Wednesday, September 29, 2010

More Signs for Stupid People

,I love to read tee shirts.  They tell a lot about the person who wears them.  Interestingly enough, when I was a child the only tee shirts with printing on them came free from companies and were definitely not trendy.  I never dreamed we would be paying money to wear a company logo.

Now you can find almost anything you want and wear it proudly to proclaim one thing or another.  The other day I saw a man with a CSI tee shirt.  I used to watch that all the time so I found his tee shirt interesting.  As he passed by me in the cereal aisle, I saw that it wasn't related to the television show at all.  Beneath the CSI was this:  CAN'T STAND IDIOTS.  A very quick search led me to several Web sites that sell this tee shirt, along with the usual coffee mugs, key chains, etc.  (Ain't the Internet grand?)

This was downloaded from Zazzle

Somehow I think the guy wearing the tee shirt might enjoy the following signs:

 If you can't see the windmill, I strongly suspect you can't see the sign.  (Photograph by Steve Juliano taken in the Netherlands)

Nothing to add to this one.  (Photograph by Sue Bayer-Jabb taken in Neenah, Wisconsin)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't Blame the Horses

Like most young girls, I went through a "horse book" reading phase.  (I think it came somewhere between Nancy Drew and the teen romances.)  One of my favorites was Misty of Chincoteague, a story about the wild ponies of Chincoteague.  Chincoteague is in Virginia, but I was pleased to find that North Carolina has its own wild ponies and horses.

There are herds of wild horses and ponies all along the coastal areas of North Carolina.  Descendants of the mustangs brought to the Outer Banks in the 1500s, the horses lived on the barrier islands for centuries.  As the area became inhabited by more people, the horses became a tourist attraction.  Our family vacationed every year in Nags Head, then a quiet family beach just south of the areas where the wild horses roamed.  Imagine my delight when we would drive north and actually see the wild horses running across the sand.

Today the wild horses, especially in Corolla, NC are in danger.  Their major problems date to the expansion of Highway 12 in 1988.  Before that time there were no paved roads to Corolla.  Other herds in NC are federally protected, but the mustangs in Corolla do not enjoy such protection.  The size of their State sanctuary has shrunk as the number of vacation homes has risen.

The expansion of the highway naturally brought expansion of development.  Now the horses are being called nuisances, competing for limited wildlife resources reduced by the over building in the area.  The people came, the people built, and the horses are the losers.

Current plans (backed by the federal government) are to reduce the Corolla herd to just 60 horses.  With the human expansion, the horses are now described as feral animals, not native to the Outer Banks and a danger to native wildlife.  Opponents of the reduction plan fear that a 60-horse herd leaves them vulnerable to inbreeding and other problems related to a very small gene pool.  It appears that the intention is to leave enough horses to attract tourists, yet not inconvenience the people who have built their colorful beach houses in the area.

Both photographs from the Internet with no credit given to the photographers.

I have mixed feelings about the horses.  Truly they are not native, but they managed to survive without significant environmental impact for more than four hundred years.  The environmental impact in this case is caused by humans moving further and further into the previously undeveloped areas causing all wildlife to have to compete for the few remaining natural resources.  I do NOT have mixed feelings about the over development along the fragile Outer Banks.  On a visit there last fall, I was appalled at the number of houses and condos dotting the area.  Given a false sense of security with no major hurricanes in the recent past, people have built on unstable areas.  I saw houses built on land that I remember as inlets.  That is the way of the sea.  The Outer Banks have historically changed and will continue to change in the future.  New inlets will cut through and establish new islands.  Sands will shift and land will be lost.

[Disclaimer:  I must admit to a very selfish reason that I detest the unsafe expansion of homes along the Outer Banks.  In North Carolina, insurance companies are allowed to underwrite policies across the risk spectrum of the state.  Therefore my insurance is much more expensive, since I help to pay the cost for the insurance on the beach homes.]

I have no answers for the problem, but I can assure you the horses are not at the root of the problem.  The people are the root cause.  I give you this fact:  Corolla has a year-round population of fewer than 500 people.  There are 1,300 (yes, one thousand and three hundred) homes in the Corolla area.  You tell it the horses or is it the people?

