The ocean’s in motion, but is the poetry?

& In a recent issue of The New Yorker there’s a scary report from Miami Beach, where, in ome places, you no longer need to go to the shore to get to the ocean. It’s coming to you. You can now just step out the front door of your modest apartment or your multi-million manse into a puddle of water that’s sometimes as high as the wheels of your fancy new Mercedes. Or so Elizabeth Kolbert reports.

You ought to read her story, especially if you’re a fan of Stephen King. Parts of South Florida are like a soaked sponge. Step on your carefully manicured lawn and it bubbles. But this Log isn’t about the result global warming, which is really the subject this Kolbert’s Repour.

This item is about The New Yorker, the only magazine that I read. Many things to say about The New Yorker, too, but it’s Saturday, and I don’t do science on Saturdays. Today’s subjects: Poetry and cartoons.

Andy Rooney, in a lovely little letter to a Ms. Worth, ‘fessed up that although he liked the old bards’ stuff — especially the kind that rhymed — he didn’t understand most modern poems. “I still read some poetry in Harper’s, The Atlantic, and The New Yorker, just to make sure I still don’t like it.”

Rooney reasoned that his aversion to the new stuff “could be a lack of taste or a lack of intellect.” But, he wondered, “am I not a person of average intelligence who should be able to comprehend a poem? Why don’t I?”

I’ve wondered the same. Each time I read the latest weekly offerings from the editor ensconsed in the magazine’s poetry nook at No. 1 World Trade Center, I think of Rooney’s remembrance of the line from Carl Sandburg, who knew of what he spoke: “Poetry is a spot halfway between where you listen and where you wonder what it was you heard.” (Rather like the last time you sat down to listen to Donald Trump.)

I could give you a hundred examples of that poetic point of wonder, simply by flipping to almost any line of verse in my pile of recent New Yorkers. I’ll rely on just one example, from this poem of Robert Pinsky’s, which you’ll find a couple of pages beyond the conclusion of Ms. Kolbert’s repour on the watery Siege of Miami. I’d gotten a few lines into Pinsky’s poem about Greek choruses of dragonfly robots when I came to what is definitely a Sandburg Spot. The line, beyond which I no longer cared to wonder what I heard, was this:

“In varying unison and diapason they will dance the forgotten.”

It was more than enough modern poetry to reassure me that I still don’t like it. And, I don’t mind saying so. Andy’s dead, and so is Carl. Somebody must carry on.

As for the second subject, cartoons: They’re not poetry, but I usually get them. I haven’t charted my guffaws, but I’d say that I usually chuckle at 80 percent of the offerings from The New Yorker’s cartoon editor, Bob Mankoff. But not those in this week’s issue. Most of them I didn’t get.  Perhaps my lack of taste or a lack of intellect. Or, perhaps, Mankoff’s off on holiday and the poetry editor’s filling in? (I didn’t read this week’s poetry. One should avoid over-indulging in self-abuse.)

& I always like The New Yorker’s cartoon contest, in which one of their oh-so-demented cartoonists draw a picture, and we’re then asked to suggest a caption. I’ve entered twice, and received not a smidgen of approving diapason (yeah, I had to look it up, too). I didn’t even rate an honorable mention.

This was my first attempt:

130401_contest_p323

My non-prize-winning line was “We do not come to bury him, but to praise his Caesar salad.”

The winner’s was  “Will you all please bow your heads for the reading of the menu.

And my second attempt:

cartoonfix

But that’s my line. It wasn’t printed.

The winner’s, I’ve just learned, was

Looks like you boys could use some water.

You are entitled to refrain from guffawing. There will be no questions regarding your taste or your intellect.

Wondering how much longer the ocean will be a thousand miles west, I’m outta here.

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There are little people, and bigger little people

& All those people running for president are asking me for money.

I’ve given, I’ve given, I’ve GIVEN already! To Bernie. Thirty-five bucks — the proceeds from the middle drawer of my dresser, which doubles as a bedroom wastebasket and container for the unused contents of my pants pockets. Maybe Bernie could also use a couple of paperclips and a old dog collar?

