Friday, July 31, 2015

No, the Bear Is Not for Sale!

by Pa Rock

My son and I have been having a yard sale for the past three days, and if the cloudless weather holds up, we are likely to continue our adventure in mercantilism for another few days.

I have junk - and books, and books, and books - littering the lawn, and Nick is clearing out a storage shed.  Each day we add to what is for sale, a practice that draws in repeat customers.  One fellow stops in daily asking if we have any old postage stamps because his grandkids collect stamps.  I always tell him "no," but that I will look around.  Nick has now found a few for when the guy stops by tomorrow.

One lesson that we are learning from this yard sale experience is that people of limited means seldom quibble over price - and we try to help those people out.  People with plenty of money, on the other hand, want to keep it.  They think everything should be pennies on the dollar compared to its real worth, and they will get indignant over a quarter.  Nick suggested (politely, of course) to a pushy lady this morning that she might want to go next door and check their dumpster for items in her price range.

But most of the people have been nice.

A secret to drawing people in to the sale seems to be to place interesting things out front within view of the drive-by traffic.   Things like yard art, planters, and home decor items stir interest.    We have a few baby items out by the road, but they have not garnered much attention.  This must not be baby season.

I have a very large cement bear (one that takes a minimum of three stout men to move) in the front yard, and that big bear has also been drawing in the customers - with several almost demanding to buy it.  I also have some pink plastic flamingoes in the yard (white trash to the core!) that fascinate the little kids. The bear sand flamingoes are permanent residents of Rock's Roost and will not suffer the indignity of being sold on the lawn.

The experience of having a yard sale has been generally positive, and it has served as an introduction to several of the neighbors.  It has also generated a few dollars - always a good thing for us retired folks.  It is not, however, something that I would want to tackle every day.

After all, being "retired" should mean something!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Feeling the Bern in West Plains!

by Pa Rock
Political Activist

I enjoy my Wednesday night pinochle games at the Senior Center primarily because I like playing cards and strategizing.   Most of the people who attend the sessions are older than me (hard to believe!) and are very conservative in their political views.  I try to keep my political views to myself and ignore the occasional derogatory Obama and Hilary remarks, though sometimes that is hard to do.  My usual plan of action is to have a few comments ready to use to redirect political conversation to another topic.

I skipped pinochle last night to attend a political event - one where I met a completely different class of people.  Bernie Sanders had a national meet-up in which he addressed approximately 3,500 small gatherings across the United States.  There were two of the meetings in my county, one at a home in Willow Springs, and the other at a college facility here in West Plains.  I attended the one in West Plains where I was able to meet and chat with two dozen like-minded individuals.

I support Bernie Sanders for President, and I support him enthusiastically - but I have always felt somewhat guilty about that.  I know that politics in America is controlled by old white men, and the arc of our national growth and development has been set by old white men.  Most of the serious problems that America is experiencing today (racism, poverty, income inequality, uncontrolled corporate greed, climate change, you name it) are rooted in the ideas and policies generated by old white men.  I have supported a black man for the presidency, and I would love to support a woman for the job also - but just not Hillary.  This year the only candidate running who has the courage to identify and speak to the real issues facing America in forthright and intellectually honest terms is an old white man - Bernie Sanders.

So with that acknowledgement of my sensitivity about supporting an old white man over a female candidate, I was pleasantly surprised to find that a full half of those two dozen in attendance at the West Plains gathering last night were women.

Before Bernie's internet speech began, the people at our location took turns introducing themselves and telling why they were there.  Some talked of the inevitability of a Hillary candidacy, but indicated they hoped a strong showing by Bernie prior to the convention could nudge Hillary more to the left and away from her corporate benefactors - or, a Bernie candidacy could be instrumental in shaping Hillary into a better Democratic candidate.   One fellow called Hillary "Republican Light," and said that he didn't think he could support her if she became the party's standard-bearer.   I admitted that I probably could vote for Hillary if she is the eventual Democratic nominee, but that I would never be an enthusiastic Hillary supporter.

And that "enthusiasm" stuff is important!  And that "enthusiasm" stuff was abundant for Bernie last night in West Plains!

Another thing I said at the meeting last night was that I was a fairly new to the community and part of my reason for attending was to meet people.  Several extremely nice folks came up to me after the event to introduce themselves and chat.  They really made me feel welcome  One friendly couple invited me to attend a book-reading tonight by Meredith Cisco, the wonderful Ozark singer  (and West Plains resident) who was featured in the movie, Winter's Bone.

Bernie's speech to his supporters was fairly brief and primarily focused on a litany of liberal issues (sorry, but I don't speak in code and use the term "progressive" to mean liberal), and after each noted current abuse, such as a few billionaires trying to control the course of the entire nation, he would thunder, "Enough is enough!"  All of the ideas that Bernie promoted were things in which I fervently believe - single-payer Medicare-style health insurance for all, free college tuition, humane immigration policies, an end to Citizen's United, cutting military waste and closing bases abroad, and literally dozens of other good and extremely necessary ideas.

Bernie Sanders is an exciting candidate with a bold message - even if he is an old white man!  He is definitely throwing truth to power.

Two dozen is a nice core group for a community effort - real potential for a credible Bernie campaign.  I haven't seen anything in the area for Hillary yet - or events for any of the many Republican candidates either.  Maybe they are just taking the locals for granted.  That could be a big mistake!

No more Bushes!  No more Clintons!  Enough is enough!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

That's My Son!

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

There was a time not many years ago when I would have probably cringed if someone told me that there was a story about one of my kids in the newspaper, but thankfully my children and I have reached a stage in life where most of the news is good news.

Tim, my youngest, is a budding screenwriter and novelist who has been the subject of articles in two southern Missouri daily newspapers over the past two days.   Yesterday the West Plains Daily Quill ran a front page piece on his new movie project, a tale of an abandoned child in the Ozarks entitled Tatterdemalion.   The film will be shot primarily in and around West Plains beginning on August 6th.  It will feature some out-of-town talent as well as the efforts of some local actors.   The article also contained a nice photo of Tim.

I bought copies of The Quill at a couple of different stores yesterday afternoon, always making sure to show the store clerks the photo of Tim on the front page as I stated proudly, "That's my son!"

Today the Neosho Daily News also ran a feature piece on Tim that focused on his novel, You're Invited!, a work of fiction rooted in the awful Joplin tornado of 2011.  Our family lived in Neosho when Tim was in Middle School, and the setting of the book is based on his memories of the town at that time.   The electronic version of You're Invited! is available through Amazon, and proceeds are going to the victim's fund for the Joplin tornado.

I guess maybe I need to start a scrapbook!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Bring on the Clowns!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Do ministers lie and spew nonsense in vain attempts to influence stupid people?  Some may not – but I’ll wager that many do -  and Reverend Mike Huckabee is certainly a case in point.   Huckabee, the other man from Hope, honed his skills as a liar while begging from a Baptist pulpit, and he later went on to do graduate work in lying as an entertainer on Fox News, a network not known for its truthiness in broadcasting.

