Monday, March 31, 2014

Monday's Poetry: "Spring Rain"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

It's raining today in the Ozarks, off and on under dark skies, and the birds rush out to the feeder between each downpour.  They are used to the vagaries of rain.  I am not.

Today's rain is not a thunderstorm, just rain.  But the rain is to continue all week, and I am hopeful that I will get to enjoy some thunder and lightening while Mother Nature waters the lawns and fields.  The trees are budding out, and this water from above is a good thing.

It has been years, literally, since I have been around a real storm, one with the bang and roar of thunder and the ragged electric show of lightening.  It hardly ever rained in Phoenix, and when it did the sideshow of thunder and lightening never happened.  Oh, sometimes lightening could be seen off in the distant mountains, but never down in the Valley of Hell.  Our storms were made of dust.

The rain was far more abundant on Okinawa, but, again,while the rain might come in torrents, thunder and lightening were exceedingly rare.

When my children were growing up, we lived in an old, large house with a wrap-around porch where we would often sit on stormy nights and enjoy the nature's show.  Here, at my new home, I also have a great covered porch - and I can't wait for my first really good West Plains storm!

Here is how Sara Teasdale captured the magic of a spring storm:

Spring Rain
by Sara Teasdale

I thought I had forgotten, 
But it all came back again 
To-night with the first spring thunder 
In a rush of rain.

I remembered a darkened doorway 

Where we stood while the storm swept by, 
Thunder gripping the earth 
And lightning scrawled on the sky.

The passing motor busses swayed, 

For the street was a river of rain, 
Lashed into little golden waves 
In the lamp light's stain.

With the wild spring rain and thunder 

My heart was wild and gay; 
Your eyes said more to me that night 
Than your lips would ever say. . . .

I thought I had forgotten, 

But it all came back again 
To-night with the first spring thunder 
In a rush of rain. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Political Regurgitation in 2016?

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There was an article in the on-line Washington Post this morning which discussed the very likely event of yet another Bush seeking the White House.  This time, of course, the horse in the race will be former Florida governor Jeb Bush.  It is, after all, his turn.

The article, titled:  "Influential Republicans working to draft Jeb Bush into 2016 presidential race," began this way:

"Many of the Republican Party's most powerful insiders and financiers have begun a behind-the-scenes campaign to draft former Florida governor Jeb Bush into the 2016 presidential race, courting him and his intimates and starting talks on fundraising strategy."

The second paragraph noted that those Republican fat cats are "alarmed by the steady rise of Rand Paul."  After years of marginalizing Ron Paul as a kooky outsider, the party elders now have the deal with the son as a serious contender.

The remainder of the article noted that while the rich donors and party insiders are trying to entice Bush, he is also playing them - making speeches and raising money for Republican candidates, issuing policy statements, and appearing in all of the right places and at all of the right events.  It would seem that Bush and the party bigwigs are courting each other.

It would be a laughable situation if not for the fact that the Democratic Party also seems hellbent on going with a family member of a former President.  Not only is the entire situation not laughable, it is awfully damned sad.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

PBS and NPR, Ozarks Style

by Pa Rock
Ozarks Resident

Everyday I discover more things that make me feel like I made a good decision in retiring back to the Ozarks, but there are some drawbacks, and those are also becoming apparent.

The two biggest disappointments I have encountered so far are the public television station and the National Public Radio outlet.  As someone who has moved several times over the past few years, I know that the quality of these services varies greatly from community to community, but usually one or the other is at least acceptable.  That is barely the case here.

Both services, the public radio and television, originate in Springfield and are associated with Missouri State University.  The television station offers some standard public television fare, but it also extends to programs that lean toward being info-mercials:  Suze Orman, for example.   The biggest shortcoming, at least to my way of thinking, is that it doesn't carry any of the wonderful British comedies that appear on many PBS stations.

The worst National Public Radio station that I had experienced prior to moving here was the one in Nashville, Tennessee.  You would think that "Music City" would have a wealth of local artists and tunes from which to populate its airwaves, but that station instead played classical music all day long - and it wasn't even good classical music.  So dry, so boring.

The local NPR station here also focuses on classical music, hours and hours of second-tier classical music.  (By comparison, my local station in Phoenix,  played jazz every evening - something far more pleasurable and much less pretentious that this faux-sophisticated Ozarks fare.)

Fortunately, there is a radio alternative:  Nights with Alice Cooper!

I'll survive!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Six More Weeks of Confusion

by Pa Rock
Gentleman Farmer

Winter lingers in an on-again, off-again mode with a nasty day followed by a tolerable day, followed again by one is cold and wet.   Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow on February 2nd and accurately forecast six more weeks of winter.  But that deadline has come and gone, leaving spring sputtering to start.

Today I saw a groundhog.  As I stepped out onto my back porch, I spotted a medium-sized weather predictor slowly ambling out of the barn.   When Howl County Hal noticed me, at a distance of fifty yards or so, he turned and scampered back into the barn - leaving me to speculate that we are in for six more weeks of confusing weather.

I took another nice drive across the Ozarks today - this time to Springfield, Missouri, where I visited a Home Depot, Barnes and Noble, K-Mart, and concluded the day with dinner at the Longhorn Steakhouse with several friends from my days as a child protection worker in Missouri.  One of my friends is retiring after twenty-nine years of looking after Missouri's children and families.  Another is moving from the Branson area to Kirksville in the morning!  It was so good seeing those ladies and catching up on ten years worth of gossip!

All of those businesses were located on land that was cow pastures back when I was in college in Springfield.  The city is almost unrecognizable from what it was then.

I did buy some flower bulbs at the Home Depot.  If it is sunny tomorrow, I will be outside digging holes!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Things I Know

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I have a service which tracks traffic to this site, and from their reports I know that when I comment on news - domestic or international - more people visit the site that when I talk about life on the farm.  When I want to see a spike in visitors, a sure way to accomplish that is to mention the word "Obamacare."  Any remarks on that topic is a guaranteed crowd pleaser - or teaser.

But getting fired up over a national or international story seems infinitely more difficult now that I have retired.  I still scan the headlines of several publications each day, but seldom do I encounter anything that sets my blood to boiling.

I know that Malaysian airliner is still missing, and, as predicted here, there are those mumbling about a conspiracy with a covered-up hijacking.  And while it might be fun to stir that pot a time or two, the sad truth is that it's a mighty big ocean, and the odds weigh heavily toward that plane being somewhere at the bottom of it.

I know that the President of the United States met with the Pope at the Vatican, and that most of the pictures of them at that encounter showed the two men smiling or laughing.  Apparently they hit it off very well.  The Republican Party, which had considered the Catholic Church its personal fiefdom, isn't too happy with a free-wheeling and free-thinking Pope, and certain party leaders are now yammering on saying that the Pope really is no liberal.  No, he's far from an Adlai Stevenson or a Eugene McCarthy - but he is also an entirely different breed of Catholic than his predecessor, Pope Ratzinger.  Praise Jesus!

