Shenandoah Nat'l Park

VA Farm Bureau



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Sunshine Since They Gone
They just upped and left. Right after I took that group shot, the next day they was gone. Chicks high tailed it. They out there somewhere but I can't see them. I can't say its quieter without them. They didn't make much noise. Mother and father gone too. There a bull across the road crows every morning. Ain't no roosters around to speak of but there is that bull. Man raises bulls out there behind my head.

The nest was made of pine needles and was constructed in no time. There is no time like the present. It had a roof and a cavernous space with a side entry. You can see all the way back into it now. There a few little slits up top that let in some light. There is nothing in there now to absorb it.
- jimlouis 7-21-2007 4:27 pm [link]
Days Of Independence
The eminent professor doctor came down from the city and tried to spot some interesting birds out here during the week of July 4th but excepting the Indigo Bunting pair did not see as many interesting birds as he may have had we taken him off property into the Shenandoah wilderness. Bernadette on at least three occasions suggested to the group, hey let's take a hike, but the group evidently thought that she had said let's stick blunt rusty nails in our feet and walk to the Department of Motor Vehicles to have our license photos redone. After a few days he'd drank all he could drink, I mean done all he could do out here and hopped into the first BMW heading north. A day or two later wandering aimlessly around the estuaries near Coney Island he spotted a Heron from Africa that may have been spotted by others in the few days preceding but he was the first to get a photo. This bird has perhaps been seen on the east coast in the last few years but never before officially reported in the state of New York. So this is a pretty damn big deal and so to speak a fine feather in the cap of the eminent professor doctor.

As much as I need my license photo redone I did not feel like hiking the first time Bernadette suggested it after the exodus of the entire group. And she did not feel like it when I suggested it later. Finally on her last day here we went for a hike out near Old Rag. We followed the Hughes River. It was very low. But it still made noise and when we could not see it we could hear it. Along the trail it was buggy. We did not bring repellant. The gnats, oh the damn gnats. I took one in the eyeball right off. The gnats were like gnats hovering near a hiker's face. Those gnats, what a nuisance. We saw no other humans. Which is to say we could have worn pith helmets with netting and not been laughed at. But we don't have those. The tiny gnat floats on the air near your eyeballs and darts to and fro but no one is sure why except gnatologists and other people who study gnats as a hobby. We tried unsuccessfully to be like an Alaskan nature guide/pilot we had seen ignoring gnats hovering by the hundreds around his face in a movie about a man who loved bears too much and was finally eaten by one. The pilot liked the bear lover but other people did not and said as much in the movie about the bear lover's life done by a premier foreign filmmaker.

Bernadette stopped on the trail and with her index finger pulled her lower lid way down and asked me, is there a gnat in my eye? There was not. But, as I told her, there was one trying to get in there while she ask me was there one already in there. Later she paused and shook her head and said, I just got one up the nose. I felt sorry for her but did not let on. She is not one to be daunted by nose gnats and does not need me feeling sorry for her. You may be saying, with that nose of yours how did you not get one up the nose? Just lucky I guess. I got bossy with her on the drive in and said spit out that gum and drink this Gatorade. She didn't really want to but she did it anyway. I was driving and silently gloating a little, saying to myself, ha, made you drink that Gatorade.

Later, after we shattered our record for that trail and had endured 7 or 8 miles of gnats we drove for food and had an organic beef burrito and a grilled salmon wrap at a local organic grocers. Bernadette tried to make me buy vegetables for myself for after she was gone but I fought her on it. Just before I relented she threw a bag of something green on the counter and rattled off simple directions that included salt and olive oil, a complete moron could manage it her tone was telling me and I fell for it.

The train out of Culpeper was 4 hours late but we had checked ahead and shaved off three of those hours lollygagging around Mt. Pleasant. We sat in the Jeep and listened to music and some comedians who were not extremely funny. I was pretending to be bored because I did not know what else to do. Bernadette said I could leave her there but I in not so many words told her that was the dumbest idea she had come up with since her idea to stick blunt rusty nails in our feet and walk to the DMV. There were two freight train false alarms and then the real deal and she got on the 50 out of here. I came back to Mt. Pleasant and took some photos of the sky.
- jimlouis 7-13-2007 5:50 am [link]
- jimlouis 7-12-2007 5:32 am [link]
The Requesting BC
Mr. BC read a news article about the Sprint company denying continued service to one thousand of its 50 million customers because those one thousand were calling for customer service too often. He was in some inexplicable way moved by this--what I can only guess he considered--unfair treatment and has requested that I comment on it.

