Saturday, July 31, 2010

Marital Mystery

There are many, many things the Colonel doesn't understand.

Take Chaos Theory, for example. The Colonel can spell (without the help of spell check) the words ... and, that just about exhausts his knowledge and understanding of the subject. Still, Chaos Theory is not the most perplexing concept the Colonel attempts to wrap his head around.

The Colonel doesn't understand a word of Farsi. Or Hindi, for that matter. Pushtu, likewise. Frankly, there's a lot of English that the Colonel struggles to understand and articulate. Yet, languages, foreign and domestic, don't leave the Colonel scratching his head the most.

The science behind the ability of a two-year-old to be in three places at the same time, the destructive power of a four-year-old, and the exponential energy surge present when the two of them occupy the same square meter is beyond the Colonel's comprehension. But, there is something else far more mysterious to the Colonel.

The Colonel is clueless when it comes to Calculus. Algebra pretty near puts him into apoplexy. Fractions fry the Colonel's circuits. Theorems and equations leave him queasy with confusion. However, these things don't puzzle the Colonel the most.

The Colonel cannot fathom the depths of God's love, the heights of man's folly, or the width of a mother's wisdom.

And, yet, there is something the Colonel finds even more unfathomable.

Thirty-four years ago, almost to this very hour, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda looked this miserable man in the eye and pledged her loyalty and love, forever. Despite this idiot's best efforts to show his worst possible side at the worst possible times and places, the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda has remained steadfast and true to her word.

That is something the Colonel will never understand.

Happy Anniversary, Sweetthing! What's for dinner?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Ducking Responsibility

With absolutely nothing else of consequence on which to opine, bloviate, or remonstrate, catching the Colonel's attention this morning, he will endeavor instead to catch the five of you who regularly waste rod and cone time perusing posts hereon up on the latest fowl news from the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

In previous posts, the Colonel mentioned that the population of the Tallahatchie Free State, a virtual republic established as much tongue-in-cheek as hand-on-wallet, has grown considerably over the spring and summer. The first of April saw the addition of a flock of chickens, and, last month, the Colonel's favorite daughter completed her emigration from the Scumslime state to the welcoming shores of Lake Brenda and beckoning kudzu-clad hills of Eegeebeegee and was rewarded by the Colonel for her superior choice of residential locales with the gift of two ducklings.

Ugly ducklings.

Ugly, persistently peeping ducklings.

Ugly, persistently peeping, perpetually pooping ducklings.

The Colonel's favorite daughter spends hours each day cuddling and coddling her ducklings. No pair of waterfowl in the history of avian-human interaction has been more cuddled and coddled. The ducklings, in return, shower their adopted mother with unlimited affection, not to mention prodigious excrement. The Colonel is beginning to believe that there might actually be a government grant-worthy study possible regarding Oedipal Ornithology, with the Colonel's favorite daughter and her ducks as case in point.

The ducklings have outgrown the once spacious confines of the brooder box. The Colonel's favorite daughter believes it is time for her "babies" to have an appropriate pen of their own "like your stupid chickens."

The Colonel's suggestion that the ducks would be just fine released down at the spacious aquarian acreage of Lake Brenda was met with a mixture of scornful scowls and disagreeable discourse the likes of which the Colonel has only been the subject of from one other source--the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda.

Since it took the Colonel the better part of three months to construct and predator-proof the Eegeebeegee Chicken Coop, with Integral Hen House, he was not keen on the prospect of another round of post hole and wire trench digging. The Colonel thought it much more efficacious and labor-saving to allow the ducks to share the chicken's abode.

The chickens thought otherwise.

The introduction of two little ducks to their domicile elicited such a rancorous response from the chickens that one would have thought the Colonel had just let loose a pack of coyotes in the Eegeebeegee Chicken Coop, with Integral Hen House.

Did you know that George Lucas used a recording of an irate Rhode Island Red for the vocalizations of the velociraptors in Jurassic Park?

