Happy Thanksgiving!

It is customary on Thanksgiving to give thanks for all  that we hold dear in our lives. Tomorrow, most of us will be with our families and friends, so today I just want to take a moment to thank the tens of thousands of visitors to this site for stopping by. Writing this blog has become an interesting assignment in self-awareness for me. Since starting this space almost three years ago,  nearly 450 posts have been read by citizens in 70 countries across six continents.

I started this project as a way of organizing the chaotic assemblage of thoughts that stream through my head into some sort of  pathway to understanding. I don’t know if that standard has been attained, but I will keep on trying.

Thank You and Happy Thanksgiving!

Also, there is absolute no truth to the rumor that I receive 5 cents for every “hit” on the blog!

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The day after Thanksgiving:

When I was a little kid, we did not have Black Friday. It was just known as the friday after Thanksgiving.

I remember it because all the newspapers were thick with ads for toys like Lincoln Logs and Lionel trains. There were also lots of pictures of TVs (black and white only) and washing machines with red bows around them.

Since my father was usually off from work that day, I remember asking him if we were going to the store. I will always remember his reply.
” I wouldn’t go down there if they gave me a $1000!”
Now, a thousand dollars was a heck of a lot of money back then and dad usually only had $30 or $40 in his pocket, so I figured something really horrible was going on for him not to go shopping if someone gave him $1000 to do it. I guess that notion has stuck with me because to this day, I have a near allergic reaction to the very thought of going out on the friday after Thanksgiving.
The whole concept fascinates me and repulses me at the same time; like one would feel while observing a Black Mamba through a herpetarium glass. Intrigued, but aware that death is just inches away. In fact, in recent years the mercantile madness has become so violent with aggressive shoppers, that some wags are referring to the day as Black Eye Friday.

Anyway, I have for years tried to get my head around the attraction of lining up at 3 or 4 in the morning to be the first to race through the doors for that “special” Christmas present.

I am pretty sure Jesus does not concern himself with such things as 18 hour sales events conducted in maniacal preparation for his coming birthday.

Now lately, I have seen in the news, people lined up with tents, sleeping bags and such a week before black friday in front of the stores so that they can be first in line to buy stuff. I think to myself, don’t these people have jobs?

But, then with the high unemployment rate and bad economy, maybe they don’t.

On the other hand, if they don’t have jobs, why are they queuing up to spend money they don’t have?

I know if  I were unemployed, I would not be in a tent in front of the store wasting time, waiting to spend money. I would be looking for work IN the store…even if that meant overcoming my long held black friday fears.

But that’s just me.

I believe in spending money the old-fashioned way…after you’ve earned it.

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Well, this week we are pulling wire. Fencing in the north pasture.

The alphabet people have denied my plan to plant citrus trees, so we are going to grow hamburger, steak and methane producing bovines in the north pasture.

Speed is of the essence  as the taxing authorities, to feed their lustful need for cash, seem to think I have a secret plan to pave over a 180 acres and put up a Mega Mart emporium of imported Chinese consumer items. Therefore, they no doubt are looking for a reason to revoke my agriculture tax status on that pasture.

So cows it is.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a good steak or cheeseburger as well as the next guy. And watching a few Brangus bovines grazing on green grass is a bucolic and peaceful sight. But, some aspects of the cow business are well, unpleasant.
Like the first time I worked cows, about 15 years ago. Being nearly a 50-year-old tenderfoot, at the time, I arrived at the cow pens about 9:00 am after my bagel and coffee. By that hour, the cowboys had corralled the cows and were already sorting them. (These are real cowboys, with horses, hats, boots and cow poop covered spurs.) They would be insuring the cows get vet care, and certain little bulls would become little steers. Some other cows would be “directed” to the truck for that ride to market.
The thing about working cows is that it is an assault on one’s senses.

First, you hear the lowing and the cattle dogs barking. Then the smell of cattle under stress with the urine, feces and bovinian pheromones rampant. Of course, you taste and feel that cattle blood, sweat dust and dirt. On a hot day, both you and the cows are aggravated.

