Monday, March 14, 2016


Do you ever have an unbidden thought flash through your mind and give you an unpleasant moment? I just had one that should have passed sixty years ago, never to be remembered again, but there it was. Vivid. Shudder.

The migration from the Nebraska farms to California is a topic covered here and many times, but I have usually characterized it as just the farmers who went broke. There was another reason, though, for Frank and Anne Waters.

Frank referred to his move from Missouri to Nebraska as "coming over," like it was from the Old Country, a reference that amused my dad. They settled as sharecroppers on the Kent & Burke Ranch owned by the banker and a prominent merchant in Genoa, and no one was ever to explain why a plain old farm was called a "ranch."

In the days when manpower exceeded machine power on the farm and when crews were needed for certain seasonal tasks, common practice was to join up with neighbors to form those crews. Late August/early September as the corn ripened but had not yet "turned" (when the leaves died), the crews would move from farm to farm cutting the whole corn stalk and ear, chopping into a salad that was then stored in silos where it fermented and provided a rich diet for cattle throughout the winter.

The crews were long ago replaced by more powerful, integrated machines and today, that part of the world has no need for silage--there are very few farms that have livestock of any kind.

Silage cutters were machines powered by the tractors that pulled them that chopped the stalk off near the ground, fed it into a chamber where knives sliced it into pieces approximately 1" long. There were a couple of principle designs, but a company named Gehl (say it like "gale") made one where the knives were integral to the blower that spit the finished product up, through a chute and into a wagon pulled behind. Frank had a Gehl. It was pulled and powered through a PTO from an International model M.

The time frame was defined as about the fall of 1953, I would have been eight, since it was before we had a TV (they had one, we visited from time to time to watch theirs).

The crew had assembled to "fill silo" at the Kent & Burke Ranch, things were underway by noon as Frank pulled the Gehl and the M into the yard to work on it during the lunch break (called "dinner" at that time...supper was in the evening). He opened the hatch on the housing of the blower/knives combo, reached in to clear some of the debris...when the M backfired.

Sliced most of his right hand off, leaving only the thumb.

That event, although I was not a witness, has played in my head for more than 60 years. Why didn't he wait? Why didn't he take the PTO out of gear? Why didn't they have a Super M (I think it had "live PTO" that was geared differently). Why didn't he do it after dinner?

Before the days of a lot of things--OSHA, even primitive safety equipment. A rougher time. I vaguely remember the prosthetic hand, but it wasn't long and it became evident that Frank could not perform farm work. They moved to California, I saw them once many years later when they came back.

They were gone, but the event has played in my head. Ever had that happen?

Friday, March 4, 2016


The word of the day is soupçon because...well, it's a useful word and fun to say. "Just a dash," "a little bit," and that second syllable is through your nose.

Well, I think I have realized a soupçon of understanding about what is going on with the 2016 political races! Yep, only a little understanding.

So, here it is: first the Republican candidates, then Hillary and Bernie.

Rubio has a really tough path in that it is perceived that he is imitating Obama's course in 2008--get elected to the Senate, don't vote on anything, in fact don't even show up. Just proceed to campaign for President. Be pretty and say some cool things. It seemed to be working until Trump showed up.

What's the deal with Cruz? Nobody likes him. Aside from the ultra-right wing stuff, he doesn't seem to be such a bad guy. But apparently, to know him is to hate him.

Then we have Donald Trump. If you hated him from the beginning, you just hate him worse now. Sort of the A.J. Pierzynski of the race (his manager was asked what his teammates thought of him and he said, "They hate him less.") Despite the best efforts of the "establishment" he steam rolls along saying ridiculous things that are quoted in the absolute worst way by NYT, etc.

Here's where my "soupçon" enters in. I have recently read a piece by Peggy Noonan, a couple of others including one by NYT writer David Brooks, who is really quite a dunce and seems to think his audience is pretty dim, too. Mining these writings, I think the term that Noonan used, the "unprotected," is about the best. It refers to the group of citizens who are tired of hearing only about the antics of Ferguson, the Kardashians and Bruce Jenner. These are the people who are not given special "protection" that certain groups are given. Groups like Washington insiders, politicians. Groups that are protected according to racial or sex and "promoted" because of their access to "minority-owned" or "affirmative action." They hate "politically correctness."

They are not heard, but they hear Trump saying things that they think or would like to say. Ironically, they include people that the protected class thinks are against him, like the Mexican people who are working in this country legally. My friend in Phoenix does not hire whites or blacks to work for him because "they just stand around and watch the Mexicans work." You would never, traditionally, hear a candidate say something like that, but it has a ring of truth. Whose job is the illegal going to take? Not the WASP intern in Washington, DC. The guy who is working a construction job in Phoenix.

These unprotected cross racial, social, educational and economic lines. They all possess a smoldering anger at political correctness that tells them they cannot mention their frustration at being skipped for a promotion in favor of a less-qualified employee. Or that they cannot complain about their daughter being forced to share a bathroom at school with a boy who claims to "identify" as a girl.

Also, there is a scientific study that is being touted as the answer. Apparently, Trump supporters like order and respect authority. The NYT take on that sort of person is that they are basically puppets of the next Hitler. When anyone, liberal or conservative, plays the "Hitler" card, I'm immediately suspicious that their argument is weak.

OK, Bernie and Hillary. Shouldn't Hillary be under indictment? And Bernie isn't even a real Democrat, he just "caucuses" with them because there aren't any Socialists or Communists with enough clout.

Can't we come up with something better? On both sides? Trump at least has the benefit of being beholden to no special interest groups. So, if you like George Soros or the Koch brothers, Donald is not your guy.

If Trump becomes President, can he garner more disdain than the public seems to have for Congress?