Send in the Clowns


clowns1This week’s clown sighting in the woods behind my children’s grammar school caused a panic induced, district-wide lock-down and a roaming mob of concerned, armed parents, supported by local law enforcement authorities, to scour the county searching for a man in clown makeup.

Reports from witnesses told of the clown doing everything from peeking out from behind a tree, to offering children fee candy from a nondescript, windowless van, to ritually sacrificing a puppy.

Coulrophobia is the fear of clowns.

The only leg-pull in the above description is the exact location. As far as I know, there have been no clown sightings in my end of the Tennessee Valley, but with the scary clown hysteria sweeping the country, I expect to be recruited into an insane clown posse any day.

Hopefully, I won’t go insane in the membrane.

I’ve long held the opinion that eyewitness accounts are the least reliable form of evidence. This is especially true when the witness is also the victim. Pain, adrenaline, shock, and emotional stress screw up perception and the mind’s ability to accurately recall the most basic of details.

Disregard the mountains of research that clearly demonstrate everybody sucks at accurate detail recollection in stressful situations. Ask your favorite cop how often a witness’s description of anything is accurate.

It’s not that they’re lying. They’re just plain wrong.

We labor under a cultural assumption that children are accurate relaters of information and possess astute observational powers. It’s as if we believe children are born with clairvoyance that diminishes as they approach majority.

That’s hogwash. Children are sneaky, devious liars who relish opportunities to embarrass adults by innocently blurting out gems such as, “My baby brother was an accident” or “Mommy and Daddy are buying me a pony for Christmas. They’re hiding all the leather tack gear in the closet.”

You’ll get a pony the day I get peace in this house.

Children are not allowed to make important decisions in their lives precisely because they lack experience, the ability to accurately discern, and a wider contextual understating of the world. In short, they’re ignorant of most things, and to take what they say at face value, without rigorous scrutiny, corroborating testimony, and physical evidence, is parental foolishness.

Now, that I think about it, we should probably disregard the vast majority of what children say because it’s mostly whining. Entertaining their petty grievances and indulging their fantasies only encourages them in their neuroses. Try telling my grandfather there was a clown lurking in the woods. You’d be lucky to only be laughed at. More likely, the response would be, “Then don’t go near it, stupid.”

clowns4Harsh? Perhaps, but still sublime. Somewhere along the line, we decided the only letter’s that should not be appended to a gentleman’s name on his calling card are M, A, and N.

Post-secondary education produces exactly the opposite of what it claims. Today, college only makes people dumber. The same founts of idiocy that have given society safe spaces and trigger warnings, also turn out educators, administrators, and civic officials who will shut down an entire school district on a child’s say so.

Doesn’t anybody besides me remember the McMartin preschool case and how many lives were ruined by false testimony from children?

How many IQ points are sacrificed with each tuition check written?

The creepy clown craze has grown from a few isolated instances of idiots to a full-blown hysteria. Schools are prohibiting clown masks during Halloween. Various local police are arresting people in clown costumes for disturbing the peace, inciting public disorder, or whatever catch-all law their jurisdiction uses to deal with low-grade troublemakers.

Most of the arrests are of teenagers getting their kicks scaring younger kids. It’s deplorable behavior, but pretty much what I’d expect from a teenage boy. Whom I really feel for are the honest-to-goodness, no-kidding, professional clowns, who spend years perfecting their craft, only to see their bookings evaporate. That’s the real crime, destroying someone’s livelihood.

If your age ends in “teen,” it’s an open question as to whether you should be counted as a human being or not.

According to spokesfool Josh Earnest, the White House has consulted with the FBI and Department of Homeland Security about how to handle creepy clowns.

Holy crap. Dig up J. Edgar Hoover because this just became a federal case right up there in magnitude with bank robbery, human traffickers, underage prostitution, child pornography rings, and ISIS trying to cut our heads off.

Since when are assholes in greasepaint such a big problem?

clowns2A quick look around the internet reveals the growing counter-hysteria of videos depicting what can be classified as just deserts for clowns behaving badly. These videos show what I would imagine is a non-professional clown who approaches someone going about his day and behaving in one of those disorderly manners that would earn them arrest by a policeman. Basically, being a jackass.

The person or persons approached, either out of what seems genuine fear or simply not being in a mood to be screwed with, knocks the tar out of the clown.

And I can’t say as I blame them. Most people have no desire to be drawn into someone else’s silliness. If you’re stupid enough to go around antagonizing strangers, don’t be surprised when they express their displeasure strongly.

If you’re gonna be dumb, it helps to be tough.

Here is my wild-assed theory: This whole creepy clown hysteria is a viral marketing campaign spun out of control.

My first thought was the campaign was connected to Stephen King’s IT movie adaptation. I thoroughly enjoyed the book and television mini-series. However, with a release date of September 2017, the timing seems off. Hysterical clown sightings for nearly a year seems to be too long to ask to hold the public’s attention.

Besides, both Stephen King and the film’s distributor, New Line Cinema, are established names with enough budget for a traditional marketing campaign and stand to lose far more than they gain when it foreseeably spins out of control the way it has.

clowns6Just like Youtube, Coca-Cola, and Apple, Stephen Kind and New Line Cinema are such dominant players in their fields with such broad general appeal that avoiding alienation of a segment of society is more important that thrilling and impressing a tiny target demographic; i.e., horror movie fans.

Rob Zombie, on the other hand, is a better candidate for wild accusations. His latest movie, 31, is clown-centric and was released September 16th of this year.

Hummmmmm. Law enforcement types call these things “clues.”

clowns5A well-known, but far from household name, movie maker releases a horror movie set in a circus, chock-full-o’-clowns, right at the same time dumbasses in clown costumes begin making benign appearances standing near trees and skittish, overprotective parents hit the panic button, setting off a national frenzy that makes it to the White House and much of the English-speaking world.

Well played, Rob Zombie. Well played.

Starting November first, bearded men in buckskins and Indians wearing loincloths will begin making public appearances to promote my book, L’homme Theroux and generate pre-release interest in Little Crow’s War, the next installment in the Coureur des Bois series.

