Monday, September 29, 2008

"In a world going to hell", there's someone being called.

I happened upon a post by a 16-year-old boy and some comments by his friends. After a bit of thinking and reviewing what I knew about this young man, I think the calling he mentioned is a building sense of duty to help right the seeming world disorder. He's told me his primary desire in choosing a profession after school is being able to help others. Here are his words:

" Whenever I read the news anymore, I can feel the tension in the air. Tension all over the world, building up, choking me... Some day it's all going to explode.

Lately I've felt a pulling sensation in my heart. I'm being called. I don't know why, but I am. Something major is going to happen, and I have to be there, I have to do something, when it does. I can feel that much.

I don't know if I believe in destiny, but I do believe in callings. I believe that sometimes we are called for a purpose even we don't or may never know... The world is going to hell, and day after day the danger increases. Russia, North Korea, The Economy, Venezuela... So many other things on top of all that, all threatening to us. I don't want to live my life in fear of becoming caught up in a nuclear war, or any kind of war. I want to know that I can be safe in my own home... But we don't always get what we want. So much tension, so much fear... I want to ignore it all and blissfully go on. But, ignorance is what screwed over the human race before... I'm listening to my calling. When the time comes, I'll be ready. I just wish I knew what I need to do."
I responded:

"Do not think in a linear fashion. You are called daily. Sometimes there are several calls in a day. Some times we are called to wait. In other instances we act in concert with others who have also been called.

For now focus on education. It will give you skills and hone the gifts you already possess. Answers will present themselves when it is time. Answers often come about in, or as the result of, prayers.

Do not let wars, rumors of war and Doomsday talk distract you. Most of all, do not let it sap your hope and joy. People have been wailing about the approach of the End Times since the advent of language.

Yes, you will have anything you need at the time of your calling. The source of our strength must be found in the temple we call our hearts. If not, "strength" is simply a delusion."

His post reminded me of the fear children carried about in their hearts during the Cold War as they walked by fallout shelter signs in their schools. I still remember the sense of relief we felt when Civil Defense officials removed supplies from fallout shelters. Dad brought home OD green metal cans of rock candy and nuclear-age hardtack from a shelter at his work. We had a candy cache for nearly a year. The red and green fallout candy wasn't as sweet as the Jolly Ranchers we bought with scavenged pennies, but it was free. The hardtack went to the birds and squirrels.

This boy's sense of calling led me to the thoughts of a Marine corporal from New York, Lee, who was facing war against terrorists for the first time. ''It's the same with a car accident," he said. "You can't know how much it hurts until you've actually been in one. But if we get the call, there'll be that fear. But more than that, there's a sense of responsibility. Personally, I say send us."

My words to the boy seem inadequate. He's not the only one who thinks, "I just wish I knew what I could do."

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The long-term forecast

The people who cut persimmons in half to predict winter weather have been finding spoons, which signals a lot of heavy, wet snow. I gather the woolly black caterpillars are saying the same. I haven't heard from the ant hill observers, hedge apple oracles and acorn counters yet.

Spoons are better than knives, in my opinion. I don't mind shoveling, but a knife winter yields cutting cold and ice. A quarter-inch of hip-breaking, power-line-downing ice is worst than 18 inches of snow. Even with stock tank heaters, heat lamps, generators and well-maintained and shedded tractors and trucks, an icy-cold winter is tough on stock and their tenders.

I did some pasture mowing this afternoon. It was in the mid-80s, dry, sunny, and most peaceful. I get a lot of thinking done while going around in circles. Sometimes I kick up a coyote or see a hawk swoop down on its prey.

Ruby finds a place out of the way and watches. From time to time, she'll run to the creek for a drink and to swim. Ruby can swim and lap up water at the same time.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Canyons and Caprock

One night I explored an unknown place. I sensed the different hues of red in the towering walls, the scant trickle of water through eroded channels, the cries of hawks, ages-old campsites out of the elements, greyed and twisted wood, dust-laden sagebrush and dried grasses, and ankle-wearing rocks.

Most dreams vanish once morning light hits. This dream stuck. It was a real place. I just lacked physical evidence.