This week Huckabee tried to fire up the tea party lemmings when he stated flat-out that President Obama, by signing an agreement with Iran, had led the Israelis up to the oven door.   That statement was tacky, in excruciatingly bad taste, and a total falsehood – and Huckabee no doubt knew that he was spewing high-grade Arkansas horesshit, but the point wasn’t to inform – it was to inflame - a journalistic technique he mastered during his stint at Fox News.

More to the point, and as President Obama suggested the next day, the former Arkansas governor was trying to knock Donald Trump off of the front pages.

Mike Huckabee, like the other Republican crazies who lust to be President, is having a hard time being heard because Donald Trump has been successfully making himself all the news all the time. 

And many GOP candidates are beginning to show signs of desperation, primarily by copying The Donald’s highly successful strategy of lobbing nonsense bombs with wild abandon and practicing what Letterman might refer to as "Stupid Politician Tricks."

The Huffington Post ran a story on this phenomenon yesterday and gave not only the example of Huckabee and his “oven” comment, but added antics by three other GOP hopefuls as well.  The news service mentioned Senator Ted Cruz calling Senator Mitch McConnell a liar on the Senate floor, and noted that the Senate responded very harshly to the Joe McCarthy look-alike and wannabe.  Cruz countered the procedural rebuke by leaving the Senate chamber and meeting outside with a group of reporters where he again trashed the majority leader.

Senator Rand Paul, according to the Huffington Post, donned a pair of goggles and cut up a copy of the U.S. Tax Code with a chainsaw.    It was not a particularly senatorial act, but the carnage did make for a great photo op.  Take that, Trump!

And Senator Lindsey Graham, John McCain’s BFF and then some,  tried to savage Donald Trump for his badmouthing of McCain – but he learned the hard way that Trump is a hard man to trifle with.  Trump responded to Lindsey Graham’s snit-fit by revealing the senator’s private cell phone number and urging people to call him.  Graham, undoubtedly even more pissed, decided that if he couldn’t get away with attacking Trump directly, perhaps he could grab some headlines by attacking cell phones.  Graham managed to get himself photographed putting cell phones in a blender, cutting them up with a butcher knife, and dropping some off of a rooftop!  

You just can’t get much more presidential than that! 

But there was one more outlandish remark by a GOP presidential contender that the Huffington Post  failed to include in its story.  Former governor Rick Perry of Texas raised a few eyebrows when he commented on the theatre shooter in Lafayette, Louisiana.  Perry said that he believes the threat to life and limb in theatres would go away if movie-goers were allowed to enter the theatres armed.  It’s the old NRA standard lie – more guns make us safer.   Sitting in a packed movie house, in the dark, knowing that the place was full of gun-toting morons would be far more exciting than anything Hollywood could put up on the screen.  You betcha it would!

So this week in the clown car we have a lying minister making Holocaust allusions, a U.S. Senator who can’t or won’t play well with other senators, another senator with a chainsaw fetish, yet another senator who gets his giggles by destroying cell phones, and a former governor who lets Wayne LaPierre and Ted Nugent do his thinking for him.

And they would all love to be as popular as Donald Trump.

The only thing that could make this race any better would be if Sarah Palin declared her candidacy!

Bring on the clowns!  The debates are going to be hilarious!

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "A Day of Sunshine"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

My sweet Aunt Mary, a happy and loving individual whom I have mentioned in this space on numerous instances, turns ninety years young today.   She was born Mary Olive Day in the Kansas City area on July 27th, 1925, went to high school in Neosho, Missouri, where she met and married my uncle, Wayne Macy, and moved to San Diego during World War II.   She has remained in San Diego ever since.

Aunt Mary, a mother of two and grandmother of several, recently attended the wedding of her great-granddaughter.   Mary enjoys writing poetry, and I have published a couple of her poems in this blog previously.   Today I wanted to showcase a poem that is happy and full of life, like Aunt Mary.  I have selected "A Gift of Sunshine" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Happy birthday, Aunt Mary.  May every day get better and better!

A Gift of Sunshine
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

O gift of God!  O perfect day:
Whereon shall no man work, but play;
Whereon it is enough for me,
Not to be doing, but to be! 
Through every fibre of my brain,
Through every nerve, through every vein,
I feel the electric thrill, the touch
Of life, that seems almost too much. 
I hear the wind among the trees
Playing celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument. 
And over me unrolls on high
The splendid scenery of the sky,
Where through a sapphire sea the sun
Sails like a golden galleon, 
Towards yonder cloud-land in the West,
Towards yonder Islands of the Blest,
Whose steep sierra far uplifts
Its craggy summits white with drifts. 
Blow, winds! and waft through all the rooms
The snow-flakes of the cherry-blooms!
Blow, winds! and bend within my reach
The fiery blossoms of the peach! 
O Life and Love! O happy throng
Of thoughts, whose only speech is song!
O heart of man! canst thou not be
Blithe as the air is, and as free? 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

One, Two, and the Cat Flew!

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

I have tried twice now to adopt a cat into my little farm family, and both times appear to have been failures.   Tim brought down a small calico kitten, Ado Annie, from the Kansas City area a couple of months ago.  Annie was around for two weeks before she disappeared.  She had made friends with Rosie and Thor, so I had great hopes for her survival and acceptance into farm life.

My niece, Tiffany, lives in an apartment in Fayetteville, Arkansas, and has had a grown indoor cat for sometime.  That cat did not do well with Tiffany's children, and she eventually brought home a puppy which did play well with the kids.  The cat, Boca, was not happy sharing her apartment with a dog, and  she needed a new home.  Since she had lived outside before Tiffany adopted her, we decided to try Boca at Rock's Roost - as a barn cat.

Yesterday my sister Gail, along with Tiffany and Boca, made the three-plus hour trip from Fayetteville to West Plains.  As Tiffany was carrying Boca in her traveling cage to the barn, the bottom fell out of the cage, and the startled cat, who was already upset by the appearance of my dogs, ran for cover under the car.  Then, as Rosie and Thor bounded up to her expecting to play, poor Boca took off across the yard and up a tree.   Try as we might, and even with the involvement of a long extension ladder, the cat  only responded by climbing even higher up the tree.  Last evening I put out food and water at the base of the tree.  When I came out later, just at dark, the food was gone and so was some of the water, and she no longer appeared to be in the tree.  Of course, out here in the country, any one of dozens of creatures could have stopped by and dined on the cat's dinner.

This morning, still no Boca.

Tiffany is quite worried about her kitty, and I am harboring hopes that the cat will eventually brave big, loud Thor and make its way to the house.

We'll just have to wait and see.

Meanwhile, bring me no cats!  I've gotten the message!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Cannibalism in the Health Insurance Industry

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Anthem, one of the nation's largest health insurance companies, has announced that it wants to buy Cigna, also another bloated health insurer.  The offer:  48.3 billion dollars!  That follows closely on another proposed health care buyout.  Aetna has tendered and offer of 37 billion dollars for Humana.

