rancherwriterpoet

Poetry, musings, reflections, life

Archive for the month “July, 2011”

Pogonotomy

Pogonotomy-A Male Rite of Passage

I cut myself shaving the other day. That isn’t too unusual for me. I am old school, in that I still use a shaving cream and a blade to scrape the fuzz from my face. My choice of cream is actually a gel. My razor of choice is (notice the plug here) a “Gillette Mach 3”.

I did my research and discovered that since the first man arrived on the earth, he has had to decide whether to grow a beard or take it off. Cavemen used pieces of sharpened flint, clamshells and even shark’s teeth. It doesn’t say how they acquired the teeth. My decision would have been to grow a beard.

Sometime during the Bronze Age, they began making primitive razors of iron, bronze and even gold. The ancient Greeks used iron blades with a long handle and developed the “cut-throat” razor. In 1900, most men were either shaved by the local barber (your trusted confidante, wielding a cut-throat razor), or periodically at home when required, rather than regularly. (Notice the “when required” bit)

Around 1901, King Camp Gillette invented the safety razor with disposable blades. He gave away the razors to encourage men to purchase the blades. Do you ever notice that the razor blade companies practically give away the razors? Hummmmm…                      So there you have it, a brief history of the razor. I think this piece qualifies as educational, don’t you?

Anyway, all that got me to thinking about the first time I ever shaved. I’m not as old school as my stepfather, who used a Gillette double edge blade with a shaving brush. Seems I recall that he used a type of bar soap and the more he stirred the brush in the mug the more lather he got. However, I was lad of thirteen when he came into my life. I never had the privilege of being tutored in the fine art of shaving. It was a trial and error for me. And that did not come until much later as you shall see below.

I’m also not as old school as my grandfather, who used a straight edge or cut-throat razor (see above) although I do remember the razor strap he used to sharpen his razor, among other things. My grandfather also had a shaving brush and mug. In fact, I have that old mug to this day. I think it must be over a hundred years old.

Now my son is not old school at all. He uses an electric shaver. Mr. Schick invented the electric razor around 1921. I tried them when I was younger but they were too “cutting edge” for me. Just doesn’t have the right feel. Besides, it doesn’t seem right to shave while you are driving down the road.

Shaving is a true manly art. It is a rite of passage into manhood. Many a “little shaver” has stood beside his father with his own “razor” and shaving cream. It was practice. You know, practice makes perfect. I do not recall my son standing beside me as I shaved. I’m sorry about that. It is a memory I missed and regret.

My first shaving experience began when I entered the U.S. Navy at the ripe old age of seventeen. I was the proverbial 108-pound weakling. Barely snuck in, as the minimum weight was 105. Now that I think about it, I believe the recruiter had his foot on the scales. Anyway, I had never shaved a day in my life. There was nothing on my face to scrape off. At least that is what I thought until Chief Petty Officer Amadei, my boot camp drill instructor, told me otherwise. To this day, I can remember his exact words.      “There will no recruit in my Navy with peach fuzz on his face”.                              

He spoke these words on my very first morning inspection. I remember standing at the end of my bunk at attention, in my skivvies. (Underwear for those of you who do not understand navy lingo, they did not fit either, too big). This clearly was meant to embarrass me, which it did.

There was a slight problem. I had not brought a razor with me. However, Chief Amadei fixed me up. He loaned me one. I think it had a used blade and on my tender face, it completely worn out my skin. At the risk of incurring the wrath of Chief Amadei, I practically begged him to allow me to purchase one at the commissary. He finally relented and sent me to the supply store. I was very grateful and my skin thanked him.

To this day, I believe I began shaving at too early of an age. I kinda liked “peach fuzz”. I tried growing a beard once, but not much ever sprouted. I did manage to cultivate a mustache. I kept it. At least I do not have to shave above my lip. Danger lurks  there.

