! I soon solved the mystery when I noticed that Mama Pot-Bellied Pig had also burrowed into the straw and delivered a sizeable litter of little black piggies. One had gotten adventurous and crawled over and joined the puppies! The guys at the feed store had a good laugh over my black Great Pyrenees!

Paloma had one other suitor besides Paladin. A young motherless goose decided early on that Paloma was his girlfriend. He kept constant company with her, napping where she napped, sharing her food, and being a fixture in her life. If Paloma ran to the fence to bark at something, the goose would be right there with her flapping his wings and honking at whatever had alarmed the big dog. The goose could be quite mean, as Paladin found out when he tried to visit, but the goose also looked after the puppies as though they were his responsibility. The goose would preen Paloma, picking ticks and burrs off of her with his beak. It was a beautiful symbiotic relationship.

I had done a lot of research on Great Pyrenees before bringing Paladin and Paloma to the Roost. One thing that I learned was that they were loyal, but the males would occasionally move on. My dad became ill and I started having to spend more time with him. I began to stay in town and come out to the Roost twice a day to feed. One day Paladin was gone. I like to think that he just walked on down the road and moved in with a good family who were able to give him more attention. When I finally closed the Roost, I gave Paloma to friends. Her goose, of course, went with them also.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Rusty Pails #17
A Trip to Florida

by Rocky Macy

Bachelors have to ford some streams that married men never even see. Leastways, that’s the way it seems to me.

I was sitting on the radiator in the back of the room watching the auctioneer work his way through a stack of bed linens and bath towels when the first signs of trouble hit. The nausea and sudden desire to fight my way outside and into the fresh air told me that a major flu bug had just set up camp in my innards.

Esther Pearl caught up with me as I stumbled out the door and onto the lawn. She asked, in a sisterly sort of way, where I was headed. “Florida,” I said. “Should be gone about a week.” Esther would know what to do.

That night and the entire next day I stayed under the covers. ‘Long about afternoon the phone began ringing, but I was too sick – and too smart – to answer. At dusk, just after I’d let Baker out for her constitutional, a car pulled up the drive. The solid pounding at the old door told me the visitor was either Sprung Hinge’s most aggressive – and annoying – politician, Judge Rufus T. Redbone, or Ermine’s mother, The Duke. I pulled the covers up over my head and waited for the intruder to despair and leave.

It was an hour or so later when the next visitor arrived. This time there was no pounding at the door, only the insistent tapping on my bedroom window pane and the soothing voice of Esther. “Rusty Pails, get your carcass out of bed and let me in!” Not wanting to complicate stomach flu with bodily injury, I did as I was told.

Esther waxed philosophic as we sat in the darkened living room eating the chicken soup and saltines that she had brought. “You’re paranoid, Rusty, plain and simple.”

“Having you park your car behind the house ain’t paranoia, Esther. It’s just a necessary precaution.”

“And you’re an egotist to boot!” She poured a second round of soup and continued. “The single ladies of Sprung Hinge lost interest in assaulting your bachelorhood a long time ago. They’ve all moved on to greener pastures.”

“Not all,” I said, peering through the curtains. A car had shut off its lights down at the end of the lane, and the occupant was getting out. “You did tell folks that I’d gone to Florida?” I whispered as Esther and I each watched the nocturnal visitor come stealing to the house carrying what looked suspiciously like a picnic basket. “You know, Esther, there ain’t no easier mark for a sinister spinster than a sick bachelor.”

My latest visitor sat the bundle down gently on the front porch and retreated to the shadows of the old shed. It only took seconds for my cabin to become saturated with the heavenly aroma of fried chicken and hot apple pie.

Esther clamped onto my arm. Her tight grip might have been a result of sudden hunger pangs, but I suspect she wanted to keep me from going for my gun and trying to liberate the basket in a hail of bullets!

Before I could think of a new plan, the night exploded with a scream. “Bad dog!” yelled Gladys Clench, heading toward the porch at full throttle. “Bad dog! Bad dog!” Baker, old but foolish, took off lickety-split for points unknown with Gladys in hot pursuit. When the dust had settled, Baker had the chicken, Esther and I had the pie, Gladys had the gate, and I got to stay in Florida!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Rock's Roost

Rock’s Roost is a small piece of heaven in the Missouri Ozarks. It is a cabin, of sorts, sitting among tall pines on a very rocky patch of ground. Right now it is in hibernation mode because the owner, yours truly, suffers from wanderlust. But when Rock’s Roost is awake, it truly rocks!

It has been four years or so since the Roost was functioning as a farm, and even then it barely resembled anything that a real farmer would brag about at the local coffee shop. It was an enterprise that was all expense and no profit (all hat and no cattle), yet I profited considerably from the experience.

When Rock’s Roost was at the pinnacle of its glory it was home to a dozen or so pygmy goats that frolicked on their own playground. The large truck tires and painted barrels that I set up for their amusement, and my own, are still there, though they look somewhat sad without the goats. Little goats must have invented the game “King of the Mountain,” because they would spend hours upon hours knocking each other off of those tires and barrels! The pygmy goats seemed to be always giving birth. Sometimes they did just fine on their own bringing twins or triplets into the world, and at other times I would find myself up to my elbows in pulling goats. One spring day I came home after being gone for the weekend, and there to greet me were seven new baby goats and three very tired nannies!

Five or six domestic rabbits ran free, and several times a year they would bring out their baby bunnies to meet the other creatures that called the Roost home. There were also three pot-bellied pigs whose main goal in life was to find a cool place to sleep in the summer and a warm spot for slumber in the winter. In the winter I would usually get home after dark and have to roam out to the dark barn to feed – where I would invariably trip over a pig or two!

