America consists of four countries: (1) everything east of the Mississippi River excluding Florida; (2) Florida, (3) everything west of the Mississippi River excluding California; and, (4) California. Rodeos are the province of people in country (3) although some folks in Florida and California do know there is no accent on the term rodéo except for a certain drive in Beverly Hills frequented by the frou-frou set.
Yankees, that is almost all of those people in countries (1) (2) and (4) snub their noses at those of us from country (3). Yankees tend to talk funny while casting aspersions on the pleasing western drawls of those of us from country (3), and Yankees dress odd while failing to appreciate western wear. In sum, some Yankees want to ignore country (3) even to the point of eliminating the Electoral College and bribing their way into colleges most of those in country (3) would not wish to attend. After all, could real Americans root for colleges whose colors are pastels?
It was important issues such as these that coursed through my brain as Peg, who was born in New York, and I attended a rodeo in Osage County, Oklahoma last week. I was left with the conclusion that Yankee girls and rodeos may not be the best fit. Perhaps you will agree once I relate Peg’s take on the Roy Clark Memorial Championship Rodeo held April 26 and 27, 2019 in Pawhuska, Osage County, Oklahoma.
Peg was fine with and impressed by the opening ceremonies that started with a cowgirl mounted on a horse and carrying the United States flag. That cowgirl was followed by another mounted cowgirl carrying the state flag of Oklahoma then by five more cowgirls riding around the arena with flags of the Air Force, Army, Marines, Navy and Coast Guard. As the flags were displayed “The Star Spangled Banner” was sung, the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and a long prayer was given. Then the rodeo events began. That’s also when Peg began to inquire about such things as calves, steers, horses and bulls feeling put upon by such things as cowboys, cowgirls, ropes and stock handlers.
“Jim, that cowboy roped that calf around the neck while it was running full speed and abruptly jerked it to a stop by reigning in his horse. Doesn’t that hurt and isn’t that cruel and inhumane?”
“I suppose so, but not ever having been roped, I don’t know. I note the calf jumped up and trotted off looking fine.”
“Well I beg to differ, you chased me until I roped you in, although sometimes I wonder why I did. Anyway, Jim, the announcer said the cowboy tied up three of the calf’s legs with a ‘piggin string’ he carried in his teeth. Where are the pigs?”
“There are no pigs in rodeos unless you are on a farm back east. It’s just a term of art.”
“It seems like almost all the cowboys who try to ride the bucking horses and bulls get thrown off. Doesn’t that hurt? And, where’s the art in that?”
“Yes, it hurts about like getting hit by a 300 pound football player. However, if they hang on for 8 seconds they can win prize money. It’s all part of the rodeo experience, Peg.”
“Jim, I don’t think it’s fair they penalize the cowgirl barrel racers for knocking over a barrel. Why don’t they set the barrels up so they won’t fall over?”
“Because then the cowgirls would go flying over the saddle horns when the horse hits a barrel.”
“Jim, in that team roping thingy why don’t they just set a large circle of rope down on the arena floor and shoo the steer’s hind legs into it?”
“Because that is not what happens on a ranch when cattle are being worked. Rodeos are based on actual ranch work and steers have to be rounded up on a ranch.”
“Jim, do you think we’ll see Sam Elliott here tonight?”
“Are you ready to leave? Maybe we’ll go see a movie. Perhaps you’ll see Sam there.”
Peg and I bought a cabin on the prairie in Osage County, Oklahoma. It came furnished with bovines who appear to have formed a four legged resistance to a destiny as Big Macs. When we visited recently we drove across the cattle guard and were met by the steely gaze of the Leader of the Pack. He was mainly black but had a white Mark of Cain on his left jaw and sharp hooves which he pawed into the dirt as he snorted fire through his flaring nostrils.
