May 14, 2014

"Chefs, open your baskets. Inside you will find alligator head, cotton candy, and garbanzo beans. You have twenty minutes to prepare an appetizer."


Compared to the nightly news, selecting Chopped as evening viewing is easy. With the exception of PBS news hour on Fridays when David Brooks is on, television news is so much junk food. The other night a French chef on the show opened a bottle of prepared salad dressing, smelled it, and exclaimed, "American food is all made of sugarrr."  American news is composed  of processed information bits designed to promote the liberal agenda - not sweet, but certainly unhealthy for the nation. The other program we watch is House Hunters International. Couples moving to other countries are shown three homes or units to choose from. You learn a bit about living in another country, but most important nobody is yelling obscenities, pointing pistols, or pillorying the politically incorrect. The most demonstrative action is when a buyer says "Wow!" when introduced to a  slick kitchen or an ocean view.

This morning I received an email from my cousin who lives in New Jersey, but was born and raised near Hog Eye, Mississippi. He had seen a Facebook post by my nephew going on about a store near where I live that still makes and sells cracklins. Coz wants me to send a batch so he can cook up some cracklin cornbread. I agreed to do so, but warned him that cracklin bread is deadly for those who do not have a pure southern soul. Since I lived 30 years in Kansas before coming home I limit my consumption of cracklins to once a year - on Robert E. Lee's birthday.  On that day I dine on cracklin cornbread with butter and ribbon can molasses. The corn meal is made from corn that I grow, the bread is cooked in a cast iron skillet that has never been washed, and the ribbon cane comes from the C.S. Steen Syrup Mill in south Louisiana. Usually there is a side dish of greens. Coz plans to serve cracklin cornbread to a bunch of his New Jersey buddies. I only sent one pound as I fear reading about multiple deaths occurring in N.J. after
dem guys eat a bait of cracklin bread. Actually, I  purchased a pound, but the package was a bit lighter by the time it enter the mail, dem guys should only suffer a bit of gas.

 May 15, 2014

Walker Percy wrote that he felt pity for the displaced southerners who had move north and were living lives of abstraction. In 1998 after 29 years in the north the gravitational pull of Arkansas finally overcame me and I went, dragging my distraught wife along, home to the cabin I had built years before on the family farm. Along with the cabin I had  a small herd of cows, and some basic farm machinery, but I was not finished with higher education: I helped the Arkansas two-years colleges learn about distance education, then I spent five years at Texas A&M teaching teachers how to stage courses online. To this day I still teach a college course online and plan to continue as long as feasible. And like Brer Rabbit I am happy to be in the briar patch...'be it ever so humble.....'.

Many entries in the WSJ or other such news outlets offer advice for those considering retirement. I doubt if anybody will read much less heed my pearls of wisdom, but here goes.  My first
advise for anyone planning to retire is to keep partially employed. Most of the old guys I talk with know of retirees who spent too much time in a recliner in front of the TV and soon move into a coffin.  They all quote Satchel Paige, "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you."  Just keep on rollin' along, but at a slower pace.

, boys and their toys are inseparable and old men are in many ways only white headed boys.  In my opinion farm toys are the best, tractor, brush hog, log splitter, chain saw, and so on. The shop tools are next best, table saw, electric drill, and on and on. Then comes boats, guns, and fishing equipment. But of all my toys the apple of my eye is:
mrtoad yahama
           "A Motor Car!" said Mr. Toad      aka farm utility implement 
The one I drive about is a Yamaha fuel-injected model - the handiest toy on the place. The battery powered units (les chariot électrique) are a bit heavy and tend to get stuck in the mud. You can attach a bed, attach a sprayer for weeds, or just drive up the road and visit with a neighbor.  Hot damn!

hird, make plans. My mother said my grandfather was making plans for the next year when he died at age 99. All of the toys in the world are useless if you are overtaken by boredom. Cultivate jeu-de-vie, it supports everything else.

Albrecht Durer,  Melencolia 
Even angels get the blues - in spite of all the toys.             


Fourth. Keep mentally engaged. Bridge, books, chess, crossword puzzles, and what passes for repartee with other old dudes. There is an inverse relation between how well a old guy is doing and how much TV he watches. Old men need three places to go besides home. Mine are 1) gym, 2) office w/computer, and  3) outdoors. Outdoors means moving about the farm, doing with I fell like - cutting down a tree or working in the vegetable garden.

Fifth Grow spiritually. This does not mean religion, there is a spiritual aspect to life whether you get stigmata at Easter or are a proselytizing athiest.  For several years I taught a Sunday school class composed of old men. Doing the research for the lessons was good mental exercise. After a few years I took my name off the rooster, because very few if any old guys were paying attention.  I could have held that prayer was a waste of time and Jesus was a practicing Hindu, but if I told two good jokes and finished ahead of schedule they would have given me a round of applause.  Once a local judge was "bringing the message" and naming Biblical tribes, he said, "Ammonites, Israelites, and the Parasites." After the class I came over, shook his hand and said, "Now tell me more about the Parasites." He looked me straight in the eyes and said, "You are the only one who noticed - now don't say a word." I smiled nodded and moved on, we both knew what we were up against. I can not say how to grow spiritually, but sliding into a mental stupor is not helpful.

Finally. Exercise and a good diet, of course everybody knows that and has opinions on both topics. You can do nothing about the genes you inherited, but you can follow Satchel Paige's advice, "Don't eat fried food, it angries up the blood."

May 18

WSJ: "The onboarding process is one way wealthy families are trying to smooth intrafamily relations and safeguard their fortunes for future generations. As the scions of the patriarchs grow up and get married, the importance of teaching about wealth and its preservation rises, according to families and their advisers."

One of my cousins made a pile of money and promptly turned into a fool. He was know to stop strangers and display a brief case stacked full of 100 dollar bills.  Family members learned to hid when he came around to keep from hearing about his money. After building a house that could have been home to a herd of elephants, he decided the money could buy servants to live his life for him. The servants, cooked, drove, fetched, and eventually rolled him around; although there was nothing wrong with his legs, he had a servant push him about in a wheel chair. He must have heard about oriental potentates carried to and fro in a palanquin.  Eventually he died of inactivity and an acute lack of friends. At his funeral when they lowered his casket into the ground another cousin standing next to me said, "Do you think we should all do the wave?"

May 20, 2014

We saw a pair of scissor-tailed flycatchers in a pine tree next to the cabin. Just hoping they decide to build a nest thereabouts.


Yesterday afternoon I realized that a missing calf had gone through the fence into a neighbors pasture and was unable to get back. The calf was bawling and the mamma was standing nearby calling to the calf.  I decided to come back in the morning with wire cutters - if the calf had not managed to get back in I would cut a wire in the fence and drive it through the gap. This morning I went over and found an unconcerned mamma cow and no calf. So, I don't know if the calf went off with the neighbors cows, if coyotes dragged it off or what. All I can do is check later today.

 Below is a fine 19th century view of Salzburg looking east across the river to the famous hill. The last time we were there Placido Domingo was in concert and we encountered happy bunches of folks in evening attire on their way to the concert hall. We were not invited.


Johann Fischbach
View of Salzburg with the Kapuzinerberg
Oil on wood, 38 x 48 cm
Residenzgalerie, Salzburg


May 21, 2014

The wayward calf wandered back, but still on the wrong side of the fence. We opened the gap between pastures, drove the golf cart behind the calf and walked it along side the fence to and through the gap. Mother and baby reunited, all is well. Calves can find their way out of a pasture, but seldom can they find their way home.