Saturday, June 16, 2007

Blogging for a Full Year Now

I was wondering what to do to commemorate or mark the day. Then, last night on Austin City Limits after some wimpy brit dude stumming his guitar limply and whining sensitively they brought out some real stuff.

JAMES McMURTRY is the real deal. Stark and harsh. Brutally true. The best part was at the end during the interview. The cute chick holding the microphone asked him why he wrote songs and with a complete lack of guile he said "So women would talk to me."

Vietnam Vet with a cardboard sign
Sitting there by the left turn line
Flag on the wheelchair flapping in the breeze
One leg missing, both hands free
No one's paying much mind to him
The V.A. budget's stretched so thin
And there's more comin' home from the Mideast war
We can't make it here anymore

That big ol' building was the textile mill
It fed our kids and it paid our bills
But they turned us out and they closed the doors
We can't make it here anymore

See all those pallets piled up on the loading dock
They're just gonna set there till they rot
'Cause there's nothing to ship, nothing to pack
Just busted concrete and rusted tracks
Empty storefronts around the square
There's a needle in the gutter and glass everywhere
You don't come down here 'less you're looking to score
We can't make it here anymore

The bar's still open but man it's slow
The tip jar's light and the register's low
The bartender don't have much to say
The regular crowd gets thinner each day

Some have maxed out all their credit cards
Some are working two jobs and living in cars
Minimum wage won't pay for a roof, won't pay for a drink
If you gotta have proof just try it yourself Mr. CEO
See how far 5.15 an hour will go
Take a part time job at one of your stores
Bet you can't make it here anymore

High school girl with a bourgeois dream
Just like the pictures in the magazine
She found on the floor of the laundromat
A woman with kids can forget all that
If she comes up pregnant what'll she do
Forget the career, forget about school
Can she live on faith? live on hope?
High on Jesus or hooked on dope
When it's way too late to just say no
You can't make it here anymore

Now I'm stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store
Just like the ones we made before
'Cept this one came from Singapore
I guess we can't make it here anymore

Should I hate a people for the shade of their skin
Or the shape of their eyes or the shape I'm in
Should I hate 'em for having our jobs today
No I hate the men sent the jobs away
I can see them all now, they haunt my dreams
All lily white and squeaky clean
They've never known want, they'll never know need
Their shit don't stink and their kids won't bleed
Their kids won't bleed in the damn little war
And we can't make it here anymore

Will work for food
Will die for oil
Will kill for power and to us the spoils
The billionaires get to pay less tax
The working poor get to fall through the cracks
Let 'em eat jellybeans let 'em eat cake
Let 'em eat shit, whatever it takes
They can join the Air Force, or join the Corps
If they can't make it here anymore

And that's how it is
That's what we got
If the president wants to admit it or not
You can read it in the paper
Read it on the wall
Hear it on the wind
If you're listening at all
Get out of that limo
Look us in the eye
Call us on the cell phone
Tell us all why

In Dayton, Ohio
Or Portland, Maine
Or a cotton gin out on the great high plains
That's done closed down along with the school
And the hospital and the swimming pool
Dust devils dance in the noonday heat
There's rats in the alley
And trash in the street
Gang graffiti on a boxcar door
We can't make it here anymore

Music and lyrics © 2004 by James McMurtry


Friday, June 15, 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (evening)

Schatzie and I arrive back at the campsite. All is well. Silas has kept the other two (Big Blonde Hans and the very quiet, very shy Eva) busy making preparations for the sweat tonight. There is a good looking stack of firewood where they have moved Ingrid and settled her on a nice pile of blankets.

I dismount and take Rosalita's tack off while Schatzie does the same with Sally. I walk down to the creek with the horses to a bend area where there is a nice stand of still water pooling up and when I see the delight with which Rosalita and Sally wallow around in the cold running water I decide to join them, I shed the clothes (which I just then realize I've been in for two days) and wade on out. It feels glorious. After a good cool down I put my sandals and jeans on and go back to the folks.

