Bloodied

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“An effort  to drum up a payday”?

This picture, man.

It’s from an incredible, appalling true-life James Ellroy story taking place in Orange County. The bruised face belongs to defense attorney James Crawford. On Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times, Crawford was beaten bloody by a cop working for the Orange County district attorney’s office, after Crawford got charges dismissed against his (Crawford’s) client. The Times says Crawford’s client’s acquittal is the latest “humiliation” for the DA’s office, which “has seen case after case unravel in an ongoing scandal regarding the misuse of jailhouse informants.”

The DA investigator–whose name is still not public and who has not been arrested for this beatdown–“made more than $206,000 in total compensation in 2014.” The sheriff’s union head speculated that “this is an effort by a criminal defense attorney to drum up a payday.”

Bear with me here. I see that bloodied face serving as some sort of metaphor for Donald Trump’s campaign and movement, after the truly awe-inspiring direct action by teachers, unions, and activists in Chicago Friday night that forced Trump to cancel a rally of his supporters. Whatever else comes of this– more good than ill, but more violence seems a given–at the very least. seventy-plus-year-old rednecks will think twice about sucker-punching young black men.

I also imagine bloodied is a good description of how the Hillary Clinton campaign feels in the wake of its Very Bad Day yesterday, which began with Hillary praising Nancy Reagan–Nancy Reagan!!–for starting a national conversation about AIDS.

Uh. No. Writes Sam Biddle of Gawker:

In an interview conducted at Nancy Reagan’s funeral today, Hillary Clinton recounted a version of history that didn’t happen, lauding the former first lady’s “low key advocacy” for the cause of HIV/AIDS awareness. “Low key” is one way of putting it. In fact, the Reagan White House is infamous for its lengthy, deadly silence on the epidemic.

It took twitter no time to erupt in a chorus of near-universal derision. Hillary actually sort of apologized, saying she misspoke, but nah…

 

Her political acumen, such as it is, was on display yet again in the evening. The streets of Chicago were filled with Trump supporters and the aforementioned protesters. It was all everyone on twitter could talk about. One got the sense (or I did, anyway) that the game was changing. Trump had absolutely paralyzed the parties and the elites, and here a bunch of kids, and workers, and teachers had stood up to his bullying, ethno-nationalist steamroller and turned it around. Bernie Sanders happened to be on the scene, at a pre-scheduled rally that ended in great good cheer and a rousing version of Woody Guthrie’s should-be national anthem “This Land Is Your Land.”

Clinton got it, that she had to do SOMETHING to respond to the moment. So she issued this:

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If anything, this made her look more out-of-touch than her afternoon debacle. Here’s a representative reaction:

Lost in the big news day, this: it emerged Friday that feminist trailblazer and icon bell hooks announced that she can no longer support Hillary.

I don’t find it productive to criticize Hillary on her personality or “leadership” qualities because these terms are so nebulous, useful only in narrowly-defined horse-race discussions of the relative merits of the two (only two) candidates pre-selected by the major parties and their donors. Policies. Let’s talk about policies.

In Hillary’s case, her policies are a smoldering garbage fire of corporatism, interventionism, neoliberalism and vaguely uplifting platitudes. The events of Friday convinced me that, even if her policies weren’t awful, Hillary seems overwhelmed by our particular historical moment.

I find many of Obama’s policies reprehensible, but I never doubt his capacity for understanding what’s actually happening around him. With Hillary, the events of Friday, and her tone-deaf reactions to them, make me question her basic grasp on reality.

Of all the candidates running, only Sanders seems to have any sort of clue. Events might be too big for him as well. We’re looking at a 1968 kind of year. And yet I’m pretty certain that people working on his campaign are going to come in to work this week with a sense of destiny and purpose. Really don’t think you could say the same for the Clinton campaigners.

Pre-breakfast rodeo

cowz_expressionist.DSC_2754Both of us had forgotten to get milk, so I went into the pantry for a can of the sweetened condensed, something I am secretly glad to be forced to consume with morning coffee. No sooner had I popped the top, I looked to see Heather standing next to the teakettle, having just opened another can of the sweet sticky goo.

