Saturday, January 13, 2018

A song that can calm a herd of cattle or an infant

The little guy was sucking on a bottle when I got to the house.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department photo tpwd.texas.gov
“Thank you for taking care of him tonight, Daddy,” my daughter said as she handed the baby over to me. “I’ll be back in about two hours. Just burp him and rock him and he should sleep the whole time.”
My little girl, Lisa, took off, leaving me alone with my first grandson, Joseph Michael, who my Texas wife had immediately “bubbafied” to Joe Mike.
Lisa was working as a teller in a local bank, and she had a training class to attend. Her husband, Frank, was working on his still-new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning business, trying hard to build it into a thriving enterprise.
My wife was sick, so it fell to me to take care of Joe Mike, something I didn’t mind doing at all.
Joe Mike finished his bottle and then whimpered. I put the cloth on my shoulder and burped the boy. Then I cradled him in my arms.
And Joe Mike immediately started crying.
I rocked him.
He still cried.
I gently bounced him as he lay in my arms.
He still cried.
I put him back on my shoulder and patted him on the back again.
He wailed.
So I cradled him again, and I began to sing.
“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam, where the deer and the antelope play,” I crooned softly. “Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
Joe Mike was silent.
Home,home on the range,” I continued. “Where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
Joe Mike was asleep.
I kept on humming, and I imagined that I was a night-riding cowboy, calming the herd.
My herd of one was asleep as a I sang and hummed quietly.
“Home on the Range” is one of my favorite songs. It was originally a poem, written in 1872 by Dr. Brewster M. Higley, of Smith County, Kansas. In 1947, Kansans made it their state song. It is one of the top 100 Western songs, as chosen by the Western Writers of America.
Dr. Higley moved to Kansas from Indiana, loved the place so much that he wrote a poem titled “My Western Home,” in praise of his new home in a cabin near a creek. It was published in 1872 in the Smith County Pioneer newspaper.
Higley’s friend, Daniel E. Kelley, later set the poem to music.
The song has a most interesting history, and I encourage you to read about it on the Library of Congress website, where you will learn that President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it was his favorite song.
You’ll also find out that other people have claimed to be the author, but Dr. Higley’s authorship has been verified.
“How did this song spread so far, become associated with so many locations, generate so many variations, and have claims of authorship by so many people?” the Library of Congress website asks and then answers this way: “Part of the answer lies in the Chisholm Trail, a route taken by cattle drives from southwestern ranching states and territories to the railhead in Abeline, Kansas, from 1867 through the 1880s. A song sung in saloons in Kansas could be picked up and sung by cowboys departing for home, quickly spreading it far from its point of origin. The song itself, which praises the virtues of the west and is sung to a melancholy tune, fits well into the repertoire of cowboy work songs.”
It's a wonderful song. I recall hearing years ago on The History Channel that President Roosevelt wanted to make it the national anthem.
Grandson Joe Mike found so much comfort in the song that he fell asleep while I sang it. When he was sound asleep, I stopped singing and continued rocking in the chair.
He immediately woke up and started wailing again.
“Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam,” I sang, and Joe Mike fell asleep again,
I stopped singing, and he woke and started crying.
I resumed singing and he went back to sleep.
For two hours, I sang “Home on the Range” over and over and over.
When his Mama got home, I handed him over to her. He woke up and was quiet.
Joe Mike loved his Mama, and still does, and he also loved “Home on the Range.” I’ll have to ask him if he still likes that song now that he’s in seventh grade.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