A large contingent of fowl made their nests at Rock’s Roost. A flock of noisy guineas worked the grounds during the day looking for ticks, and at night they would nest in the tree tops ready to sound the alarm whenever anything unexpected happened in the darkness. For awhile there were also peacocks, two males and two females. They would nest in one very tall pine right next to the cabin. Whenever something would set the guineas to squawking, the peacocks would chime in with their distinctive screams. All of the dogs in the neighborhood would then add their howls to the chorus. Nothing went undetected at Rock’s Roost, even on the darkest of nights!

Other feathered residents included a tom turkey, a cranky goose, and two dozen or so hens of mixed varieties that always provided an abundance of eggs - and all of my friends shared in the bounty! There were also a few roosters who liked to make noise and fight. The best birds on the little farm were four large emus. An emu is a three-toed, very large bird, similar to an ostrich only somewhat smaller. My emus loved to be hosed off on hot days in the summer, and they would sit in mud puddles and visit whenever the opportunity presented itself. One of the emus would reach over the fence with his long neck and feast on the cherry tomatoes that dangled close to their enclosure. Another was always underfoot whenever I did any cement work because she considered wet cement to be a delicacy! A large male ostrich also lived at the Roost for awhile, but he was as mean as the emus were sweet, and we soon had a parting of the ways.

But it was the dogs that were the King and Queen of the Roost. Paladin and Paloma, a pair of beautiful Great Pyrenees, ran the place by day and night. Those dogs were so special that they deserve their own post on this blog. It will be coming soon!

If the Roost was a comforting retreat on most days, it was magical during storms. A good spring or summer storm drove everyone together. The creatures of the Roost would gather in the barn, an assembly of friends waiting out the downpour and quietly tolerating the farmer as he fed the group and talked incessantly of things that were of no import to them. Life was beautiful, and everyone in the barn reveled in it. It was the very best of times!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Rusty Pails #16
The Slaves

by Rocky Macy

I bought the boys at a “slave auction” sponsored by the Sprung Hinge Sewing Circle and Bucket Brigade. Their names could have been “Spuds” and “Max,” leastways that’s what was printed on their t-shirts, so that’s what I called them. They were mine for a day!

Saturday morning was pretty near shot when the boys finally showed up for work, but I could tell by their sleep-worn faces that it was somewhere near the middle of the night by their standards. The two strappin’ youngsters had just about talked themselves out of knocking when I came pushing my wheelbarrow through the break in the lilac bushes that border the front porch.

“Choose your weapons, boys,” I greeted, pointing to the rake, hoe, and shovel that were leaning on the porch railing. “Time’s a wasting!”

Spuds backed off so fast that he tripped over Max and they both went sprawling to the ground in a heap. I’ve seen some brush piles that were easier to pull apart that those two tangled teens. When I finally got them upright, I handed the rake to Spuds and gave Max the hoe. I figured that the shovel, which requires the use of both hands and feet, was probably too advanced for this twosome. After demonstrating the fine arts of raking rocks and chopping weeds, I headed to the house for my lunch.

Now it doesn’t take too long to wash down a baloney and onion sandwich with a bottle of cold root beer. But brief as my snack was, it was interrupted by each boy wanting a drink of water, and Max made a second trip in to use the facility. Somehow I knew not to expect to find the yard work done when I re-emerged into the late morning sun.

“Break time,” Max explained when I asked why they were parked on their rears under my old walnut tree. “Can’t be too careful in this heat.” As if on cue, Spuds took off his jacket. “Besides,” Max continued, “We’ve already hit a pretty good lick – considering the tools we have to work with.”

The little pile of rocks and weeds next to the driveway wouldn’t qualify as a “good lick” for a government bureaucrat, but it was the remark about the tools that grabbed my interest. “What’s wrong with your rake and hoe?” I asked.

“Why, Mr. Pails,” Max exclaimed, “They’re left-handed!”

All at once my old brain began to kick itself into gear. “Just how did you boys wind up in that slave auction? How come I’ve not see you around Sprung Hinge before?”

“We’ve here visiting our aunt and uncle,” Max said. "Aunt Ermine was afraid if we sat around the house we’d slow down Uncle Shadetree."

‘Nuff said. It was going to be a long afternoon!

Thanks a bunch, Ermine!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Pleasure Island

by Rocky Macy

Auntie Arabella has a smelly plate of fish,
But the kids all like her cooking
And their cats will clean the dish.

Boone peels bananas and bakes banana bread,
And all the baboons grab a loaf
Before they go to bed.

Carmen found a coconut lying on the beach,
And in the palms were dozens more
Far beyond her reach.

Dickie Drake, the show-off, has a duck egg in his ear,
But the kids all ignore him
And the mama duck stays near.

Erin feeds the elders beneath the lemon tree,
Where they enjoy their fish and poi
And the lemonade is free.

Frankie chases fireflies along the sandy shore,
And the kids all cheer him on,
Until the rain begins to pour.

Garlo climbs a grapevine way up to the sky,
And the kids all like his spirit
So they wait below with pie.

Happy Henry plays lots of silly tricks,
But the kids don’t think he’s funny
And they chase him with their sticks.

Irma says that Indigo is her favorite ink,
But the kids prefer papaya
Which is a peachy pink.

Jumping Jimmy Joe has a frog in his pants,
But the kids all like his moves
And they love to watch him dance.

Kewpie throws kisses to everyone in town,
And the kids all like her lots and lots
And they will never make her frown.

Laughing little Lauren has a lemon and a lime,
And she would like to catch a lizard
But she cannot make it rhyme.

Molly juggles mangoes beneath the moon so bright,
And the kids must like her show
Because they watch her every night.

Nicky pulls his fishing nets from the deep lagoon,
And all the kids help grab the fish
That will be cooking soon.

Olive dives for oysters searching for a pearl,
And yesterday she found one,
She is such a lucky girl!

Pete the playful pirate has a parrot on his head,
But the kids all like him anyway
And the parrot’s name is Fred.

Queenie was very quick and also very quiet,
But when she tripped on a snoring boar
Queenie started quite a riot!