It is enough to make you a vegetarian.
But the real kicker is after the work is done for the day, the cowboys, drink beer and  grill up some very rare steaks to celebrate…when all I want is salad for the next two weeks!

The First Environmentalists

October 16, 2012

When I was in college, I had a classmate named, Desmond. He was an Irish country farm boy about a year older than I was. I never saw him go to class, but Des was at every social event as I recall.

On a Saturday afternoon sometimes, we would end up at the Village Inn for a beer while doing our laundry across the street. There would always be a group of local farmers in the pub and we would get into conversations with them about school and farming. I don’t recall many of the conversations, ( maybe it was the 20 cent beers) but one statement by Desmond remains in my head after all these years.

Talking about raising animals,  he said, ” If’n you be good to your cows, your cows will be good to you.”
Now I never knew for certain what “If’n” meant, but I got the drift of what old Des was saying.
Farmers were the first environmentalists. They knew that their life depended on taking care of the land and the wealth of life the land supported. They knew this millennia before there was a USDA, EPA, SWFWMD, TVA, WMD, YMCA and any other letter organization you care  to string together.
What makes me crazy is that some people from these organizations, who never took care of a piece of land in their life, never grew so much as a tomato plant, can come in and tell you what you can and can’t do on your own land.

My land is a pristine environment with abundant native flora and fauna . I have seen turkey, water fowl, deer, alligators, hawks, foxes and bobcats. The ground is rich and produces good yields when properly maintained.
We have been for more than nine months now trying to get approval to plant a few orange trees in the north pasture. The baby is past due and these unhelpful people are still producing  red tape by the truck load.
Speaking of trucks, about a mile away, there exists a 600,000 square foot , 5 story high big box distribution center with hundreds of 18 wheelers coming and going all day long. This monstrous miasma of mercantilism causes pollution, chaos and stresses the fragile environment.  Yet it is permitted to expand and flourish with the apparent consent of the alphabet kids. So much so that the DOT  has decided that they need to widen the road to 4 lanes, further upsetting the pristine environment.
Now, I know that the American consumer needs the thousands of Chinese made modern necessities that this big box regurgitates daily, but you would think that in the mist of all this chaos, that I would be permitted to plant a few carbon dioxide loving trees that would produce a healthful, vitamin rich citrus product.

Yet, the hemming and hawing continues with the government experts being “unsure” which way the water will flow after I plant the trees.

Hint: It will flow down hill, north to south as it has for centuries into Lee Branch…but apparently they can’t see the forest for the trees.

Truck Envy

September 14, 2012

The other day, I was in the Ford place getting new tires on my FLEX when I ran into Danny and Sidney. They were getting new pickups. Two shiny white F-150s were sitting there ready to go.

Immediately, I said I gotta get one of those!

I don’t know what it is about pick ups, but they are the best thing on four wheels. Over the past 20 years I have had about 6 or 7 of them.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Flex with its smooth ride, ease of entry and electronic bells and whistles, but there is something manly and fun about a pickup. Sitting up high in that cab taking on all types of terrain with confidence. It is just the way things ought to be..

Since, it would be a couple of hours to do the service on my Flex, Tim let me use his truck to run some errands. As he handed me the keys, he said, ” Oh Woody, there is a 45 in there. Just in case you run into some feral hogs.”

I joked, ” Thanks Tim, a 45 is a little bit smaller caliber than what I generally carry, but it will certainly do the job!”

While that did not surprise me, as nearly all the pickups in this small farming community are equipped with at least 2-3 guns in them, I wondered how many other places in the world are like this town and like these responsible, hardworking, caring people.

As soon as I got behind the wheel, I just knew I “needed” to trade and get a new truck.

Part of the fun is equipping a new truck with all the mandatory  electronics and office equipment. For example, John carries his computer, and every sort of weather, agriculture and farming app available. He can tell you at a moment’s notice which way the wind is blowing and if it will be a rough winter!

