Saturday, January 31, 2009

A bit of a thaw

After the snow and the bitter cold we are now experiencing a quick thaw here on my part of the High Plains. It got up to 54° today, and following a day in the 40s that's putting quite a dent in the snow mass. I'm not sorry to see it go because it means I can get into town if I need to, which I don't right now. But it's always nice to know you can if you want to.

From the looks of my front area you'd think every critter for miles around had traipsed across and left their sign in the snow. Birds, four-leggeds both little and big, the whole gamut. Including my big feet plodding out to the mailbox and back. (The snow only caused postie to have to miss me a couple of times so far this winter.) I don't mind seeing the snow depart, but I'm not eager to see the mud start to peek through. Fortunately, our humidity out here is so low that it won't last long.

Days like this tempt me to hope for an early spring, but past history tells me that is sheer folly and a waste of time. It will come when it will come and we have a lot more winter to wade through yet.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

That's more like it

I guess the Weather Gods heard me bragging about the 70°-ish weather we were having for a few blissful days last week. Anyway, they responded.

We now have about 8" of snow on the flat and this morning my two outside thermometers read -20° out front (the south side) and -22° out back.

Maybe I should learn to keep my mouth shut.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Happy Birthday, JMB!

And thanks.

Go over to Hecate's blog for a cool list of the master's ouevre.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The End of Days

Well, at least the end of the balmy days we have been having for the last few. Today was another 65°+ beauty. But our false spring is coming to an end tomorrow, with cold and snow in the forecast for the foreseeable future. It's been nice while it lasted and I have no complaints. Last year we didn't get a reprieve all winter and this little break had been genuinely restorative.

And it makes life interesting.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Pendulum Swings

Well, now it's official. President Obama.

And now the one proven truth of politics kicks in. The pendulum effect. Actually, it began to operate on the 4th of November. But now it will really gather speed.

Our new president is in one of the most unenviable positions that an incoming head of state could possibly occupy. He now leads a divided country deep in the throes of an economic meltdown as our standing in the world seems to go ever lower. Even worse, he is coming into office on a ground-swell of impossibly high expectations held by his most zealous— and fickle— supporters. He also stands at the head of an unbelievably incompetent and fragmented party that is almost as bad as the Republicans.

It's not going to be pretty since it's going to be all downhill from today's pathetic euphoria.

The trouble is that we're all going to be on that downhill ride. It's a disaster just waiting to spread its scabrous wings.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

While the gettin's good!

Today this crazy winter has given us a bright, sunny day of almost 60°. I figured I'd better take advantage of this largesse to get in some more wood for those non-60°-days that are sure to be on the way. Miss Mags had to supervise, of course. She loves to ride in her "buggy." Nothing pleases her more than to sit in the right hand seat and go for a nice, long prairie-ramble.

Wood-cutting is a pleasant chore, as long as it's not being done in sub-zero weather. It's the kind of job that lets you see your progress right away: long logs reduced to fire-place size chunks, a pile of chunks ready for the buggy, a buggy full of cut lengths, and then a growing pile of good, dry wood just outside the door. Accomplishment!

Saturday, January 17, 2009


This is Eagle Dog, Yankton Dakota, photographed in 1908

Put me in a room piled high with old photo albums and just leave me alone. Oh, you can slide some food under the door from time to time. But I will be happy. I don't have to know the people or their families. But I'll know them all pretty well when I'm done.

Today I stumbled upon the most wonderful collection of American Indian portraits. It isn't credited very well, but the pictures are fantastic. If you like that sort of thing, and have a couple of hours to meet some interesting folks, I recommend it highly.

The album is here.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Slack Time

No posts here for several days.

This is the slack time for me. The weather is bad (though not as bad as in some parts of our Republic) and not much conducive to getting outside, from whence many of my posts arise.

And meanwhile I am busy inside the Little House, trying to catch up on the many things I sloughed off on when the weather was good and I was seduced into avoiding the keyboard and the desk. So as I make progress on that front, I fall behind on the other. At some point it will even out.

Meanwhile, I wait with 'bated breath for the pomp and panoply of the inaugurals and the associated hoopla. Not having TV I will have to rely on my internet connection.