I know that you can no longer register comments at the Huffington Post without a Facebook account.  (What's with that affront to civilization, Arianna?)  I know that Karen Handel is going to lose the Republican senate primary in Georgia, I know that Alan Grayson will email me at least once a day begging for money, and I know that Rush Limbaugh is still a shameless windbag.

I know not to shop at Hobby Lobby, Walmart, Chick-fil-A, Olive Garden, Red Lobster, Papa John's, or any other place that espouses right-wing nonsense or mistreats its employees.

I know lots of stuff, and can prattle on with ease - but the fire just isn't igniting.  (Maybe its the chilly weather.)

I would rather talk about my newest issue of "Backyard Poultry" which arrived today, or comment on the fact that I have finished unpacking - though not organizing - my house, or discuss old friends and past lives which I will be reliving at a dinner tomorrow night in Springfield, or describe the birds that are hopping about and feeding beneath the window where I am typing.

My head, heart, and soul are slowly disconnecting from the stream of angst that makes the world spin, and my focus is narrowing to ten acres in south-central Missouri.   I suspect that once my life here gets organized, my concern for the macro problems of mankind may reassert itself, but until the fire flares once again, this space may read more like a farm journal.    Bear with me.

And . . . Obamacare!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Of Mongrels and Trained Apes: Republican Racism Rolls On

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

This week Donald Rumsfield, an unindicted war criminal, made news when he declared (to Fox, of course) that a "trained ape" could get a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan.  The unspoken implication was that because the Obama administration has not gotten a status of forces agreement with Afghanistan, the President of the United States and his team are therefore less competent than a trained ape.

The key word, the one that Runsfield wanted heard, was "ape."  Ape, monkey, Sambo, Obama.  Never forget, America, he's different - at least different from the people who watch Fox.

Last month Ted Nugent, an aging rocker whose service to America has been less than stellar, (in fact, it has stinked, stank, stunk - like a pair of crap-filled jeans), referred to the President as a "mongrel."  Mongrel, not a pure breed, white mother, black father, African, Sambo, Obama.

And then there was the federal judge from Montana, a Republican, who sent out an email "joke" which had a punchline suggesting that the President's mother had sex with dogs.  (Maybe that's where Nugent got the idea for his "mongrel" line.)

The President is different, America, and certain people must keep reminding us that he's different in plain name-calling, image-creating terms - because they aren't bright enough to attack his intellect.

Mr. Runsfield, it's a shame that you or your boss didn't have the services of a trained ape a dozen years ago.  A thoughtful hairy primate might have kept us out of you're never-ending war!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Hitchcock Moments

by Pa Rock
Bird Watcher

It's still cold in the Ozarks.  Daytime temperatures are in the forties, and at night they dip below freezing.  It's not unmanageably cold, but it is uncomfortable - especially for someone who was living in the Arizona desert until a few short weeks ago.

I am concentrating on unpacking and getting the house in order when I would much rather be outside.  A couple of times a day I go outside to take empty boxes to the garage, or to pick up sticks and branches that have blown down from the numerous trees on the property.  I have two brush piles, an older one when has been on the back acreage for a long time, and a newer one that I started when I was back here doing yard work last fall.  The new one is closer to the house, and it already is home to some small birds who fly out each time I through more brush on their sanctuary.  They are nesting, one must suppose.

I'm a big believer in brush piles.  They provide shelter and places of safety for small creatures.

I have put out four squirrel feeders for the many gray squirrels who scamper about the yard, but the squirrels, two weeks on, have not found any of them.  I am driven to suspect that my neighborhood squirrels must be the dutmbest in Howell County.  (But, in their defense, the ground is covered with acorns and hickory nuts, so the ears of dried corn may not be all that appetizing - yet.)

(Local novelist Daniel Woodrell refers to this as "Howl" County.  I like that.)

I also have bird feeders in the front and back yards.  The one in the front yard hangs from a small tree that is just outside of the window where I type.  I have it filled with a mixture of "wild bird" feed.  So far it has attracted many small birds which appear to be some type of sparrows, a pair of mourning doves who visit daily, a pair of cardinals, a small woodpecker (not to be confused with the local - and far more numerous - peckerwoods) who comes every day and also wakes me up in the mornings, and a few common grackles who enjoy the sunflower seeds in the mixture.

Several robins have also been by looking for live food - bugs and worms.

The feeder in the back yard was put up by the previous owners so they could sit outside and enjoy the birds as they had their morning coffee - or evening beer.  I put sunflower seeds in it a week or so ago, and it was immediately swarmed by a small group of grackles.  Most days I feed them one large cup of sunflower seeds, but they have been known to eat two.

Today I took a break from unpacking and went to the back door to take a quick look at the grackles at the feeder.  Normally ten or fifteen congregate there, and then fly off whenever I open the door.  When I pulled the curtain back to look out today, I had quite a surprise.  The yard and beyond was blanketed in common grackles, and more were flying down every moment.  There had to have been several hundred of the shiny black birds scratching and pecking for food on the ground.  Soon they rose as a group and flew off.  I looked back out twenty minutes later, and they were there again.  Then when I sat down in front of the living room window to blog, they descended on the front yard.

What have I started?  How long before they begin bombarding the house demanding to be fed?

I think I'm beginning to identify with Tippi Hedren in the Hitchcock classic, "The Birds"!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Monday's Poetry: "A Grain of Sand"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's poem by Robert W. Service, one of my favorite poets, reminds us of how insignificant the earth and man are among all of the matter strewn across the heavens.  In the grand scheme of things, if such a thing exists, we are little more than a grain of sand.  And if a supernatural deity controls our lives and environments, then surely the heavens must be cluttered with countless Gods.

A little perspective can be a sobering experience.

A Grain of Sand
by Robert W. Service

If starry space no limit knows
And sun succeeds to sun,
There is no reason to suppose
Our earth the only one.
'Mid countless constellations cast
A million worlds may be,
With each a God to bless or blast
And steer to destiny.

Just think!  A million gods or so
To guide each vital stream.
With over all to boss the show
A Deity supreme.
Such magnitudes oppress my mind;
From cosmic space it swings;  
So ultimately glad to find
Relief in little things.

For look!  Within my hollow hand,
While round the earth careens,
I hold a single grain of sand
And wonder what it means.
Ah!  If I had the eyes to see,
And brain to understand,
I think Life's mystery might be
Solved in this grain of sand.