I’ve got a problem with giving any money to any Democrat. They’d use it to buy advertising on television stations owned by Republican rich guys who donate their money — my money, really — to people like Ted “The Canadian Cuban” Cruz and Marco “The Cuban Robot” Rubio. Makes no sense.

I gave the money to Socialist Bernie, because Capitalist Hillary doesn’t need it. She’s got plenty.

Bernie gets his donations from millions of middle drawers in the bedrooms of the little people. The average contribution, he says is about $35. Hillary, according to somebody with a calculator at OpenSecrets.org, gets lots from individuals, too. Given some of the recent sums reported from Hillary’s little people, the average donation must be $35, too. $35 with two or three zeros behind it.

Clinton donations

Look at those little people from the big banks. At a recent count, individuals at Citigroup, Inc. had dug up $816,402 for the Hill; the little people at Goldman Sachs scraped up another $750,740; the JPMorgan Chase & Co. penny pinchers pinched their wallets for $693,456; and the Morgan Stanley pauper-people coughed up a measly $631,564. Scrooges. All in all, that’s $2,892,162 that Hillary got for Christmas.  These folks are financial wizards — people who know about stretching a dollar and stretching a law. None of them, last time I looked, know anything about doing a stretch behind bars.

Up Iceland, after the financial meltdown, they sent a bunch of bankers to jail. Made ’em turn in those shiny alligator shoes for soft slippers. America sent none; our bankers were required to hang around in the boardrooms to collect their big bonuses for… for what? For staying out of jail?

It’s a good thing they’re not in jail, as has been suggested by some of Bernie’s supporters. If they were behind bars, their dresser drawers would be filled with… well, they wouldn’t have dresser drawers, would they? Hillary could be broke.

Gimme the Bern boys,
And ease my soul.
We don’t want no fat cats
In control…

& Humming along with the Doobie Brothers and the Wall St. Warblers, I’m outta here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

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Of Bald Eagles and Brit TV

& It was a few years ago, maybe three or four. I was doing a friend a favor and editing something for posting in our local online paper, The Abiquiu News. (I’m sure I’ll write later in this Log about Carol and Brian Bondy’s nice little effort to do something important for our community. If I forget to, remind me. In the meantime, you can subscribe.)

The copy I’d been sent had something to do with the annual volunteer mid-winter count of bald eagles hanging around the big lake behind the Abiquiu reservoir. When they say mid-winter, they mean mid-winter. This year, it’ll be January 9th. It’s beyond me why people unsnuggle from their warm beds on a weekend morning to go sit in rubber boats freezing their patooties and peering through binoculars at big birds. It ain’t for the free coffee, is it? Don’t get me wrong: I’m glad they do it. They tell me results of this bird-peeping helps bring those big bald bombers back from the edge of extinction. That’s good. I like bald eagles. (Someday, I’ll write about one of those guys, too — remind me if I don’t.)

The point of all this, though, isn’t bald eagles or frozen butts.

I was starting to tell you about this copy I was editing. It was an appeal for volunteers to participate in the bird watch, and assuring readers that it would be done-and-over-with in plenty of time for everybody to get back home and watch our sometime-resident starlet, an up-and-comer named Shirley MacClain, in her first appearance on a popular PBS tv series. The writer of the copy, however, had spelled the name of the show wrong, so I corrected it to Downtown Abbey.

Aside from breaking blah-blah on cable, the World Series and some other championship sports events, I don’t watch a helluva lot of television (let me tell you about local tv news, someday – pu-leeese don’t let me forget), and I particularly shy away from those “series” shows, where they hook you with a mystery in the first episode and drag you through eight weeks of inane sleep-inducing red-herrings and plot-rehash until they unveil final solution, which any single-celled animal has figured out by the end of week two. That is to say I was clueless when it came to the New World of television soap operas, and particularly unaware of Downton Abbey. Hadn’t heard of it.