He didn't really, but sure could have.

The Colonel was not happy with the impolite behavior of the chickens and punished them by declaring eminent domain and appropriating a portion of the Eegeebeegee Chicken Coop, with Integral Hen House, for the duck's pen.

Grand Opening and official ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate completion of the Eegeebeegee Recession Recovery Omnibus Regulatory (ERROR) Act-funded Eegeebeegee Chicken Coop, with Integral Hen House and Duck Pen will occur at a time and place of the Colonel's choosing. Invitation only.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Don't have the Votes

The Colonel was asked recently (by someone who obviously didn't know the Colonel very well) why he wouldn't toss his hat into the political ring. The short answer is that there are no skeletons in the Colonel's closet -- more like rotting corpses.

The long answer is that the Colonel is disqualified from politics by evaluation against every possible measurement. Let's review the checklist, shall we?

1. The Colonel is an angry white guy from Mississippi who adamantly opposes the "fundamental transformation of America" promised by Barrack Obama. That makes him, according to the current politically correct measurement, a "racist."

2. If the foregoing conclusion is accepted, the fact that the Colonel opposes the policy positions of Nancy Pelosi makes him a "misogynist."

3. The Colonel loves his wife--the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda--with all of his mind, body, and soul. That makes the Colonel a closed-minded "homophobe."

4. The Colonel seeks to follow Jesus' teachings. That makes him "intolerant."

5. The Colonel practices a balanced approach to child rearing; employing impassioned positive leadership and example-setting, reinforced with dispassionate attention-getting and boundary-establishing corporal punishment. He is, therefore, a "masochistic child-abuser."

6. The Colonel not only owns more guns than musical instruments, but is more than adequately proficient in their employment. This makes the Colonel "dangerous."

You have no idea how "dangerous."

7. The Colonel owns a sawmill and a chainsaw, both of which have seen significant action. This does not endear him to the tree-huggin' set.

8. The Colonel eats meat. Lots of it. Some of which he kills and cleans himself. There goes the Vegan/PETA vote.

9. The Colonel reads and thinks for himself and thinks Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck should be listened to only if there is absolutely nothing else on, and unintelligible back-ground noise is needed for relaxation. The Colonel does not suffer fools, clowns and dancing bears well. Don't even get the Colonel started on the breathlessly brainless babble bubbling from the likes of Maddow and Olbermann. So much for the "illiterate vote."

10. Last, but certainly not least, the Colonel is disqualified from political life due to an over-abundance of self-respect.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bridge to the Future

The Colonel conducted the first full operational test of the Bridge at Eegeebeegee --known within the Colonel's immediate family as Caleb's Crossing, in honor of the Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dash One (H21CC-1)--this morning and is pleased and relieved to report that the Colonel's trusty red tractor (Semper Field) is not at the bottom of the thirty foot chasm spanned by said bridge. In fact, the bridge, engineered and constructed to withstand the blast effects of a low-yield nuclear explosion, did not even creak as the Colonel eased Semper Field across. Clear of the concrete ramp on the far side of Caleb's Crossing, the Colonel gave an unabashedly exuberant "Ooorah!!" to usher in a new chapter in the work-in-progress that is the Colonel's vast holdings here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere.

Inaccessible to all but foot traffic for better than two years, the fields on the far side of Caleb's Crossing have overgrown in a tangle of blackberry brambles, bushes, tall grass, and hardwood saplings. Into this jungle, the Colonel and his steed, Semper Field, plunged--bush hog in tow--and the field's overgrowth surrendered itself to the rapacious blades spun by the tractor's power-take-off. Lest the five of you (the Colonel has been advised that there are now that many) who regularly waste rod and cone time perusing posts hereon--as well as the casual reader who stumbles blindly into this literary morass--think the Colonel a completely thoughtless destroyer of nature, he would have you know that wherever his mowing uncovered an oak sapling the Colonel steered a path around it.