What the hell. It worked for that other guy.

 

 

 

3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.

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Thank God, I’m a Loser


winloss1Losses in life tend to outnumber the wins. Hopefully, the big defeats are few and widely separated, but the little losses, the tiny humiliations and minor ignominies, come along in a steady patter. They are what Hamlet meant when he talked about suffering the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune.

The huge victories like a Powerball jackpot or a Super Bowl championship are elusive things that only happen to other people. The rest of us rednecks, who make up the unwashed masses, have to dial back our expectations and settle for our most jubilant moments to be landing a new job or the birth of a child.

Life is an eighty year long series of kicks in the nuts. The only variable is how long you live.

That bar may have to be set even lower in the future. It won’t be too long before the rest of my children have left the nest, and as ornery as I’ve grown, there aren’t too many employers willing to keep me around for very long. Animal husbandry-related births and discovering the chicken coop wasn’t blown down by a windstorm will have to suffice as moments of triumph from here on out.

I’m willing to take small victories wherever I can. Maybe it’s a function of growing older.

My youngest son has pestered his mother and I to let him play football for the past several years. Our reluctance had nothing to do with the prospect of physical injury to the lad. If I were to tell the truth for a change, the twerp could use a good knocking around by someone not related to him.

Our sticking point was the cost involved just to indulge a teenager’s fantasy of O.J. Simpson touchdowns and Mark Gastineau sacks. My wife and I know the reality more closely resembles a rendition of The Miracle Worker with Helen Keller as captain and the remainder of the squad made up of her less coordinated clones.

I try not to pick on the mentally handicapped, but if the protective helmet fits, I’m gonna point you toward the short bus.

Now that he attends a school with a football team, complete with issued equipment, a coach, and a field to play on, Mrs. Cunha and I relented to Carlos, Jr.’s pleas to become a gridiron warrior.

They are currently sitting on a two and two record, but I’d prefer to see them closer to zero and four.

The desire to see my son lose has nothing to do with my win record in school sports. I had one season each of basketball, football, rugby, and track, where I threw shot put and discus. We went undefeated in rugby, broke even in basketball, and had exactly one win in football.

In a school so small that we only had a varsity track team, and still had trouble mustering enough runners for relay events, I came in dead last in two events every single meet. Each Friday for four months, I had my ass handed to me by kids who had their throwing technique down far better than I did.

My parents, bless their hearts, would ask how I did after every meet. I don’t think they meant to poke at fresh wounds, but I still felt like a loser having to admit defeat, yet again.

Losing might suck, but winning only makes you suck more.

Me and defeat are old drinking buddies. We’ve spent so much time in each other’s company, I’m surprised we’re not engaged. I’ve failed so often and consistently, I plan on failure and am surprised when things don’t go sideways.

I caught the tread of my boot on a door threshold about a week ago and took a tumble down a four-inch step. Even in my creeping middle age, my body still remembers how to take a fall.

Despite tumbling headlong onto cement, I sustained only a bruised toe and a thumb-size scrape on my elbow. The to-go container I was carrying at the time didn’t even pop open. I kept that sucker up out of harm’s way like an infantryman holding his rifle aloft while fording a river.

The little wins in life are the sweetest.

There’s another point to this story of my clumsiness; expect to fail. Then get up and keep moving.

Some of my more recent failures include:

These are only a few of my screw-ups that come to mind from the past year or so, and don’t even touch on the curve balls life throws just because it can. Luckily for me, I’m such an experienced loser that I hardly notice anymore. My kids, on the other hand, could use a little more practice; especially, my youngest son.

Maybe it was the years of holding back while playing board games, so as to not crush their little spirits. Perhaps, I should have let them fall out of a few more trees. God knows, nearly being trampled to death by a milk cow was a defining moment in my young life.

However, a trip to the Emergency Room is a lot more expensive than it was thirty years ago. I suspect my children would be whisked off by Child Protective Services, if they showed up to the Emergency Room as frequently as my brother and I did.

Most families don’t know the Emergency Room nurses well enough to include them on the mailing list for the family Christmas newsletter.

Winning is a great feeling, but it’s not very instructive, in the grand scheme of things. Thinking about it, winning doesn’t even teach how to be a “good winner.” If it did, winning coaches wouldn’t have to remind their little turds to be magnanimous during the post-game high-fives and “good game” lineup.

I spent this summer working Carlos, Jr. like a rented mule. Not only could he not maintain pace with a fat, old man, but he bitched and moaned the whole time. There’s only so much whining about the uselessness of homestead skills I can stand before giving in to the urge to hit him with a shovel. Apparently, sunrise to sunset does not match up with a teenager’s circadian rhythm.

The fatal flaw of teenagers is their tendency to believe in skills and abilities they don’t possess.

Carlos, Jr. showed up to football practice full of more hubris than most fourteen-year-olds. I’ll admit the kid has speed, but that’s about the only natural talent the boy’s got. As near as I can tell, he’s not even in the top half of the team, on an individual skill basis. He also seems to think it’s everyone else’s job to make him shine.

After months and months of disabusing the boy of his notion that wealth and celebrity are a mere bus ride to Hollywood away, the new route to riches and glory is paved with professional sports.

My son is the best player on the team. Just ask, and he’ll tell you so.

Lacking a survey of the team, I can’t be certain, but something tells me they disagree with the boy’s self-assessment. I know a cheap shot and an intentionally missed block when I see one, and so do the coach and Mrs. Cunha, but some lessons can only be taught by a child’s peers.

Hopefully, each bruise and slam into the turf is another of life’s little losses that teaches him how to win with some grace. The cumulative weight of all these little losses has yet to break the ice of understanding, but I’m hopeful. A losing season would hurry that process along.

After two losses in a row, my son became dejected and considered quitting because his talents weren’t employed effectively.

Jesus Christ. It’s always somebody else’s fault, isn’t it?

Judging by his black eye and a bruise pattern that reminds me of a cheetah, I think his reluctance to continue has more to do with the unofficial peer learning process than it does resource mismanagement by the coach.

