Fletcher's Ramblings

I actually began this thing a couple of years ago when I thought it was worth having to post my political views. In the past couple of months I've decided expressing political opinions are just too tedious and tend to make enemies faster than friends. On occasion there will possibly be a political jab or two, but overall, I just want this place to be a venue for reading. Your comments are welcomed and encouraged.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Off The Cuff - Baggy Pants Syndrome

Baggy Pants Syndrome - © Kent Fletcher
August 23, 2007

It is just absolutely amazing to me how the youth in these United States carry on in nonconformist ways, and how much those ways just bug the bejesus out of the old folks. I'm not saying I'm not affected, because I am.

Remember way back in the early 60s when long hair became the vogue? For the boys, anyway. I remember one of my esteemed classmates would absolutely not cut his hair for some function at the high school, during our graduation exercises. Today, he's pretty clean cut, as are most of us. I also recall sitting in a barber's chair in Arlington, VA, one afternoon in the early 70s, listening to the barber prattle on and on about those long-haired freaks outside his shop window. Something to the effect they were ruining his business by not getting their locks shorn. He still had a pretty good business, though, as he was still open.

After Woodstock and a few other raves of the time, the long hair and art-deco clothing came to be a norm of sorts for the younger generations, and for some who thought they were young. Timothy Leary comes to mind. Of course, if said generations wanted to get in on the ground floor at a job and advance anywhere but the janitor's position, they had to "clean up their act", fly straight and true, get haircuts, buy conformist clothing, speak English that is heard in the business world. I remember after I got out of the Navy in 1974, I got one haircut in 15 months. My hair was so curly it was ridiculous, and my mother let me get away with it. Doing the funeral thing.

My head was also ridiculously hot, as the curliness didn't let the air flow. When I reenlisted in 1975, you can imagine how the barber at NAS Millington felt when I presented him the opportunity to work his wonders. When I told him how strange yet refreshing the breeze felt to me on my right ear, he held a mirror before me. Dang, wish I had gotten a pic of that one - cut on one side, bushy on the other. I've never let my hair get that long since. Beard is another story, though.

In the 90s, I remember the language fiasco. Ebonics it was called. I think I read it stemmed from the Gullah people in the lowlands of South Carolina and Georgia, whose language is a broad mixture of Jamaican Creole, Bahamian Dialect, and the Krio language of Sierra Leone of West Africa. I'm sure there's a smattering of English in there, too. And, of course, the slave languages, as well. Even the city of Oakland, CA, announced ebonics was allowed in the primary schools, as it was an "accepted" language of the gangsta culture there. I can't remember how long that lasted, but not long. The entire country was wondering what the hell possessed the school officials there to condone such language. At least as I understand it all.

In the early 21st Century the clothing styles started to change. Lots of Gothic attire was being worn by the grrls, and even some of the boys in primary schools. Lots of black: makeup, clothes, shoes, dyed hair, anything offbeat it seemed was popular. Even in the summertime here in Texas, Goth is still the hot ticket. Then came the boys' rebellion of baggy pants.

At first the baggy pants syndrome, BPS as I call it, was limited to the big cities, the sprawling metropolises. Ack! Not any more. A couple of days ago, while I was sitting here at the puter, I saw a head float by my window. Got up, went outside, and a kid was walking back out the front gate. I asked him if he was looking for something. He was chasing his dog. The dog was under the porch at the moment. But the dog was just doing doggy things, like sniffing and peeing, chasing cats, anything but minding his master.

Master. Hmph! This child was dressed thusly: Shirtless, sneakers, over-the-knee denim shorts, and about 6" of his underwear. As he wandered back in the yard, I told him that if he came through that gate again, he'd best have his pants pulled up. Otherwise, the dog could stay as long as it wanted. I think I skeered him a little, as he looked at me at first, then started hitching those pants up. He got his dog and left the premises. That's all I said to him in the brief encounter.

Yesterday afternoon while I was walking in front of my property, picking up litter, the BPS child was out on the street again with his dog. Cute dog, too. Terrier. And he had returned to his BPS. Haha! He was steady hitching them up again, though. And he again came on the property to retrieve said terrier, but I don't recall seeing any underwear. Thankfully.

While I blame the kid for his idealisms, I blame the parents even more. Seems that some parents really don't give a hoot nor a holler about how their kids act, dress, or communicate as long as they don't get into deep doo-doo for it. Do the parents dress like this, act like this, communicate like this? I'd say the majority does not. I've known kids who are not rich, in fact who are downright poor who act, dress, and communicate with the rest of the world as we older folks do, with respect, with confidence, with meaning. I'm no psychologist nor psychiatrist, but I think I do know what is socially acceptable in a "normal" society, and what is not.