Rocky chases rabbits just to watch them run,
And all the kids jump aside
While Rocky has his fun.

Sebastian likes to picnic down by the sea,
Where he serves the kids sea biscuits
And a hearty seaweed tea.

Timmy thought it was funny to pull the tiger’s tail,
But the kids did not laugh
And they sent him off to jail.

Uma plays her ukulele softly in the breeze
And the kids all listen quietly
As they lie beneath the trees.

Victor went to the volcano to watch the lava flow,
But when the lava came to close
Victor had to go!

Wanda Wiki-Wiki picks orchids for her lei,
But the kids would like her much, much more
If she took some time to play.

Xavier bangs a steel drum and a xylophone,
And all of the kids savor
Each and every tone.

Yolanda has a raft that she calls a yacht,
And she sails each day at sunrise
If the weather’s not too hot.

Zeke zips among the palms looking for a treasure,
But the kids all see what he cannot:
Their lives are rich with pleasure!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Transfer (2)

by Pa Rock

Ethan had howled himself hoarse. In the first thirty minutes of his imprisonment he had exhausted his entire repertoire of obscenities, with the choicer examples being used repeatedly like staccato blasts from an automatic weapon. That bitch whore Eleanor was going to die, she could count on that, and when she drew her last noxious breath, Ethan would be there pissing the paint off of her skanky face!

The furious teen had used his lighter to explore his cell. The walls, floor, and ceiling appeared to be solid steel. Ethan could see a tiny crack where the back doors came together in an extremely tight fit, and the opposite wall, which stood only about four feet from the doors, had a matching fissure that indicated that it probably opened to the remainder of the trailer. A small vent in the ceiling was providing a stream of fresh air. Ethan stood beneath the vent and reflected stoically that at least they weren’t going to kill him – yet. And then he wailed again, a scream intended to shatter the bolts on the gates of hell.

Ethan had beaten and kicked the steel walls of the cell until pain and fatigue numbed his rage. He collapsed into a pile on the floor and cried. He cried from frustration, he cried from fear, but most of all he cried from the realization that he had been outsmarted by her, that in one sudden and unexpected pounce she had won whatever game it was that they had been playing for all of these years. Stalemate to checkmate in less time than it would take to roll a doobie. Shit, he thought, she even got that! Oh, the bitch would die, all right! It would be a wonderfully slow death with snakes, and fire, and open wounds packed with the stinking feces of rabid, wormy dogs!

Ethan emptied his pockets. If he had a dime he might be able to wedge it into the crack between the door panels and then…and then what? He didn’t have a dime, anyway. His net worth right at the moment consisted of two nickels, four quarters, a sinus tablet, a couple of sticky, lint-covered mints, one twenty dollar bill, two condoms, a cigarette lighter that was nearly empty, and two cigarettes.

The realization of his imminent tobacco crisis seemed to drain away the captive’s spirit. Ethan peeled off his shirt, rolled it into a makeshift pillow, and lit the first cigarette. He stretched out on his back and watched the glowing orange tip reflect itself on the walls and ceiling of his steel tomb, a fiery sprite dancing across a dark and lonely landscape, a meandering muse being drawn into the metallic void. Ethan cried again, and then he slept.

* * *

The jolting of the truck as it started to move woke Ethan from a dreamless sleep. He was still in total darkness and had lost all sense of time, but his stomach declared that it must be early afternoon. He yelled for breakfast, and then he yelled with equal vigor for vengeance. When his enraged entreaties stirred no response, Ethan reached around and found his last cigarette. He fired up and inhaled deeply knowing that this would possibly be the high point of his day – if it was day.

Friday, February 15, 2008


My visiting Sis and I were going to go downtown and catch a play tonight, but the play didn't look like it would be that good, and it has turned cold and drizzly in the Valley of the Sun, so we took in a movie instead. Gail goes to lots of movies and had seen most of what was playing at my neighborhood multi-plex, and, fortunately for me, she had not yet seen Juno. It was a fortunate pick because I tend to get somewhat critical when I spend good money on a film that turns out to be mediocre or just plain bad.

Juno is a simple tale of a quirky sixteen-year-old girl who gets pregnant the first time that she has sex with her barely-out-of-adolescence boyfriend, an awkward youth who runs track, plays guitar, and sleeps in a car bed. The movie explores the realities of love, committment, and responsibility. It is moving and insightful without being smaltzy.

Everything about this film borders on being exceptional. The soundtrack is fun and helpful to the story. The photography offers fresh perspectives without taking away from the story or the lives of the characters. The script, by ex-stripper Diablo Cody, is highly original, taking a storyline that could easily have been a pedestrian slog and weaving it into something almost magical. The actors, particularly Jason Bateman and Jennifer Garner as the complicated perspective adoptive parents, come across as being born to play those roles, and Ellen Page, the title character, needs to begin working on her Oscar acceptance speech. And then there's the director, Jason Reitman, who put it all together. Genius is as genius does. He probably needs to be writing a speech as well.

I'm glad that we opted for a film over live theatre tonight. Juno gave warmth to this dreary night.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Welcome to Arizona

My sister, Gail Macy from Fayetteville, AR, arrived today to spend the holiday weekend with me in the sunny southwest. Her first comment was that she was impressed with all of the palm trees.

The area of the West Valley that I live in is actually the Palm Valley section of Goodyear, and there are many palm trees - some that must be fifty feet tall. There are also lots of giant saguro cacti used in landscaping around this area. I asked a fellow here how landscapers managed to transplant these prickly behemoths. He said that they wrap them in blankets and then tip them onto a flatbed truck. After they are moved the landscapers tip them into the prepared hole and then remove the blankets. Some of the ones around here are twenty to twenty-five feet tall. They have a shallow root system so that they can gather as much water as possible during our infrequent rains. When it does rain, they swell with the added water and occasionally topple onto the ground - or a nearby car or house. I suppose that finding your car crushed beneath a cactus could really ruin your day!