It’s unseasonably warm, and Theo and I had a back and forth about turning on the propane. “I’m cold. I want to sit on the heating vent.”

“We don’t need the heater. It’s already 58 degrees.”

…”and why are those dogs barking?!”

Oh. Ohhhh.

Just outside the kitchen window, a trio of bovines munching contentedly. SOMEBODY (uh, me) had forgotten to latch the gate. There’s a grown cow right near the open gate, and I go for her first. She’s easy enough to coax back through the gate into the pasture, but when I turn my attention to the other two, the cow edges back into the yard, resumes grazing.

The Other Two are:

a. the baby bull–oh, hey, he’s getting some good size on him–, and
b. the biggest (and wildest) of the yearling heifers.

I sigh. First, the cow (again). Then the baby bull, who is frisky, snorting a bit, and starting to buck. I see a chance to open yet another gate, and give him a minute to discover the opening. He does, and saunters through with a body language that says, “I’m going through this gate because I want to, not because you made me….’

Feeling good about this. Can already taste the coffee.

Only the crazy heifer, who… Ah, geez, no. She’s ambled past the beehives and started up the driveway, which becomes a narrow lane for a couple hundred yards, and then opens into the road, likely at this hour to have cars and trucks driven by inattentive drivers going sixty on their way to work.

I have to get around her, but  I need my phone. And the keys to the Subaru.

Upon reentering the house, both boys are tickled: “we saw your amazing running, dad….” No one thinks to volunteer to help. Back out I go, start the Subaru, and creep behind the heifer. She slows down at the bend, so I get out of the car, and clamber over the fence into the pasture. The old wire and rotting posts hold, thank god. I walk briskly, parallel to the heifer’s path, hoping to get in front of her. But she’s having none of it, and now decided she wants to see what’s out there, in the wide world beyond the end of the lane.

Back over the fence I go, and run to the car. By which time that damn heifer is ambling up the road, a quarter mile, maybe two thirds of the way to Johnny’s farm. A car is coming from the north but the woman driving (maybe Johnny’s wife?) knows what she is doing. She’s got the heifer turned around, and is following slowly and 40 yards behind.

I’m blocking the driveway now, so I shoot out across the road, pray that the soil beneath Hurley’s winter wheat is firm, and do a quick fishtail, and wait. The heifer hustles past. By now it’s clear, she’s a little freaked and wants back into the comfort of her herd. She turns into the lane again. The lady passes. I wave. The lady smiles, or grimaces, I’m not sure. And I pull into the lane behind the heifer. I get Heather on the phone.  “Come on! get the gate.” She does, but is standing too close. I get on the phone to tell her to step away, but she has already done so. The heifer zips through the gate, back into the pasture.

The phone beside me on the seat, “What? What do you want?”

The kids are already in the minivan. Heather closes the gate and climbs in. They won’t even be late. That coffee is going to taste amazing.

This one’s for the workin’ man

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Any god or demigod worth a damn comes in multiple manifestations. You got your young, sneering Elvis and your sequined jumpsuit and scarf Elvis; you got your baby Jesus and your bearded sandal-wearing Jesus–and even your t-shirt and tuxedo-wearing Jesus. So it is with any figure who exists in a space between man and myth. Jesus, Elvis, Merle. You could certainly come up with more names, but those three for sure.

I’ve been thinking and worrying a lot about the only one of that trinity still living, who has gone into the hospital and cancelled his March tour dates. The 78-year-old Merle Haggard, indefatigable musical genius and ornery old American treasure, ranks up there with the coolest human beings on the planet, but I also have a soft spot and fascination for the just-starting-out Merle. You can get a sense of what I mean in these two vintage shots, part of a series of weird outtakes from his Branded Man album that is reproduced in the excellent booklet accompanying the Bear Family Untamed Hawk box set.

untamedhawkYou might expect the handsome unlined face, intense gaze, and the full head of hair, but might find surprising the urban attire, the windbreaker and the pointy-toed Cuban-heeled boots. At the very onset of his career, Merle seemed to have kicked back hard against any sort of “country” image. “I’ve never been in the hills in my life. I’m a city boy. But I’m a real country singer,” quoth the notes from Untamed Hawk, unsourced alas.

