Sizing Up the All-American Dog

Hawken and I spend some quality time in front of Abby's camera this afternoon. He is a beautiful dog.
Hawken and I spend some quality time in front of Abby’s camera this afternoon. He is a beautiful dog.
Abby tugs on Hawken's ears this afternoon. "There's nothing he won't let me do to him," she said as she played with him. "There's not a mean bone in that dog's body."
Abby tugs on Hawken’s ears this afternoon. “There’s nothing he won’t let me do to him,” she said as she played with him. “There’s not a mean bone in that dog’s body.”

I told my wife Abby I wanted a picture of me playing tug-of-war with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, since it’s his favorite thing to do with me, and since he has grown some since our last photo session.

Sierra tries to look pitiful in her teal sweater, but don't let her fool you: she is spoiled rotten.
Sierra tries to look pitiful in her teal sweater, but don’t let her fool you: she is spoiled rotten.

Before we could photograph us, Abby asked me to put a bandana on him, and we chose one of his U.S. flag bandanas. Putting one on him is an epic battle for me, since he thinks it’s a chew toy, but Abby is apparently a dog whisperer, and had no trouble at all.

It was a fun photo session that included Abby trying to “ride” Hawken for a photo but finding him too tall to mount, and Hawken stealing Abby’s water bottle to keep as a toy.

Tug-of-war is a puppy thing, and Hawken, thought huge, is still just 10 months old.
Tug-of-war is a puppy thing, and Hawken, thought huge, is still just 10 months old.
Hawken plays with his stolen water bottle.
Hawken plays with his stolen water bottle.
Shoffner reunioners are noted for their antics.
Shoffner reunioners are noted for their antics.

Afterwards I took him for his second walk of the day.

In other news, it was cold enough to put sweaters on the Chihuahuas last night. They love their sweaters, and come running when I bring them and offer to put them on.

Also, as readers hopefully saw on my teaching blog, Abby and I attended her family reunion last weekend, and shot a bunch of senior pictures for Abby’s great niece Teddy, with great success. I will post reunion photos on the travel blog shortly.

Donald Lee takes Teddy for a ride after giving one to my wife. Behind them are Abby and her nieces Amber and Rachel.
Donald Lee takes Teddy for a ride after giving one to my wife. Behind them are Abby and her nieces Amber and Rachel.
The Shoffner family photo session is a tradition. In this photo are Abby, Heather, Ryan, and Mechelle. Heather and Ryan were recently married in Las Vegas, which involved a helicopter.
The Shoffner family photo session is a tradition. In this photo are Abby, Heather, Ryan, and Mechelle. Heather and Ryan were recently married in Las Vegas, which involved a helicopter.
Abby and her niece Rachel try to look thin and fabulous for my camera at the Shoffner Family Reunion Saturday.
Abby and her niece Rachel try to look thin and fabulous for my camera at the Shoffner Family Reunion Saturday.
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Worky Thirteen

I give my wife Abby a kiss on the head as we pose for photos at her family's reunion in Duncan, Oklahoma Sunday morning. I kiss her in this fashion all the time because her hair smells like sunshine.
I give my wife Abby a kiss on the head as we pose for photos at her family’s reunion in Duncan, Oklahoma Sunday morning. I kiss her in this fashion all the time because her hair smells like sunshine.

Most of us know that 13 is often regarded as a lucky number, or conversely, as a cursed number. Some people bet on 13 in gambling, for example, while some hotels don’t even have a 13th floor.

Abby rides on a motorcycle with her cousin Donald Lee Ashford at the family reunion Saturday night.
Abby rides on a motorcycle with her cousin Donald Lee Ashford at the family reunion Saturday night.

Fear of the number 13 is triskaidekaphobia.

I can't speak for other grooms, but I found anticipating our wedding and exchanging vows with Abby as natural as anything I have ever done.
I can’t speak for other grooms, but I found anticipating our wedding and exchanging vows with Abby as natural as anything I have ever done.

I don’t consider any of this significant because, aside from an increase in 13-related mischief and mayhem as part of a feedback loop/self-fulfilling prophecy, there isn’t much about the number 13 that interests me.

I thought about all of this as my wife Abby and I arrive at our 13th wedding anniversary October 12. We exchanged vows in Utah’s iconic Delicate Arch in Arches Nation Park on a perfect morning in 2004.

This entry’s title, “Worky Thirteen,” refers to the fact that luck represents about 13 percent of the success of a marriage, and the remaining 87 percent is work, patience, trust, intimacy, work, indecision, mistakes, laughter, tears, work, heartbreak, elation, connection, and work.

I have never worked so hard at anything in my life, but I have never reaped more reward from anything in my life.

You can see the complete trip report from our wedding here (link.)

This is the quintessential wedding image from 13 years ago. It was, quite simply, a beautiful day in every respect.
This is the quintessential wedding image from 13 years ago. It was, quite simply, a beautiful day in every respect.
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Understanding, and Misunderstanding, Evil

Abby and I pose for a photo with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, at the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign in October 2011. Behind us is Mandalay Bay Hotel from which a gunman shot and killed 58 people and injured 530 more Sunday.
Abby and I pose for a photo with our Chihuahuas, Sierra and Max, at the famous Welcome to Las Vegas sign in October 2011. Behind us is Mandalay Bay Hotel from which a gunman shot and killed 58 people and injured 530 more Sunday.