Friday, September 24, 2010

Fridays are Golden

The Golden Girls love to play.  Fortunately we have a large den with heavy furniture where they can be pretty active even indoors.  When they play outside the girls have a posture that indicates a wrestling match is about to begin.  That doesn't seem to happen inside.  One dog always instigates the interaction while the other dog is disinterested.  But in every case, the instigator will persist until the other dog joins in the fracus.

In this instance, it is Lucy who starts the fun.  Sometimes it looks rough, but they never hurt one another and it's all good clean fun.  Lucy always goes for Ellie's ears and they end up wet every time.

Ellie comes right back at Lucy.

The Lucy is on top again, making Ellie look pretty submissive.

Lucy has grabbed their favorite old blue tug that has seen better days.  Ellie decides to take it away.

Lucy is pinned to the floor still hanging on to the blue tug.

Abruptly the play stops.  At the end of it all the two dogs lie down to rest.  We can never predict what prompts this sort of play indoors.  And the dogs know it is not allowed anywhere except the den.

Although the weather here seems to dispute it, this is the first weekend of fall.  Summer seems to have passed by so quickly this year.  I hope you have a wonderful fall weekend.  Find some joy in your life.  For some it will be harder than for others, but there is always joy to be found if you look hard enough.


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Won't Be Autumn Without the Pumpkin Pair

September 22 marks the Autumnal Equinox, the official first day of fall.  Here in the mountains we look forward to fall with mixed feelings.  The mountains that bring us the unbelievable fall beauty also bring us tons of tourists.  Our businesses rely on the tourism so we take that as part of season.  We are extremely fortunate to have so many backroads to travel...roads that tourists don't often undertake.

One road we must travel in order to get home from downtown is US 276, a very heavily traveled route that is well known for its potters and mountain views.  Every year a local shop puts together a pumpkin display next to the shop.  The tradition was kept even when the shop changed hands a couple of years ago.  I just loved rounding the curve and seeing the pumpkin people so friendly and hospitable.

Alas, the shop has been sold and the new owners have a car detail place.  The beautiful knoll on which the pumpkin people stood has a rental shed in front of it.  The place is an eyesore and I  hate it everytime I drive past.  The shop has one of the best views in the area and not only are there no pumpkin people, there is an ugly shed there.

So here are Mr. and Mrs. Pumpkin from a previous year.  Notice the gorgeous view behind them.

They waved to everyone passing by.  You would not believe how many people waved back.

I will miss the pumpkin people.  I miss the shop since I frequently popped in to buy something or another.  I'm sure that regular tourists will miss the pumpkin people as well.  Many of them marked their mountain trips with annual family photographs with the pumpkins.  I imagine they will be driving up the road and wonder, "Wasn't this where the pumpkin people were?  Did we miss them?"  Yes, and we miss them too.

Monday, September 20, 2010

It WAS the Bird I thought.

The bird I saw last week was exactly what I thought it was.  The first Rose-breasted Grosbeak in the fall migration.  These birds do not nest here, so we see them only during migration.  The males always arrive first.  After a week or so, the females arrive and the males stay around a few more days.  Then the males leave and the females remain a week or two longer.  Then it's over for the season.

While he is a beautiful bird, his fall plumage is not quite as striking as his spring color.

One of the birds came to the feeder.  At first I thought it might be a female.

But when he flew into the trees I saw the faint reddish coloring on his chest.

Another male has joined the group.

He is waiting for me to go inside so he can fly to the feeders.

What a beauty!
The fall migration is such a wonderful time of the year.  We will enjoy these grosbeaks for a few weeks and then we will look forward to our next migrating friends.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Fridays are Golden

I saw it fall. Straight down from the sky. It didn't hit any part of the house until it landed on the deck. Our hummingbirds have been unbelievably agressive this year. Every now and then they actually crash into one another and temporarily lose their lift and begin a free fall. Most often they are able to regain their flight and go at it again.

This time, one of them didn't have enough space to recover from the crash and it fell down on to the deck. It sat there stunned and seemed to wonder where it was and how it got there.

Lucy was lying near the door and immediately got up to look at the bird.

Lucy stared at the little hummingbird and it stared right back at Lucy.

As the bird moved on the deck, Lucy moved to different positions.