On a recent drive to and from Nashville (a place Haggard notoriously hated fwiw) I became obsessed with “Today I Started Loving You Again,” spare and minimal but absolutely perfect: the simplicity of the loping guitar line; the echo accentuating the purity and ache of Hag’s voice (what a glorious instrument it was back then, before life and the road took away the higher part of his register); those accent harmonies, a genius musical idea that was apparently a gift from Buck Owens. Oh, and nailing those accent harmonies, none other than the former Mrs. Owens, then Mrs. Haggard, who was a bigger star than either of them when it all started, and somehow wound up “washin’ and ironin’ and pickin’ up” on the Haggard tour bus….

(That “washin’ and ironin'” line is from a wonderful Laura Cantrell song about Bonnie called “Queen of the Coast,” which I can’t recommend highly enough.)

Unbelievably, TISLYA was a b-side to “The Legend of Bonnie and Clyde,” which was a #1 hit on the country charts, but not much thought of now. TISLYA is now one of his best-loved songs, and it nags me to think it might have been an afterthought. A b-side? I wonder if Haggard and the guys in the studio know they had something special, or did they just record TISLYA as another song to fill up an album. Haggard brought his band into the Capitol Tower for 21 sessions in 1968. The core band of Roy Nichols, Bonnie Owens, Jerry Ward, Roy Burris, George French, and Norman Hamlett, sometimes joined by Glen Campbell, Billy Mize, and James Burton. It was a period of ridiculous creativity, and it might have been hard for the musicians to separate the great from the ordinary. Making immortal music was just a day’s work.

I had a pain that went all the way around from my belly button all the way around to my back.” Haggard told Rolling Stone in February. “I asked the doctor, ‘What was that pain?’ He said, ‘It was death.'”

It’s the second time this year he’s had to check in to sort out his pneumonia. I can only hope, maybe even pray, Hag kicks death’s ass one more time.

Ash Carter’s Blue Jay Yarn

He flopped his wings and raised a whoop. ‘Come here!’
he says, ‘Come here, everybody; hang’d if this fool hasn’t
been trying to fill up a house with acorns!’

Reading this–Secretary of Defense Announces How He’ll Waste $582 Billion–made me think of this:

If you have never read Jim Baker’s Blue Jay Yarn, there is no better introduction than having it read to you by Walter Brennan.

Although the more I think about it, the more I see differences between a blue jay trying to fill a cabin with acorns and whatever crazy Call of Duty-inspired schemes the Pentagon is seeking to fund with billions and billions of taxpayer dollars. The blue jay was operating in good faith. Not sure I can say the same about Ash Carter, or whoever sits at his desk at any given moment.

Creating enemies who are periodically capable of spectacular acts of cruelty, but who present no significant (‘existential’) threat, then fighting that enemy, in a war you announce at the beginning cannot possibly have an end point. That seems more like a racket–a way to guarantee that the contracts keep rolling–than an earnest attempt to win. Winning the war on terror would be the worst thing for the Pentagon budget.

I expect to hear absolutely nothing about the $582 billion budget presented by Ash Carter from the GOP debates, except demands that it be larger still, but am a bit disappointed, if not surprised, that the two remaining candidates for the Democratic nomination are not talking about reducing it.

I honestly was not going to go there when I started writing this piece, but a quick search on Sanders and “military budget” lead me, indirectly, to a David Swanson piece laying out Green Party candidate Jill Stein’s vision for dramatically reducing military spending. Everything Stein says is spot on, and her proposals–to reduce military spending by half, mainly by shutting down military bases abroad, and reducing the nuclear arsenal–are rational and  considered. What reasonable person could object?

My enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders is substantial, but not unconditional. I can understand why he would avoid confrontation on military spending because he prioritizes his domestic agenda. But a sizable percentage of the funds to finance his single payer and free college proposals could be found in the bloated, wasteful Pentagon budget, if only he were bold enough to go there.