There have been thousands or millions of opinions rendered since Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. Virtually all of them have been vehement pronouncements of unassailable “truths”, such as, “This was an act of pure evil,” or, “this guy should burn in hell,” or, “we need gun control now,” or, “guns didn’t do this, a bad guy did it.”

Throughout history, human morality has been rife with immorality.
Throughout history, human morality has been rife with immorality.

They’re all wrong. I say this with a sense of irony, because I don’t know the right answer.

The problem comes from the obvious contradiction of “why,” which is a rational question asked of an irrational act. The easy, and useless, answer to “why” is that he was crazy or evil. If you found out that he was a white supremacist or an Islamic jihadist, it wouldn’t render his actions any less crazy or evil.

Until we can stop one-dimensionally hating the Las Vegas shooter (and all his ilk) and try to understand him, we are doomed to see him again and again. We can’t just write off these guys as “pure evil” without figuring them out. We have to shed this childish, “Why did the bad men fly the planes into the buildings, Daddy?” attitude.

One consistent fallacy in America is the idea that laws can deter immorality.
One consistent fallacy in America is the idea that laws can deter immorality.

Also along this line, at least one Christian leader blamed the shooting on our behavior, connecting religion, and therefore their god, to it.

“There is ‘violence in the streets,’ Pat Robertson said, because, ‘we have disrespected authority. There is profound disrespect for our president, all across this nation. They say terrible things about him. It’s in the news; it’s in other places.'” ~WP

One of the biggest obstacles to understanding irrational, seemingly evil acts, is our unwillingness, often terrified unwillingness, to admit we have that potential to go crazy or descend into evil ourselves. We all know it’s there because we all feel intense, blind rage at times, but many of us never really look in the mirrors of our souls.

Here are some additional observations about the current state of affairs…

  • Most people are not moral. Most people are self-serving.
  • Most people see the world in terms of a five mile radius and a 30-day billing cycle.
  • Most people who claim to believe in god do so because they think it will serve their causes, not because they honestly feel he is real. The rest believe it because they are told to do so.
  • Most people want money more than anything else.
  • Almost all people who type “prayers” or “praying” into comments on social media are not praying.
  • Professional athletes kneeling during the National Anthem is meaningless to me because I neither care about the opinions of professional athletes nor do I think they should be viewed as role models or heroes.
  • Most people are scared to death of almost everything every day, and though they would agree with this statement, they would say that it is “not me.”

Finally, there is a looming monster far more frightening than the wild card of angry lone nuts: North Korea. If you think 58 dead and 530 injured is a tragedy, you have forgotten the promise of the cold war: annihilation “like the world has never seen before,” at the hands of people far crazier and more evil than an angry nut with some AR15s.

The notion that innocence earns us a place without suffering is inherently flawed. "Deserve" has nothing to do with it. On the left is my grandfather Russell Barron, who was a good man his whole life, and whose life was spent in the terrible pain of arthritic disease.
The notion that innocence earns us a place without suffering is inherently flawed. “Deserve” has nothing to do with it. On the left is my grandfather Russell Barron, who was a good man his whole life, and whose life was spent in the terrible pain of arthritic disease.
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Open Mic Nyte

Your humble host speaks as the July 2017 guest artist at Open Mic Nyte.
Your humble host speaks as the July 2017 guest artist at Open Mic Nyte.

Photos were added to this entry in September 2017.

A singer/guitarist performs for the Open Mic Nyte crowd.
A singer/guitarist performs for the Open Mic Nyte crowd.

I’ve always had a soft spot for the café culture. Artists and Bohemians like Henry Miller and Jack Kerouac seemed to lead lives of densely-layered creativity. For similar reasons, I’ve always been interested in getting together with fellow writers and poets, to share and compare and express. One result of these interests is the formation of various writing groups over the years: in 1980, in 1992, and in 2000.

Open Mic Nyte participants listen as a poet reads a manuscript from 1982.
Open Mic Nyte participants listen as a poet reads a manuscript from 1982.

So when I was recently invited to join a social media group called Open Mic Nyte, I didn’t hesitate, and in June 2017 I attended my first session.

Though many people recognized me as Richard the news photographer, I told them I was just Richard.

Guest share a laugh at Open Mic Nyte.
Guest share a laugh at Open Mic Nyte.
Open Mic Nyte co-founder Sterling Jacobs recites one of his rhymes.
Open Mic Nyte co-founder Sterling Jacobs recites one of his rhymes.

One thing Open Mic Nyte co-founder (along with Steve Brogdon and Lisa M. Pyre) Sterling Jacobs emphasized is vulnerability and its value in situations like this; the willingness to be emotionally vulnerable is indispensable in expressing yourself.

I recently updated this entry to reflect my ongoing participation in this event. Watch this space for more images from Open Mic Nyte.

June 2017

I make a picture in the Open Mic Nyte live stream with event co-founder Steve Brogdon.
I make a picture in the Open Mic Nyte live stream with event co-founder Steve Brogdon.
Open Mic Nyte, June 2017
Open Mic Nyte, June 2017
Open Mic Nyte, June 2017
Open Mic Nyte, June 2017
Open Mic Nyte, June 2017
Open Mic Nyte, June 2017
Open Mic Nyte, June 2017
Open Mic Nyte, June 2017

July 2017

Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017
Open Mic Nyte, July 2017

August 2017

Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017
Open Mic Nyte, August 2017

September 2017

When things got a little too serious, I decided to be the stand-up comedian of the night. I read my Wildfire poem (about my mower) and told four jokes. Everyone was glad for the levity.