Having grown up in cow country I was able to recognize that neither the Lead Steer nor any of the others retained the necessary accoutrements for bulls. Therefore, I advised Peg to relax as I directed her to get out of the pickup and wade through the herd to open the gate. Peg’s response will not be published! I eased open my door and took an aggressive stance as I met the Leader’s glare while I opened the iron gate.
Hurrying back to the truck I jumped in and sped through the herd while blaring the horn. Apparently, our friend and Peg’s favorite cowboy, The Honorable Johnny Kelley, Mayor of the fine metropolis of Barnsdall, Oklahoma who owns the cattle, uses the horn and siren of his feed truck to announce it’s dinner time. Instead of driving the cows off our truck horn enticed the Leader to menacingly advance toward us along with thirty of his gang.
We managed to negotiate our way up to our cabin and slip inside as the hungry cattle voiced their displeasure with our behavior. Peg and I barricaded ourselves inside the cabin as the Leader circled his troops around it. We waited for nightfall hoping the cattle were on an eight hour workday and that when darkness came the cows would bed down.
Just after the moon appeared and bathed the prairie with silver light I cautiously opened the cabin door and was chagrined to see the Leader fixated on my position. His backup troops were edging their way up to the four newly set cedar posts that hold up the overhang attached to our new barn. As the cattle began to scratch their seven hundred plus pound bodies against the obviously challenged posts I knew something had to be done. I hollered for Peg.
Peg loudly yelled something that sounded like a word describing a cow byproduct as she shoved me outside with a blanket to shoo away the bold bovines. I noticed the blanket was red as Peg slammed the cabin door behind me.
Gingerly making my way toward Leader Steer I yelled and flapped the blanket. Whether the Leader would bolt or charge was highly in doubt until I remembered an old McDonald’s television commercial that I began to sing as loudly as my scared vocal chords would allow:
“You deserve a break today!
So get out and get away
Then I shouted, “Two all beef patties or get away from my barn”. Upon reflection, Leader must have decided I wasn’t worth the effort as he unceremoniously turned his backside toward me and sauntered away with his subjects in tow. Of course, he may have just found my singing not to his liking; everyone’s a critic. Now, Gentle Reader, if someone will just come rescue us, Peg and I can leave the cabin and head back to Indiana where most cattle know their place.
William Wordsworth (1770-1850) was an English poet who in 1807 wrote the poem The World Is Too Much With Us. “Getting and spending we lay waste our powers. Little we see in Nature that is ours.” Wordsworth was inundated with a world in chaos: The American Revolution (1776-1783); the French Revolution (1789-1794); and most significantly the Industrial Revolution (1760-1840). Wordsworth was twenty-eight years old when his British contemporary, Thomas Malthus (1766-1834), who was a scholar and cleric, wrote An Essay on the Principle of Population.
Malthus looked at the earth’s burgeoning population, about one billion humans as 1800 neared, and wrote:
“The power of population is definitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man. That population does invariably increase when the means of subsistence increase.”
Malthus theorized that as we humans found ways to increase the food supply (and other assets) instead of concentrating on the quality of life we increase our numbers. Then eventually the poorer classes, that is, almost everyone, encounter famine and disease. This Malthusian Catastrophe is of our own making.
The American neuroscientist and psychologist Joseph V. Brady (1922-2011) while doing research for our space program did a study known as the Executive Monkey Experiment. Brady put two monkeys in cages that each had a lever. If the “right” lever was pulled neither monkey received an electric shock. However, if the “Executive” monkey failed to properly pull the lever both monkeys received a shock.
After conditioning the two monkeys to this procedure Brady then shocked both monkeys even if the previously right lever was pulled. This led to numerous ill effects on the monkey responsible for avoiding the electric charge. Eventually the Executive Monkey just gave up and was catatonic as it made no difference what decision the monkey made.
There have been several studies done on overpopulation using mice and lemmings. What the research has consistently determined is as the number of animals was increased into the same original area eventually the animals will turn violent and sometimes resort to cannibalism even though ample food is kept available. The psyches of the mice and lemmings cannot deal with the inability to get some individual space/control.