At death's door in a hospital back in '71

Death. Public domain image by WikiMedia.
As she entered the room, the nurse threw back the curtain in the center of the semi-private room.
“Good morning,” she said, cheerily, and handed me a warm wet wash rag. “Wash as far as possible from the top, wash as far as possible from the bottom. And then wash possible.”
We both laughed. As I washed, she emptied the urinal hanging on the rail of the bed.
It was a bright morning, and the sunlight streamed in the window where I was recovering from an appendectomy the day before, July 4, 1971.
I had just graduated from high school in May, and I was working for the public works department, cutting brush in the city’s creeks and streams, gullies and ditches, where power equipment could not reach. I and the other young guys who worked that job swung weed whackers all day, or cut with pruners and loppers. Then we loaded all the brush onto a dump truck, and our foreman would drive it off to the dump.
Looking forward to going to the university in August, I was grateful to have a good job to save up some more money for books and extras.
On the night of July 3, though, I stayed up late, watching television and eating apples. The apples were slightly green. Oh, heck, most of them were very green, so they were tart. They were tart and tasty, and I ate a bunch of them.
In the wee hours of the morning, I started feeling sick. I spent quite a bit of time in the bathroom, either bent over, puking, or sitting on the toilet, expelling the apples from both ends.
I kept getting sicker and sicker, and my belly hurt so bad that I couldn’t stand up. I was running a high fever.
My mother took me to the emergency room at St. John’s Hospital, because it was a weekend.
The doctors and nurses determined that the green apples had nothing to do with my sickness. I had acute appendicitis, and I needed to get my appendix cut out immediately.
So I did. Afterwards, they wheeled me to a room where there were two beds, both empty. They put me in the one by the window. I had never been in a hospital as a patient before, and I felt terrible, wiped out. I went to sleep.
A little later, I woke up when the nurses brought in another guy for the other bed. He was older, probably in his 30s, which for a 17-year-old seemed old. He was obviously in distress, for he groaned with each movement.
I don’t remember what I had for supper. I just remember wanting to go back to sleep.
Sleep was impossible, though, because of my new roomie’s groanings, moanings, wailing, crying and screaming. He was obviously near death.
Death watch continued for hours. Finally, I fell asleep.
Soon, or so it seemed, the cheery nurse awoke me and told me to wash up and get ready for breakfast. As I washed “possible,” I saw that the other bed in the room was empty and had been made afresh, awaiting another old man with one of his feet in the grave.
“What happened to that ole boy?” I asked. “Did he die? He was sure in a lot of pain.”
“Oh, no,” the nurse said. “He went home. He was just in here with a kidney stone, and he finally passed it. He’s fine now.”
“Good grief,” I said. “A kidney stone. I hope to God that I never get one of those. He was in so much pain I was sure he was dying.”
“No,” the nurse said. “Just a stone. No big deal.” And she left.
Well, guess what?
Yep, you’re right.
In my left kidney, measuring 13 millimeters. It’s a boulder.

They’re going to bust it up with sound waves tomorrow.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Nothin' beats beans

Here is a poem I wrote years ago. It is so doggone good that I have to bring it out every now and again just to dust it off. I hope you enjoy it.


NOTHIN' BEATS BEANS

It was my buddy Earl’s birthday
So I took him out to eat
“Order what you want, Earl,” I said.
“The lobster can’t be beat.”

But when the waitress arrived
And suggested leg of lamb,
Earl said, “Ma’am I believe I’ll have
“A plate of beans and ham.

“And bring fried taters, cow butter
“And cornbread baked golden brown
“And a tall glass of buttermilk, real cold,
“To wash it all down.”

“Earl,” I said, “It’s your special day
“And I’m offering you a treat
“Order some clams, shrimp, crab legs,
“Those things you don’t normally eat.”

“Now, Ozarks Boy,” Earl said, “I thank you
“For your thoughtful, culinary gift
“But if I don’t eat those odd foods you mentioned
“I hope you’ll not be miffed.

“See I’m just a plain old Ozarks hillbilly
“Who never ka-bobbed a shish
“Or fileted a mignon (whatever that is)
“Or ate any unusual dish.

“I grew up eating a simple diet
“That was within my parents’ means
“Every night it was beans and taters
“Or for variety, taters and beans

“I developed a taste for simple foods
“Served from kettles, not fancy tureens
“So just give me taters and cornbread
“And a heaping plate of beans.

“Oh, sure, I’ll eat a little sausage
“And no meatloaf’s good as Aunt Irene’s,
“But when it comes to real good eatin’
“Just give me taters, ham and beans.

“Rich foods make my belly hurt
“Like I’ve been kicked by a couple of fiends
“So I stick with God’s simple fare
“Cornbread and buttermilk, taters and beans.”

“Earl, my friend, I wholeheartedly agree,
“It must be in our hillbilly genes."
Then I turned to the waitress, smiled and said,
“Darlin’, two plates of ham ’n’ beans.”

I don’t care what foods are called the best
By professors and educated deans
Nothing beats a simple meal
Of cornbread, taters, ham and beans.