This month's featured lens is my 85mm f/1.8 AF-S Nikkor. I asked Laura Brogdon to pose outside for me during the break in Open Mic Nyte.
This month’s featured lens is my 85mm f/1.8 AF-S Nikkor. I asked Laura Brogdon to pose outside for me during the break in Open Mic Nyte.
The Open Mic, Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
The Open Mic, Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Sterling Jacobs gets animated while reading a poem, Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Sterling Jacobs gets animated while reading a poem, Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Your humble host, Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Your humble host, Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
Open Mic Nyte, September 2017
I thought it would be fun to create an "Open Mic Nyte" logo with this microphone image, which I shot at the end of the September Open Mic Nyte.
I thought it would be fun to create an “Open Mic Nyte” logo with this microphone image, which I shot at the end of the September Open Mic Nyte.
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“Better Than Doughnuts”

Morning light strikes the Sky Eye Wheel, the largest portable Farris wheel in North America, at the Oklahoma State Fair Sunday.
Morning light strikes the Sky Eye Wheel, the largest portable Farris wheel in North America, at the Oklahoma State Fair Sunday.
Abby smiles for me as we prepare to spend the day at the 2017 Oklahoma State Fair.
Abby smiles for me as we prepare to spend the day at the 2017 Oklahoma State Fair.
A trainer takes her llama through an obstacle course.
A trainer takes her llama through an obstacle course.

Abby and I spent Sunday at the 2017 Oklahoma State Fair. Readers might remember that she and I did this last in 2014. Abby loves the fair, particularly the draft horses, so we attended again.

In the morning, we watched the llama show, then the donkey show.

Owners and their donkeys wait their turn to compete.
Owners and their donkeys wait their turn to compete.
Abby photographs an animal show at the Oklahoma State Fair,
Abby photographs an animal show at the Oklahoma State Fair,

The llamas were surprisingly beautiful. The donkey show was very amusing because the animals were stubborn and awkward.

At midday we got a bite, then rode the 155-feet-tall Sky Eye Wheel, the world’s largest traveling Ferris wheel. There is something inherently romantic about riding the Ferris wheel with your sweetheart.

Abby smiles from atop the Sky Eye Wheel, which is 155 feet tall and, at least from what I could tell, held together with giant cotter pins for easy assembly and disassembly. Abby was not comforted by this notion.
Abby smiles from atop the Sky Eye Wheel, which is 155 feet tall and, at least from what I could tell, held together with giant cotter pins for easy assembly and disassembly. Abby was not comforted by this notion.
Few things in the world are as empty of nutrients as funnel cake, but it was fun to eat.
Few things in the world are as empty of nutrients as funnel cake, but it was fun to eat.

I bought Abby a funnel cake on the midway, which she had never had. When I got it to her, it was still hot, and we both ate it. She said it was, “better than doughnuts.”

Abby flirts with a Belgian draft horse. To give you an idea of the size of this animal, Abby is 5 feet 7 inches tall.
Abby flirts with a Belgian draft horse. To give you an idea of the size of this animal, Abby is 5 feet 7 inches tall.
Abby asked me to photograph her with this decorative panel of animals on the midway at the fair. Abby loves animals.
Abby asked me to photograph her with this decorative panel of animals on the midway at the fair. Abby loves animals.
Abby and I spotted this ridiculous trash can cover on the midway. If you are afraid of clowns. you shouldn't have looked at it.
Abby and I spotted this ridiculous trash can cover on the midway. If you are afraid of clowns. you shouldn’t have looked at it.

We saw both classes of draft horse pull competitions, which was popular and engrossing. Abby and I found ourselves rooting for the animals to succeed. Several of the teams managed to pull sleds loaded with more than 11,000 pounds.

Draft horses and their teamsters prepare to compete in the Performance Arena. Each of these animals weighs as much 1800 pounds.
Draft horses and their teamsters prepare to compete in the Performance Arena. Each of these animals weighs as much 1800 pounds.
Draft horses pull a sled with more than 10,000 pounds of bricks on it. The competition was surprisingly engrossing.
Draft horses pull a sled with more than 10,000 pounds of bricks on it. The competition was surprisingly engrossing.
Abby plants one on me at the end of a fun day at the State Fair.
Abby plants one on me at the end of a fun day at the State Fair.

Finally, we spent the night in Oklahoma City’s Bricktown so we could go to a medical appointment Monday morning.

The sun comes up over downtown Oklahoma City.
The sun comes up over downtown Oklahoma City.
Your host fogs his reading glasses with steam from his morning coffee.
Your host fogs his reading glasses with steam from his morning coffee.
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Battle of the Blades

Casual readers might not know that my riding mower is named "Wildfire."
Casual readers might not know that my riding mower is named “Wildfire.”

Our riding mower has been overworked this season. It was a wet spring and a wet summer, and I mowed a lot. Even at the start of spring, the blades in the John Deere lawn tractor needed to be sharpened or changed, but the actual mowing always took precedence.

I chopped about 10 pounds of caked-on grass from the underside of the mower deck. There's no easy way to accomplish this without removing the deck from the mower.
I chopped about 10 pounds of caked-on grass from the underside of the mower deck. There’s no easy way to accomplish this without removing the deck from the mower.
The first two blade's bolts came off fairly easily. To remove the third blade, however, require welding a huge nut to it and using it to turn the bolt, which we discovered was quite rusted.
The first two blade’s bolts came off fairly easily. To remove the third blade, however, require welding a huge nut to it and using it to turn the bolt, which we discovered was quite rusted.