Sunday, March 23, 2014


by Pa Rock
Birthday Boy

Sixty-six is a number of some significance in the recent history of America.  It was, of course, the number of the "mother road," the famous Route 66 -  a road that I traversed from Joplin to California in my childhood days.  Many of the cars that raced up and down Route 66 did so while using Phillips 66 gasoline.    And then there was the year of my high school graduation:  1966.

Today I have reached the age of sixty-six, and considering my advanced years, I feel fairly good.    My plan is to push on toward seventy-six, a number associated with the birth of our nation and the trombone section of the River City marching band.

Sixty-six is also the age at which I am eligible for full social security benefits.  I received a form letter from those nice folks this week telling me that my first check would arrive at the end of April.  Bring it on!

My middle-aged children went together and bought me a beautiful grandfather clock for my birthday.  I was truly surprised and very pleased.   The chimes are so pleasant, putting me in mind of a church somewhere off in the distance.  Additionally, my oldest son and his girlfriend and his son (my oldest grandchild) came over and barbecued brats and burgers.    A nice time was had by all!

I'm not certain if my kids are old enough to remember the world's most famous grandfather clock - the one belonging to Captain Kangaroo.  In fact, the Captain's clock was named "Grandfather Clock," and the Captain managed to rudely awaken Grandfather Clock at least once during every show.  Beyond that I do not remember much about either of the old gentlemen.

I was more of a Mr. Greenjeans fan.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A Sad End to a Mean Life

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Fred Phelps, the hate-mongering pastor of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, died this week.   His family has announced that there will be no funeral service.

Phelps, who was also a disbarred attorney and former civil rights activist, had been focused on fighting against gay rights since 1991 when he and his family members (who comprise most of the membership of the Westboro Baptist Church) began picketing a Topeka park that was supposedly frequented by gay individuals.   In 1998 the family gained national attention when they protested at the funeral of slain Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.

The funeral protests became a staple of the Phelps' family traveling homophobia show.  They targeted the funerals of celebrities such as Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, entertainer Michael Jackson, and U.S. Senator and presidential candidate Barry Goldwater.   During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan Fred Phelps and his family became especially reviled when they began protesting at the funerals of American military members.

The Phelps' family homophobic screed has been available for years at

Recent reports indicate that 84-year-old Fred Phelps had been excommunicated by the church that he founded, though the secretive organization has not confirmed or denied the story, nor is any explanation available regarding the excommunication.

It was a sad ending for Fred Phelps - a man of flawed faith was denied the spiritual send-off of a funeral.  The family may have feared protests and heckling by people who had been offended for years by the Phelps' family disruptions of the funerals of others - and undoubtedly a funeral service for Fred Phelps would have attracted news media and some noisy spectators.

But they may have also feared the opposite - that few would show, and by staying away demonstrate the respect and decency that Fred and his relatives continually denied to the grieving relatives of others.

Matthew Shepard's mother, Judy, issued the following statement:

"Regarding the passing of Fred Phelps, Dennis and I know how solemn these moments are for anyone who loses a loved one.  Out of respect for all people and our desire to erase hate, we've decided not to comment further."

Clearly, when compared to Fred Phelps and his hateful spawn, Judy Shepard is the better person.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Obamacare, Stay Strong!

by Pa Rock
Easy Target

After spending several days preparing my tax information for the tax preparer - a good part of which was determining medical expenses related to my heart surgery of March 19th, 2013, - and finishing the project and turning it in - I returned home today to find another damned bill.  The hospital sent it along with a snarky note telling me to get it paid within seven business days.

They can take more than a year to get it to me, but they want my money in seven days or less.  What could be more fair than that?

I called the billing department and fifteen minutes later had a human on the line.  She began her spiel by telling me that the call was being recorded for "quality assurance," which is French for "if you cuss me or yell, I will have it on tape."  No pressure.

The sweetie, and she was extraordinarily nice, could not explain the bill nor make a clear history of where all this particular account had been and for how long at each stop.  Apparently my insurance had been billed in March and made payment in May.  Then Medicare was milked billed in either October or December, and made a payment in December.   Then the bill went to live with Jesus for three months before being sent on to me - along with a thinly veiled threat to get it paid ASAP.

Here is how medicine works - and it has nothing to do with President Obama.  Primary care physicians make as many referrals to specialists as possible, often within their own medical group, and the insurance gets hit at every stop.  The consumer (patient) also makes a co-pay at each stop and believes his doctor is sending him to specialists out of concern for his health and welfare.   Physicians direct patients to particular hospitals.  One sent me to a hospital a year ago who, it turns out, was on the governing board of that facility.  Hospitals often appear to be independent institutions, but tend to actually be owned by large corporations or churches whose motives are more about making money and/or achieving political aims than actual medical care.

(After doing a fair amount of sniffing around, I learned that the hospital where I was treated last year is part of a Baptist chain.  It's not on their literature, or in their name - but it is a Baptist hospital.  I would never, ever, EVER knowingly have allowed myself to be treated in a facility controlled by Baptists -  a group that I consider to be wrong on most of the major political and moral issues of the day.)

Doctors also have political agendas.  I have written in this space previously about two of mine who were far more concerned with scuttling Obamacare than they were with my health.  One of the greedy bastards even had the gall to ask me what I thought about Obamacare while I was lying on his office operating table with an open wound on my back - and I told him anyway!

I paid the damned bill.  (I just wish I could have had it during 2013 when it would have been of some minor benefit on my taxes.)  I was assured by Sweetie that it would be the last bill from the hospital.  (She assured me of that after about three attempts of me trying to pin her down.)  Now, when the next bill arrives, I do have her first name and extension number handwritten on the current bill - and a fat lot of good that will do me!

Okay, I've vented my spleen - and, Dr. Rand Paul, you can put my pithy opinion in your straw poll and smoke it!  Now its time to start filling out those Internet customer reviews on the hospital.  I will probably be more charitable than it's Texas-based billing department was with me, but not much!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Driving the Ozarks

by Pa Rock
Traveling Fool

I made a trek across northwest Arkansas this morning and into southwest Missouri where I had to check up on a couple of rental properties and a few old friends.  It is the first day of spring, and the scenery along the way was accordingly beautiful.

The trip was pleasurable, though uneventful.  I drove through small towns, past flea markets and roadside quilt shops, and by a couple of herds of little goats.   Interspersed among all of the Walmart trucks clogging up the roads were farmers taking their cattle to market, mini-buses taking senior citizens to market, and tourists soaking up the scenery.  I did see some sort of emergency drill on the public square of Yellville, Arkansas.  (Isn't that a great name for a town!)

The low point of the day was lunch at Braum's in Springdale, Arkansas.  Braum's was always my dad's favorite place to eat and is somewhat of a mecca for us old farts.  I hadn't even seen a Braum's in a decade, so when I came upon the one in Springdale I decided to stop.  I had a burger - and regretted it.  Who puts mayo on a burger?  And there was enough vegetation between the buns to clog a composter.