Be assured I heard about it.

To assuage my cluelessness, I felt obliged to watch the next installment. I haven’t missed one since. Which means I was securely settled in my chaise this evening, wondering if I had missed Laura Linney (oh, the lovely Laura Linney) introducing us to the first installment of the final season of the soap-opera-to-end-all-soap-operas, Downton — and I don’t mean Downtown — Abbey.

In the British Isles, of course, they already know how this all ends. Over There, they aired the concluding nine weeks of the final season last fall, ending with must have been a satisfying finale (how could Downton Abbey be anything but satisfying?) as a Christmas present to Brits, Scots and Irishpeep. Over There, the damned Redcoats already know the answers to a million questions we now have Over Here: Can there be honor among blackmailers; can true love trump wrinkled old bodies; are glorious young women forever doomed to exist as corporate crones; is Mr. Green’s murderer in fact somebody we love; will auctioneers feast on the detritus of Downton; can tormented gay footmen finally find peace; and can gentle old souls can be happy with cold old maids.

And, dammit, Over There they already know who dies in the next eight weeks. Somebody’s gotta die. Julian Fellows, who created this theater of masterpiece, is nothing if not cruel. But Julian: Not Maggie Smith, I hope. Without her, who would be left to utter Violet’s marvelous acerbic one-liner causticisms, such as tonight’s question to the do-gooding Isobel: “Does it ever get cold on the moral high ground?”

I’m staying away from Brit Twitter, which doubtless will give me all the answers too soon. But I’m not avoiding single-cell organisms — they don’t have a clue. Bring it on, Downton, I’m awaiting answers. The bald eagle count will have to wait.

& Still wondering what the hell happened to Laura Linney, I’m outta here.

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A new chapter in the history of a very old trail

& Three Californians riding two mules and a mustang passed through Abiquiu this week, and made some history. Might not sound like much, but if you know even a little bit about the history of this place (Georgia O’Keeffe doesn’t count), you know that’s saying something.

This small band of riders – what shall I call them, reverse historians? – accompanied by couple of lady documentarians and a truck-driving, trailer-hauling equivalent of an oldtime camp cookie in a chuckwagon  —  have been encamped for the past few nights around here – first up at Ghost Ranch for a couple of nights, and then down beside the big barn at the Rio Arriba Rural Events Center.

They’re just coming to the end of three months of re-blazing 800 miles of an old trail – such as it is these days – that was last traversed by a mule train a couple of years before the Civil War began. They called it then the Spanish Trail, and depending on one of three routes you chose, it was 1,200 miles, give or take, across the wildest of the American wild west — from Santa Fe and Abiquiu to Los Angeles and back again, packing goods out, leading livestock in. Now it’s the Old Spanish Trail, and, Congress says, a formal part of our history.

In those early years of the 19th Century, they’d pack up their mules in Abiquiu and set out – the first muletrain headed out in 1829 — for the frontier towns of California with loads of serapes, blankets, socks, buffalo robes, skins, hats, shawls and quilts that had come from the east along the 800-mile Santa Fe Trail or from Mexico City on 1,200 miles of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Those goods would be traded, most of them, for horses and mules to be brought back from California across the same wilderness of desert, high mountain passes and arroyos to Nuevo México.

The commercial caravanning from east to west went on for a quarter of a century, the historians tell us, slowed down about mid-century, when gold-seekers pounded smoother routes to northern California, and were left in history’s dust a decade later, when the railroad barons pounded the Golden Spike in Utah.  We probably don’t have a Guinness Book of Records entry on when the last string of muleskinners made it back across the Spanish Trail to Abiquiu – 1848’s a good guess — but now we know when the last mules walked the Old Spanish Trail back into New Mexico.

It was this week.