Finally, a dry late summer is upon us, so I managed – after about a week and four tries – the remove the deck from the mower to clean it, repair it, and replace the blades. It turned into an ironic and physically stressful event that involved three of us pulling back a spring to reattach a tension bar, and three others of us trying to remove a stubborn blade bolt, then finally welding a bigger bolt onto it so the three of us could put our strength into removing it. Lastly, we cut off the nut with a grinding tool.

The underside of the deck was somewhat rusted in general, so I painted it with some enamel left over from last summer's painting escapades, then attached the new blades.
The underside of the deck was somewhat rusted in general, so I painted it with some enamel left over from last summer’s painting escapades, then attached the new blades.

My right hamstring is sore. Apparently I am right-legged, at least when I do repair work.

The fruits of my labor may come about tonight if my repairs were successful and I am able to mow. Or, if I did it all wrong, I may check myself into the yard work insane asylum.

Update late in the day:
After a considerable amount of self-induced frustration, including including looping the engine-to-deck belt around an extra wheel (hard to see in the tangle of belts and gears under the mower), I fired her up and she mowed well. My right hamstring, on the other hand, is quite sore from the work.

Why is my mower named “Wildfire”? Find out here (link)!

In the midst of this stressful work, I took note the the porch and front yard looked amazing at sunset.
In the midst of this stressful work, I took note the the porch and front yard looked amazing at sunset.
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Last Days of Summer

Early evening sun shines on morning glory vines on the fence in our front yard last night.
Early evening sun shines on morning glory vines on the fence in our front yard last night.
Hawken puts his paws on the fence as I work outside last night.
Hawken puts his paws on the fence as I work outside last night.

With just a few days of summer remaining, the patch is starting to change. After a very rainy June and July, it’s been a dry late summer, and the grass is turning brown. The trees, though, are healthy and huge, and the pasture is high.

I walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound every evening. He weighed 135 pounds at the vet 10 days ago, and while he is a handful to walk, it’s good for both of us. Abby comes outside some and helps train him.

“I knew you would love an Irish Wolfhound,” Abby told me last night, “but I didn’t know you’d love him this much.”

Abby puts her arms around Hawken the Irish Wolfhound a couple of night ago. He is now nine months old and weighs 135 pounds.
Abby puts her arms around Hawken the Irish Wolfhound a couple of night ago. He is now nine months old and weighs 135 pounds.

Max, our smooth coat Chihuahua, eats like a normal dog, but Sierra, the long coat, is a piranha. Watch her stalk Max as he finishes, then clean both bowls of anything left. I made this video of them this morning…

There are several items to repair on our riding mower's deck.
There are several items to repair on our riding mower’s deck.

Last night I finally muscled the deck off the riding mower, and I now need to repair it and replace the blades. Fortunately, it is dry out and the grass isn’t growing much.

At work, my seasons are in full swing. It’s week 4 for high school football, and district matchups are about to start of baseball and softball. All the kids know me and are glad to see me, and I am shooting well.

The Sulphur High School student section yells for their Bulldogs football team Friday night as they take on the Davis Wolves in Davis.
The Sulphur High School student section yells for their Bulldogs football team Friday night as they take on the Davis Wolves in Davis.

Lastly, our life is the country is good.

Our front yard crepe myrtle bushes are high and healthy, as shown in this image yesterday evening.
Our front yard crepe myrtle bushes are high and healthy, as shown in this image yesterday evening.
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25 Years

Abby and I just watched Malcolm X, the 1992 Spike Lee Joint. It’s style summoned some very close-to-home memories from that dark year, so I dove into my journal.

The author sits at his desk in his apartment on E. 12th Street in Ada in the early 1990s.
The author sits at his desk in his apartment on E. 12th Street in Ada in the early 1990s.

I like to imagine these notes are like Kafka’s or Camus’, but they sometimes sound like they came from a high school girl.

These pearls only scratch the surface of what it was like for me that year, but it’s a good start…

• Return to me, and return to me what you have taken.

• Have you ever noticed that it’s the strong who think the strong should survive?

• Part of me wants her to be happy, and part of me wants her.

• I can see you in your navy peacoat, white scarf, snow melting on your glasses, under the street light.

• Sarcasm chasm.

• And yet, today, I failed to hold anyone close, tell anyone I love them, laugh, cry, have fun. What the hell am I doing?

• Tears always require imagination.

• It’s funny how the most boring people I know find me among the most boring people they know.

• Those who seem to be hiding something are usually hiding the fact that they have nothing to hide.

• Slow dance and mean it.

• Home is a moment.

• Before I go, I’d like to 1. Be famous 2. Get rich 3. Feed the world 4. Marry. Don’t be ridiculous. Who’s gonna marry me?

• If I leave, there’s no chance anyone will want me to leave.

• I’d rather eat cereal than hallucinate.

• Alone. What a wonderful word. Sometimes it’s all that needs to be said.

• I don’t want what you have. I want what you are.

• Today was made of tears.

• Misheard lyric: “The dummy between your legs.” Actual lyric: “The damage accumulates.”

• I hold myself tight because no one else will. Not even you.

• (An exhaustive list of women I dated or wanted to date, along with their best and worst characteristics.)

• I stand still and time passes through me.

• Love is an acquired taste.

• Slow-dancing with my imagination.

• “I’m really glad,” she said, not knowing how much it meant to me and how happy I was the hear her say it, “that you started coming over on Friday nights.”

• There is no place in heaven or on earth better than in my arms.