But it was great seeing old friends this afternoon and catching up.

Tonight I am at my sister's new home in Fayetteville, Arkansas - go Razorbacks!   Gail has a 65-inch flat screen television.  Watching it puts me in mind of olden days at the local drive-in theatre!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Squawking the Squawk

by Pa Rock
Chicken Farmer

My life, of late, has been divided into three distinct segments:  unpacking and getting my new home organized, sorting through last year's receipts in order to get ready for the tax preparer, and making plans for the farming portion of this country residence -basically in that order.

The unpacking is far from finished, but I do have a basic arrangement set up in each room and have established paths among the boxes.  I finished organizing the tax materials today and will drive them to my preparer in southwest Missouri tomorrow.   Now, with those two elements somewhat under control, I can turn my attentions to the out-of-doors.

There is a nice little chicken coop on the farm which has an indoor nesting area and a small fenced-in piece of land for exercise and scratching for bugs.   Grown chickens can also work the yard for bugs during the day, and then head to the coop for safety at night.

Today I placed my chick order at one of the local feed stores.  Delivery will be April 22nd, and I am anxious for the big arrival.  In the meantime I will clean the coop, put in a few more nesting boxes and a couple of automatic feeders and waterers, and spread a lot of clean straw.

The main part of the order was for Rhode Island Reds, one of the more common breeds that is known for being good layers and having calm dispositions.  I have twenty-five pullets (females) on order and three cockerels (males, roosters).   Roosters are fun to have around for their blustering, skirmishes, and endless crowing.  When the hens eventually begin to get broody and want to hatch out families of their own, the services of a rooster are essential.

I also ordered four turkeys, the bronze, broad-breasted breed that are often depicted in Pilgrim scenes.  The turkeys were ordered "straight-run" which means that gender will be a crap shoot.   Hopefully, both toms and hens will be represented when the order arrives.  Straight-runs are the most inexpensive way to buy poultry, especially chickens.   Many buyers have a preference for pullets, leaving an abundance of unwanted little roosters.  In a straight-run, all of the chicks are herded into shipping boxes together and every bird gets a home.

The local feed store offered a good variety of birds through their supplier.  Sadly, that supplier does not sell guineas or peacocks - two of my favorite farm birds.  Sounds are a unique part of a farm, and guineas and peacocks both add a lot to the rural soundtrack.  Guineas will roost in the trees and set up quite a ruckus when anyone comes onto the property after dark.  They are also great tick hunters.

Come see me in the fall.  I will send you home with farm-fresh eggs!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Obamacare Saves Lives

by Pa Rock
Healthcare Recipient

The Affordable Care Act, better known as "Obamacare," was signed into law by the President whose name it bears on my 62nd birthday, March 23, 2010.  This coming Sunday it will have been the law of the land for four years.  Over five million people have signed up for the program so far, many in states like Kentucky whose legislators constantly belittle the program and untiringly fight for its repeal.

The Republican members of Congress have voted a shameful fifty-two times to get rid of this life-saving and very humane piece of legislation.

I am not enrolled in Obamacare.  I have "good" healthcare insurance through my former employer, and my Medicare Part B card arrived in the mail today.   (Thank you, LBJ!)   I am, like all of the members of Congress, one of the lucky ones.  The difference between myself and most of the Republican Congress creatures is that I understand the Christian ethic of taking care of those whose lives have not been as fortunate as mine.   I see people in need;  Republicans see moochers.  My lens is compassion, theirs is greed.

Last year, in fact - one year ago tomorrow, I underwent open-heart surgery.  I don't know what the total bills amounted to because my "good" insurance stepped in and picked up most of the costs.  But even with the help from the insurance company, the bills that I had to pay just kept on coming.  Today, as I was preparing my taxes, I tallied up those bills.  The total was just below six thousand dollars.  Six-thousand-out-of-pocket dollars!  And that was with good insurance.

If I hadn't had the insurance, I would not have been able to have gone to the series of doctors who were able to diagnose my situation.  The emergency rooms would have given me the short shrift over the symptoms I was displaying.  I most likely would have died sometime during the past year.  I had good medical care - members of Congress undoubtedly have even better medical care.

So why can't we suck it up and allow poor people to have the chance of a few extra years with their loved ones?  They have loved ones, you know.  Why all of the hate-mongering when we should be rejoicing that government did something to benefit the least among us?  Didn't Jesus say something about treating others as we would like to be treated?

Now the Republicans are focused on taking the Senate.  So far the Senate has stood firm in pushing back the never-ending attempts to repeal Obamacare.  If the Senate falls, vote number sixty, or sixty-five, or seventy will pass and face a presidential veto.  Hopefully, they won't have the votes to override the veto because if they do, millions of Americans will suddenly find themselves back to skipping needed medical care or getting their care in the war zones commonly referred to as emergency rooms.

Losing Obamacare would be a big step backward.  It would be deadly.

There were people who didn't like the idea of Medicare either when it became law in the 1960's.  Eventually the program survived long enough to blossom into a popular staple of modern life..  Now people cherish their Medicare coverage, but many of those same beneficiaries of a government-funded medical program don't want others to have a similar opportunity for healthcare - at least not healthcare funded by the government.  The healthcare of members of Congress is, of course, ultimately funded by their employer - the federal government.


2014 may be a good year for Republicans - but 2016 won't be.

Hey Mitch, hey Orange John Boehner, hey every Republican slug in Congress - hunker down!  Hillary's coming!  We won't be giving up Obamacare, at least not without one hell of a fight!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Monday's Poetry: "Summer in the South"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Phil Groundhog of the Puxatony Groundhogs decreed on February 2nd that winter would last six more weeks.  If Phil is to be believed, the bad weather should have come to an end this past weekend.    Yet the curse of Phil doth linger.

But spring is coming, I believe that, and it will be followed by a perfect summer - a summer like the one in the poem below.  And it will be wonderful!

Summer in the South
by Paul Laurence Dunbar

The Oriole sings in the greening grove
As if he were half-way waiting,
The rosebuds peep from their hoods of green,
Timid, and hesitating.
The rain comes down in a torrent sweep
And the nights smell warm and pinety,
The garden thrives, but the tender shoots
Are yellow-green and tiny.
Then a flash of sun on a waiting hill,
Streams laugh that erst were quiet,
The sky smiles down with a dazzling
And the woods run mad with riot

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lingering Winter and an Ugly Woman of the Night

by Pa Rock

The slow rain last night in southern Missouri was followed by ice and snow flurries today.  It was a great day to stay inside and work on unpacking, and I used the time to do yeoman's work.  There is still lots to do, but I am beginning to sense that an end to it all is somewhere in the not-too-distant future.