--R.D. Hohenfeldt

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

If you feel the urge to criticize your kids, just shut up

Our niece posted a video of her son's first piano recital, and it reminded me of another boy's piano-playing experience.
This other boy was a little older than our great-nephew. He might have been in junior high school, I think. He had started taking piano lessons the summer between second and third grades, but when the family moved, they didn't have room for the piano for a couple of years or so. I think he started taking lessons again in sixth grade. Heck, he may have been a freshman in high school by the time this incident occurred.
It was in the evening, and he was practicing. He was working on a new piece of music in his lesson book, and it was a little difficult. He was not a natural musician; he had to work hard to make any advances in technique. He played the same half dozen or so measures and then hit a clinker. The same clinker, time after time. There was something about the finger movement required that he didn't get. Perhaps his short stubby fingers didn't reach. Whatever it was, it was going to take some practice to get over that hurdle, to memorize the movement needed at that point in the musical phrase to get to the right note.
But heck, that's what practicing is, isn't it? Making mistakes, learning from them and learning to avoid them in the future.
But after he'd made that same mistake several times, his dad said, irritably, "You must really like that wrong note. You keep hitting it every time."
The young man, already frustrated at himself for failing to catch on to the technique quickly, said, "Oh, shut up."
And the dad walloped him up the side of the head a couple of times.
The boy got up and quit practicing that night. He didn't much care about practicing any more after that.
Eventually, his music teacher told him that he might as well quit wasting his parents' money.
So he quit piano lessons.
He would sit down and play every now and again after that, tunes that he could already play. If he tried a new, harder tune on his own, he only did it when his dad wasn't around, and if he didn't get through it quickly, he moved on to something else.
So, if you have a child who is learning a new skill and is working hard at it, don't knock him if he makes some mistakes. If you are the type of parent who needs to criticize your child, then knock him for not practicing, not making mistakes, not learning something new. Don't knock him for making mistakes because he is trying and failing. Let him keep trying until he gets it.
I think in these instances, it is better to encourage or just shut up.
I am going to give that advice to my niece, now that I have seen her little boy at the piano keyboard. He is young, eager, interested in music and has some talent. He can learn to be an excellent pianist if he gets some encouragement to keep pushing, practice, make mistakes, learn from them.
Perhaps most of us can learn to do lots of stuff if there isn't someone around to discourage us.
Thank God, our niece is an encourager, so I believe the sky is the limit for her piano-playing son.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Critters worse than copperheads or coyotes

My young co-worker spoke with an accent I could not place. He was telling me and another associate that the next day, Friday, would be his last day with our big-box store. I did not know him well, had never spoken with him at length since my transfer to that store just a few weeks previously, and we rarely crossed paths, for he was an assembler and I, a merchandiser/custodian.
He said his wife was going to graduate from the local university with a degree in petroleum engineering, and they were planning an immediate move to New Mexico where she had a job with an oil company waiting for her.
"And I'm going to be a house husband," he said, laughing.
My other co-worker in the conversation, a woman who had worked longer with him and knew him better, said, "Aren't you giong to go to school and finish your own degree?"
"Well, yes," he said, "but being a house husband sounds like more fun."
"What's your degree going to be?" I asked.
"Mechanical engineering," he said. "I've got about two years to go for my bachelor's degree."
"Well," I said. "Be careful in New Mexico. I hear they have some vicious venomous snakes there."
"Oh, I know all about vicious venomous snakes," he said. "We had some where I grew up."
My other co-worker said, "You grew up in Africa, didn't you?"
"Yes, South Africa," he sid.
"My God!" I exclaimed. "They've got black mambas there!"
He laughed, "Yes, and green mambas, too They're hard to see in the trees at night. And king cobras."
He then told about his grandmother who as a baby was sitting on the porch with her arms outstretched. Her parents looked to see what she was reaching for and there was a king cobra with its head up. They quickly grabbed the baby and backed into the house.
He told a couple other stories abut cobras. And he told about coming home to the farm from a visit to "the shops," which I took to mean the stores in town, and "there was a troop of baboons lounging around on the porch. We just went back to the shops for awhile."
Baboons are vicous creatures, he said. "They will tear you up."
At the end of that conversation, I decided, and told him so, that he was well prepared for life in New Mexico. Whatever snakes or other critters they had there could not compare with what he grew up with.