Why am I writing this? I saw a news item with the following lead-in: Atlanta Considers Banning Baggy Pants - Associated Press - Aug 23 09:39 AM US/Eastern. The story goes on to say

Baggy pants that show boxer shorts or thongs would be illegal under a proposed amendment to Atlanta's indecency laws.

It goes on about how little kids see the BPS and want to emulate it. I personally think if the parents would get inside the heads of their own children, the time and effort of city councils would not be wasted on such trivialities, by passing laws and enforcing such laws as this. There are far more important things to be dealt with on a daily basis than BPS.

However, the purveyors of BPS obviously have lower self-esteems than the rest of the crowd, and one way to get the attention they are missing at home is to dress the dress, walk the walk, act the act. It's really too bad that the carefree attitude of the parents has allowed such moral depravity as BPS and its consequences.

Put them in some sort of boot camp, please? Teach them right from wrong, left from right, up from down, in from out. Build their confidences, build their self-esteems, build on their conforming-to-society skills rather than their screw-the-man idealisms.

Parents and/or caregivers need to step up to the plate, put their feet on solid ground, do what is right, at home.

Moving along a little ways in the same story is this:

The proposed ordinance would also bar women from showing the strap of a thong beneath their pants. They would also be prohibited from wearing jogging bras in public or show a bra strap, said Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia.

So, of course the ACLU has gotten in on the act, not unexpected. I wonder, though, if Ms. Seagraves lets her own bra strap or thong show? She goes on:

Seagraves said any legislation that creates a dress code would not survive a court challenge. She said the law could not be enforced in a nondiscriminatory way because it targets something that came out of the black youth culture.

"This is a racial profiling bill that promotes and establishes a framework for an additional type of racial profiling," Seagraves said.

How insane! This is just like the argument there are more blacks than whites in prison. Why? Because the blacks get caught easier, I suppose. But I'm not going there, other than to say I wonder how many white folks will step up to the prison gates and volunteer to be incarcerated to even out the balance.


Makeda Johnson, an Atlanta mother of a 14-year-old girl, said she is glad (city councilman) Martin introduced the proposal. She does not want to see a law against clothing, but said she thinks teenagers are sending a message with a way of dressing that is based in jailhouse behavior.

Well, that statement carries hope. To me, anyway. Perhaps not all is lost, eh?

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Mid-Life Crises

Mid-Life Crises - © Kent Fletcher
August 21, 2007

I was browsing the web a couple of days ago and came across this one: http://www.thegeminiweb.com/babyboomer/. It's really quite an interesting place, but mostly a good place to go to read the junk of a blogger. I read one yesterday, though, about mid-life crises (MLC) that apparently a lot of boomers are going through. Here's a list of some possibilities:

* Discontent with life and/or lifestyle that may have provided happiness for many years.
* Boredom with things/people that have hitherto held great interest.
* Feeling adventurous and wanting to do something completely different.
* Questioning the meaning of life, and the validity of decisions clearly and easily made years before.
* Confusion about who you are or where your life is going.

I remember one case of a boomer have a spell of MLC. He was my boss at the Council of Government in Arlington, TX. I'd guess Bob was in his mid to late 40s. Quite a dynamic person, but he really wasn't a people person. Wife, two kids, humongous house in Southlake, north of Fort Worth. I went out there once for a barbecue or something he put on for his staff. I wasn't impressed.

Bob was going through a period where it appeared he was attempting to regain his youth. I remember his going on and on about in-line skating, how he would don the skates after work and just go sailing around his neighborhood. He lived in a relatively new subdivision, not too many houses around and hardly any traffic, so he was able to go wild and all over the streets.

One day when he came to work, he was grinning ear to ear, yakking it up about his new toy. Of course, he invited his staff and anyone else out to the parking lot to see the toy. It was a Mitsubishi Miata, a tiny car. Red. Convertible. Two-seater. Cutesy. Ticket grabber. He was talking about how he could weave in and out of traffic, going a bit better than the posted speed limit, which was still 55 at the time. On clear days he would drop the top and let the wind blow through his hair, reveling in the "freedom" of reliving either his youth, or his perceived youth.

Heck, at the time I was driving either an ancient Toyota van or an 83 Volvo station wagon, and I was quite comfortable in one or the other. I didn't need flash and dash capabilities, just utility to get me from point A to point B in an orderly and safe fashion. I guess the only time I had a MLC situation was when I purchased my 73 Volvo 1800ES. Drove it from Oklahoma City to Cleveland, MS, to New Orleans, to Pensacola, to Atlanta, finally arriving in Norfolk, VA. I've driven the thing to Colorado and back, to Hattiesburg, MS, and back. Quite a thrilling car. Speedometer disintegrated several years ago, so now I just run on the tachometer. It also draws attention, a lot of attention. Seems I remember reading only some 3,000 were manufactured. 1973 was the last year Volvo produced anything made in the United States. There is not a single metric screw or bolt on the car, all SAE. Makes working on it a pleasure, most of the time.