Billary sent me another letter today begging for cash. She will get her postage-paid return envelope back in next week's mail - without a damned dime! When will she ever learn???

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rusty Pails #15
The Desperado

by Rocky Macy

When the phone rings in the middle of the night, you can bet your longhandles that things are fixing to happen. Leastways, that’s the way it seems to work here in Sprung Hinge.

Heck Frye’s voice was near hysterical when it came spilling out of my telephone receiver late last night. “Rusty,” he yelled, “something’s going on out by my truck! I think I heard a shot, and…and now someone’s moaning, dying probably!”

“That’s what friends are for,” I thought as I rushed along the lane toward Heck’s place, “to scare off fighting tomcats and serial killers!” Armed only with a baseball bat and a bottle of cold root beer, I wasn’t expecting anything too bizarre, but some kind of trouble was afoot, and if I didn’t hurry, the other folks on my party line would beat me to it!

I could see Heck’s old truck out by the barn as I stepped into his yard. The passenger door was open and something was hanging out.

Baker, who had followed along for curiosity’s sake, suddenly charged past me and up to the truck. As I ran to follow, I caught a glimpse of Heck’s face pressed against the inside of the kitchen window. Suddenly the night air split with an excruciating, moan before I could reach the truck. That set Baker to howling, but her noise was quickly drowned out the approaching sirens of the fire truck, ambulance, and sheriff. That Heck sure covered all of his bases!

It all came into focus when the sheriff’s floodlight washed over Heck’s truck. The object hanging from the door was a spindly old leg rooted in a fuzzy blue house shoe.

“Get me out of here, you durned fool!” That voice, exploding from the floorboard like a vintage firecracker, belonged to Gramma Pinkins, the most senior citizen of Sprung Hinge.

The firemen freed Gramma from her contorted position beneath the steering wheel, and the ambulance crew, amid her loud and indelicate protests, carted the village matriarch away from the scene of her indignity. The deputy who rode with them as far as the laundrymat got most of the story.

It seems Gramma had gone over-the-hill again from the Gristle and Gruel Old Folks Home. She got as far as Heck’s and decided to borrow his truck. Somehow Gramma raised the hood, but couldn’t figure out how to hotwire her get-away vehicle. The gal voted “most likely to get the vote” in the class of ’08 then crawled up under the steering wheel to see if she could find some wires there to cross. When the hood slammed shut (the “shot” Heck heard), the noise caused Gramma Pinkins to wrench her back. The rest, as they say, is history!

Or it will be history as soon as Heck and I get through polishing it up for a proper retelling. Sprung Hinge is famous for us craftsmen!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Brass Teapot

I watched a movie tonight, a twenty-minute gem entitled The Brass Teapot. It is a good movie, a very good movie that was recently exhibited at a festival for short films in the United Arab Emirates. This movie is so very good that, if I had more vacation time built up at my new job, I would have flown to the UAE and seen it there. That's how good The Brass Teapot is!

My son, Tim, wrote the short story that this film is based on, and he co-wrote the screenplay. It is his first foray into writing for the movies, but it will certainly not be the last movie to have his name in the credits. In fact, another of his short stories is already being put on film at the University of Ohio, and he helped to write that screenplay also.

I am excited for Tim. He is at the front end of what promises to be a most creative and rewarding life. He is imaginative, and he is gutsy. The world beckons!

(I hope it's not too obvious that I am shamefully campaigning for an invitation to the Academy Awards in a few years!)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rusty Pails #14
Farmer Harris and Annie

by Rocky Macy

(Note: This short piece was written out of respect for Harris Farmer, a gentle soul who was my father-in-law. Harris passed away several years ago and is missed by all who knew him.)

Farmer Harris is truly a man of few words. He only smiled, in fact, when Shadetree Mike told a group of agrarians at a recent auction that raising cattle looked like a grand way to make a living. “Why,” Mike bellowed, “all you have to do is feed, water, and sit back while the money rolls in!”

That evening Farmer Harris was still smiling as he pulled up to the Pump and Git and off-loaded a frightened little orphan calf. It was, he assured Shadetree Mike, a major step on the road to a golden retirement.

A few days later my buddy came leading his bovine ward down the lane to my cabin. “Rusty,” he pleaded, “you’ve got to help me. I need to find a home for Annie.”

Baker gave Shadetree Mike that special snarl that she saves just for him, and then wandered over, tail-a-wagging, to take a whiff or two of the calf.

“Best place to keep beef,” I told Mike, “is in the freezer.”

“No can do, Rusty. Annie’s been with me a week. She’s family.”

“And why can’t family stay at your place?”

“Because,” he explained, “Ermine ain’t warmed to the situation. At first Annie bawled all night, so we got the vet over.”

“And?” I prodded.

“He said she was just lonesome and scared. Someone needed to sit up with her at night like her mama would have done.”

“Did it work?”

“For a couple of nights, but then Ermine got so run down that she couldn’t manage the business. And the flies bothered our customers. Do you have any idea how hard it is to run a calf through the car wash?”

Before I could conjure up a picture of Mike (or, more likely, Ermine) pulling young Annie through the Auto Sudser, Mike landed his knockout punch. “Rusty, the Little Woman says she won’t go on picking up after two dumb animals. One of us, Annie or me, has to find a place to stay.”

Baker’s mothering instincts kicked into gear. She took the lead rope in her teeth and escorted Annie around back to the shed. The old hound had gained a companion, and everyone else walked away a winner: Shadetree Mike got to keep his meal ticket, Ermine cut her work load in half, and Farmer Harris developed the kind of contented smile that can only come from deflating a windbag!

And Rusty?