Nearly two years later I visited relatives in Guymon, Okla. One morning I decided to take a day trip south into the Texas Panhandle to visit Amarillo and the Panhandle-Plains Museum in Canyon. After buying some pre-Clinton-Biden-Brady-ban AR-15 magazines at a gun show in Amarillo's Civic Center and consuming a tolerable, but not Kansas-quality, steak, I visited "Texas' Largest History Museum" on the West Texas A&M University campus. With more than 3 million artifacts, some also call it the state's Smithsonian Institution.

After two hours, I had seen only a speck of the place. Part of the museum was off-limits because of remodeling work. Some of the main exhibits featured Palo Duro Canyon, 12 miles east of Canyon.

Amarillo and Canyon sit atop what Francisco Coronado named the Llano Estacado, a mesa larger than all of New England, in 1541. Like much of of the plains, even yet referred to as the Great American Desert, the Llano Estacado looks flatter than unleavened bread. At least until one looks closer. Widening and deepening cracks proved the first theory wrong as I drove east. Eventually the cracks grew so wide the highway could not skirt them. The road relented to the variformed, segmented depths of Palo Duro Canyon.

Just that initial drop from caprock reminded me of Georgia O'Keeffe's description of the canyon captured in a display of her work at the museum. "It is a burning, seething cauldron, filled with dramatic light and color."

As I spent the rest of the light experiencing an iota of the 120-mile-long rift, I knew the place from my dream is somewhere along the Texas Panhandle's Caprock Escarpment. If it can't be found in Palo Duro Canyon, once home to the Comanche and Charles Goodnight's JA Ranch, there are the Tule and Caprock Canyons.

I suspect I'll go back if only in a dream.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Code-Blue Kansas Alert!

I received an e-mail today from Samantha "Sammy" Finke, Obama for America Kansas director as well as the director of the Kansas Campaign for Change. The later might be the new name of the Kansas Democratic Party because Sammy, a fellow University of Kansas graduate, had prominently plastered the KDP logo and address on her message.

I received this message despite using the unsubscribe function after receiving past e-mails. And Barack is the one who goes on about Sen. McCain not understanding how to use e-mail?

She asked, "Will the debate go on?" Then she urged me to help "take Barack's message to the streets!" by driving 50 miles to Lawrence and joining "a canvass or phone bank for change."

Sammy, ex-campaign worker for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Hillary Clinton, said, "We can turn Kansas blue this November, but we really need your help ... Thank you for your continued support and your willingness to help. Let's make the next 40 days count!"

I responded to Sammy at

Subject: Obama and Biden--Not champions of the Bill of Rights

Please remove me from the mailing list. While I once thought Barack Obama might be a suitable Chief Executive for this country, I have changed my mind.

Why Sen. Obama would pick Joe Biden, author of the 1994 and 2007 "Crime" Bills, to serve as vice president if he's truly for the Second Amendment escapes me. The 2007 Crime Bill, S. 2273, would make millions of previously legal transactions between U.S. citizens instant felonies. Judging by his legislative record and speeches, Obama thinks the Second Amendment only prohibits the government from taking a hunting rifle or shotgun from someone's home. It is obvious Obama would sign this bill if passed by Congress.

I'm no huge fan of Sen. McCain. However, it does appear he would trust ordinary, law-abiding citizens to possess and use firearms without more restrictions that inhibit only those who respect human life and the law. If passed, the 2007 Biden Crime Bill will no doubt erode Second Amendment rights. It would also weaken the 1st, 4th, 5th and 10th amendments.

History shows that despots follow civil-rights restrictions. I'm not willing to consider Sen. Obama a despot, but he and Joe Biden don't seem to mind paving a path for one.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Thoughts upon rain drops

The last few days of summer and the first two of fall were sunny ones. Today the Osage Cuestas dust has turned to mud. I'm not complaining.

It is one of those days that makes songs like "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" emerge in whistled, tortured forms. B.J. Thomas, Hal David, and Burt Bacharach generate no royalities in the shower or under tin roofs.
B.J., Hugo, Okla., native, sang,

"Cryin's not for me
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free.
Nothin's worryin' me."