Richard Waller of Arroyo Grande, CA, who retired from elementary school teaching to become an “adventurer with a conscience” and became a determined member of the California chapter of Backcountry Horsemen of America, is the visionary and trail boss of this homage to the heritage of the American West. With the backing and support of the national BHA, he lured a couple of others – Otis Calef of Santa Barbara and Jim Clark of Ojai – to forget their ages (averaging in the late Sixties, they call themselves the “Pedo Viejos”), saddle up at Cajon Pass east of L.A. and turn their horse’s heads to the northeast. They headed up the Mojave River, across the southern tip of Nevada and into Utah where, in November, they stopped the trek at Parowan. Last month, they tacked up again and began their final weeks of following a very old trail to its northernmost point at Moab, then turned southeast, across the tip of Colorado and finally down into the valley of the Rio Chama.

Along the way they’ve been accompanied by Rod Thompson of Ojai, who has ferried the animals from day’s ending point to overnight shelter and back to the trail again, across and along nasty stretches of Interstate and other highways that long ago took the places the muleskinners once walked, and around the few unfriendly places that permission to pass wasn’t allowed – Colorado wasn’t the friendliest place they found, and the Jicarilla Apaches never responded to a request to cross their lands up north.

Even so, Waller will remember in the book he’s going to write (if he tells me when it’s going to be published, I’ll let you know) that most everybody– from oldtimers in their 80s to young ‘uns who have fed them and offered them stalls for their animals and soft places to rest their aching backs, “was more than welcoming, more than willing to lend us a hand, open a gate, or feed us a dinner.”

“It has been a ride through magnificent country and wonderful people.”

All tolled, Waller estimates, they’ve covered about 800 miles of the Old Spanish Trail – the other 400 miles they found fenced off or under asphalt. Some of the stories of western hospitality and trials on the trail already are posted on their website – www.osttrek.com – and their Facebook page (it’s Backcountry Horsemen Old Spanish Trail Trek, and has plenty of great pictures, like this one.) OST canyon shotAlso on tap: A documentary, being filmed and chronicled by Benedicte Clark and Marie Bergenholtz, a couple of ladies from, I’m not kidding, Sweden and Norway. What would those old muleteers think about that?

Today (Tuesday), they’ll ride the last equine-friendly leg of their journey, up through Vallecitos and down through the hills and arroyos south of Highway 84 to near Espanola, and pack it in for one more night, before the animals are hauled over the highspeed fourlane hill into Santa Fe for their final ride, on Wednesday, in a parade into the Plaza. That parade is also part of the kickoff of the Three Trails Conference – named, of course, those three trails that funneled the goods into Santa Fe 200 years ago, and came to an end where the Old Spanish Trail began.

The end of the trail for this posse of the Pedo Viejos will be next to the rodeo grounds in Santa Fe, at the friendly facilities of another supporting organization interested in the history, heritage and culture of American trail riders, the Northern New Mexico Horseman’s Association.

And so why, Mr. Waller, did you decide to do this?

“Well,” he says, “to promote the mission of the Backcountry Horsemen of America and, particularly, to interest the public in the protecting the right to ride on our public lands. I hope that the Old Spanish Trail trek will help increase the public’s knowledge of our cultural heritage.”

And, Mr. Waller, how do you think you’ve done so far?

“Well, sometimes we’ve gotten welcomed by lots of people, festivities, and even a mayor or two has shown up to welcome us to town. Sometimes, we’ve ended up camping in the woods. But I’ve come to think of it as you’d think of a motorboat cutting across a lake, leaving lots of little whirlpools in its ever-widening wake. I hope that by riding the Old Spanish Trail, we’re leaving some of those whirlpools and some public interest in our wake.”

& Hoping the mayor of Santa Fe shows up tomorrow, with a bunch of other people, to meet the mustang, two mules and three newest blazers of the Old Spanish Trail, I’m outta here.

———————–

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Annals of Hypocrisy in Politics, 2015 edition

& Speaking volumes:

July 18, 2015 — Jeb Bush’s response to Donald Trump’s opinion of John McCain’s status as ‘hero’:

bush tweet

January 19, 2005 — Bush’s letter to the Swift Boaters who orchestrated the smear campaign against then-presidential candidate John Kerry:

 

bush letter

& Wondering if Jeb’s trying to trump his brother in the Bait-and-Switch Sweepstakes, I’m outta here.