The big boys are being devoured by even bigger boys.  In health care, corporate cannibalism seems to be all the rage.

Of course, I am being a bit cynical.  The obvious goals of this consolidation are to streamline costs, provide better service, and pass savings on to grateful consumers.  Just ask a Republican.  The worries that these multi-billion dollar deals will result in fewer options and higher rates are just so much hooey being put forward by left-wing Democrats.

Your health insurance provider loves you.  Your health insurance provider loves you.  Your health insurance provider loves you - and looks forward to screwing you even harder during the next billing cycle!

Keep sending in those rising premiums, suckers - and every time your rates go up, thank a Republican because Republicans know corporations are people and money is speech.  And corporations speak very highly of Republicans.

No more Obamacare, mo more Medicaid, no more Medicare.  The government just needs to get out of the way and let the private sector take care of us.  Unfettered capitalism will solve everything.  Just ask a Republican!

Yum, yum.  Eat 'em up!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Nick Macy at Forty-Two

by Pa Rock
Proud Father

My oldest son, Nick, was born forty-two years ago today at Camp Kue Army Hospital on Okinawa.  He grew up in southwest Missouri and for nearly the past twenty years has lived on the outskirts of West Plains, Missouri.  Nick has been a big help to me as I transition into the retirement phase of life.

Today Nick and I took a road trip with our dogs - my little Rosie and his large Boston terrier, Riley.  We drove back over to southwest Missouri and spent some time with Nick's sixteen-year-old son, Boone.  Boone will be a junior at Neosho High School next month.  That is the school where both Nick and my father graduated from high school.

While we were out running around we had lunch at a Chinese restaurant, the best of three in Neosho, a place where my dad always enjoyed eating.  The official name of the restaurant is the "Oriental House," but dad never failed to call it the "China Man's."  I don't think he meant that in a derogatory manner because it was his favorite restaurant.

I had business in Neosho today.  I cleaned out a safety deposit box that I have rented since 1989.  It's where I kept my coin collection, but I hadn't been in the box in several years and was surprised at a few things I unearthed beneath the many rolls of wheat pennies, buffalo nickels, Mercury dimes, and Liberty quarters.  One item of interest that I came across was a set of my old army dog tags.   I guess I ought to start wearing the dog tags in case dementia strikes while I am away from home!

I only had one key to the box, and knew that I had been given two back in 1989 when I rented it.  I expected to have to pay the fee - only$5.00 - for the replacement key, but was pleased and surprised when I found the missing safety deposit box key inside of the box!  I guess I must have put it there for "safekeeping!"

We had a nice trip and got to spend some time with Boone.  The dogs were good and slept for most of the trip.  But the drive, almost four hundred miles round-trip, wore me out.  I will sleep well tonight!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

As Luck Would Have It

by Pa Rock
Lucky Duck

I play pinochle at the local senior center every Wednesday night.  It's a card game that I enjoy, and I look forward to the weekly get-togethers.  I have been attending for about a year now and have made several new friends over the course of that time.  Each week we manage to fill three or four tables with four players each.  We draw for partners and rotate after each game with the losers moving to a different table.  Some weeks I play very well - other weeks I don't.

My partner last night, a sweet lady named Pearl, was probably growing a bit tired of me after I overbid a couple of hands causing us to lose unnecessarily - but I redeemed my self with the last hand of the night.

We play with double decks of pinochle cards minus the nines.  That leaves four aces, four kings, four queens, four jacks, and four tens - in each suit - or eighty cards in the deck with twenty being dealt to each player.  A "run" is when a person has an ace, king, queen, jack, and ten of a suit and it is worth 15 points if that person succeeds in getting the bid.   Most people usually have at least a run before they enter into the bidding at the beginning of each hand.

A "double run" is where a person has two of everything contained in a run.  Double runs are worth 150 points and are exceedingly rare.  Our group has only had a few of those in the past year - and I have only had two in my entire life - one about a month ago, and the other in the final hand last night.    It caused Pearl and me to end the evening on a big win!

Then, as luck would have it, I came home and checked my Missouri Lotto tickets and found that I had successfully matched four of six numbers - a win that should pay out in the twenty dollar range.  (Two more correct numbers and I would have pocketed $5.2 million, but close, as they say, only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades!

So that was my lucky streak.  I suspect that it has run its course, but today I will buy another Lotto ticket just to be sure!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

E.L. Doctorow Has Jumped Ship

by Pa Rock
Elbow Rubber

E.L. Doctorow, a noted American novelist who was nominated for numerous national literary awards during his lifetime, passed away yesterday at the age of eighty-four in New York City.  Doctorow was known for important and popular works like Ragtime, Billy Bathgate, and The March.  

I met E.L. Doctorow briefly in December of 2009 while on a cruise and workshop with The Nation magazine.  Doctorow was one of the celebrities whom The Nation paid to travel with the workshop and rub elbows with the attendees who were paying exorbitant fares in order to meet, listen to, and fawn over an assortment of journalists, authors, and politicos.

One of the sessions I attended was an interview of Doctorow by journalist and humorist Calvin Trillin.  Trillin and Doctorow, obviously friends, generated more humor than they did knowledge of Doctorow's extensive body of work.  (One of Trillin's first in-depth questions of Doctorow was "Why do you call yourself "E.L."?)

At that time there was no internet access on board cruise ships, other than that which was "sold" by the minute in the ship's internet cafe.  I would type my blog into a word document each day either in my stateroom or outside in a deckchair, and then go to the internet cafe and purchase a few minutes of connectivity in order to publish it to the web.

The second day at sea I was in the internet cafe trying to publish from a computer that was giving me trouble.  All of the other machines were occupied, but I happened to notice one old fellow seemed to be preparing to leave.  I had moved in close so that I could pounce on his computer, when the guy suddenly turned around and I realized that I was face-to-face with E.L. Doctorow.  I finally quit gawking and extended my hand, telling the famous author that I was a fan.  (I had read Ragtime years before and loved it.)  We chatted for a minute - he was very pleasant.

Other celebrities on the cruise included Howard Dean, Katrina Vanden Huevel (owner and publisher of The Nation), journalist Robert Scheer, journalist and author (and Mrs. Robert Scheer) Narda Zacchino, and investigative journalist Christian Parenti.   Rose Stryon, the widow of author William Stryon, was also an attendee, and she and I had a nice visit at dinner one evening when we happened to be seated at the same table.