I take our plant prizes over to Silas and Ingrid. Silas asks me to take the Mormon tea and soak it in some warm water. Then he takes a cholla nubbin, slices it in half and makes a mush out of the inside. He puts this over the mass of broken blisters on Ingrid's feet and even a casual observer could see that there is an instant relief. I pour some of the boiled water into another pan, add some cool water from a bag to that and lay the Mormon Tea stalks into it. When I bring it to Silas he tells Ingrid "He can tell you what this stuff is so that you understand what we are doing."

I say "They call this plant Mormon Tea. It is a pretty decent natural source of ephedra. I imagine that once the stalks have softened up some Silas will have me pound it on a rock to make a poultice for your feet. It should both numb the pain and dry the oozing." Then I give Silas a look to see if I'm right and he smiles and nods. Silas then asks for the cattail reeds and begins to weave them into two small circles. Then he asks me to grab a pair of clean socks from my gear. I pick out a pretty nice natural (dirty grey) silk inner sock set and bring it over to them. We make the poultice from the Mormon Tea and put it on the blisters until it begins to dry and fall off. Then he follows that with more cholla goop and follows that with some agave gel from the inside of the spear. He waits for this to dry a bit then he puts the socks over her feet. He busts open some cattail heads and takes the fluff out and makes thick piles on each of the reed circles. He puts her feet on top of this and folds it up around like a bootie. He ties that with a fiber pulled from the agave and says "Don't walk much for a bit. But you'll be good as new pretty soon."

He asks me if I still want to do the sweat and I say that I would. First we gather our lost pilgrims together and I lay out the situation as I see it. They are lost and while I have a pretty good idea where they left their car our things are about ten miles closer. I tell them that if there is somebody they can call in Tempe who would be willing to drive out to the trailhead where our stuff is and meet us we can all walk out together in the morning. With Sally here to carry the bulk of the load along with an ample supply of water even if it gets up to 36 degrees again tomorrow we should be fine. I tell the Germans that they can take turns riding double behind Silas and I and that by staying together, going slowly and carefully we should all be fine. Hans informs me that they have cell phones that haven't worked for quite a while. I tell him that it's no problem and produce the satellite phone. I also tell them that if we run into any trouble on the way out we can call for help on the satphone, and that I have a GPS transponder which will make finding us easy. As I hand the satphone over to Hans I toss Silas a snotty look and say "Are you going to tease me about overpacking some more Grandfather?" He tosses a dirt clod at me and we laugh.

Silas says he is going off to choose some rocks for tonight. I spread the food stores out for Schatzie and Eva to see and tell them that I am not eating until after the ceremony. Silas has filled everyone but Schatzie in on what we are planning to do and Big Blonde Hans and Eva have decided that they would like to see the ceremony from inside the lodge. Once I've explained it to Schatzie she decides to give it a try too.

I head down to where I last saw the horses taking a change of clothes with me. I scrub off with wet sand before going into the water to rinse and soak away the days. After a good while I just laze around out on a blanket in the shade of a palo verde. I get dressed in clean white linen trousers, and a loose blue linen shirt, a red satin sash and headband (wrapped around four times and tied with a bow on the left side) completes it. I am getting ready to step into the old ways again. I am just sitting there, savoring the quiet, trying to think about absolutely nothing when I hear footsteps approaching. It's Schatzie and she is carrying a bead and bone choker saying "Silas told me to bring this to you. He said he is ready for you." She asks about the silver star hanging down from the center spacer of the choker. I tell her that a hairpipe choker is a warrior's adornment. It is a decoration but also protects the neck against injury. I tell her that the star is from a long time ago. She reads the embossed words on the back.

For Gallantry In Action

Yes, indeed, a very long time ago.

Just. Yesterday.



Friday Random Ten

If it's Friday then it must be time for a random ten. Today's mix is courtesy of Pandora the internet radio group. I haven't (actually it's my nephew who will do the hooking up work) put my hard drive full of music into the new box yet so here goes,

Foriegn Affairs - - - Tom Waits
I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket - - - Carmen McRae
My Mind's Eye - - - Small Faces
For the Benefit of Mr. Kite - - - The Beatles
I'll Follow You - - - David Bowie
Still - - - Elvis Costello
It's A Motherfucker - - - Eels
Dislocated Life - - - Graham Parker
Small Fry - - - Hoagy Carmichael
Respect - - - Otis Redding

Not a bad mix. You can work through their software to massage the lists it throws up.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Superstition Ride - - -Day 3 (afternoon)

Yes! We are back up and running! New machine is here, hooked up, waiting on my tech head nephew to slap the megasticks of RAM. . .but, for now, on with the story.