Well, as I turned to walk back to the cabin, my boot landed squarely in Annie’s calling card – so it looks like I wound up with my usual!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Russia (1)
Midnight in Moscow

It was in May of 1999, just days after the birth of my first grandson, when I participated in a social work tour of Russia and Sweden. The tour was organized by the Social Work Department of the University of South Carolina. Two friends and I, all graduate students in the School of Social Work at the University of Missouri, were able to join the tour as a part of the requirements for our Masters in Social Work (MSW) degree.

We would be leaving St. Louis on a flight to Newark where we would join up with some of the others from the tour. After another stop at Heathrow in London, we would meet the remainder of our group at the airport in Moscow.

I made a mistake at the St. Louis Airport, one that had a big impact on my trip, and one that I have been careful to never repeat. As we were preparing to check our luggage, I decided that since we were going to be enroute approximately twenty hours with two layovers, I would divest myself of as much carry-on stuff as possible. One of the items that I stowed in my checked luggage at the last moment was a bag containing all of my diabetes medicine.

The trip over was fairly uneventful. We boarded an American Airlines flight in St. Louis and were in Newark a couple of hours later. I remember noticing from the air as we neared Newark, that New Jersey had a surprising amount of farmland, not the image that I had long harbored of the Big Apple’s neighbor. Our next flight was aboard a British Airway’s jet to London. It was an elegant aircraft with superior service. As that plane pulled up out of Newark and prepared to cross the North Atlantic, we all gazed out the windows at the Manhattan skyline. I had never been to New York City, and this was to be my one and only view of the World Trade Center.

One of the people who joined our group for the flight across the Atlantic was a young psychiatric social worker from Baltimore, Michael Hyman, who would become my roommate for the remainder of the trip. At the time of this trip there were demonstrations occurring against the Yeltsin government by labor groups in Russia. A married couple that had boarded in Newark changed their plan enroute because of the unrest in Russia, and decided to stay in London.

The last leg of our journey, London to Moscow, was aboard a decrepit Aeroflot, Russia’s de facto national airline. The aircraft rattled and shook as it flew low over the farmlands of Europe. I sat next to a Russian student who had been studying in England, and he talked about some of the changes that had been occurring in his country since the fall of communism.

Our plane landed at Sheremetyevo International Airport outside of Moscow, which was small in comparison to the other airports that we had been in during the past twenty hours. The remaining portion of our group, having arrived somewhat earlier, was waiting for us at the airport.

I was long overdue on taking my diabetes pills by the time that our luggage was off-loaded. I opened my over-stuffed suitcase on a nearby bench at the airport and rooted around for my bag of medications. I soon discovered that it was not there. The leather belt that I had packed was also missing. I confided to my MU friends, Andy Cleeton and Stefanie Englebrecht, about the loss, and they located our leader from the University of South Carolina, Dr. Leon Ginsberg, and told him.

(I understood why my belt had been taken later in Moscow where the cheapest replacement that I could find was a pricey $70.00!)

As people in our group slowly began to buzz about my situation, I overheard Andy whisper to Stefanie that she hoped this incident wouldn’t ruin the trip for me. It was at that point that I knew that I would have to soldier on. Not only did I not want to spoil my own trip over this incident, I didn’t want my friends worrying about me when they should be taking in this once in a lifetime experience without unnecessary distractions.

Dr. Ginsberg paired me up with one of our young tour guides. Cornelius was from England, but he had been married to a Russian woman and spoke the language fluently. Cornelius told me that once we got to the hotel in Moscow he would take care of the situation.

The bus ride into Russia’s capital was about an hour. We passed the monument that marked the end of the Nazi advance into Russia. Hitler’s soldiers had come within mere miles of the Russian capital, but, like Napoleon’s army in the previous century, they were soon stopped by the Russian winter and then routed by the country’s fierce peasants. All history is prelude.

Our tour group stayed at a large hotel in Moscow that had built for the 1980 Olympics. The plan was for the group to attend the famous Moscow Circus that night, but my situation caused me to miss that activity. As soon as Michael and I had settled into our room, Cornelius showed up and took me to the hotel’s clinic on the sixth floor. The small clinic, actually a hotel room, was staffed by two women in white, neither of whom spoke English. Cornelius explained my situation in his flawless Russian, and one of the ladies got on the telephone to relate details to someone else.

The decision was finally made to send me to a local hospital where I could be given medications that were the “equivalent” to the ones that had been stolen from my luggage. It would take awhile for transportation to be arranged, so Cornelius took me back to my room and told me to wait there for him to return. He cautioned me in ominous tones to not leave with anyone unless he was along.

Michael and the other tour members were preparing to leave for the circus when Cornelius finally came back to my room. A lady doctor dressed in white with antique amber jewelry (very Russian!) and her female companion also showed up at about that time. The doctor checked my blood pressure. She said that it was “fast.”

We went to the hospital in an ambulance. The doctor told me, through Cornelius, that I looked worried, and I responded that I was just tired. She talked about having studied German and said that she wished she had taken English classes instead. She was also curious about how I could afford such an expensive vacation. The ambulance driver seemed to get a lot of enjoyment out of his important mission, and hit the siren at every red light. The first time he did it, the doctor barked something at him in Russian. When I asked Cornelius about it, he said that she had told the driver not to use the siren because it would scare me. He kept doing it until we reached the hospital.

The hospital was dank and dirty. We passed a group of men smoking in the entryway and made our way to a glassed in area that appeared to be some sort of small cafeteria. Several men sat around the tables talking and smoking. Cornelius told me that they were the physicians. I was taken on to a treatment room next to the cafeteria. It had two cots and a couple of chairs.

Nothing about the place looked sanitary. It had bare cement floors with walls that were a dingy yellow. Each of the windows was painted halfway up. The nurse looked like more like a streetwalker than a medical professional.

