Sunday, November 01, 2015

Time and time again..............

Years ago, when I was still a kid on the farm near Millville Grade School, we raised a lot of our own food. While Mom was able to process about everything that came out of the garden or the chicken house, Dad would normally take the cows up to Willy Johnson’s packing house in Dalton where Willy would cut it up and write what it was on the white paper he wrapped around each piece. Then we would put some bushel baskets in the station wagon, and haul the meat home so Mom could arrange it in the freezer next to the hog meat that was already there.

            Dad took the hogs to the Knightstown locker plant when we had one butchered. I never knew why for sure, but I just figured Willy was busy enough butchering cows that he didn’t want to mess with hogs. Anyway, we picked up the meat from Knightstown the same as we did from Dalton, except that they put the meat in some cardboard boxes that had the name of the locker plant on it, so we didn’t have to take any bushel baskets with us. They also sent some cracklins back. Those were the pieces of hide that were left after the people at the locker plant had rendered the lard out of it and poured it into a big metal bucket. Even after they were fried and pressed, there was still enough lard left in the cracklins to seep through the sides of the brown paper bag that held them.

            As greasy as they looked, and as awful as they sounded, they were some pretty good eating, especially the crunchy ones, so we never paid much attention to Mom’s warning that if we ate too many they would make us sick. Besides, there were ten of us, so the chance that one of us would get too many was pretty slim.

            I’ve bought some stuff from stores over the years since then that claimed to be cracklins, but it didn’t have any lard leaking out of the bag, and I suspect they probably never had any lard in them to begin with. And I’m pretty sure they were never wrapped around a pig.  It’s one of those deals where, no matter what they call them, I may not know what they are, but I sure know what they aren’t.

            Speaking of cracklins, last Saturday night or Sunday morning, after I went to bed and was dreaming about them, the time changed again. I’m not sure if we went off of Daylight Savings Time or onto it, but according to my wife, we got an extra hour of sleep because of it. Hopefully it will make up for the one she told me we lost last March.

            People have a lot of different opinions about why we should or shouldn’t change time twice a year. During the Second World War it was supposed to save energy. The last time Indiana decided to do it was so it would be easier to do business with other states. I’ve never noticed that I have any more energy one way or the other, and I try to do most of my trading in Indiana anyway, so that never made much difference to me. I did read a study which claimed that while there are more car crashes after we move our clocks back an hour, there are also fewer heart attacks. Pick your poison, I guess.

            Long before people started inventing different ways to keep time, there was something called sun time. The way it worked was that when the sun was directly overhead, it 12:00 noon. When people decided it got daylight to early and dark to early, they moved the clocks forward an hour, and when they decided they wanted to sleep a little longer in the morning and play a little longer at night, they moved them forward again.  So now, even when we move our clocks back, we never really move them back where they belong.

             I know some people adjust to the time change better than others, but we’ve changed so many times I don’t know what time it really is. But I know what time it isn’t.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Shutdown, 2013....

I kept a journal on facebook when the government "shut down" in October of 2013. I had a few requests to put it together in one location, and this was the easiest place, so here it is.

Government Shutdown, 2013

Rex Bell’s Journal

Update, day 5 of shutdown.


Found a small group of citizens huddled around table at Early Bird Cafe. Some seemed sleepy and confused, as if they didn't know what to order for breakfast. Ben the waiter snapped at Larry when he tried to order blueberry crepes`. Coffee and bacon still in supply, but who knows for how long.


Road back to Hagerstown still open, but noticed some leaves are starting to turn different colors, and some are even falling on ground. Rain continues, and birds seem to be gathering on light wires.


Can't help but wonder what fresh hell the day will bring.



Shutdown Journal, day 8:


Entering second week of shutdown. Amazed at the number of people who go on like they don't know what's happening. Don't know if they are just being brave, or if they really don't know. I'll try to warn them.


Our table was down to nothing but apple jelly at the diner this morning. Evelyn looked around for grape but couldn't find any. A stranger came in. Nobody knew who he was, but he seemed awfully interested in what was on the menu. Maybe too interested.