And while I 'bate my breath, I cling to the hope that we have weathered worse in the past and that the ship of state will sail through this storm as it has those in the past. For the sake of optimism I omit the qualitative and quantitative differences of the challenges that confront us.

There was a lovely sunset tonight and that is encouraging.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Challenging Time-Waster

For those who are fascinated by NLOS (non-line-of-sight) artillery.



Frost says that good fences make good neighbors. Maybe. I know that out here fences can be the inspiration for feuds and bad blood that last for decades. Despite the absence of "No Trespassing" signs, crossing a fence without permission can bring armed response and unpleasant consequences. This is especially true for neighbors who don't get along, and often for very good reason. We still have rustling, and with the economy the way it is it looks like we're going to get a lot more of it. Basically, there's "no law north of the river," as the nearest LEO is thirty-some-odd miles away in the county seat. As long as I've lived here I have never seen a county or state officer up here. It's just not patrolled. People tend to take care of their own problems.

In the old days there were no fences. The big ranchers ran cattle on "accustomed ground" and had claims on the good water sources, either in their own name or that of their hired hands. The few small farmers who tried to make it found out pretty quick that it couldn't be done and pulled out, often signing over their small claims to area ranchers.

With some exceptions, the country is pretty much fenced over now. Going cross country, if you have permission, is a matter of finding and opening gates, usually just wire constructions, every mile or two. On average pastures are a half or a whole section. One big landowner runs buffalo on his spread and has been removing the cross fencing to make ever larger ranges for his critters. His pastures run to ten or twelve thousand acres. As I understand it, his goal is to remove all cross fencing on his whole place, about ninety thousand acres and growing.

Of all the white-man concepts that the Indians had trouble understanding, fences were probably the most difficult. Fences say in no equivocal terms "I own this and you don't!" Something the Indians had no concept of. Makes you wonder what might have happened if the Indians had fenced their hunting grounds, somewhere between 100 and 400 million acres. One heckuva pasture. It would also have been a mighty good test of Mr. Frost's dictum.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter Light

All seasons have their own cast of light. This time of year here we often get an overcast afternoon and a dark dusk that suddenly and dramatically gives way to a burst of pure, diamond-cutting winter light as the sun drops below the cloud cover and gets a clear shot at the landscape.

Yesterday was such a day. The brightest light of the day drenches us just minutes before total darkness.

Into the Hills

Yesterday I made one of my infrequent runs down to the county dump. It used to be that every ranch had a dump or two right on the home place, but various state and federal agencies have made this a thing of the past. Probably not such a bad thing, but it sure makes things a little inconvenient.

Anyway, I've always been fascinated by lines of demarcation in topography, and how often they seem to coincide, or nearly so, with state lines. While not a state line, I live about twenty miles north of such a demarcation. About twelve miles north of the county seat, and twenty-some miles from my place you go down a steep grade, cross a small creek (would be a river in some parts of the country), mount a steep uphill grade, and you are suddenly and immediately in a different world.

South of the creek there is flat table-land, cropland, and trees. North of the creek you are in the legendary "Hills." (Seems funny to me but townfolk talk about the "hills" in tones of dread: "Oh, I never go up in them Hills!")

But it is different country, for sure. No cropland, population of few or none save for buffalo, cattle, deer, and antelope. And sweet, blissful peace and isolation.

The picture above is looking almost due west. A line drawn straight west from where the photographer stands would run for almost a hundred miles without crossing a hard road or coming within miles of a habitation. Except for cross-fencing every few miles, it's country like it used to be.

Friday, January 9, 2009

A Dull and Dreary Day

Overcast and wet. In the high 30s this morning with a steady rain and then falling quickly into the teens with accompanying fast freezing. Most unpleasant. The dogs don't even want to go out except for a quick 'bizness trip.'

Mood to match. I can't ever remember being quite as concerned about the prospects for my country as I am now. Literally, I wake up in the morning and find myself asking, about the election, "What have we done?"

Coupled with the financial meltdown, and the various other histrionics in the news (Caroline Kennedy, Burris and the Reid smiling 'compromise,' Pelosi's gloating, Blago's almost unbelievable grossness, the Israel situation, China's virtual ownership of our financial base, Russia's blossoming bullying ways, Madoff's amazing predatory chutzpah, and on and on) it is almost enough to make one despair.