I amble down to the creekbed with Big Blonde Hans in tow. I see that Silas is doing far more than flirting with the girls. One of them, a slender girl with dark hair who says her name is Ingrid, has her shoes off and Silas is intently looking at the soles of her feet. They are an oozing mass of blisters. It's very obvious that she has been walking through intense pain. I take a closer look and say "Wow, I'm impressed. Only somebody born again hard could walk on that mess." I tell Silas that I will go get my field medical kit from the pack saddle. He looks at me and says "Bring that sure. Then there are some things I want you to gather."

I fetch up the medical kit and spray her feet down with some stuff to ease the stinging. I ask Silas what it is he wants me to get and he says that I should pull him about eight cattails, roots and all and then he gives me a place name in Apache. This works almost as well as a Thomas Guide for identifying exactly where I need to go, he tells me what he wants from the place, then he tells me that along with that he wants some cholla knobs and a couple agave spears (not the tequila agave, but another type).

Ingrid is very impressed. She tells us that she is very honored to be given treatment "just like an Indian." Silas tells her that she isn't being treated like an Apache at all. She looks puzzled and Silas says "No Apache would walk this far on feet like this. An Apache woman would make everybody stop and get herself fixed up." Ingrid takes this in the spirit it was given, and she shoots a murderous look in the direction of Big Blonde Hans. Silas sees the look too. I show Hans how to pull up a cattail roots and all, and he makes himself useful.

I go back to the fire and crumble some hardtack into the hot fat and bacon chunks, along with some jerky shavings, stir it a few times and move it to the outside where it will not cook rapidly. Then I take a chunk of jerky and shave it into a mug. I dump some boiled water over that and leave it to steep. When I go back to where Silas and Ingrid are the other Germans are all gathered around. I tell them that there is some food ready and that they can help themselves. I tell Big Blonde Hans that he won't starve to death overnight if he doesn't want to eat any meat, but I tell him that I have made a cup of jerky broth and he should at least drink that because he needs to get some salt replenished. He nods. Silas asks me to bring a plate down for Ingrid. Then, before I am out of earshot, he asks me if I have any clean socks in my gear. I say I do and he just nods.

I toss some of the hardtack/bacon/jerky goop into a tin plate and take it down to Ingrid with a chunk of hardtack to use as a scooper. I also bring a bag of water that I hang right nearby.

I pull out my Pennywhistle and play "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" and, just like she always does, Rosalita comes trotting up, nickering in anticipation of a licorice treat. The Germans are impressed. I tell them that this isn't any indian mamba jahamba voodoo stuff, that each of my horses has a theme song. When they hear that song they know that if they come over to me there is licorice or some other wonderful treat to be had. I say "No magic at all, just plain old conditioned response straight out of Skinner." I ask if any of them can ride and aren't afraid to climb some rocks. In a stroke of wonderful luck the very pretty, nordic blonde goddess type introduces herself as Schatzie and says "I climb rocks and ride." I finsh saddling Rosalita and whistle up "Poor Wandering One" which brings Sally running. I snatch my cousin's saddle and bosal and get her all tricked out. Then I grab a bag of water and tell Schatzie that it's "Boots and Saddles" time. I tell the others that I will be back soon and ask them to please keep an eye on Ingrid and Silas, in case they need anything. I also tell them to please be careful and to remember to drink lots of water. I suggest that if they get really bored they can bring up some creek water, boil it for at least five minutes and then fill up the empty bags.