She wagged her tail every time the bird moved a little.
Within a short while the little bird recovered and flew to the feeder. Lucy, satisfied that her watchful eye had made for the recovery, went back to bed.

Tomorrow is Yom Kippur during which our Jewish friends will observe a day of atonement. This holy time is set aside to reflect on the past year, to change one's behavior and amend one's ways. The day requires that the people seek forgiveness for the wrongs they may have done to others. What a wonderful thing to do. Perhaps all of us should follow this example. So this weekend think about the past year. Try to reach out and mend fences. And vow to be more understanding and tolerant of your fellow human beings in the year ahead.

Oh! Look! Is that what I think it is?

Let the fall migration begin!!!
Have a safe and wonderful weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

You Just Never Know...

I lived in the country for the first nine years of my life. It was not a farm, but we had a cow and chickens and a huge vegetable garden. Summer days were spent working and playing outside all day. We made playhouses in the woods, carpeting the rooms with moss we gathered. We made buildings from empty cardboard boxes. We built a cemetery and looked for little dead things to bury there. We made elaborate little coffins from matchboxes and conducted funerals with great ceremony. Winter days were spent attending a small rural public school.

My father was a carpenter and also manager of a North Carolina State Fish Hatchery. The students at the small school we attended were pretty much all alike. There were no rich kids and few children of professionals. (Those students went to the "better" school in town.) Our little school was for the "country folks." I thought everyone was just like me.

When I was ten, we moved to Boone, North Carolina. At that time Boone was a sleepy little college town. We no longer lived in the country with a garden, cow, and chickens, but lived in town. Many of my classmates in school were children of college professors, dentists, physicians and other professionals. As I struggled to fit into this new society, I learned that most of my new classmates thought "country music" was somehow not "cool." Country music was the object of jokes. So, at the tender age of ten, I learned to present a different view of myself in order to fit into current society. I pretended I didn't like country music either.

In truth, I adored country music. Late at night my radio would pick up stations far away and I would listen until I fell asleep. (WCKY...Cincinnati ONE, Ohio was one of my favorites.) I loved watching the country music shows on television.

My mother also loved country music. Not as much as she loved the old hymns, but enough. She had a woman (I'll call her Janie) who helped Mom with heavy housecleaning. Janie and Mom became good friends. Almost every week during the summer, Mom and I would drive out to Janie's house in the country and visit in the evening. Janie played the guitar and on most of our visits, her front porch would be filled with neighbors who played instruments. They played and sang country music and folk music and bluegrass for hours on end.

Oh, how I loved those evenings. The music made it worth every mosquito bite I scratched later. One musician fascinated me. He was blind and I loved his music. He wasn't always at the gatherings, but when he was, I sat and watched him all evening.

Never in my wildest imagination would I have guessed that this blind musician would become a legend in my own lifetime. Yes, the blind musician is Doc Watson. And as a child I heard him play with Janie and the others on the porch.

So many years have past. And here in Brevard, the star attraction at the Mountain Song Festival is none other than Doc Watson. A winner of seven Grammy awards, and awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Bill Clinton, Doc Watson still performs, although much less often than in the past. The Mountain Song Festival was held this past weekend and Steve Martin (yes, THAT Steve Martin) made a surprise appearance, playing the banjo with the Steep Canyon Rangers. But the person everyone talked about was Doc Watson.

(Courtesy photograph from The Transylvania Times.)

Doc Watson does not know my name. He does not know how much his music means to me. I'm certain he remembers the evening songfests at Janie's house. And maybe he even remembers a little girl who so enthusiastically sang along and clapped to his music on Janie's porch all those years ago. You just never know...

Monday, September 13, 2010

Going About Their Duties

Everyone loves to watch birds. Some people are really looking for birds more than watching the birds. While I do love finding new birds, I prefer watching birds than looking for birds. I do not have a "life" list, although I tend to call a new bird a "lifer." My greatest joy comes in watching birds go about their duties. I am thrilled every time I have the opportunity to see a bird building a nest in one of our boxes. I love seeing the birds grab a beak full of the soft golden dog hair we put out for them. I love seeing the courtship patterns among the birds and, of course, I love seeing parents feeding their fledglings.

