"All Is Bright"

Posted December 5, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags: ,

My writing compadre, virtual friend, published novelist (Wheatyard, Where the Marshland Came to Flower), and general bon vivant, Peter Anderson, has, in a flash of Dickensian determination, begun the serialized presentation of a short story: “All Is Bright.”

In a daily series of segments through December and culminating on Christmas Eve, Anderson will tell the story he has, and you can begin reading it here.

You do not need to subscribe to the service; you can simply click through each day.

As a wise man once said, treat yourself!

feral swine

Posted December 4, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Roundrock

Tags: , , ,

I received a letter recently from the USDA that told me of an effort in the (very large) area in and around my woods to eliminate feral swine. I’d known they have been a problem in Missouri for a long time, but I’d never seen any sign of them in my woods (not, apparently, that I would necessarily recognize the signs it turns out), so I didn’t think I had anything to worry about.

But the letter talked about a systematic effort among a number of state and federal agencies and sought land owner cooperation.

I sent an email to the man who signed the letter — a name I recognized from years ago when he visited my woods to consult about maybe building a dam — saying I was happy to participate but didn’t think I had a problem. I didn’t expect any response since my acreage is comparatively small.

He wrote back almost instantly to thank me and ask permission to “walk the woods” to look for sign. (I love the expression “walk the woods” since it is exactly what one does.) He also said that the evidence of invasive feral hogs could be subtle. I told him he could visit at any time, though I don’t know when this will be or if I’ll get any kind of report after he does.

The original letter goes on to say that feral swine are “dealt with” generally through baiting and live trapping but “other options” are available “in certain cases” and “when appropriate.” Perhaps it involves sausages.

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Did you know a herd of wild pigs is called a sounder?

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The photo above is one I captured along the Indian Creek Trail I ride (when the weather allows). Maybe this could be a solution to the feral swine matter.

flailing

Posted December 2, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Humble efforts, Rants and ruminations

Tags: ,

With the “completion” of One-Match Fire, I’ve been flailing. I’m looking everywhere for my next great subject or character or theme that will consume me as OMF did for a decade. I have written a half dozen stories about those characters in the years subsequent to the completion of the OMF storyline, and while a few of them have been good, others just feel thin and forced.

I’ve written other stories too, and while several have been published, they’ve been one-offs that are more “manufactured” than written. I’ve also revisited two of my Finnegans cozy mystery novels, preparing them (and myself) for the thankless effort of submitting them here and there. (They are good, but they are completely outside of the “literary” writing I do; I’m even using a pen name for them.)

I’m also trying to be more businesslike in this hobby of mine. I’ve been researching potential publishers for OMF and have made a half dozen highly targeted submissions, all of which will have no response until the spring. And I keep searching.

And so, in my otherwise directionless state, I reached way back for a story idea I had made notes on more than a decade ago. (A friend once told me that the good ideas never go away, and she was right. Thanks, Margie!) It’s an ambitious blend of literary pretension, meta machinations, some Poe influence, too much alliteration, shaggy doggedness (which kind of serves the point), and the clear influence of all of the Borges I was reading in those days. Plus it all hinges on the very last sentence, which pulls the rug out from under the reader. “Wait! What?”

I’ve actually completed the story, and I’m sure it’s nothing like what I had imagined writing back then, but it feels like a worthy piece nonetheless. It gets the job done, though perhaps a bit more directly that I’d probably originally intended. Still, it’s nice to get an old, old idea in shape. Or rather, started into shape. I’ll need to come back to it many times. (Next up, perhaps one I tinkered with during my equally distant Faulkner phase.)

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The image above is detail from a Dore illustration titled “Don Quixote in his Library.”

bits and pieces (and buffaloes)

Posted November 25, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Tags: , ,

There really is a litmag called Taco Bell Quarterly, and they’re interested in your fiction or poetry dealing with, yes, Taco Bell. I’m not sure how quarterly they’ll be — they’ve had one issue so far — because they say they’ll publish whenever they feel like it, but if you have a niche piece, this might be the place for it.

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“Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a grammatically correct sentence. (I understand it to mean ” Buffalo bison, that other Buffalo bison bully, also bully Buffalo bison.” Maybe: the picked on kids pick on other kids?) Don’t believe me? Check it out.