 
(thanks to Oliver Willis for finding the letter, sent via http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/07/20/1403918/-Check-out-this-letter-then-Governor-Jeb-Bush-wrote-to-the-swiftboaters-in-2005?detail=email#)

 

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Pride: An end to many happy years; now a good long rest among friends

& Sad day up here on the Rio Chama. But a good one, too.

Pride Simmons laid down near those hay bales, which had been his always-flowing, all-you-can-eat cornucopia, and died. He went easily; his old bones probably welcoming the long rest ahead.

In his 35 years, he’d seen a lot – from the rigors of mile-after-mile endurance riding events, to some years of enduring mistreatment by human owners and clueless weekend wannabe cowboys, to a 15-year residence and boss of the herd in the closet thing to Nirvana a horse could ever hope for.

As I write this, the warm dirt is still settling over him in his very deep entombment on the land of Sharon Burkard and Mickey Simmons. There, he lies beside some good company – Tomas, Bode, Isaac, Carlos, Hadley, Ozzie, Newbie, Scout, Oliver, Shiloh, Party, Lily, Rocco, Doc, General, and Ronnie – the remains, in order, of one cat, two goats, two geese, three dogs, seven horses and one human. Oh, the stories that graveyard could tell.

[caption id="attachment_2217" align="alignright" width="287"]me n pride Me ‘n’ Pride. (He didn’t have much use for grammar, either)[/caption]

I’ve written about one of Pride’s new compadres, he being Ronnie, and I should have told you more about others I knew – Carl Bode’s best friend Doc, and Oliver, the two-day-old foal of the rescued (and now-thriving) Skye; and those of that marvelous canine breed known as New Mexico Show-Ups, who showed up, lived happily and died peacefully at the Simmons ranch — Ozzie, Newbie, and that fearless Scout, who I liked a lot, even though she had a thing about biting me.

Pride’s obituary is best told by Sharon, who sent this today:

“Pride Simmons, age 35, retired endurance horse and all around outstanding guy, passed away peacefully this morning in the paddock of his Abiquiu home, surrounded by his adoring humans and his herd.  Mickey added many happy years to Pride’s life with a combination of love, intuition, and carefully researched supplements.  Pride taught Sharon how to stay on a horse’s back, and though he tested her on occasion, always kept her safe, a testament to the generosity of his heart and the depth of his spirit.  He let us know he was ready to go this morning. We were with him when he left.  He brought us a lot of joy, and we will miss him.

Two weeks ago, after he’d done his evening barn-browsing through the hay bales, picking and choosing at his leisure the tastiest and tenderest of the gourmet grasses, he was out in the pasture, still chasing, and bossing and having his way with the rest of the Simmons six-horse herd. He was himself to the end, and had a good time being so.

My kind of guy.

[caption id="attachment_2218" align="aligncenter" width="358"]pride_ms Mickey and Pride[/caption]


&
Keeping in mind that thought that “we’re all travelers in this universe, from the sweet grass to the packing house,” and thankful that Pride never made it to the packing house, I’m outta here.

 

 

 

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Bad boys. These meddling, letter-writing Republican senators are really, really, really, REALLY bad boys.

& America’s newspaper editors have been sent scrambling into their various thesauruses (thesauri?) for words to say that 47 Republican senators are bad boys – really, really bad, bad boys — for mucking around in the negotiations to slow down Iran’s nuclear weapon ambitions. The senators’ open letter this week now has given members of the GOP some evidence for their eternal claim that America’s press is unanimously against them. On this issue, it seems, the press is unanimous. Here’s a smattering of editorial reaction (thanks to politicususa.com and storify.com for pointing these out – there will be plenty of other examples to be found elsewhere):

Pittsburgh Post Gazette: “[Obama and Kerry], who are charged with making the nation’s foreign policy, [were] hit from behind by one house of the federal legislature. The senators who signed the letter should be ashamed.”