Rain doesn't defeat B.J. Thomas. Aqua Net® Professional Hair Spray sheds water fairly well. Anyhow, the sun is coming back tomorrow. We'll have a crop of various wild sunflowers until the frost hits. Allergy suffers like the change frost brings.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Powder Monkey

No, this Civil War-era powder monkey is a little before my time. He's a kindred spirit nonetheless. My time burning black powder began at age 15 when I tore the Christmas wrappings off an EMF box containing a replica 1851 Colt Navy .36 cal percussion revolver. Like most farm kids, I started shooting sometime before I started school. But other than knowing the engraved cylinder had to be charged from the front, I was faced with a mystery.

Now, every firearm has multiple messages stamped on it, tied to it and enclosed with it. This box contained the revolver, wrapped in an oily plastic bag, and an oil-spotted warranty card. A few days later, my father brought me a copy of original instructions Colt enclosed with the 1851 Navy. A machinist Dad worked with copied them. Dad's co-worker threw in a plastic bag of pointed, pure lead, conical bullets that matched the original Colt profile.

No one in my rural community knew anything about black powder. The local library wasn't much help. The few shooting and gun magazines available then focused on modern firearms. I received the most help from my Uncle Gene, who lived in suburban Kansas City. He also pointed me to The Bullet Hole, at that time the world's largest indoor range, owned and operated by the Hodgdon Powder Company. The Bullet Hole, which is still in business despite being sold by the Hodgdon family in 1982, also houses a gun store.

The Hodgdons had recently introduced Pyrodex. My Dad took me to The Bullet Hole one snowy February day. Uncle Gene told me I could get Pyrodex, No. 11 percussion caps, and other accessories there. I wanted to be authentic and burn real black powder, but that revolver still was sitting unfired in a box. I found caps, a powder flask, a leather holster, an aluminum Lee conical bullet mold and Speer .375 round balls.

There was no Pyrodex. The salesman explained the Pyrodex plant had blown up Jan. 27, 1977, taking the lifes of four men including Dan Pawlak, co-inventor of the black powder substitute. He added the store had black powder in stock. He fished a can of FFFg out of a red magazine. I forked over all my money and a little of Dad's. Finally I was set.

As soon as we finished the hour-long drive, I popped six caps on all the nipples to clean out any oil. I charged the revolver for the first time in the lee of the garage out of the cutting north wind. I used Crisco liberated from Mom's kitchen to seal the chambers. At last I put on the caps and lowered the hammer between two chambers.

It was an afternoon I'll never forget. The blue smoke and flame, prying stubborn caps off nipples, fishing cap particles out of the frame and hammer gap, the rotten-egg smell of burnt black powder, black and greasy fingers, powder grains blowing back into my eyes, and the unrelenting wind and cold--it was the first of many great shooting sessions with that revolver.

I still have it along with the holster, flask and mold I bought from the Hodgdons. The blue is almost gone, the grips are dinged, the rifling is worn, and the silver plate is completely gone from the brass backstrap and trigger guard. I'm hanging onto that old iron until death parts us. I can't say that about most of my finer, up-to-date firearms.

The 1851 Colt Navy, the revolver Elmer Keith cut his teeth on, was my portal into the shooting sports.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Red-meat serious: Sen. Joe Biden

Joe Biden, D-Del., a piece of "political furniture" in the U.S. Senate since 1972, is angry at his "dear old friend", John McCain, R-Ariz., a member of Congress since 1982.

"John is so out of touch, he has no idea," Biden told the folks in Flat Rock, Mich. He added that McCain "just doesn't think", behaves repugnantly, and peddles Republican "malarkey."

"If I sound angry, it's because I'm angry."

At another campaign stop in Media, Pa., Biden, 65, talked about his own family's economic struggles when he was young. Mark Leibovich of the New York Times wrote, "He speaks to working-class voters in the harsh language of their economic trials, and summons easy rage at ear-splitting volumes."

“People got to wake up, because these guys in Washington are raping this country,” said Dave McLimans, a steelworker from Coatesville, Pa., who attended the rally in Media. “Joe Biden talks in a way that can wake people up.”

Biden was picked, as Leibovich reminds us, to be "red-meat serious"--"to pulverize Mr. McCain, lend foreign policy heft to Senator Barack Obama and be his campaign’s main ambassador to two at-risk constituencies: former supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and blue-collar Democrats."