Heard from Rick Culberson yesterday that a couple of guys were taking his trash and throwing it in a big truck in Hagerstown. Someone got ours last night. Need to be more careful what we put in it.


Hoping to start room addition today if delivery truck can get through.


Will try to change oil in truck today, although it now seems pointless, much like haircuts.


Stranger found grape jelly. How?




Shutdown Journal, Day 12:


Conditions worsening. Tried to show people pictures of the difference in Susan's flowers before the shutdown and after the shutdown. They look at me in disbelief, almost like they are in denial.


Crops appear to be dying in the fields. Many are turning brown. Some farmers have already given up on them and are mowing them down with giant machines. Heartbreaking.


Desolation everywhere. Trees appear to be dying even in town, as more and more leaves continue to fall. Saw people trying to save them by gathering them up with giant rakes. I wanted to tell them to just give up, that the leaves are already dead, that there was nothing they could do for them, and that they might as well just burn them. Decided it was maybe better to just let them have their fantasies in these last few days.


Going to look for coffee and jelly. Grape I hope.




Shutdown Journal, day 14, or maybe not.


Nights seem to be getting longer. Awakened by a distant train whistle at 3:00 A.M. Possibly it might be bringing in supplies. Jelly maybe. Grape.


As the train passes, coyotes are howling in the field behind our house. They sound hungry. Relieved that I parked close to the door last night.


Made it to the truck and went to the diner. Parking lot was dark, and none of the regulars were there. Nobody was there, not even Linda. Feared the worst. Maybe coyotes had been here. Realized it was 3:30. Never mind. Went back home and parked close to the door.


No rain for 5 days now. Constant worry about how long the water will hold out. Skipped bath last two days just in case.


School in Hagerstown has been strangely quiet this week. No sign of children. Not sure why. Drove by another school yesterday afternoon about 3:00. Children were being loaded onto big yellow buses. Don't know where they were being taken, or what will be there when they come back. If they come back. Wonder how much people will take before they cry out.


Susan made me sleep on the couch.


May have to take bath today.




Shutdown journal, day 13 or 15:


Coyotes in field eerily quiet this morning, like maybe their bellies are full. Probably full of raccoon and grape jelly. Despicable creatures. I hate coyotes.


Waited over an hour for Sunday School and Church to start this morning. Nobody showed up, not even preacher. Afraid people have given up because of this shutdown. Found really nice coat on coat rack.


Cars are still driving back and forth in front of house. Even saw trains going both directions on Hagerstown track this morning. Seems like people just don't know where to go. Stood in front yard and yelled encouragement.


Still no rain, but heavy dew this morning. Afraid not enough to save dying leaves, though.


Someone just yelled something back at me from the road. That was uncalled for. Tempers must be getting short.




Shutdown journal, somewhere in central Indiana:


More dark, more fog. Things even seem blurry inside this morning. Worst part is not knowing what might happen next.


Grandkids won 2 goldfish at fall festival yesterday. One didn't make it through the night. Second holding on, but doesn't smell very good.


Found glasses. Things looking a little better.


Went to a bacon party last. Quite a bit of bacon, but some people brought salads. Some people were even eating salads. Wondered to myself what would cause people to eat salad when there was bacon on the table. Must have been scared and confused.


Saw several people at party off to the side talking privately. Wonder what they were talking about. Probably about the people eating salad.


Surviving fish looks confused also.


So much confusion. When will it end?




Shutdown journal, sometime in week 3:


Losing track of days as shutdown continues and conditions continue to deteriorate.


Last goldfish passed. Would like to believe by natural causes, but seems odd that 2 would die in 2 days. Did they know something?


Coyotes are getting closer to the house. Found signs in yard this morning.


Delivery truck managed to get through with load of material for room addition. 2 x 4's only measure 1 1/2 x 3 1/2. Wonder what happened to the rest of them.


House smells of dead fish.


Tomato plants completely dead now. Eating plain peanut butter sandwiches now. Hope to make contact with Rick Culberson or Jeremiah Morrell sometime today about grape jelly.




