Category: Ruminations

Down Or Out

shackThe world in general and America in particular often seems like a house whose owners can no longer maintain it. It just gets more and more messy and run down as time passes. They know that eventually the roof will fall in but they neither fix it nor move out.

I’m sure my outlook is not that uncommon today. Indeed, the way things are going, optimism might well be grounds for a psychiatric examination. It was not always this way, and it may be instructive to examine why.

Ken Smith has been keeping Joe Bageant’s website live and recently posted this.
Go on, read it. I’ll wait.

The takeaway I see in that short article is twofold: the person-to-person connection (which just happens to be father/son) and the whole-different-lifestyle thing.

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Choices – Wrong Forking Road

ForkRoad
    Having arrived at Agonist in December ’09, I missed the early years, so I’ve been reading s lot of the Random Posts that show up in the lower left sidebar. Given the incessant barrage of Newsertainment and Infomercials that inundate us daily, it’s remarkable we are able to turn it off long enough to view current events on any scale broader thatn a week or a month. We recall major things from years past which are particularly pertinent to issues at hand, but the day-to-day experiences of 1990 are usually as remote as those of 1970 (or 1950 or 1940, for some of us).

    I find that going back to only as recently as the early Agonist is informative, if depressing. Just a casual browsing of our archives reminds me that howwever grim and screwed up things are today, it’s nothing new. We’re just a bit further down the road than we were ten years ago (and gaining momentum).
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Armistice Day


For irony, click the photo and note the banner. 🙂

Some few people have noted that November 11 was originally designated Armistice Day, and commemorated peace, not the glorification of war and warriors. It was that way when I was younger and was observed in a solemn mood; sober, thoughtful sadness. People wept – grown men, in a day when men wept seldom and never publicly. My grandmother never failed to observe every Armistice Day, crying softly, although our family lost no one in two World Wars.
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Cockleburs of Memory

The Cockleburs of Memory pop up again:
NYC2

A friend sent me an email today, quoting an Opinion from The Spectator, in which the writer was bemoaning that NYC is not what it was in his younger days. My response to her email was:

A blend of truth and I’m-getting-old-and-the-world-is-going-to-Hell-in-a-handcart, which they’ve found scratched on the walls in Pompeii.
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Building Fence

   The Mountain Man was engaged in building fence across the Rio Grande at the Lower Ranch. At this specific time he was being assisted by ‘Vic’ Miller, a lad of around eighteen years and one of the group known to us as ‘the boys’, who periodically helped us with the hay harvest, usually starting as sulky-rake operators in the days when teams were in order.

   It was just past the middle of June, and a belated spring with cold nights and cool days had slowed the melting of the snow in the high country. Now the weather had turned warmer and summer had arrived suddenly and unheralded. Down came in wild recklessness the deep snows of December and January, swelling the old Rio Grande to astounding proportions, to big for its bridges, and causing doubt whether it would be contained within its legal banks.

   Ray and Vic started out as usual in a spring wagon drawn by the husky bays – Strip and Baldy- with tools for the job and lunch bucket, as it was too far to return for the noon meal at the ranch house.

   Upon arrival at their usual fording place at the river, Ray remarked: “She’s up and will really be rolling by this evening if it is as warm today as it was yesterday; but we’ll not worry about that little thing now.” Across they went, as usual, the horses churning the water as they negotiated the polished, mobile river boulders, the spray flying high and raining down on beasts and men.

   It was hot in the sun and cool in the shade throughout the day; but the fence work went on in normal fashion and with satisfaction to the two workmen. Good men enjoy building a good fence, I’ve noted in my long career.

   Quitting time came with the sun low in the sky, and soon its rays would be shut off by the mountain that looms high at that part of our ranch. By the time the team had been hitched to the wagon and they were ready to go, a little breeze laden with a bit of leftover winter chill came up, and both fellows put on their jackets.

   When they reached the ford, I think even Ray was surprised at the extent the river had risen since morning. He voiced this to Vic and expressed a bit of doubt as to the feasibility of making a crossing. “But it is a hell of a way to the bridge and around that way!” Vic agreed that it “Shore is!”

   Ray decided if Vic was willing, to try to cross. I suppose youth had something to do with it, but Ray was ever the sort to take a chance and would always rather be killed by a single blow than hacked to pieces with a table knife any day. Vic was of similar persuasion.

   So they made preparations. The fence-building tools were wired together and the whole to the wagon seat. Vic held the big galvanized pail which held their lunch utensils, including a quart-sized thermos bottle – a Stanley, one of the first steel-jacketed unbreakables.

   The climbed in and seated themselves and were off down the bank and into the water. Naturally, they expected water to come into the wagon and to have to draw their feet up and brace themselves against the dashboard. But they were not mid-stream – the horses swimming with heads high – when Ray knew the score. He shouted to Vic: “This outfit is gonna flip and we’ll have to jump.” Then: “Jump, boy! Just as far as you can!”

   Jump they did, just as the current picked the wagon up like a cracker box and turned it over. Ray caught a glimpse of Vic in mid-air, his coat fanning out and above his head and the lunch pail making a parabola.

   The horses drew the wagon and Ray on out onto the bank. He turned to look, and there was Vic swimming like a duck but being borne by the current back to the shore from which they’d come. Yelling above the tumult of the waters Ray admonished him. “Come back here!. I’m not going to make another trip over there for you!” Vic managed to turn and swam out. Ray, giving him a hand up the bank, said: “Kid, I never thought to ask you if you could swim when I told you to jump!” Vic replied: “I didn’t know – I never tried before!”

   They drove home and regaled us with the story of their adventures. I recall one special attribute of the whole affair: one lone dry spot about the size of a silver dollar on the back of the collar of Ray’s blue chambray shirt. How or why it was there I’ll never understand, for even their hair was dripping!

   When I expressed horror at what might have happened to them, they would only look at each other and laugh. Well, as the Mountain Man so often said: “You only live once, but if you go at it right, once is enough!”
h/t Mabel Steele Wright

   We never learned what became of the pail and the thermos bottle. Perhaps some little brown boy picked them up at Brownsville, Texas!

h/t Mabel Steele Wright

…into that good night.

empire1
“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

– Dylan Thomas

The poet was talking of old men, but the American Global Capitalist Empire seems determined to follow his advice. It will not to go gently, but like old men, it will go. We pretty much know what to expect when a person dies, but what can we expect when an empire dies?
Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius – and the madness is well underway.
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What It Takes

High
Grandma knew the river would be high. The snowpack was still melting even in mid-July. The ranchers in the valley would be wearing grins like hogs at a slop bucket as they saw their pastures and hayfields sprout with the bounty from the San Juans. She always had water for her own herd and hay crop, since grandpa had dug a ditch from Devil’s Creek to fill a couple of large ponds on the upper and lower pastures. Devil’s Creek never dried up – Charles had picked the right spot for his ranch and worked hard to make a go of it.
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