Schatzie and I start out. I tell her that Sally will keep up with Rosalita and I fine and that she really doesn't have to do much riding at all. Schatzie straightens up in the saddle and starts to demonstrate that she knows her stuff. I give an approving glance and bring the pace up to a trot. I tell her that it's probably around 36 degrees (I figure since I'm dealing with a European I'd convert to Centigrade) and that if the heat becomes a problem to please tell me before it turns dangerous. We ride at a decent clip for about 40 minutes to come to the side canyon that Silas described. We ride about a half mile into that and come to a cliff face that has a small waterfall that splashes onto a rockfall. Every plant that we need is right here. Schatzie is totally impressed. I tell her that the Apache name Silas gave me for this place said "two palo verdes at the mouth of the canyon where water and rocks fall together." I tell her that this is a fundamental difference between Apaches and white people. White people drink from a thing. They drink from a well, a spring, a creek, a glass, but it's always at thing. We drink from places. We also don't think that we own any of the land. It doesn't own us either. We belong there, that's all. Just like the trees and the cactus and the coyotes and birds. We belong just like they do. While she's chewing on this I look at the rock face near the waterfall and see a few bunches of E. trifurca or Mormon Tea. I tell Schatzie that this is one of the things that Silas needs for Ingrid. I ask her if she feels OK about making that climb. She says "Very easy. I get that." We dismount and I start to take the tack off of Rosalita so that she can wander around and browse and drink. By the time I'm finished I see that Schatzie has already done the same with Sally. I give her an approving look. I tell her that there are two other types of plant that I need to gather and she scampers up the rock face like a pro with a rigging assist from the top. I'm impressed. I take a blanket and toss it over a cholla which breaks off about six cholla knobs. I take a sharp stick and stick it into each knob, then I burn off the wicked hooked spines with a lighter and toss them into my saddlebags. Then I cut some agave spears and slice off the spines on the edges and stick them in too. By this time Schatzie has come down with her prize. I tell her that we need to wait about a half hour more to give the horses a good rest and we'll head on back to the camp.

I ask her if Ingrid had been complaining about her feet during their hike today and she says "Yes, many times she complain, but Hans always say we are there almost and just a little more walk." She reads the look of disapproval on my face and tells me that Hans isn't that bad of a guy. He was very ashamed of himself for being lost, and not very good at admitting it. I tell her that this is all very human stuff. I ask her what was going on when Silas came by. She said that the girls had all made Hans stop for a while and they were trying to find themselves a bit of shade and comfort, that they had just finished up the very last of their water when they heard Silas riding up. She said he was singing in a very high voice. "It was just like movie." I said that Silas lives for stuff like this. I also tell her that they don't have to worry, we will get them all out safe and sound.

Then I tell her about a theory of mine. I take two pennywhistles (one in D and my trusty big old Bb) and walk over to the waterfall. I tell her that I have always felt that the key of nature is Bb. To demonstrate I play a bit of "The Rakes of Mallow" on the D whistle. I pause to let that sink in and play the exact same figure on the Bb. Schatzie's face lights up and she says "You are exactly right, the Bb is in perfect tune with the sounds of the water." When I play Sally's theme Rosalita comes up along with her. We saddle up and ride back to the others.



Sunday, June 10, 2007

Circle of Life and stuff. . .


Barn Monster, brave and noble alpha cat in the barn. As near as I could tell from the evidence at hand it was a rattlesnake that got him. He was still alive when I went out this morning with a horribly swollen left hip. I scooped him up in a towel (he didn't fight or protest which convinced me of the seriousness of his condition and the need for immediate attention). We were mere minutes away from emergency vet when he yowled defiance in a weakened voice, then breathed his last. The vet asked for the body to perform an autopsy. I consented. Snakes are a fact of life out here. Even more so this time of year when they are expanding their range away from winter dens.
Final Score: Barn Monster---4 Snakes---1

One of his favorite things to do with me was to purr loudly and rub against my leg as I was doing my barn chores. Eventually I would always reach down to scratch an ear or stroke his back and then, POW! He'd nail me one and stalk away. If he used speech he would have said "Sucker." As it was his look of disdain sufficed. He was a tireless protector of his turf and a generous provider to his pride. A relentless scourge to mice, rats, scorpions, snakes, rabbits, gophers, and the odd bird. He presided over his domain with courage and ruthless dedication.


Gus, 7 week old golden retriever puppy. A breeder in Anthem (north of Phoenix, about a 90 minute drive) called and said he had this little male pup who would love to live on a ranch with a pack of dogs and a passel of other critters. He also said that he has great potential for being a gifted bird dog.

You really can't have too many dogs to my way of thinking.