There were, in retrospect, several highlights to those few relaxing days on the Caribbean, but none more memorable than meeting E.L. Doctorow.  The sea of modern American literature will continue to churn up the occasional treasures, but with the death of E.L. Doctorow it has lost an important beacon.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Winds Rip Through Rock's Roost - Decapitating and Uprooting

by Pa Rock
Farmer in Summer

It's been a strange summer, lots of rain with short bursts on insufferable heat.  Last night one of our brief hot spells came to a sudden end with a very mean storm that blew through the area.  Before the winds had died down, my little farm had lost one tree, limbs were strewn all over the place, and the top had blown off of Wolverton Mountain, my massive brush pile.  This morning I will have to repair the damage to Wolverton and add to its height and girth with all of the new brush that is lying around.  Then I need to figure out what to do with the fallen tree.

One of my farm's previous owners liked the idea of big tangles of vines.  He, or she, put up trellises in strange locations and planted permanent vines around them and just let them go.  I have plenty of room, and the vine piles make good homes for the birds, so I mow around them as they keep growing thicker and more immense.

There were two fairly young trees out by the chicken coop that sat about three feet apart.  Each of the trees was a foot or so in diameter and around thirty feet tall.  The vine person put a trellis between those trees, planted some vines, and let them climb.  When I moved here the vines had reached the top of the trees and permanently tangled them together.

And that pair of trees would have stayed buried in those vines had it not been for the fact that while walking to or from the barn one day last summer I happened to spy a beautiful red leaf on the ground.  I recognized it as a sassafras leaf - and set about looking for its parent plant.  Sassafras "trees" are usually no more than big sprouts, but even so I could not find one.

Then I looked up and spotted a smattering of red leaves in the enormous pile of vines.  The pair of tall, slender trees were actually sassafras, the largest ones I had ever seen!

I paid a young man to spend most of a day cutting and pulling the vines from those two trees, and for a year I had a pair of beautiful sassafras trees as a focal point of my yard.  That ended last night when the storm toppled one of them.  Perhaps if I had left them tangled together both would still be standing instead of just one.

So today, after I finish gathering all of the loose brush and piling it onto Wolverton Mountain, I will begin trimming the fallen sassafras tree.  Being a true son of the Ozarks, I will save the trunk, knowing that sooner or later I will need it for something.

Any suggestions?

Monday, July 20, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "In Summer's Heat"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Today's selection by the Roman poet Ovid was penned two thousand years ago, or roughly during the time of Christ.  It is somewhat of a double entendre telling the story of man lying down to rest on a warm summer's afternoon and then entering into an even warmer sexual encounter.  "In Summer's Heat" serves as a reminder that the feelings and things we experience today are basically the same ones that our ancestors and others have been dealing with for thousands of years.

There is little that is new under the unrelenting sun.

Please enjoy the following bit of literary respite from our own summer's heat.

In Summer's Heat
by Ovid

In summer's heat, and mid-time of the day,
To rest my limbs, upon a bed I lay;
One window shut, the other open stood,
Which gave such light as twinkles in a wood,
Like twilight glimpse at setting of the sun,
Or night being past, and yet not day begun;
Such light to shamefaced maidens must be shown
Where they may sport, and seem to be unknown:
Then came Corinna in her long loose gown,
Her white neck hid with tresses hanging down,
Resembling fair Semiramis going to bed,
Or Lais of a thousand wooers sped.
I snatched her gown being thin, the harm was small,
Yet strived she to be covered therewithal,
And striving thus as one that would be cast,
Betrayed herself, and yielded at the last.
Stark naked as she stood before mine eye,
Not one wen in her body could I spy.
What arms and shoulders did I touch and see,
How apt her breasts were to be pressed by me,
How smooth a belly under her waist saw I,
How large a leg, and what a lusty thigh.
To leave the rest, all liked me passing well;
I clinged her naked body, down she fell:
Judge you the rest, being tired she bade me kiss;
Jove send me more such afternoons as this!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Run Joe, Run!

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The number of Republican presidential aspirants who have at least some name recognition has now reached fifteen with the potential of more as the raging winds of change blow through America's political forests knocking the nuts and over-ripe fruit from the trees.  The Democrats, on the other hand, have only managed to field five candidates to date, with only two of those, Bernie Sanders and Mrs. Bill Clinton, managing to absorb most of the printer's ink and air in the room.

Yesterday the press began posting stories about a possible sixth entrant into the Democratic race for the White House - and this candidate would be a biggie, one capable of wrestling headlines away from Bernie and Hillary.  The next Democratic contender may very well be Joe Biden.

Biden's people are whispering to the press that the Vice President had been encouraged to run by his son, Beau, shortly before the young man's recent death from cancer, as well as by other family members, and he is indeed thinking about tossing his hat into the ring.  An announcement is likely to be made in September.

A Biden candidacy would be good for the Democratic Party, adding wisdom, vision and political strength (and a bit of humor) to an already formidable field of candidates.  A strong primary race will give America an opportunity to understand the differences between a party that actually wants to lead the country forward versus a party whose only objectives are to move money and power away from common folks (the electorate).

Joe Biden will add to the democratic process with his broad government background and his gift of plain speaking.     When Joe talks, people listen - and they understand.

Vice President Biden, your party and your nation need you.  Run, Joe, run!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another Dummy Speaks

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Yesterday I made note of the good old boys - and girls - in and around Oklahoma City who were busy waving Confederate flags and displaying they bigotry and ignorance when President Obama arrived in the Oklahoma capital on Wednesday.  It was a sad insight into Oklahoma "culture" in the 21st century, but considering the state's long and complicated history with race, not all that surprising.

There are areas in our country which are less enlightened than others, enclaves of intolerance where people seem to take pride in their ability to maintain irrational hatreds and stupid beliefs across generations.   We expect to hear stories like that from parts of the American South, Oklahoma, Texas, some suburbs of St. Louis and Boston, and scattered other places forgotten by time and left to fester along the shores of their shallow and inadequate gene pools.

We don't expect, however, to hear racist crap emanating from areas of the country which are known for their forward thinking, places like the state of Washington - one of the leaders in America's proud march to the future.  But this week, there it was.

Patrick Rushing, the mayor of Airway Heights, Washington, a suburb of Spokane, found himself in a bit of political hot water after some derogatory remarks that he he made about President and Mrs. Obama on his Facebook page found their way into the news media.  The remarks, in which he compared the President to a monkey and the First Lady to a gorilla, made such a stir locally that the entire city council has gone on record asking the mayor to resign.   Rushing, who himself is far from being the best looking cracker in the box, has declined to resign, saying that his remarks were just "playful back and forth banter that friends and I do."

Move along, folks.  Nothing racist to see here.

One local paper reported that Rushing has a "long history of posting questionable and outright racist comments on Facebook."  The paper said he had at least 75 offensive posts on his Facebook page in the past including an image suggesting that the POTUS and FLOTUS be hung for treason.  All of the posts have since been removed or made private.

Mayor Rushing also entertains his friends with posts about Hillary, gays, and immigrants.

It's just another day in America with one more imbecile heaping disrespect and derision on our President - a man who is held in high international regard but suffers insulting affronts here at home primarily because of the color of his skin.