• She chants and she cries and she holds this night as sacred as I.

• We rise to the levels of strength and bravery that our lives demand.

• Somehow it means more to have someone observe than I am lonely than it does to merely be lonely.

• Most people are made up of their bad habits and broken dreams.

• How does it feel? It feels like I am in a pressure chamber, and it’s all pressing on me, making me smaller, harder. Sometimes I feel like I will disappear completely. Right now, as I sit hunched and write backhanded and yarn tearfully, I remember than no matter who or where you are, you are not thinking about me.

• Don’t go. Stay. Don’t stray.

• The future is up for grabs, and the past is up for review.

• I looked at myself in the cold, harsh, judgmental light of that damned mirror and saw so much of myself I had to look away.

• Read me like a book. I dare you.

• I can still smell her on me, the smell of perfume and tears.

• Her whole life has left her unprepared for the kind of openness I offer.

• 3:13 am. You awaken mysteriously to the sound of my voice calling your name. You hear in me my need, my gifts, my love, my life. You sit up and look around. All seems as it should.

• I sit by the window and listen as the wind chimes play the loneliest song ever written.

• Her soft voice touches me with its illusion.

• The words loomed large when she said, “I love Richard.” Never mind that the rest of the sentence was, “because he always brings cookies.”

• Maybe I was tired, or maybe it was the music, but I swear I could hardly bear the next moment.

• You keep me alive by needing me in your life. Telling you who I am is who I am.

• And you, whose caring ends the minute you walk out that door…

• Even if you have nothing to hide, don’t hide.

• The opposite of hurt is hope.

• The train to yesterday leaves tomorrow.

• Tonight the windy mist does a disappointing job hiding my tears. Miserable weather.

• When I’m with you, I’m as unlonely as I ever need to be.

• The future is our only choice.

• Bachelorhood: the freedom to joylessly masturbate to the uninspired pornography of my imagination.

• “You’re one of the most obvious people I’ve ever met.” ~M

• “Do they abandon you, or do you drive them away?” ~F

• Peace doesn’t come from what you do, but from who you are.

• If there is a god, I want to look him in the eyes. Is that the idea behind mirrors?

• Message from girlfriend on answering machine: “Meat loaf. Pot roast. Yankee pot roast. English pot roast. T-bone steak cut from the side of a cow. Round steak. Rib eye. Fillet mignon. Fried crab. Oyster on the half shell. Pork ribs. BBQ beef, dripping, glistening with sauce. McDonald’s Big Mac. Ooo, I have a deep voice. Hamburger meat, nice and lean and frying in a pan forever and ever. Chicken noodle soup. Beefy vegetable soup. …uh… (BEEP).”

• “Part of your heart you only use when you’re in love.” ~J

• A single wish: don’t let it end in tears.

• I give because I need to give.

• She cried.

• There have been hours beyond darkness in which I was totally alone.

• Good men make mistakes.

August 15, 1992: My first flying lesson.

• You awaken. The pillow is cool, but for a moment it seems like someone is there with you. It’s me.

• Silence wraps around me like a boa constrictor.

• There is nothing inside my heart that is outside my reach.

• Cool night. Footsteps on the stairs. Clouds witness my tension as I wait for Darla or Lee or the last person I’ll ever see.

• Fire and wind from the sky laugh at my frail heart as I sit in the unwelcome darkness and miss your smile.

• Missing her comes in waves. Soon they will sweep me away.

• Dressed in black, I walk the night, not among the shadows, but as the shadows.

• Sometimes it feels like if you were to cut me open, my anger and pain would flood the world.

• “Swirling toilet of despair.” ~Aria

• I have blurred visions.

• The trouble with sex with M is that you’d have to get along with her for at least a whole day, and I can’t imagine being able to do that.

• The chocolate of truth

• Perspective: use it or lose it.

• If I believed in god, I’d hate him, but my disbelief deprives me of that luxury.

• When the New Order comes, anyone uttering the word “codependent” will spend six months in a reeducation camp.

• “Hello, Richard. I just wanted to tell you that life is a tragic and terrible struggle that is made harder by the fact that as a race, we are all tragically flawed. See you this weekend. Bye.” ~David, on my answering machine

On the morning of December 20, 1992, my flight instructor signed my logbook and got out of the airplane, and I flew solo for the first time. In addition to the first giant step to becoming a pilot, it was a symbolicly high moment in my personal life. My 1992 was over.

Leanring to fly, to overcome fear, challenges, and uncertainty, marked a new chapter in my life, a chapter filled with confidence and success.
Leanring to fly, to overcome fear, challenges, and uncertainty, marked a new chapter in my life, a chapter filled with confidence and success.
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Today I Am a Gearhead. And Maybe Tomorrow.

I admit to being at least a little giddy about being handed a brand new iPhone 7 Plus by my newspaper this week. Although I didn’t ask for it, many on our staff had experienced shortcomings in the iPhone 6S in our hands, and yearned and lobbied for the next big step up.

My personal iPhone 7 Plus is on the left, and the new work iPhone 7 Plus assigned to me is on the right. Though they have very similar capacities, I use each very differently.
My personal iPhone 7 Plus is on the left, and the new work iPhone 7 Plus assigned to me is on the right. Though they have very similar capacities, I use each very differently.

Though neither tablet nor laptop, the “phablet” (phone+tablet) has versatility in its favor. It is a jack of all trades, including the basic need of being a phone.

Readers, particularly of more than one of my blogs, might realize that I already own an iPhone 7 Plus, and am the carrying two nearly-identical phones around every day.