I am a Sprint Customer. I have no complaints. The service works better than I need it to. I think people who call customer service more than once should be not just deprived of service but shot (in the kneecaps). If I could use my phone any less I would. I only have a 300 minute plan but I wish I had rollover minutes because then I would have 27,000 minutes in the bank, which I could then perhaps trade in for S&H green stamps which I could then trade in for products. Household products like a lamp. Or toys like a genuine floating boat. Or sporting goods like a badminton set or lawn darts, be careful you don't pierce the skull of your little brother.

I was having dinner the other night with friends, at that restaurant up the road a piece. It is the one that has outdoor seating within view of a cemetery and offers, depending on the climate and circumstance, the wafting odor of a septic system gone wrong. We discussed over dinner and drinks the usual subjects, a little news, a little he's the worst president in the history of people giving a damn about presidents, and perverse--or if you are into it, absolutely normal--sexual practices like men having intercourse with horses, people who dress up like bunnies and other furry animals in the course of sexual fun, and people who dress up like babies. You mean dressing up like Catholic school girls in those short skirts and white knee highs sort of thing? No, like dressing up in diapers sort of thing. Oh, I said. How I longed for simpler times when dinner conversation did not stray too far from septic systems.

If I were needing to blame someone for this straying of conversation away from the prosaic I would blame Sprint. But please do not disconnect me Sprint. I need to have a response when people ask me for a phone number. I prefer that people phrase the question--what is your phone number?, instead of where can you be reached because I am confused by the latter.
- jimlouis 7-08-2007 7:27 pm [link]
The Hermetically Challenged Moon Afflicted Mute
- jimlouis 6-28-2007 3:01 pm [link]
- jimlouis 6-23-2007 5:57 am [link]
How Many Sir?
I felt emboldened by the location of the national chain restaurant, a joint advertised for all my life as a hip and friendly and fun place to eat. And not just for the those who mistakenly saw themselves as terminally hip, but for the whole family. Situated as it was across from the new Target in a small but growing Virginia town, I was able to convince myself that it would not be as all out a frightening experience as I remembered from 30 years previous, in Dallas, where the branding of hipness, while not a new thing, was still in its nascent stages as applied to chain restaurants. There was back then the incentive for employees to be individuals, within a strictly defined framework. This forced individuality was as often as not demonstrated badly, and left you nodding and smiling at people you neither agreed with nor felt friendly towards. These Virginia country employees would be from a simpler--and therefore in my mind, better--stock. They wouldn't be so perky and eager and annoying and robotically friendly. There might be bits of hay lodged in the cuffs of their pants. And the training manual would have gone through its necessary maturation process in 30 years. Time had made some fun of the original model. I was arriving early to beat the lunch rush. There was no hostess at the hostess station. The air felt sticky. There was a bar to the left and the room was gi-normous, made for a crowd. It was by itself bigger than many restaurants. I caught the bartender's eye. He was no fresh faced youngster. His skin was etched with the creases of a life lived outside the box, a life that did not proceed along the lines laid out in manuals. His eyes told tales. We acknowledged each other, two old gunslingers, one who would pour drinks for the next several hours, the other a bit lost, lacking definition, not even sure where he had left his gun, who came only to eat, before shopping next door for a washer/dryer combo.

How many sir? I'd been flanked. There is only me, I said. It struck me that those were the first words I had spoken out loud in four days. I should have practiced. You can't get through life just nodding, or, when forced to speak, blurting out oddly phrased bits. I could have said, I am alone, but frankly, the melodramatic is rarely appropriate. I will be dining by myself young lady. No, absolutely not, that would not work, I am an aging gunslinger, not a proper English gentleman. I think, "just me" would work (should there ever be a next time), delivered with sincerity and a dash of understated optimism. I was seated at a table for two, where I could only hope the extra seat would not be temporarily used by the wait-person, my long lost best friend just stopping by to rest a spell and take my order. He would in my nightmare spin the chair around backwards and fold his arms across the seat back. Is it any wonder I cry out with regularity in my dreams--"shit!"

Actually two waiters showed up and politely battled for the right to serve me, each in their own inimitable fashion.