But this is a good time to remember that Stein was arrested in 2012 for trying to attend a Presidential debate, as was Ralph Nader a dozen years previously.

So … back to Mark Twain …

“You may call a jay a bird. Well, so he is, in a measure–
but he’s got feathers on him, and don’t belong to no church,
perhaps; but otherwise he is just as much human as you be.
And I’ll tell you for why. A jay’s gifts, and instincts,
and feelings, and interests, cover the whole ground.
A jay hasn’t got any more principle than a Congressman.
A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive,
a jay will betray; and four times out of five, a jay
will go back on his solemnest promise.”

 

 

Many a day: Random memories of a brother

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“As long as you live under this roof you WILL go to Mass every Sunday.” That was the deal. All of us kids complied, reluctantly. The Sunday before Danny died, the weather was fine, so he and I walked the eight blocks to church together. Like we belonged together, like we were brothers. I like to tell myself there was some sort of reconciliation under way.

Daniel Joseph, eldest child of Jerry and Vergie, was born 60 years ago this month. On a sunny summer day 22 years later, his life ended in a accident at his roofing job.

In remembering him, my perspective is specifically that of a younger brother. Parents in the 60s tended to let their boys straighten out disputes among themselves. At least ours did. For me, this meant constant abuse at Danny’s hands. He was shorter, but much stronger, and had a sadistic streak. He loved the “99” — his extended middle knuckle pounding on my breastbone for, yes, 99 reps. The hard punch to the bicep was another favored part of his repertoire, as was the one where he pinned my arms with his knees, and let spit dangle close to my face, and sometimes, accidentally or otherwise, letting it drip onto my nose or into my eye.

Twenty-some years after Danny’s passing, Heather and I named our first son Daniel, and it’s some sort of Gabriel Garcia Marquez trans-generational thing to watch how Daniel the Younger torments his little brother with the ardor of his namesake. The two Dans even look alike, though there’s no blood relation.

My parents adopted Danny in 1956 and my older sister Cheryl in 1958. Not long after Cheryl came home, my mother became pregnant–with me–and then my younger sister Caroline came two years later. Judging from baby books and photo albums, my parents doted on Danny, and I imagine their marriage was even quite happy when he was the only child. But by the time I came on the scene all I remember is constant fighting–between my parents, and between Danny and dad. From the age of 13 or so, Danny managed to avoid most of our family outings, even vacations.

***

Wrestling was a big deal with kids in Minnesota when we were growing up. We would adopt the personalities of our favorites. Most kids chose the Crusher or Vern Gagne, a few opted for Mad Dog Vachon. Being skinny and weak, I saw myself in Edouard Carpentier, the Flying Frenchman (who was Canadian, of Polish descent, actually). Carpentier wore bell bottoms, no shirt, no shoes. Googling turned up no photographic evidence of him in this getup, but that’s how I remember him. Carpentier specialized in drop kicks and flying head scissors, and I did my best to mimic his acrobatics when up against Danny. Sometimes I would get lucky and hurt him with an elaborate, high-risk aerial maneuver, but he always recovered and hurt me more.

***

Danny had a minibike, then a car and a motorcycle, and could fix them on his own. Not one for books, he worked as soon and as often as he could. He had money to spend, and girlfriends (I had neither). When I was 15 or 16, I remember riding down to Lake Calhoun on my ten-speed and catching glimpses of him speeding past or parked in his avocado ’69 Malibu, with what seemed like a different blond head every time in the passenger seat.

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That time when he lowered his voice and asked me what girls I liked at school? I knew better than to answer. I held out. But he was relentless. Finally, a little smile forming on my mouth, I whispered the name of my secret crush. He roared. The very next day I saw the object of my desire flirting pretty brazenly–with him.

***

One Sunday in ’68 or ’69, when I was at a Boulevard Theater kids’ matinee, my father took Danny and Danny’s friend Greg ice-fishing. It was March, and the ice was getting thin in places. Dad, walking where an ice house had been taken down, fell through. In his heavy wool coat, he went down like a stone, but somehow surfaced through the same hole. (Indelible image: Dad liked to remember that he never lost his grip on the cigar he had clamped between his teeth.) Danny and Greg pulled him out. As a display of gratitude, dad gave both of the boys a transistor radio from Walgreen’s, along with an unusually (for him) emotional note thanking them for saving his life.