Having just migrated from Arizona, the cold weather doesn't have me too beaten down, but the locals are reacting badly to this winter-without-end.   I've heard that the school kids have missed twenty-nine days of school due to the cold weather.   This week was spring break, a misnomer if there ever was one, and last week they missed four days due to the snow - and the entire week before that.  The days at home just keep piling up like the snow along the roads.

One of the things that I am enjoying here is nighttime radio.  Seventies' rocker Alice Cooper has a syndicated classic rock show - Nights with Alice Cooper - that is carried on the local station.  Cooper, who is two months older than me, seems to have held up well.  He has personal anecdotes about most of the musicians whose songs he plays, and is a very funny guy.

Last night I watched Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows" which stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter - a sensational comedic acting duo.  Alice Cooper has a cameo in that movie in which he performs  a couple of his songs - one of which is "No More Mister Nice Guy."  While he was singing on the grand staircase of the Collins' mansion, Depp (Barnabas Collins) stares across the crowded room and remarks, "That's the ugliest woman I've ever seen."  

What a great movie line!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mean and Crazy - or Hillary

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The very first installment of this blog, over 2,400 entries ago, was written in early November of 2007 and was entitled "Obama '08."  At that time it still looked as though the Democrats would nominate Hillary, but I, for one, was truly, truly tired of the Clinton's and the Bush's.

I am still tired of the Clinton's and the Bush's, yet both families look as though they could be represented on the 2016 presidential ballot.  Hillary, with the support of over two-thirds of Democrats, would appear to have a lock on the Democratic nomination if she chooses to run - and there is no reason whatsoever to imagine that she wouldn't - barring, of course, a medical crisis or Bill escaping from his handlers for an evening's frolic through a trailer park.

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, seems to be lusting after the Republican nomination, and he has finally convinced his mother to quit saying that the country doesn't need another Bush presidency.  Sadly for the Republican Party and the nation as a whole, Jeb appears to be the sanest and most electable horse in their stable.  (I read an article on the Internet today that declared Jeb to be the "Wall Street favorite.")

The remainder of the GOP crop of hopefuls are mean and crazy - and (hopefully) completely unelectable.  Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, who until recently was thought to be the front runner, has effectively managed to self-destruct after it was revealed that his administration caused intentional traffic jams as political payback.    Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin who managed to destroy the state employee's unions during his first few months in office, is now caught up in a political scandal that may derail his presidential aspirations.

Marco Rubio, the junior senator from Florida, is a Cuban America who tried to portray his family as fleeing Castro in the 1950's.  It turns out their flight to the United States pre-dated Castro and Rubio's dramatic narrative wouldn't hold a quart of cheap Cuban rum.   He was the darling of the tea party until he promoted a plan to create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants - a sin that will probably prove to be unforgivable.

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and an Indian-American, has managed to distract from his dark-skinned heritage by developing a backwoods Tennessee accent, and his rhetoric is hateful enough to earn a spot of respect among the GOP's most loyal wingnuts.  Still, he does not look like a traditional Republican.

Ted Cruz, a former Canadian with Cuban roots, has made a name for himself in just over two years in the United States Senate.  The Texas senator faults the President on basically everything, something that delights the party rabble, but he also has the annoying habit of criticizing other Republicans - and those hoary old white elephants don't forget.

Mike Huckabee, a former governor of Arkansas, Baptist minister, and current Fox talk show host, would have to give up his cushy television career in order to run, something he declined to do in 2012.  Huckabee can do moderate, in moderation, but when  expediency is called for, he can be as mean and crazy as the rest of the pack of jackals.

Rand Paul is the junior senator from Kentucky and the son of perennial Libertarian candidate Ron Paul.   Daddy's organization is fired up and ready to roll for Rand.  He recently won the straw poll at CPAC, making his the right wing  darling de jour.   Senator Paul is articulate and photogenic, and, by virtue of his Libertarian orthodoxy, not totally stupid on every issue.  My money says he is the most likely GOP nominee in 2016.

Those are the most talked about GOP candidates - a fine lot of middle-aged males.  The possible female candidates aren't really possibles.   Sarah Palin doesn't like to work and would rather be doing reality television - so she would be a very unlikely candidate.  Michele Bachmann has announced her intention not to run for re-election to Congress, and she is still putting out some brush fires and potential scandals from her last run for the Presidency.

But, as mentioned here a few days ago. there is one more potential female candidate on the horizon.   Jan Brewer, the governor of Arizona who has finally, and somewhat reluctantly, decided not to run for re-election this year (though the Arizona constitution bars her from doing so anyway), is making noises about getting into the race.    Ms. Brewer has built a reputation as an anti-immigrant crusader and poses as the drug cartel's greatest enemy.  She also has a keen sense of where the cameras and and which microphones are on.

Jan Brewer is even more polarizing than most of the other Republican contenders.  She might be someone's choice for Veep, under the assumption that she would draw females from Hillary.  That logic would be as faulty as when John McCain chose Sarah Palin to woo over Democratic women who were angry that Hillary didn't get the nomination in 2008.    The smart money is saying that Jan will tease the national media for awhile and then work on Arizona issues until 2016 when she will challenge John McCain for his senate seat.

So, Hillary, if you're in it to win it, this looks to be your race to lose.  Serve your eight and then clear out of the way so that George P. and Chelsea can have their turns.

What a country!

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Power and Persuasion of Numbers

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Tonight I am watching a most intriguing psychodrama starring Jim Carrey entitled "The Number 23."  It is a strange tale about a man who becomes obsessed with the number 23 and manages to find a connection between that number and almost everything in his life.  I was born on the 23rd of the month and always considered that to be my lucky number, so I have my own flimsy connection to the movie.

But something else happened today that also has he thinking about numbers.  I drive to town (a distance of two or three miles) once a day for an iced tea and to pick up whatever items that have made it onto my shopping list for the day.   This afternoon I made two stops.  The first was at a lumber yard where I purchased four screws, a small container of putty, and a plastic putty knife.  The total cost of my acquisitions was six dollars and nineteen cents - tax included.

My second stop was at Casey's General Store - the midwestern equivalent of Circle K.   There I bought my large iced tea, a hot ham and cheese sandwich, and one Missouri Lotto ticket.  The total cost, including tax?  Six dollars and nineteen cents.

Then I went home.

Other than probably needing to play that number in some lottery game, I am at a loss as to what this strange coincidence means.  Nothing?  Perhaps.   But it might possibly be the key to a psychic portal whose purpose is to lead me into a wild adventure or piles of wealth.  It could also have something to do with Juneteenth, the celebration of the day that the emancipation of slaves was announced in Texas:  June 19, 1865.

Fortunately, the numbers six and one and nine do not add up to twenty-three.  If they did, I would probably go hide under the bed!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Everything But a Talking Pig

by Pa Rock
Country Squire

Now that enough sorting and unpacking has been accomplished to at least have created paths through every room, I have begun to take advantage of the spring-like weather and sneak outside on occasion.