"Despite his hard words, there is also a joy to Mr. Biden’s pursuit. On Monday, he walked into a Ford plant in Macomb County, Mich., jumped behind the wheel of a red Mustang convertible and let loose with a few satisfying vroom-vrooms of the engine.

'I know I’m not supposed to like muscle cars, but I like muscle cars,' ” Mr. Biden said as clusters of autoworkers whooped around him. “ 'I tell you man, this is nice,' ” he said, giving a few extra revs of the engine for good measure, and his Senate cuff links clicked on the side of the car as he jumped out to more applause."

“Remember, no one decides who they’re going to vote for based on the vice president,” he said. “I mean that literally.”

Just how should we take Sen. Biden, who in May 2004 pressed for his "dear old friend" John McCain to be John Kerry's running mate because it would heal a "vicious rift" in U.S. politics?

Perhaps he was joking then like he may be now when he pokes a reporter in his chest and says, "You need to work on your pecs." Or is Biden being red-meat serious?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Change: Peering through Ancient Ivy

Barack Obama has received the message: "It's the economy, stupid!" In Golden, CO, earlier today, he reminded us what we "feel in our own lifes", how "the pain has trickled up", and that "it's time for change that makes a real difference" in our lives.

Somehow he ties John McCain to the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of Lehman Brothers, the failures of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the difficulties facings other large U.S. investment banks, and the collapse of the nation's housing market.

"Old institutions cannot adequately oversee new practices. Old rules may not fit the roads where our economy is leading," he said. "This time – this election – is our chance to stand up and say: enough is enough!

He pointed out Sen. McCain's 26 years in Washington serving financial institutions instead the their customers. However, Obama shares a link to old institutions and old rules with 42 percent of Lehman Brothers senior management. They received "Lux et Veritas" behind the ivy shroud of Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia, Princeton, Penn, and Cornell.

For fellow rednecks who own more guns than pairs of shoes, "Lux et Veritas" is the non-Pig Latin phrase for "Light and Truth".

The Yale Daily News published a story today detailing the worries of Yale graduates who may or have already lost their jobs with Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns and Merrill Lynch, former "financial giants" and "popular destinations for Wall Street-bound Yalies." Current students who worked on Wall Street this year as summer analysts now face impossible odds of being hired. In the past, 80 percent were hired after graduation. Earlier this year before the bail-outs and failures, the rate had dropped to 40 percent.

"Retired Managing Director of JP Morgan Chase Tracy Williams ’79 said people had been talking about the precariousness of Lehman’s future as a “bulge bracket” — or top-tier — firm for a long time. There was a general belief on Wall Street, he said, that Lehman could weather the storm through resilient leadership and a pattern of overcoming past difficulties. That belief, though, is now being questions.

'Markets move too fast,” he said. “Faster than [Lehman could] put a plan in place.' ”

"Another senior who worked in sales and trading at the New York office said while he valued the opportunity with Lehman, he saw bankruptcy looming on the horizon as early as this summer. The senior asked to remain anonymous so he could discuss his internship.

'I wasn’t necessarily angry or frustrated because finance is a high risk, high reward job,' he said. 'People need to be cognizant of that.' ”

Harvard's president, Drew Gilpin Faust, addressed the topic of graduates discounting potential careers outside of the financial sector in her June 2008 commencement address. In a June 23, 2008, New York Times story, Dr. Faust said the first question of Harvard students she's met with is, "Why are so many of us going to Wall Street?"

Obama's first job after graduating from Columbia was working in a Manhattan "consulting house to multinational corporations." He wore a suit and tie, carried a briefcase, had a secretary, interviewed "Japanese financiers or German bond traders" and "felt pangs of guilt for my lack of resolve."

Like 10 of the last 26 treasury secretaries and the past three presidents, Obama is a graduate of the "Ancient Eight." It is something he shares with 43 percent of the chairmen of standing committees in the U.S. Senate.

Maybe getting out of the ivy is the change we need. Surely there are more diverse and experienced public servants to be plucked from graduates of at least 2,400 other four-year colleges and universities. Perhaps we should question the growing endowment and power gap between the alumni of eight exclusive, hoary institutions and the rest of us.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Building a 9mm AR-15

I sent off orders for a Rock River Arms 9mm upper assembly and 9mm hammer from Steve at Adco Firearms today. Brownells is sending a Hahn Precision dedicated magazine block.