Danny loved westerns, which I tried to watch, but always found boring. He fancied himself part Native American, and once when he shot a blackbird with his pellet gun, made a mess of hacking the red wing off, as some sort of Sioux talisman of his imagining. He was a great fisherman and was always bringing home turtles from the Lagoon off West Lake Street. He was also adept at climbing over the spiked iron fence surrounding Lakewood Cemetery, which he treated as his own personal squirrel and chipmunk trapping ground. And that’s where he is now, of course, buried next to my mother’s grave (and a stone’s throw from Hubert Humphrey’s), almost up against that iron fence on Dupont, across the street from his (and my) old paper route.

***

We went as a family one evening to a Twins game at the old Met Stadium in Bloomington. Killebew, Oliva, Zoilo, Boswell, Kaat. What a team they had! And yet,I don’t remember the game as much as I do the chain link outfield fence, which seemed cheap and disappointing, and that there were hundreds of bats flying around beneath the bleacher seats.

“It took many a day to build this place,” Danny said to me somberly. I have never forgotten him saying this, and would often borrow the “many a day” for something equally inappropriate.

***

I was not tough, to say the least, and kids would pick fights with me because it was easy. I was tall and skinny and often covered up and whimpered that I didn’t want to fight, which only made others more eager to call me out.

There was one time in seventh grade when I fought back. A tussle on the stairs coming out of gym, and I must have accidentally bumped into the quarterback of our miserable football team. Another diminutive bully, and another Timmy as it happens. He ordered me to meet him after school on the playground. I surprised him by showing up.

I had been reading the Robert Lipsyte young adult novel, The Contender, about Alfred, a dropout black kid from Harlem who stumbles into boxing and finds he is good at it. His manager Mr. Donatelli’s mantra, “Stick and run,” suddenly came to me I circled the other Timmy. I jabbed and jabbed, retreated, jabbed some more, and he, being much shorter, could never get inside. The fight seemed to go on for a very long time. A big crowd had gathered, and finally the priest came puffing along to break it up.

The fact that I’d bloodied and bruised the other Timmy didn’t stop him from saying he was going to kick my ass the next day. I didn’t challenge that, but the next day came and went. Back home I proudly showed Danny the dried blood on the knuckles of my chopper mitts. He seemed to have known about the fight before I told him anything. All he said was, “You fought with your mittens on?!”

***

He was not great at school, and when I looked over some of his homework from the courses he took at Normandale Community College, I got the sense that he might have had an undiagnosed learning disability. He took law enforcement classes, and wanted to get a job with a police force, but the economy was bad and he never got his foot in the door. He often mocked me for my higher education aspirations. “You’re book smart, but not street smart” was something he said frequently. But the year before he died, at the age of 21, he was accepted into the College of St. Thomas in St. Paul. “I’m gonna do it like you. I’m not gonna work, gonna  take out loans, join a frat.”

I was kind of flattered to see him come around, but it had little to do with me, and more with his seeing no future working the kinds of jobs he worked. He was a week away from proper college life when he slid off that roof.

I don’t know how he would have done, whether he would have fit in. Would he have been able to do the work, would he have stuck it out and graduated, or gotten frustrated and quit? What would have become of him in those forty years since he fell? Would he have a wife? a family? Would he have lost his hair? It’s just impossible to imagine any future for him in my rational brain.

My irrational brain fills in the gaps. Frequently, in dreams, I have conversations with him. “Man, it’s weird that you were gone so long. What are you going to do now?” He’s usually his 1979 age, but sometimes, as in a Buñuel dream sequence, has evidence of the grave about his body–dirt, pallid skin. Death is acknowledged in our chats, but it’s something that we have put past us.

Waking up, mind clearing, realizing it was all a dream–that’s about as empty as I ever feel.

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Last picture of Dan, with his friend Gerard, in front of the ancestral abode.