The Sacramento Bee: “The Republican senators who signed the letter – including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and potential presidential candidates Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Marco Rubio of Florida – who could use a remedial civics class.”

Baltimore Sun: ““The poison pen note was a shocking example of just how far President Barack Obama’s GOP critics in Congress are willing to go in an effort to undercut his foreign policy goals…The GOP senators might just as well have put up a big sign over their chamber warning the mullahs in Tehran to prepare for war…”

The Boston Globe: “breathtaking… reckless intrusion into international diplomacy….The letter … undercuts the president’s traditional authority [and]… badly undermines America’s credibility in the international community.”

The Denver Post: “Grandstanding.”

The Kansas City Star: “… pure hatred of Obama, it also seemed extra personal…another politically motivated attempt to stop him from doing anything that might be perceived as a victory for his administration.”

Concord (NH) Monitor: “…[GOP senators] are playing a political game dangerously out of bounds.”

The Salt Lake City Tribune “It will be up to history to judge whether the latest partisan stunt … amounts to an act of End Times warmongering or merely another bit of cringe-worthy buffoonery on the global stage… foolish, dangerous and arguably felonious… the Senate Republicans make common cause with the hard-liners in Iran to push the region, and the world, that much closer to nuclear war.”

Lompoc (CA) Record: “difficult to imagine … what goes on in the three branches of federal government. We’ve tried for years, and we still don’t get it. For example, what is there about providing health insurance for millions of Americans … that has gotten so thoroughly under the skin of congressional Republicans?”

Los Angeles Times: “…negotiating with foreign nations is the president’s job. The Republican senators’ meddling in that responsibility is outrageous.”

New Jersey Star-Ledger: “…supercilious…amateurish missive …from the circular firing squad known as the GOP.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: “Hate mail: Senators seek to sabotage Obama’s foreign policy. [Those] who signed the letter should be ashamed.”

Miami Herald: “… a mischievous attempt to throw a monkey wrench into a years-long, multinational effort…”

San Francisco Chronicle: “…reckless … Washington’s unrelenting partisanship is hitting an all-time low.”

Somewhere, perhaps deep in the heart of Texis, there lurks an editorial praising that letter or saying it had at least some merit. If you find one, please send it to your favorite Republican Senator-signer, like any of those presidential wanna-bes or the last senator the GOP recommended for the White House, John McCain. Whomever that put-upon, pilloried senator might be, he needs some love. Whether he deserves it is another question.

& Wondering if any soul (maybe the Arizona senator’s family dog?) thought this was a good idea, I’m outta here.

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The Faux News Tribe vs. The Facts

A Facebook post from Salon.com popped up today. Headline:

Fox News more trusted than any other network, according to terrifying poll

Yr’s Truly, having heard too much lately about the lies of Bill O’Reilly, the resulting increase in the followers of this bullying, bloviating, pretender to a profession, and the arrogant, continued response of his ethic-less employers who blatantly admit that audience size [read “money”] justifies “journalistic” lying, had to respond.

“If we’d have been faced with WWII today,” I wrote, “we’d have lost.”

Kim Heacox, a wise fellow from Alaska who writes books and plays the guitar and does a million other things, including thinks about almost everything, responded:

If you’ve not yet done so, read the March 2015 cover story in Nat’l Geographic Magazine, “The War on Science,” that explores the roots of America’s antagonizing ideologies (“egalitarian and communitarian” versus “hierarchial and individualistic”) and how most Americans are still in high school; more devoted to the warmth of their tribe (to fit in with those they identify with) than they are to the cold, dispassionate truth.”

That lit my fire. Cold, dispassionate truth is what we need — just about everywhere you look. Especially truth. Unfortunately, it’s going to take some passion to make the argument. So, I got passionate.