A couple of hospital doctors confronted the one from the hotel outside of the treatment room. Their discussion sounded confrontational. Cornelius translated:

My Doctor: “He’s lost his diabetes medicine. He’s sick.”
Hospital Doctor: “What do you want us to do about it?”
My Doctor: “Treat him.”
Hospital Doctor: “He looks alright to us.”
My Doctor: “Treat him.”
Hospital Doctor: “You are outside of your district.”

And so it went. While I was waiting for my fate to be decided by this less than enthusiastic group of physicians, I kept busy by observing the other man who was sharing my treatment room. Cornelius visited with him and told me that he had gastronitis. A nurse came in an gave him an injection in the rear, after which he exclaimed in Russian, “I’m cured!” He and the nurse then argued over the uselessness of the injection. I gave the man a piece of Bazooka Joe bubble gum and he offered me a drink from his juice bottle. I declined his well-meaning offer.

Somebody finally made a decision that the hospital would treat me. First they brought me a small vial of German pills. They were a mixture of pinks and whites that included whole pills and pieces of pills. Next a nurse stabbed my finger for a blood sample with what appeared to be a very used small razor blade. I was then sent to a small, smelly restroom to provide a urine sample. At about that point I was invited to spend the night in the hospital, but I passed on the offer, preferring to die at the hotel instead. At least the hotel might get my body home!

Cornelius and I discussed the situation as we left the hospital. He cautioned me to take the pills at my own peril, and promised that we would find an American clinic the next day. Outside I noticed with some alarm that our ambulance had departed during our protracted stay in the treatment room. Cornelius told me not to worry, that we would simply hitchhike back to our hotel. He said there were many owners of small cars, generally Ladas, who cruised the Moscow streets at night freelancing as taxis.

Why not, I thought. As we walked casually off into the Russian night, I whistled an old tune that had suddenly come to mind, Midnight in Moscow.

I had come to Russia to get a firsthand view of how their social services operated. While my friends from the tour watched trapeze artists and dancing bears, I had a close encounter with the Russian medical system. I learned a great deal that night and did not regret missing the circus. I was destined to visit several clinics in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and even hitchhike from one of those clinics to the Kremlin (during daylight!) on my own. My trip was not ruined by the theft of my medications, it was enhanced. I was truly able to experience Russia!

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Shifting Sands Haiku

by Rocky Macy

Torrents of cold rain
Sweep across the arid land
Soaking it to life.

Desert sentinel
The mighty Saguro stands
Quietly watching.

Lonely cactus rose
Perched upon a windswept grave
Breeding life from dust.

Deadly sidewinder
Sliding through the sun-baked rocks
Seeking out the shade.

The watering hole
Draws a thirsty crowd at dusk
To taste renewal.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rusty Pails #13
Beans and Politics

by Rocky Macy

The Tuesday special at the Spit ‘n Whittle CafĂ© is always brown beans and cornbread. Finer eating can’t be found anywhere!

Judge Rufus T. Redbone and I were holed up in the corner booth last Tuesday discoursing on the times as we each downed our second bowl of the house specialty. The Judge, a marvel to watch in any situation, can shovel beans and spit out slander with the most seasoned of politicians.

“Rusty,” the Judge said as he pushed aside his empty bowl and wiped the bean juice from his chin with a paper napkin, “there’s something I’ve been meaning to talk to you about.”

Sensing that I was about to be tapped for a political donation, I began to mentally rummage through my file of hard luck stories. “Oh?” I responded, stalling for time.

“Me and some of the boys around town have been talking, and we think maybe you could be pulling a bigger share of the civic duty around here.”

“Now wait just a durned minute!” My pot was beginning to boil. “Old Rusty’s a good citizen! I heed the laws – leastways the important ones! And I always pay my taxes – sooner or later!”

“What we want,” he said calmly, “is for you to run for mayor of Sprung Hinge.”

When my power to speak returned, all I could think of to say was “Where in tarnation did you ever come up with a dumb idea like that?”

“Nothing dumb about it, Rusty. We figure you’ve got more friends than just about anybody in town.”

“And I’d like to keep ‘em, too.”

“There’s no pay, so it won’t affect your tax status.”

“Well, I don’t think…”

“You don’t have to! All the mayor does is sign proclamations and hand out keys to the city. Why,” the Judge continued, “any fool could do it!”

“Then I’m qualified.” I smiled at the Judge, trying to impart the notion that I was warming to his proposition. “Leastways, I have one important political asset.”

“And what would that be?” he asked.

“Gas!” We both laughed as he slid the check over to my side of the table. I might have to run for cover or run for the border, but I’ll never run for office!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

10 Things I Hate About Billary

1. Sense of Entitlement: Some commentators noted in 2000 that George W. Bush approached the Presidency as though it was something owed to him, a graduation gift perhaps. Billary approaches it in the same manner. She has waited patiently, caused a few potholes in New York to be fixed, and cast every Senate vote in a manner that would play well in a general election. Now, it’s her turn, and how dare anyone try to derail her destiny!

2. Manipulation: The National Democratic Party decided to boycott Michigan and Florida for their insistence on having primaries before Super Tuesday. Obama and Edwards had their names removed from the Michigan primary ballot in support of the national party. Billary did not, and, not surprisingly, “won” that primary because she was the only big name left on the ballot. Then she used that “victory” for bragging rights. As soon as Billary lost in South Carolina, Big Bill started talking about the next primary and how she would redeem herself there. The next primary was Florida, where all Democratic candidates had agreed not to campaign and where, like Michigan, no delegates were to be awarded. Billary had two fundraisers in Florida immediately preceding the election, and announced she would fly to Florida when the polls closed to thank her supporters. The whole circus was framed as a victory party. Now she is whining about the unfairness of not counting the Michigan and Florida delegates. Puh…leese!

3. Lobbyists: While Barack Obama and John Edwards were able to honestly claim that they did not accept contributions from lobbyists, Billary pointed out that “lobbyists are people, too.” She has single-handedly accepted more money from lobbyists than any other candidate from either party. What kind of health care plan can we expect from someone who is owned by the pharmaceutical and medical industries? K Street whores should ply their trade in the streets like their working class counterparts – not in the Oval Office.