But why did I even buy it? Good question. Actually I first saw it in 1986 on a trip to Colorado. I had just gotten into AMSOIL (synthetic lubricants) and wanted to meet my up-line on the way. The car was sitting in his backyard. Every couple of months the fellow would go out and crank 'er up, let it run for a few minutes, shut it down, go back inside. In early 1990, the lease on my 85 Volvo 740 Turbo was about to run out, and I got to thinking about this little car.

So I called the fellow, asked him how much he wanted for the car. $4,800. I thought about it for a day or two, called him back, committed myself to buying it.

I flew out to Oklahoma City one Saturday in March 1990. The fellow had been working on the car, fixing it up as best he could. There were a few quirks about the thing, but nothing that would make me hesitate on the purchase. I finally drove out on April 1, April Fool's Day. It was a long drive back to Norfolk, but that's another story altogether.

Through November 1990, I was constantly, and consistently working on the car. The leased Volvo went back to Volvo, so I had no choice but to work on it. Had to get a "new" gas tank out of North Carolina, change out the plugs, wires, fuel injection lines. Added a by-pass oil function. When I left Norfolk heading for Texas, the car was on a dolly behind the moving van.

So, I guess that was my own MLC for the time. I was 44 yoa, had me a cutesy car, on my way to my last duty station, and was a happy camper for the most part.

I was looking over the list on the Boomer Blog above, thinking long and hard if any of the five instances fit my bill. One does. This one:

* Boredom with things/people that have hitherto held great interest.

As much as I love woodworking, I'm beginning to get bored with it. When I lived in Arlington, TX, I had my own little workshop, 8' by 16', tight, efficient. I turned out some good stuff there, too. Cradles, blanket chests, flag cases, retirement cases, any number of things. Did some fret work with a scroll saw making letter openers of exotic woods like bubinga, cocabola, even mesquite. Did a couple of pine spice cabinets, complete with milk paint and hand-punched tin or copper inserts in the doors, key boxes. All give-aways except the flag or retirement cases. I spent many a late night in that workshop, very content to be doing the work I had latched on to after my divorce in 1987.

In 2002, I made a fateful mistake and moved south to a bungalow outside Grandview, TX. Can you imagine attempting to get "stuff" that was in a 1,000 sq ft mobile home into a 400 sq ft bungalow? I was constantly running into myself there. But I did have access to a 20' by 20' pole barn for a shop. Man, I had room to roam. The only problems I really had, though, was the floor of said shop was gravel (easy to "lose" things in gravel) and the roof leaked like a sieve. When it was raining outside, it was nearly as bad inside. Couldn't get much work done that way.

In 2004, I made a better move back north about 10 miles, to Alvarado, TX. I left all my tools and equipment down at Grandview for a while, returning every now and then to do something, anything. But it just wasn't the same, for sure. I got word from my former landlord the place was for sale and that I needed to fetch my stuff out of there. I told my current landlady about the situation, and she finally agreed to let me use a shop on an adjacent property. I had to clean it out first, being ever mindful to watch closely what I threw away.

The building has a concrete floor and is constructed of a solid frame with a metal roof. In other words, the only decent time to work out there is early morning this time of year. And here I sit writing this at 0930. I have a large fan mounted in the window, but when the temps outside get up around 85-90F, no amount of fans can keep me comfy. To add insult to injury, I had back surgery in March of 06, and my stamina just has not returned.

* Boredom with things/people that have hitherto held great interest.

So, quite frankly, I'm nearly bored to tears from not having anything really constructive to do at the moment. The temps of August round here keep me inside the house most of the day, under the a/c unit. I play on the puter all day, roaming around, visiting my favorite websites for woodworking, for news, for weather, and play a few games. I voraciously procrastinate on a lot of things I need to get done around the property. Instead of getting up and out in the cooler mornings, I wait until mid-morning or later and suffer the consequences. But it's nice in the house, now. No noise unless I turn on the radio, which is rare; no television because of no antenna, mainly. The only constant noise is my tinnitus, which has grown excessively loud in the past couple of months. On the days I have a doctor's appointment in Mansfield or Fort Worth, or even Arlington, I actually look forward to the event, as it gets me out of the house for a little while, get to mix with folks I don't know for a bit.

It's not like I don't have any friends around here, I know a neighbor or two and yak with them when I see them, if I have to, if I want to. I have a daily phone call from my blind friend, George, and approximately three days a week, I'll haul him around the countryside going places he wants to go, and for my services he buys me lunch. Not a bad deal, and I'm in an air-conditioned car or truck.

