Sunday, 24 January 2016, 20:07 | Category : Life, Mississippi, Nature, Philosophy
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There’s an old cemetery that I’ve walked through on occasion – a couple of times when I was helping to clean up and plant some antique roses among the headstones, a couple of times when I was just walking around. The cemetery dates back to the 1820s, and holds the remains of several Mississippi governors and other notables, including those of Eudora Welty. There’s also a section of unknown Confederate soldiers. The cemetery lies in sight of Mississippi’s State Capitol building and other state office buildings, but it’s surprisingly unknown to many people. One gray January afternoon a few years ago I was wandering through some of the older parts of the cemetery and happened to notice something at the base of a large tree. When I looked closer, I saw that it was an old headstone.


I’ve thought about that headstone many times since. It’s almost a parable about our relationship to the world in which we live. Or at least, a reference to Ecclesiastes Chapter 1:

What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

In the end, the trees win. Time wins. Time always wins.

The Wisdom Of The Oak

Saturday, 8 February 2014, 19:58 | Category : Mississippi, Southern Stuff, Weather
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I’m not one to put stock in things like the Farmer’s Almanac long-range forecasts. I don’t pay attention to which way the wooly bears are crossing the road, or what their stripes look like. In the interest of fairness to the Farmers Almanac, I will admit that they pretty much called this winter:

a decline in solar activity combined with ocean-atmosphere patterns in the Pacific and Atlantic will result in below-normal temperatures and above-normal snowfall during most of the winter across much of the United States.

“This winter is shaping up to be a rough one,” says Janice Stillman, editor of The Old Farmer’s Almanac. “Sweaters and snow shovels should be unpacked early and kept close by throughout the season

I’m not sure they were all that accurate for the western US, I haven’t paid attention.

I’ve mentioned before that overhanging my front yard and house is an enormous red oak, the second-largest in Mississippi I’ve been told. It’s a grand old tree, huge spreading branches and tons of leaves that fall every year around Christmas.

It pretty well dominates the front yard, both in the shade it provides on that side and with its sheer presence. Last fall, I noticed early on that it was dropping tons of acorns. I mean, a tree that size is going to drop lots of acorns, but last fall it was dropping far more than I’d ever seen. I mentioned it to my wife, and to friends. I didn’t really think much about it. I should have paid more attention. According to Farmer’s Almanac and multiple other places, an abundance of acorns is a sign that winter will be cold and snowy. Accuweather says that actually lots of acorns are a result of a hard winter two or three years ago. But our winters have been fairly mild lately, so I’m going with the “lots of acorns forecast a cold winter” theory. Do I really believe this? Well, of course not. It’s just coincidence that a huge number of acorns under that tree last October and November was followed by the coldest winter I can remember in the past 20 years. We’ve had winters where we rarely got below the upper 20s. This year, lows in the teens have been fairly common, and frozen stuff falling from the sky, while never accumulating much in my part of the state, has occurred several times, and south of me has seen a couple of multi-inch accumulations. And there’s another round forecast for next Monday night and Tuesday. So I’m going to just say this: next time the big red oak drops lots of acorns, I’m going to do what preparing I can for winter. Like, for instance, not bothering to overwinter things in my little greenhouse. And not putting off some outdoor chores, like fence repair, that I’ve gotten away with in the past. Next time, I’ll listen to the wisdom of the oak.

