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The Unconditional Love of Dogs

Man’s best friend.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate romance. But what of the other types of love, including the love for our pets?

I have two dogs. One is a mix of different breeds, probably Italian Greyhound and Jack Russell. That’s what my vet said. To me, he’s just a little white dog I got at the pound.

I tore my ACL in my knee and was limping around. In a few weeks, I planned to have surgery to repair it. It was a Saturday afternoon when the kids and I drove out to the Humane Society.

I did not pick the little white dog at first. In fact, no one seemed interested in him.

He sat in a steel cage alone in the small dog room. He looked miserable. He didn’t seem excited by my arrival like some other more bouncy dogs. He didn’t bark nor make a noise. He lay with his back facing me. I bypassed him and went to a cuddly little black furball dog and a few other cute and energetic ones.

We played with the others and were set on the black furball pup. Then one of the volunteers brought the little white dog out of his cage to clean the cage.

That’s when I realized exactly why everyone bypassed him…..he limped around on three legs. There was something wrong with him. I looked down at my own busted knee.

“What happened to his leg?” I asked the volunteer curiously.

“He needs a minor surgery on the ligament. Sometimes some breeds of dogs like Chihuahuas and such can be born with a leg problem.” She said sympathetically.

His leg was messed up. So was mine. We seemed fated to be together I suppose. We took the quiet, little white dog home that day. We named him Gizmo.

He had surgery for about $170 at the vet clinic. My knee surgery cost much more in the thousands. I shoulda had the vet fix my knee.

We walked together a lot in the weeks that followed. I hobbled along behind him grimacing in pain every now and then while he still hopped around on three legs. My knee got stronger every day with his help. Eventually he figured out too that he could step down on that fourth leg and it would work. I remember watching him that moment. He gingerly placed the leg down as if afraid of the pain but soon found there to be none. Now he bounces around the house. He runs and plays and wrestles with our other dog.

Nothing makes me smile bigger after a long day of work than to be greeted by the dogs at the door. I do believe all dogs go to heaven. They seem to bring out our better nature. Over the years, these dogs have greeted many visitors to our home with equal measure of love. Young and old. Pretty or not so much. Thin and thick. It doesn’t matter to them. And I think that’s what I like about dogs best. How unconditional their love and support can be. They treat every person like a good friend.

Yes, cats are softer and fluffier and easier to take care of. But a dog will lay beside you when you’re feeling blue. So this Valentine’s Day, remember not just the romantic love but also the love of companionship, an unconditional love mastered by dogs.

Castle Frankenstein

In 2002, I was working with the Department of Defense Finance & Accounting Service. About once a month, I would travel from Grafenwoehr, Germany to DFAS headquarters at Kaiserslautern to hand-deliver financial records for the US Army Transportation Management Center for Europe.

On one trip, I finished early and took the autobahn back home. I saw a sign around the Mannheim and Darmstadt area for Burg Frankenstein. This immediately piqued my interest. I had time to spare so I took a short excursion to the castle said to inspire Mary Shelley to write her gothic novel, The Modern Prometheus, in 1818. Today, we know this story through Halloween and classic hit movies as the story of a monster come to life by a mad scientist through the channeling of a lightning bolt.

But did you know that there really was a mad scientist?

Castle Frankenstein is all mostly in ruins now. In 2002, it was still quite large and stunning, however. I remember the stones being almost red. I remember walking through the ruins alone and up the stone steps to the towers. The place is supposed to be haunted.

The castle was built around 1250. It was sold in 1662 and used as a hospital for a while before falling into ruins. By the time Mary Shelley may have seen it in 1814 when she visited the Rhine region and a small town called Gernsheim, 10 miles away, the castle would have been in pretty bad shape. No one knows for sure if Mary Shelley went there but it is believed her stepmother, who was a translator for Brothers Grimm stories, had first heard the story of the mad scientist and passed the story on to Shelley.

Who is this mad scientist?

His name was Johann Konrad Dippel. He lived at the castle or near the castle sometime around 1673. He invented what he called an “elixer of life” that was said to cure many diseases. Johann was a professional alchemist, a medieval term for a chemist. According to rumor, Johann also did anatomy and some even speculated that he exhumed bodies for his research.

There are other fascinating and mysterious stories associated with the grounds around the castle. Supposedly, there is a fountain of youth nearby that turns old women into young girls on Walpurgis Nacht. There is also a story of a knight fighting a deadly dragon.

