Thursday, August 30, 2012
Last night,as I sat on the deck with my evening spooker, the tranquility was rudely interrupted by the sound of gunfire. Not only were multiple shots fired, but they sounded close, too damn close. I refresh the spooker and journey to the rear of the property. I see nothing in the way of an armed militia but the shots continue.
WHAM! WHAM! Although I didn’t actually hear the zip of bullets over my head, I was compelled to investigate. I get in the old pickup and head down Shell Creek Road, the east-west road just a hundred yards to the north of the humble abode. At the third house down from the intersection, I spot four men in a backyard with at least one rifle. I’d seen enough. Those boys were shooting waaay to close for my peace of mind. Using the non-emergency number, I call the elite Osage County Sheriff’s Department. The dispatcher lady was less than helpful.
“Sir, it is not illegal to discharge firearms outside the city limits.”
“Ma’am, this bunch is shooting in a freakin’ neighborhood with houses all around, kids in yards, pets and such.” (The Missus wanted me to point out the danger to her cats but I skipped that part.) “Legal? You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“Would you like to talk to a patrolmen, sir?”
“Damn right I would!” It was about now that I began to wonder if it was the whiskey doin’ the talkin’. Too late. Within minutes, the phone rings.
“This is Deputy --------. What seems to be the problem?”
I calmly explain how I have the quite uncomfortable feeling that I’ve just stepped into a Taliban ambush and how surely there must be some mistake about it being legal.
“Nope. It’s legal in every county in Oklahoma,” he says, “and most of the counties in the United States.”
He then suggests that I might be hearing activity at the closest firing range, a good two miles away. I assure him this is not the case, that I can tell the difference between gunshots two miles away and two blocks away.
“So you’re telling me,” I add, “that I can step out in my backyard, spray bullets all over the place, not worry about ricochets, or what might be downrange, and I’m not breaking any laws?”
“Not exactly,” he replies, now with a little testiness in his voice. “If you’re acting irresponsibly, I’ll arrest you.”
Ooooohh. The voice of legal authority comes out. Now he’s letting me know that I should stop arguing about it, shut up, and go back to watching Seinfeld. I had more to say on the subject, a lot more, but I sensed the futility of continuing our little chat. In his defense, he did promise to drive by and check it out. My next question, of course, would be to ask how was I to know that the guns being fired were done so by responsible adults and not some wacked out psycho high on meth or moonshine.
Picture the scene:
Here I go, trespassing on the shooter’s property, and approach an armed group of men.
“Excuse me fellas, but I’d like to know if you're acting responsibly here. Do you have an adequate backstop for your practice? If not, have you checked the area in front of where you are firing to be sure there are no rocks for the bullets to bounce off of and hit an infant in the neck on the parallel street over there? Or even worse, hit one of my wife’s cats? Everyone here have a valid NRA card?”
Let me tell you folks, in this part of Oklahoma, that dog don’t hunt.
Anyone know where I can get a deal on a Kevlar vest? Oh, and a couple that would fit a cat?
Sunday, August 26, 2012
Even if you don’t live in Oklahoma, you probably heard about the recent horrific wildfire near the small town of Mannford, just west of Tulsa. It made the headlines in the Tulsa World, the local TV stations, and was even mentioned by Brian Williams on the NBC Evening News. Nearly 400 homes were destroyed. Many families had only minutes to grab their most precious belongings and dash to safety.
Before the smoke cleared, there was an outpouring of support from organizations all over the country. The Red Cross was there of course, but many others contributed their time and effort such as the Southern Baptist Convention Disaster Relief, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Muscogee Creek Nation. A local motorcycle club did a run to collect money for the victims. Other individuals donated clothes, supplies, and shelter. My old fishing buddy, Arnold, jumped in and hauled his fifth-wheel to the site, allowing some lucky family to get out of a tent and into more comfortable digs.
It was a few days later, when suffering from a near fatal dose of cabin fever, that I grabbed a camera and drove out to the Keystone dam area to see what I could see. Due to our extreme drought conditions here, there was no water being released from the dam thus shutting down most of the bird activity. I drove through the park hoping to see a Scissortail-flycatcher that’s been hanging out there, when I came across a campsite with a tent and filled with odds and ends. An old man with a gray beard sat in a lawn chair watching the cars go by. It wasn’t until I was halfway home that it dawned on this old thick skull, that gray beard had to be one of the fire victims.
A few days passed. The more I thought about the old guy, the more guilty I felt for not stopping and offering him some money…or something. I called to the Missus, “Get your purse, we’re going to the grocery store.”
Going down the isles, I tried to think of what I would enjoy for a meal in the park, healthy eating be damned. I picked up a roll of bologna, some barbeque sauce, chips, bread, Pepsi, milk, donuts, etc. Oh, and a six pack of beer.