This is what Wordsworth and Malthus were opining about due to the unnatural changes in our human environment brought on by the Industrial Revolution. Cartoonist Walt Kelly (1913-1973) in his comic strip Pogo published a strip in 1971 that addressed similar issues of overpopulation and pollution when he portrayed his cartoon characters observing their once pristine natural environment filled with trash, “We have met the enemy and he is us”. The humorist Walt Kelly was not being humorous.
If Wordsworth and Malthus feared the results we humans had wrought by the 19th Century when we had one billion people and mechanical devices, what about our politicians (our Executive Monkeys) today who face a world with eight billion people and the Internet? What can they expect and what can we, the governed (the Proletariat Monkeys), expect from our leaders? Has it become such a complex and daunting world our only decisions are to not make decisions, that is catatonia, or to cannibalize one another in public and through the media? Does it always have to be, “All right, circle up and fire?”
There are no simple solutions to complicated problems such as infrastructure, war, disease, overpopulation, global warming, pollution and disparate distribution of our earth’s resources. But invective and ad hominem attacks are no solution at all. As with most seemingly insurmountable problems the first step is to take a first step forward instead of sideways or to the rear.
Incremental steps and positive attitudes may not save us from ourselves, but lighting a candle instead of torching our fellow sufferers will produce at least a little light and a lot less heat.
China’s National Science Review reported in March 2019 that Bing Su of the Kunming Institute of Zoology has inserted human genes into monkeys. His apparent goal was to investigate how the brains of early primates developed along different paths with monkeys remaining in the trees and Homo sapiens progressing to the Internet.
Chinese scientist He Jiankui while at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, China claims to have modified the genome, the DNA, of twin female humans in an attempt to preempt the possibility of them someday contracting the HIV virus.
Both of these researchers dealt with DNA and CRISPR. DNA is familiarly known as deoxyribonucleric acid and CRISPR is an acronym for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats. The genome is the famous Double Helix discovered by James Watson and Francis Crick in 1953. DNA is our 23 pairs of intertwined chromosomes that make us us. CRISPR is the DNA from viruses that might protect us from other viruses such as HIV.
Gentle Reader, if I were you I would not rely upon this exposition of biological knowledge from me for answers you may wish some paid tutor to give on your child’s SAT test. Please remember, I was an English major.
Instead of science, let’s you and I turn to literature for our analysis of genetic engineering. We can start at the beginning. In Genesis, that was written about 400 BC if we look to the Dead Sea Scrolls for a date, Yahweh was doing a little human manipulation when he decided Adam needed a companion. The DNA from Adam’s rib was used to create Eve. The Bible does not explain why two Adams was not the result. However, blissful ignorance was the life these humans led until fruit from the Tree of Knowledge was eaten. Some may think it’s been all downhill since.
About 300 years before Adam and Eve those marvelous Greeks were writing about Achilles who was the product of a human, Peleus, and the immortal nymph, Thetis. This mixing of DNA’s of differing species helped lead to the sack of Troy.
Of course, Jesus, about 2,000 years ago, was a similar product of the human Mary and a god who used genetic merging to create a Prince of Peace. To my way of thinking this was evidence there may be some true benefit to Mankind from such genomitry.
As for me, I could support the manipulation of human genetics if we could create drivers who would not clog up the passing lane and who could survive at least a few moments without a cell phone stuck in their ear. Also, as a husband, could we not embed in wives a gene that allows for beer and football instead of yard work?
The seven day period beginning April 08 and ending April 15 has two important days, one joyous and one sad. April 08 is Peg’s birthday. Please wish her happiness and strength as she deals with having me home a lot more now. As to the other significant anniversary, Abraham Lincoln died on April 15, 1865. As if paying our taxes on April 15 was not already sad enough.