Mrs. Cunha and I probably took a little more pleasure than we should have when his face dropped at being told he was going to finish out the season. It drooped even farther when informed we expected him to play through high school, as well.

It’s the little losses in life that are most instructive.

 

 

 

3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you additional content, behind the scenes access, goodies not available on the main site, and unique Thank You gifts for support.

L'homme Theroux CoverIf you’d prefer something more tangible in return for supporting my work, please preview my novel L’homme Theroux and consider purchasing it, if you enjoy the sample chapters.

The Whine Glass Generation


HW-4020-0952My youngest son, like most of his generation, has figured out the secret to outlandish fame and fabulous fortune. According to him, it’s all a matter of “going to Hollywood and making it big.” I went to Hollywood once. Admittedly, my visit was only as a day-tripping tourist to Universal Studios, so I must have missed the roving packs of talent agents who patrol the street corners and malt shops (do those things even exist, anymore?) in central Los Angeles for the next Lana Turner.

Possessing neither marketable skills nor good looks, I clearly don’t understand how this works.

“Exactly what is it that is going to make you famous?” I said, marking a 2×4 for the next cut.

“Acting,” he said, shooting me an incredulous look I saw in my peripheral vision. “Maybe with some singing and dancing mixed in.”

“You’re a real triple-threat, Gregory Hines,” I said, depressing the trigger of the circular saw and filling the room with its scream.

“Who’s Gregory Hines?” he said, after the din had dissipated.

“Never mind,” I said, shaking my head. “Well, show me what you’ve got.”

“What?”

“Sing me a song.”

“Right now?”

“Yes,” I said. I laid down the saw and cut board. “Or dance, if you prefer. You pick the song. Go.”

Anyone familiar with the entitlement of youth, millennials in particular, knows full well how this exchange ends. You’ve probably lived it.

Mind you, I’ve never seen the boy engage in any of the pursuits he aims to make a living with. Come to think of it, if his phone isn’t involved, it’s a rare day I see him engage in any activity without direction. You would think the siren call of performance arts would move the lad to engage in them occasionally without prompting. Despite all these seeming detractions from the likelihood of success, the boy continues to be obsessed with the achievement of fame.

I guess he’s just so naturally talented that he doesn’t have to work at it…Just like the rest of his generation is continually told.

Showing me a seven-foot-tall Chinaman does not mean all Chinamen are seven-foot-tall.

Of necessity, I paint in the broad brushstrokes of averages. I know a few teenagers who are squared away, responsible, and hardworking. I’d gladly trade mine for one of those, but the few parents who have such adolescent unicorns are loath to trade them.

entitled-kid-494x328So, please don’t point to your brat as a counter to why I’m wrong. You’re probably lying or severely overestimating your precious little snowflake. On the off chance your kid is as perfect as you think, congratulations. You won the genetic equivalent of a scratch-off ticket.

Now, go be content with your life, while I bitch about my kids. Or stay and enjoy the schadenfreude. Whichever makes you happy.

“As long as your happy” is the biggest load of horseshit ever put out by parents.

I hear those words come out of the mouths of people severely disappointed by the choices their children make. That’s part of the reason kids are so fouled up. We parents did it to them in trying not to crush their delicate egos.

Here are some examples with along with what parents hear:

Child says: “I changed my major to Lesbian Dance Theory.” – Parents hear: “You’re going to be supporting me for the rest of your life.”

Child says: “We’re in love.” – Parents hear: “She’ll be a single mother on welfare in two years.”

Child says: “I don’t need to learn a trade. I’ve got talent.” – Parents hear: “I’m going to learn a trade after life kicks me in the nuts for a decade or so.”

Child says: “I’ve decided to come out.” – Parents hear: “You’ll be lucky if your adopted grandchildren even remotely resemble you.”

Child says: “I’m a feminist.” – Parents hear: “I hate my father.”

Of course, my favorite response to that last declaration is “That’s so cute. What do want to be when you grow up, sweetie pie?” It’s bait they can’t resist because feminists, whether female or male, lack even the pretense of a sense of humor.

My sense of humor might be as dark as a Milo Yiannopoulos paramour, but it exists and is anything besides fragile.

Somewhere along the line, society lost the ability to take a joke. I blame it largely on a generation of children taught in public schools staffed almost entirely by women and effeminate men. These delicate flowers entrusted with impressionable minds simply do not appreciate the comedic gold in a loud, wet fart or kicking your buddy in the nuts.

I remember hanging out with my middle school teachers behind the wood-shop building between classes showing them my newest pocket knife while they pounded down a cigarette, sipped from whiskey flasks, and told me dirty jokes. These are also the same men who would backhand a student about once a year for mouthing off too much or steeping toward them aggressively.

Eighth grade was my turn to learn the fine line that separates a vigorous debate between gentlemen, where differences are resolved, and just being a loud-mouth punk. When I told my dad what happened, he gave me a backhand in the opposite direction for being a whiny little bitch about it.

I wish John Lott would write a companion piece to More Guns, Less Crime researching the tendency I see in schools of “More Paddles, Less Problems.”

One of the rites of passage into manhood is the proverbial “mouth writing a check the body can’t cash.” That first good, hard punch in the face a young man receives, usually from an unrelated, older man, delivers more lessons in manners than an Emily Post etiquette book.

Millennials have missed out on such character forming experiences, by and large. Instead of a quick and corrective slap for giving mom a dirty look, they were asked what’s wrong. Their playgrounds, the true navel of education at any school, were made so child-safe and patrolled so heavily for any hint of exuberance that children no longer cherish recess. That is, if they get it at all.

A skinned knee is now worthy of being picked up by a parent instead of rubbing some dirt on it and getting back to class with torn britches. A schoolyard scuffle between equally matched opponents is cause for expulsion and arrest of both participants. And woe to any high school student who goes rabbit hunting before school and is found to have tossed his rifle behind the seat of his car.

When did calling your best friend “faggot” cease to be a term of endearment?

broken-glassLiberals, with zero-tolerance policies for everything that used to be called “hijinks,” have created the Whine Glass Generation; pretty to look at, of marginal practical use, and exceedingly fragile.