This morning my restful sleep was rudely terminated when my cat decided to see what was with the picture on top of the dresser. It was not attached to the wall, and he likes to sleep up there. I suspect he pushed a little harder than usual and the thing tipped over, crashed to the floor, shattered the glass all over the floor. So now, at least, I've got something constructive to do. In a little while. Later today. It was funny, too, how he reappeared after I got up and peered around the corner at the destruction he had caused, eyes wide open, ears forward. Then he saw me and took off. At least the picture itself was not damaged. Another pane of glass won't cost much, anyway.

Oh, nearly forgot something. Out of all the *'s on the list at the top, I'm only afflicted with the second one. I'm basically content with where I am at the moment.

In a way I guess my boredom is of my own making. I wish I had more room in my workshop to do the things I want to do. I could clean the place up, again, and be a happy camper. Maybe I'll do that later, today. Or tomorrow.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Off The Cuff - A Bone-Chilling Video

A Bone-Chilling Video - © Kent Fletcher
August 11, 2007

A couple of days back an old friend from Mississippi sent me a video from USA Wake Up dot org, http://www.usawakeup.org/. While the video is a bone-chilling video, there are many, many more videos for consumption on the web as depictive as this one, some even more so. The problem is, out of all the people who do watch these videos, how many are going to "take action", confront their elected officials, demand said officials to pay attention to what is going on, and quit the hyperventilating about being reelected next term?

I would dare say very few folks are bold enough, are proud enough to confront the very politicians whom they have elected to office. Why? Because these elected officials seem to accept the fact that they were, in fact, elected to their respective offices and are therefore above their constituency. Wrong answer.

Today, I received yet another email from yet another old friend in Mississippi, this time with the question, "Can a good Muslim be a good American?". The answers run through various aspects of the Muslim world vs the notions we US citizens proclaim, such as theologically, religiously, socially, politically, and several others, each answered in the negative. The final statement is thus,

"Therefore after much study and deliberation....perhaps we should be very suspicious of ALL MUSLIMS in this country. They obviously cannot be both "good" Muslims and good Americans."

In part I can agree with all the statements written in that email; however, it does present some disturbing angles to me going back to other immigrants of this great country, all the way back to the Vikings.

One should remember we are all of some kind of faith, even the atheists and hard-core agnostics. A Muslim is no different, he/she simply worships a different aspect of religion. It is the fanatics who use the religion as a way, as a means to an end, the end being the destruction, annihilation, total obliteration of the West, the United States in particular. The fanatics, the brainwashed, the ones who live in a state of poverty and no where else to go, nothing else to believe in but the mullahs who preach the hate, who ascribe to the literal meanings as supposedly spoken by the prophet Mohammed, who are our enemies, not Muslims across the board. I've met a few, and I wasn't intimidated by them.

I would dare say the Catholics were treated much the same way in the fledgling US way back when, as were the Lutherans, even the Methodists. I don't claim to be a theological expert, I'm just going by what I've read and heard over the years. Any one religion or sect can overrule another if it is large enough, strong enough, carries enough weight, has enough fanatical followers.

Life does bother me, concern me, however, when the true Muslims will not confront the fanatics, will not speak up for their own concerns and denounce the actions and the means of the fanatics, the fascists who proclaim Mohammed has spoken from death, to tell them this suicide mission is their only choice to get into heaven, to have their virgins. What a great idea by the fanatics, by Mohammed, in which to control the little people.

And in the face of declaration upon declaration of the hate these Islamofascists have toward anything and everything Western, how can the politicians who have been duly elected to office deny these same declarations. Have they no conscience, have they no free will to demand of the other politicians the security and dreams of this nation?

It tires me greatly to see the same old emails cross my page, with an occasional petition thrown in for good measure, always extolling the horror coming our way if the Islamofascists have their way with us, and I'm not saying they can't, but when will it happen? Sooner rather than later, I'm afraid, if the politicians don't get off their dead asses and get their heads out of the sand, take a look around, quit worrying about the "next election cycle", and start worrying about tomorrow, next week, next year.

First, and most important to me is our security. Border security, transportation security, freedom of the press security, wage security, any number of securities, for without these securities, what is the US? Nothing, absolutely nothing but an island ripe for conquering forces to do as they please.

Concerning border security, it is my understanding that the US Border Patrol is in charge of halting illegal immigration, illegal smuggling, illegal drug trafficking, etc., to the ability they are given the authority to do. In the cases of the two US Border Patrol officers who were doing their job, and who halted a Mexican attempting to smuggle drugs into this country, and who shot the man in the buttocks as he was escaping, through some quirk in the processes, these two men are now incarcerated in federal prisons. Why? Not because they were doing their jobs, what they were hired for, but for shooting an illegal Mexican in the buttocks as he was running away. What the hell, over?