Of note for this new edition to my photographic and journalistic lexicon is the camera in the 7 Plus, which is very capable. In fact, just an hour after getting set up on the phone, I made a couple of very nice images for the front page of our paper with it.

At this point it’s a mistake to say, “Oh, well if the phones are so good, why do we need cameras or even photographers?” That’s the way a 28-year-old MBA thinks, and it’s not the route to success or greatness. As tempting to say as it is that a phone made this picture, that is not the case. A photographer made this picture with this phone.

Shot with my new iPhone 7 Plus, this image was one of my successes today.
Shot with my new iPhone 7 Plus, this image was one of my successes today.
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Rat Drowning Day

Pet Peeve...
“Drownded.” The past tense of drown is drowned. You’re grownups. Figure it out.

With a three-day weekend, my wife Abby and I are concentrating on rest and relaxation, but also are not neglecting our responsibilities.

Abby feeds Hawken the Irish Wolfhound yesterday morning. Breakfast is their special time together.
Abby feeds Hawken the Irish Wolfhound yesterday morning. Breakfast is their special time together.
Hawken plays with his new rope-pheasant this week. He immediately chewed its head off and partially buried it.
Hawken plays with his new rope-pheasant this week. He immediately chewed its head off and partially buried it.

I’ve taken Hawken the Irish Wolfhound puppy for extra-long walks, and I bathed the Chihuahuas this morning.

I’m thinking I might cook out tonight, but I might try to mow a bit. On the other hand, the forecast calls for a cooler, breezy day tomorrow, so I might spend more time outside then.

In any case, House Barron is at peace.

Max and Sierra, the Chihuahuas, had baths this morning. They don't love bathing, but they accept it. I think they look like drowned rats when they're wet.
Max and Sierra, the Chihuahuas, had baths this morning. They don’t love bathing, but they accept it. I think they look like drowned rats when they’re wet.
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I Won the Lottery

Few things cheer you up better than being with or watching happy people, as in this image I made of a ride at the Pontotoc County Free Fair last night.
Few things cheer you up better than being with or watching happy people, as in this image I made of a ride at the Pontotoc County Free Fair last night.

Faithful readers of the Giant Muh know how down I’ve been this week about some of my fellow photographers being laid off from their jobs at The Oklahoman. I was taking stock of this last night as I drove to my final assignment of the day (which I actually assigned myself), the Pontotoc County Free Fair.

As I worked and thought about my photographer friends, I thought about how grateful I am to have this job, and how much fun I was having doing it. People around me were happy to see me, and I was getting great images.

Then this morning as I was walking up to the Roff softball field to photograph a game, the Tupelo activity bus rolled past me and three of the softball girls yelled, “Hi, Richard!”

Also, I won the lottery. A $25,000 scratch and sniff lottery ticket was sold in Ada, but my winnings were more modest. Now the real work begins: how to invest my $14.

Deep green stage lights shine on the audience at the talent competition at this year's Pontotoc County Free Fair. I love this image, and love making pictures for a living.
Deep green stage lights shine on the audience at the talent competition at this year’s Pontotoc County Free Fair. I love this image, and love making pictures for a living.
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Updated: Feeling Losses

The Oklahoman, the largest newspaper in the state, in May.
The Oklahoman, the largest newspaper in the state, in May.

This item has been updated to include a scathing editorial about The Oklahoman from The Lost Ogle (link.)

Last May after I covered the Byng Pirates state championship game in Edmond, Oklahoma, I went by the offices of The Oklahoman, the state’s largest newspaper, and visited for a while with my longtime friend and fellow photographer Jim Beckel. He told me about the paper’s early-90s move to a huge, expansive and expensive facility on the Broadway extension, which for years we called “the Taj Mahal,” and the paper’s move a few years ago to a much smaller facility in the center of downtown Oklahoma City.

I stole this film-era selfie from Steve's Facebook wall. My career and Steve's are roughly contemporary.
I stole this film-era selfie from Steve’s Facebook wall. My career and Steve’s are roughly contemporary.

The move to downtown represented a cascade of downsizing at The Oklahoman, and today we learned that 35-year veteran photographers Steve Gooch and Paul Hellstern were laid off. I was a little stung by this news, though not surprised.

Steve and Paul are brilliant photographers, and I am sympathetic with their plights. So many of their photographs are like so many of mine, and I was once laid off, in 1988, so I am feeling particularly empathetic.

In my opinion, in a world of billions of not-very-good photos every day, photojournalists provide one of the last sources for truly great photography.

Finally, my friend Tracy Nicole Holman passed away today after a lengthy illness. She was young and beautiful and I was always glad to see her.

The last thing she posted to social media was, “Eating a piece of candy found in the jeans that had a run through the washer…. I’ll live, right??!!”

I am feeling very sad that she is gone. She was just 31.

Tracy Holman, whose radio DJ name was Tracy Nicole, died today. She is pictured here in 2008 holding her guitar, "Gypsy."
Tracy Holman, whose radio DJ name was Tracy Nicole, died today. She is pictured here in 2008 holding her guitar, “Gypsy.”
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A Big Dog and a Bigger Hurricane

Hawken hangs around with me in the pinkish evening light.
Hawken hangs around with me in the pinkish evening light.
Hawken follows me all over the yard, and never seems to get bored.
Hawken follows me all over the yard, and never seems to get bored.