Words give these Social Justice Warrior pussies the vapors. I predict that in the near future fainting couches will make a comeback. No college safe space will be complete without one and the de rigueur slipcovers crocheted by fellow special snowflakes calming themselves after being confronted by an idea with which they disagree.

Hand in hand with the expectation of never confronting a divergent idea or a difficult situation is the presumption of entitlement. Perhaps it’s our fault as parents. After living through the privations of the Great Depression and the horrors of World War Two, the Greatest Generation spoiled the mettle out of the Baby Boomers, and the trend has been downhill in successive generations.

01TriggerwarningAs teenagers, my brother Jake and I mowed lawns, hauled trash, and dug out tree stumps to earn money to buy a tiny, second-hand, black-and-white television to place in the room we shared and watch the half dozen channels available. My children are on the verge of calling Child Protective Services because I have only provided a hundred-odd channels, internet, and several video game consoles (they are all “Nintendo” to me) in the family room on a television bigger than any wall of my first apartment.

This has to be the result of continually being told how wonderful they are. They really are like lead crystal stemware; only taken out of the china cabinet for special occasions. Used sparingly. Handled gingerly. Washed by hand. Never seeing the inside of a dishwasher.

And subject to shattering from sound alone.

Life far more resembles a dishwasher than it does a china cabinet. Unable to change the fundamental nature of the world around them, Liberals have taken over education to change the nature of the world’s inhabitants. It’s the most brilliant long-con ever devised.

My grandparents’ generation did nothing less than save the world and then set about rebuilding it. That inheritance has largely been squandered, and were we are on the downhill slide.

How many more generations before we are all Hummel miniatures in someone else’s display case?

 

3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you content, behind the scenes access, and goodies not available on the main site.

I Thought It Was Just a Little Paint


^AA5C1FBC83EDF7AF46DDAECD4635A672684C4D347CBC931FC2^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrLife on the farm isn’t too different from anywhere else. Except for the chores, not being able to see neighbors, the deafening quiet at night, and hunting from the porch, it’s just like living in Manhattan.

Oh, and tetanus. My entire farm is a case of lockjaw looking for a place to happen.

Between an old barbed wire fence, the two barns, renovations to the house, and a couple of rusty junk piles in the back woods the previous owner left behind, the chances of somebody visiting the Emergency Room in the next year will be an even-money bet.

Unless I need stitches or a cast, I should be good, but not so for the rest of the family.

Because of the places I’ve been, I’ve been pricked and prodded more than the zit on a prom queen’s nose the night before homecoming.

If I had a dollar for every time I was stuck by a syringe, I could probably just write for a living. And if you count jabs from a tattoo needle, I could afford to farm full-time.

The wife and kids should have appointments for tetanus and rabies vaccinations soon. Either that, or we can have them added on during the next Urgent Care visit. Whichever comes first.

I had a slightly different vision of what was going to take place when my wife said, “A little paint and some texture touch-up.”

^46C7D812FAC3DCE8FA61FFE4847D5CE3B0871596B981FBCD5A^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrStuds are visible.

Electrical outlets have been relocated. Archways have been added. Undesirable doors are being framed shut, and new ones are under consideration, so we can access a deck and hot tub we don’t yet own.

I don’t think I’ve reached the point of having bitten off more than I can chew. However, some of the projects will push the limits of my skills and force me to learn a couple of news ones.

I can always fall back on my Amish carpenter, if absolutely necessary, but that’s admitting defeat, and I’m not a fan of losing.

During a long, hot San Jose summer, my brother Jake and I, inspired by daily reruns of “Hogan’s Heros” and pushed over the edge watching “Stalag 17,” decided an underground clubhouse would be far cooler than any stupid tree house our parents had already told us we couldn’t build because lumber costs money.

^0BCA08302E54DDC65D90F3D300950AA65DDEA7CA18B1EC0B38^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrWe weren’t poor growing up, but neither did we have cash to burn. However, getting money out of my mother was like giving the cat a bath. As reasonable an idea as it may seem at first, nobody ends the project feeling good about the experience.

Confident in our logic that removal of dirt to create a void was not objectionable because it didn’t cost anything, and with the additional benefit of not creating an architectural eyesore, me and Jake raided the tool shed for the implements of the imminent cave-in.

We found a secluded spot behind the garage, at the far end of the property, that was not visible from the house. Not that it mattered much. The plan was to have a magnificently camouflaged entrance that rivaled the tilting tree stump Bob Crane made famous.

We didn’t have a tree stump handy, but no matter. Such minor details would be worked out as the project progressed.

That Monday, me and Jake began to dig. By the end of the work day on Tuesday, we could both sit up inside the cavern comfortably. That’s when we realized just how dark an underground existence could be. We would have to scavenge the garage for parts to wire our lair.

^340E72AB86867519BE654C36348B8F51A7F04B4F8DD5CAEA5C^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrOn Thursday, we were closing in on being able to stand up, but grew mildly concerned at the dirt raining down on us whenever the dog walked across the top. I think our parents became suspicious at me and Jake showing up for dinner all week encrusted in enough dirt to require stripping us to our underwear and hosing us off with the garden hose.

Pulling a dirt-filled bucket into the daylight the next afternoon, I met my dad, squatting down along the rim of the entrance, holding a flashlight.

“You and your brother, get out of there,” was all he said. Jake and I clambered out of the diagonal shaft, while the old man hung his torso over the edge and peered to the end with the aid of his flashlight.

Plumbing the dimensions of the cave with the beam of light, Dad slowly shook his head. He looked toward me and Jake. In a flash of brilliance, Jake blurted out, “We’re making Mom a root cellar for her canning.” I nodded my head in agreement.

“Your mother doesn’t can,” said my Dad, in a measured tone I’ve come to learn is a father’s way to keep from killing again.

“She can learn,” I added, hoping to turn the situation into a good idea.

It’s episodes like this that cause me to believe I was not beaten enough as a child.