I'm more upset with the President at the moment than incarcerating two men for doing their jobs in the first place. The President of the United States is sworn in and bound by the Constitution of the United States to preserve and protect the United States from all people who wish harm. However, the President has pardoned or commuted the sentence of one "Scooter" Libby, a sentence of but a couple of years, and has turned his back on two Border Patrol agents who were doing their jobs, as prescribed by their superiors. These two men are now in prison for 10 and 11 years, and are at the mercy of the prison population already incarcerated. And guess who is going to be attacked more violently than any other prisoner? Yep, former law enforcement officials. What the hell, over?

When the President's request for open immigration failed in Congress, only then has he begun to take the border security seriously. Or at least he's saving face at the moment by having the Department of Homeland Security address the issues surrounding border security. What the hell, over?

The time has come, for me anyway, to stop sitting on the sidelines, shaking my head in wonder at the actions those men and women I voted for are partaking in. The time has come for me to take an active stance, to send emails, to write letters, to call if need be, to demand my representatives DO THEIR JOBS! Period. There is no other reasonable thing to do. And if they refuse to do their jobs, if they refuse to protect the American way of life, well, hit the door, Jack.

I am but a simple man, a military retiree, but this is the country I dedicated 20+ years of my life to. When I've had enough of something, I come out fighting. How about you? Are you going to continue to sit on the sidelines, watching the daily parade run by, watching all the sacred ideals this country has protected for the past 200+ years to fall by the wayside, being politically correct instead of calling a spade a spade, and holding the government's feet to the fire?


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Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Dis Is Why We Celebrates De Foth of July!

Dis Is Why We Celebrates De Foth of July! - © Kent Fletcher
July 4, 2007

I don't think I'll ever forget the subject line of this short reminisce. I was working on the campus of the University of Mississippi, with the grounds crew, just making some bucks for groceries while passing time until the summer school session began in 1981. The fellow who spoke those words was a local black man, a very young man, who I seriously doubt even had a high school diploma. And he firmly believed in what he said, that he believed George Washington had freed the slaves and that was the reason for the Fourth of July celebrations. Sad, very sad, but for some folks whose histories are so jumbled, well, at least he was celebrating something on the official birthdate of these United States.

Yesterday, I was in dreamland myself, thinking (always thinking of past dates and events) about the various celebrations of the Fourth of July in my lifetime, some 60 years. Some were very eventful, some rather drab, most just another day in my life. I remember my ex had a friend who was teaching in Santa Fe, New Mexico, when we were living in Colorado. Ellen was her name, and she invited us to Santa Fe to partake in the 200th year celebration of this great nation. 1976. Two centuries of democracy, sometimes shaky, sometimes firm, but always there, here. Not too bad for a system of government that so many have iterated can never last, can never survive, will eventually implode. I wonder how close we the people are to that day of implosion. It's scary, ain't it?

So we ankled off to Santa Fe for the weekend, for the celebration, for the drinking and strolling around the center and off-shooting streets of that quaint city's Plaza. It was here I was introduced to green chili, but I was not really fond of it, then. Now I am, and it's so hard to find in Texas. But the revelry in Santa Fe was unique, with Anglos, Hispanics, Indians, with parades on the Plaza, with banners held high, with a unison that was expected and symbolic of the unity of our diversified cultures. I've not been back to Santa Fe for the Fourth of July celebrations, and I wonder what it's like now.

I also thought about the time I was stationed at the Pentagon and the celebrations of the Fourth of July there. The celebrations on the National Mall with all manner of people from all over the United States, even all over the world, regaling in the so-far-successful story of these United States of America, all culminating in a wild and amazing fireworks display that lasted around an hour or so, beginning at 9 p.m. I remember being close to ground zero for the display, laying down on the ground, and only needing to keep my eyes open for the sights of the explosions occurring high above me, with the colors of the explosions - green, white, red, blue - and not worrying too much about my hearing at the time. The end of the display was about 15 minutes, maybe more, of nothing but the explosions and resounding echoes off brick, concrete, and steel throughout the DC area, about as close to the sounds of war I've ever heard. I wonder as I type this if the explosions at the Pentagon on 9/11/01 sounded anywhere near as loud.

All that is history, now, but what a wonderful time it was. The United States was still enduring the Cold War, and while I can't remember specifically, I'm sure the US was engaged in skirmishes around the world, attempting to further the cause of democracy in a mostly-undemocratic world. But the US citizens were free to do nearly anything they wanted on the Fourth of July, to have picnics, to go to the zoos, to gather in small communities to hear bands playing patriotic songs, to go to the lake for the day, to ski and swim, or simply to stay at home. The activities of the day were as varied as the people themselves, and for the most part, were free of worry about some fool or fools tossing a bomb into a crowd out of sympathy for the "oppressed" in the world. Lord, have times changed.

In just the past week, the ugliness of global war on terror reared its ugly head once again, in the "free" world. Eight folks of Islamic persuasion and empathy and sympathy created havoc in Great Britain, attempting car bombings on the streets, attempting to drive a Jeep through airport doors with bombs onboard, attempting to bring terror and fear to that great land. And these eight folks are educated human beings, five or six of them doctors or at least medical professionals. Did they succeed in their plight? Did they cause concern for safety? Undoubtedly they did, but they were all apprehended within a very short length of time, and for the most part their pursuits were squelched from the outset.