 

 

That shoe-throwing Iraqi journalist, Sandy Hook, and the “profoundly unpatriotic effort to put war over every other policy priority”

Seven years ago yesterday, this happened.

Muntadhar Al-Zaidi paid a steep price for his act of defiance, but apparently thought it was worth being…

… beaten with cables and pipes and tortured with electricity immediately after guards removed him from a news conference for hurling both shoes at Bush. He said he was taken into another room and beaten even as the news conference continued.

However, he remained defiant about the incident that landed him in prison.

“I got my chance, and I didn’t miss it,” he said.

“I am not a hero, and I admit that,” he added. “I am a person with a stance. I saw my country burning.”

***

Yesterday was another anniversary, marking three years since the Sandy Hook massacre. The occasion has produced an abundance of hyperbolic hysterical reactions, but no concrete solutions to the gun violence crisis. In fact, the specific horrorshow of December 14, 2013, has been replicated numerous times in the past three years.

Here is a map of school shootings since Sandy Hook.

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And according to NBC News, 554 children under the age of 12 have died from gunshot wounds since Sandy Hook.

***

Of all the retrospectives and think-pieces marking the Sandy Hook anniversary, I thought Marcy Wheeler’s was the most compelling. In it, she synthesizes our (well, my) numbness over two ongoing catastrophes, the epidemic of gun violence in this country, and our government’s damn-the-torpedoes exportation of ultra-violence to the rest of the planet, otherwise known as the Global War on (a very narrow definition of) Terror.

The occasion of Wheeler’s post was to comment on president Obama’s remarks in reaction to the San Bernadino shootings of two weeks ago. I want to quote what I thought was the best part of it, and encourage you to read the entire piece.

The right wingers who insist on calling any attack by a Muslim “terrorism” — who insist on tying the San Bernardino attack to ISIS, even in the absence of evidence — do it to prioritize the fight against Islamic terrorists over all the other ills facing America: over other gun violence, over climate change, over the persistent economic struggles of most Americans. Theirs is a profoundly unpatriotic effort to put war over every other policy priority, even far more pressing ones. That stance has led to a disinvestment in America, with real consequences for everyone not getting rich off of arms sales.

Last week, President Obama capitulated to these forces, giving a speech designed to give the attack in San Bernardino precedence over all the other mass killings of late, to give its 14 dead victims more importance over all the other dead victims. Most strikingly, Obama called attacks that aren’t, legally, terrorism, something his critics have long been demanding.

It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year; and now in San Bernardino.

And he lectured Muslims to reject any interpretation of Islam that is “incompatible” with “religious tolerance.”

That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist ideology has spread within some Muslim communities. This is a real problem that Muslims must confront, without excuse. Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of violence, but also those interpretations of Islam that are incompatible with the values of religious tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

Not only does this give too little credit for the condemnation Muslims have long voiced against terrorist attacks, but it holds Muslims to a standard Obama doesn’t demand from Christians spewing intolerance.

It was a horrible speech. But this line struck me.

I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

In context, it was about terrorism.

I know we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris. And I know that after so much war, many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by a cancer that has no immediate cure.

Well, here’s what I want you to know: The threat from terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.

But, particularly coming as it did after invoking dead children, it shouldn’t have been. Aside from those whose own kids narrowly missed being in Paris, why should we see our kids in the faces of the young people killed in Paris, rather than in the faces of the young people killed in the Umpqua Community College attack or the over 60 people under the age of 25 shot in Chicago between the Paris attack and Obama’s speech? If we were to think of a cancer with no immediate cure, why wouldn’t we be thinking of the 20 6-year olds killed in Newtown?

We have a cancer, but it’s not terrorism.

Wheeler goes on to compare and contrast Obama’s speech to Jimmy Carter’s 1979 Crisis of Confidence (“malaise”) speech. Again I encourage you to take the time to read the entire piece.

Scenes from country life: Drop dead heifer

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

One of my heifers had been panting and frothing and isolating herself for a couple days. My neighbor Albert and I got her in the pen  and dosed her with Nufluor Tuesday, but Wednesday she looked much worse, so we loaded her on the trailer and ran her to the vet right before closing. The assistant immediately saw she was choking on something, probably a hedge apple stuck in the esophagus. The vet ran the equivalent of a plumber’s snake down her and seemed pretty satisfied that he had pushed the hedge apple through.