Patrick Rushing needs to resign his public position, and then he needs to spend some time feeling thoroughly ashamed of the man he has become.  And if Patrick Rushing doesn't have the ability to feel shame, then we should all be ashamed for him.

Thank you, President Obama - and Michelle - for standing tall and representing the absolute best of America.  We are proud of you!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Oklahoma Is Not OK

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Oklahoma was the scene of one of the worst race riots in the history of the United States in 1921 when a gang of whites attacked an affluent black neighborhood in Tulsa.  Before the evening of horror was over, dozens of blacks had been killed, hundreds injured, and thirty-five city blocks (more than 1,200 homes) burned to the ground.  Police responded by arresting or detaining as many blacks as they could round up.

Oklahoma is the only state in the nation where every county within its borders voted against President Obama in not one, but two general elections.  Every frigging county!  So it should come as no surprise that when the President visited Oklahoma this week, some of the more vocal morons of the state wanted to show their dislike of him in a manner that would draw the attention of the press.

Wednesday afternoon before President Obama could speak to members of the Choctaw Nation in Durant, Oklahoma. his motorcade had to pass by a row of pick-up trucks draped in Confederate flags and proud Oklahomans standing along the side of the road waving Confederate flags.  Dozens and dozens of beer-bellied buffoons and tattooed barflies wanting to make sure that colored guy from Washington understood their pride in their heritage.  Participants in the protest were quick to inform reporters that their gathering was "a southern thing" and definitely not "a racist thing."

That night as the President slept in an Oklahoma City hotel, more protesters waving more Confederate flags gathered outside.  Again, they were celebrating their heritage - not race-baiting.

Maybe this would be a good time for John McCain, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, to float the idea of closing Tinker Air Force Base and moving the whole operation from the sands of Oklahoma to the sands of Arizona.  Johnny Mac could frame it as a "heritage thing."  That heritage bucket seems designed to hold an unlimited amount of horse shit.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Karma Bites John McCain in the Ass

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The Republican Party is no longer the party of Lincoln, or even the party of Eisenhower.  What was once a fairly reputable political organization started hitting the skids with Nixon's "southern strategy" in the 1960's when he decided the Chamber of Commerce strong arm of the party could accept and co-exist with angry racist whites from the south.  And it worked - for awhile.

The southern whites, bible-thumping evangelicals, and other hillbilly riffraff who rushed into the waiting arms of the vote-hungry GOP soon began to figure out how to infiltrate the party machinery, control the ballots by storming the primaries and caucuses, and wreak havoc on the once venerable old party.  The stodgy elephants who had run the party for more than a century cowered in political impotence before the invading cockroaches.

Obviously (and laughably) they brought the mess on themselves.  As Gramma used to say, "Lie down with dogs and you wake up with fleas!"

Thanks, Dick.

Senator John McCain, Lindsey Graham's right hand, has taken full advantage of the nut-bag element of the Republican Party before - most noticeably when he selected Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008.  He appreciated their support - just as long as they stayed in their place and didn't interfere with the adults, like himself, who had responsibility for governing.

But McCain, who lost that Presidency - thanks, Sarah - represents Arizona in the Senate, and Arizona is unlike most of the other states in the Union.   The Scorpion State is filled to the brim with old, white, sun-dried, golf cart-driving miscreants who take their political cues from people like Joe Arpaio, Jan Brewer, and Russell Pearce.  An Arizona politician who shows any shred of human decency, particularly toward immigrants from Mexico, does so at his or her own peril.

Last year the state Republican Party censured McCain because they perceived him as being too tolerant of immigrants.  He drew a primary challenger in his 2010 re-election campaign, and it now looks like he has another Republican challenger in next year's primary - again from the far right wing of the party.    But Johnny Mac hasn't been too worried.  He figured with his wife's money, Lindsey's warm support, and the general apathy of voters in Arizona in August, he ought to be good for another six years.  The secret to his success would be to not do anything to stir up the malcontents.

Then Donald Trump announced that he wanted to be President.  Then Donald Trump issued a savage and racist attack on immigrants from Mexico.  Then Donald Trump rushed to Arizona to hold hands with Joe Arpaio as he again slimed Mexican immigrants.  And then Johnny Mac got pissed!

McCain said that Trump's speech in Phoenix was "hurtful," and that what he did was to "fire up the crazies."  McCain, of course, has fired up a few crazies himself over the years.

Hey, Johnny Mac, how did that whole Sarah Palin thing work out for you?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Orville Redenbacher Poised for Big Win

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

The first Republican presidential debate is set for three weeks from tomorrow and the public is already giddy with anticipation.   The field of candidates who are recognized national figures or at least known to sizable constituencies rose to fifteen last week when Wisconsin's extremist and anti-union governor, Scott Walker, slithered into the race.

Fifteen somewhat viable candidates from just one of the major parties - all wanting to be President of the United States.    With fifteen names already in the hat, one should assume that those wily Republicans must have the market cornered on executive talent.  But then, as one begins to look at the actual candidates themselves, the assemblage quickly becomes laughable.  There are no positive messages emanating from any corner of the group - just anti-this and anti-that all laced together with inflamed rhetoric and hate and bigotry.

The first question that leaps to mind isn't how did the Republican Party get so many candidates, it is how did the Republican Party get so many terrible candidates?

The lead-off debate will be on Thursday, August 6th - with at least four more to follow during 2015 and several up through March of next year.  The initial debate will be hosted by Fox News and Facebook and will air from Cleveland.  The sponsors decided to limit that debate to ten candidates, and the lucky contenders will be determined by averaging popularity in five national polls.  Subsequent debates will have their own criteria for determining who makes it onto the stage.

The next question is how will those mud-slinging morons interact in the debates?  The on-camera exchanges are likely to be funnier than any possible parodies of the debates created by the writers of Saturday Night Live.

The Republican debates should be raucous and unpredictable - and fun - a great excuse to spend a few evenings laughing uproariously in front of the television.  There may even be a few winners among the gaggle of losers, but the big winner will almost certainly be Orville Redenbacher!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Yes, Virginia, There Is a Wall Between Church and State

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

There's a lot of anger and outrage along the back roads of rural America.  People are pissed off that the Supreme Court of the United States has defied the clear will of God with its decision allowing gays to marry - each other.  They are mad, and in their own futile ways they are trying to fight back at this surging tide of legalized immorality.

I'm not sure whether a baker can be legally forced to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple or not, but I do know that I could never knowingly consume a slice of a cake prepared by a hopeless bigot.  In my mind, if the baker doesn't want the business, so be it.  The economic marketplace will eventually eliminate the need for his struggling business.  The same goes with self-righteous florists.

But I think a line has to be drawn when it comes to elected public officials.

Ken Paxton, the Attorney General of Texas, made news last week when he told county clerks in his state to follow their consciences when it came to issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  Paxton said he would try to help them come up with free lawyers to defend their hopeless legal stance.  And in Kentucky this week, a county clerk is being hauled into federal court for refusing to do her job and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

People are opting out of doing their jobs (and sworn duties) because to do so goes against their firmly held religious beliefs.   What's a God-fearing, elected public servant to do?