While I fear for the lives of all of us, for the Brits, the Spaniards, the Germans, for all in the European Union, I am most happy, glad those same attempted attacks did not take place in these United States. In squelching the attacks, had they happened within our borders, I fear there would have been political ramifications galore to yet divide the citizens more and more. I'm so tired of the politicians I could just scream. However, that is the way it is in these United States.

But today, July 4, 2007, is a day like no other day in the history of the greatest nation in the world. Today is the celebration of the birth of the greatest nation in the world, number 231. That number, my friends, is unequivocal in the histories of any nation in the world. The United States is the leader of the pack when it comes to individual freedoms in the world and each and every one of us should rejoice in that fact alone. We are free to do as we please, at least within the context of the laws and rules and regulations that we and our forefathers and foremothers have made for ourselves. The citizens of the United States are at the forefront of most every conceivable idea, invention, medical breakthrough, et al, in the world today. Foreigners of every ideation come to the people of the United States for help and we give it, and then we get stabbed in the back for our generosity. Ah, it's just like a Mobius strip, forever twisting and turning, always coming around and around, no beginning, no end.

Hey, I'm so glad I am a citizen of the United States. There is no place better to live, even with all the imperfections we have put upon ourselves. I cannot imagine living, working, dying anywhere else in the world.

This is why I celebrate the Fourth of July. This is why I fly the flag of the United States. How about you?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Father's Day - 2007

Father's Day - 2007 - © Kent Fletcher
June 17, 2007

Well, I wasn't going to say anything about today, cause I ain't one of ya. Not in the biblical sense, not in the literal sense, nor even the figurative sense. And yet, I suppose I am one of ya, in that I do truly care for the animals who have cohabited with me in times past, and in the present as well.

As with the real fathers, and mothers, too, in the world today, there is a certain satisfaction seeing an animal grow and mature to adulthood, to see it learn how to behave around humans, to interact in daily goings-on, to get on a schedule of meal-times, play-times, sleep-times. Of course, the animals the human race has decided to domesticate - cats, dogs, ferrets, hamsters, small and large furry ones, and some not so furry - have become as dependent on the human race as a human child in the formative years. How so, you may ask?

Domesticated animals have slowly lost a lot of their natural instincts of survival, such as preying on other animals for food, seeking shelter where they can find it, fighting tooth and nail for territory. Some of these traits can still be seen in feral animals, and even in border-line domesticated animals. For instance, at my present abode, I cohabit with three inside cats, and God-only-knows how many outside ones. Some of the outside ones are quite tame, others are a bit more skittish. When a litter is hatched, I make a concerted effort to at least handle the kits some, not much, to get my scent in them so they won't scatter at sight or sound. However, sometimes this is not good, in that the skittish ones may take the traits I pass along as humans are not a dangerous sort. And we all know about that statement, eh?

One thing is for certain at my abode: there ain't no mice or rats anywhere around. While I'm not going to permit the outside cats - even the tame ones - to starve, all they get is dry food, the cheaper the better. If they want meat for dinner, they find it on their own. I also feed the birds and squirrels, and I'm sure a bird or squirrel has paid the ultimate price.

At times the outside cats also serve as a make-shift alarm. If they see something, or someone strange approaching the yard, they scatter. Course, it helps if I'm outside at the time to see the alarm. As the heat keeps rising out here in TX, I only go out on the stoop in the evening, and even then sometimes it's just not comfortable.

Enough about cats. I've got them, I take care of them, and I care about them. Nuff said.

Dogs. What can I say? Domesticated dogs have a devotion to human beings that cats, at least the cats I've known in my short life, will never exhibit. There are exceptions, such as Prook, my mother's Siamese cat, and maybe Zack, my own Siamese, or Felix who passed last September. Prook loved to ride, windows down, anywhere, anytime. In fact, he got so bold as to get in any open window and lounge until the driver at least took him around the block. Many times he went to Arkansas with the family, to visit my mother's folks. Zack would walk with me when I took Zeke and Hercules, my two cockapoos, around the blocks. But no leash for him, just a fly-swatter. That was his calling card. He had his own fly-swatter, too, and would bring it to me to beat him. Seriously.

Felix would come to a whistle in his later years, and would ride, albeit begrudgingly, to the vet. I don't know if he ever got a vet, but he did get me on more than one occasion. And not love-bites either, but defensive bites. He let a human know where the boundaries were in no uncertain terms.