^E5A904D4547807207E201B5B9D8B64CBDE2A92278475E5699B^pimgpsh_fullsize_distrAfter a lecture on the need for bracing within earthworks, Dad caved in the structure by jumping on the roof. Jake and I spent the weekend collecting the dirt we had scattered to fill in what was now a big hole in the ground. The Kommandant had found us out, and we were lucky to get out of it without any time in the cooler.

Looking back, the experience turned out to be instructional because my wife just texted me.

“Where do you think would be a good spot for a root cellar?”

 

3Thank you to every one of my readers for coming back week after week. The content on this website is free to access, but does take resources to produce. Please visit my Patreon account to see what I have in the works for the homestead and consider becoming a supporter, which gets you content, behind the scenes access, and goodies not available on the main site.

Donkey Basketball


1donkeyball1My children are convinced I’m an inveterate liar. Since all but the youngest have been disabused of their belief in Santa Clause, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, passing off whoppers has become more difficult. The ten-year-old is the only one left that believes. At least, I think she still believes in them. If she doesn’t, that little girl put a lot of effort into maintaining the façade this past Christmas. And she tends to make herself scare when butcher rabbits.

As an adult, the idea of a fairy with a dentine fetish leaving cash in exchange for teeth is odd. What does she do with them? Are they the raw material for a finished product? Souvenir shark-tooth necklaces are something I can understand, but children’s teeth are entirely too small and not near scary enough.

An old, fat man in a red suit with the ability to conduct background checks on children makes me cringe both at the extent of Big Brother’s intrusion into our personal lives, but also, the cyber-security shortcomings of the system containing that information.

Old Saint Nick is either a government intelligence agency unto himself or the head Anonymous hacker.

Considering everyone at my place has seen the inside of a rabbit and none of them have asked where the eggs are produced, I guess it’s safe to conclude that wild rabbits pooping out chocolates is the first bit of childhood to go by the wayside.

For all the fantasy children believe in, the one bit of childhood reminiscing that always earns me a sideways glance is recounting the annual tradition at my high school of Donkey Basketball. They never believe me, and are particularly incredulous when told I hold what is believed to be the highest single-game score, at six points.

1donkeyball4As you can imagine, they tended to be rather low-scoring affairs. Shooting baskets from donkey-back is one of those things you can’t really practice without a donkey. Free throws while perched atop a friend’s shoulders is a poor simulation.

Clearly, my children are too busy searching out Disney and pornography on the internet because a two-word Google search for “donkey basketball” will provide an overwhelming amount of evidence that it exists.

Oh, and by the way, the usual suspects of animal rights loonies are apoplectic that donkey basketball continues to be a tradition. Of course, these are the some sorts who think people who eat meat and wear leather are barbarians. I’ve dealt with a few of them before, and they believe my ilk, who hunt, trap, and raise our own protein for conversion into individual-sized portions, are absolute monsters.

1donkeyball3Nowadays, it seems that protective equipment is required, but there wasn’t a helmet or elbow pad to be had when I was balanced along the back of an Equus asinus. Donkeys being donkeys, they don’t need the protective equipment. The real danger is to the players, but animal rights folks are possessed of such self-loathing for human beings that they place themselves at the end of the list of things that are important.

To them, child sex trafficking and ISIS operatives hiding among Syrian refugees are less important issues than someone leaving their dog in the tuck while running to the ATM.

I hate to break it to the self-appointed animal lovers, but those of us who keep animals, whether for commercial sale, personal use, or somewhere in between, tend to take pretty good care of our animals, if for no better reason than to protect the investment of time, money, and resources. My wife spoils the shit out of all our animals. They probably eat better than the average homeless person, and I’m convinced, better than eighty percent of people in the non-Western world.

We can debate the morality of factory farms and point out individual cases of abuse or neglect, but ultimately, they are used as tactics to proselyte to the ignorant.

Selective editing and presentation of horrific, worst-case examples as the norm leave the gullible, inexperienced public-at-large, whose contact with the food they consume limited to a trip to Kroger’s, with the impression that all animals are sentient, self-aware creatures that could cure cancer, return us to the moon, and develop advanced civilizations, if only we gave them access to a free college education.

Speaking as someone who keeps chickens, I can tell you there is no intelligent life in the hen house, Captain. Luckily, they are delicious and crap out eggs, so I gladly put up with their stupidity.

photo 2Even though I’m the dealer of death on my farm, I don’t take joy in the activity. It’s just part of the process that I carry out as quickly and with as little fanfare as possible. If any deaths bother me, it’s the ones that were not scheduled.

We lost three rabbits recently due to (as near as we could tell) a respiratory infection. Two were put down out of kindness and the third died while we were hunting down antibiotics. The good news is that after a couple weeks of isolation in a warm location, the rest of the litter is doing fine.

Why my wife insists on using the tub in the master bathroom as a Homestead Intensive Care Unit is beyond me, but every animal that have gone it sick came out well, so I’m not going to complain. It’s going to be a real mess in there, if we ever get a cow.

Worse than losing an animal to disease or sickness, is when the life is lost through inexperience. I once accidentally killed my daughter’s favorite chicken, but there was no amount of doctoring that would have saved her.

The most recent loss was yesterday. I have my suspicions as to the how and why, and will deal harshly with the inattentive, lackadaisical young man responsible. Death by mishap is one thing. Death by stupidity is another.

John WayneJohn Wayne was a Golden Laced Wyndotte given to us by a buddy down the road, who was culling out excess roosters. I was very fond of the fella. He earned his call-sign the old fashioned way.

We have a Head Hen, who is kind of a twat. John Wayne took one strutting lap around the chicken run, she met him going the other way, and they had about a ten-second discussion regarding who was in charge. Through the dust and feathers, I called the fight in his favor.

It kind of reminded me of the spanking scene in “McLintock.”

While driving to town with my wife and lamenting the loss of my favorite bird, we saw a banner hung between two poles on the lawn of our local high school that proclaimed, “Donkey Basketball Sign-Up Next Week.”

Go suck a lemon, PETA.

 

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Killer Cows


download (2)Homesteading is more of a mindset than a physical reality. Life circumstances don’t always allow for a fulfillment of the dream. Establishing a full-blown farm is a daunting task that is often tackled in increments with a gradual expanding of numbers and types of animals kept until the suburban home or semi-rural homestead has reached its carrying capacity. Then the search for a new property, or expansion of the current one, is all consuming.