I was handed a menu by the winning waiter and then he disappeared. The menu was responding to the sticky air by being sticky. I don't think it was unclean but I wasn't ruling that out. There were so many choices and the choices had catchy names that made me pause and wonder, and then cringe. I would choose to not join, to be apart from this hip and fun national chain, by ignoring all these choices and ordering a cheeseburger and fries and ice-tea. My waiter came and I wanted to get down to business. I wanted to skip a step. I only wanted to eat and skedaddle, I did not come for the "experience." He wanted me to have one of their signature margaritas, but failing to convince me that a margarita before noon was a good idea, still wanted me to wait before ordering. He would bring my tea first and some silverware. I said thank you. He came back a few minutes later and asked me if I had decided, knowing damn well that I had decided three minutes ago. I was not angry. He was a nice kid. I placed my order and then stared at the ceiling, and the fixtures, and inspected some nearby caulking. Have you been waited on sir? I have, yes I have, thank you, I said. I continued to inspect my immediate surroundings with what I think appeared to be inexhaustible fascination. Until I exhausted myself and was forced to stare down into the depths of my being. Everything all right sir? (Uh, I don't know, isn't it? I don't really feel qualified to answer that question, I mean everything? Are you kidding? Is everything all right? I should say not, but...), Oh yes, fine, thank you, I said.

Finally I glanced over at the only other guy sitting in the section. I did not make eye contact, but nodded, internally, it's just you and me fella.

My food came, thank you, I said. Yes, you will be the first person I let know if I need anything else, yes, I will, thank you.

It was all edible.

What? Oh Lord, huh? Yes, I'm good, thank you.

A drill sergeant came up the isle and while passing barked, how was it, sir? I squeaked back at her, the best, thank you.

When the waiter brought the check I gave him a twenty before he could put it down on the table. I will be right back with your change, sir. He brought the change and informed me that he had rounded off the bill in my favor. What could I say? I said, thank you.

I stood in front of the washers and dryers, paralyzed. I opened up each washer and looked inside and felt nothing. Was I supposed to feel something? I did not know. After awhile I began to worry that a salesman was going to approach me. I had used up every iota of my self just having lunch. I would not be able to engage with anyone else today. A pity really. The machines were all so shiny. This was in a big home improvement store so I just wandered off and looked at a wide variety of items. After roaming the same aisles repeatedly I realized that it was unlikely that I would buy anything that day so I just came home.
- jimlouis 6-21-2007 2:31 am [link]
Scientific Fact
Eh-uh-yeah-r I have partially filled a quart ziplock bag with water and nailed it over the main doorway coming into the cottage, to deter flies from entering the house. It is a proven scientific fact that the shear absurdity of such a tactic will scare away not only flies but timid human beings as well. There are many theories on why doing this will keep flies and timid human beings from entering your home. Or I assume there are. I don't really know of a single theory that explains it convincingly, nor am I even remotely curious enough to search for a so-called answer on the World Wide Web. I can though say this: every time I pause and think about that bag of water over my door I want to flee this house and distance myself from the foolishness it represents. And but for my loyalty to the law of inertia I would. As backup I possess both a fly-swatter and an attitude which on occasion can be tolerant of flies and other pests.
- jimlouis 6-17-2007 7:37 pm [link]
Fox In The Hayfield
Similar to a guerrilla farmer watering weed off the grid, this last week before the rain I was hauling trash cans full of water in the back of the Polaris (which is like a 4-wheeler on steroids) out to the hay field behind the bocce court to water 5 newly planted 15 foot tall willow oaks. I was siphoning out the water using 10 foot sections cut from an old garden hose. There is a Zen-like quality to time spent in a hayfield under the late afternoon sun waiting for water to drain from a fifty-gallon trash can into a heavy mulch ring around the base of a willow oak tree. Bernadette joined me on one of these trips and I went pssst but she could not hear me. Hey, psssst, I said again, making barely any noise at all. Clearly she was ignoring me in favor of staring off under the late afternoon sun into the near distance at a small cemetery on the property's edge. As it was fairly important news I risked all by raising my voice, and said, hey Bernadette, there is a fox, and when she said where I said right in front of you. It wasn't really right in front of her. It was about 10 feet away and to the left. We were both very still. The hay in the immediate area surrounding the five trees was pretty well beat down. We weren't hiding from the fox and the fox wasn't hiding from us. It was hot, sunny and still. Bernadette had brought us mint juleps and the ice in them melted while we watched the fox, first come closer--close enough at five feet away to scare me a little--and then move away to the mulch ring of another tree, a safe distance of twenty-five feet or so, where it commenced to lollygag, nibble on shredded bark bits, and do playful swivel-hip maneuvers in the new soft and smelly bedding.
- jimlouis 6-15-2007 5:00 pm [link]
- jimlouis 6-13-2007 4:02 am [link]