Today I put up a bird feeder that had remained unused since one of my kids gave it to me several years ago.  As of this evening, the birds still hadn't found it, but I suspect that by the time I get outside in the morning, it will be cafe central.  I also put up two squirrel feeders - the type where an ear of corn is screwed onto a small wooden platform that is screwed to a tree.  The ones I put up are very simple and look as though they could easily be constructed for under two dollars each - even using new wood.  The two I bought - the only two in town except possibly for Walmart - were fifteen dollars each!   Making squirrel feeders will likely be my next career move.

Yesterday was a bit cold, but otherwise the weather has been surprisingly pleasant.   I heard geese flying over last evening, presumably heading north.    So far there have been no deer sightings, but I am going to put out a salt block on the back five.

A neighborhood cat came through a couple of days ago, and Boone and I saw her run into the barn.  The neighbor told me that the cat was his, and she was out scouting for a place to have kittens.    And, as long as I am focused on animal tales, a neighborhood dog has been by to see me three times today.  He is a medium-sized black and white mutt who reportedly roams several miles a day and appears to be exceptionally street smart.  The first time he came by he barked and kept his distance, but by the third visit he was trying to get in the house.

Animals like me.

I have stopped by two of the local feed stores and learned the process for ordering baby chicks.  Their big order day is in two weeks, with delivery in mid-April.  Surprisingly, guineas aren't available through their supplier.  Guineas are great for patrolling the yard and eating insects, and they are also an amazing outdoor alarm system who put up quite a racket when their sleep is disturbed in the evenings.  Guineas are reportedly uncommon out here, but I will have a dozen or so even if I have to order directly from a national supplier.

The trash service has been set up, the satellite television service hooked up, and I am beginning to learn my way around town.  I think this retirement thing is going to work.

That's what's happening at Green Acres!  

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The End of an Error: Brewer Bows Out

by Pa Rock
Recent Arizonan

If a state can have a bowel movement, Arizona is about to experience a doozy!

Governor Jan Brewer announced today that she will not seek re-election this year, thus clearing the way for a tumultuous primary battle with a squad of other Republican nincompoops who will be slinging mud and javelina manure at each other in a grand effort to keep Arizona crazy.

Actually, poor old Jan could not have run anyway, so her decision not to is meaningless.  The Arizona constitution, which was written by God, decrees that no individual can serve more than two terms as governor.  Jan came into office when our last real governor, Janet Napolitano, resigned the office to become Secretary of Homeland Security.  Brewer served the remainder of that term and was then elected to a full term.  For the past year Governor Brewer has been yapping like a feral Maryvale chihuahua that the first term did not count because it was not "her" term and she did not serve the entire term.

She yapped, and yapped, and yapped - but a groundswell of public support never arose, so today the astute politician chose to magnanimously decline to run for re-election.

(I did see a trial balloon floated on the Internet this morning suggesting that Governor Brewer might now focus on running for President.  Please God, let that happen!)

In addition to all of the Arizona nincompoops trying to elbow their way into the governor's office, Hollywood has-been Steven Seagal also indicated that he would like to be governor of Arizona.  Seagal, who once killed an innocent dog with Joe Arpaio's military tank, would make a colorful candidate and help to insure Arizona's continuing place as a national laughingstock.

Break out the root beer and popcorn.  It looks like it's gearing up to be a fun summer in the Scorpion State!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Next Big Conspiracy Theory

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Twitter was aflame for awhile last night with an interesting conspiracy theory regarding he Malaysian passenger airliner that disappeared a couple of days ago somewhere over the Pacific Ocean.  The Boeing 777 carrying 239 people, four of whom were Americans, went silent while in flight between Malaysia and Vietnam.  Forty planes, including some from the U.S. military, have been searching the area, but so far there have no sightings of debris in the mighty Pacific.

There has been some chatter about two of the passengers who apparently boarded the flight with stolen passports, but no official accusations of terrorism have been made by any government entity.

The lack of a government finger to point, however, does not deter us Twitter freaks.  Last night the tweets were flying fast and furious.  The mystery had been solved by somebody - though by whom is, in itself, a mystery.  That huge plane did not go down in the ocean, and the governments of the world know that it did not crash, or disintegrate in mid-air, or suffer any major mechanical calamity.  The passenger jet was hijacked and taken to North Korea where the passengers are being held captive by Kim Jung Un - and perhaps Dennis Rodman as well!

And our government knows exactly what is going on.  And the mainstream media knows what is going on.  And no one is talking!

It's a conspiracy - bigger than the Kennedy assassination(s), far more real than the fake moon landing, more titillating than Monica Lewinsky's stained blue dress, better organized than the phony 9-11 terrorism show, more deadly than the WMD that couldn't be found in Iraq, and slightly more sinister than Obama's Hawaiian birth certificate.  Hell, it's even bigger than Benghazi!

This situation just begs for a big, fat, expensive Darrell Issa investigation.  Surely the extremely rich California congressman can find some way to blame the whole thing on Obama, or better yet - Hillary! And John McCain, who once flew jets over the Pacific, could prattle on about it for months and months on the Sunday talk shows!

This is big, folks - really big!

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Grit

by Pa Rock

Last night as Boone and I made our way up and down the aisles of one of the few local non-Walmart grocery stores in town, I stopped to peruse the magazines.  I wound up buying two to enhance my gentleman farmer skills.  One was Poultry World, a slick publication that features pictures of various breeds of chickens and assorted other birds such as ducks and turkeys, as well as how-to stories related to raising poultry.

The second magazine that I bought, also slick-covered, was the Grit.  Those of us of a certain age and who grew up in rural communities know that the Grit was not always slick nor was it always a magazine.  Back in the day Grit was small weekly newspaper printed on newsprint, and instead of being $4.99 a copy as it is today, the price was less than fifty cents.

Grit was first published in 1892.  My father sold the it as a small boy during the Great Depression,  I don't know the sales price, but I think that he told me that he made a nickel profit on each one that he sold.  At that time Grit would advertise for child salesmen in many of the comic books.

A half a million people read Grit on a regular basis during the Depression and pre-war years.  In 2006 the publication went to its current magazine format.   It is currently published bi-monthly in Topeka, Kansas, and has a print run of around 150,000.

I remember the articles in Grit being similar to what is published in the Old Farmer's Almanac today:  lots of recipes, pithy sayings, home remedies. and how-to advice related to rural living.  The new Grit has much of that, but with its glossy format it feels like you are reading Life Magazine or People.

