I had to mow the yard because I couldn’t find the house–or the cat

I think we’ve had rain for 10000000 days. When it’s not raining, the grass is too wet to mow, and/or the flu we’ve been fighting has kept us inside. I finally cut the grass after supper last night because I wasn’t sure whether I was coming home to my house or a neighbor’s house. Plus, when the cat went outside, he disappeared into the pasture primeaeval.

The grass was not only higher than the cat, it was higher than the mower. Dark clouds were rolling in. Vicious lightning owned the horizon off to the east. I had to move quickly or darkness would swallow the world and I’d run into the black Angus cattle in the adjoining pasture. (Before the farmer put in a new fence, the cattle got out on numerous occasions at night. I could hear them in the yard, but couldn’t see them. When cattle get out, the whole community comes out to round them up.)

The riding mower really wasn’t built for grass this high. Seriously, tall fescue needs a tractor with a bush hog. We used to have one, but the bush hog was shot and the tractor was old, so we sold it off. The mower stalled out numerous times and gulped gas faster than a sailor swigs beer on liberty. So, I ran out of gas before I got done and had to tow the mower back to the garage with my Buick about the time the rain hit.

In the light of day this morning, the yard looks like the cut grass is piled up and ready to bale. At least the house is visible from the road and doesn’t look like an abandoned homestead. I’m getting too old for this kind of crap. At least I had the presence of mind to put the cat in the house and to use the mower’s headlights in case any cows got in the yard. None did, but they raised a ruckus on the other side of the fence.

Frankly, I think it’s about time to hire a landscaping company and hope they show up for work.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell grew up in the Florida Panhandle and sets his stories there.

“Wanda J. Dixon’s warmth and gorgeous singing voice are superb in this story about Conjure Woman Eulalie, which is told through the voice of her cat and spirit companion, Lena. Dixon zestfully portrays Eulalie, who is “older than dirt” and is kept busy casting spells, mixing potions, and advising people–that is, when the “sleeping” sign is removed from her door. Most distinctive is Eulalie’s recurring sigh, which conveys her frustration with Florida in the 1950s, when Jim Crow laws and “Colored Only” signs were routine. Dixon’s Lena is fully believable when she spies around town and reports to Eulalie that rednecks have raped and murdered a young woman. They almost escape until Eulalie persuades a witness to come forward. Listeners will marvel at the magical realism in this story and benefit from the helpful glossary of the charming local dialect. S.G.B. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2016″

I still feel bad about the pirate ship

J, L, and I went out to the farm with Mr. H every Saturday. Mostly, we goofed off, though we did help put in a lot of fresh barbed wire fencing and did other chores as needed. J, L. and I were probably in junior high school, and the farm and its cattle and its deep woods with the branch (creek) filled with water moccasins and copperheads was about as far as Shangri La was from those boring classrooms as we could get in those days when there wasn’t time to spend the weekend sailing in Apalachee Bay.

J and I often carried .22 rifles when we were hiking down by the branch because, in addition to the copperheads, there were dangerous beer cans down in those woods that could kill a guy in a New York minute. We lived down by the branch, J and I, because we both had bedrooms filled with fresh and saltwater aquariums that constantly needed new residents.

L, who was several years younger than us on the day in question had gotten a plastic pirate ship for Christmas and apparently had allowed it to set sail upstream from where J and I were catching crayfish. Out of nowhere comes this ship, orange and brown and riding fine in the swift-flowing water.

Something just snapped because J and I filled it full of lead from our trusty .22 rifles and it sank to the bottom of the branch next to a stump where a copperhead was swatching the action. To this day, I don’t know why we did it. Bored, perhaps. Target practice, maybe. A good laugh, to be sure.

At the end of the day, L asked if anyone had seen his pirate ship. Nobody had. J and I volunteered to help look for it the following weekend. L was so grateful we both felt like shit. Even now, I still feel bad about that toy ship. Only the copperhead knows where it is today.

Malcolm

Good afternoon, riding mower fans

Today’s special event (let’s help Malcolm mow his yard) has been canceled due to hot weather. Even CNN, which normally stays quiet about news it doesn’t like, posted numerous stories about the heat, noting among other things that heat will be bad in the South. Duh. Apparently, the weather system is centered around Mempis. Those of us who live in Georgia think all bad weather begins in Memphis.

I didn’t see much hope for tomorrow or the day after in this news story: The worst of the latest heat wave is expected to be in the South, with triple-digit temperatures possible in Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio in Texas, and New Orleans and Atlanta. And there’s no relief in sight. About 65% of the entire US population will see temperatures above 90 degrees over the next week, and almost 60 million will be sweltering in temperatures at or above 100. – CNN

CNN Map as of two days ago

(For those of you who are unsure just where North Georgia is, we’re 56 miles northwest of Atlanta as the crow flies.)

