Rum & Coke

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Not Horse Soldiers, Not By A Country Mile

I’m not particularly old school.  There are any number of modern conveniences that I use and enjoy and as I’ve mentioned before in these pages, nothing beats modern pain killers and dental care–an option not enjoyed by the Lakota in The Moon of the Cracking Trees on the great plains, where they hovered by tiny fires in a buffalo hide tipi–light years away from emergency rooms or even basic antibiotics.  I’m willing to bet a shot of morphine or a course of penicillin would have gone a long way, in full gratitude, for those folks.

But there is an awful lot of it I can, and prefer, to skip entirely.

I had a 37 minute fight with my cellphone this afternoon, only moments after coming into the house, and after the sheer pleasure of riding my horse into unfamiliar territory out in the woods.  She did fine.  The phone?  Garbage.  The horse promises nothing and just keeps delivering.  The phone, and the over-hyped plan we pay for, promises the moon and delivers an endless series of frustrations.  Blame it on the trees.

After another career, where I was made a slave to this “convenience,” I’m tempted, well nigh inclined, to simply dump the contrivance altogether.  Forever.  The cell phone is a particularly effective demon, a soul-sucking minion of hell, whispering promises and delivering sludge.  And I’m not convinced we are one iota better because of them.  That’s an old school response, I suppose, probably dimwitted and ill-considered.  But I don’t care.  And I also don’t care how many terabytes of excellence they are offering on the re-up plan.

Here on the Figure 8 we take a number of different magazines.  We take Outside, the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic, and over the years quite a few others.  Our reading options are driven by practicality, and our own commitment to learning how to live well on the planet.  The point is, we have a broad intake of information, so I feel confident in my convictions, even as I rail against a regrettable theme I see developing.

Turns out, millenials are now dying their hair gray.  Okay.  I’m aware that in much of Europe there was once a time it was fashionable for women to color their teeth black–it was the absolute zenith of haute couture, but still, let’s face it, that’s a bizarre flourish in the genetically driven effort to secure a full dance card.  The millennial clan, so utterly devoid of depth, or breadth, have resorted to gray hair as a desperate stab at the right to be taken seriously.  I realize that getting upset over fashion is an epic fail, but I’m ranting, and I’ll blame it on the refuge I so weakly sought in a stout rum and coke after the cell phone episode.

I have long believed, particularly after a career in law enforcement, that much of life is simply a matter of avoiding the various cultural tar pits.  I think its getting worse.  Gray hair?  Gray freaking hair?  It’s one thing to earn the gray now prodigious in my beard, it’s another thing entirely to break out of the grass at the edge of the watering hole, after a taxing sojourn across the savannah, and see kids spray painting themselves and demanding respect for their vacuous and entirely manufactured curriculum vitae.  They were, after all, born at the watering hole.

But there is always hope.  I am now deep into the guts of Once An Eagle, and I can tell you this afternoon that this novel is among the finest I have ever read.  And, modestly, I have read A LOT of novels.  It’s an American tale, through and through, and requires the embrace of certain currently unpopular Americanisms, an embrace which grows more unlikely by the hour as the American University experiment continues its slow decline into moral and ethical lassitude.  But read it.  As my father used to beg me–bursting into my room and waving a large tome in his hands–Please read this.

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Anderson Family, near Lebanon, Missouri

Back on the ranch, I have resolved simply to ignore my phone.  It’s mostly worthless, and mathematically, I have somehow lived most of my life without one.  I have an iPhone 4s, which is already an extinct dinosaur, and I’m seriously considering having it framed.  I think I’ll do that, actually, and just park it on the wall beside the photograph of my Missouri relatives.  The photograph is a fabulous time piece, as they stand posed in front of their clapboard mansion in the Ozarks, at least one without shoes, resplendent and proud in their overhauls and starched collars.  What a fine photograph they made, standing in the dirt calamity of their yard, a gate with no fence, the Civil War still in living memory.  These were people who heated smooth river rocks, and lay them at the foot of their feather beds to stay warm at night.  They pumped water by hand for the kitchen, and they hunted coons for soup and supper with redbone hounds.  For the photo, they hauled out their  horses and put on their Sunday best.  Then they stood solemnly, proudly, grimly realistic, and without a single hint of manufacture–no spray-on gray hair for this bunch–as the flash-lamp blew and the photographer backed out from his hood.  And when it was over I suppose they simply walked away, put the horses up, and got back to work.

I’ll take that for medicine, and the depth of fortitude that went with it.  And as the sky goes dark in the treetops tonight, on a day when I started to smell spring in the forest, I’ll probably slam another rum and coke.

 

  1. Back when I was a teen and frequently dining at your grandparents’ house, I witnessed them on numerous occasions simply ignore a ringing phone…and this was before caller id and robo calls. It always made me nervous. What if it were an emergency call from a relative? But since the three people they cared about the most, their sons, were gathered around the table, they were willing to take the risk. I think some of genes have filtered down to you. Congratulations.

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    1. One of my greatest memories: Russ talking to Larvin on the phone. Larvin was back on the farm in Iowa. Russ spoke into the phone for five or ten minutes, quietly, then handed the phone off to Jean. Jean went yelling into the phone for about ten minutes, then hung up. Steve said, “Jean, why do you have to yell into the phone like that?” Russ put his hand on Steve’s shoulder. “She has to yell like that, otherwise all of the words won’t fit into those little wires.”

      Russ was simply brilliant. I miss them tremendously, as we all do.