The most interesting story I found is located on Mt. Ibes. This is the location of a collection of magnetic stones. Compasses do not work on Mt. Ibes. It is a place supposedly where ancient rites, rituals, traditions take place according to the old ways of the Franks, the previous Germanic tribes that lived in this area. Frankenstein literally means “stone of the Franks” which could be related to this magnetic stone circle phenomenon. Mt. Ibes is supposed to be a sacred and respected place.

Sadly, I did not take pictures of the trip. This was 2002 prior to the arrival of the smartphone. and it was just a side excursion from the autobahn. It was one of those “spur of the moment” decisions that I will never regret. Some day it would be great to see the Castle Dracula too.

There is another place close nearby there along the border with France. The paranormal story from this place was called The Bleeding Nun and it is featured in another gothic classic written by Matthew Gregory Lewis called The Monk. The bleeding nun is an apparition that appears at Castle Lindenberg and warns you of giving in to lustful desires as it must have led to her demise. The Monk was published in 1796.

The only other story I really love from the Rhineland region is probably The Lorelei. She is a beautiful apparition that sits on the rocks just above a dangerous turn of the Rhine River. She was jilted by a faithless lover and committed suicide by casting herself into the waters of the Rhine at that spot and drowned. Now, she seeks revenge on sailors or other male travelers on the Rhine river. She sings a wondrous tune just like a siren. She is said to be exquisitely beautiful and also…..deadly. Men who see her, generally swim towards her….only to drown in the treacherous rapids below her. She became the inspiration for a portion of the small adventure book I wrote, Searching for Fire.

Here is a nice link to a BBC article with pictures of Castle Frankenstein. Thanks for reading this and have a gute nacht, freunde.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20161018-germanys-most-monstrous-castle

Love amid the Lanes

This is my Valentine’s Day gift to you! I wrote a piece for a love contest. Here is the entry. It is supposed to be a heart-warming story about love in a Midwest bowling alley. Picture Kingpin meets Romeo and Juliet.

I hope you have a wonderful, romantic Valentine’s Day! Stay warm too, my friends!

Imagine Me and You

by J. Speer

In 2018, there was a little bowling alley in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  It was a popular locals’ joint and featured 12 open lanes for 12 unique teams on league night each Friday evening.  People loved going to the little bowling alley to unwind from a long week of work. 

The bowling alley manager was named Bill Casey.  He had owned the bowling alley since 1987, the year Patrick Swayze dirty danced with Jennifer Grey having the time of her life.  Bill had three great loves in his life: the game of bowling, his deceased wife Maria, and their one daughter she had named Jennifer. 

Jennifer worked the bowling alley counter.  She also was the top bowler on a league team named I Can’t Believe It’s Not Gutter.  Jennifer was a vibrant woman though still unmarried.  For years, she had looked in vain for that one true love of her life. Her team of friends was several fun colleagues from diverse occupations who shared the one commonality of being from different minority groups.  They all agreed on one thing.  They disliked the other competitive league team at Lane 1 called Split Happens

Split Happens consisted mostly of what some might call “a redneck hillbilly crowd.”  They were dang good bowlers.  The best player on the team was a handsome eligible bachelor named David Huxley.  Every Friday night, the team at lane 1 and the team at lane 2 would spar good-naturedly trading continuous barbs or pranks at each other’s expense. 

Every year, inevitably, these two teams would face off against each other in the annual Championship for the Big Balls trophy, a much-esteemed achievement.  For the past three years, Split Happens had held the title of Champion on the grandmaster board.  This was dedicated to all the great bowling league teams through the years since 1987. 

There were other teams in the league too that stood a chance at winning a prestigious spot on the leader board.  The group in Lane 3, for example, was a hardy team of independent feminists.  Their team was named Got Ya By the Balls.  In lane 4, likewise, was a team of fun-loving LGBT friends named The Sexy Strikers.  There were other lesser teams as well, such as the comic book fan team called the X-men at Lane 7.  They loved all things high tech.   