News-followers might recall that the last couple of days have been dominated by news of Hurricane Harvey, an originally uninteresting tropical depression that ended up making landfall at Category 4 near Corpus Christi, Texas. As a possible consequence, our skies the last couple of nights have been a little more turbulent and a little more beautiful.

After work last night, I took Hawken, our eight-month-old Irish Wolfhound, for his evening walk. It was cooler than August evenings usually are around here, and between the green pasture turning gold and a particularly synergistic confluence of music on my iPod, I decided to take him around the perimeter a second time.

Abby and I think, probably correctly, that Hawken is a beautiful and majestic dog.
Abby and I think, probably correctly, that Hawken is a beautiful and majestic dog.

After washing out his water bowl and giving him a big drink, I decided he needed to be photographed.  Though he is 130 pounds of puppy, he believes himself to be a lapdog and wants to be constantly in contact with us, so it is difficult to photograph him without assistance. Still, I found a way, though it involved at least one giant swath of dog saliva on my camera.

The light takes on a decidedly pinkish hue as evening progresses last night. I made this with my 35mm f/1.8, a lens I recommend over and over for its ability to make this kind of subtle, elegant image.
The light takes on a decidedly pinkish hue as evening progresses last night. I made this with my 35mm f/1.8, a lens I recommend over and over for its ability to make this kind of subtle, elegant image.
This was the stormy evening sky produced by Hurricane Gustav eight years ago.
This was the stormy evening sky produced by Hurricane Gustav eight years ago.

As the evening matured, I paused to watch the sky. It reminded me of the sky we saw here in Oklahoma in 2008 as Hurricane Gustav made landfall and skirted past us to the east.

I’m not saying there is a hurricane over us, and it is not forecast to come this way, but the atmosphere is all connected, and the sky often tells me about wildness in the sky far away.

This was the sky as it crescendoed last night. Though we often have good sunset here, this particular sky has a very tropical look to it.
This was the sky as it crescendoed last night. Though we often have good sunset here, this particular sky has a very tropical look to it.
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What to Stop Doing on Facebook

Recently, social media, particularly Facebook, has devolved from its customary shallow, vapid self into a sewer of fake news, angry lies, and complaining. As a young friend of mine commented recently, “I hate how political it all is.”

Here, then, is a list of things I want to stop doing on Facebook

  • Getting involved in political discussions of any kind. No one is enlightened in any way by my opinion, so when I give it, I am either a sycophant or an idiot, but not a scholar.
  • Trying to be clever. As cute as I think I am sometimes with my “orange you glad it’s not a banana” quips, it just adds to the nuisance chatter, and gives me follow-up notifications I don’t particularly want to see.
  • “Liking” stuff I don’t like to show that I saw it. Yes, I know Facebook added some additional styles of acknowledgment, but they all say the same thing: I saw this. No one really cares if I saw it.
  • Caring too much about who reads my stuff. This closely parallels the whole industry’s craving for success and money through counting clicks. It’s a tail-chaser.
  • Clicking on click bate. As temping as it can be sometimes to read, “12 things that will make you smell better,” it is seldom useful, and wastes my time.
  • Being hesitant to delete items I don’t like because other people have liked and commented. I need to realize that Facebook is so transient and impermanent that no one will care or even notice when I delete stuff from my wall, and that it is their responsibility to preserve their digital lives, not mine.
  • Putting my pithier thoughts on my Facebook wall instead of here. I need to make better notes and write longer, better pieces for my blog.

What do I want to do instead? Write. This blog is ideal for my kind of expression, and since I moderate comments, I can stay out of the “yes, but don’t you think” banter that doesn’t go anywhere.

Yes, I want to write more here on The Giant Muh. I will still share it to social media, but even there I will try to be diligent at deleting combative comments. It is my hope to continue to be creative, inventive and positive.

This is the most dangerous trap social media sets for us.
This is the most dangerous trap social media sets for us.
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August Rain

As I wrote five weeks ago, we are experiencing an uncharacteristic wet period. Here on the patch, we’ve had four inches of rain so far this month, and some parts of Oklahoma have gotten 11 inches or more. Add to that the fact that it’s been unseasonably cool, and overall, it’s been a very peculiar summer.

This Oklahoma rainfall map is a patchwork of rain and more rain. To me, it's very welcome, since it's so good for the land.
This Oklahoma rainfall map is a patchwork of rain and more rain. To me, it’s very welcome, since it’s so good for the land.

I’ve been struggling with the bitterness of politics in recent days, noting that our nation and its morally bankrupt leadership is nothing new. Leaders have known since antiquity to wash the people in fear and violence and gluttony to keep them in slavery.

To that end, Abby and I watched the excellent 2012 movie Lincoln yesterday. I am caught in the middle ground of being amazed that our nation once debated the morality of owning other human beings, and being completely unsurprised that a “Christian Nation,” as today’s alt-right likes to chime, still harbors an element which doesn’t understand right from wrong.

Leviticus 25:44-46
However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you.  You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land.  You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance.  You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way.

The Bible, ladies and gentlemen.

It is with this between my ears that I work outside on these cool days, trying to keep up with a forest of grass in the yards and pastures, feeling angry with the people of our land, and so very happy with the trees and wildflowers and sunsets of that same land.

Rain clings to Abby's peace rose this morning.
Rain clings to Abby’s peace rose this morning.
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Mowin’ the Sticker Patch

One of the crepe bushes in our front yard shines in late afternoon sun last night. Abby and I planted these nearly 10 years ago.
One of the crepe bushes in our front yard shines in late afternoon sun last night. Abby and I planted these nearly 10 years ago.
For last night's imaging, I grabbed by 15-year-old Minolta DiMage 7i. Despite its antiquity, it gives a look I have always loved, particularly in the evening.
For last night’s imaging, I grabbed by 15-year-old Minolta DiMage 7i. Despite its antiquity, it gives a look I have always loved, particularly in the evening.