Shutdown journal, still third week, Tuesday maybe:


Shutdown seems to be spreading. Two days in a row without mail. Even banks closed yesterday.


Awakened early by sound of people rummaging through trash again. Seems like it is becoming a weekly thing. Slim pickings this week, I'm afraid. Poor bastards. Looks like they took it all. I'll try to leave a sandwich next week.


Leaves and crops continue to turn brown. Hard to stay optimistic that any will survive. Try not to look, but seems like I'm surrounded by them.


Accidently tore tag off of mattress while making bed. At least I'm safe for now.


Found rebate check from Betty Crocker while looking for tomatoes in refrigerator. Hope bank reopens soon.


Neighbor Liz brought by some grape jelly. smile emoticon Tried to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but couldn't find the peanut butter. Or bread.


Looks bad for the trash guys.




Shutdown journal, October 2013:


Rained last night. Not a warm, nurturing rain. A cold, heartless rain. The kind of rain you get when the government shuts down.


Mail beginning to trickle in. Received advertising ink pen and gift certificate for Bath and Body Works yesterday. Good start on Christmas.


Drove by Amish market yesterday. Still had a lot of tomatoes. Must not know about shutdown. Somebody needs to tell them. Just can't bring myself to do it.


Somebody at coffee said tomorrow was final day. Might as well eat that jar of grape jelly, I guess.


Ink pen doesn't work. Drat.


A couple of women in my literature class seemed particularly testy last night. Probably didn't get any mail. May stop today and get them some tomatoes.




Shutdown journal, final entry:


As best I can tell, this is October 17th, the day the shutdown becomes complete. Could hardly force myself to get out of bed.


Sad to see everything end, but it was getting harder and harder to go on knowing total collapse was inevitable.


A car just drove by. Where could anybody be going now? Poor fool.


Finishing off last of grape jelly today, and then nailing plywood over windows.


Hope to see most of my family and some of my friends on the other side when


Huh? What? They did what? Oh.


Never mind.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Any way you look at it....

            I’ve never really been a big fan of “last chance” or “going out of business” sales. Even after the last chance ends, there’s a good chance you’ll have another chance to get the same item at another store the next time you’re in town. And most of the time, if a store that has something people really want goes out of business, another business will start handling that item. Barring that, I can always have one of my grandchildren get on the computer and order it online.

            Last week there was an event they called a “blood moon eclipse”, where the moon was supposed to glow red and have an eclipse at the same time. While blood moons and eclipses are fairly common, the conditions for both to occur at the same time hadn’t happened for 33 years, and according to some reports won’t happen again for another 18. I did a little figuring in my head, and decided that if I wanted to see a blood moon eclipse for myself, this might very well be a real last chance, so I made a conscious effort to stay awake long enough to go outside after it got dark and check it out for myself.

            As luck would have it, it was pretty cloudy over our house that night, and while I could see the outline of the moon and the eclipse as it moved across it, it didn’t really look any more red to me than it did on any other night. I did see some pictures people had taken from other locations, and the moon looked a lot bigger and redder, and the eclipse looked a lot sharper than it did from Hagerstown. I guess it all depended on where you were standing when you looked at it.

            Of course, when it comes right down to it, the moon didn’t really change at all. It’s still just a big ball of dirt and rocks orbiting around the earth, and it doesn’t change color or shape, unless a meteor slams into it and shoves some dirt and rocks around a little bit. But people have been watching it for a long time, and even staying up past their bedtime to check it out when the light and the shadows hit it just right, and make it look different than it looked the last time they looked at it.

            I suppose where you are has a lot of bearing on how you look at a lot of things. I’m sure the 18 years until the next blood moon eclipse looks a lot longer to my grandchildren than it does to me. I think where you are has a lot of bearing on how you look at government, also.

            George Washington said that “Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.” While a lot of things have changed since George made that observation, the fact that government uses force, or the threat of force, to carry out its policies, hasn’t.