David Huxley and Jennifer Casey had grown up together, attending the same classes at the same elementary school and high school.  David had always admired Jennifer from afar.  Jennifer, for her part, held in high esteem David’s ability to hit multiple strikes.  He carried his team to victory again and again.  They, however, were adversaries on opposing teams.  For some reason, through all the years, the two had never really dated.  But that all was about to change…

It was a cold, blustery Friday night in February just before Valentine’s Day.  The league games had just ended.  Split Happens and I Can’t Believe it’s Not Gutter both defeated their opponent teams.  The sore losers for the night were taking off their bowling shoes and turning them in to Bill at the counter.  They were heading out the door. 

Jennifer wandered over to the old arcade that held the ancient Atari games and racing games.  David was already in there with a few friends.  She took some quarters out of her pocket.  She eyed the old air hockey game to the side of the room.  David looked over at her mildly with interest.  He always seemed to notice her.  She caught his glance and smiled.  Cocking her head towards the air hockey, she asked him, “You up for a game of this?  Haven’t played it in a while.”

“As I recall,” he said, “You used to be pretty good at this one.”

She laughed.  “I’m a little rusty, I’m sure.”

They put the quarters in the slot and the air hockey game commenced a humming noise indicating it had started.  The two squared off against each other on opposing sides.  Jennifer scored the first point and grinned.  David grinned back.  He quickly scored the second point.  Jennifer rolled up her sleeves to try again. 

Several minutes of aggressive play continued with David scoring three more points to Jennifer’s frustration.  She eyed him coolly at this point.  She set the hockey puck down on the table ahead of her.  She rapidly scored the next point. 

David watched her more intently.  He noticed every little detail about the way she bit her upper lip as a tell that she was getting ready to strike or the way she squinted when he would come close to scoring again.  The hockey puck went back and forth more urgently.  David noticed too that she looked quite pretty that night with her curly black hair tied back at the nape of her neck, her crew shirt, and slim jeans accentuating her appearance.  She scored another point and he let out a slow whistle. 

“Damn,” he said under his breath.  The game continued.  He ended up winning and smiled mischievously.  Although defeated, Jennifer had to admit to herself that she loved that smile.  David had always been handsome and loved to have a good time. 

“Alright, I guess you won this time.” She admitted.  They both shared a brief moment.  She figured she needed to help clean-up so she started to turn away to leave the arcade.  David frowned just a little.  He finally said the thought that had been in his head through most of the air hockey game. 

“You doing anything later tonight?”  Jennifer blinked.  She looked around at the others in the arcade for a moment. 

“No, no plans.  Why?”  She said bluntly surprised.

They agreed that night to maybe go out to the local coffeehouse after she finished work. 

Later that night, they sat together at The Bluebird coffee shop downtown and pretty soon were exchanging fun stories and engaging in entertaining banter.  Jennifer felt comfortable with David, although they both worried a little that at any moment, they might be seen sitting at the same table.  They agreed to go on a few more dates after that.  The romance started out a little slow and then quickly picked up steam.  One date was a dinner, another was a movie, and soon they were spending a lot of secret time together while still bowling as adversaries on League nights.  It soon became obvious to both parties that they might be falling in love. 

The secret rendezvous exchange continued.  It led to passionate embraces and nights spent lovingly in each other’s arms.  Neither one was sure what to say to their other team mates.  They agreed to keep things hush for the time being.    

Then, one night as fate would have it, they were discovered.  Jennifer had another secret admirer, a pretty woman from another team named Leslie Shaw.  Upon encountering the couple holding hands in the mall parking lot outside a local delicatessen, Leslie dropped her jaw in shock. 

“Holy cow,” she muttered under her breath.  This is interesting she said to herself with a slight twinge of jealousy. 

Leslie Shaw wanted her team, The Sexy Strikers, to win the leader board position too.  She devised a plan to blackmail the two lovers, threatening to expose them to everyone unless they both agreed to throw their games in the semi-final matches, allowing Leslie’s team to move forward to the Championship game.  Jennifer and David reluctantly agreed.    

Split Happens went first in the semi-finals and Jennifer watched sadly as David “accidentally” threw gutter ball after gutter ball forfeiting his team’s place and frustrating all his teammates to no end.  They shook their heads in disgust.  Some team members from Lane 2 scoffed at the losers with delight.      

As the second semi-final game commenced, a sudden fight broke out in the nearby lounge room between Team 1 and Team 2 players.  This spilled over quickly to an all-out brawl in the crowded league night bowling alley.  All the divided teams were fighting and carrying on.  David searched for Jennifer across the crowded room.  Jennifer tried to keep her sights on him too. 