And the answer is so simple.  Those elected by the public to do a job, must perform the functions they were elected to do - all of the functions.  If a religious belief comes into play that interferes with people doing their jobs, then they must set that religious concern aside and perhaps pray about it when they get home - or they must step aside themselves and let somebody who is not a hostage to religion handle the responsibilities of the job.

The county clerk in Kentucky had better get ready to make a hard decision.   The judge handling her case understands the law, and if the clerk doesn't - she soon will.

It's almost seems as though some of these goobers don't believe there is a wall between church and state.   They seem to think that religion should have a deep and abiding influence on government - like it does in Iran!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "A Cat Named Sloopy"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

I have admitted in this space before that I don't do a good job of keeping up with the news.  I follow the headlines on the internet, most of the time, but no longer have cable television for regular news programming.  Some days I listen to the news on National Public Radio, but at other times I even neglect that.

So it came as a sad surprise this morning when I learned that my favorite poet, Rod McKuen, had passed away several months ago.

Rod Mckuen, who was born into poverty and an extremely abusive home in Oakland, California, in 1933, ran away from home and began surviving on his own at the age of eleven.   He traveled the world doing manual labor and observing life.   McKuen read his early poetry in the coffee houses of San Francisco where he rubbed shoulders with the likes of Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.  He found commercial success with his poetry and as a songwriter in the 1960's.   His two most successful volumes of poetry were Listen to the Warm and Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows.  Rod McKuen passed away at a rehabilitation center in Beverly Hills in January of this year.  He was eighty-one.

Rod McKuen had a great love for cats, and they were often featured in his works.  One of my favorite McKuen pieces is "A Cat Named Sloopy" from Listen to the Warm.   It is a tale of love and grief and mourning - but mostly love.  The poem is a comfort - much like a saucer of warm cream.

A Cat Named Sloopy
by Rod McKuen

For a while
the only earth that Sloopy knew
was in her sandbox.
Two rooms on Fifty-fifth Street
were her domain.
Every night she’d sit in the window
among the avocado plants
waiting for me to come home
(my arms full of canned liver and love).
We’d talk into the night then
but missing something,
She the earth she never knew
me the hills I ran
while growing bent.
Sloopy should have been a cowboy’s cat
with prairies to run
not linoleum
and real-live catnip mice.
No one to depend on but herself.
I never told her
but in my mind
I was a midnight cowboy even then.
Riding my imaginary horse
down Forty-second Street,
going off with strangers
to live an hour-long cowboy’s life,
but always coming home to Sloopy,
who loved me best.
A dozen summers
we lived against the world.
An island on an island.
She’d comfort me with purring
I’d fatten her with smiles.
We grew rich on trust
needing not the beach or butterflies
I had a friend named Ben
Who painted buildings like Roualt men.
He went away.
My laughter tired Lillian
after a time
she found a man who only smiled.
Only Sloopy stay and stayed.
Nineteen fifty-nine.
Old men walk their dogs.
Some are walked so often
that their feet leave
little pink tracks
in the soft gray snow.
Women fur on fur
elegant and easy
only slightly pure
hailing cabs to take them
round the block and back.
Who is not a love seeker
when December comes?
even children pray to Santa Claus.
I had my own love safe at home
and yet I stayed out all one night
the next day too.
They must have thought me crazy
as the snow came falling
down around me.
I was a madman
to have stayed away
one minute more
than the appointed hour.
I’d like to think a golden cowboy
snatched her from the window sill,
and safely saddlebagged
she rode to Arizona.
She’s stalking lizards
in the cactus now perhaps
bitter but free.
I’m bitter too
and not a free man any more.
Once was a time,
in New York’s jungle in a tree,
before I went into the world
in search of other kinds of love
nobody owned me but a cat named Sloopy.
Looking back
perhaps she’s been
the only human thing
that ever gave back love to me.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Branson Backstory

by Pa Rock

A couple of days ago I wrote I wrote a review of the book, Bald Knobbers:  Vigilantes of the Ozarks Frontier, by Mary Hartman and Elmo Ingenthron.  I want to expand on that a bit and give some sense to the ultimate impact that the 19th century lawlessness in southern Missouri and northern Arkansas had on the development of Branson, today one of the nation's top tourist draws.

The Bald Knobbers (two words) originated in Taney County, Missouri, in the 1880's, and Taney County is now home to the modern country music city of Branson.  One of the very first music groups to organize a show on the strip in Branson was the Baldknobbers (one word) who  opened their doors to the public in 1959.  That show is still going strong with many of the performers being children and grandchildren of the ones who started the show.  Other than the name, there are no similarities between the original vigilantes and today's musical entertainers.

One of the most widely sold and read books in the history of American literature is Harold Bell Wright's Shepherd of the Hills.  That book, the story of a rugged mountain family in Taney County who befriends an artist from Chicago, features bald knobber activity.  Today the Matthew's cabin, which was the focal point of the novel, remains near Branson where it is open for public viewing - for a fee of course.   The community also hosts an outdoor evening production of a play based on The Shepherd of the Hills during the summer months.

The book, Bald Knobbers, by Hartman and Ingenthron, begins with a general history of lawlessness and vigilantism in America and then leads into the rise of criminal culture that evolved in the midwestern United States during and after the Civil War.  They talked about one notorious outlaw (bushwhacker) in particular - a dastardly thief, murderer, and gang leader by the name of Alf Bolin.  Bolin and his gang of cutthroat fiends refused to join either side during the Civil War, and instead spent their time preying on the defenseless wives and children left to manage the family farms while their men were off at war.

Alf Bolin was eventually killed in 1863 in a ruse set up by some Union soldiers.  His death occurred in Taney County, and his body was initially taken to Forsyth where his head was cut off.  Bolin's head was taken to Ozark, Missouri, where it was placed on a stake and became a brief tourist attraction.  Today those visiting Branson's premier tourist attraction, Silver Dollar City, have a chance to encounter Alf (now "Alfie") Bolin as he and his fictional brother, Ralphie, rob the train six or eight times daily.

(And a big shout out to one of my old college roommates, Mike Rhodes, who rode with the Bolin gang at Silver Dollar City back in the 1960's!)

Taney County, Missouri has a rich and colorful past, though much of it is rooted in tragedy.   But the people in and around Branson don't hide from their unique history. They accept it, profit from it, and move forward.

The outlaws are still riding in Taney County!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Bush Brothers, Creatures of Entitlement

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

George W. Bush, the man who served as President during the Dick Cheney administration, and his little brother, Jeb Bush, a former governor of Florida who would like to be President, have both been in the news this week.   Unfortunately for them, the stories tended to shed more light on these two sons of political entitlement than either could have wished for.