After a couple of hours of cutting, the field, where once stood bramble useless to man, now presents itself ready for the plow, with a dozen two-year old oaks dotting the landscape. The oaks will greatly complicate the cultivating of the field in the near-term, but the Colonel would like to think that someday in the future beyond his existence on this rock, H21CC-1 will sit beneath one of those trees and tell his grandson (H22CC-1) that they enjoy the cool shade thanks to a man who, riding a tractor one day, thought of a descendant known only to God and was inspired to veer from the path of convenience for that child's sake.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Evolution of Tyranny

For those who would maintain that the Constitution of the United States is a flexible document that must evolve to meet the changing nature of the peoples' political and social appetites, the history of the Roman Republic is instructive.

What follows is, by design, a shallow, cursory look at the Roman republican experience, due in large part to the Colonel's mile-wide and inch-deep knowledge base and the limitations imposed by the few remaining cognitive cells lying fallow in the limpid pools of goo at the bottom of the deeper recesses of his brain-housing-group. Lucky for the three of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon, a cursory look at the Roman Republic's history is all that is required to quickly understand why a conservative adherence to our written constitution's strictures is so critical to maintenance of the rights and freedoms enshrined within it.

Twenty-five centuries ago, the people of the small region surrounding a nascent city-state on the banks of the Tiber River in what is now central Italy, revolted against their monarch and embarked on a five century experience with a more people-centric form of government. What is most fascinating to the Colonel, and most germane to his point, is that the Roman Republic operated for nearly 500 years, not from a written constitution, but according to loose oral tradition and precedent that continuously evolved to meet either the desires of the political ruling elite or the whims of the people to whom that ruling elite catered. Because of their inherent flexibility, the Roman Republic's guiding principles eventually allowed the political ruling class to accumulate so much power at the expense of the people that the people willingly accepted tyrants who satisfied their baser needs and wants at the expense of any self-governance. It was the Roman Republic's lack of a concrete constitution that led to its fall and to the re-institution of tyrannical monarchical rule.

That, and the dole, Rome's welfare system.

While Republican Rome's malleable constitution did maintain a semblance of checks and balances on the elements of Roman government, what was lacking was a supreme judiciary charged with preserving the constitutional rule of law via review of the constitutionality of the laws passed by the various competing ruling bodies whose power in Roman politics waxed and waned with the personal leadership strength of the heads of those bodies. In other words, there was no effective judicial review check on the legislative and executive branches of government. The result was a continuous cycle of command and countermand legislation to which the least attention was paid by those legislators who crafted it. Into such increasing chaos a Julius Caesar could ride with loyal legions at his back and seize power.

Little known to the vast majority of Americans is the fact that at the height of the Great Depression, during which an enormously charismatic and popular President accrued extra-constitutional powers to himself and his administration--and packed and perverted the Supreme Court with lackeys who would not find his clearly unconstitutional actions thus--a group of industrialists actually began to plot a military coup. They approached a retired Marine war hero (recipient of two Congressional Medals of Honor)--Major General Smedley Butler--with promise of more-than-adequate funding and troops to march on Washington and seize control. Lucky for our nation, General Butler's loyalty to his oath to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States" was greater than his personal disgust with the unconstitutional antics of Roosevelt. Butler reported the plot to Congress.

Had Butler been more of a Caesar than a Cincinnatus, the constitutional rule of our nation may well have ended in 1934, as it did in Rome in 49 B. C.

The Colonel wishes that his fellow Americans understood just how lucky we are to have a strong, written Constitution (amended constitutionally), whose words mean today just what they meant when first penned.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ornithological Broodings

It has been quite a bountiful brood-raising spring and summer so far here at the shallow northern end of deep southern nowhere. The Colonel fancies himself an amateur ornithologist, fascinated by our feathered friends and their free flights and frequent feeder visits, above and aboard Eegeebeegee. Much of the Colonel's leisure is engaged in avian antic appreciation.