Somehow in the midst of all the quarreling, David got hit by a thrown bowling ball.  Jennifer called out to him in alarm over the ruckus.  She rushed towards him.  She quickly helped him back to his feet. 

“You, ok?” she asked with concern and the two embraced.  All around them, people noticed and the room went still. 

“What?” she said defensively while looking around.  She reached hesitantly for his hand.  His fingers enclosed around hers too. 

“What the heck?!” said a few shocked onlookers.  David and Jennifer looked around awkwardly. 

“Yes, ok, we’ve been dating…” David began.  He then proceeded to explain the story of their relationship and what happened with Leslie.  Leslie looked down embarrassed.  She slinked off to the side a bit. 

 David looked around and back at Jennifer holding his hand.  He smiled at her. 

“I know we all have our differences,” he said hesitantly.  “But the truth is I love this woman.  Jennifer Casey, will you marry me?” He asked her as he started to get down on one knee.

The crowd completely stopped fighting.  Everyone waited for the reply.   When Jennifer said, “Yes!”  her teammates were among the first to clap alongside the team mates from Split Happens.             

Soon the folks that had been looking to start trouble were ashamed of their behavior.  The whole room clapped then, even Bill Casey who clapped the loudest.  It was decided that the couple would get married at the bowling alley later on that month. 

Bill Casey disbanded the league teams.  He took down the leader board which had caused so much animosity among the different groups.  There would be no more league nights, no more winners and losers.  Everyone would play as equals.    

On the wedding night, David Huxley and Jennifer Casey married at Lane 5.  He wore a tuxedo.  She wore a white wedding dress.  They kissed happily.  She tossed the bouquet.  Leslie Shaw managed to capture the bouquet too alongside a beautiful bowler named Sara.  Leslie and Sara smiled shyly at each other.  For Leslie, it seemed fated.  That’s how Leslie found her new love interest in life. 

That night, the bowlers at Bill Casey’s little bowling alley in Arkansas all bowled together as friends in a big diverse party.  Bill Casey turned the lights down low.  He set everything to Cosmic Bowling.  He turned on the music.   Happy Together by the Turtles filled the air and everyone was truly happy in that moment, especially David Huxley and Jennifer Casey. 

The Reaper

A few years ago, my daughter and I developed this outline for a Grim Reaper story. It is an apprentice story with a love interest and involves an interesting figure from the Bible. I never got much further with this piece. Here’s what we developed thus far. Maybe some day we will get back to collaborating together on something like this.

Outline for story:

A young boy’s parents die in a car crash.  They are coming home from vacation when the car is hit by a semi-truck and forced off a bridge and falls below into the forest.   The boy is the only survivor of the accident but barely.  He is really close to death.  He witnesses a dark entity near his parents. It is the Grim Reaper. The Grim Reaper takes the souls of his parents.  He thinks it is a hallucination and he is trying to focus but is in and out of consciousness.

The dark entity comes closer to him. The image is burned in the back of his mind and he wonders if he really did stare death in the face that night.  Death chooses not to take the boy because he sees something special in him. The entity leaves.  

Later on, the boy goes to a foster home.  He grows up in Detroit. He later joins a gang in a bad neighborhood he lives in but he only joined the gang to survive on the streets.  One night, one of the gang members goes too far and wants to steal from a shop.  A cop comes to the store from out of nowhere.  The gang member wants to shoot the cop but the boy says no and he jumps in front of the cop saving the cop’s life.  He starts to bleed out on the streets.  The other gang members run away.  The cop is with him talking to him but the voice fades as he begins to feel the presence of some thing he felt so long ago……alone in the forest. 

He closes his eyes.  He is in his subconscious, in a Midwest field.  Death is sitting there and offers him a spot.  Death says, “Sit down, we have much to talk about.”  The boy asks, “Am I dead?”  The reaper replies, “Close, but not entirely.”  Death gives him a choice to go and rest in peace with the other retired souls or to become the next Grim Reaper, his apprentice.  In return, the Grim Reaper will retire. 

The Grim Reaper plans to go where no man can find him until he finally passes on into nothingness.  The Grim Reaper explains his origin. 