But, I decided on second reading of my responses, they had become “too long and laborious for the friendly forum of Facebook.” But not, mind you, for this old gringo’s Gazette. They’re gone from the friendly confines of Facebook, but not forgotten. Here’s the rest of it, in all its passionate glory.

“Kim,” I responded, “I’ll read it. Before I do, and at the risk of sounding too much like the old fart that I am and too little concerned about this nation’s many v-e-r-y s-e-r-i-o-u-s problems, it seems increasingly clear that far too many Americans are dumber than a pile of posts, proud of it, and unwilling to face the fucking facts of a very threatening future. Too many of those who would agree with me, unfortunately, are so mired in a wimpish wallow of political correctness that avoidance of controversy and criticism is their creed. It should be just the opposite. Those dolts who honor and are honored by Fox News should be roundly and regularly humiliated. If they’re allowed their continued cult-worship at the altar of ignorance, we’ll soon have a President named Bill O’Reilly.

Then I read the Nat Geo article (you should too.)

“Kim — marvelous article. Thanks for pointing it out. Applies certainly to far more than the science tribe. There’s the conservative political tribe and the liberal one. And there are several thousand religious tribes. And the “patriotic” tribe, all warring over the definition of patriot. On and on — humans in search of other humans who affirm their beliefs without knowing exactly why. I’m still pondering which tribes I belong to, but I’m pretty sure baseball is one of them, football is not.”

Among other things, I was struck by this from that National Geographic writer,  Joel Achenbach: 

“Evolution actually happened. Biology is incomprehensible without it. There aren’t really two sides to all these issues. Climate change is happening. Vaccines really do save lives. Being right does matter—and the science tribe has a long track record of getting things right in the end. Modern society is built on things it got right.”

& Passionate in believing Achenbach got that right, I’m truthfully outta here.

 

 

 

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Slim

While we’ve all been off wrapping and wassailing and having a good old holiday time, there are some people who’ve been very busy the past few days trying to save a few horses from the slaughter houses. A friend writes that there has been “a huge surge of people dropping off horses, donkeys, and mules like hot rocks,” and most of them — unless someone can come up with the going price per pound of horsemeat-on-the-hoof — are headed for the slaughterhouse.

Across the country it seems, there are efforts to save at least some of the horses by raising the money to ransom them from the people known as killbuyers. In Texas, some rescuers have managed to raise $40,000 in the past few days to buy a herd of 60 already-starved horses that were  jammed into a massive trailer and headed for Mexico. In Oklahoma, Cie Sadeghy continues her constant campaign to save equines, as do others in Colorado, and a group that works coast-to-coast saving draft horses. The list goes on. On top of everything else, they’ve got to find places to keep the horses that are saved, and then try to find people to adopt them. It’s never ending.

Yr’s Truly was reading about the draft horses. It inspired me to write a story for one of those 500-word flash fiction contests. (You try to write a story in 500 words. I dare you.) Well, I did it, entered it, and it didn’t win a damn thing. So it goes. Even though those judges didn’t think much of it, I kinda liked it. Maybe you will, too. It’s short, anyway.

Slim

By Robert E. Cox

The little girl with a golden braid stood waiting outside the auction barn, looking down at the pant legs puddled around the man’s scuffed boots.  Her eyes rose slowly to the dirty rope resting loosely in the man’s weathered hand. The lead hooked to a makeshift halter of orange twine and cracked leather, slack-fitted on a Belgian’s massive head.

The horse’s muzzle was lifted — eyes alert and hopeful, ears raked forward, attentive to rumbling diesel engines and rattling gates of stock trailers moving forward through the dust kicked up in the dimly lighted loading lot. At the chute, two men with cattle prods swore as they forced five horses into a stock trailer.

The little girl’s eyes passed from the Belgian’s matted mane, down its muscled neck and along its swayed back. At its jutting hipbone her eyes stopped. She looked down and moved some sawdust with her toe.
“That your horse, mister?” She looked up.

His eyes were shadowed by a battered hat brim. Under a gray mustache, he smiled. “Nope. Bought him and four more for another fella.”