“Those hedge apples are a bad deal, especially October and November,” the assistant said.

“Maybe I should pick ’em all up and get them out of my pastures?” I asked.

He and Albert laughed. “Let me know how that goes….”

The vet kept at it with the snake for quite a while, then forced some electrolytes down in another tube. A few doses of antibiotics. She should be fine, as long as there were no perforations in the esophagus. Barring that, or a secondary pneumonia, she should be better by tomorrow. She still looked to be in bad shape, but I was feeling pretty optimistic when we ran her off the trailer.

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

At dusk I went to check on her and she was panting more heavily than ever. She staggered unsteadily to the woven wire fence, leaned there for a few seconds, then tumbled over sideways, shuddered, and died on the spot! In my past experience with bovines passing from this world, the process has always been a slow, unbearable (for me) struggle, so this was a surprise. The  heifer laid down and stopped panting, and that was it. I peeled back an eyelid: that massive glassy cow eyeball staring back at nothing.

I texted my other neighbor Dave (“well damn that heifer fell over and died right in front of me”). He was out with his tractor so he volunteered to come and drag the heifer in front of the gate so the dead truck could winch her up and cart her off.

I sat on an old bush hog in the dark waiting for Dave, along with two cats: Marshmallow, an older orange tabby male, and a new kitten (as yet unnamed) who had forced herself into our family a few weeks back, with great persistence and overwhelming cuteness. Marshmallow hates the kitten and hisses at her whenever she approaches, but the kitten, being a kitten. doesn’t take it personally and tries to play with him anyway. Both were purring like cicadas. I made a note to sit outside in the dark with the cats more often.

The heifer was in a sort of awkward spot but we got a chain around her neck and Dave dragged her out backwards. The bright amber lights, the roaring engine, and the backup beeping made his John Deere seem like some cheap sci-fi monster. Dave and I chatted for a bit. He was feeling overwhelmed as usual–“I’m movin’ hay and got those stumps ground and drowned that skunk [wait, what skunk?!], and … I’ve just got too much to do. My nerves can’t take it.” As always, though, he made a point of saying, “I don’t care to help you out when I can.” (In Kentucky this means he doesn’t mind. That one took me a while.)

While we spoke, the kitten was circling and sniffing at the great fallen beast.

***

This is not the first time I’ve written about dying bovines and the dead truck. Here is “Waiting for the Dead Truck” from a few years back.

Runaway

lilahorsehhphone2My daughter Lila, who turns 11 next month, has been taking riding lessons for two years. A few weeks back, I was sitting in the car, half reading a back issue of Harper’s, and half watching Lila’s lesson. She seemed to be doing a lot of galloping. I got out of the car, thinking I’d get a picture of her breezing past, but then realized something was wrong.

Not that you’d have noticed listening to Mary, Lila’s teacher. She maintained her authoritative teacher voice–emphatic, carefully enunciated–but her instructions were along the line of “grab the mane and pull” and “tell her whoa.” Around the ring Lila went twice more at full gallop, and I heard her start whimpering about her stirrups. I started feeling sick. Her posture was getting worse and worse. Things were happening very quickly, and yet I remember this in slow motion: she started sliding off center in the saddle, then rotated a little more to the right, then quickly down the horse’s side, and off. A thud, the sand flying. But she landed clear.

Mary and I got to Lila at about the same time. She had banged her head pretty hard. We stood her up and brushed her off and checked her pupils.

lilawallOnce satisfied that Lila wasn’t badly hurt, Mary was immediately back in teacher mode, explaining what had happened. The girls had been doing no-stirrup work, which they often do. Lila had begun to tire and started trying to get her feet back into the stirrups. In a frightening loop, she was pressing tighter and tighter with her legs, which told her horse, Contessa, a young rescued thoroughbred, to go faster. Contessa started to canter, then gallop. Mary estimated horse and rider had raced eight times around the ring. Poor Lila was hanging on for dear life, but her thighs gripping the horse only made it go faster.