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In recent months I’ve been receiving breathless emails to my Yahoo account telling me that my account will be closed unless I re-register it and that I should click on the link the emails provide and supply my password.

At first I nearly fell for this phishing scam. Yahoo once had a video site much like YouTube where I had uploaded many videos, mostly of stuff at my cabin. Yahoo recently ended that service, so the idea that they might be shuffling their email service as well had some credibility in my little head.

But I smelled a rat, so I shunted these breathless emails to the spam folder and waited for the stated deadline to come and go. It did, last week. Miraculously, I still have a Yahoo email account that works just fine.

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The property to the north of my 80 Ozark acres recently changed hands. The piece is several hundred acres, about two-thirds open and one-third forest. In the past the owner raised a crop or two each year in the open area, and once even pastured horses there. I’m not sure what’s going on with the land now that it has a new owner. There was a wheat harvest this spring, but now it seems to be just fallow.

The new owner left a note on my cabin door introducing himself, and later left a message on my voice mail inviting me (and his other neighbors) to a barbecue. It was a time when I could not attend. Supposedly he’s going to build a nice house in the forest and move his family from Arkansas to live there (including two teenage boys, so, hijinks).

But there has been other talk too. The man hired to doze the forest told Good Neighbor Craig that he understood the new owner intended to raise pigs. Since part of that property is in the watershed for my lake, that would be a disaster, depending on where the pig lot was situated. The new owner also told Good Neighbor Craig that he wanted to put gates in his fences to allow access to/for all of his neighbors. That may have been just a gesture to seem neighborly, but to me it suggests a fluid understanding of borders and private property.

None of this has transpired — including building the house — though big machines appear on his property when I visit and are then gone on the next visit.

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I mentioned last week that I’m reading Quichotte, and I excerpted a scene of ethnic intolerance on this humble blog. Not many pages after that, the two characters wind up in Beautiful, Kansas, which is a place I’d never heard of. But I soon put the pieces together.

They stop in a restaurant and witness the shooting of three men, two of whom are Indian Americans. Shouts of “Get out of my country” and “Terrorists” are heard. I recognized this and understood that Rushdie was fictionalizing an actual event that happened just down the road from me in a suburb named Olathe.

It turns out Olathe, an American Indian word, translates as “Beautiful.”

gray day – Skywatch Friday

Posted November 22, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Ramblings Off Topic

Ice and even snow, then warm days suitable for biking. Then the next front, bringing down rain from the sky and branches from the trees.

Above is the park I take the dogs to for a half mile walk around the lake. This was on Wednesday, the last mild day for a while it seems. The clouds were already massing for the coming storm.

The lake had been devoid of ducks and geese for more than a month, and I suspect the ones you see above were only passing through.

If you look closely you’ll see to the right of center two floating islands. These are demonstration gardens, plants growing on mesh so that their roots can dangle in the lake water. The idea is that they will take nutrients directly from the water and thus reduce the consistently robust algae bloom that comes each spring/summer. (Due to fertilizer runoff from the nearby homes uphill.)

The gray sky caught my eye, and the dogs paused long enuf for me to take this image.

Visit Skywatch Friday. Post your own images.

“You hatching some kind of scheme?”

Posted November 21, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Rants and ruminations

Tags: ,

I’m currently reading Quichotte by Salman Rushdie. The central character, Quichotte (Quixote) and his wholly imaginary-though-becoming-tangible son, Sancho, are traveling across the country to reach the beloved Salma R (Dulcinea) in New York. Quichotte is a U.S. citizen of Indian extraction — “dot, not feather” he notes — and has dark skin. Because Sancho springs from his imagination, he too has dark skin.

At a campground in Lake Capote, Colorado they are poring over a map to determine their next step and one of the nearby campers sees this and raises a ruckus.

“What is that?” the white lady said, jerking a thumb in the direction of the map. “You hatching some kind of scheme?”

“We are travelers like yourself, Quichotte replied mildly, “so it is not unreasonable that we should map out our route.”

“Where are your turbans and beards?” the white lady asked, her arm extended toward him, an angry finger pointing right at him. “You people wear beards and turbans, right? You shave your faces and take the headgear off to fool us? T u r b a n s,” she repeated slowly, making a swirling turban gesture around her head.

“I think I can say without fear of inaccuracy that I have never worn a turban in my life,” Quichotte replied, with a degree of puzzlement that displeased his interrogator.