4. Experience: Billary loves to rattle on about her thirty-five years of experience. She does have a lot of experience, but it is certainly not all laudable. How about her experience in the White Water land shenanigans? Or her experience in the White House with Travel Gate? Maybe she would like to spotlight her experience in maiming the working class as a Wal-Mart Corporate Board Member. And let’s not forget her experience in the 1993 health care fiasco. A big part of Billary’s “experience” can be more accurately looked at as “baggage.”

5. Race-Baiting: Billary's main political tactic in the South Carolina Primary seemed to be reminding everyone that Obama is black. Unfortunately for her, she offended a big part of what should have been her natural constituency. This is America in the 21st century, not Arkansas in the 1980’s. Billary should be ashamed, and Big Bill should be caned!

6. Truthfulness: Billary met Sir Edmund Hillary in Nepal several years ago. She told him that her mother had named her after him in order to inspire greatness in her daughter. Big Bill even recounted the meeting and that statement in his autobiography. The problem with that story is that Sir Edmund Hillary was a virtual unknown before he climbed Mt. Everest in 1953. Billary was born in 1947. Whoops! When that inconsistency was pointed out to her, Billary blamed the whole mix-up on her poor, old mother. What a piece of work!

7. Dramatic Ability: A few tears and a breaking voice bought her New Hampshire. Will the same tactic work at a heated conference with world leaders? Will it make a crisis go away?

8. Testosterone Level: In an effort to prove that she has cajones the size of coconuts, Billary voted to allow Bush to use force against Iraq for its involvement in 9/11, or its on-going manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction, or any other fiction that caught the President’s fancy. General election voters needed to know that she was as tough (and as dumb) as any man!

9. Refusal to Admit Mistakes: Billary moans and groans about the awfulness of the war in Iraq, but she just can’t bring herself to admit that her vote enabling the President to take our troops into this foolish misadventure was a mistake.

10. Tendency to Polarize: Rightly or wrongly, Billary is a lightening rod. People love her or hate her – there is no middle ground. She is the one person capable of coalescing this year’s Republican mess into an effective political organization. They all hate Billary!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rusty Pails #12
Shadetree Mike Moves In

by Rocky Macy

When Ermine’s mother, “The Duke,” comes to visit, it’s usually only a matter of minutes before the Dean of Dominoes shows up, bag and baggage, on my front stoop. It happened again just last Saturday.

“Why she always has to storm the beach on Saturdays is beyond me, Rusty.” Shadetree Mike, one of the world’s finer examples of success-without-sweat, dropped his luggage at my feet and made a beeline for the coffee pot.

“Come in,” I said, watching Mike root through the cabinet for a clean cup.

“The woman has no consideration!” Setting his full cup of steaming coffee aside to cool, Mike took the lid off of the skillet and began poking through what was left of breakfast. Somehow I knew that the old tomcat who panhandles my neighborhood every morning would miss out on his sausage today. Between mouthfuls, Mike continued, “No consideration at all! Saturday is my busiest day!”

My mind nearly stripped its gears trying to conjure up an image of Mike busy on any day. “Would you like a plate?” I offered, as he reached into the cabinet and pulled one from the bottom of the stack.

“The woman’s a menace, Rusty!” Mike yelled through the Melmac avalanche that was pouring from the cabinet. He emptied the contents of the skillet onto his plate, and wading through the dishes, made his way over to the couch. “Say, Rusty, what time does the big game start?”

Taking my cue, I turned on the television. After adjusting the rabbit ears and carrying Mike’s coffee in from the kitchen, I asked rather stupidly if he needed anything else.

“You got any popcorn, Rusty? A game just ain’t a game without popcorn.”

“No, I don’t, Mike, but I’ll rush right out and get some.” The starch in my collar was beginning to melt.

“And root beer. None of that canned stuff. Real root beer – in a bottle!”

“Be right back,” I promised, grabbing my hat and heading for the door. I bolted from the porch into the fresh morning air with every intention of coming back – say about Tuesday!

Somewhere out there Heck Frye was wanting me to drop by and take him to a sale. Or maybe Judge Rufus T. Redbone was looking for a co-conspirator for one of his addle-brained schemes. (A day with a politician would be better than being Shadetree Mike’s personal maid.) If all else failed, I might even take in a movie with Ermine and “The Duke” – then we could all enjoy our day off together!

Are you listening, Ermine?

Auction Tip: Never let yourself be intimidated into bidding more for an item that you think it is worth. Remember, you’re there to purchase merchandise at the best possible price, not to impress people with your spending ability.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Fat Tuesday

Today is America's Presidental Primary from sea to shining sea, with voters from twenty-some odd states trying to sort out the candidates. It's late. California has just gone into the Billary column, the the all-important delegate count seems to be a toss-up. So the Democrats march on. And as for those other guys: McCain had a good night. Huckabee had a good night. Romney needs to say "good night."

Today is also Fat Tuesday, the height of the Mardi Gras Carnival in places like New Orleans and Rio de Janiero. It the last chance for devout Catholics to eat and drink to excess before entering the fasting season of Lent.

Two carnivals on one day. It just doesn't get any better than that!

Say good night, Mitt.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Obama's Mamas

Barack Obama has had some stellar endorsements within the past few weeks, and surprisingly, at least to me, several have come from Hillary Clinton’s strongest demographic: middle-aged and older white females.

Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg endorsed the Illinois senator a couple of weeks ago in an editorial in the New York Times. She said that she came to that decision after listening to her three teenage children, Rose, Tatianya, and Jack, who felt that Obama offered America the kind of optimistic challenges that their grandfather had put forth in 1960. Kennedy Schlossberg immediately went out on the campaign trail with the candidate adding the luster of her presence to the vitality of his.