Monday, January 1, 2018

We just had a full moon

About half an hour ago, the moon was full.
It happened at 8:34 p.m. here. It was a Super Full Moon and it was the Wolf Moon.
The moon's third quarter will be at 4:25 on Jan. 8.
The new moon will be at 8:17 p.m. on Jan. 16.
The first quarter will be on Jan. 24
Then on Jan. 31, we'll have another full moon, a Blue Moon because it is the second full moon of the month. And there will be a total lunar eclipse here.
Then February will be a Black Moon month, meaning there will be no full moon during that month.
My wife says that all this Super Moon, Blue Moon, Black Moon stuff is a sign of the end times.
Maybe it is.
I got all that information from a couple of valuable sources: The Old Farmer's Almanac, the one with the yellow cover and the hole in the corner so you can hang it on a nail on the outhouse wall, and timeanddate.com

Less than 5 inches of snow last year here

According to the weather figures from the local National Weather Service co-op observer, S.R. Fraley, we ended 2017 with less than 5 inches of snow. That is odd. I expect we'll have some above-average years to make up for it.

Here is the data for the 24-hour period that ended at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017, New Year's Eve:
High; 22 degrees F.
Low, 4 degrees F.
Current: 6 degrees F.
Precipitation: Trace.
Precipitation for the year 42.87 inches.
Precipitation for the month: 1.01 inch.
Snowfall/frozen precipitation: Trace.
Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the 2017-18 season: 1.9 inches.
Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the year: 4.5 inches.
Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the month:1.9 inches.
Relative humidity: 71 percent.

Last night, I partied at home with the wife and our poodles. We had a wild old time. I drank one beer, and was in bed sound asleep by 10 p.m. My wife stayed awake reading until after midnight. She said the neighbors went outside at midnight, set off a couple of firecrackers and quit. It was apparently too cold for them.
When I got up this morning, it was negative 4. I slept late because I didn't have to work today. The mercury never did get into double digits at my house.
It is dang cold in the Ozarks
.
Here is the data for the 24-hour period ending at 7:30 a.m. today, Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, New Year's Day;
High: 14 degrees F.
Low: negative 7 F.
Current: negative 6 F.
Precipitation: 0
Precipitation for year: 0
Precipitation for the month: 0
Snowfall/frozen precipitation: 0
Snowfall frozen precipitation for the 2017-18 season: 1.9 inch
Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the year; 0.
Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the month: 0
Relative humidity 82 percent.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

The first New Year's greeting on January 1 occurred in 45 B.C. in Italy with the adoption of the Julian calendar.
Yes, I am old, but no, I was not there to take part in the first happy new year.
I am not sure that it turned out happy.
The year 2017 turned out to be a good one for me and my house. There were some setbacks but there were many blessings, as well, and by year's end, the blessings outweighed the setbacks. I give credit to Our  Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The national news media would have us believe 2017 has been a terrible year; moreover, they seem to indicate that no year will ever be good as long as Mr. Trump is the president. Well, we elected him, and there are reasons we elected him, and I wish the Republican Congress would help him do what we elected him to do.
That is enough of that. For the most part, I live quite locally, starting right here at The Ozarks Almanac, the office of which is in our home here on what I like to call Mountain Meadow Farm. I like to call it that, though it is in no way a farm. Not yet. There is still work to do, but I remain positive regarding my role in the world of agriculture.
Concerning politics and government, my interest is in local government, a subject I have long held close to my heart. Local government is what is most important, I think, for it is the government that touches me the closest every day. The streets I drive on, the electrical lines to my home and office, the law enforcement and fire protection--these are all the result of local government. So is the education our children receive, and the care we receive in our county-owned regional medical center.
By day, I work for a big-box Fortune 50 home improvement store, doing primarily manual labor. By evening, I work for a local newspaper, covering local government.
I try to work in some postings here, but I have been sporadic at best. Nevertheless, I have a growing readership, primarily of people who used to live in Rolla, Phelps County, the Missouri Ozarks, Missouri, and of people who want to live in a rural or small-town place like this one.
So to them, and to you, I say, as I suppose they did in 45 B.C., "Happy New Year!" It's been a good year in 2017, but it will be a better and happier one in 2018 with our faith and our works.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Are the persimmon seeds telling the truth?


I have put off reporting on my persimmon seed-reading, because I didn't believe it.
Take a look at the photo at right. The seeds you can actually see to read all are spoons and knives.