The cover of the current issue features a black lab laying in a pile of leaves and a listing of the prominent articles:  "Best Dog Breeds for Rural Living," 'Raise Chickens as a Homestead Business," "Prepare Your Homestead for Spring," "Farm-to-Table:  Create the Experience," "Top Tips for Your Spring Garden Harvest," "Essential Skills for Surviving in the Wild," and "Edible Wild Plants:  What You Need to Know."

That is a lot of information that any gentleman farmer should know - and its all in just one issue.  A year's subscription would turn me into a blooming genius!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

My First House Guest

by Pa Rock
Proud Grandpa

My son, Nick, and his son, Boone, spent the day at my house helping to get organized.  We unpacked boxes, and shuffled stuff from room to room, down to the basement, and out to the garage.  We must have accomplished quite a bit, because it is now possible to walk across the house without tripping over boxes at every turn.  I am beginning to get the feel for how the place is going to go together - and it is a good feeling.

This evening Boone and I went grocery shopping and then had dinner at a really good Chinese restaurant, and tonight he is staying over - my very first house guest!

Tomorrow will be focused on more unpacking and getting the living room furniture organized.  Things are much less chaotic than when I arrived on Wednesday, and the end appears to be in sight.   That is good because I still have to get my 2013 tax preparation done, and then there is the all important task of getting my order for baby chicks ready!  Being retired is truly a demanding lifestyle!

Saturday, March 8, 2014

It's a Hard Knock Life for American Racists

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

It hasn't even been a full three months since Fox News clown Megyn Kelly went on the air to assure America's children that Santa Claus and Jesus Christ were both white men - and no sooner had that racial scare been put to rest than another one arises.  Now Hollywood has prepared an updated version of the musical film "Annie," and the title character is being portrayed by a black child!  Predictably, a certain segment of the American population (the part with teabags dangling from their tin foil hats) is going nuts - even more nuts than usual!

The new Annie is being played by ten-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis, an experienced actress from Louisiana.  Actually, Quvenzhane is far more than just experienced.  She is the youngest person ever to be nominated for Best Actress - for her role in "12 Years a Slave."  So one must suspect that Quvenzhane Wallis is a damn fine actress.

But fine or not, the mouth-breathers are furious that a black child was selected to play Little Orphan Annie, an American institution whom everyone knows is fair-skinned with curly red hair and blank eyes.  To say otherwise is just . . . well . . . political correctness run amok!

Of course, it really isn't the notion of a black Santa Claus, or a dark, Middle Eastern Jesus, or even an ebony cartoon character that has the goobers riled.  What really ruffles their dirty white sheets is the fact that a black family lives in the White House.  They don't like it one bit that a person of color with an African name heads their government and has a position of power over them.  Their world is white, and a black President is not congruent with the life they have always known.

They won't like Hillary either.  Their world should be run by old white men, just as their white God intended.

And Megyn, chances are good that a man born in the Middle East more than 2,000 years ago was probably not white.   Buy a clue!

Friday, March 7, 2014

Rodents that Climb and Jump from Tree to Tree

by Pa Rock

The world is crawling with rodents, and they aren't all Republican office holders or Fox News commentators.  In Arizona, the prevalent rodents are fat little hamsters called "prairie dogs."  Those ambitious dirt-movers can tear up a yard in no time at all.  They remind me of the moles that we have in the Midwest, but moles seldom, if ever, surface to look around.  Prairie dogs, who live in colonies, will often come out of their burrows and scamper around for awhile before going back underground.

The parts of the country not in the desert have big rodents called groundhogs (a.k.a. wood chucks) which can be as large as medium-sized dogs.  These critters also burrow, and like their tiny cousins, the prairie dogs, they will surface and scamper about in search of food or good times.

But my favorite rodent, by far, is the squirrel.  There are no squirrels in the desert, and I had forgotten how much fun they are to watch until this afternoon when I took a break from cleaning and unpacking and sat on my front porch.   Squirrels play.  They play hard - chasing each other and racing up and down the trees and across the snow-spotted yards.  I watched in awe and one went to the very top of a tall tree, ran along limbs so thin they should have trouble even supporting a bird, and then jumped to a neighboring tree.   He was so quick, so limber in the timber, so regal.

Spring promises to be wonderful!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Puke of Paducah

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

As a former resident of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, I feel qualified to report that the state has more than its fair share of strangeness.  Many of the politicians (and Mitch McConnell in particular) are tools of the tobacco industry, and the residents puff away proudly as they demonstrate their independence on the way to debilitating illness which will be treated and paid for in large measure through the largess of the federal government - a government they often scorn.

While it is admittedly unfair to paint the whole state with a wide brush, there is one community in particular that I have always found to be unsettling - and that is Paducah.  Back in the early 1970's I drove through Paducah with a couple of carloads of college kids as we were heading toward a weekend outing to basketball championships in Evansville, Indiana.  Our little caravan stopped for lunch at a nasty cafe in Paducah.  The restroom of that establishment was memorable.  The walls were covered with graffiti, almost entirely racist, in which "cowboys" (the good guys) attacked and savaged "n_ggers" (the bad guys).  It was a time when most of the rest of America had moved on to a level of racial acceptance, but that little corner of Kentucky wasn't having it.

When I lived in Kentucky a few years ago, I had occasion to drive through Paducah on a couple of occasions.   There was no in-your-face racism in evidence, but there was a noticeable feeling of unwelcomeness or uncomfortableness in the air.  Whether it was fair or not, I always had the sense that the "cowboys" were still firmly in control of the community.

Now comes a news story about the Kentucky Baptist Convention offering an "outreach to rednecks" as a part of some "Second Amendment Celebration."  The Lone Oak Baptist Church in Paducah is luring errant rednecks to church with a free steak dinner and a chance to win one of twenty-five guns.    The graffiti has undoubtedly long since been painted over, but the cowboy attitude is still strongly in evidence.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Six Days on the Road and I Finally Made It Home Today!

by Pa Rock
Road Warrior

I arrived at my new home about three o'clock this afternoon.   Hooray!

There was some snow on the ground when I left Kansas City, but not much.  There was hardly any of the white stuff on the long road to Springfield, but when I headed east the ground was covered again.  Then, south of Willow Springs, there was a marked increase in the amount of snow on the ground.  The rural lane to my house had been plowed clear, but my driveway and back porch had a good accumulation - so I found my trusty shovel and got to work!

Country living - there's nothing like it!

Nick is here trying to help me get organized, but all I can think about is  hitting the hay!

Peace from my house to yours!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Max Latin, Private Inquiry Agent

by Pa Rock
Pulp Fan

Nobert Davis was a pulp fiction master who wrote hard-boiled crime stories and novels, often with a humorous edge, in the 1930's and 1940's.  He eventually graduated to the "slicks" where he had some tamer work published in The Saturday Evening Post and other more reputable outlets before dying by his own hand in 1949 at the young age of forty.