             Part of that government force is used for transfer payments, where it takes money from one group of people and gives it to another group of people without any goods or services changing hands. That practice now consumes the bulk of the federal budget. If a person is on the receiving end of the transfer, they tend to see government a little differently than if they are on the paying end of the transfer. And no doubt a lot of people who are standing in the paying line are looking forward to the day they will be standing in the receiving line.

            It might be a good time to start looking at ways to involve government a little less in our daily lives, because the more people we have in the receiving line, the more force will be required to keep everyone else in line.

             That’s how it works, no matter how you look at it.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Losing it....

         Several members of my family are wearing something called a fitbit. It’s a little electronic gadget that tells you, at the push of a button, how many steps you have taken and how far you have walked on a given day. If you push another button, it will tell you how many calories you have burned while you were taking all of those steps. Sometimes the gadget is connected to another gadget that tells you how many more calories you would burn if you walked a little faster, and sometimes it will even tell everybody else, via Facebook, how many steps you have taken, how many calories you have burned, and how long it took you to burn them.

            Now, I don’t have a fitbit, so I just have to guess about my steps and calories. I did notice on a Facebook post the other day that one of my friends had walked five miles and burned 728 calories in 43 minutes. While I was impressed that my friend was able to walk 5 miles in 43 minutes, I did some quick calculations and discovered that in order for me to burn up the calories contained in that 4 pound bag of Tootsie Rolls I would have to walk a little over 46 miles in about 4 ½ hours.

            It helped me realize that sometimes there just isn’t enough time or energy today to burn off all of the calories I consumed yesterday. Especially after I find a really good deal on a really big bag of Tootsie Rolls.

There are a lot of things in this world that have gone so far over the edge that they just can’t be fixed. Sometimes we get really attached to things, and hold onto them longer than we should. I kept my 1978 Chevy pickup until it rusted into 3 pieces. I kept thinking with a little more body putty, rabbit wire and tar paper I could keep it together, but the time finally came when I realized that positive thinking wasn’t enough to hold the truck together, any more than it could burn up calories as fast as I could consume them.

We are currently being subjected to the early stages of a Presidential campaign, where an ever-changing number of candidates from various political parties are offering up various solutions to change, or maintain, whatever people who pay attention to such things, think is right or wrong in Washington. I’m sure most of the candidates are sincere in their intentions to change or maintain how things are done, but as voters, perhaps we need to pay a little less attention to what the candidates tell us they are going to do, and a little more attention to how things really work with the federal government.

We elect some representatives and senators to represent us every couple of years, and like current crop of presidential candidates, I’m sure they have good intentions about doing whatever they told us they would do while they were trying to convince us to vote for them. In reality, there is a myriad of government agencies in Washington that have taken on a life of their own, and along with the Supreme Court, pretty well control every aspect of our lives.

Seldom a day goes by that we don’t read a story about IRS, the EPA, the DEA, the NEA, or one of the other countless government agencies imposing some new rule or enforcing an obscure old one, visiting misery on any person that happens to be in the crosshairs. (I say “countless government agencies” because after a little research, I found that even the federal government doesn’t know how many agencies it has.)

People who want to maintain a big government certainly have the advantage for now. The natural tendency of government to expand pretty well guarantees that.  And I don’t fault people who still believe they can trim the fat in Washington by electing more of the same people we have been sending there for years, but in reality, our best chance of restoring limited government and individual freedom will happen when enough people realize the federal government is out of control, and start exercising our right to control our own lives a little closer to home.

Monday, August 03, 2015

The Great Pretenders...

            When we were back at Millville Grade School, my old buddy Stinky Wilmont and I spent a lot of time pretending. During recess we pretended to be something we weren’t, and a lot of time when we were in class we pretended we were someplace else. Wherever we were, we spent a lot of time pretending we were cowboys. At that time they didn’t have astronauts, so we couldn’t pretend to be one of those. Fact was, our world view from Millville was somewhat limited, so there just weren’t a lot of options on what you could pretend to be.