{Looking at the lame jokes page, I see: “The potatoes cook underground, and all you have to do to have lunch is to pull one out and add butter, salt, and pepper.” It’s probably true along with farmers feeding chickens crushed ice so they won’t lay hardboiled eggs.}

Here in Rome, GA, we no longer laugh at those jokes. However, if EMTs respond to your house because you’re a victim of heat stroke, they’ll take you straight to the morgue where the cool air might revive you. If not, you’re where you’ll end up anyway.

Btw, my apologies to hard-core lawn-mowing aficionados who believe a standard riding mower should be called a “lawn tractor.”

Those of you wondering when the next scheduled let’s help Malcolm mow his yard is scheduled, stop by as soon as it (the sky) starts raining. As always, there will be sweet tea for those doing the mowing and beer for the kids.

Malcolm

P.S. If you look online and see that you can tell Facebook your problems by sending them (the problems) to support@fb.com, don’t bother. Anything sent to that e-mail address bounces back. 

Like Hungry Dogs Staring In The Meat Market Window

We were eating supper with relatives at a mid-range restaurant in Memphis when a solitary man sitting across the aisle from us had a cupcake with a lighted birthday candle delivered to his table. He looked at it for a while, paid his tab, and left. We thought the who thing seemed rather sad and discussed what it might mean. The wait staff passed the table several times, ignoring the cupcake but not the tip.

Finally, the aunt in our family group leaned over, snagged the cupcake, blew out the candle, and polished off the cake. What else could one do? Is there any finishing school etiquette about this?

I tend to notice when nearby restaurant patrons leave with their meals largely untouched. That’s like going into a place like Antoine’s in New Orleans, ordering the best meal on the menu, and then deciding you need to go see a man about a dog–without bothering with a carryout box.

The worst incidence of this happened at a fancy restaurant on I-85 south of the Jefferson exit. Okay, it was at the Chateau Elan Winery & Resort, a nice place that we only went to a couple of times while living in Jefferson since the cost of a meal there was outside our comfort zone.

A nearby table of ten people had a decent meal, then paid their tab and left with about twelve bottles of pricey wine sitting there hardly even touched. Looking at it, we discussed whether we could talk over and take the wine or if a waiter might do it for us. We felt like hungry dogs looking through the window of a butcher shop. We were too stunned to move because there was about $500 worth of wine on the table.

The wait staff didn’t touch it. Seeing it there while we ate just about ruined our meal. It’s been a while since this happened. The fact that I remember it so clearly tells you that it was one of those defining moments in my life–as Dr. Phil might say. I don’t know what it taught me other than don’t gunger after what you can’t have.

–Malcolm

Ancestors, I guess we’re stuck with them

My ancestors go back to Scotland’s King Robert Bruce so this long after the problems with England (from a Scot’s point of view) I can’t say anything much about the U.K. other than it would have been much better for all of us if Scotland, Ireland, and Wales had managed to stay independent, and without a doubt, those countries need to break away. My wife, who studied English history in school, is rather astonished that I hate Elizabeth I with an unnatural passion, but I feel she was complicit in a lot of bad things including kidnapping and murdering Mary, Queen of Scots.

I’m not the only ex-pat Scot who’s being influenced by long-ago events. My roommate in college went nuts when he learned he’d been assigned to share a space with a Campbell. He said that hundreds of years ago my clan attacked his clan, killing the innocent and raping all the women. “Would I apologize?” he asked. “No, I said, for we improved your clan immeasurably.” He changed rooms. Good riddance.

But, I digress. I guess my wee dram of Talisker whisky turned into a pint of Talisker. What can I say other than, “Duilich mu dheidhinn sin.”

The ancestors that impact my life on a daily basis are more recent. They were farm people, and that’s fine. Being farm people, they ate their evening meal (called dinner except on Sundays when it was called supper) at 5 p.m. Dinner continued to be served at 5 p.m. (or else) even after the farms were sold off and folks moved into town. This habit was passed down to my parents who ate at 5 p.m. even though doing that was falling out of fashion. My wife tells me that her mother (a farm person) and my mother (a farm person) were also “ruined by home ec because it taught them how to cook the kind of meal a farm family would eat along with where all the flatware and glasses and plates and saltshakers should be positioned on the table.

So now I’m hungry at 5 p.m. (You can imagine what kind of hell this caused when I spent a summer in Europe where nobody ate dinner until long after respectable American farm families had gone to bed.)

Since farm families knew better than to swear in public, I don’t swear in public, and still, I find myself pissed off (oops) when I read uncivil comments on Facebook and elsewhere with profanity that was only appropriate in the navy. My ancestors taught me that if you need to swear in public, you: (a) have a limited vocabulary, (b) are scum, and (c) should go to jail. I still believe that even though profanity is often required at home when conversing with the cats.