I see new forms of tyranny on the horizon that could make the Bush years look like the flower-power of yore. The vengeance of the arrogant self-righteous is terrible to behold, and we shall behold it in all its know-all vindictiveness. All I can hope is that, like a well-keeled boat, we will right ourselves and sail on. But I have never felt quite so doubtful of that as I do on this night, so far out on the dark, wet, cold high plains.

The Lakota, who were here long before we were, can say, as I approximately transliterate it, "Tu gahsh ee nah, oh shee mee nah yo!" May the Great Spirit have mercy upon [us].


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

January Rain

Rain today, unusual this time of year. An all-day, slow-soaker that deepened the color of the weeds and the remnants of grasses, made them richer and more variegated in their tans, reds, browns, and grays. A watercolor painter's delight! The usual fare about now would be howling blizzards and eight foot drifts. No pictures today. The steady drizzle did not encourage such. Maybe tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I shall enjoy the 45+° respite and refrain from complaining about wet drizzles down the back of my neck. As the kids used to say, it's all good.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Filing Wizard!

A filing wizard I ain't!

I have overnight guests coming this weekend and that means I had to make ready the bed in the guest room. The guest room is where I also keep the desk from which I pay bills and that sort of unpleasant task, preferring to keep that stuff separate from the "real office." I've used the double bed in there to "file" papers, receipts, statements, etc. It's so convenient to just put them there in relatively orderly piles according to their classification.

Well, this afternoon I swallowed my towering distaste and waded into it. Like an archeologist sifting layer after layer of cultural detritus I soldiered on. It's done now, accompanied by my usual hypocritical vow of "Never again!" Looks pretty good, too, I must admit. I can glance in from the hall and see a nice clean bed with an attractive quilt, a reading light on the nightstand, and lovely fluffy pillows. There's even a Carl Goes Shopping book on the nightstand in case they need uplifting reading matter.

I don't know where I got my distaste for filing chores. It may be DNA-dictated. I'd make a New Year's resolution on the subject but I'm not naive.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

More mendicants line up at the trough

I'm catching up on my newspaper reading by working my way through a stack that accumulated while I was busy with holiday-type nonsense. I see that a couple of weeks ago a new bunch of mooches has lined up for the federal handout of our money.

Thirty-six colleges and universities took out a two-page ad in the New York Times (where else?) to say how much they needed the feds to give them a mere $45 billion dollars to "build new facilities" and make good on "green" projects. Yeah, green, as in the color of the money some of us used to have. They also want it stipulated that the states can't use the fed grants to justify reducing their budgets. Smart!

I think we should give them the money.

But they should be willing to show us that they are serious. They get the money, but they have to agree that the school president and the board of trustees have to be publicly, on TV, executed for greed and incompetence— not to mention sheer chutzpah. Once that's done the schools get the checks.

It would be worth it.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

A New Friend

It was warm here yesterday, slightly over 60°. Most refreshing. Some friends came up to see me and get me to introduce them to some ranchers so they can hunt coyotes on their land for a big contest coming up next week. They'll stay with me and hunt the nearby ranches for "big prize money," or so they say.

One of my rancher friends has a ton of dogs on his place and one of them adopted me yesterday. This is "Dually," a ten-year old English Bulldog that weighs about seventy pounds. While we were chatting, I sat down on the grass and Dually came over and lay down with me. The boss thought she was "bothering me" (which dogs cannot do!) and she refused to come when called. Just lay her head on my leg and gave the boss the eye.

Dually got a new pink studded collar for Christmas and was quite proud of it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happiest New Year Wishes

Wishes are free, and in this case they are also heartfelt. We all deserve a "good year," and it won't do any harm to think Good Thoughts about having one, even though it kinda seems like 2008 was rode hard and put away wet.

However you feel about it, 2008 was one helluva year and for the most part it was one I personally hope we don't have to re-visit too often.

So here's to all of us who made it through. Who knows, maybe we're all a little tougher because of it. (Smarter might be too much to ask.)

Best wishes, everyone. Hope for the best but keep your powder dry.