Upon my return to the camp site, I saw that the population had grown. Now there were three more tents and a small trailer, not Arnold’s, but a nice one. The old man was there, walking around, and I got out to talk to him.
“You get burned out?” I asked.
“We did, he said. “We got four families living here now.”
“Could you use a few groceries?”
“We sure could, let me get one of these boys to help carry them.”
“Could you use a cold beer?”
He grinned. “Well sir, I don’t drink, but I’m sure a few of these other folks would enjoy it.”
A young man approached, asked my name, and shook my hand. “God bless you,” he said.
It was a small act of kindness, a feel-good type of thing, and perhaps self serving in some ways, but I did like to think about some of those folks sipping on a cold beer that night, munching chips, and chomping on barbeque bologna sandwiches. It was a meal I would have enjoyed.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Like most country kids, the Fourth of July was a big deal for me, a highly anticipated event. Problem was, my folks couldn’t afford many fireworks. There might have been a sparkler or two and perhaps one package of poppers and I seem to remember getting a roman candle once. But my meager stash of pyrotechnics wasn’t what got me excited about the holiday, it was the annual get-together in Willis with the Hoar Family and their sons, Kenneth and Keith. Kenneth was my age and Keith was that troublesome little brother that always wanted to tag along with us “big” boys. No telling how much grief those kids took about their last name over the years, but I can’t recall any teasing about it back then, a different era.
The Hoar’s ran the grain elevator in the little town of Willis but also sold fireworks out of the office for about a week prior to Independence Day. Kenneth, Keith, and I had the great good fortune of having permission to light off whatever fireworks didn’t sell by the evening of the Fourth. Sometimes there weren’t many left, only the dregs, the least popular, such as assorted sparklers, smoke bombs, things we called “snakes” that made a curly black coil when you set a match to them, and the little bitty firecrackers that no self respecting kid would want called “ladyfingers”. But on one memorable occasion, we hit the jackpot. Maybe Raymond Hoar over stocked or sales were slow that year, but when I first laid eyes on the boxes of free fireworks before me, I thought I must be the luckiest kid in Kansas.
BANG! BOOM! SIZZLE! ZIP! Bottle rockets soared, cone-shaped “fountains” spewed colored sparks in all directions, tubes filled with gunpowder launched balls of exploding light over the entire town followed by deafening explosions that rattled windows and sent cats and dogs running for cover. I think I shot off fireworks for half the night. My ears rang from the multitude of loud reports. The air was filled with the rancid odor of burned paper and gunpowder while a thin layer of smoke slowly drifted over the rooftops. Just when I thought the great night was finally over, I spotted a half dozen or more of the infamous “cherry bombs,’ that little red, round firecracker that was so powerful, it could easily split cans and shatter milk bottles. I’d heard tales of vandals dropping them in porcelain toilets causing great damage.
By now, I had become quite the pro at lighting firecrackers while still in my hand and tossing them high in the air.(I still can’t believe my parents sat right behind me in their lawn chairs and watched me do this insane act). Now I know what you’re thinking. No, the cherry bomb didn’t blow my fingers off. What happened was that the trailing sparks from a tossed bomb ignited the little pile of bombs at my feet. I’m sure all of us have seen video of exploding fireworks stands and factories and that’s exactly what happened between my ankles. KA-WHOOOM!
The next thing I remember is picking myself up off the ground with my mother hovering over me and yelling something that I could not hear a word of. My dad was checking my legs and feet while the rest watched with anxious looks of concern on their faces. It felt like my pants were on fire but that was not the case. There were no burns or damage of any kind to my lower extremities, a lucky break that I’m sure my kids are thankful for today. Then, Keith, the impish little brother, started laughing. After a minute we were all chuckling, all except my mother. The Fourth really did go out with a bang.
It was not the last time during my childhood that I would blow myself up. The outcome of the next foolish stunt was far more serious. But that’s another story.
Sunday, August 12, 2012
Recently, Dan Cathy, CEO of the well known fast food franchise Chick-Fil-A, expressed his opinion on gay marriage and homosexuality in general. "It's an abomination, says so in the Bible," Dan said. Next thing you know, those people will be having sex with chickens. Where will that leave us? Nobody will eat a chicken that's been, well...I'm not goin' there, but you get the picture."
The following Appreciation Day resulted in the most profitable day in Chick-Fil-A's history.
My feeling on the subject? Dan is a freakin’ genius! What we have here is an entirely new marketing strategy; using the Bible to bring in customers. Think about it. What a concept. The possibilities are endless.