A Snapshot Of Mid-60s America

Tuesday, 23 October 2012, 21:40 | Category : Life, Mississippi
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I ran across this old photo of my dad and me dating from 1966 or 1967. We were building the screen porch off the back of our house, one of my favorite places once it was done, and where I learned to love that weird light that came through those green fiberglass panels that were so prevalent then. I was 12 or 13 at the time, and I don’t remember how much of the work I did, although I do remember helping to put up the walls. But as I looked at the photo, I realized it captured life in the mid-60s in several ways. It starts with the screen door. Every house I knew of had screen doors, because the one thing they didn’t have was air conditioning. I don’t remember ever being miserably hot, and in fact I have great memories of laying in bed while the attic fan pulled in the night air through open windows. But this was Mississippi, and it was hot and humid in June, July, and August (and May and September, truth be known), so I guess it was a case of not knowing how much better it could have been. To the right of the screen door, in fact to the right of the windows, is a pole anchored to the house. This was our external television antenna, because another thing we didn’t have was cable TV. We wouldn’t get that for another 10 years. At that time, we got two channels – NBC (channel 3) and CBS (channel 12). The NBC station, I think, also carried some ABC programming, which is why, I think, we didn’t get Startrek when it originally aired. On rare occasions, we would be able to pull in channel 10, from somewhere in Arkansas, but the picture was never good. A little more subtle is the dryer, right outside the kitchen door. There wasn’t such a thing as a laundry room in any house I knew about – the washing machine was in the kitchen, and there wasn’t any room for a dryer, so when we got one it went outside. But not for long, because the screen porch, which covered the entire patio, came along shortly after the dryer. And the pink color of the house is another indication – I don’t recall seeing pink houses after about 1970. But it was a great house to grow up in, even though there were seven of us crammed into that 950 or so square feet (and one bathroom). Oh, and last but not least – dig those low-top Converse tennis shoes!

Cabin, Shed, Tractor, And A Snake

Sunday, 7 October 2012, 21:23 | Category : Life, Mississippi
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Over the past couple of years, we’ve had a series of break-ins at the cabin, and the small tool shed where we stored the mowers and some tools. The last time, about 2 months ago, they didn’t bother the cabin, but they destroyed the door to the shed, jerking the doorknob assembly completely out of the door. And then took nothing, because there’s nothing left in the shed worth taking. But they did mangle the door to the point where it has to be replaced. I did a temporary patch, just screwing a piece of plywood over the hole, and expressed my frustration like this:

I’ve since taken the door off, to make sure I can find a replacement that will work. I’ve covered the opening with plastic that I hope/think will suffice for a short while. We’ll see. So there’s that. I also filled up one diesel container (about 4-5 gallons) and took that down to put into the tractor – it was down to about 1/4 tank, and I figure that will take care of the rest of the season. I want to mow at least once more, just to neaten things up before winter sets in. BUT!! While I was adding the diesel to the tank, I noticed a snakeskin hanging down from the engine. And when I lifted the engine cover, there was a large snake, in its shiny new skin, in the engine compartment. I saw enough that I was pretty sure it was non-poisonous (I think it was a gray rat snake, might have been a corn snake, but my brief look says the color was wrong for a corn snake), so I left it alone, because I figured (A) it probably won’t be there that long, and (B) as long as it’s there, there won’t be any rats chewing on wires. And (C) there really wasn’t any point in bothering it – even if it left, it would probably just wait for me to leave and go right back. So we agreed to part as friends and go our separate ways. I will, however, check before I crank up the tractor next time!

What I Learned This Weekend

Sunday, 30 September 2012, 15:58 | Category : Life, Mississippi
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A couple of years ago I posted about learning to drive a tractor. While I’ve continued to have my sessions with the tractor every 4-6 weeks during the spring and summer, my tractor-driving skills haven’t really improved much. OK, maybe a little, but I still don’t like slopes – and what I call a slope, from my perch up on the seat, probably would just be called uneven ground by someone used to being on a tractor.


And this summer, I’ve had to use a bush hog instead of the finish mower deck, because the belt broke on the finish mower early on this spring; I got another and it promptly broke too. We haven’t replaced the belt yet, so we’ve been using the bush hog the past couple of months. I don’t like using the bush hog – it doesn’t cut as neatly, and the tractor doesn’t drive as easily with it back there. And yesterday I came up with yet another reason to dislike the bush hog. I ran over a couple of fresh cowpies, and discovered that somehow, a bush hog has the ability to hurl pieces of a cowpie directly forwards from underneath the deck. Directly forward, onto the person sitting on the tractor seat. I looked back at the bush hog, and for the life of me I can’t figure out how that happened, but it scored two direct hots, one on my calf and one on the back of my neck. And I said, these were fresh. Very, very fresh. Needless to say, I avoided the ensuing cowpies. Lesson learned. I miss that finish mower.