At this time of year you might think there might be a lull in the joys of watching birds. There are no courtships, no nest building, no fledglings and the juveniles have become proficient in finding food and no longer clown around. The migrating birds haven't arrived yet.

Still, this is one of my favorite bird watching times. My favorite birds are our most common visitors. I love the chickadee for its friendliness and easy approach. Another of my favorites is the Tufted Titmouse. We were fortunate to have several broods this year in our woods. Sometimes the woods seem full of them and the air is filled with their surprisingly loud voices.

Here are a few shots of a titmouse working on a seed or nut it has found.

He holds it between his feet and pecks away.

Such a sweet bird. I'm glad he will not migrate, but will spend the winter with us.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Fridays are Golden

Finally the new beds for the great room arrived. Lucy and Ellie check them out even before we get them out of the car.

Lucy always manages the first good look at anything.

Ellie approaches more tentatively but is quite interested.

Once the beds are inside, the girls closely examine each of them.

Lucy tries one out.

At the end of the day, in the waning sunlight they once again are sharing the same bed. Ellie is partially off the bed so that Lucy can be more comfortable using Ellie for her pillow.

It's going to be very difficult, but this weekend I am going to try to be more like our dogs. I will be grateful for any attention I receive. I will not worry about what tomorrow might bring but will find joy in living today. I will appreciate whatever food I have. I will give unconditional love to those around me.

Why should that be difficult? Because my mind is filled with anger at those who would try to make themselves newsworthy at the expense of so many others. Because I am angry at those who are so intolerant of other people. Because my mind is filled with memories of that day nine years ago. And frightened at how that day brought so much change for our country and our people. That day changed us beyond our wildest imagination and altered the course of history. It won't be easy, but for this weekend I will try to keep all those disturbing thoughts from my mind. I hope you can as well.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Signs for Stupid People

Warning signs abound. Some of them provide important information. Others? Well, they should be preceded by a statement, "Stupid People Read This." I resent warning signs that state the obvious.

There are some helpful warning signs at the waterfalls here in the mountains. Most of them contain information about the dangers and almost all of them warn people not to wade in the water above the falls, because "the rocks are wet and slippery." Yet every year several people visiting our county die from falling over a waterfall. Because they waded in the water above the falls and found that the rocks were indeed wet and slippery.

Almost every item you might microwave carries a warning that the food will be hot when you take it out. The take-out cup at your local coffee shop warns that the contents might be hot. Our entrance gate has a cute little graphic of a stick figure falling forward with the gate crashing down on his neck.

Now I do appreciate the "wet floor" sign in the grocery store. And the sign that reminds you to step down when you open the door. But there are so many other signs that say something so obvious that I often wonder why the sign was placed there. I suspect it has something to do with lawsuits.

Here is a sign in a hotel room in Austin, Texas. (Photo by John Zachar) I have a feeling that if you are so drunk you don't recognize that you are not on ground level, then you are too drunk to read the sign.

On the other hand, some signs seem intended for very intelligent speed readers. I don't know the origin of the sign, but it seems a bit complex to me.

Here in the mountains we have a lot of road signs to remind drivers of approaching sharp curves. Most people appreciate them. We also have signs that none of the tourists seem to be able to read and understand. These signs are to indicate that there is a turnout ahead for slow moving traffic. They never seem to recognize who they are. So here's a bit of advice for them, "If you can see fifteen cars in your rear-view mirror creeping along behind you, it's just possible that you are in fact slow moving. PUT ON YOUR SIGNAL AND PULL INTO THE TURNOUT. PLEASE!"

One afternoon I was especially frustrated after following a old man up the mountain. He was going 20 miles/hour, often braking while going uphill and braking every time there was an oncoming vehicle. I came inside and told my husband that I sincerely hoped he would tell me when it's not safe for me to be driving up the mountain. He placed his hand on my shoulder and gently said, "Honey, it's not safe for you to be driving up the mountain." What a funny guy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Friend to all Workers

Annually, since the first Labor Day on September 5, 1882, Americans have honored the working people of our nation. There are countless heroes of the labor movement, but few more outstanding than Mary Harris Jones.