“What’s he gonna do with them?”

“I expect he’ll send them to slaughter. Down in Mexico.”

“Why?”

“So people can eat them.” He feigned surprise. “Just like cows.”

She crossed her arms on her chest, like her Mama would, and tilted forward on her toes. “Horses aren’t cows.”

“They’re meat,” he offered. “People in other countries eat horse meat, just like you eat cow meat.”

“I don’t eat meat, Mister.”

He pulled a pinch from a flat round can and put the tobacco in his mouth. The can clicked shut.

“How old are you, Missy?”

“Nine.”

“Where’s your daddy?”

“We don’t know.”

“Where’s your momma?”

She looked back toward the sale barn. “My little brother had to pee.”

She stared at him, her mouth a hard, straight line. “How old is that horse?”

“Pretty old.” He reached up and lifted its lip. “Teeth pretty much gone. Scars. Collar burns.” The gelding stood proudly for inspection. “He did his time. Probably pulled an Amish plow.”

“Did you look at his eyes?”

The man tugged the halter. The horse lowered its head. “Nice eyes,” he said. Like he’s asking us for something, maybe.”

“What’s his name?”

“Don’t know. He’s ribby, though. Let’s call him Slim.” The man looked at the line of slowly advancing pickups. “Truck’s almost here, Missy. Gonna have to load old Slim.”

“How much for Slim, Mister?”

“I paid five seventy-five.”

“I don’t have 575 dollars.”

“Now what would you do with him, Missy?”

“I would look in his eyes, Mister. Every day.”

His fingers gathered his moustache, then spread it again.

“Hold him.” He handed her the lead. Limping a little, he walked along the line to a pickup and leaned in. There were words she couldn’t hear until the man backed away and yelled into the window. “I’m not taking that horse, God dammit!” He turned and strode back though the dust.

“Come with me,” he said, and led Slim toward a table. The sign on it said:

Horse Rescuers
Help Us Save Horses from Slaughter
Adopt & Donate!

The man handed a piece of paper to a woman at the table. “This horse is named Slim. He’s yours. You should find a way to get him into the care of this little girl.

“She likes his eyes. I do too.” He handed the lead to the little girl and winked. He walked back to the pickup, climbed in and slammed the door. The truck moved off, trailering four horses into the blackness.

-end-

=============

©2014-2015 – Robert E. Cox

Happy that at least some of those horses will see the new year, I’m outta here.


UPDATE:
Well, it’s a little longer than the original. After the judges so cruelly rejected me I was no longer limited to 500 words, so I added a few. What are they gonna do, sue me?

 

YOU ARE WELCOME & ENCOURAGED TO COMMENT BELOW.
DO NOT BE SHY. JUST BE CIVIL.

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Pearls. Well, more like onions.

& Raymond Chandler, the master metaphor-maker of modern fiction, once had his famous detective Phillip Marlow explain that “I belonged in Idle Valley like a pearl onion on a banana split.”
In honor of Chandler, and in honor of highschool fiction writers who follow, sort of, in Chandler’s footsteps, Yr’s Truly presents:

The Top Ten 2014 Raymond Chandler Pearl Onion Awards
For, Like, Highschoolers Who, Like, At Least Try…

10. She was like a magnet: Attractive from the back, repulsive from the front.”

9. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli and he was room temperature Canadian beef.

8. She had him like a toenail stuck in a shag carpet.

7. When she tried to sing, it sounded like a walrus giving birth to farm equipment.

6. Their love burned with the fiery intensity of a urinary tract infection.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes before it throws up.

4. Joy fills her heart like a silent but deadly fart fills a room with no windows.

3.Her eyes were like the stars, not because they twinkle, but because they were so far apart.

2. Her eyes twinkled, like the moustache of a man with a cold.

And, the Number One Raymond Chandler Pearl Onion Award for, Like, Highschoolers Who, Like, At Least, Try…

1. The ballerina rose gracefully en pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

& I’m, like, outta here.

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