I've also ordered some CProducts 9mm magazines from at the "pre-election price" of $16.99 each. Hopefully they will work with the Hahn block. I've not had any hands-on experience with either nor have talked face-to-face with anyone who has. I gather CProducts has been changing follower designs. I don't pay too much attention to what I read on forums.

"Product XYZ is crap, the customer service is terrible, and I'll never buy anything from them again." For some reason, those complaints reminds me of guys who over-adjust and break rear sights when they have trouble hitting gigantic B-27 targets at 10 yards.

So it is a leap into the semi-unknown. I will not yield to the dark side of the farce and use a Dremel tool. I promise. I save that for precision dental work. ;)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Old Soldiers Never Die: The Ruins of Fort Union

Some things we sense lack an obvious scientific explanation. Many cottage industries and what skeptics term as junk or psuedo-sciences are hinged on déjà vu, the feeling of having lived past lives, dreams, apparitions and second sight. So much unexplained phenomena involves old military posts and battlefields. There is Fort Sheridan's "Woman in Orange", the still-heard rallying cries of the Irish Brigade at Antietam, and the ghost of Lt. Benjamin H. Hodgson of Co. B, 7th Cavalry, of Little Bighorn.

Fort Union, New Mexico, is one of those places ghost hunters visit. The adobe, brick and limestone ruins rise up like Stonehenge from the windswept blue grama. Miles of ruts, carved by countless freight wagons between the 1820s and 1870s, still lead to and from the fort.

Disney World it's not. Lt. Colonel Edwin V. Sumner, the post's first commander, picked the site of Fort Union in part because it was far from Santa Fe, "that sink of vice and extravagance." Even though it's not far from Interstate 25, Fort Union is still isolated. There's no doubt why the 10th Infantry sang "There's a Land that is Fairer than This" in 1891 when marching out at last.

It was a stunningly quiet fall afternoon when I visited. I heard little beyond the geese honking and the Stars and Stripes flapping overhead at first. As the gnomon's shadow marched across the relic sundial on the parade ground, it seemed nonsensical to think of time as flowing onward from now toward the future. Albert Einstein wrote, People like us, who believe in physics, know that the distinction between past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion."

If you've heard regimental band music or have seen a troop of cavalry ride into dust at a place like Fort Union, I'm not going to question your sanity. I'm not certain why I sensed what I did on those flagstone paths laid down so long ago. The energy will remain long after the adobe bricks have all turned back to dust.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kansas Kudzu

We had a day of sunshine following several wet and cloudy ones in in the Osage Cuestas region of Kansas. After the evening meal, which is still called "supper" by many here, I took off into the remaining sunlight to hunt Carduus nutans, or musk thistle. It is one of the 14 noxious weeds of Kansas. Despite its spiny beauty, twenty-four other states think poorly of it.

The musk thistle was brought to this country from Eurasia by environmentalists, people with good intentions wanting to make their life more green and spiny. America was very good to Carduus nutans, for it grows so well here it can choke out native grasses if its seeds are allowed to spread with the wind. Each plant can produce more than 20,000 seeds. The pods open up and burst within 7-10 days just like dandelions.

Most farmers and ranchers could care less about dandelions. Noxious weeds do cause a lot of worry. There are 28 pages of state regulations on nothing but invasive weeds. Nature spreads seeds, native or not, for the benefit and bane of us "People of the South Wind."

So rather than look at all the pretty flowers, I cut musk thistle blooms until dark. I came back with Ruby the lab and a full, tall-kitchen trash bag of the nettlesome critters. About half of them were along county roads upwind of our pastures. The remainder were along the dense, 140-year-old bois d'arc rows where the hay equipment and brush hog can't go.

Maybe Al Gore and T. Boone Pickens can figure out a way to make biofuel from musk thistle, kudzu, Johnsongrass, bur ragweed, and sericea lespedeza so we can have a real cash crop.

I'll go back tomorrow and get the rest. It's supposed to rain.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Obama in PA: "Can everyone hear me in the back?"