He is, in fact, Abel.  He is the first man murdered and betrayed by his brother, Cain. He was the very first person to die here and his spirit wandered in loneliness and despair until he found a place of respite for souls.  He chose then to become a spirit guide to aide other souls that have passed on. He helps them to find this afterlife. He wears the dark cloak to disguise his true identity. He has allowed the horror stories of his alter-identity to perpetuate over the years in order to protect himself and the afterlife souls. He is actually a force for good in the world.

The Grim Reaper is, in fact, essential to our planet.  There must be natural order in the world and he helps to preserve it against the evil deeds of Cain’s descendants.  He needs a young apprentice to carry on his work though as he has grown weary. 

If men could live forever, the world would be chaos……there would be overpopulation and the world would be run by old and hardened souls.  It would be a place of darkness and greed.   The world needs the younger people in order to keep the world full of light and hopeful, pure, and innocent.   

The boy apprentices and Abel disappears into retirement.  But there are men, these descendants of Cain, who want to live forever and they are plotting to destroy the Grim Reaper’s apprentice.  A secret organization plans to eradicate the cycle of life and achieve immortality.  They seek to capture death.  

The secret organization wants to rule the world.  They take the unwanteds in society – the homeless and the downtrodden and orphans – they harvest their souls in order to stay younger in this life.  The Reapers, both the boy and Abel, have seen what they do but are helpless to stop it.

The secret organization goes after the apprentice.  The apprentice meets a young girl from a house fire.  Rather than reap her soul, he rescues her. Eventually, they fall in love.  

They search for the retired Abel.  They find him but the secret organization has been tracking them.  Abel is captured and defeated.  He begins to fade into the shadows and tells the young apprentice that it is his turn now and the world needs him.    

The young boy and girl escape the secret organization but he is still not ready.  He must learn more and acquire more skill and discipline.  He must find a way to stop the descendants of Cain and in the mean time, he will continue his reaping and training.  The girl has chosen to join him on his mission.  In the final scene, the young reaper and girl head off together. 

Short Stories and Stream of Consciousness Thoughts

I read this article tonight. Here is the article link:

https://examples.yourdictionary.com/examples-of-short-stories.html

It provides a great list of the best short stories to read. The stories are listed in two categories. The first category is for children and the second is for adults. I have read almost all of the children category stories but sadly, only a handful of the adult short stories shared in the article.

Along with this article, I’ve been thinking about some recent discussions I’ve had with friends online here and also at work. One discussion was on the book The Clan of the Cave Bear. This is a very large and dense book by Jean Auel and was written during the 1980s. The story is about a Cromagnon women in ancient times who is raised in a Neanderthal tribe. She is very light-skinned with blond hair and blue eyes. She has an athletic build and learns to become a skilled hunter with a slingshot. But she is considered to be terribly ugly by the other members of the tribe who much prefer the Neanderthal appearance. This story is interesting to me because it taught me early on in life that public opinion of beauty and appearance and racial views is fluid and adaptable, given to change with influencer trends. The story, at its heart, boils down to the “Ugly Ducking” story.

Another recent discussion I had at work centered on the movie The Lion King. We discussed the parts of the story and speculation from articles I read that The Lion King is a modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. This really got me pondering other Shakespearean plays such as Macbeth and how you could make a modern-day version of that great play.

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”

The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner……perhaps someone’s already had these ideas. There’s a specific passage in the Bible from the Book of Job that mentions these exact words….the sound and the fury. Also, one of the characters in the book by Faulkner is also called Uncle Job which I find interesting.

This got me thinking about stories and patterns of stories and whether a lot of the stories we have are similar to each other or old stories adapted to contemporary culture of the time.

Interesting and random stream of consciousness thoughts late at night….

As a side note, I guess my favorite short story for children would probably be the book titled You Are Special by Max Lucado. I also love many of the stories of Dr. Seuss or Shel Silverstein.

As for adult short stories……that’s much harder to consider. I suppose you could consider The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes a bit of a story although written as a narrative poem. I like that one as well as The Speckled Band by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Boule de Suif by Guy de Maupassant, Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras and several of the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe or Stephen King.

Do you have any short stories that you recommend? What about children’s short stories verses adult short stories? Which are your favorites in each category? Please comment below. I’d like to hear your recommendations for good short stories to read 🙂

If you’ve managed to read this far into the post, thanks so much for reading these late night ramblings!