I don't trust the seeds any more.

They lied to me for the last couple of years. They were like this year's reading, but the last two winters here were mild. Especially last winter. It was so mild that the municipal utility company's kilowatt-hour sales were down.

Nobody says it is going to be a cold, snowy winter this year, except for my seeds. And everyone else's. Plus the few people I've talked to who have seen woolyworms, or woolybears, say the caterpillars are solid black, no banding, so around here, we read that as a rough winter ahead.

But The Old Farmer's Almanac says it will be a mild winter.

"Winter will be milder than normal, with above-normal precipitation and snowfall. The coldest periods will be from late November into early December, from late December into early January, and in early February. The snowiest periods will be in mid-November, early to mid- and late December, and early February," is what The Old Farmer's Almanac says on Page 229 of the 2018 edition, which I bought last month. I buy it every year, and have for as long as I remember, because that is the almanac Grandpa always bought.

Well, The Old Farmer's Almanac was off this year, for sure. It has been even milder than they predicted, Late November into early December was moderate or warm. Some days I didn't wear a coat or sweater to work, and I get up and arrive before dawn. We got no snow in mid-November, and none in early or mid-December. Here it is in late December, and we finally got the first one of the season.

That is why I opened the seeds, took their picture and then laid them aside. I didn't trust them enough to share them with you, my readers throughout the Heartland and across this great nation.

But now, given recent events, I'm a little concerned. If The Old Farmer's Almanac is this far askew this year, maybe we'll have one of those old-time winters that hit hard on Jan. 1 and blast us all the way through St. Pat's. I remember one of the heaviest snows of my life was on the Ides of March back before I graduated from high school. That was old-timey; maybe we're going to revert to that.  Lord, I hope not.

We got a little bit of snow this past weekend, and it was still cold yesterday, Christmas Day. The National Weather Service says it is going to be below freezing the rest of this week. Maybe on Jan.1, the seeds' prediction will start in. Again, Lord, I hope not.

Well, hunker down and stay warm, folks. Throw another log on the fire.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Cold Christmas

Last night, my wife said, “Is this going to qualify as a White Christmas?”

“Well,” I said, thinking about it. “We didn’t get much snow, so it is not a pretty blanket of snow. With the sky overcast, it looks pretty desolate. Still, though, I guess it would indeed qualify as a White Christmas. It will be your first one.”

She is a Texan and she doesn’t mince words.

“Sure not what it’s cracked up to be,” she said.

She had never had snow on Christmas. In fact, growing up in Houston, she rarely saw snow at all.

I asked her, “Do the radio stations play songs like ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Walking in a Winter Wonderland’ down there? Does Bing sing ‘I’m dreaming of a White Christmas” on Houston radio?

“Well, of course,” she said. “It snows in some places in Texas.”

She told me how when she was a kid, her mom and dad would pack the family up and drive north of Houston some 50 miles to Cut and Shoot whenever there was a little bit of snow at Uncle Bubba’s and Aunt Sissy’s place.

“It’s a little farther north, so they would get snow, a little, when we didn’t,” she said.

I remember a few years ago when her niece emailed some pictures of her kids’ snowman in Austin. A closer look at the snowman showed that it was next to a child’s sand bucket. It was a cute little miniature snowman made from snow that the kids had scraped off cars and scooped off the ground with the bucket. They had managed to get enough snow to make a little snow feller, though.

My wife wants to move back down to that warm place.

I don’t blame her.

God bless America, God bless Dixie and Merry Christmas to all our readers here in the Heartland and across this great nation.

Weather data
Here is the Rolla weather data for the 24-hour period ending at 7:30 a.m. today, Dec. 25, 2017, Christmas Day:

High temperature: 28 degrees F.

Low temperature: 17 degrees F.

Current temperature: 19 degrees F.

Precipitation: 0.01 inch.

Precipitation for the year: 42.87 inches

Precipitation for the month: 1.01 inch

Snowfall/frozen precipitation: 0.2 inch.

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the 2017-2018 season: 1.9 inches

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the year: 4.5 inches.

Snowfall/frozen precipitation for the month: 1.9 inches.

Relative humidity: 86 percent.

These figures are courtesy of S.R. Fraley, National Weather Service cooperative observer up on the campus of the Missouri University of Science & Technology.