Sunday, April 27, 2014


A bit of doggerel from my youth: Spring is sprung/The grass is riz./I wonder where/The birdies is?

Signs of spring are multiple and varied.

One of the ways I know spring is here is when the snow melts and reveals the empty beer bottles and tobacco tins discarded by the hunters who crawl up and down our unpaved road looking for turkeys or deer or other wildlife to track and (sometimes) take home in pieces. Some of the pieces. The melting snow also reveals where they butchered their kill to get what they wanted, usually the rack and a few steaks from a deer, and discarded the rest in the ditch or among the brush and trees along the edge of the field.

Teddy and Buddy both have a nose for bleached bones. Often, when we walk along the edge of the lower field this time of year, one of them will disappear into the brush and reappear with a bone held jauntily in his jaws, much like an unlit cigar. Sometimes it is just a simple leg bone, another time it will be a joint, complete with hoof. Neither will try to keep the bones, but will carry them around until we get back to the house. They give them to me easily, almost as tribute, and I put them into the wood-burning furnace that sits about 60 feet from the house. That way the parts are at least recycled safely into the soil when the ashes are spread later in the year.

What really confuses me about the hunters lies in the fact that these are the same "conservationists" who object whenever a demand is put on them beyond the fees they pay for a license to help defray the cost of protecting the wildlife they hunt. More to the point here is that they seem to take no responsibility for trashing the land they purport to respect and conserve. It is left to those who own the land to try to maintain it so that it will be there for them in the future. Were it up to me, I would protect it by prohibiting most of these "conservationists" from coming within a mile of our land. Unfortunately one of the early owners here gave permission to the US Forest Service to layout a public access trail across it for strangers who wanted to get to the national forest that is both the eastern and western boundaries of our farm. The access trail is long and not always clearly marked, which some of those who use it take as license to strike out off the trail and hunt our land without permission. More than once, when I would go out looking for deer myself, I would find strangers hiding in the brush, or even on stands in our trees. These folks, when called out, would insist they were on national forest land, even though a look at the topo map showed very clearly that they were positioned half a mile or more from where the trial actually ran to the forest.

I’m not against hunting, even though I no longer participate. That decision to give it up had more to do with my age, my inability to sit still for very long, and most importantly, a distinct lack of skill. It is something that I believe must be learned at a young age. Many of our neighbors here in the mountains begin taking their offspring with them as soon as they are old enough to spend time in the woods. A first deer or turkey at the age of six or eight is not unusual. The parents have taught them well the skills needed to hunt. Safety, patience, accuracy all come into making a hunter. It is too bad that respect for the land, real respect that includes preserving and protecting it is often missing in that education. The result is that we (and many other landowners) are left with the job of cleaning up trash, getting rid of animal parts that can attract (and can kill) domestic animals like dogs, and patrolling our own land to guard against human predators abusing our hospitality and the rights of property owners.

While those who disrespect our property create a nuisance and even a danger, the rest of us must pay the price for their lack of common sense, respect for others, and respect for the very land they hope will welcome them back next season. There is, in the political climate today, an element that beats the drum for individual rights, for freedom to go and come and do as one pleases. Personal responsibility has come to mean if it’s for me, it is good; if it is for you, it’s bad.

It’s a one-way street where the user chooses the direction, with no provision for two users starting at opposite ends. One of those roads to nowhere.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Friend Me? Me Friend?

 A recent article in the New York Times reports on the progress of the move to re-define friends. The-is re-defining has evolved, as many of you know, from the practice of a well-known computer destination that suggests one should "friend" another person. And there is a metric associated with this. (Metric, itself once a noun naming a system of measuring things, is now used to mean the collecting of numbers of any system or value that the user compiles.)

Becoming a friend, or "friending," as it has become known, now somehow means that one approves of some person or place or act or belief. In the lexicon of modern shorthand, to friend someone or something, or to like almost anything, becomes a metric for deciding how important or popular something or someone is (or is not). Well, here’s where the trainload goes off the track: you can buy a "bot" or robotic program that will Friend or Like whatever you want, in the name of what appears to be a real person. You can be "friended" a million times in minutes, by bots that have faces and names and histories - - - and they aren’t real. They don’t exist.

For me, finding a friend, or becoming friends with someone, isn’t something I’d ever want a robot to do for me. I don’t want to have a book I’ve written "liked" by robots (unless they actually buy the book, perhaps). What is happening to our world?