If You Love Poetry…

If you love poetry…

I’ve found a great place to submit your work! It is a little newspaper called The Webb City Sentinel located in southwest Missouri in the Joplin area. The submission process is simple and free. If your work is approved by the poetry editor, it will be shown on the online portion of The Webb City Sentinel. Here is the announcement on their site. I love this. I love what they wrote:

“I’m a great believer in poetry out of the classroom, in public places, on subways, trains, on cocktail napkins. I’d rather have my poems on the subway than around the seminar table at an MFA program.”

Billy Collins, 2001-2003 United States Poet Laureate   

We want your poetry. We want poetry from your children and your grandparents.We want poetry from seasoned poetry veterans and those just putting ink to paper (or, finger to keyboard).

We want to feature them here in Webb City’s “newspaper.”  Then, we want you to print them out and slap them on your refrigerator, carry them in your pocket, give them to someone special.  We want your poetry on the school bus to Mark Twain and Eugene Field, while you’re waiting in line at Crazy Llama and the Sub Shop, and while you’re walking around King Jack and the Frisco Greenway Trail. 

We can’t wait to see what you’ve got.

Here is the link to the submission board:

I was super fortunate to be listed on their site recently. Here is the poem I submitted:

Little Pawn

by Janea Speer

My whole life, I admired the King and Queen.
Serene, graceful, and applauded.
Powerful and strong….aggressive.

Yet hiding behind the defenses of the lesser pieces.
As I became older, I pondered the knight or the bishop,
how they could think outside the box and level the playing field.

But, in my older years, I admire the pawn.
The one to first enter the fray with honest courage.
Who risks much although so little…..
One by one, swiped from the board unceremoniously and yet…
Relentless, undeterred, defiant against odds so stacked heavily against.

Yes, some days even the little pawn sees glory
when faced with such intimidating adversaries.

With this blog, I also wanted to do a shout-out to the poetry editor there. I met him in Fall 2019 at the Joplin Writers’ Fair at the Joplin Public Library. There were many great local authors there showing their books. He was at a table across from mine and was nice and friendly. We talked about publishing books and Ray Bradbury and joining writing clubs. It was fantastic to meet someone with an avid interest in reading and writing and helping other authors. He recently published a new work to help authors too.

His name is F.C. Schultz and here are a few links to some of his books. Type in his name on Amazon and you will find, on his author page, a large group of books he has written or co-written.

My daughter read the book titled The Rose Weapon and she did think it was quite good. It is a Viking story about fire-breathing dragons. There is a sequel to this book as well called When Embers End.

Part 2: The Importance of the Redneck

I’ve been watching news in India of the farmer protests with some concern. India is one of the big four producers of food for the planet: China, India, Brazil, and the United States. We should be watching what happens more closely as it may impact the world quite a lot.

Although agriculture represents a very small percentage of our GDP, here in America food producers make a large portion of the total world food supply, enough to feed approximately 10 billion people.

Wait a sec. The current world population is 7.84 so why are there famines all over the place?

I’m not sure. There are probably a myriad of reasons including a need for better food systems that prevent spoilage.

The U.S. is first in the world in corn production, third in wheat, fifth in potatoes, tenth in sugarcane, and twelfth in rice production.

Why is the U. S. such a powerhouse for food supply? The geographical and atmospheric conditions for farming here are some of the best in the world and we have the quickly depleting Ogallala Aquifer.

The Ogallala Aquifer is one of the largest groundwater resources in the world. It lies under 112 million acres of land and under 8 states: Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, South Dakota, and Nebraska and Wyoming. Nebraska has the bulk of the aquifer and the deepest areas. The aquifer can go as low as 1,200 feet. About one third of U.S. agriculture is irrigated by this great aquifer. Once depleted, it will take 6,000 years to restore. We are taking way more water out for irrigation than is sustainable at this rate. Expected complete depletion year for the aquifer is around 2060.

America used to be plagued by dust bowls and drought or even severe flooding in the Midwest. Two adaptations after WW2 fixed some of this: dam systems to control flooding more and also central pivot irrigators for better irrigating of crops. Many of these dams now are very old, at least 50 years and were created under the great infrastructure plans of FDR and Eisenhower.

Maybe the answer to our joint economic and environmental concerns here is to initiate another set of infrastructure improvements that will hire many men and women to build or repair civil engineering and environmental engineering projects.

When you look at Kansas, my state, it is still called the bread basket making 400 million bushels a year with two thirds of this shipped to other countries. Kansas is ranked third in cattle and produces the majority of the grain sorghum. In 2017, Kansas produced 5.69 billion lbs. of red meat.

