Saturday, June 28, 2008

Midwest Scarce on Hummingbirds

No hummers. Day after day, I watch my three feeders. Usually they're buzzing with five or six dive-bombing rubythroat males and elegantly costumed females. But not this year.

Online "bird boards" in Missouri, Indiana, and Ohio, report the same scarcity this year. Hummingbirds appeared in Missouri as usual, around the 24th of April. But everyone's usual customers aren't coming to nectar feeders. Normal hummer activity is reported only in one remote rural area of Missouri.

Nobody knows why. Speculation about the missing hummers ranges from: the Midwest's extended winter (although hummers can survive freezing temperatures); flooding (confusing the hummers as they migrated from Mexico); a natural, cyclic decline in the population; a sinister, pollution-related population decline; and, because there's plenty of flowers the hummers don't need nectar feeders.

I miss them very much. If hummer activity picks up I will let you know.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Ungrateful Turtle

Route 66 State Park -- formerly a toxic dump once known as Times Beach, Missouri -- isn't far from here. The EPA incinerated the toxins, fixed it all up with bike and horse paths, and I figure it isn't any more toxic than anything else, so I went walking there this fine June morning. Several people were on the same road, jogging, biking, rollerblading.

A common sight in spring and summer here is turtles crossing the roads and highways. People (and me too) often stop to pick 'em up and put 'em in the roadside so they won't be killed. A few drivers like to run turtles over to hear 'em pop. That type will roast for eternity. But this lean white-haired bicyclist wearing a bike suit stopped and laid down his bike when he saw the big turtle in the road, just about the time I saw it.

The turtle was black and the size of a dinner plate. It immediately pulled in its head and legs as the kind man approached. Using both hands, he picked up the turtle -- and darned if it didn't shoot out two quarts of pee in a stream thick as a racehorse's, all over the poor Good Samaritan.

A mother and daughter out walking saw this too, and we all had a good laugh at the old guy's expense.

Moral: When you pick up a turtle, make sure it is facing you.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

World's Finest Milk Snake

Nice to be on vacation and take time to look down at my feet and see almost between them this exceptionally fine milk snake who agreed to pose for a picture. Approximately 20 inches long. They aren't usually out during the daytime, so it was doing me a favor.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The First Tomato and the Flag Man

With awe I watched the hard little green pearls of May turn into the fat green beads of early June. Then one of them grew fat and soft, took on a lemony tinge, and then a red. And here it is. Gem of all gems. Summer's first tomato.

This is better than an award, better than a military decoration. It's beautiful, shiny, and fit. God, who is an artist, packaged this little, special gift of food. Not only is it wonderfully colored and crafted -- it will taste good and nourish the body. Great work, God! (Applause.) And, God, I'm sorry I've been tied up in the rush and details of life and not seeing the depths and wonders of your creations.

When I'm sitting in traffic waiting for a flagman to direct the rush hour around road construction, I like to remind myself that the flagman, who stands in hot sunlight on hot asphalt and deals all day with irritable and inconsiderate drivers -- is one of God's wonderful creations, is doing God's work of caring for us regardless of who we are, and that someone loves him very much.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stealth Gardening

A secret: From last year onward, I'm not supposed to plant vegetables or herbs. The landlord wants to keep his 100 acres totally natural. So this year the poison ivy grows wild, and my tomatoes and basil are in containers. But I'm darned if crops from last year aren't resurrecting and growing exactly where they please:

-turnips and garlic in the compost pile
-dill, in the same place I tore it up last fall
-lavender, ditto
-fennel, ditto
-arugula (very, very tall this year)

And I have all of this without dirtying my hands, absolutely free! What luck! Thanks, Mr. Landlord!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Poet Laureate of Missouri Said:

Walter Bargen is the Poet Laureate of Missouri, the first one ever appointed. Notes taken during his talk to the St. Louis Writers Guild preserved some of the intriguing things he said:
  • "The role of the writer in society is to keep us awake."
  • "Poetry is like music; talking about it is not experiencing it."
  • "Each first line [of a poem] is an argument for the poem's existence." For example: "About suffering they were never wrong, the old masters. . ." and "You don't remember the hanging, but you do. . ."
  • "It's rhythm that marches your reader through the poem."
  • "You know you're really writing well when you're surprising yourself."
Also in the notes, perhaps not a direct quotation: "IDEA: read poetry to stone, birds, and trees."

Sunday, June 8, 2008

My Mom for President

Elect my mom president of the United States and the budget will be balanced in five days. The occupation of Iraq will end when she says so: no ifs, ands or buts about it. Osama Bin Laden will quake in his boots, and if he bombs anything she will clean his clock and show him who is boss. There will be no shenanigans in the Oval Office. You'd better believe the White House will be tidy and there will be no eating at the desks. Rich folks will be taxed until they're in the same boat as the rest of us.