Contessa ambled back to Lila and gave her a nuzzle. Mary then gave Lila a leg up, and she finished the lesson.

I spent a lot of time in the following week beating myself up: what the hell kind of parenting is this?!

The other day, Lila had locked herself in her room for an entire afternoon. When she emerged, she proudly invited us in to see her wall of equine wisdom. The deployment of duct tape reassured me that she was indeed my departed dad’s granddaughter, and the sentiment of the epigram at the top spoke for itself.

 

Mutiny, I promise you

The New Pornographers clip I’m sharing because, duh, the title, and also because it features an early Kristin Schaal sighting, which should be a good enough reason by itself.

Sharing the second clip, from The Fall and Rise Reginald Perrin, again, and it probably won’t be the last time. The wordplay is hilarious, even if you don’t think it’s a brilliant distillation of paranoid reactionary thinking.

No question, this week has belonged to #piggate, as it should. Not looking to spoil the fun, but I just want to point out a potentially major story being overshadowed by all the Schadenfreude and memes.

The emergence of Jeremy Corbyn as a potential prime minister has got some in the British military getting ready for when Jimmy’s balloon goes up.

A senior serving general has reportedly warned that a Jeremy Corbyn government could face “a mutiny” from the Army if it tried to downgrade them.

The unnamed general said members of the armed forces would begin directly and publicly challenging the labour leader if he tried to scrap Trident, pull out of Nato or announce “any plans to emasculate and shrink the size of the armed forces.”

He told the Sunday Times: “The Army just wouldn’t stand for it. The general staff would not allow a prime minister to jeopardise the security of this country and I think people would use whatever means possible, fair or foul to prevent that. You can’t put a maverick in charge of a country’s security.

“There would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be a mutiny.”

It’s not like this sort of thing hasn’t happened before, and not too long ago.

This would be a good time for the Prime Minister to insist the general be identified, and sacked, but I have a feeling that’s the last thing on his mind.

A couple of good things to read about #piggate: Libby Watson’s Everything We Know About David Cameron (Allegedly) Putting His Dick In A Pig, By a Britisher and Lawrence Richards’s What the British are really laughing about.

For an extremely satisfying hate read, I recommend The Corbyn Supremacy, in which the New Yorker’s film critic does his best to leverage his Britishness, his only qualification for writing about UK politics, apparently.

Lane posted his snooty, supercilious and unfunny piece before #piggate broke. His contrasting Corbyn’s “callow upstart at the cottage door” with Cameron, “[t]he hale fellow who might have made his name, and a far larger fortune, in countless spheres of life” takes on many more layers of meaning, now that we all know a little more about how hale fellows get on in the world.

Back on the chain gang….

We here in central Kentucky somehow avoided being roasted during what was globally the hottest month ever recorded, in what may still turn out to be the hottest YEAR ever. Most of the summer here was wet and temperate, but we have reverted to the scorching mean the past few weeks.

I hadn’t planned to do so, but it turns out I took the summer off from blogging. My last offering was right around Memorial Day (and it was a recycled post at that….)

But you know, recycling is good.

As per I-d:

Did you know that 95% of binned clothes could have been re-worn or recycled, and recycling one T-shirt saves 2100 litres of water? Basically, you can help save the planet by not clogging up landfills and not squandering the natural resources used in fabric production.

Since then over 14,000 tonnes of old clothes have been collected globally, and now the Swedish brand has launched Close the Loop, a collection of 10 denim pieces made from the textiles recycled from the Garment Collecting initiative.

Look, I’m fully aware that big corporations are constantly trying to piggyback onto noble causes while continuing their unsustainable, avaricious, capitalistic ways, but … I can’t find anything to criticize in this campaign.

Plus, this video promoting the campaign is terrific:

That’s all I got this morning. It’s upbeat and positive, and goes against the summer’s trend of dispiriting news: climate change, mass shootings, and a rough beast slouching towards Bethlehem, cheating at golf.

Ineffable beauty, unspeakable evil, and all sorts of crap in between