One of Davis's signature creations was a fictional detective by the name of Max Latin.  Latin, who referred to himself as a "private inquiry agent" was featured in only five stories, all of which ran in the pulp magazine, Dime Detective, during the World War II years of the early 1940's.  I recently came across a collection of those stories entitled The Complete Cases of Max Latin, a volume which I enjoyed immensely.

Max Latin was unique as a private investigator in several respects.   He purported to be ethically challenged and stated a readiness to help clients in criminal endeavors - though, to his favor, there were no instances in the stories of him actually behaving in a criminal manner.  He had an arrest record of numerous incidents where he was locked up in the Los Angeles jail system, but he was always released for lack of evidence.  Latin even bragged about having his own specific cell at the jail.

One of Latin's more unique aspects, however, was his office.  He operated out of a loud and raucous restaurant in Los Angeles called Guiterrez's where he had his own special booth, replete with a telephone jack and a microphone for taping conversations and broadcasting some of his meetings to witnesses who were standing by in the kitchen.  Anyone who wanted to see Max Latin had to join him in his booth at the restaurant, a place where the hospitality wasn't always hospitable.

Guiterrez's was managed by the chef, a fellow named Guiterrez, who was a wonderful cook - so good that the upper crust of Los Angeles society flocked to the somewhat seedy establishment to enjoy his splendid meals.  But Guiterrez  had a temper and would often say exactly what was on his mind - and sometimes refused to serve certain customers.  In one instance he became angry with a customer and gave his custom-prepared steak to a derelict whom he discovered dumpster-diving in the alley behind the restaurant.  Although Guiterrez prepared gourmet meals for Latin, he always had a set of disparaging remarks ready to keep the detective grounded in reality.

The other employee fixture-of-note at the restaurant was Dick, the head waiter.  Dick was short and skinny with an apron that he was able to wrap around himself several times.  Dick kept an amazing amount of things beneath his apron, including a bottle of Latin's favorite brandy and what seemed to be an unlimited supply of glasses.   He was always quick remind Latin of how expensive the brandy was and to caution him not to be sharing it with his clients.

It became apparent in the second or third story of this collection that one of the reasons Guiterrez and Dick were so tolerant and protective of Max Latin was that he was actually the owner of the restaurant.

Norbert Davis was a masterful crime-plotter who created highly memorable characters and settings.  He was also a quick wit who could spit out snappy one-liners faster than bullets spraying from a gangster's machine gun.  The work of Norbert Davis formed an important contribution to the American canon of crime fiction, but the contribution was cut tragically short by his early demise.  The author's death also ended the career of Max Latin, a private inquiry agent with a promising future.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Monday's Poetry: "Growing Old"

by Pa Rock
Old Poetry Appreciator

As I was stumbling around this morning, feeling every possible ache and pain that could result from three days of serious driving, I came across the following verse by Matthew Arnold.  I felt that it summed up not only the way I was feeling, but also life in general.

There's no telling how I will feel after I go outside and play in the snow for awhile later this morning!

Growing Older
bu Matthew Arnold

What is it to grow old?
Is it to lose the glory of the form,
The lustre of the eye?
Is it for beauty to forego her wreath?
Yes, but not for this alone.

Is it to feel our strength -
Not our bloom only, but our strength -decay?
Is it to feel each limb
Grow stiffer, every function less exact,
Each nerve more weakly strung?

Yes, this, and more! but not,
Ah, 'tis not what in youth we dreamed 'twould be!
'Tis not to have our life
Mellowed and softened as with sunset-glow,
A golden day's decline!

'Tis not to see the world
As from a height, with rapt prophetic eyes,
And heart profoundly stirred;
And weep, and feel the fulness of the past,
The years that are no more!

It is to spend long days
And not once feel that we were ever young.
It is to add, immured
In the hot prison of the present, month
To month with weary pain.

It is to suffer this,
And feel but half, and feebly, what we feel:
Deep in our hidden heart
Festers the dull remembrance of a change,
But no emotion -none.

It is -last stage of all -
When we are frozen up within, and quite
The phantom of ourselves,
To hear the world applaud the hollow ghost
Which blamed the living man. 

Sunday, March 2, 2014

500 Miles of Snow

by Pa Rock
Traveling Fool

I woke up this morning in Stratford, Texas, and discovered the ground was white with an inch or so of snow.  It was tempting to go back to bed, but after checking out the television weather forecast, I decided to head north toward Kansas City and see how far I could get.  Fortunately, I did not encounter any more falling snow, but what was already on the ground blew back and forth across the road all day.  The interstates were clear, but most of the small towns that I drove through had snow-packed roads and required careful navigating.  I made it to my son's house near Kansas City after a hard day on the road.

There are three or four inches of snow on the ground in the Kansas City area.  Tim said this is the coldest day ever recorded locally in the month of March.

Southern Missouri has suffered ice and sleet followed by snow.  It may be several more days before I can get to my new home.

The Midwest has had quite a winter, and now I am part of it.  I blame all of the recent bad weather on a groundhog in Pennsylvania who shall remain nameless!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Damn, It's Cold!

by Pa Rock
Traveling Fool

I put in five hundred miles today - traversed the width of New Mexico and most of the Texas Panhandle.  Tonight I am at a very old motel, The Stratford Inn, in downtown Stratford, Texas.  And it is cold!  This is the coldest weather that I have experienced since December of 2009 when I was in the Ozarks for my father's funeral.  Suddenly I am appreciating Arizona - but not much!

I would have been infinitely smarter to have remained on Interstate 40 across Texas and on to Oklahoma City, but I had an urge to explore the Texas and Oklahoma Panhandles - so I took a sharp left out of Amarillo and headed due north.  There wasn't much to see, and then the fog and icy mist moved in and obscured the monotonous view.

It must be tumbleweed season in these parts because they blew across the highway in front of my car the entire day.

Tucumcari, New Mexico, was one of the low lights of my day.  The town advertises on billboards for about a hundred miles each way - with the clever slogan, "Tucumcari Tonight!"  But it's not the type of place I would want to visit after dark.  I pulled off at the first Tucumcari exit because my gas tank was completely empty and I had seen a sign saying there were 30 stations in town.   (I saw two.)  The first ten or so gas stations that I passed were closed and boarded up - or converted to flea markets.  A couple had anti-Obama graffiti painted on the exterior walls - nice stuff like a stick figure of Obama looking like a monkey with a disparaging comment attached.  (And one of the things the city advertises over the radio is its "famous murals.")  What a sad little town.

I also made a pit stop in Bushland, Texas, which was not nearly as bad as the name implied.

The weather looks ugly throughout the area.  Tomorrow I will make a decision whether to head toward Kansas City to see Baby Olive - or head to my new home in West Plains.  I suspect it will be a long day on the road - regardless of which direction I ultimately travel.