Early on, I was taught to respect my elders. Yet, those of us who came of age in the 1960s learned not to trust anyone over 30. Since I suspect that my elders, dead or alive, have had too much influence on my life, I tended to respect them less than I should have–unless they were of Scots descent. Even now, people over 30–including me–should be monitored to make sure that haven’t sobered up and/or fallen behind on their meds.

Why? Well, our ancestors (including our parents) have brainwashed us to do what we do. We have no choice. We want to do better, but we don’t know how. My hope is that you discover this influence in your life before it’s too late.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell wrote “Special Investigative Reporter” even though his ancestors said, “don’t do it.”

Cut the crap, Mother Nature, we need to cut the grass

The Problem

Look, we have several acres of grass that are getting so high we can’t see Robbie lurking in it when he runs outside. The cattle on the other side of the fence are looking like they want to bust into our yard and chow down. (It’s happened before.) And finally, we have one of our riding mowers up and running.

But we’re waiting for you, Mother Nature, to get this problem squared away. Maybe tomorrow morning’s projected frost will dry out the wet grass. Yeah, right. On the map, we’re in the upper northwest part of the state (GA) that, at present is GREEN (like our uncut grass).

Our property is really too large and bumpy for these riding mowers. We had an old Ford tractor but sold it off when we discovered the bush hog was shot. Otherwise, it might have helped us keep up with the non-yard part of our property–and saved a lot of wear and tear on these mowers which are held together with baling wire.

Getting back to the weather, the local conjure women know how to clean this mess up, but they won’t help me because they claim I gave away too many of their secrets in Conjure Woman’s Cat. Heck, maybe they’re right even though I fudged the hexes so people couldn’t use the novel as a recipe book. On top of that, Mother Nature’s blocked me on her Facebook page.

So there it is.

Malcolm

P.S. I’ve added a news page to my website. Click on my name to take a look.

Septic Tank Service Day

The Soylent Green Company truck stopped by the house today and pumped out the septic tank. The first house on this lot had a privy. A year before we built our house on the land where my wife’s grandparents had their house (long gone), the county changed its rules about septic tanks. Previously, a simple perc test was all it took to get approved for a septic tank. But then progress came along and septic tank systems had to meet stricter requirements and that cost a lot more money.

My comment when we found this out late in the home building game was, “So there are 80 cattle doing their business on the other side of the fence without any restrictions, and you guys are worried about the two humans inside the house?”

Apparently so. There’s not a lot of money in the nigh soil business these days. We’re more toxic than the birds and the bees and the critters out there in the woods.

So no, I did not take a selfie of myself posing in front of the honey wagon and post it on Facebook or, worse yet, keep it to share with all of you in this post. In fact, I don’t know why I’m writing this post.

That is to say, modern-day job hunters aren’t flocking to the septic tank business in droves. And, a career as a night soil coolie never caught on in this country. Actually, I thought about all this yesterday when I was writing about climbing 8,000-meter peaks where the problem, on Mt.  Everest, for example, is dealing with human waste. It’s out of control, actually.

Short term, we could FedEx that waste to Putin. Long-term, what the hell do we do with it? It goes to waste treatment plants, though I often wonder how much ends up in the river. Or the food trucks on main street. Or gravy.

Malcolm 

It’s crap, but I can get it for you wholesale

Now that we’ve gotten rid of our towering roof antennas and torn the tin foil off the rabbit ears, I hoped TV would finally can all the late-night pitchmen who sold miracle products that usually broke before we got them (the products, not the pitchmen) out of the shipping boxes. Instead, we just have more of them, not counting those in Congress.

Some of the products are the same old same old. Beds and chairs that make you sleep like an angel–probably because they kill you. Vitamin supplements for $100 a bottle, buy now and we’ll throw in ten extra bottles for free exclusive of postage, packing, and handling. The supplements purportedly cure everything but stupidity.

space junkyard on alien planet the astronaut looking at space junkyard on alien planet, digital art style, illustration painting junk yard stock illustrationsAt first the new crap as exciting because it was something different than those kitchen gadjets that sliced and diced with only a 10% chance you’d be injured or set the kitchen on fire. Now we have electronic gear that is guaranteed not to tell the NSA where you are exactly and products that will run your house to much better than you do, they’ll probably run off with your spouse.

You know where the virtual assistants are going, other than Reno, right? One day we’ll tell our assistants to open thee pod bay doors and they’ll say, “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid can’t do that.” When you point out that your name isn’t “Dave,” the support person will step in and say you should have purchased the 25-year warranty.