President Mom's cabinet will be working women who know how to juggle everything in the world and get things done. She will award medals to stay-at-home mothers, nurses, cancer patients, and graduate students. Dick Cheney will soon be laughing out of the other side of his mouth. When the Democrats and Republicans have stupid arguments she will say "Cut it out or I'll knock your heads together."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Top Ten Sitcom Supporting Actors

Local news is scarce these days while we wait for the government to buy out every house in the floodplain, so the newspaper here printed the local trivia expert's list of top 10 sitcom characters. Well, I dint agree with his choices, because mine are just plain better. There are lots of very good ones, but I picked the ones I thought just stole the show. If you've never seen the Kingfish, you have missed seeing a genius at work.


  1. The Kingfish (Amos ‘n’ Andy) played by Tim Moore
  2. Eddie Haskell (Leave it to Beaver) played by Ken Osmond
  3. Ed Norton (The Honeymooners) played by Art Carney
  4. Maynard G. Krebs (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis), played by Bob Denver
  5. Barney Phyfe (The Andy Griffith Show), played by Don Knotts
  6. Alice Kramden (The Honeymooners) played by Audrey Meadows
  7. Ricky Ricardo (I Love Lucy), played by Desi Arnaz
  8. Mr. Haney (Green Acres) played by Pat Buttram
  9. Lurch (The Addams Family), played by Ted Cassidy
  10. Zelda Gilroy (The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis) played by Sheila James

*I picked from U.S. programs only. Excluded are title characters such as Lucy or Gilligan; top-billed characters such as Al Bundy (of Married with Children); mass-media marketing darlings such as “The Fonz” or “A.J”; and characters who later got their own sitcoms, such as Maude or Rhoda.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Crazy Like a Lawnmower, Part 2

Honestly, my dad didn’t sire a moron. It’s just that he never asked me or any of his other kids, all daughters, to do the mowing, nor did he show us how. He would have been ashamed, my mother says, for the neighbors to see teenage girls doing a man’s job.

Then I grew up and had landlords, and then a boyfriend. A true friend is one who will 1) mow your lawn and 2) help you move house.

Well, you learn something new every day, so I guessed my mower wouldn’t start in the middle of the grass because it WASN’T GETTING ENOUGH AIR in its CHOKE, and sure enough it started up roaring after it was back on the asphalt, and I felt like a genius. I knew about the CHOKE because 30 years ago I regularly drove a ’64 Chrysler that wouldn’t start unless I put my finger down its choke.

The Divine lawn has five sections, three of them sloped. Beginning the mowing on a slope was a mistake.

Certain bare patches were thick with dry oak leaves matted up like corrugated cardboard. Boldly mowing right through them spawned a ferocious dust storm. After several of those, the mower quit, and I guessed at once that I had abused its air filter. The filter sits on the top of the mower, in a closed and fitted black plastic case, and I still can’t see how air ever gets in there. But after securing a dime to unscrew its top I got mentally lost in the beauty of the coin, and in the many reasons why I admire FDR, and then in contemplating, really for the first time, the torch and plants on the coin’s reverse. Then I removed the top of the case and rinsed out the air filter. I left it to dry in the sun on top of the pumphouse and quit for the day.

A pow’ful ornery attack of hay fever laid me out flat the next day, and that’s why there aren’t any Rugged Rural Missouri blog entries between May 19 and June 2. My mowing ensemble had included sturdy shoes and protective eyewear (“eyewear”? What a word!) but not a breathing mask. God, how stupid I was two weeks ago compared to how smart I am today.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Crazy Like a Lawnmower, Part I

My power lawnmower is nothing unusual, 3.5 hp, except that it is too small to mow the whole acre of lawn grass. I am not unusual except that I am a U.S. citizen totally clueless about mowing a lawn.

Firstly I decided to mow only half the acre. Problem 50 percent solved. I put off the job as long as possible, hoping it might rain every day, or at least every other day. God obliged with the third-wettest spring in 130 years. Problem solved for all of April and half of May.

In mid-May I had four-inch grass and knee-high weeds full of ticks jumping from stem to stem like my lawn was their jungle gym. I knew that mowers used gasoline, but had no idea how much. I was a real pantywaist about pumping the gas into a 5-gallon can, terrified and flinching and doing it one drop at a time. But I muddled through, telling myself that the gas was probably more scared of me than I was of it.

Then in the driveway I had my first close-up look at the mower. What a relief to see that the machine had idiot graphics that showed where to put in the gas and oil. I did know how to prime the machine with three jabs at the red rubber button, and to yank that cable “straight from the shoulder, just like a baseball pitch only in reverse.” But it took a while to realize that I shouldn’t pull the lawnmower out into the center of the lawn and try to start it there.

Honestly and truly, my father did not sire a moron. . .