Last year, the immediate surroundings of the Big House here at the capital of the Tallahatchie Free State--a virtual republic, founded as much hand-on-wallet as tongue-in-cheek--hosted the nesting activities of several species of feathered fauna. This year, a pair of barn swallows returned to and improved upon last summer's mud nest under the eaves of the front porch.

They brought friends.

Three other pairs of barn swallows joined the first and as the Colonel writes this frantically boring missive, the four parental pairs are busily feeding four identical broods of four ravenous chicks in mud nests under the four corners of the Big House's porch eaves.

A word of warning to the three of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon and might be interested in hosting your own breeding pair: barn swallow progeny poop prodigiously. In barely a day's time, four swelling swallows can process parental food offerings and manufacture a surprisingly large messy mound of manure below their nest.

It is, however, a small poopy price to pay for pest control.

One of the parental duties of a brood-raising barn swallow is the discouragement of all other creatures from a thirty-foot radius of their nests with a chattering swoop within inches of the interloper's brain-housing-group. Matters not who or what the interloper is. The Colonel's grandsons--The Hope of 21st Century Civilization, Dashes One and Two (H21CC-1 & 2)--are regular dive bombing targets. As are the rabbits which ease up to raid the flower beds guarding the front porch of the Big House.

The Colonel, who has been forbidden from firearmed rabbit removal by the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda, wishes there was a way to surreptitiously arm barn swallows with miniature cotton-tail seeking rockets.

Not to be outdone, eastern bluebirds have already produced one brood earlier this spring (despite an indigo snake's attempted/prevented predation) and three more broods are peeping and pooping in the boxes at the periphery of the Gardens at Eegeebeegee. Unable to poke pooping posteriors out of their nest like the barn swallows, eastern bluebird chicks depend on their parents to carry away the waste product of insects brought to feed them. While the Colonel often envies birds' wings, current grandson diaper duty makes him thankful for hands.

Early in the spring, the first pair of ruby-throated hummingbirds met at a feeder on the back porch. A half-dozen other pairs have since joined them. The Colonel has been unable to find their diminutive domiciles, but has begun to notice their progeny at the sugar-water feeders. How can one tell young hummingbirds from their parents, you ask? Easy. The immature ones are always sticking their tongues out.

In addition to these favorites, a pair of mockingbirds raised a brood in a bush right outside the door to the back porch. The Colonel is not a big fan of mockingbirds. Turns out they aren't big fans of the Colonel. H21CC-1 & 2, however, were able to daily inspect the progress of the mockingbird chicks with impunity. Momma mockingbird obviously did not have the Colonel's clear understanding of the destructive power inherent in two small boys.

At this point in this pointless parade of paragraphs, at least one of the three of you who regularly waste valuable rod and cone time perusing posts hereon is bursting with the question: "What about the chickens?"

The Colonel is proud to announce that his Local War on Barnyard Fowl Predation has kept the Chickens of Eegeebeegee safe for two full months since the last attack. The Colonel would also like to take this opportunity to announce the latest addition to the domestic flock here at the Center of the Universe. Two nondescript ducklings, named Archie and Peyton by the Colonel's Manning-mad daughter, have joined the growing menagerie of mouths aboard the capitol grounds of the Tallahatchie Free State. She wanted them for her birthday.

Interesting side-story regarding the Colonel's favorite daughter's birthday. Born on the 5th of July, she had long lamented that she had not been born a day earlier so that she could share her adopted country's birthday. When she got old enough (21) to understand the concept of the International Dateline--no slam intended; the Colonel didn't figure it out until he was thirty--the Colonel informed his delighted favorite daughter that while it was indeed the 5th of July where she was born (Hong Kong) it had actually been the 4th of July here in the good ole re-United States.

So, last weekend she asked for, and got for her birthday, a pair of ducks to raise here on the farm.