All the while, homesteaders dream of new, more ambitious livestock and scheme of how to turn excess farm production into cash, since there are just some things that can’t be made at home.

Short of importing illegal Chinese labor and putting them up in the barn, I don’t see a way to produce locally sourced laptops.

A smart homesteader does his homework. Countless hours are spent researching the dozens of different breeds contained within each type of animal. God help the homesteader who doesn’t have a short-list of characteristics he wants. A chicken is a chicken, more or less, but even the simplest and most basic of choices between layer, meat, or hybrid will turn your mind to mush.

IMG_0449Rabbits aren’t much better. There are only about a thousand different types to pick from, as opposed to the million choices in the chicken world. Also, there seem to be fewer people raising rabbits, so the fire-hose of information, opinion, and experience isn’t quite as fierce.

I blame the internet for the information overload and paralyzing of the ability to pick.

Whatever your choice of livestock for your homestead, there is seemingly no end to the amount of advice and information floating around. Most of it is decent and borne of personal experience. Although, what works in one area may or may not work in another due to the nature of the property, density of neighbors, climate, or the factor that your particular animal is an asshole. It happens.

Even with the entire world a mouse click away, the best way to lean the how and what of homesteading is to do it.

Experience is the best teacher, but don’t just start picking up animals at the local farmer’s market without a plan or experience. The knowledge gained that way is costly and time consuming. Your best bet is to dust off your personality and make a few friends who already husband the sort of livestock that interest you.

This is where the internet and social media has been the biggest boon to homesteaders since the invention of chicken wire. With Facebook and varying combinations of half a dozen keywords, I’d be willing to bet my brother’s left testicle that there is at least one person within a reasonable distance of you who is already raising your animal of interest.

IMG_0446While looking for a rabbit breeder to supply the start of our herd (I know it’s called a “colony,” but I like to call myself a “part-time rabbit rancher”), we came across a young couple working toward their goal of being full-time homesteaders. When we showed up to select our rabbits, Mrs. Cunha and I discovered this fine young couple was already living a lifestyle similar to our aspirations.

Chickens, rabbits, goats, and ducks abounded. They even had an old mare and a miniature cow who kept each other company in their retirement. We all seemed to hit it off immediately, especially when the husband and I discovered a mutual love for hunting and preparing for the Zombie Apocalypse. Not too surprisingly, the questions flowed, a tour ensued, and invitations to return for work parties were extended.

In the military, work parties are universally loathed, and to the uninitiated, contributing an uncompensated day’s labor to someone else makes about as much sense as enrolling a child in the Jared Fogle ‘Lil Ones Daycare and Sandwich Shop.

In reality, it’s not providing free labor. However, my kids would disagree since I dragged them along with me. Screw what they think. They were building character.

Think of the experience as a day-long apprenticeship. My labor was exchanged for hands-on experience in skills I wanted to learn and the opportunity to pick the brain of someone who has already done the things I am trying to accomplish. The exchange typically includes feeding you, too. So, that’s an added bonus.

Farm life being what it is, it will be a rare person who turns down any help you offer; assuming you don’t put off the serial killer vibe. Even if you want to learn a skill that isn’t used very often such as castrating, disbudding, butchering, or birthing, a little willingness to be flexible with your schedule will get you an experienced hand to guide you through all manner of nasty, but absolutely necessary, homestead projects.

I have yet to meet a homesteader who didn’t relish the opportunity to pass on his skills and knowledge. As a group, we are a remarkably welcoming and informative bunch.

Understanding that one man’s “reasonable” may be another man’s “impossible,” you may not be willing or able to drive an hour to work on someone else’s farm. It just happened that these folks have similar personalities, backgrounds, and life ambitions to Mrs. Cunha and me, so we knowingly bypass at least a score of other homesteaders.

images (27)My parents can take the blame for instilling this “labor-for-skills” ethos in me.

They used to have a second house in Northern California where we would spend long weekends and summer vacations. It was all farms and ranch lands at the time. I haven’t been there in twenty years, so I have no clue what the area looks like now, but I suspect the population density is still pretty sparse.

For whatever reasons that I’m sure made perfect sense to my parents, the plan to move the whole family up there never came to fruition, but they certainly laid the groundwork for understanding the nature of farm chores with me and Jake. Much of our vacation time, we would be farmed out to split wood, move hay bales, help shear sheep, shovel shit, or anything else that wasn’t terribly dangerous for kids to do.

And we loved every minute of it…except for the days we shoveled shit.  Personally, I could have done fine without learning that particular skill, but I’ve come to learn shoveling shit is a big part of life, even if you don’t live on a farm.

I was fourteen the first time I really thought I was going to die. I don’t mean that in the figurative sense like “I was so embarrassed. I nearly died.” I mean a situation where I genuinely thought a mortal injury was imminent and my time on Earth had run out.

Spanish Pete was an old gravel-voiced, barrel-chested Basque with Vice Grip hands, leathery skin, and a shuffling gait that was the result of multiple limps acquired over a lifetime of ranching. Although he spoke Spanish reasonably well to communicate with his ranch hands, Spanish Pete’s primary language prior to immigrating was French. I still don’t know how he wound up being called “Spanish Pete.” It’s just what everyone in the area called him.

Jake and I called him “Sir,” just to be certain we didn’t get cross-ways of the old man because we had seen him castrate sheep “the way we used to do it in the old country.” There’s an episode of Dirty Jobs that shows the details.

I probably won’t ever know how Pete was turned Spanish, and will have to chalk it up to one of history’s mysteries that are lost to time.

PeteCommon wisdom in the area was that old Pete owned half the county and leased another third of it from the Bureau of Land Management. If I wasn’t a product of the public school system, I could tell you how much that was. On the upside, I feel really good about myself for not knowing.