Clare McCaskill, Missouri’s newest U.S. Senator and a rising star in her own right, has endorsed Obama and is featured in some of his national television commercials. McCaskill said that she, too, was influenced by the excitement that his campaign instilled in young people, particularly her own daughter.

Governor Janet Napolitano of Arizona climbed on the Obama bandwagon several weeks ago. She helped him campaign in Nevada and Arizona, and has done television commercials for the candidate. Napolitano, a dynamo in her own right, has energized the Obama campaign in the Southwest.

Governor Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas endorsed Obama, a Kansas native. Sebelius is a strong Democratic political figure in the very red state of Kansas. She is also the daughter of a former governor of Ohio, the popular John J. Gilligan.

Three of Bobby Kennedy’s children endorsed Billary, but Mama knows best. Ethel Kennedy, ignoring her wayward offspring, threw her Camelot clout to Barack Obama.

The Governor of California may have cast his lot with John McCain, but California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver Schwarzenegger, a Kennedy cousin, walked onto the stage at an Obama rally this weekend and announced her endorsement of him. Oh, to be a fly on the wall in the California Governor’s Mansion!

And then there are two other endorsements that, while they do not come from the ranks of middle-aged white females, do bear a significant influence on that particular demographic. Oprah, an enthusiastic Obama supporter, is clearly one of the most influential women in the world, and her opinion matters – especially to women.

The second endorsement of note comes from Garrison Keillor, the creator and host of the radio program, A Prairie Home Companion. Keillor’s radio persona is beloved by millions, especially older Americans – of both sexes. His character hails from Lake Woebegone, Minnesota, where “the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average.” And Keillor’s women are indeed strong, but their hearts (or at least his) belong to Obama.

It must be mentioned that not every notable middle-aged white woman has jumped The Good Ship Billary to endorse Obama. One case in point is the anorexic, hate-mongering hag – Ann Coulter. Coulter has threatened that if John McCain is the Republican nominee, she will campaign for the “more conservative” Hillary Clinton. That should knock Billary down ten or twenty points in the polls!

Go, go! Go, Johnny go!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Super Bowl Sunday

Yesterday morning I witnessed a rare bit of symmetry while looking skyward: the Goodyear Blimp putting lazily over Goodyear, Arizona. That sighting was as close as I got, or wanted to get, to the Super Bowl circus.

This morning I went to the local grocery to do some quiet Sunday morning shopping. Surely the rest of the world would be in church or sleeping off their Saturday night reveleries. The first hint that I had misunderestimated (one of my favorite Bushisms!)the situation was when I went to get a cart and found that they were all gone. The store was alive with grabby shoppers filling their carts with steaks, charcoal, beer, wine, chips, and other items for their Super Bowl parties.

It's sad that most of these hometown football fanatics can't afford the price of a ticket to get into the stadium that their tax dollars built.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Rusty Pails #11
The Passing of Mr. Pails

by Rocky Macy

It’s “men only” when the gang and I take off for a week of fishing – no exceptions! And Esther Pearl, the best angler in Sprung Hinge, always gets furious. Our latest trip was no exception, but this time Esther had her revenge.

‘Long about the middle of the week, as we were sitting around the campfire playing cards with some college kids, it suddenly became clear that we had plunged into the morass of financial embarrassment. After learning the next morning that my credit card was expired, it became necessary to phone Esther and grovel for some help.

Esther wired the money from the Bank of Sprung Hinge while tearfully lamenting to all within earshot that poor Rusty was expired and the boys needed money to bring him home. Her wallpapering of the facts was so good that several of the bank tellers made personal contributions!

That Friday night when we returned I found a copy of The Sprung Hinge Weekly Squeak tied to a beautiful wreath that was hanging on my front screen door – both, no doubt, gifts of Esther. And that wasn’t all! Several nice potted plants had been left on the porch as well. Truman and Shadetree Mike moved them to one side while the Judge and Heck helped me carry in the gear. As I sat down and read the paper, the others gathered around. This was the lead story:

The Passing of Mr. Pails
by Eppie Taft, Obituary Editor

Word quickly spread through our hamlet this week of the death of Mr. Rusty Pails. Mr. Pails, still in the prime of his bachelorhood, succumbed to an unknown malady while on a fishing trip with friends.

Mr. Pails was retired, though from what is uncertain. He had lived his entire adult life in a nice cabin at the edge of town. Rusty Pails was best known for his attendance at local auctions.

Expressions of grief have poured in from near and far. A moratorium has been placed on local auctions until after the funeral, and Ermine down at the Pump and Git has vowed to retire Rusty’s chair at the domino table. Arrangements for the funeral and estate sale have yet to be announced, but a large crowd is expected for the sale.

“Imagine that!” Shadetree Mike fumed as I finished the article. “She can’t retire your chair. I’ve got a waiting list!”

“So do I, Mike,” I replied, “and Esther Pearl is the first name on it!”

Friday, February 1, 2008

First Friday

Downtown Phoenix hosts a large street fair on the first Friday evening of each month. Local artisans set up tables along the streets for several blocks and sell their wares: paintings, t-shirts, jewelry, food, and lots of novelties. I have some friends from work who have been First Friday vendors for the past several months. Tonight I joined them there and had a very nice time ambling along the streets and checking out the fun and merchandise. There were also several street musicians performing, petitions being passed to get the Green Party on the ballot, and some die-hard Ron Paul supporters promoting their candidate. It was a very neighborly affair.

The Met-Life blimp floated over the First Friday event. I assume that it is in town for the Super Bowl. There has been a marked uptick in traffic over the past few days.

Speaking of big bags of hot air, former President Clinton was in town last night pandering for his Missus. (I was so tempted to say "pimping," but I didn't want to get tacky!) The local newspaper reported that 2,400 turned out to see him. That same newspaper, The Arizona Republic, put the total for the Obama event the night before at 13,000. But, hey, who's counting!