Of course, there is a certain historic connection between federal income taxes and President Lincoln. He helped institute the first federal income tax to pay for the Civil War, which was fought to preserve the Union. However, after the Civil War ended the income tax was also ended until 1916 when it was made permanent by the 16th Amendment to the Constitution.
Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois claim Lincoln for our own but hardly anyone lays claim to the income tax. As Peg and I will wait until 11:59 p.m. on April 15 to pay ours we assume we will have a lot of fellow travelers. It is widely accepted that the major need for America to impose taxes on itself is to pay for wars or the preparation for potential wars. Oh, we expend a lot for various other things too such as salaries and expense accounts for Congress people, Executive Branch workers and judges, health care and the clean up after celebrations such as inaugurations and ticker-tape parades to honor sports teams. I am assured by those involved in these endeavors our hard earned money is well spent.
If you are like me you put Presidents George Washington and Abraham Lincoln in a separate rarified class from other presidents. And while George Washington never visited Posey County, Indiana as did Abraham Lincoln (thanks to my friend and historian Jerry King for this information), I note Washington managed to birth our nation without a federal income tax. Anyway, I forgive Lincoln since he took the time to dedicate a bridge in Savah, Posey County, Indiana in 1844 when he was campaigning for Henry Clay (1777-1852); Clay lost. Maybe those early Hoosiers suspected Abraham Lincoln might someday start an income tax.
Well, income taxes and the Civil War aside, Abraham Lincoln still has much to teach us about humility, compromise, mercy, justice and just plain decency. And as for Peg’s birthday, I am going to celebrate it by thanking you Gentle Readers who have been kind enough to commiserate with her as she has often served as a foil in these articles over the many years!
Adolf Ochs (1858-1935) pinned the motto of the New York Times newspaper: “All the News Fit to Print” in 1897. It remains on the paper’s front page today. Mottoes sometimes are more hope than substance.
In 1965, as the Viet Nam War was gearing up and 18 year old men could be drafted but could not vote, Barry McGuire (born 1935) sang ♫The Eve of Destruction♫. The lyrics included the following phrases:
“The eastern world, it is expoldin’
Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’
You’re old enough to kill but not for votin’
You don’t believe in war, but what’s that gun you’re totin’?
The poundin’ of the drums, the pride and disgrace
You can bury your dead but don’t leave a trace
Hate your next door neighbor, but don’t forget to say grace.”
About twenty years later in 1983 Anne Murray (born June 20, 1945) sang the song ♫A Little Good News Today♫ that included:
“I rolled out this morning
Kids had the morning news show on
Some senator was squawkin’ ‘bout the bad economy
It’s gonna get worse you see, we need a change in policy
Just once how I’d like to see the headline say
‘Not much to print today, can’t find nothing bad to say’
We sure could use a little good news today.”
So, Gentle Reader, I submit the following retreat from the edge of doom and a little good news for your April First consideration.
It was announced today that Sean Hannity has been hired to replace Wolf Blitzer at CNN and Joe Scarborough will be joining FOX News.
At his debut on CNN Sean Hannity reported that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had met with Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi at Camp David where they decided to apply the national defense budget to universal health care and free college tuition for all.
The budgets for the CIA and FBI will be redirected to environmental concerns and repair of the nation’s infrastructure. McConnell was assured by Chuck Schumer there would be unanimous support for these proposals in the Senate. And in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy heaped praise on both Pelosi and Clinton as he pledged his ardent support for both.
At a conference of media anchors held just outside the gates of Camp David it was announced by Washington Post’s editor Martin Baron that the national print and electronic media were impressed with the honesty, integrity and goodwill of the Executive and Legislative branches. Baron even mentioned the anticipated wisdom of the Supreme Court that is expected to refuse to grant any delays in the implementation of the stated goals of fair and equal treatment for all Americans.
Well, Gentle Reader, that’s about all the Good News I can report. It appears the country is just brimming with good works and goodwill.