Me and Jake were helping Pete’s ranch hands shoo cows out of a milking barn on a muddy, overcast spring morning. Semi-permanent cattle pen sections created an alley that led from the door of the milking barn and turned right sharply before leading out to a small holding pasture. I’m fairly certain neither the ranch hands nor the cows needed our help with the maneuver, since all parties concerned did this every day.

For lack of anywhere else to put us where we would not be underfoot, Jake and I were positioned in the elbow of the turn and given profanity-laced instructions in Spanglish to direct the cows into the pen.

Like most fourteen-year-olds, I wasn’t terribly bright. It didn’t occur to me that these cows knew the route better than I did.

Jake grew up as a skinny child, and I hated him for that. For a time, we thought he had Tuberculosis, but it turned out he was just a skinny shit.

As for me, let’s say I’m glad skinny jeans were not the fashion of the day. I had to spend most of my youth shopping in the “husky” section along with Danny DeVito. The upside is that, unlike my brother, I have never been lifted off the ground by a large kite in a heavy wind. So, I’ve got that going for me.

Jake and I stood in the center of this turn waiting for the cows to appear like a bad Laurel and Hardy impersonation team. Due to Jake’s waif-like construction, he only sank into the mud up to his ankles. The turd nearly floated atop the homogenous mixture of clay mud and cow shit.

Daily Spring rains and frequent hosing out of the milking barn had turned the paddock into a mud field. For anyone interested, I’d put the mixture about 90% mud and 10% cow shit. However, it smelled like the opposite.

On the other hand, I was sunk to the tops of my rubber boots. Every attempt to free one foot from the mud sent the other deeper into the mire until I decided I would be able to direct cow traffic right where I was. The last thing I wanted to deal with was that mixture oozing down my bootleg and between my toes. It’s a special kind of nastiness when dried.

As the cows came trotting out of the milking barn, something occurred to me.

1cowsThere must be something special about the design of a cow’s hoof because they weight a lot more than I did, but had no trouble hauling ass across the bog straight toward us.

Grinning and laughing like idiots, Jake and I swung our arms about wildly to coax the cattle down the only path available to them. We waved and shouted like a couple of retards at a clown parade. The lead cow looked at us as if to say, “Who brought the Special Olympics children out here?”

The cow didn’t have long to think because she was being pushed forward by the cows behind her. A mass of bovine flesh thundered through the mud toward us and cut right, splattering us with muck. It only made us laugh harder.

The reason for the hurry became clear when I spotted Pete’s Australian Blue Heeler, Maria, chasing the last cow and biting her heels whenever she lagged.

The last cow slid through the corner past me and Jake with Maria nipping at its teats. Jake and I were splattered with mud from the cow rush hour we had just witnessed. Dammit, this made is cowhands.

My feet must be defective because I was the only one having trouble moving through the muck.

After the stampede passed, Jake went bounding after the herd, or more likely, the dog to congratulate it on a job well done. I tried to follow, but mud suction kept my boots planted. Brute force only resulted in stripping my foot out of the boot.

As I was figuring out how to keep my feet inside my boots and move around at the same time, a straggler appeared in the barn doorway. Maria had missed one. I made a mental note to take that up with her supervisor at a later time.

heeler1The cow looked at her friends in the field, looked at me, and back at her friends. I don’t know if being sunk in mud up my knees make me look like a four-foot-tall salt lick or if cattle have a sense of humor. Either way, this bossy bitch started trotting toward me, putting her head down, like Melissa McCarthy going to the fried Twinkie booth at the state fair.

One of the few things I remember from Physics class my senior year (In the Cunha family, that’s generally the eighth grade) is that force is a function of both velocity and mass. For example, a ping pong ball at one hundred miles an hour probably won’t hurt you. A car traveling at ten miles an hour will definitely hurt you, and just might kill you.

A cow is a lot closer in size to a car than a ping pong ball.

On any given day, given a flat, dry surface, even as the old man I am now, I can dodge a trotting cow. With my lower extremities encased in mud, my options become limited very quickly.

As the cow drew closer, I debated whether I had a better chance of survival by bending back and risk getting my nuts stomped versus leaning forward and risk breaking my spine when Ol’ Betsy trampled over me. The closer the cow got to me, the less survivable the situation seemed, so it became an exercise of what type of pain I’d prefer to endure while the cow did a Mexican Hat Dance on my fat ass.

In a moment of clarity, the phrase “Stomped into a mud hole” made perfect sense.

I’d like to say I managed to free myself by executing a perfectly times somersault over the cow’s head while slapping her on the ass for good measure as I stuck the landing.

I didn’t.

I was saved from being trampled to death by this milk cow when one of the ranch hands came running up from behind me waving his hands and cursing in Spanish. That’s all it took to make her cut right and join her friends. I wish it was a more spectacular ending, but it’s not.

However, I did learn a couple of things that day.

Firstly, don’t be too proud to shovel someone else’s shit. Especially, if you can get some experience out of it.

Secondly, despite all the knowledge in books and wisdom from the internet, there are some things you just have to learn by watching someone else do in front of you.

And finally, cows aren’t afraid of husky Portagee kids, but they sure seem scared of one-hundred-twenty pound, cursing Mexicans.

Laser Cat, Suicide, and Lunchboxes


Draven Rodriguez, the Laser Cat kid, committed suicide a few days ago. Draven garnered his fifteen minutes of internet fame last fall for an 80’s-inspired graduation photo, complete with ghost-image profile and multi-colored laser beams, while holding his pet cat.

It is the gayest thing I have seen since I attended the San Diego Gay Pride parade. The fags on the floats would have been taken aback at the sheer queerness of the photo.

Don't Blame the Shirt.
Don’t Blame the Shirt.

The cat doesn’t look terribly happy about the situation, either. Look closely. I swear I see a purple bow-tie on the cat. Or it may be a purple collar. Either way, the cat is pissed off about the whole thing. Even accounting for the ten pounds added by the camera (which is an awful lot for a cat), this tabby was a bit of a porker. He knows it, too. That extra helping of Fancy Feasts will catch up with you sooner or later.  The only way to have made the photo worse would have been to put the poor feline in a sweater embroidered with “Large and in Charge.”