The Bush boys, and to a great extent that is what they still are – at least psychologically - are, of course, sons of another entitled politician:  former President George H.W. Bush.  Pappy Bush was the son of Prescott Bush, a United States Senator from Connecticut.  

(Prescott Bush attended Yale where he was a member of the highly secretive Skull and Bones Society.  While a member of that august group, he and some of his fraternity brothers allegedly got drunk and managed to dig up the skeleton of Geronimo and make off with his skull.   George H.W. and George W. were also both Yalies and members of the Skull and Bones.   George W. “Dubya” was only a "C" student in his best days, but he managed to be admitted to Yale as a “legacy,” a program that gives rich kids a leg-up over more deserving poor kids.)

This week it was revealed that Jeb Bush’s PAC raised more than $111 million dollars during the first six months of 2015.  Most of that time the Bush boy, age 62, was not officially a candidate for President, a posture that left him free to go out begging to the big donors to help fatten his PAC.  And what a job he did!  Since finally becoming honest and declaring his candidacy a few weeks ago, he has raised several more million on his own.   Bernie Sanders, a Democratic nominee for President, sent around an email a couple of days ago that was critical of the massive amounts of money that Jebya has raised - and using the word “oligarchy” to describe a government bought and paid for by corporate America.

(If Jebya had “officially” announced earlier, he would have been banned from working directly to fatten his PAC – and organization that is designed to be independent of the candidates.  So, he saw exactly how the system worked and gamed it.

But while Jeb Bush might fit the notion of a sleazy politician, he can’t hold a candle to his older brother.  In another story that broke this week, America learned that her former President, George W. Bush, a man who sent thousands of young people to fight in two unnecessary and unwinable wars, collected a fee of $100,000 in 2012 for being a featured speaker at a fundraiser for a group that works with seriously wounded veterans.  

That bears repeating:  George W. Bush asked for and received one hundred thousand dollars for speaking to a group of seriously wounded veterans - many of whom were wounded on his watch, and all of whom were wounded in his wars.   A Bush spokesman said the former President gave the group a deal because he normally gets two hundred and fifty thousand dollars per speech.  As a part of his fee, Bush also accepted a $20,000 ride on a private jet to get t o the event.

(A “C” student with only a limited knowledge of his own Presidency earning a quarter of a million dollars per speech – now there’s a racket!)

Both of the Bush boys seem to feel that they are entitled to certain things in life, like a couple of terms in the White House and a cushy afterlife.    George W. Bush has secured his pot of gold, but it’s still not too late to thwart Jeb as he “struggles” to buy the Presidency.  

America has suffered enough at the hands of this one very special family.  It is time for them to go somewhere and play with their money – and leave the rest of us alone.  Our country can, and must, do better than crowning another Bush.  We owe them nothing, and that's exactly what they are entitled to.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Rosie the Birthday Dog

by Pa Rock
Dog Person

Little Rosie, the nosey Chihuahua, came to live at my house last year on September 1st.  She had been born in Caulfield, Missouri a few weeks earlier on July 10th.  When I met Rosie she and her sister were in a box at a stand by the side of the road waiting to be sold.  The first thing she did when we were introduced was to lick my face!

Rosie has done very well in the ten months that she has been with me.   I took her to the vet the day after she arrived here and he pronounced her in good health.  She weighed one pound and one ounce on that first visit.  Rosie now weighs a little over six pounds.

Although Rosie is the undisputed queen of Rock's Roost, she has competition for attention from Thor Longmire, a juvenile Great Pyrenees who lives outside and is the sheriff of the farm, and Riley, a very large Boston terrier who has recently moved into our home.  Rosie does quite well playing with these other two dogs.  She is quite tiny compared to the two bigger dogs, but she literally can run rings around them - and does!

Rosie likes to travel.  She has accompanied me to McDonald County (200 miles) and to Kansas City (275 miles) on numerous occasions.  A couple of weeks ago I went to Kansas City without her and she apparently pouted all weekend.

But today is Rosie's birthday and her pouting is over!   She has a birthday toy (a stuffed heart) that has captured her attention, and later today she will receive a dried pig snout.  Yummy!

So, happy birthday, Rosie Girl.  May you have many, many more!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Republicans Seek to be Victims

by Pa Rock
Political Observer

I play cards every Wednesday night with a group at the local senior citizens' center.  The people at those games are primarily in their seventies and eighties (I am one of the young ones!), nearly all white - with the exception of one black couple, and all very conservative - excluding me, of course.

I don't talk politics with these people because I enjoy playing cards and I know that once that scab is picked I will get angry and find something else to do on my Wednesday nights.  And for the most part, the others refrain from discussing politics as well.  One lady does have an old Romney-Ryan bumper sticker on her car, but that is the only political sticker that I have noticed.

However, when it comes to talking politics, there is one exception to the civility rule.  One of our players is a functionary within the county Republican party, and he will occasionally let slip with some anti-Hillary, anti-Obama, or anti-gay remark.  Last night I overheard him do a brilliant little shellacking of the Democratic party by painting it as "anti-Christian."   As I sat down at the table he told the lady across from him that there are beginning to be lots of anti-Christians in America, and most of them are "controlled" by one particular political party.  "Oh yes,"  she replied with a deep level of concern in her voice, "I know.  I know."

And I probably should have called "bullshit," but then it would have quickly descended into me against everyone else, and I would have felt compelled to leave.  I suspect the entire conversation was staged just to get a rise out of me, and I wasn't in the mood to entertain the house.

But I understood what the old political codger had done.  He was using the national party line that paints Republicans as victims.  People are picking on Christians, Republicans are overwhelmingly Christian, therefore people are picking on Republicans.  Poor us, poor us, poor us.

The other side of that coin is that today's Republican party thrives on being the oppressors - of the poor, of immigrants, of racial and ethnic minorities, of women, of the homeless, of union members, of struggling college students, of public schools, and of gays.  They are overtly opposed to most groups in society with the notable exceptions of the extremely wealthy and, of course, old, white people.

Can I hear an "amen?"

My card-playing colleague played his political hand well last night, solidly linking Democrats with godless heathen, but what he said was just malarkey - much like what the national Republican candidates routinely spew.  Sadly for them, the constituency for that nonsense shrinks every day.  If God is under attack, one has to wonder why why She is calling so many of her loyal soldiers home instead of leaving them on the field to do battle with Democrats.

Why would anyone even want a Jesus based in hate?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Bald Knobbers, Nocturnal Terrorists of the Ozarks

by Pa Rock
Native Missourian

I have just finished reading Bald Knobbers:  Vigilantes of the Ozarks Frontier  by Mary Hartman and Elmo Ingenthron,   That book, perhaps the best to date on the complicated subject of the history of Ozark vigilantism, was first published in 1988, the same year that saw the death of it's primary gatherer of history, Mr. Ingenthron.  It was also exactly a century after the death of Nat Kinney, the acknowledged instigator and leader of the bald knobber movement.