That’s my story of when and how I learned to shave. You probably have some stories of your own. I would be interested in hearing all about them. For you ladies, I’m sure a few of you also have stories about the first time you began scraping your knees or under your arms. I probably maybe would like to hear about them. Maybe. OK, maybe not. Oh, what the heck. Help me out, guys.

In case you are wondering about Pogonotomy, look it up. After all, this is an educational piece.

Have a great day.

The Information Age

The Information Age

I am sitting at my computer, trying to pick a subject for my next blog. I happened to look up at the books on my shelf. The first one that caught my eye was “Breeding Dogs for Dummies”.

That is an interesting title. Over the years, I have seen many such books. In fact, over 1600 titles have been published and is a worldwide success in many different languages. The original “For Dummies” book was published in 1991 as “DOS for Dummies” to help the majority of computer illiterates such as myself, understand DOS. I never made the connection.

“Breeding Dogs for Dummies” was an asset when my first experience with a canine pregnancy came in the winter of 2010/2011. The book is not written for dogs, rather for “dummies” like me. Besides, I don’t think dogs need any information on breeding. I kind of thought they had that firmly entrenched in their behavior.

The next book I saw was one titled “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Poetry”. This book is written in the same vein of “For Dummies”. In fact the guide that brought the series to popularity was The Complete Idiot’s Guide to DOS , covering the same subject.

According to Wikipedia, DOS, short for “Disk Operating System”, is an acronym for several closely related operating systems that dominated the IBM PC compatible market between 1981 and 1995. I noticed that the United States has a DOS system. It is called the United States Department Of State. See the similar theme here? That seems to be a closely related operating system that dominates… sorry, I got off on another subject.

Since I dabble in writing poetry, I use the …Idiot’s Guide… book quite a bit. It is very informative and written in such language that even an “idiot” like me can understand. Apparently, idiots and dummies are related.

Among my book collection is a Dictionary and Thesaurus. I also, have a rhyming dictionary. These do not get as much use as they used to. With the click of a mouse, I can pull up a Thesaurus or a dictionary, and http://www.rhymezone.com . This is invaluable because it is so much faster.

I think back to the times when I did every bit of my writings with a pen and a journal, using the familiar books to correct my spelling, definitions and grammar. I did use a typewriter infrequently, however, I was never proficient at typing. Too many mistakes. Nowadays, with spell-check, it is much easier to correct my work.

I see that I have numerous telephone books, many out of date. I wonder why I keep them. Some are for areas in which I do not live. I can’t destroy them, though, I might want to look up an old acquaintance in that area. Forget that I can also look up numbers, area codes, etc. on the computer.

My wife recently received an Amazon Kindle as a gift. This is one of those EBook readers. You can purchase books, magazines, newspapers, etc., to read from the screen. You can even download free books. And It has its own light. You can read in the bed and not disturb your partner.

Saves a lot of time, too. You don’t have to turn a page, or bend a page over to mark your place. you don’t need a book mark. It is going to save a lot of trees. I suppose the people who make bookmarks will lose their jobs, but ain’t technology wonderful. (spell-check says “ain’t” ain’t a word)

My bookshelf has many interesting books. I suppose I could choose a book, read it and write a book report. Seems, that is what got me interested in writing in the first place. Reading a book! I recall, back in the day, That is what we did. Read a book and write a book report. Mrs. Springfield, my old English teacher, God rest her soul, spurred me to read. While I sometimes neglected to follow her advice, I’m thankful she did.

Do I resent the modern ways. Probably! Will I change and revert back to those times. Probably…not.

In the meantime, read this modern version of an electronic marvel, but on occasion, check your own bookshelf, pick up an old book, sit back and relax as you turn the pages one at a time. In case you have forgotten how,  I suggest you begin this way,                 “You place the book flat on a table, title side up, and spin it around until you can read the title. If your neck is painful or uncomfortable, try spinning the book around a little more”. Now you’re getting the picture. Don’t break the spine. It ruins the book.

Have a great day.