People in Duryea, PA, are not morons, even if they do bitterly cling to their guns and God.

“If you’ve got a gun in your house, I’m not taking it,’’ Obama said. But the Illinois senator could still see skeptics in the crowd, particularly on the faces of several men at the back of the room.

So he tried again. “Even if I want to take them away, I don’t have the votes in Congress,’’ he said. “This can’t be the reason not to vote for me. Can everyone hear me in the back? I see a couple of sportsmen back there. I’m not going to take away your guns.’’

Translation of Barrack Doublespeak:

"Your guns will be deactivated and encased in Lucite. Then you can place them on mantels or use them for paperweights."

The Celebration in Ava: Missouri Fox Trotting Horses

This is the last day of the Missouri Fox Trotting Horse Association's Annual Show and Celebration in Ava., Mo. My 72-year-old mother is down there as in past years, but without my father and minus any horses. Now she might bring one or two home ...

Dad loved to go every September. He'd whoop and holler sort of like ole Bob Wills, but only louder. He'd spend days prepping the trailer. As he and Mom worked their horses, dust puffed up with every hoof strike to drift up toward the arena lights. After his stroke in 2004, it became impossible. Ava, the fellowship, the horses: it meant so much to him.

If you've never forked a Fox Trotter, give it a try. They are addicting, possess a smooth flat-footed walk and fox trot that eats up distance, and the rider is spared the pounding.

I'm looking forward to Mom's report. All you Kansas City Region members, travel home safely!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Laughter in the Rain

So many songs have been written about the rain. Today's continued soaking reminded me of one from 1974, Neil Sedaka's Laughter in the Rain.

That song features the alto sax work of Jim Horn, perhaps the most recorded sax player in history. So much of his work seasoned the songs of my childhood such as the Fifth Dimension's Up, Up and Away and The Age of Aquarius and Good Vibrations by the Beach Boys. I'd drag my blue Panasonic ball-and-chain radio to bed. I'd stay awake past midnight, when AM radio waves traveled the best, listening to WLS in Chicago via a plastic earplug.

Now that I think back, Jim Horn is probably the primary reason I picked the alto sax out of a vast fifth-grade band line-up. Music is a universal language. Jim Horn's exquisite playing spans the whole range of inflections that cause us to bond emotions and memories with what would otherwise be noise. If the task can't be done with anything from a soprano to bari sax, Mr Horn can switch to an oboe or flute and haunt me just as much. Check out his oboe playing in the The Carpenters classic, For All We Know.

My parents approved my choice because they liked Boots Randolph's Yackety Sax. Mom and Dad bought a "vintage" Vito that probably dated from the late 1940s. It is gold to me still despite its lack of lacquer, countless dings, and green specks. It rests next to a Selmer Mark VI tenor, my parents' Christmas gift to me two years later.

Sedaka and Horn are still amongst the ranks of the hardest-working and not-notorious people in show business. They've been recording, writing, and blessing our culture since the 1950s. I doubt they've seen the dusty roads of the Osage Cuestas. I do, nonetheless, thank them for the magic their music adds as dust turns to mud on this laughably wet day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Men and Voles: Why 40 Percent are Deadbeat Dads?

I waded to the barn tonight, decided summer footwear would have to go, tended the horses and cats, and watched Ruby, the yellow Labrador retriever, splash in the puddles. Then I wandered back indoors for dry socks and to see if what I read earlier in the news was true.

It could be summed up by saying two out of five men mate indiscriminately like stud field mice.

I don't think I'm going to turn into Warren Steed Jeffs, imprisoned ex-ruler of a polygamist sect, soon. That's good. I couldn't stand being called prophet, seer, president of the priesthood, and revelator or find solace in observing two dozen child brides fight over who was going to wash my saintly garb. It sounds like a one-way ride to a bad prison shower scene, a mental breakdown or both instead of heaven.

It took some Googling to get past routine "Of Mice or Men" takes by the mass media. There is a reason why journalists rank below used-car salesmen in opinion polls and readers seldom see a story about it. I found the original press release by the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden. Scientists there expanded on earlier work where a specific gene variant, allele 334, was found in promiscuous male voles, also known as field mice in some redneck quarters and Norway. Allele 334 codes for a vasopressin receptor.