She was a diminutive woman with a soft voice. But she raised it effectively to lead campaigns for workers, especially miners and child labor. She was called "Mother Jones" because of her sweet grandmotherly appearance.

Mother Jones did not start her activism until she was fifty years old. She organized a "Children's March" to the home of Theodore Roosevelt. The children carried banners proclaiming, "We want to go to school." At the time many young children worked long hours in mills and mines with little regard to their safety and no regard to their education.

Mother Jones was fined and even jailed on occasion but she persevered. When someone introduced her as a humanitarian she said she was actually a "hell-raiser."

And a hell-raiser she was. Mother Jones helped establish unions for women, especially shirt waist workers, domestics, and silk weavers. If you are not familiar with this crusader, I strongly recommend that you do a little research into her life and times. It is only fitting that we honor her on this Labor Day.

A women with many impressive quotes, my favorite is her motto; "Pray for the dead and work like Hell for the living."
As we go about enjoying our holiday picnics and barbecues, think of the real reason we set aside this day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Fridays are Golden

There was an "incident" regarding one of the beds in the great room. A little pug peed on it. It's a long story, but let's just say it involved a late night visit from a hysterical woman and her dog. Thank goodness the Golden Girls were already downstairs in bed.

We had planned to replace these beds anyway, so we decided to discard the soiled one. Meanwhile, we brought up an old bed from my husband's study so there would be two beds. This bed is quite old but has held up well. We got it when Ellie (now 7) was a puppy.

When the girls got up the next morning, they didn't even notice the different bed. They were far too busy sniffing every inch of space where the little pug had walked or sat. It was quite a sight as they pushed one another out of the way to find the next area where the dog had been.

Later in the morning, Lucy took a nap on the bed. She occasionally sleeps on it when my husband is in his study but more often both dogs are under his desk. As you can see, the bed is much smaller than the other beds in the house. There's just enough room for one dog.

I take that back. Lucy has never been stopped simply because there is no room. She lies down next to Ellie. Notice that in this shot, Ellie has most of the bed. In subsequent ones, you will see that Lucy inches herself in position to take more and more of the space.

Ellie clearly doesn't like the company, yet she does nothing to keep Lucy away.

Mom! Look at this. I was here first!
Ellie, when you are an enabler it's just as much your fault as Lucy's. If you don't like it you could put a stop to it in an instant.

It doesn't seem to be in Ellie's nature to create any discord. So Lucy once again gets her way. Ellie is pushed almost off the bed so Lucy can have more room. And thus, they take another nap.

Labor Day Weekend is upon us. The unofficial end of summer. For us, it has been a strange summer indeed, much warmer and more humid than most. It's appropriate for us to think of the unemployed on the Labor Day Weekend, so remember them as you go about your picnics and fun.

Hold those you love close to you and reach out to those in need.


Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Still Another Unusual Deck Visitor

You're not going to believe this. I hardly believe it myself. Strange as it may seem, we had another relatively rare warbler visit us. We are the very fringe of its range and it is rarely seen around here.

I was out on the deck and I saw him land on the birdfeeder pole. "Is that what I think it is? Oh, please turn around so I can be sure."

The bird turned and almost glared at me. No doubt about it. He is a Black-throated Blue Warbler. Right there in front of me. And staring right at me.

He hopped onto the deck railing, revealing his beautiful markings. The Black-throated Blues that live in the Appalachians are darker than those who reside in the New England states and Canada.

I sat there enthralled as I watched him flitter from place to place.

I willed my camera to click more silently. He was clearly aware of my presence and looked up every time I took a photograph. I was so afraid he was going to take off at any moment.

One of his prominent markings is the white patch at the base of his wing. Some refer to this as a "pocket hankerchief" and I wouldn't disagree.

This little goldfinch seems to be wondering what kind of strange bird this might be and what he's doing at the feeder.

The Black-throated Blue does eat seeds, but they rarely come to birdfeeders. He can't seem to figure out exactly how to get the seed.

Finally, he decided he'd be better off looking for insects in the woods and he flew away. But not before he captured my heart. Imagine my good fortune at having seen four (count them) FOUR unusual warblers visiting our deck...the Blue-winged, the Black and White, the Worm-eating, and now a Black-throated Blue. What a treat.