Dig Another Hole

The last time I posted to this blog, the subject was, “Who Stole the Time?” I can tell you, someone did. Since that time, my lovely wife has spent a week in Kentucky with her mother, I have began a remodel of a bathroom, the heat has gone up threefold, eighteen straight days of over 100º, who knows for how long, and the air conditioner went out right in the middle of the bath remodel. Fortunately, it was only a faulty thermostat, easily replaceable, of course for a charge.

The downside is that the electricity usage is increasing at an enormous rate. I may have been better off not having the air conditioner repaired. Certainly, financially better off. I read where the energy companies are urging consumers to cut back. I did not listen. I repaired the A/C. There was some good news during this time. During her absence my wife left a generous supply of pie to help me “cool off”. That certainly takes the edge off of the heat.

Our small pond in the back of the house has gone completely dry. Weeds are growing in the bottom. Isn’t it curious how weeds can survive with no visible means of moisture? About the only thing around our home to mow is the bottom of the pond. As the pond began drying up, I erected a barrier fence around it to keep the dogs out of what was left of muddy water. This apparently trapped a rather large turtle inside and I helped him escape. The last time I saw him, he was making his way toward the neighbor’s pond. In this weather, he won’t stay long there either. I can visualize him making his way from pond to pond, as each one dries up. I’m afraid he won’t find much moisture unless he heads for Seattle.

The frogs long ago departed for greener pastures, well, some departed for the dog’s water bowls. I retrieved one from a water dish only this morning. He couldn’t hop out and the dog wouldn’t eat him. Now they seem to have actually departed to that great fishpond in the sky.

In reference to the dogs, I probably should explain, we have a kennel where we raise standard poodles, currently, ten dogs. Each has their own 5 x 15 foot kennel enclosure on a concrete slab with a covering over the top for shade. Each pen has its own misting system and sleeping quarters inside a small building. Each building has a fan for cooling. One could say they lead a dog’s life. Because we have the back acre totally fenced, we allow the dogs a time of exercise outside the pens twice daily. Several dogs enjoyed jumping in the water when we had water. This is why I erected the barrier fence around the pond for they also enjoyed the mud.

There are benefits to a drought, be they few. First, I do not have to mow nearly as often. In fact, there are areas where there is nothing to mow except, of course, the bottom of the pond. I saw on the television, news of a huge dust storm in Arizona. I could duplicate that if I mowed any other part of the back area. There is that area around the aerobic system that stays green. I t looks rather odd, a small circle of green in the vastly desert-looking back yard. Gives new meaning to “crop circles.”

The influx of grasshoppers helps keep what little grass we have down to a nub. I have noticed they also like to get in the water dishes. However, the dogs refuse to help them out and you can guess what happens next. One can treat the areas for the little creatures, but they are like roaches in an apartment building. They just move.

I also notice, the gophers and moles seem to have migrated to other parts of the country. Since our land is mostly sand, when the ground has moisture, they have many opportunities to tunnel and build their little mounds. When it is dry, as it is now, they cannot tunnel successfully. Their tunnels cave in. Thus, they move on to another location. That’s all well and good. The gopher baits I used to decrease their population seemed to increase them anyway.

When the spring began, there seemed to be an abundance of snakes. Basically, three types of snakes enjoy our home place. The dreaded water moccasin, the copperhead and the king snake. The first two are poisonous and the king snake is a beneficial animal. However, around here we subscribe to the theory that the only good snake is a dead snake. The drought has succeeded in relocating all three varieties.

There may be a few other benefits to a drought, just I cannot think of any additional thoughts. However, I can, think of a number of things I can do before it eventually rains again. When I lived in west Texas, we had a saying, “Neighbor up, dig another hole.” This simply means that in the flash prone areas of West Texas, be prepared for when water does come. Get together and dig another pond for it will help out during the next drought. So, I leave you with this poem: titled, naturally, Neighbor Up, Dig Another Hole. One could also call it “Complaining”

Neighbor Up, Dig Another Hole

I mused just the other day 

about too much rain. 

This coming from someone 

who week before last 

Complained… 

about the lack of rain.  

I mused then that 

Grasses wouldn’t grow,

Humidity was low

Skin was dry and

I Complained…

About the lack of rain.

And then it rained! 

 I mused then about

The satellite dish going 

on and off with too much rain. 

And it drowns the grasses and

I Complained…

About too much rain.

I mused that too much rain

Causes mosquitoes,

High humidity,

Mold, And again,

I Complained…

About too much rain. 

And then it ceased to rain!

Musing still, about the rain,

My Dearest Friend remarked, 

“Neighbor up, dig another hole“ 

Was there ever a time when you

Complained… 

About the right amount of rain?

                                                        And then it began to rain. Again!

Pete Robertson                                                 

© May 2007

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                     

 

 

 

Who Stole the Time

When I was a child, somewhere around ten years of age, I suspected I would never reach the age of adulthood. After all, it took months, very long months, before my birthday ever arrived. And school, well, it went on forever.

I read somewhere that certain school districts are planning to have school year round, with a couple of weeks off every so often. The kids must be going bonkers, to say nothing about what the parents will be enduring.

In my childhood, I had to decide what I was going to do for the summer when school eventually let out. Of course, all my plans went for naught as I ran through them in slightly over a week. After that, I was bored and missed my friends. I was almost ready for school to start. Notice I said, almost. But it was a long three months away.

Christmas was so far in the future, that when Thanksgiving arrived, it was still a whole month away. Do you know how long a month is when you are ten years of age and waiting for Christmas? I think it is somewhere between fact and fiction, heavy on the fiction side.

I recall one year, my mother decided to let me  go to my uncle’s farm for two weeks in the summer. I got so excited. I had visited there often but never stayed overnight. But it seemed like the summer would never get here. The days were so long whenever I thought about going out there, and the weeks were even longer. Time was standing still.

Finally, the day arrived. Now, me being a city boy, I knew absolutely nothing about farm life. I never knew that the sun came up so early in the morning. I had the opportunity to witness a sunrise, something I had never seen before. I’m sure you have heard the Ben Franklin quote, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. After a full day on the farm, I was ready for bed, just not so much on the early to rise part.

I can say definitely that the breakfast was much better than my Post Toasties. I just never ate so early in the morning before. But my uncle said that it was the main meal of the day. I never knew.

I was given chores to do while I stayed with my uncle. They were considerably different from my chores at home. At home, I had to take out the trash every night. And living in a single parent home, I had to help my mother with the dishes. There was no automatic dishwasher. Mom washed and I dried. We never left any dishes in the drainer. They were always dried and put up. When we were finished, I would go outside and play, after my homework was done, or course.

But on the farm, chores never stop. There were chickens to feed. I didn’t know how, but I learned quickly. Here chick, here chick, here chick, chick, chick! That turned into fun. Then, I learned how to gather eggs. That was not fun. First, the old rooster wouldn’t let me into the henhouse. Finally, after chasing him with the hoe, I managed to get in to gather the eggs. But, that was also a problem. Some hens did not want to let me have the eggs. They kept setting on them. I had to reach my hand under them and pick up the eggs. They sometimes would peck me. I sort of dreaded that chore. There were other jobs to do as well. I don’t remember all of them. I guess only the fun things.

Before I went to my uncle’s farm, I waited and waited for the time to come, but after I got there, time passed so fast. I got to thinking, as a child, time seems to pass slowly when waiting for something exciting to happen. I suppose it does for most adults as well. However, as an adult in the autumn of my life, I look back and am more aware, now, that time is very fleeting. I suppose that is why some memories are much more vivid than others are.

While I had other exciting summer pastimes in my youth, those days were the only time I ever spent on a farm. That happened some sixty odd years ago. It seems like yesterday. I wonder,

Who Stole the Time

Years bear on years

Who can really count

When minds are want

to remember.

To persist in fantasy

in a vain attempt to

Re-discover our youth?

Mere trumpery!

Have those days vanished

Disappeared into oblivion, 

Never obtainable again?

Stark delusional!

Simply etched in

A far corner of the mind

Waiting and wondering

Who stole the time.

Pete Robertson © 2011                                                                                                                                                                                          

Have a great day. It passes only, too quickly.

Seasonal Sizzling Summer Spell

 

Just in time for the Fourth of July

 I always liked the spring. Temperatures are moderate and refreshing. It really gives you the opportunity to defrost from the cold winter and prepare yourself for the long hot summer. Of course, if you live in Texas, the spring doesn’t last very long.  

 Someone once said, “Texas has four seasons. You begin with winter, when spring arrives; you turn off the furnace, open the windows and let the spring season begin. Then the next day, yes, I said next day, you close the windows, turn on the air conditioner and let the summer begin. In the fall, you reverse the procedure”. There you have it, four seasons inTexas.

 In the winter when it is really cold, many have extra blankets or coats. In addition, we can wear layered clothing. This helps to warm the body. However, when it is really hot, one cannot remove enough clothing to cool the body. Well, not decently, anyway.

I have read about parts of the world where clothing is optional on beaches. I’m not going there. I don’t think I could do that. I don’t think my body is supposed to be exposed and even it were, I’m not interested in sunburning any part of it. Not only that, The climate is still very hot.

 I am envious of those who live in a more pleasant climate. Some people have winter homes where it is nice and warm with summer homes where it is nice and cool. Not that I would ever leave Texas, but sometimes it would be nice to wake up with the temperature hovering around 55-60, not the 80-85 we have here. The only problem is finding that perfect place. Everyone has an opinion as to the best climate. I’m looking for cool places year round.

 My delightful spouse and I watch the HGTV channel quite a bit. The network covers numerous quality programs. Some are geared to home improvement or landscaping designs. We particularly like those programs where people are interested in finding vacation homes or relocating to another state and even other countries. It gives us a view of how other people live. Many of those programs are situated in areas with a very mild climate. We find somewhat of an escape from our daily routines and an envious desire to move among those interesting and cool spots.

 Scientists tell us that we are experiencing global warming. I don’t know enough about that to offer an opinion, other than to say, in times past,Texas had 100 + degree summers and no one ever mentioned global warming back then. But that was before the internet was invented. Humph. I never knew.

 When I was growing up in the 1950’s, our home had no air conditioning. We relied on circulating fans and water-cooled fans to keep us cool. We called them, “swamp coolers”. It worked back then, well, not really good, but it was cooler.

Those who were fortunate to have an air system relied on window units. Most homes did not have any type of central air conditioning. Now on the other hand, the movie theatres touted, “cold air inside”. It made a lot of “cool” sense to hit the Saturday afternoon matinees. But the old timers would shrug their shoulders and refuse to install any type of air system.

After I was grown, married with three children and a central air system, I bought my mother and stepfather a window unit. They refused to use it, except when we visited. As soon as we left, they turned it off. They preferred their “swamp cooler”.

Cooling systems have certainly improved over the years. The problem now is the amount of electricity needed to operate those systems. We are constantly bombarded with advertisements detailing the amount of energy consumed by these modern miracles.

 Back last winter, the extreme cold caused power outages throughout the North Texas area. And because of the extreme cold, we were told to refrain from using too much electricity or risk more power outages. Just bundle up, they said.

 Now, here at the beginning of summer, because of the extreme heat, the power companies tell us to refrain from using too much electricity or risk more power outages. Just sweat more, they said. So which is it? Cold or hot?

 It must be global warming. The Polar bears are using “swamp coolers”. I’m getting mine out of storage. It worked back when.

In the meantime, as I sit under my air conditioner, thermostat set on 78º, (and still sweating) I surf the internet looking for that perfect climate. If you live there, let me know. I could use a brochure.                                                                           Whoa!!! I just received my electricity bill. Hurry with that brochure.

 Have a great 4th of July.   Eat watermelon.                                                                    Tradition, you know. Above all, stay cool.

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