Vasopressin is a hormone found in most mammals. It is dumped from the pituitary gland into the blood stream where it plays a role in water retention and blood pressure regulation. Some of it is also released directly to the brain. Researchers believe it is linked to memory formation, agression, the aforesaid promiscuity, temperature regulation, social behavior, and several other neurological functions.

The consumption of alcohol is supposed to reduce vasopressin levels, which hasn't been proven by my in-depth research. When vasopressin levels increase, men exhibit agression toward other men particularly when women are around. This seemed odd considering the times I've had to work crime scenes in or outside bars. As far as social behavior goes, I'd rather rope enraged but sober range bulls than interview drunks at a crime scene.

Well, back to four-legged rodents. Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta observed the faithfulness of the male prairie vole and how they helped their mate raise the pups. Their black-sheep cousins, the meadow voles, play the field. However, scientists reformed some meadow voles by slipping a single gene into them via a virus. Their behavior was changed by the number of repetitions of a particular string of microsatellite, or junk, DNA, the same sequence found in humans. A male prairie vole has a longer DNA string than their meadow counterparts.

The Swedes have added to these vole-men comparisons:
"The incidence of allele 334 was statistically linked to how strong a bond a man felt he had with his partner. Men who had two copies of allele 334 were also twice as likely to have had a marital or relational crisis in the past year than those who lacked the gene variant. There was also a correlation between the men's gene variant and what their respective partners thought about their relationship. ... Women married to men who carry one or two copies of allele 334 were, on average, less satisfied with their relationship than women married to men who didn't carry this allele."

Maybe gene charts will replace star charts, palm reading, tarot cards, personality profiles, boxers vs. briefs, couple's retreats, short-term address sharing, relationship counseling, anger-management programs, and tasteful tribal tattoos and body piercing considerations. Examine the male's DNA string length instead. If rodents can be turned into strong father figures with a gene-virus cocktail, all sorts of social engineering feats are possible. It also opens up a new realm of legal, ethical and moral questions that dwarf those we deem hopelessly unanswerable now.

In the meantime, I think trial lawyers should latch onto this data. It could be the new Twinky defense. Bad genes excuse bad behavior.

Vasopressin receptors aside, men should remember the words of Rudyard Kipling, "The female of the species must be deadlier than the male."

The Scrapper

I went Green before it was trendy. I've been scrapping out failed hard drives, power supplies, some old motors and worn-out appliances out of habit. It was something my father always did. It was a practice he expected us boys to master as his parents demanded of him. At the time, I didn't like doing it. But the habit stuck.

What others tossed in the landfill, Dad could convert it into something of value. When something broke or he saw a need he could meet through creativity, Dad pulled solutions out of junk piles. He'd spend some time scribbling with pencil and consulting catalogs. Next, he would assemble other components, often from other piles of miscellany he or his junkyard-operator friends maintained. When advance work was finished, he'd enter the shop and convert the junk into an asset.

He was the sort of Dad who, when asked if I could have a new bike, would point toward a pile of scrap and say, "You'll find the parts for one over there." Then he would help me clean up threads, patch inner tubes and straighten spokes.

So Mom never complained too much about the junk piles. He did move or diminish them every decade or two. He had special piles for scrap copper, brass, and aluminum as I do now. There are other piles for scrap iron and steel, which aren't hauled off as often.

He absolutely hated hearing Hank Williams, Jr. sing "A Country Boy Can Survive." I'd torment him by bellowing out the lyrics. But Dad was a survivor. Born in 1930 he wouldn't have ate if his family failed to convert scrap into treasure. He grew up in a junkyard. Junk built a solid future for the family following WWII as the country embraced peace and prosperity. The family shifted from trading scrap and bought farm land.

As I have been scrapping, I've reflected more on my legacy from Dad, a retired master electrician and jack of many other trades, who died June 29. I once assumed we didn't share as much in common as he did with my brothers. But as I walk the same paths to the horse barn and the shop and wrap my hands around his tools, he still guides me. The copper I strip out of old motors reminds me of our connection and the blessings that still flow from it.

The "interactive" paper money isn't green anymore, but I am thanks to you, Dad.