Let’s take Sear’s for instance. As we all know, the once powerful chain is in serious decline, closing stores and laying off thousands of employees. Following Ray’s lead, all they need to do is buy a little ad space:
Remember Noah? Remember the Ark? We believe. Giant Tool Sale! Friday and Saturday! Saws half off.
Voila! Business worries are over, profits are up, and the exec’s go back to making millions in bonuses again.
Home Depot could jump right in with: Lumber. Two for one on two by fours. Come on down!
Radio Shack: Get your GPS here. Works on water OR dry land.
Facebook: Be the first to friend Noah.
Atwood’s: Need exotic animal feed? We got you covered.
Sherman-Williams: We believe too. Check out our MARINE PAINT special!
Bass Pro: Rain Suits! You never know when you’ll need one.
Acme Waste Removal: You poop it. We scoop it.
Or how about Adam and Eve and the apple? Now we’re talkin’ grocery stores (fruit), landscaping and shrubbery sales, poison ivy remedies, clothing stores (especially clothing stores), not to mention snake removal services.
Dan my man, you may have finally found a way to jump start the economy. I tip my hat to ya.
Sunday, August 5, 2012
As most of you know, I recently wrote a novel (my second) that I called Fraidy Hole. I didn’t write it to make money. I did it only because I enjoy writing and in the end, I was glad that I did it. It was a gratifying experience to see many months of effort culminated with an upload to Amazon, to see my book and name listed on that giant of the Internet, not to mention on my own Kindle reader. Any sales from that point was icing on the cake.
As explained in a previous blog, book sales on Amazon are driven mainly by customer feedback. A promotional giveaway also helped to stimulate a little action in that department, especially in the United Kingdom where the book received it’s share of favorable reviews. In fact, if you do a Google search with the words Fraidy Hole and my name, almost three pages of results pop up. Very cool.
But let’s be honest here. Anyone with a story, good, bad, or horrible; as long as it’s formatted to their specs, can upload to Amazon. There is no judge sitting in a cramped office somewhere that rules on the merits of your work before it’s made public. The readers are the critics. They award the book a number of stars, one to five, along with an explanation of why they did so.
After looking at hundreds of reviews, it seems to me that the number of stars is based more on how much the reader enjoyed the book rather than the talents of the wordsmith. For example, Earnest Hemmingway has quite a number of four stars rather than five. Go figure. But it explains why Fraidy Hole was given a number of five star reviews because as we all know, I’m certainly no Hemmingway or Steinbeck or John Grisham or Stephen King. I’m only a rank beginner, trying to get better, doing what I like to do.
So here’s Fraidy Hole, rocking along with kind words, enjoying the spotlight, when suddenly, this shows up:
This book was not even worth 2.99! The author jumps from the main character's point of view to the sidekicks point of view to the dogs point of view on the same page. The book is very slow moving with many typos. Obviously not well researched because at one point the author talks about field irrigators making what looks like crop circles which isn't even close to what they do. The other reviewers must be either friends or family of the author because this book deserves one star and I'm being generous.
Of course everyone is entitled to their point of view, that’s how it works. But I took special exception to this comment. Typos? Yes, there are some that did get by me. That can be fixed. Slow moving? Perhaps in places, but other reviewers disagree. What really got to me was the part about the field irrigators. I researched that before writing one word on the subject. Take a look at Google Earth and Cimarron County, Oklahoma. See the crop circles? Then there’s this from Wikipedia:
Center-pivot irrigation (sometimes called central pivot irrigation), also called circle irrigation, is a method of crop irrigation in which equipment rotates around a pivot and crops are watered with sprinklers. A circular area centered on the pivot is irrigated, often creating a circular pattern in crops when viewed from above (sometimes referred to as crop circles). Most center pivots were initially water-powered, and today most are propelled by electric motors.
I know, I know, I shouldn’t let one jerk reviewer get to me, but it did. Perhaps that was his/her intention. I wish I were more thick skinned, but no. What really irks me is that this review will be there, prominently displayed on Amazon, for as long as the book is listed.
So here comes my plea (you saw it coming didn’t you?) If you have purchased a copy of Fraidy Hole, would you please consider posting a review? Clicking on the link will take you there. I’m not asking for five stars, four, or even three, only an honest opinion. I realize that Fraidy Hole is the kind of book that's not for everyone, some won’t like it, that’s life. I would only ask that your review be truthful. If you enjoyed the book, say so. Did you like the characters? Would you read another novel featuring Sheriff Morrison and his deputy, Billy Ray? If the book wasn't your cup of tea, fine, that's cool too. I can take the negative comments if they're accurate, but it would be greatly appreciated that such comments be without the insults of the aforementioned “reviewer.”
Thanks a bunch,
Irrigated Crop Circles