Then you need the state of the art sound and navigation system as well as the requisite tool box and ice cooler in the bed …and naturally a place for Mikey.

Just one question. What color?!

You can’t lose!

July 12, 2011

I just read a story about three former PTA mothers, who used their affiliation with a suburban Los Angeles elementary school to swindle investors out of $14 million in a get rich quick scheme.

This  Ponzi scam lasted more than two years before an angry and suspicious  investor filed a complaint which started an investigation that led to the arrest of the mothers.

The scam began in 2008 when the mothers told fellow PTA members they had the exclusive right to sell certain products  to Disneyland.

The Ponzi pitchers stated that they needed capital to expand the business and promised returns of up to 100 percent, adding that even if there was no profit, investors would get their money back.

Investments, which had to be made in cash, ranged from $5,000 to $208,000. The 40 investors dipped into their life savings, maxed out their credit cards and took out second mortgages on their homes to come up with the money.

I don’t know who to blame more the very clever mothers, or the really stupid investors.

I mean all the warning signs were there, impossibly high returns, no risk of loss, and all cash transactions. High pitched  sirens and clanging bells should have been going off  in the heads of these very naive investors.

Did they learn nothing from the Bernie Madoff  scandal,  the mother of all Ponzi schemes?  Or did they figure that mothers just don’t do Ponzi?

All any investor has to do is ask himself  the question, if this deal is this good, why are these mothers offering it to me?  Why don’t they just keep this great deal for themselves?

These “no lose”  deals  just never pass the smell test.

Two axioms apply here.

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

…and  a  fool and his money are soon separated.

Be suspicious; keep you hand on your wallet.

Consumer surveys

May 15, 2011

I know this has happened to you.

It happens to me several times a year. I receive a large envelope in the mail from J. D. Powers Associates or some other research/consulting firm.

In the envelope is a multi page “survey” in which the consulting firm informs you that you are special and uniquely qualified to answer the questions they are asking. The survey is usually for some unnamed bank, or car manufacturer and will only take ” a few minutes” to complete. Then the killer is that they include a dollar bill for your effort.

One Dollar!

 Here they are,  this slick consulting firm  packed with MBA’s from the Wharton School, charging some big corporation tens of thousands, no hundreds of thousands of dollars to tell some weak-willed, dithering CEO what he wants to hear and what every real worker in the company already knows. 

What they  don’t  know is that I immediately pocket the money and trash the survey.

I did not always act in this manner of haste. The first time I received this type of  survey from some outfit in California,  I wrote in the “comments” section that I would be delighted to fill out their survey, completely and truthfully, however, my going rate for survey work is $200 an hour plus expenses.

Funny, I never heard from them again.

But now, I just keep the dollars and check the mailbox for more.

I have always admired Arianna Huffington. I have read her Huffington Post for years, and although, I did not always agree with what she and her bloggers had to say, I thought her opinions were interesting if not insightful. I also thought she was a shrewd businesswoman.

Now, I am convinced of it.

With the announced sale of her widely read blog to AOL for $315 million, she has a number of folks from every political and business corner scratching their heads and wondering what she is up to.

I think she just made a bundle for her investors and a cool $18 million for herself.

Selling the Huffington Post for $315 million has got to be the best case of the Emperor’s new clothes I have heard about for quite some time. Forget the politics for a second. What did AOL get for its money? A blog written by a loose confederation of part time writers with an income stream of maybe $9 million annually.

Hardly a trifecta return on a media content bet in the fast changing race to see who will be the next New York Times.

And what about the Post’s cadre of loyal “progressive” readers?  They are in complete denial that Arianna will move to the center, as will most certainly be required by AOL to sell the blog to it’s  more mainstream clientele.

Everyone knows the middle road is pure pablum milk toast. Definitely not for the fiery Miss Huffington say her progressive followers. Ha.

I think Arianna just might take that $18 million and buy that Greek island villa she remembers from her youth.

Hey Arianna, Opa!