“You got a bad foreign look to you,” the white lady said. “Sound foreign too.”

“I suspect few of the campers at Lake Capote are from around here,” Quichotte said, still smiling his increasingly inappropriate smile. “It’s a destination for visitors, is it not? You yourself must have driven some distance to get here?”

“That’s something. You asking me where I’m from. Imma tell you where I’m from. I’m from America. Who knows how you got here. This ain’t a place for you. You shouldn’t be allowed past the border controls. How’d you get in? You look like you come from a country on that no-entry list. You hitch a ride with a Mexican? What you lookin’ for in America? What’s your purpose? That map. I’m not loving that map.”

They manage to escape the campground, but later on they face a similarly hostile crowd at a breakfast diner in Oklahoma. I expect there will be other such incidents as I continue reading the story.

Rushdie never disappoints me.

here and there

Posted November 18, 2019 by Paul Lamb
Categories: Fathers and Sons, Ramblings Off Topic, Roundrock

Tags: , ,

Where have I been that I haven’t made a post for two weeks? Well, here and there, but mostly here, without a lot of motivation.

Two weekends ago — a four-day weekend for me — my wife and I went to Paducah, Kentucky to see my mother. She is not doing well, and all of my (many) siblings are making their farewell visits. She is resigned to what’s coming, and she’s well cared for; her sister and my sister, both nurses, live in town. Still . . .

The drive home from Paducah to Kansas City was harrowing. An early season sleet and snow storm, and ridiculous temperatures for early November in the lower Midwest, meant our drive was pretty much white knuckles the whole way. (My drive, that is. My wife sat in the passenger seat and did the navigating and running commentary on the weather, the road conditions, the wiper blade conditions, the nearness of semis, and whatever else came to mind when she lifted her eyes from the book she was reading (about arrowna fish, of all things!).)

The photo above is what a wheel cover on my truck looked like the next day. The freezing rain had fallen on it, was spun out, and froze like this. The rest of the truck was about the same. All better now, but yikes!

This same sort of thing happened last year when we went down for a film festival and had to come back in a wicked storm.

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On our way down to Paducah, because we were passing only six miles from the cabin, we detoured and made a quick visit. We spent less time there than the detour took to get there and then back to the highway, but it was a nice little chance to see the cabin. (On our way back, we passed again within six miles, but we did not choose to detour off the highway. All we wanted was to fetch the dogs from “camp” and get our tired selves home.)

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However, last weekend, we did make a trip to the cabin. The weather was dry and the sun was out and the temps climbed into the 50s. Plus we had grandson Emmett for an overnight, and we asked him if we wanted to see our cabin. His enthusiasm for this prospect warmed my black and shriveled heart. So we moved his car seat into my truck, packed a day’s worth of gear, squeezed the two dogs in with us, and drove to the cabin.

Emmett had a grand time, in part because Grandma bought him a monster truck to play with when we got there. That’s Emmett you see at the top of the photo, pushing his monster truck up the gravel pile, which proved to be the most interesting feature of the whole place. That’s also another successful one-match fire I made to burn our hot dogs over. (I don’t think I ever need to eat another hot dog in my life.)

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Emmett also found some of the many, many marbles I have scattered in the gravel around the cabin. He collected a few of these and then buried them in the gravel pile, only to “discover” them later.

I’m okay with this. The marbles in the gravel are for whimsey and color, and I hope that as the grands visit the cabin, they will find them and delight in them, just as Emmett did. If they sneak some away in their pockets after a visit, that’s fine with me. (I have plenty more.) Emmett brought these three to me as I sat in the comfy chair on the shady porch overlooking the sparkling lake. Before we left for the day, I returned them to the gravel, but we have a traditional Black Friday visit to the off-the-grid cabin coming up — I refuse to be a Consumer Culture Casualty — and Emmett may “find” them again.

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Yesterday I spent two hours preparing a submission of One-Match Fire for a potential publisher and, due to some unholy state of sin on the part of Submittable, I lost all of the work I did! Microsoft teased me by saying the document was in auto-recovery, but I couldn’t access it, so I just re-did all of the work. I eventually made the submission successfully though I have no idea what my prospects are. I’ve submitted OMF to six publishers/contests, and so far I’ve received two rejections. One must have a thick skin for this business.