I have a lot of acquaintances, people with whom I do business or share interests. Among that coterie I count a few as friends, as well. But just because I know someone, even visit with them or work on something with them doesn’t make them a friend. We have, since the advent of what we call "social media," steadily devalued both "friend" and "like." I resent that reinventing of those words. Friendship is one of those things that gives meaning and substance to life. You meet someone in the course of work (or play) who turns out to be one with whom you really connect, and go on to enjoy a rewarding association. It is something that happens on its own. What makes a friend is obscure. It is one of those things that doesn’t require or flourish with analysis or deconstruction. A friend, I believe, just is.

That is one of life's most endearing mysteries, my friends.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Laughing Is Not Always Loving

Recently a friend passed on a video showing a dog obviously confused about himself, trying to play with a toy. As he attacked the object, his left hind leg seemed to move on its own, to pull the object from the dog’s mouth. Time and time again, the dog turned to grab and try to "kill" the aggressive leg. Time and time again, one could hear in the background, humans laughing uproariously at the dog’s action. Giggles and guffaws filled the soundtrack as the dog repeatedly attacked himself. And I asked myself why it seemed funny. And I thought about my "Buddy."

Last Fall I adopted a dog whose name (since he joined our pack) is Buddy. Buddy is about two years old, a cross between a German Shepherd and something not quite as big. A handsome guy, now weighing a bit over 50 pounds, he is "my" dog, follows me where ever I go, lies at my feet under my desk, runs along beside the truck or tractor when I'm working around the place (doesn't like to ride with me, sad to say), and if I'm working in_place, cutting wood for instance, he finds someplace nearby to lie (on the snow, in the shade, please) and waits until I'm finished. When we walk he is ahead and behind and around me even if the rest of the pack is running off up the ridge or playing near the woodpile. There is one thing that distracts him, however. Somewhere, in his previous life, some not very thoughtful person, probably one addicted to YouTube, began teasing Buddy with a flashlight or laser pointer.

Animal experts recognize this "game" as an addiction. Now, if I'm walking at night with my headlight on, say out to the furnace or some other after_dark chore, Buddy will chase the beam wherever I turn my head. Cute. Reflections from an opening or closing door will send him into paroxysms of lunging at the light on the floor or wall. The flicker of light from a rotating wheel will bring him close to (but so far not in contact with) the changing light patterns generated by the wheel. It is probably too late to modify this behavior, and I have a dog I am really attached to (and he to me), who may someday make the wrong guess and hurt or even kill himself, chasing a point of light, an addiction someone thought was "cute" or "funny."

I don't mean to get on a soapbox, but dogs – the only animals that really attach themselves to us as they have since before recorded time – are not toys. They are real live animals. They have vocabularies of several hundred to a thousand words (our words), can be trained to do useful things (they really like to be helpful), and most of all, can give the love and their lives to their people as no other non_human can. So while the video is funny at first glance, consider that the humans who are laughing so hard at this dog's attempt to "kill" part of himself, is not really in the animal's best interest. But then again, people often fail the test of humanity. Maybe this test isn't very important.

But it is to my Buddy, and probably to the dog in the video.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Is Your BFF Named Inc?

Do you have a best friend whose name is Inc? I don’t. But somehow, in their great wisdom, the majority of the black-robed nine seem to think it’s okay if you do. In fact, they admire Mr. (could be Ms., but I doubt it) Inc so much that they have given him the exalted status of being human.

We went over this some time ago, I believe, when the Supreme Court decided that corporations, made up of many (often many, many) entities including humans and other corporations, had the same first amendment rights enjoyed by individual, living, breathing (though not necessarily thinking) "people." That’s as in "We the People." Now they have gone further.

Just recently, the nine justices handed down a decision saying that corporations have no limit imposed on the amount of money they can give to any political candidate. They again connected the decision to the first amendment.

I keep thinking back to a quote I unearthed many years ago when I was writing a television series about America’s workforce (called Americans At Work). One of the installments was about the American automobile industry. Each of the films in the series (more than 100 episodes) included some history of the industry and the workers who made it happen. There was even a story about the people who worked on Wall Street (on the trading floor, not in the executive suites). In exploring the history of the labor aspect of the industry (the series was sponsored by the AFL-CIO), the individual episodes recounted the reasons the relevant union was created or assumed responsibility for a particular workforce.

Now, you may have views about unions contrary to that portrayed in the tv series, but we dealt with history and present day (ca. 1960) work environments, not philosophy or politics. It was always my view that one needed to know both sides of a question before making a decision to support or reject a proposal or position. And that brought me to the quote I still find relevant to the arguments giving human status to corporations. The quote was from that icon of everything American about industry, Henry Ford.

"A corporation," Henry said, "is too big to be human." Like his conception of the Model T, Henry had it right. According to news reports, 8 out of 10 Americans agree with that, and disagree with the Supreme Court’s ruling.

Too bad is wasn’t 8 out of 9.