Elmo Ingenthron, himself an Ozark character of some renown, was the grandson of a bald knobber, and his father, even though just a boy at the time, was old enough to have absorbed much of that history and passed it along to his son.

The bald knobber movement, one originally intended to clean up the lawless conditions in the Ozarks a couple of decades after the Civil War, occurred primarily in the southern Missouri counties of Taney and Christian.  It began in the spring of 1885 with a meeting in a remote area near Forsyth, Missouri, that was called by Nat Kinney, himself a mountain of a man who had served as a private in the Union Army.   Kinney's initial meeting attracted a core group of a dozen or so armed men.  Those men set about recruiting others, and the next meeting, at a mountain top "bald"  welcomed over a hundred individuals whose goal was to help their government enforce its laws.

Kinney organized this large core group into separate units to cover the remote geographical areas of Taney County.  Recruitment continued, and soon most of the county was either aligned with the bald knobbers (former Union soldiers and Republicans) or the anti-bald knobbers (Confederate sympathizers and Democrats).  The movement quickly spread to neighboring Christian County, and had off-shoots in other counties as well.

The bald knobbers were a colorful group who amassed a great deal of power quickly.  They rode at night in their campaign against lawlessness, often disguised with horned masks, their coats on inside-out, and socks over their boots.   They were concerned with law-breakers, criminals to whom they would mete out their own punishment (whippings, orders to move out of the county, and lynchings), and they also quickly became the moral police of the area paying particular attention to couples who were living together without the benefit of actual marriage.  Their membership included farmers, merchants, politicians, lawyers, and even clergymen.

Not surprisingly, though, as the power of the group increased, so did its abuse of that power.  Soon blocks of the local citizenry were so up-in-arms at the bald knobbers that they approached the state's governor and asked him to take some action to protect them from the armed hordes of night-riders.

This book gives a detailed history of the bald knobber movement.   It contains several pages of bibliographical sources and an adequate, though far from complete, index.   Anyone whose family passed through southern Missouri or northern Arkansas is likely to unearth tidbits of family history within its pages. The volume is honest in its hard look at the bald knobber movement, and it does nothing to glamorize or romanticize those events of a century ago - like some of today's shows in Branson do.

It wasn't a glamorous time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Socialism Rears Its Ugly Head

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana and a second-or-third-tier Republican presidential candidate, has taken to the air to warn us all about socialism - something straight out of the Joe McCarthy political playbook of sixty years ago.  Jindal, while whipping up images of America's left marching to the evil drumbeat of Barack Hussein Obama and Hillary Clinton, recently said on a New York AM radio station:

"We are on the path towards socialism.  It's not too late, but the hour is late."

Social Security, insured banking, free rural mail delivery, Medicare, Medicaid, Headstart, WIC, tax-supported public education, free and reduced price meals for needy school children, Obamacare, a minimum wage - why, by golly, I think he's right!

I recently saw a car with Texas plates bearing a bumper sticker which read:

"I will fight socialism until hell freezes over, and then I will fight on the ice!"

It's a topic that gets people fired up, or at least those who are raised to believe that anyone who has the initiative to work in our country will survive and prosper - even though there are massive amounts of evidence to the contrary.

Some people in America are very, very wealthy, and a goodly number of others want to be in that gilded one percent.   But what those struggling to plant their flags on the top of the economic cupcake fail to take into account is that almost all of the ultra-rich in this country got that way not through hard work and due diligence, but through inheritance.  Nothing says economic success quite like the passing of a rich relative.

While there are a smattering of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett's among us who actually earned their wealth, most of today's ultra-rich Americans got that way through inherited money.  The Koch's, the Walton's, and even the Bush's to a large extent survive and thrive on piles of inherited cash.  That money generates power, and that is often used to close doors of opportunity that would allow the poorest among us to move forward.

The rich rattle on about the awfulness of "death" (inheritance) taxes as they come up with more and more creative ways to pass their unearned wealth on to their undeserving spawn, and they always keep an eye on maintaining what they have.  One way to maintain their hordes of money is to starve the government through tax loopholes and hiding money overseas, and limiting the government's need for money by fighting all programs designed to empower those at the bottom of the economy.

Circle the wagons and call it socialism.

Are the rich under attack from the socialists, or is mankind under attack from the greedy?

Isn't there enough to go around?  Can't we all at least have a whiff of the pie?

Is it socialism, or is it basic humanity and Christianity?

Thankfully, Bobby Jindal, as he tries to revive a bogeyman from the last century, does not speak for us all.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday's Poetry: "American Names"

by Pa Rock
Poetry Appreciator

Stephen Vincent Benet published this ode to unique American place names in 1927.  In it he honors those odd, little, out-of-the-way places whose names add character and distinction the landscape of our great nation.  World War I had ended less than a decade before Benet penned this poem, and he seems to have been showing some concern for the boys who never came home but instead were put to rest in little European towns whose names were so unfamiliar.  In his last stanza the poet said that regardless of where his body parts were interred, there would only be one resting place for his heart, someplace uniquely and distinctly American.   Wounded Knee served as Stephen Vincent Benet's example.

The final line of the poem, "Bury my heart at Wounded Knee," of course was later lifted from the poem to serve as the title of a book, movie, and song that chronicled military barbarism toward the Native American peoples.

There is also a line in this poem where Benet uses some racist vernacular of the times, much as Twain did in many of his works.  Though the line represents an unfortunate choice of words on the part of the poet, it is presented in this space as written and unedited for historical accuracy.

American Names
by Stephen Vincent Benet

I have fallen in love with American names,
The sharp names that never get fat,
The snakeskin-titles of mining-claims,
The plumed war-bonnet of Medicine Hat,
Tucson and Deadwood and Lost Mule Flat.

Seine and Piave are silver spoons,
But the spoonbowl-metal is thin and worn,
There are English counties like hunting-tunes
Played on the keys of a postboy’s horn,
But I will remember where I was born.

I will remember Carquinez Straits,
Little French Lick and Lundy’s Lane,
The Yankee ships and the Yankee dates
And the bullet-towns of Calamity Jane.
I will remember Skunktown Plain.

I will fall in love with a Salem tree
And a rawhide quirt from Santa Cruz,
I will get me a bottle of Boston sea
And a blue-gum nigger to sing me blues.
I am tired of loving a foreign muse.

Rue des Martyrs and Bleeding-Heart-Yard,
Senlis, Pisa, and Blindman’s Oast,
It is a magic ghost you guard
But I am sick for a newer ghost,
Harrisburg, Spartanburg, Painted Post.

Henry and John were never so
And Henry and John were always right?
Granted, but when it was time to go
And the tea and the laurels had stood all night,
Did they never watch for Nantucket Light?

I shall not rest quiet in Montparnasse.
I shall not lie easy at Winchelsea.
You may bury my body in Sussex grass,
You may bury my tongue at Champmedy.
I shall not be there. I shall rise and pass.
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee.