Saturday, January 26, 2013

What's Real

That was real. According to ABC News, Ms Clarkson was initially a supporter of Ron Paul (fellow Texican), but voted for Mr. Obama.

What's not real is Mr. Jindal's sad effort to exhort his colleagues in the GOP to stop saying "stupid" things. Nor is it real to contrive ways to redefine the Electoral College process so as to more likely create a situation where large majorities of Americans vote for a Presidential candidate, but said candidate loses to minorities who happen to reside in contrived congressional districts. The American political system is already contrived quite enough, thank you. Montana, South Carolina and Delaware have two senators each, as do New York, Texas, and California.

Republicans had better look at the example of Ms Clarkson. If she can see through their current abject cynicism, chauvinism, racism, and plain meanness, even their efforts at gerrymandering the national election process will probably fail. Ms Clarkson is real. Genuine. She is utterly exposed in that video, and she is fearless. In leaving the GOP even if just in this moment when Americans should all come together, she points with her footsteps to the moral corruption and cynicism that is the Republican reaction to a clear democratic statement from the voters.

Mr. Obama is not aiming to bury anyone, unlike Limbaugh and Boehner, McConnell and Hannity and the rest. Ms Clarkson can see, she has no lying eyes.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Oh, Now It's "Progress" You're After

["Capture of John Lawson by the Tuscaroras" from ]

My good west-coast friend and noted author of a wonderful book on the lure of Spanish balconies wrote me that much of the problem with guns is but a facet of the larger problem that America is and always has been a violent culture. This is of course plainly true, and really should always be kept in mind when the public conversation turns to some specific outbreak of violence. Stephen Colbert said the other night that for over a century the United States' most dangerous weapon was the mobile small pox contaminated blanket. Indeed, biological war against Native-Americans began long before there was a United States. While there was of course an accidental quality to the early contagions, surely even early colonialists began soon enough to notice that their issues with the aborigines were conveniently mitigated when villages died of pestilence, and a capable graduate student of, say, North Carolina history prior to 1775, might well find the moment when the mayor of Bath sent Poxie George to buy some corn from the Tuscarora. Just sayin'. And not that the Tuscarora were peaceniks either.

I wrote him back, and in thinking about his points it strikes me that one of the odd features of the NRA "argument" is that it accepts the arbitrary mitigation of the Second Amendment as it currently stands, while at the same time asserting vehemently that any "further" mitigation of the Second Amendment is tantamount to the assertion of "Kinghood" by Mr. Obama. Various supporters of large magazines claim, for example, that limiting their ability to defend against home invasion to some small number of bullets is downright cruel and unusual punishment. Lately a Georgia wife has been cited, who allegedly killed an invader using a magazine with ten rounds. Would she have fared so well with only six, the question is asked. And seriously.

Well ok. But surely it's just as obvious that if you change the numbers in the equation, more and more firepower is required to achieve the same result. May I refer you to the hilarious or appalling movie, "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels." I don't see any reason in logic why the NRA shouldn't be arguing that any responsible home-owner should have installed, at his pure discretion as a citizen, a fine water-cooled .50 caliber machine gun on a tripod, with a wide range of fire, a full belt of ammunition, and perhaps a sturdy teenaged son behind the grips, just in case the, um, Negroes Tuscaroras come at his door in larger numbers.

Obviously the only reason the NRA doesn't start arguing for our god-griven right to fully automatic weapons is merely the "common sense" wisdom that mostly likely such an argument would allow those sitting on the sidelines to see through the whole NRA artifice. There is no doubt that, generally, in America, "automatic" is good. But in this case the NRA doesn't believe in arguing with the Trooper at the window, who says "You were going a bit fast back there, Sir." It takes the rare individual, the Bill Monroe, who refuses to swerve in the face of unquestionable disaster.

Nonetheless, and leaving aside the quite reasonable theory that the NRA position is actually and in toto generated to achieve maximum economic benefit to the weapons manufacturing sector of Industry and has no serious purpose beyond that end, it is really quite clear that far from being "absolute," the 2nd Amendment has already been circumscribed in a number of ways aimed at limiting citizen access to weaponry, and with apparent implicit NRA blessing. Since all Mr. Obama is doing is suggesting modest efforts to make further circumscriptions, as well as ancillary efforts such as better background checks and records keeping which have nothing at all to do with the 2nd Amendment, the NRA is in plain fact in agreement with Mr. Obama at least on the principle that such circumscriptions are Constitutional.

Otherwise, they are simply hiding their "real" view, as in the Trooper case. Their real view is simply that power wins. They stand with Mao. Oddly, they also stand in line for flu shots, and drive our government maintained highways. We will surely find them at James McMurtry's Uncle Slayton's Family Reunion, dancing in the moonlight with those twins, Ruth Ann and Linda, without a care in the world.

And the real question of the day is, why do these people get to monopolize the conversation?

Friday, January 18, 2013

North Carolina May Drop Income Tax

According to WRAL yesterday, serious plans are afoot to drop our income tax structure and replace it with a sales tax, including retail sectors such as food.

The GOP, which now controls the General Assembly, is pushing to lower the individual and corporate income tax and use a higher state sales tax applied to more things to make up for the lost income tax revenue. Food should be taxed, they say, because grocery spending is dependable.


"It's not a progressive tax, where those at the higher end pay more and those at the lower end pay less," said Bill Rowe, general counsel and director of advocacy for the left-leaning North Carolina Budget and Tax Center. "Everybody's paying the same amount, and so, if you're of modest means, you're going to be paying a lot more in taxes that way."

Of course it's not clear that Mr. Rowe's specific statement, quoted above, can be correctly characterized as "left-leaning." Seems like he's just doing some math. But then WRAL is the station that spawned Jesse Helms, our late and infamous racist Senator.

Here's what happened in NC last November. A whole lot of poor white folks would rather vote for any Republican than anyone in the party that was running a black man for President. Here in NC our Republicans have been pretty much bought by the radical right wing, personified by Mr. Art Pope, gazillionaire. Mr. Pope is now in the state cabinet by the way, having bought hissef an ostensible "moderate" Republican governor, Mr. "Frack You" McCrory. McCrory's first order of bidness was to ask that a new voter ID law be on his desk P.D.Q. No doubt it shall be done.

Many birds are thus being nailed by a modicum of stones. It is well known that poor folks not only pay no income tax, and spend most of their meager funds on day to day survival items, including food, but as well, that poor folks tend to lack "proper" credentials. How convenient for our local Punsch-in-Progress. Voted in by yet another application of the Republican southern strategy, the poor buggers who will in the coming months have to cut back on hotdogs and beans will also discover, if they can afford gas to the polls in 2014 and 2016, that their credentials are not in order.

Meanwhile, by then the left-leaning North Carolina Budget and Tax Center will probably be a faded sign on a Raleigh store front. For all the perky optimism at the Siler City Democratic Party Headquarters across from the Post Office just after the November election, there was then a brick through the plate glass, and after that a closed sign on a sheet of plywood. By 2016 it may be that the only way to find the old Democratic Party Headquarters in Siler City (for the would be historian of early Century doings I mean), will be to say, "go to the old Post Office foundation, just down from the lot on the corner of Raleigh Street and Old 421. The old Dem storefront was right across the street." The PO, of course, will have been "phased out" by then, an outmoded relic of the '30s just like the progressive income tax.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

It's Not a Static Situation

A friend of mine was watching the movie "Motorcycle Diaries" the other day, and said that one of its central points was that the destruction of the aboriginal culture of South America (if you want to really say that the Incas were "aboriginal" in any sense) can be laid primarily to the fact that the Spanish had guns. Thus Che finds his way to Mao's Dictum. It is of course appropriate that it is known as "Mao's Dictum" given that the Chinese invented gunpowder.

So we might start in a Wittgensteinian fashion with numbered prima facies if we like, for clarity. One of which is surely that the complex fact that it is the interaction of the remarkable machine of death with the human primate's will which should be the point of focus for our President and legislative bodies, in this moment. Otherwise we simply circle this patent confusion which the NRA delivers daily and on purpose to confuse: on the one hand we have a pile of steel bits, and on the other hand a pile of slaughtered, rendered children.

The NRA says, over and over, we need good guys with guns to counter the bad guys with guns. (As I noted in my last post, Mr. Reagan said this, and was later shot amidst the most elite weapon-carrying Praetorian Guard on the planet.) As someone said yesterday on line, Lanza transformed himself from a "bad guy" into a "good guy" at the last moment of his life, when he shot himself. This may seem like a joke. It is in fact the sort of moral paradox which surfaces constantly from the sea of muddle when we don't look directly at the plan fact that the "weapons problem" we have is not a static situation.

How many people carry within themselves some quotient of rage? Surely it must be a very significant portion of the adults alive today on the planet (generally), and in America in particular. Life is after all fraught with frustration. Whole religions are grounded in the dealing with the unacceptable which confronts most humans sooner or later. Whole psychologies undertake the same task. The plain fact is that in the complex moment when a fine piece of cold steel warms to the human hand's touch, these same unutterable griefs and rages are addressed. The weapon confers power. Nevermind, for the moment, that this power comes without a necessary reflection--the lack of which can lead almost instantly to disaster for any and all within the weapon's range. We all know another plain fact, that we humans at least now and then do not reflect.

Does the NRA, then, propose to determine, in advance and so to speak a priori, who possesses some reliably called upon quotient of reflective ability? Is there some test, some MMPI, which will tell the folks who sign or deny the registration forms, whether each human is capable of dealing in each moment with the fact that, weapon loaded and in hand, frustration and rage may be at last immediately assuaged? It is the weapon that confers--that is the dynamic situation. What's the test, Mr. LaPierre? Application of poison ivey? Last night on Hannity's teevee show some New York State legislator talked of needing more powerful weapons than those now allowed by the new New York State law on guns when it comes to--his example--divorced or single women. Again the paradox bobs up. Mrs. Lanza had those weapons at the ready. Her son killed her with them.

There is a general principle to be seen in this: that the more guns sprinkled in a given population of people, the more gun violence and death will eventually ensue. For one particular, domestic gun violence occurs when guns are present in the domestic situation. Some of that violence is murder, some suicide. These are details.

It is not particularly surprising that the power of the gun has caused us to create an actual religion of guns. The NRA officials dress like priests (have you noticed?)--their black suits gleam like the odd a-kilter look of Mormon Missionary boys on bicycles, or Taliban diplomats making rare visits to the outside world. Press too firmly against this brittle faith and defense is swift and intense, the shadow side of the ledger. "You're a one-eyed Jack, Dad, but I've seen the other side of your face." Yesterday the NRA brought the President's children into the conversation. Like gangsters, they didn't have to say anything explicit. "How's your kids these days?" The question has already been withdrawn I understand. This is a lot like the paradox of Limbaugh: "Is he a racist, or does he just play one on the radio?" Can the act of "withdrawing" actually apply.

Johnny Cash, late in his life, sang a hell of a song about a kid with a rifle, who shoots at long distance a stranger. That's the "godlike" power that arrives when the cold steel falls in the grip of the warm hand. Part of that power is transformative. Lanza can become at the last moment a "good guy" by shooting himself. Or--much much more likely and to the point--rage can be assuaged, or even mere primate curiosity. What if I sight that guy off there, on a bicycle. What if I squeeze the trigger just a little.

Ever see the movie "Gun Crazy." Oh, it's a classic of noir, it is. But the director, back then in 1950, was showing us something true, and just as true now. Yesterday was Martin Luther King's birthday. A damn good day for our President to address the great American gun problem. Today is not too late either. It's not something simple, something one thing or another will repair. Thousands more will surely die. But when I was a kid there were no seat belts, never mind air bags and all the other safety stuff.

We all need to recognize the cultists when we see them. Those black suits are a tell.

We all need to remember that love is just a kiss away.


Thursday Update: I find I must at least take brief note of Mr. Limbaugh's response to yesterday's modest efforts, on the part of Mr. Obama, to address America's gun problem. At the moment we have the plain fact that there are 20 slaughtered children in Newtown, Connecticut. (And some 900 gun deaths since December 14, 2012.) Mr. Limbaugh yesterday suggested that Mr. Obama was using those murdered children as "human shields" for his effort to modify America's absurdly weak gun regulation system. In doing so, Mr. Limbaugh makes fun of these murdered children, and of their grieving parents. In doing so, Mr. Limbaugh derides empathy and human feeling, and diminishes (or tries to) the obvious plain facts. One can only hope that the Right's absurd and disgusting reaction to any effort, no matter how limited, to address America's gun problem, will have some politically negative consequences. If there is any such thing as an "American value," it is surely that we do care when children are slaughtered, that we do believe some efforts towards a better world where less children are slaughtered can be devised. What else does a belief in "progress" entail?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Serious Criticism

Briefly. As Saturday is a free day where I get the chance to actually do some stuff that needs to get done, to get outside and cut some wood, and stack it, and finally cut that cedar sapling that scrapes the right side of the truck every damn time we drive out, and sits a far far cry from the house and the saw, and thus to this moment remains, oblivious, nature encroaching on order and symmetry.

Sheila O'Malley's wonderful website,
which should be read as frequently as possible, cites the following excellent critical analysis of Zero Dark Thirty, which you should read more than once.

It seems like even liberals, who ought to know way better, are prone to fall into the same holes when it comes to certain issues. But didn't we learn, and learn for good, that art is not served by being bent entirely to political ends? And haven't we also learned the difference between understanding that liberal, i.e., nuanced truth, and (for example) seeing the stale "but what is an assault weapon, really?" trope trotted out once again and again by every apologist for unfettered gun marketing who currently battles down the stone stairs with Errol Flynns so obviously right that their fate, skewered on the marble below, seems literally preordained. The NRA and its supporters are exactly what Piers Morgan has termed them: the murder weapon lobby. The efforts at chaff-making are so obvious that when LaPierre tries to shift the focus to our problem with crazy folks, crazy folks threatening to shoot anyone who might take away their gun pop up out of the wood works before he can plunk down his QEDs and slink away to the next media appearance. One wonders if Mr. Limbaugh could ever be cited for shouting "fire" in a crowded theatre, and closed down or sued shut and Guantanamoed. Did you know that Fox News isn't allowed in Canada? Up there they have a law about lying on the teevee. Maybe we ought to look into that.

Sadly here in NC our new Gov. rushes as fast as he can in the utterly wrong direction. He's put Art Pope in his cabinet (bought and paid for I'd guess). This week he called for a voter ID law on his desk. And four of our Congresspersons, all Republicans, voted against Hurricane Sandy Relief. This in a state that knows the big 'canes by name and memory, and even has a hockey team called the Hurricanes. Fifteen years ago, here in the Piedmont some 200 or so miles inland, thousands of trees came down (40 on my little place I estimated), power was out in some places for several weeks, thousands of houses were damaged, some fatally. That was Fran. Back when I was a kid there was Hazel, which destroyed Carolina Beach but also gave Raleigh a pretty good whack. More recently, Floyd, which drowned thirty or so folks when the highways flooded unexpected two days after the storm had passed. The town of Tarboro was entirely cut off, an island, for more than a week. Hurricane Isabel cut a new inlet through Hatteras Island. On it goes, and stay tuned for this coming season. And our Republican congressmen, some of them, voted against hurricane relief? "WTF" as the kids say.

Which might be the title of this picture Sheila O'Malley posted on her site recently, from her wonderful photo essay on Memphis this winter:

I took a photo this week as well. It's at the top of the page, and feels wintry.


Sunday Update:

On Digby this morning, the following quote, from Ronald Reagan in the late '70s, when for a time he had a little daily radio show. We might recall that it was only a few years after this national remark that Mr. Reagan was seriously wounded by an assassin, while surrounded by the Secret Service. His Press Secretary, Mr. Brady, was shot in the head and spent the rest of his life in much the state of Congressperson Giffords today. Brady's wife undertook the battle of reforming our absurd legal framework for guns, and mostly has lost battle after battle to the NRA, which took up Mr. Reagan's "common sense" point of view:

“Now, that’s funny,” he said of Levy’s proposal. “It seems to me that the best way to deter murderers and thieves is to arm law-abiding folk and not disarm them…. as news story after news story shows, if the victim is armed, he has a chance—a better chance by far than if he isn’t armed. Nobody knows in fact how many crimes are not committed because criminals know a certain store owner has a gun—and will use it.” So the attorney general of the United States, Reagan said, “should encourage homeowners and business people to purchase them and learn how to use them properly.”

He concluded that first broadcast foreshadowing so much NRA rhetoric to come: “After all, guns don’t make criminals. It’s criminals who make use of guns. They’re the ones who should be punished—not the law-abiding citizen who seeks to defend himself.”

The Secret Service is probably the best trained law enforcement agency in the land. If we were to put Secret Service agents at every school in the country, we would most likely be able to do nothing else with our tax dollars. There is a reason such elite forces are small in number. Or possibly more than one reason--as well as the sheer cost, there's also the simple fact that only so many folks are capable of being a Secret Service agent, or a Navy Seal. To reiterate--the facts are that Reagan's would-be assassin managed to hit Mr. Reagan and several other people before he was captured. Thus was Reagan hoisted on his own petard so to speak. And yet even now Reagan's literally disproved "solution" to gun violence is proffered by the NRA and other gun fetishists.

This is as close to the case of Mickey Mantle and cigarettes as it gets. (For them what's too young, Mr. Mantle smoked Camels, sometimes in the outfield, and advertised for them, whilst hitting more homers than anyone since Babe Ruth, and without the benefit of steroids. After his glorious youth, Mr. Mantle's "vices" caught up with him in his 60s, and he died from a mixture of cancer and heart disease, the two main long-term effects of smoking. There were also some long-term effects of hard drinking which Mantle suffered. One might then compare our country's reaction to the growing understanding of the health issues connected to smoking and drinking, versus our reaction to the growing slaughter. Hmmm... Let's see. In 2005 we exempted the weapons manufacturers from any liability consequences. What geniuses we are.)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

But I Didn't Hear Nobody Pray

Hop-skipping around my favorite blogs this morning the AIG suit story is "trending," and also the ongoing effort to kick-start some kind of domestic weapons control, and the fact that last year was hotter than all but one in our record-keeping era. Makes me want to keep this little page a saga of the Houdahenian race. Even stuck in Stalag 109 as they are (for their own good of course), things are pretty swell. This morning they heard a squirrel either on the roof of the kitchen, or possibly even in the ceiling of the kitchen (it's happened and has been a big problem). The three went to investigate and managed to bring down to the brick floor a glass vase, which they then walked around in the shards of, apparently to no pied damage. Houdahenianland is a small province in the east (est) of France, very near La Chaux-de-Fonds, just before you get to Switzerland. They make good cheeze, and some really excellent white wine. There is always a cool breeze blowing down the Alps, and no signs of hurricanes. The nuclear power plant is nestled in a valley to the southwest, and not visible from our porch. This does not explain why Mokey loves only fish (le poisson).

The worst thing I saw briefly on the teevee last night was some ex-Marine, a veteran of the Iraq war I think it was, who said he'd resist any sort of gun control because he wanted to be able to pass down his arsenal to his children and grandchildren, and under any registration system, he said, that would not be possible. This is a very bad sign for any sort of successful steps towards sanity. The Marine was not, as far as I could tell, working for the NRA or Colt Arms. He was just a regular guy.

Another worst thing. Mr Hagel, who in some ways is surely a good idea as Secretary of Defense--the fact that he actually faced combat suggesting that he might empathize with the kids he tosses into the meat grinder--turns out to have views on the physiology of rape and conception similar to that of Todd Akin and Paul Ryan, as well as dubious views concerning gay people. It is flabbergasting to me that these views would be ignored by Mr. Obama. On the women's issue front, one might well say that Mr. Obama owes his re-election to the idiocy of Republican positions on women's rights.

There was also a shining moment. Mr. O'Donnell interviewed a woman from Tucson who actually grabbed the magazine away from the guy who was killing people at the Tucson mall last year, before he could reload. She's become a gun control advocate, oddly enough, and is articulate, very sensible, and obviously grounded in, um, what's the word... Oh yes, reality. She told O'Donnell she's had many conversations with people who are against any sort of gun control, even including limitations on magazine size. Their main argument is, "I have a right to any size magazine I want, and I want a big one."

There is really a breathtaking obliviousness about too many Americans. It's probably always been a problem for us, and probably for humans. In my lifetime this tendency has been fostered and nourished by crackpot moral "philosophers" such as Ayn Rand and her followers, many of whom now occupy daily slots on the radio, and a whole television network which sisters with the network that airs most of the major sporting events and sports genres in the United States. The result is what we now see. Lord Haw Haw has immigrated to Missouri, and walks among us.

But this depressing trend is probably not grounded entirely in the machinations of the Randians. A couple of weeks ago two local kids were killed while racing on a rural road here in central NC. It's not a very uncommon thing, and kids were doing this--and getting killed--back when I was a teenager in the '50s. In this case the driver of the pickup that wrecked was only 16. One of his passengers, a girl of 17, was also killed. They had a big service for the boy at his church, in Durham. Everyone wore camo because he was known to be a hunter. The minister said it was a mystery why these things happen, he was such a good boy, etc.

I do understand, of course, that the minister was aiming to console the boy's parents. There is little more devastating that losing a child. I have to wonder, however, just what the passenger's parents made of these comments--which were public enough to have been printed in the news story about the service. It was in no way a mystery why these deaths occurred. The driver was RACING. The boy was responsible.

The nasty thing about the Randian moral view, even when it's held by people who never heard of Ayn Rand, is that it offers a justification for having no moral view at all. Any concern for others is dismissed as a confusion, a systematic mistake of thought, or even worse, a conscious manipulation of the naive by those who have something to gain. For Rand herself of course, this analysis was among other things a grounding for her efforts to destroy Christianity as a social institution. The Christian Randians among us ignore this salient fact.

The kid ran off the road, over-corrected, crossed the road and hit a tree. That sentence is probably hot-keyed in the Highway Patrol's computers. The woman in Tucson grabbed the magazine before it could be inserted into the weapon. CO2 is a green house gas. This ain't no party, this ain't no disco, this ain't no foolin' around. If you're standing around at a blood-soaked wreckage, you might want to pray. If you're sitting in the speeding vehicle you might want to say "slow the hell down, NOW, and let me outa here." Of course the drivers of the planet's economic system might have the problem that their accelerator is already stuck to the floor boards. If so, prayer would both be in order, and a public hypocrisy akin to Mr. LaPierre's new proffered "solution." I saw last night that Mr. LaPierre will be talking with Mr. Biden about the gun problem today. Where's that head-slap key anyways?

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Yet More Prison Adventures

"This is sorta like living with flying squirrels," Libby said sometime last week. The boom truck's cleat marks were rebounding at the glacial pace of Robert Frost's "dent in dough." I was getting ready to go to work. Usually I drink coffee and look at the computer in the morning, but just before Libby had made that remark I'd been skil-sawing a board out in the pre-dawn murk.

I think of morning awakening as roll-call. So do the Boys. First one or other of them walks on me, or jumps on the bed from the window sill. When I get up they rush ahead of me to the kitchen, and take turns jumping up on things to see if I'm putting food on their saucers. Usually Momma is also there, peering in from the stoop through the French doors. I've learned to go ahead and fix her food too. Then I can usually get the door open and feed her while the Boys are focused on their plates on the other side of the room. After all that's done I can start water for coffee, get the beans ground, etc.

Which ever morning it was, maybe Wednesday, Mokey (formerly Bruiser) didn't show for roll call. I left his plate on the counter and called him. Still no Mokey. We have this little place over in an obscure corner where the water supply pipe from the well comes into the house to the hot water heater. It's actually where two adjacent walls connect, and there's a little gap at one place on the floor where the mason didn't lay the blocks quite correctly. (Enough said about that!) The pipe comes in--handy!--and I'd stuffed insulation in the gap and put a piece of plywood over that. This is all behind a cabinet and under the loft stairs. Sometime last year the plywood got moved. Well before the arrival of the Houdahenians. So eventually I looked into that little corner and found a pile of insulation and a hole you could climb down to the ground from. If you were a Mokey I mean. Absence explained here at Stalag 109. I looked over at the slider and there was Mokey looking in. He'd no doubt heard the rattle of the kitty plates. Meanwhile, the Boys were done with eating and were crowding around the hole. Probably they found it from the cold air flowing in, or maybe they'd put Mokes up to checking it out first to see if it was safe out there.

I got Mokey in, got the Boys in the next room with the door shut. Sawed a new covering board in the morning murk. Found a very big rock to put on the board. Ha, let them move that. By then it was time for work. I took a thermos of coffee with me. The day stoked with coffee like that reminded me a bit of the story of the Lenny Bruce movie. You can look it up.

As you can see, if anyone is ok up in a tree, it's Mokey. That's the top of the refrigerator he's perched on. He can jump 6 feet vertically, and aim himself like a basketball going in a hoop. And yesterday Libby and I sawed up the sassafras tree and the maple that had scared Wuzzy up, and I started a new burn pile of branches that were too small to stack, and we worked some on Tyndall Drive, which is a great new feature of the Ranch. I might order me a street sign. The man deserves some credit.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Houds Have Their Xmas, Wuzzy an Adventure

We'd made it through the stress of "actual" Christmas pretty great. Libby'd been fighting off the flu, I was working every day; getting the shopping and wrapping and all done in time was not an easy task for her, but it happened, and we drove over to Libby's sis's place in Greensboro with a truck full of presents and good cheer, and had a great afternoon with the extended family. We got home after dark to ravenous kitties, got them fed, went to bed early, and then I was back at work day after Christmas. We put off the Houdahenian Christmas till the next weekend, Sunday before New Years Eve, since they're not much up on dates and calendars anyways. (Or possibly cats are all quite aware that Jesus did not get born anywhere's near December 25, and that Isis and Ramses are the ones who have to do with bringing the sun back every year, and the spring floods that cause the rice to sprout, and bring all the mice that are soooo tasty and delicious. Some say the bargain they made with us was about cans, but did the Egyptians have cans, I ask you?)

At any rate, Sunday morning last we had Christmas for ourselves and the Boys. You can see them opening a present above. They all got new little cat beds, and a scratching pad salted with catnip which they really enjoyed and even kinda tussled over, in a brotherly way.

It was a bright, warmish morning, and after the presents were open and played with, all three of the Boys ran over to the slider and started begging to be let out, Wuzzy the foremost. Wuzzy has been getting a chance at the great Outside for some time. Libby lets him out to explore when she's here in the daytime, and he has been doing just fine with that, not getting into too much trouble, or vanishing, or finding something he can't deal with. We're far enough from the road that there's little chance of him venturing out to where the traffic lives. There've been no hunting dog packs lately, and no sign of raccoons or foxes. Momma is now living under the house, but she pretty much retreats into secrecy when there's any commotion of any kind. So we opened the slider and out they went, Wuzzy in the lead, and we enjoyed the pretty morning, picked up wrapping paper, had some sausage balls and coffee. After a while Mokey and then Puzzle came back in without coaxing. Wuzzy was still out, but that was expected. I'd said to Libby, when we let them out, that Wuzzy was about due to climb a tree--something he hadn't done. I wasn't thinking this was some kind of prediction or premonition.

Finally I went out and called him, and I heard him meowing. After a while I realzed he was right over head, in a small tree, probably about 25 feet or so up. The tree, I think it's a sassafras tree maybe, is not a big grower, and doesn't grow straight. This one has a trunk which has a fairly gradual incline for some distance. Wuzzy was sitting on a little branch just at the point the trunk, now little more than a limb of wrist size, took a vertical tack and went on up. Wuzzy was stuck and didn't know what to do. We tried to talk him down. The day wore on, with periods of talking, periods of leaving him alone. He tried and tried to figure out what to do, and after a while went to sleep sitting on the little branch which was also creating the problem of getting around for him. After more time, hours, he woke and cried some more. We humans were also getting more and more concerned. The night was predicted to be very cold. A hawk flew by. There were buzzards circling overhead. Really, there were, we see 'em a lot this time of year. Maybe they're grouping up for a trip to Finley, who knows.

As it seemed that a neighboring maple sapling was entangling Wuzzy's perch, I decided to cut it down and out of the way. When I did that--this was probably about 3 pm or so--it frightened Wuzzy and he climbed again. Much much higher. He was at the very top of the Sassafras now, amongst a web of tiny sticks. He could sit there, but it wasn't clear that he could do much else. Libby consulted the Google and found that cats frequently will climb when frightened. Indeed, there was a wealth of info on cats in trees. Some was calming. "Ain't no cat skeletons in trees." Others not so much. "My cat fell 30 feet and died of internal injuries three days later." "My cat fell into some rip rap and ran off. We never found him." I'd rescued a cat of ours once by climbing up onto a shed roof and then putting a ladder over to the limb he was on--he walked the ladder over to me. This was not such a situation. There was no ladder anywheres close to long enough, and no place to put it anyways. This was not a climbable tree.

We thought maybe if we cut the tree, partly, we could hinge it down to more of a horizontal line, and Wuzzy could then make another effort to get down. We did that, and the tree did bend down some, but Wuzzy did not budge. It was dark and cold, and the warm Christmassy morning we'd had with the Boys seemed like a far distant time. We turned on the Cone lights, and Libby strung other lights out near the tree. We turned on all the house lights. We shone a strong flashlight up into the tree, playing it along the trunk below where Wuzzy perched, trying to get him interested in trying to come down just a bit at a time. After it was totally dark, and even colder, we could see his eyes glowing in the light. He would cry now and again.

I had to go to work the next day. Libby could not think of leaving him alone in the tree. She brought every pillow and cushion we could find and made a big padded area under when he was perched. Then she sat wrapped in a blanket at the foot of the tree and talked to him. I went to bed so I could go to work. About 5 am she came in and climbed in with me to get warm, and then she got a bit of sleep.

I usually get up about 5:30 or so to make coffee, and I got up. So did Libby. As soon as it was light I went out and tried coaxing Wuzzy some more between cups of coffee and Libby's pancakes. He didn't budge, but a remarkable thing happened I didn't in the least expect. Momma climbed the tree some ways up to try to show him what to do! I went too close and she retreated, but when I went away she came back and tried again. Even after the long separation, from last April, she obviously knew her little boy was in trouble. Moreover, her wonderful maternal instincts remained. She'd raised them safely. I wondered if, more than food or anything else, she was living here because of them.

I had to go to work. I left, hopeful that perhaps Momma would succeed where we'd failed. Wuzzy was a little black dot in the top of a spindly little tree, at least 40 feet off the ground, but he was still alert and energetic. I think Libby's presence under the tree all the cold night had kept him from dispairing. Libby was up, and she planned to make calls to tree people in the area. At work it was the busiest day of the year. There was no way for me to take off and come back to help, as I'd first hoped to do, till the end of the day. As rain was predicted for New Years Day, we'd decided that if nothing else, we'd have to cut the tree and try to ease it down somehow, with a rope. There was also a risk that the tree might hit the chimney or the roof. It wasn't a ten ton oak tree, but it was big enough to kill someone, or to knock a hole in the roof. A tree man, if we could find one on New Years Eve, would be a pretty good idea.

In the early afternoon, Libby called me to say she'd found a guy with a boom truck. He didn't do cat rescues he said, and it was his day off. After a second round of calls Libby prevailed on him to come out and just consult. This sounded promising to me when she told me. When I had a free minute I was thinking about how to use the rope to slow the tree's fall, if I was going to be cutting it at dusk after work. One of my employers said the cat would surely jump free before it hit the ground. I was not entirely reassured. Later on in the afternoon Libby called again. Mr. Tyndall, the tree man from Pittsboro, was cutting a way to the tree so's his boom truck could get there. Was that ever some good news!

You might can see the black dot that is Wuzzy, high up in the photo. He's definitely there. Libby says when the boom truck arrived he faced that way and knew he was going to be rescued. Mr. Tyndall went up with the cat carrier and he climbed right in. Back on the ground, Libby took him inside, where he purred a whole lot and ate a whole lot. Mr. Tyndall also dropped the tree safely for us. Here's the trunk, lying on the padding we didn't need after all.

It's a New Year, and we still have all three of the Houdahenians with us. It was mighty nice last night when they snuggled up in bed with us, after the ball had dropped, after the tree had dropped. Maybe Wuzzy was our own New Years Eve "ball." Maybe next New Years Eve we can just metaphorically drop him--like maybe lower him carefully from the loft, safe in his carrier. I think that might be a nice new tradition around here. Goes with the Xmas Cone thing. He'd probably be ok with it. My guess is by tomorrow he'll be whining at the slider again. Each day is a new one for the Boys. This is really not a bad way to operate.


Oh yeah.

If you need some tree work in the Pittsboro, NC, area, Mr. Tyndall is a true professional, and a very nice guy. May he and his family have the very best of Happy New Years!