Well, I digressed a bit, fell back on the cats. Sorry bout that, so let me continue on about dogs. The first dog I remember was a collie of some kind. I was very young then, probably three or four. The second dog was Spooky, who actually lived across the street with the Albrittons. But Spooky was waiting for me every day as I walked into the yard from an arduous day at the Hill Demonstration School. He and I played for hours outside, my constant companion, a typical boy-and-his-dog relationship. Don't know how the Albrittons felt about it, but they never said anything. One time he swallowed one of those little red rubber balls. My father paid to get Dr. Wiggins to slice him open, retrieve what was left of said ball. I can't remember for sure what happened to Spooky, but I think he got nailed there on College Street. He was a cutey, too, a terrier mix, white with brown spots. I run across the one picture I've got of him on occasion.

Next was Blue, 1/4 Spitz, 1/4 Beagle, ½ Labrador. Smart. Quick. Cunning. My father's dog. They went hunting a lot together, for squirrels, rabbits, and one time a skunk. A very stinky result when my father shot the skunk and Blue dived in for the kill. I think my father could have killed him for that stupid act. But he survived for several years, only to be nailed on College Street. I've never come across another dog like Blue, faithful to the end.

I didn't cohabit with any animals in my adult life until I was marred and living in Colorado. The ex was aching for a pooch. The pooch - a cockapoo - came from a puppy mill in Kansas via a pet shop in Pueblo, CO. When we took him in, the vet told us if he lived six months, he would make it. He made it from 1978 to 1993. He done good. We had a couple of other dogs along the way, a cocker spaniel from a pound in Lakewood, CO, who evidently had a major heart attack while we were out one evening and died (he was still warm when I opened the door) and a terrier mix, also from Lakewood, who got nailed by some bahstad outside Oxford, MS, in 1981. Shortly thereafter along came Hercules, another cockapoo, who was absolutely, emphatically the best dog I've ever owned.

It was Zeke and Hercules who helped me keep my sanity after my divorce in 1987, who gave me something to live for, as I was really on the edge of ending everything for a very short period of time. They were my constant companions, traveling around Virginia, always, always ready to go for a ride anywhere. They helped me get to Texas in one piece back in December, 1990. They helped me acclimate Felix when he came into the fold in May, 1991. I've written about all three of these clowns elsewhere. I was torn apart when Zeke passed, but I was absolutely devastated when Hercules left me in February, 1994. I miss him to this very day, Father's Day, 2007.

My last constant companion was Lil Darlin. After Hercules passed, I had no desire for another pooch. The good Lord had other ideas, however, in November, 1998. Radar, as Lil Darlin was first known, was an ugly but cute little pup, I'd say in the vicinity of six-month-old when I first saw her. She was being drug around a yard by a five-year-old kid, literally, with a rope around her neck. The kid and his mom had just picked her up at a humongous flea market in Grand Prairie, TX. Seems as though a couple "passing through" had given her up for free, but I suspect a puppy mill ordeal. Regardless, she was soft and fuzzy, full of pith and vinegar, and just as cute as a bug in a rug. She had a little top-knot of sorts, pure white, right on the top of her head. As she got older this top-knot would raise when her hackles did.
In short order, I had another small companion, one who really required nothing more than a pat on the head, some food, some water, a little daily play-time, and a ride to anywhere. Happy times once again settled in my household. LD went everywhere with me, knew when to get off my lap, and knew when to get on it, too. She never complained about anything. She required no schooling, no obedience classes, no training. She was a constant companion, and I miss her as much today as I miss Hercules.

So, while I'm not a biological father, I suppose I can accept the moniker of a pseudo-father for all the animals in my care, and in my company. It breaks my heart to see animals tortured, brutalized, whipped, and otherwise mistreated, and I'll do all I can, physically and financially to ensure the well-being of my animal companions.

So, for all you real, human fathers out there in the world, who read this simple words of wit, a very much appreciated Happy Father's Day to you! Be thankful for who you have, or had in some instances, you are all wonderful to someone!

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Off The Cuff - Dimmit, Dammit!

Dimmit, Dammit! - © Kent Fletcher
May 24, 2007

There was some discussion on USADS this morning about cussing' out in a nice way. Ye Editor had her own version of how, in high school (a loooooooong time ago, by the way), she and her running buddies would put someone down. Really nonsensical, pretty bland stuff unless you were on the receiving end and had "virgin" ears. Delta Dawns recounted how one of her early bosses would use the term "shuckins" in lieu of "s**t", and that Billie had told her that four "shuckins" equaled one "s**t", so she may as well just go on and say it. Bayou Bill chimed in about one Grady Nutt, one of the characters on Hee-Haw, that venerable laugh-fest from the 1970s through the late 1990s, who would explain how a preacher would cuss.

Now, the fellers would attempt to use more guttural and violent speech when cussing someone out, and I'll not even attempt to reiterate those notions. Except for one. And this happened to me in high school, also way long time ago.