      And here on the Figure 8, we often ignore the ringing house phone. A lot. I think it is good practice. 🙂

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  2. I totally agree with you. I’m tempted to do away with mine. I had a Quantico flip phone that did fine. I just carried it for an emergency or in case I forgot what I was sent to the store for. Now we have to get a new plan as well as new phones. Mine is a CAT as in Caterpillar Tractor, and there is even an app to order one, fix one, order a crane and fix a crane. Hell, I can’t figure out how to answer the damned thing.

    Hair. Dyeing it gray. It is the fashion in Alaska. Hey you little cabrones some of us earned our gray hair. Then, there is the shaving of ones head to pretend that you are not bald????? Now, I’ve spent most of my life with a “high and tight” and I was getting bald. But pretending you’re not! However, just as bad is the comb-over–the required haircut of FBI agents, government bureaucrats, and people trying to pretend they’re younger than they are and are not bald. My eye doctor has an amazing comb over that rivals Trumps. “Give up dude! You’re bald and everyone knows it.” Hell, once my boss and I were sneaking up on some bad guys on the Yukon River. The wind came up and blew my bosses hair in the opposite direction that he combed it. Damn, boy, you’re bald! Well, now I grow mine out for awhile. No old-guy pony tail yet, but longer than ever without a haircut. Then I go see my barber friend Hans from Korea. You tell him how I want it cut, and then he cuts it just like his haircut. Ah well, hell of nice guy, although he has had 2 cars and one truck drive into his barbershop. Seriously, one driver way apologizing, and Hans said, “Would you like a haircut?” “Well, I guess so,” says the driver. Hans is finishing the haircut as the police arrive and take the driver to jail for DUI. He had just left O’Reilly’s across the street and shot straight into the building.

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    1. I love this story.

      I started shaving my head in the year of our lord 1997. I did this only as a result of my first deployment to the Persian Gulf, and only because–even on ship–Marines were required to get the haircut. Our platoon barber was a guy named Simerski, from Houston, Texas, who had the unfortunate habit of tattooing himself in his free time. Among other problems, he had tattooed “US Marnies”–yes, that spelling, on himself. So naturally I was not going to pay this tithead two bucks to cut my hair in the bowels of US Naval Shipping. I started shaving my head–I was going bald anyway–as many of my brethren did. Of course, once deprived of your cat whiskers, judging distance becomes an issue, and so many of us earned the “knee-knocker stripe” from scraping our pates in the p-ways. That lasted about a month or so, then we all adjusted. I never reverted. I’m bald as a boiled wildcat these days, and after even a day or two cannot stand even the stubble on my grape. But, for the sake of argument, if I had a head of hair, would I die it gray? Not in this lifetime, and not if I ever wanted to be taken seriously. So it’s gray hair and the annoyance of cell phones, and all of the attendant horrors. I’m out. I don’t want to be some smug old bastard railing against fashion and technology, but I keep finding myself there. LOL. Life is good, people are awesome, and nothing beats the northern Nevada desert on a warm, clear night.

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  3. Believe it or not I do not have grey hair, genetically my clan does not get grey till 70ush. And oh those melenials what! Happened I actually raised a couple and that did not go well if it’s on the internet it’s real to them Bonjour lol

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    1. Well, hey, I’ve also seen your stab at cosmetic surgery. Clear tape and such…funny stuff….that’s a decidedly old-timer approach, love it.

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  4. adventuresfantastic February 6, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Well said. I will have you and everyone else know that I have earned every grey hair, every wrinkle, and every empty follicle. And I don’t care what some punk kid thinks. I’ve been in academia all my “adult” life. Each year the incoming freshmen get a little more out there and a little more scary in their ideas. I think it’s time I finally decided what I want to be when I grow up and develop and exit strategy.

    And for what it’s worth, rum and coke is my beverage of choice. You have good taste, sir.

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    1. If I’m going to go down with the ship, I will do it with steadfast friend, Captain Morgan. Although occasionally I’ll take a pull from the Kraken, mostly because I like the bottle art. Be safe out there, the hallways of Academia are more dangerous than the streets of Chicago.

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      1. adventuresfantastic February 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm

        “Be safe out there, the hallways of Academia are more dangerous than the streets of Chicago.” You are absolutely correct. Thanks.

        The Captain is my favorite as well. I haven’t tried the Kraken yet, but since I need to restock, I’ll pick up a bottle.

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      2. I think you’ll like it. Problem is, the tentacles never reach as far as you hope they will.

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    1. “All you zombies tweet tweet tweet…” Indeed. When we are reduced to conversations with our milk jugs, which we nearly are, things are sliding off the rails. However, if I was trapped in an elevator and that song was stung on a loop, I’d probably end it right there. Buuuuuut, now I am aware of the Sleaford Mods, so I’m plus one for today.

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  5. 1. Hair is a waste of time.
    2. Keith, I don’t know how you do it.
    3. Why is the rum gone? Why is the rum always gone?

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    1. Because the first mate is overdoing the rations! Billy Budd! Front and center!

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  6. Craig, well written again. I will say you have had plenty of time to think about this one. I have heard this rant in the back parking lot of the PD before. I am sure you will find a way to make things work. As for the Rum and Coke, I would have to say you were remiss about setting it up for success. I believe the proper order of operation is to first travel to Three Creeks for a frosty one and once you return home have a brief chat with the Captain or maybe Mr Jack…. just watch out for Jack, if I recall from my visit he likes to have the last word.

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    1. Yes, Jack likes to lay it on thick. However, if I’m ever in need of heavy counseling, I have at my disposal the Reverend James Beam, who is very understanding.

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Jack Donovan

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