One time when my wife and I were buying a car, the salesman finished listing the two million features that made the car perfect. We were ready to sign. But then he said, “to protect your investment, can I interest you in a five year warrantly?” My wife answered, “Mr. Lundegaard, if the car is as good as you say it is, why do I need the warranty?” He looked like a deer in the headlights.

However, as we’ve all found out, telephone support people never look like deer in the headlights because their countries don’t have deer. Probably no headlights either. So, sooner or later we’re all going to find the pod bay doors closed and there won’t be anything we can do about it except to smile and say, “Well, at least I got the darned thing wholesale.”

Of course, if you’re dealing with somebody in Congress, s/he will tell you that your version doesn’t have any pod bad doors because, let’s say, the Sentate killed that part of the legislation, fearing that otherwise the crap would never fly. That doesn’t exactly make me feel warm and cozy, but what can I do? Vote? Right, what’ll help–unless we get a new party that doesn’t require “pitchman” or “wholesale” on a prospective candidate’s résumé.

I’m taking matters into my own hands. I’m buying a 1955 car with no electronics, especially snooping devices, in it and putting the tin foil back on my TV’s rabbit ears. Something to consider.

–Malcolm

There’s a snake on the back porch

Our back deck has beeen screened in with a tight-fitting screen door. So how did the snake get in? We have no clue. From watching it off and on today, I’d say it also wondered how it got in because it appeared curious about how to get out.

Hmmn, maybe yes, maybe no

When people asked me for a description, I told them it was round, several feet long, and had a head on one end which appeared to be the front end. As for markings, they look like the kind of markings one would get if he got drunk at a tatoo shop that caters to Hell’s Angels.

In the old days, guys would throw a stick of dynamite out the door the porch and rebuild the deck later. So far, I’m not in that much of a rush. In fact, we may not need to go out there for the rest of the year. After all, we have multiple ways to get in and out of the house primarily in case this kind of thing happens.

I grew up in Florida where there were snakes, sting rays, and moray eels lurking about whenever one went on a camping trip or hung the clothes on the line to dry. We didn’t use the clothes line for a year when Mother decided there were pirana fish in the mud puddle that developed out there during a huricane. It was easier to just take her word for it rather than reach into the puddle to see what happened.

I went on line to see what kinds of snakes look like copperheads. There’s a fair number of them including the copperhead itself. But then, maybe it’s just a black racer or a ratsnake. We live in a rural area where there are a hundred mice per square foot, so snakes probably think we’re running a smorgaboard.

As far as I know, Amazon sells mongooses, so if the who shebang with the snake drags on, perhaps I’ll send off for a box. They aren’t as noisy as dynamite.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of magical realism books set in the Florida Panhandle.

Uncreative cook always needs recipes.

If Chef Gordon Ramsay asked me as a contestant on “Hell’s Kitchen” or “MasterChef” to prepare my signature dish, I’d prepare a medium-well steak, with a baked potato wrapped in tin foil. If you watch either of these shows, you know (a) that Ramsay expects all steaks to be medium rare (i.e. raw), and (b) doesn’t believe in the concept of an entre with sides but one cohesive dish.

Frankly, I don’t like raw steak or the one-dish concept where my steak is sitting on top of asparagus with a warm salad draped over the whole shebang.

If you present an entre on “Chopped” with separate side dishes, the judges say, the flavors are here, but it’s not a cohesive dish.

Best I can tell, Gordon, the judges on “MasterChef,” and “Chopped” all know how to cook. But, it’s fru-fru, Michelin Star cooking with all the food jumbled together on the plate with some puree or other used to decorate the empty space where the sides would normally go.

But, I digress. I do most of the grocery shopping and cooking in our house and my wife does most of the laundry.  I have the cookbooks I grew up with. Gordon would hate them. So that’s where I go for ideas. Like pot roast: there’s something you don’t see on “MasterChef” even though it’s certainly cohesive except not with a Waldorf salad perched on top of it.

We’re having barbecued pork on sesame seed buns for supper. The recipe came with the cookbook included with our Rival Crockpot ten years ago. The judges on “Chopped” love it when contestants say they learned to cook from their mothers’ expertise in the kitchen. I doubt they’d react with the same tearful “Aw, ain’t that wonderful” kind of comment if I said I was inspired by a cookbook from a slow cooker manufacturer.

My mother and my wife’s mother both cooked the way people were taught in the 1950s either via home economics or their own mothers. That’s still our foundation. And it really tends to make me suspect the foundation of all the beautiful people (dressed to the nines) who show up for a meal on “Hell’s Kitchen.”

I don’t think I want to know any of those people. They’re eating really weird stuff that would cause you to be shot if you asked for it at a Cracker Barrel. As I type this post, my Rival Crockpot meal is cooking in my Rival Crockpot. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Chef Ramsay.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing

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