Guess it could have been worse--she initially wanted goats.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Sharp Solutions

Thousands of men and women from the college class of 2010 are embarking this summer on a career as commissioned officers in the United States military. To this new generation of patriots the Colonel renders a respectful salute and offers some advice by way of a few anecdotal recollections.

Great piece of advice not found in any leadership manual, Number 1: The most elegantly simple solutions to the most pressing problems are most often resident in the brain housing groups of the most junior members of your team.

The Colonel wishes he had a dollar for every time he was personally involved in an episode that reminded him of this maxim. Here’s two of the most memorable:

More years ago than he would like to admit, the Colonel had the great fortune to be in command of the best rifle company in the Marine Corps. The Colonel (then the Captain) and his lieutenants were wrestling with the problem of how to move vehicles off of runways it was our company’s mission to secure. We had hot wire kits made up to start vehicles, but figured that we would need some way to get into a locked car or truck. We decided we would need to add slim jims, the tool police use to unlock vehicles, to our kits but couldn't figure out where to get them. When we finally asked our Marines if any of them knew where we could find a tool that would open a locked car, one lance corporal in the last rank raised his hand and volunteered, “Why don’t you just break the (expletive deleted) window?”

Six Marine officers removed their head gear and slapped their foreheads in unison.

A few years later, the Colonel had the great fortune to be in command of the best recruiting station in the Marine Corps. The Colonel (then the Major) and his lieutenants were wrestling with the problem of how to move the contracting and shipping status board from the old headquarters in Macon to the new headquarters in Atlanta, without losing the critical information tracked thereon. The status board (this was in the days just shortly after the invention of electricity) was a wall-sized magnetic board with twenty or so columns and just as many rows. The Colonel’s grasp of math ain't too good and he couldn't tell you exactly how many boxes that formed—in each of which a magnetic number resided—but it was, to use the technical term, a bunch. The Colonel (then the Major) and his lieutenants had decided to cover the board in plastic wrap and were measuring the board to see how big of a U-haul truck was needed to transport it, when the young sergeant, whose job it was to maintain the board and who had been quietly and respectfully observing his brainy leadership at work, reached into his desk, pulled out a Polaroid camera and snapped a picture of the board. While the Colonel (then the Major) and his lieutenants watched, the Marine waited patiently for the film to develop, looked carefully at it when it did, then pitched it onto his desk and proceeded to take the numbers off the board. The Colonel (then the Major) and his lieutenants edged over to the young sergeant’s desk, took a quick look at the clear picture of the status board, and went elsewhere.

Great piece of advice not found in any leadership manual, Number 2:
Somebody on your team is always carrying a big enough knife for any job.

When the Colonel (then the Lieutenant) completed his initial infantry officer training and was enroute to his first operational assignment, he stopped at a sporting goods store and bought a large sheath knife. When he says large, the Colonel really means enormous. Jim Bowie would have been, not just merely envious, but apoplectic with inferiority. Crocodile Dundee would have remarked favorably on it.

The knife was so large that the steel in its blade represented an entire day's worth of production at a mill in Pittsburgh.

The hides of six cows, and a half-grown calf, were required to provide enough leather from which to fashion the sheath.

The knife was so heavy that when strapped to the Colonel's (then the Lieutenant's) side, it caused him to list dramatically to port. The resulting lopsided gait, on the Colonel's (then the Lieutenant's) first march to the field with his new platoon, wore out the leather on the outside portion of his portside boot.

The Colonel's (then the Lieutenant's) crusty old platoon sergeant remarked, in the third person manner of the old Corps, "Well, the Lieutenant has quite a knife there doesn't he." To which the Colonel (then the Lieutenant) responded with, "Yep! Where's yours?"

"Oh, the Staff Sergeant doesn't carry a knife, sir."

"Really? What do you do if you need to cut something?"

"Well, sir, the Staff Sergeant will just ask to borrow the Lieutenant's."

The Colonel (then the Lieutenant) traded in Excalibur for a small and infinitely less weighty pocket knife on his next trip to the gedunk.