In the evenings most all us high-schoolers with vehicles would cruise the streets of Cleveland, MS, smoking and drinking and listening to the radio, talking on the CB radios, looking for the girls who had snuck out of their homes under false pretenses. We would meet others on the streets, hollering and taunting with languages and actions that were sometimes really crude and rude. No Southern Gentlemen were we when in the company of our peers, and not the Southern Belles like Ye Editor and Delta Dawns.

One evening I was out in my rusty, trusty 1939 Plymouth, a.k.a., The Bomb. The Bomb ran on a 6-volt system, so the headlights weren't really bright enough to blind anyone approaching, but enough to at least see what was coming on. I met a feller while driving on Leflore Avenue who was a couple or few years older than me, Sammy Mitchell. Sammy had a 1954 (or thereabouts) Chevy two-door, really a slick car, all shiny and purty, lotsa chrome, nice paint job. Sammy was driving with his high beams on (his car was on a 12-volt system) and were those headlights bright! I flicked my own headlights up and down several times, but either Sammy didn't see my actions, or he ignored my actions. Whatever.

As he passed, I yelled out my window, "Dimmit, would ya?" Oops! Wrong statement at the wrong time!

Being the hothead he was, Sammy slammed on his brakes, screeching to a halt, he and his riding companion (I know not who it was) were whoopin' and hollerin', turned around, and started after me. When I heard the squealing tires on the pavement, I decided to find a safe place to pull over. I ended up in front of 900 College Street, my home, and literally "stood" on my brakes.

Within a minute or two, here came Sammy, and he wasn't going to stop. Bang! Then Sproing! He backed his car up a bit, rammed me yet again. Bang! Sproing! After one more Bang! and Sproing!, he pulled out around me, he and his passenger hollering at me, calling me all sorts of vile and vulgar names. After letting my heart settle a little, I got out of the car to look at the damage his car had done to mine.

And what did I discover? Nothing, no dents, no drips, no errors. That Plymouth had the old-styled spring bumpers, hard to collapse if hit. I don't think there was any damage to Sammy's car, either, but at the moment, that was the least of my worries. I had to face that sucker the next day at school.

When we finally got face-to-face, I told him what I had yelled at him, "Dimmit, would ya?" Of course he pontificated around his friends that I had yelled, "Dimmit, Dammit!", and he was going to kick my butt. Well, I don't know what happened to escape this whuppin' he was wanting to dish out, but he never laid a hand on me. Sammy thought he was going to be a bad-ass, turned out he was just a blow-hard, after all.

Sammy died some time back. I wonder if he ever got over that incident?


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Off The Cuff - Have You Ever Had...?

Have You Ever Had...? - © Kent Fletcher
March 11, 2007

Yesterday was not a particularly fun day. I've been working at changing out the U-joints in my 82 Volvo for a solid week, now, and I thought I'd be able to put a wrap on the deal in the late afternoon. Let me go back a few days, and you'll be able to see my frustration.

Last Saturday I removed the driveshaft in toto. Not a particularly easy task as I could only get the rear of the car off the ground to a workable height. The bolts to the differential weren't that difficult to remove, just a tight space. Thankfully I'm not claustrophobic, cause the driveshaft was literally in my face for the entire process.

Long and boring story, short, it's taken me a week to get the driveshaft repaired and ready to reinstall. Lots of running up and down the road, lots of frustration.

Yesterday - Saturday - got the driveshaft all put back together, assembled my needed tools and nuts and bolts and went back under the car. I didn't get very far, however, as I've got to find a way to support the shaft while I'm attempting to get the nuts and bolts in. That's for later today, once I finish this little epistle.

So I was sitting and watching the boob tube for a bit last evening, just about ready to go to bed, when a very pregnant cat - Miss Sophie - hopped into my lap, all lovey-dovey, purring to beat the band, wanting her belly rubbed. Such a tiny thing anyway, she was moving around every few minutes, getting a more comfortable position in my lap, sucking up to that belly-rubbing, when the last time she rolled over, I felt a warm fuzzy on my left thigh. Her water had broken in my lap! And then I watched her sides and I could see the contractions beginning. "This isn't going to work," says I. So I moved her to a chair with several layers of blankets, got her settled down for the long haul - for her - and finally went to bed.

I got up this morning and asked my roomy if we had kittens yet. She said Miss Sophie had been up earlier, had drunk a lot of water, and had disappeared again. She also mentioned her rear end was not a pleasant sight. Imagine that! I think she birthed under the dining room table, back in some dark corner. I'm sure she'll reveal her brood to us in time. However, I'm concerned that because she is so small anyway, that her first litter may not make it. The same thing happened to another cat outside, she lost the first litter but soon birthed another, and cute ones, too.

Hah! Another "first" for me, having an animal in my lap and her water breaking! Has anyone ever had this experience? Made my day, that's for sure! Forgot all about the driveshaft for a little while. Ain't life grand!