Texas leads the states in number of farms with around 247,000. Missouri is next with 95,000. Iowa is third with 85,300.

When you think of farming, you imagine the Midwest probably. But the top supplier of a whole lot of farm food is California.

The U.S. makes 139.5 billion in food exporting but, as I said earlier, is just one of the big four: China, India, Brazil, and United States.

We should really watch what is going on in India with the farmer protests because it may impact us all. Also, the depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is a major issue. 2060 is only thirty-nine years away.

How do we sustain a growing world population of 7.84 people with depleting resources, older dams and infrastructure in need of repairs, and political strife involving our food producers as well as our food pickers? This topic involves labor issues in regards to immigration policies too. How do we take care of these immigrants that work in agriculture? How do we create more efficient food systems? These are important issues for the upcoming years.

Listen to the Hillbilly Redneck Moron

I got called a hillbilly redneck moron today for saying people should work together, a centrist narrative. At first I was upset. But then I realized this was an oxymoron.

I am 42 years old. I am the granddaughter of two farmers I greatly respected and admired because they were actually some of the smartest folks I ever met. Why? Because they grew things and conserved things on a large scale for others. Do you know how hard it is to grow and sustain things? Once, in college, I killed a cactus cause I overwatered it but I was taking Calculus. Book smart does not equal real world smart. Farmers are real world smart. They know when to water. They know when to not water. They know all sorts of fascinating and essential details about growing thousands upon thousands of crops or raising cows, or chickens, or whatever for our mass human consumption. Farming is real hard work plagued by all sorts of variables. You cannot be lazy and be a farmer.

So hillbilly redneck is, in fact, in my book synonymous with genius. But genius without reward or adulation.

What is the most fascinating thing I learned lately about farmers?

Farmers are generally usually conservative probably by nature of their work close to nature and their constant need for resourcefulness. They have to fix things themselves, survive things on their own. They just can’t run to town to fix the tractor so the crops can be taken care of. They rely on themselves and their network of neighbors.

Do you know in the history of mankind, what follows revolution?

Famine. Massive famine.

Why?

Because the conservatives who produce the food disappear (through various means). This happened after the French Revolution and the Bolshevik Revolution. The revolutionaries wiped out the one group in society they so critically relied on.

What is my point?

It is important to respect the farmer hillbilly redneck. He is the weathered and worn hand that feeds without much recognition or reward.

That hillbilly redneck is the best damn human I know. And yes, you may not like his beliefs or views. He may be old school. But you get rid of that guy at your own peril.

Great Article

I like this short article by Jackie Gingrich Cushman. I think it expresses the sentiments of many Americans at this time. It is not overly one-sided but reaches across both aisles of the debate to shake hands. I like that part. It also delves into our past and the thoughts of previous presidential leaders such as George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Barack Obama.

I tried to embed the link to send you to the article. It is an opinion piece titled, “A More Perfect and Lasting Union.” Well worth the read. And, I agree 100% about the exceptionalism part of it. I agree with Obama too that Americans are capable of “exceptionalist” behavior without being preachy, arrogant, narcissistic, or vain. Exceptionalism as defined this way is working towards a better common good and opening ourselves to a capacity of change/correction if necessary to improve life for future generations. Through introspection and discussion, we celebrate where we went right and recognize where we went wrong and strive/endeavor through positive action within our communities to improve.

It doesn’t mean I’m a self-identified Republican nor a Democrat, rather simply that I view myself as part of a very large group of diverse people that inhabit this land called America.

Here is the article:

https://magicvalley.com/opinion/columnists/cushman-a-more-perfect-and-lasting-union/article_71c2d6c4-8381-514b-b0ca-38a8725507fc.html

Little Pawn

My whole life, I admired the King and Queen.

Serene, graceful, and applauded.

Powerful and strong….aggressive.

Yet hiding behind the defenses of the lesser pieces.

As I became older, I pondered the knight or the bishop,

how they could think outside the box and level the playing field.

But, in my older years, I admire the pawn.

The one to first enter the fray with honest courage.

Who risks much although so little…..

One by one, swiped from the board unceremoniously and yet…

Relentless, undeterred, defiant against odds so stacked heavily against.

Yes, some days even the little pawn sees glory

when faced with such intimidating adversaries.