The photo was a defining moment much as when a woman tries to shoehorn herself into her old wedding dress. It never ends well. That is what accounts for the glint of menace in Mr. Bigglesworth’s eyes.

I shit you not. The fucking cat’s name is Mr. Bigglesworth. There is no way on God’s green earth that is not one evil pussy.

So here is my theory. This cat with a shitty name and an eating disorder spends his life listening to an effeminate teenager whine about nobody liking him and not understanding why he isn’t famous, yet. He spends hour after hour being hugged just a little too hard while Liberace, Jr. soaks the poor cat’s fur with tears of angst, doubt, and self-pity.

By the way, Liberace is one of my favorite peter puffers. He worked his ass off at his chosen profession and made every piano his bitch. He also followed the first rule of manhood; create more than you consume.

LiberaceSo when poor little Draven, who by all reports was popular, had some prospects in life, and was socially active in school, comes to the realization that going Greek in college will likely mean more than joining a fraternity, he does the typical teenager thing. He obsesses, gives in to his fears, and lets something that is ultimately inconsequential rule his life.

Since Mr. Bigglesworth has never been exposed to suicide prevention training, he neither recognizes the signs and symptoms that his battle buddy needs help nor knows what to do about it. Not that he would escort Draven to the nearest Chaplin or Doc, anyway. This is an evil and angry cat we’re talking about.

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but a vengeful cat is a close second. I once had a cat that took a crap on my pillow out of spite.

What the cat does recognize is a weakness. Cats are hunters by nature and know when to pounce, so in a moment of Draven’s deepest despair, Mr. Bigglesworth made his move. He snuffed Draven in his sleep and made it look like suicide. Nobody ever suspects the cat because they seem so engrossed in grooming their fur and sneaking up on moths, but they hold a grudge for being forced to chase a laser pointer around in circles until they puke. They don’t find that funny at all.

I’m sure Draven’s parents feel it is the end of the world, and they should. Some suicides can be, if not condoned, at least understood when faced with an ultimately terminal medical prognosis, such as with Robbin Williams or my father. However, the suicide of a physically healthy, socially active, and mentally sound child leaves a sense of unfulfilled promise and squandered potential. I’m going to take a wild guess and say it had something to do with him being a homosexual.

Probably a Bully
Probably a Bully

The argument will surely be made that this young man’s suicide was the result of bullying. It may well have been, but here is the rub. If your ultimate fate is to take your own life, those who survive you will scramble to ascribe a suitably profound reason to assuage their feelings of loss. I have it easy. My father knew he would be dead in no more than six weeks and in the meantime, continue to experience small, progressively worse heart attacks until one finally killed him.

My brother and I found him four days before Christmas, after he had begun to liquefy. We also found the remains of his last meal. A Little Cesar’s large Meatza pizza, barbeque chicken wings, and breadsticks. Not a fucking salad to be found. I guess he figured there was no point in changing his eating habits at that stage of the game.

Young Draven is more difficult to explain away. He was popular, active, and all the things a parent wants to see in a child. However, there was something deep inside him that will ultimately suffer the fate of the new American pastime; shirking of personal responsibility.

In their grief, everyone with a sense of loss or an agenda will pick something which they can point to and shriek, “That’s why he did it. He was driven to it.” I put forward that Draven was simply too weak to survive in a harsh world. Not being able to come to terms with the fact that he wanted to ride the baloney pony or that he was picked on for it is only a better reason than his socks not matching that day because it feels more emotionally profound.

Nobody wants to be the one whose son killed himself because the people at Burger King screwed up his order at the drive thru, so they search for a noble reason.

Excuse Me.  I Specifically Asked for Super-Size.
I Specifically Asked for Super-Size.

What more noble reason was available to them than the massively popular and acceptable excuse of social exclusion?  Honestly, if the Laser Cat yearbook photo going around the internet didn’t push this kid over the edge, I’m surprised he killed himself at all. Being gay, Hispanic, and bullied are the trifecta of social shields. That’s why I’m so upset about Portagees no longer being considered “Hispanic.”

Now that I’m just a white guy, I can’t get away with anything. I guess I’ll have to announce that I’m gay in order to get cut any slack for my shenanigans.

The bottom line is that something would have set this kid off sooner or later. Being bullied is part of the human condition. By its current understanding, everyone has been bullied, and we have all bullied someone. The answer isn’t to kill yourself or sit in the corner crying or snitch to an authority. You give back as good as you get, whether it be with words or fists.

In the third grade, I beat my fifth-grader bully bloody with my metal Dukes of Hazzard lunchbox in the boys’ bathroom. You still got something to say to the fat kid, Fernando? I’ll be your Huckleberry again, you cocksucker.

There were no adults present, but there were a couple of witnesses. Word got out fast. Especially when the little punk tattled on me. Parents were called, meetings were held, and my dad nearly got into it with whichever boyfriend-de-jour Fernando’s mother called her Old Man that semester. I took some suspension time for it, a couple months of lost recess time, and several hours’ worth of combined lectures from the Principal on down to the Janitor and Crossing Guard. For some reason, they drew the line at letting the Lunch Lady have a go at me.1980-dukes-of-hazzard-lunch-box

Like any self-respecting Con, I took my time in The Hole without complaint. It was a bargain price to pay for what I got in return. Sure, Fernando got up to his old tricks almost as often as before, but a quick pointing out of the nearest lunchbox caused him to reconsider. And whether caused by fear or respect, I certainly didn’t gain any new bullies for the rest of my time in grammar school. I had shown my refusal to be a victim.

My mother was beside herself with disappointment. She denies it now, but I remember her lecture sounding just like everyone else’s. I was upset that I had dented my beloved lunchbox beyond use and had cracked the thermos. My father pretended to agree with mom. Afterward, he took me out for ice cream and bought me an identical replacement lunchbox.

We are creating a society of victims where weakness and cowardice are encouraged and glorified. All life is precious, so it is a pity that Draven Rodriguez killed himself. I can only imagine the horror his parents are enduring, and I would not expect them to agree with me at all. Allowances for parental grief aside, the fact remains he could not muster up the guts to face his problems. That is what saddens me.