          Our classmate Bernice Hawkins was insufferable when she pretended to be a princess, so most of the time Stinky and I just pretended we didn’t even know she was around. And like most kids, we were pretty good at it. We could pretend that a little stick was a six-shooter, and that a bigger stick was a rifle, and that an even bigger stick was a horse. I don’t think they make sticks like they used to. Or maybe I’m just not as good at pretending as I used to be.

          I don’t pretend nearly as much as I used to, and most of my pretending now amounts to pretending I can still do some things I used to do when I was younger, and usually ends up giving me an aching back, which I try to pretend doesn’t hurt.

          I think most adults pretend something occasionally, but some pretend more than others. A couple of months ago, I read a story about Rachel Dolezal, a woman who pretended to be black in order to get a position with the NAACP. I’m not sure if being black was a requirement for the job, but apparently pretending to be black was a disqualifier, and she lost her job. About 55 years ago, John Howard Griffin pretended to be black and wrote a book about it entitled “Black like me.” It sold over ten million copies. I guess pretending works out better for some than it does for others.

          Olympic athlete Bruce Jenner recently decided that he didn’t want to be a man anymore, and is pretending to be a girl. He now has a girl’s name, and some other things that girls usually have, so I think the pretending is easier, but he also has some things that guys have, which makes the pretending still necessary. The way I see it, he didn’t care when I was pretending to be a cowboy, so I don’t really care if he wants to pretend to be a girl.

          Last week I heard about a planet out there in the universe somewhere named Kepler 425b that NASA says is a lot like the earth. It could be, I guess. The problem is it’s 1400 light years away. Since a light year is about 6 trillion miles, that makes the planet about 8.4 quadrillion miles from here. A little farther if you live in New York. I won’t pretend that I have any idea what all exists in the vastness of space. Maybe there are some other planets a lot like earth. But I do think if you start telling me about what something is like 8.4 quadrillion miles away, we’re both going to have to do some pretending. I feel the same way about NASA as I do about Mr. Jenner when it comes to pretending, in that I don’t really care, except that NASA spent about $600 million of our tax money pretending to find 452b. I’m sure they could have pretended to find something a little closer to home for a little less money.

          Speaking of pretending and taxes, it takes a big portion of our taxes just to pay the interest on $18 trillion plus federal debt we now owe, and it will take a little more when it hits $19 trillion next year. Our elected officials like to pretend, and would like us to pretend, that it doesn’t really matter. But when we realize there is another $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities from the governments promised social programs, and when we see other nations like Greece and Argentina floundering under the weight of debt and out of control government spending, it’s getting harder and harder to pretend it can’t happen here.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Decisions, decisions, decisions....

I guess there are times when we need a decider. Like when we take one of our Granddaughters out for breakfast on Sunday morning, and ask her what she wants to order. We can start discussing it as soon as we get into the car and head to the restaurant, and we can keep discussing it while we make our way to our table, but invariably, when Jackie the waitress asks what she wants to eat, she freezes like a deer in the headlights, while the rest of us offer suggestions and reminders of what was discussed earlier. Her brother also has a little difficulty making up his mind about what he wants, but his solution is to order five or six different items just to make sure he gets something he wants.

            As it ends up, most of the time Grandma gets to decide, so that we won’t be late for church, or so that breakfast doesn’t end up costing more than Grandpa made last week. I don’t think it’s a new development by any means. Parents and grandparents have been deciding what children will eat since the beginning of time. As we get a little older, we get to make a few more restaurant decisions on our own. Even at home, sometimes my wife asks for my input concerning what I want packed in my lunch, or what I would like for supper.  I’ve reached the age where I can decide not to eat something I didn’t ask for,  but after nearly 40 years of marriage I’ve decided that if it doesn’t involve broccoli or raw peas, things will probably go smoother if I simply trust her decision.

            The fact that we are able to make more of our own decisions as we get older doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to always make good decisions. Last week I decided to eat an entire cherry strudel in one sitting. While it seemed like a good decision at the time, I decided that a pound of cherry strudel weighs a lot more than a pound if consumed right before bedtime. 45 years ago I made the decision to start smoking. A few years later I decided it was a lot easier to start than it was when I decided to stop.

            Still, good decisions or bad, I appreciate the fact that as adults in a free society, we should be able to make our own decisions, as long as those decisions don’t require us to initiate force against someone else. I’m glad that I can decide to go to church even if my neighbor decides not to. And while I wish more of my friends would stop smoking, I think it’s more important that they have the right to make their own decision.

            For a long time, our government has been making a lot of decisions for us that we ought to be making for ourselves, and in the last couple of weeks, the Supreme Court has been in the spotlight for making decisions about some of decisions other parts of the government have made. It’s disappointing that 535 elected people in Washington, or a couple hundred in each state, are making decisions about what we must or must not do in our private lives and affairs, without any Constitutional authority to do so. It is even more disappointing that we allow nine appointed judges, most of whom few Americans can name, to do the same.

            We will be a freer, as a people and as a nation, when we decide to limit the government and the courts to their rightful duties of protecting us from force and fraud, and start making our own personal decisions again.

             Now, what’s for supper?


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Down the rabbit hole....

      I’ve heard many times the Lord helps those who help themselves. I think that’s probably true most of the time, depending, of course, on what we decide to help ourselves to. Regardless, things usually work out better if we put forth a little more effort.  

     Last week, when I opened the shop door one morning to load the truck and get ready for work, a young rabbit decided he wanted to hop into the shop for some reason. I’m not sure why, since there isn’t anything in there to eat that would appeal to a rabbit that I know of, and it isn’t any warmer inside than it is outside. But he came in anyway, and despite my excited instructions to vacate the premises, made his way under or behind some workbenches and tool boxes, out of sight, but not out of mind.

     I picked up a 2 x 4 and banged on a workbench and an empty 5 gallon bucket while whistling my shrillest whistle, and then put a Slim Whitman album on the old shop stereo with the volume turned up while I retreated to the office to finish the morning’s paperwork. While I hadn’t seen the rabbit slip out the open door during my whistling fit, I was convinced few of God’s creatures, least of all a young woodland variety, would be able to weather an entire album side of Slim.

     So I closed the door and went to work, secure in the notion that fuzzy little buddy had made good on his escape, and was back in the great outdoors eating clover and avoiding coyotes. Confident I was, but not so confident that I didn’t open the door, pick up a 2 x 4, and give that bucket a couple of good whacks when I returned home that evening. I figured on the outside chance that the rabbit was deaf, or had really bad taste in music, and had stayed in hiding during the morning’s audio onslaught, he would surely be hungry enough by now to come out of hiding and make a dash for the open door.

     While I was convinced the problem had resolved itself when I left the shop that evening, I’m sorry to report that when I went to the shop the next morning, I was greeted by a dead rabbit lying in the middle of the floor. While I was relieved he had the decency not to pass in some obscure hiding spot where his rotting corpse would have been tougher to deal with in a few days, I was also disappointed that he hadn’t taken one of the many opportunities he had been given to live a fuller and longer life. But I also remembered he was a rabbit, and probably not prone to thinking of things beyond the moment.

     Speaking of the moment, at this particular one we’re 16 months or so away from the next Presidential election. We have about that many candidates who have thrown their hats into the presidential ring, waiting on some of us to weed them down to just one survivor. If recent history is any indicator, that survivor will be the one that convinces the most people he or she can help them out of whatever problem they currently find themselves in. And again, if recent history is any indicator, what actually will happen is that survivor will help maintain policies that take from one group of people and give to another group of people, making one group more angry and one group more dependent, all the time adding to a multi-trillion dollar debt that another group down the proverbial road will be expected to pay.

     I can’t help but believe that if the federal government was capable of helping us out, it would have done so already. While it might have a few legitimate and Constitutional duties and obligations, most of what it does nowadays simply puts us deeper in the hole. Fortunately, the Constitution also contains the 10th Amendment, which states that anytime the federal government oversteps its authority, the people and states can nullify its actions and decide how to best help themselves. 

     It’s something we need to seriously consider, before the door closes for good.