Summers are shorter. When I was a kid, they seemed like three long months of building dams in the creek and eating Cheez-Its. That might still be true for a handful of reclusive nerds, but if you are into anything at all, like athletics or student publications, you had about ten minutes of summer vacation.

A memory from childhood that is a sign of August: cicada skins.
A memory from childhood that is a sign of August: cicada skins.

My summers are short in terms of activities, but right now, the top of August, is very slow. That will come to an end shortly; my first high school sports media day, Ada softball, is tomorrow, after which it is, in effect, fall.

Though most of them are at the end of their lives, the Rose-of-Sharon lining our driveway still make a few gorgeous blooms like this one last night.
Though most of them are at the end of their lives, the Rose-of-Sharon lining our driveway still make a few gorgeous blooms like this one last night.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound gives me his equivalent of a handshake, a slobbery mouth on the wrist.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound gives me his equivalent of a handshake, a slobbery mouth on the wrist.

This August is being unseasonably cool. There are no 90ºs in the current forecast. I’ve been taking advantage of that by working outside. With decent rainfall, mowing is a repeated necessity; keeping the grass spurs in check is extra-important since I am walking Hawken the Irish Wolfhound every day.

My efforts over the years to shape our small patch of the world have paid off. Trees we planted years ago are huge and healthy. Flowers are blooming. Grass is green.

Who I work outside during evenings like last night, I am profoundly grateful for our lives here on our green patch in Byng, Oklahoma.
Who I work outside during evenings like last night, I am profoundly grateful for our lives here on our green patch in Byng, Oklahoma.
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Summer Slowdown and Stupid Questions

My Nissan Juke and Abby's Nissan Frontier sit in the driveway after I washed and dried them. They look like new.
My Nissan Juke and Abby’s Nissan Frontier sit in the driveway after I washed and dried them. They look like new.
I spotted this at a Sunday school classroom recently. I know the spelling isn't right, but I thought Abby would get a kick out of it.
I spotted this at a Sunday school classroom recently. I know the spelling isn’t right, but I thought Abby would get a kick out of it.

A buddy asked me the other day if I had posted anything on my site. He hadn’t seen anything. The answer was that yes, I had, but just a couple of items. I expect that he hadn’t seen them because, like a lot of us, we use social media as site readers, expecting to see links to our favorite stuff in our feeds. Recently, though, several people had indicated they aren’t seeing my stuff consistently, which doesn’t surprise me.

I see less content in general in the summer. The optimist in me hopes this is because people are outside.

So, what’s going on?

  • This is Michael and Thea's old house. (Insert joke here about it or the neighborhood being a toilet.)
    This is Michael and Thea’s old house. (Insert joke here about it or the neighborhood being a toilet.)

    Michael and Thea recently moved from Norman, Okla., to Oklahoma City, to a larger house, and to a location closer to their works. I’m happy for them, but I don’t admire the “interstate culture” that involves constantly using interstate highways every time you need a loaf of bread. My role in their move was to use Abby’s Nissan Frontier pickup to move a new dining set and a new huge-screen television from the store to their new home. The Visio television was interesting: it is a 65-inch flat screen with the option of using a phone app as the remote control.

This is Michael and Thea's new house in south Oklahoma City. In addition to being a bigger, nicer house, it cuts their daily commute to work in half.
This is Michael and Thea’s new house in south Oklahoma City. In addition to being a bigger, nicer house, it cuts their daily commute to work in half.
  • This is the 2017 Nissan Juke Ada Nissan lent me. It's a nice car, but the dark blue reaffirmed my love of white cars, as it was untouchably hot sitting in the afternoon sun.
    This is the 2017 Nissan Juke Ada Nissan lent me. It’s a nice car, but the dark blue reaffirmed my love of white cars, as it was untouchably hot sitting in the afternoon sun.

    I had a big 48,000-mile service on my Nissan Juke, including oil, transmission fluid, air filters for the engine and the cabin, tire rotation and more. Props to Ada Nissan for getting the work done quickly, and for lending me another Juke, no charge.

  • My wife Abby and I finished the quilt squares her aunt Judy asked us all to make for the next family reunion. The whole family was asked to decorate these squares, which Judy plans to make into a giant quilt and raffle off at the reunion in October. Abby and I took our squares – with pictures of family stuff – to Duncan last weekend, where we had lunch and fed the deer.
Abby and I used a fairly inexpensive transfer product to put photos on these quilt squares for the reunion quilt.
Abby and I used a fairly inexpensive transfer product to put photos on these quilt squares for the reunion quilt.
  • I've cut a lot of grass with this mower, since the first summer Abby and I were dating. It seems to give up once in a while, only to come back to life with some care.
    I’ve cut a lot of grass with this mower, since the first summer Abby and I were dating. It seems to give up once in a while, only to come back to life with some care.

    My push lawn mower has decided to be vexingly inconsistent. I was certain 10 days ago I was on the verge of buying a new one, but when I cranked it the last time, it started on the second pull. Ghost in the machine.

  • I cranked up the power washer and washed my Juke and Abby’s Frontier, which always re-reminds me how much more we love our vehicles when they’re super-clean.
  • I just finished teaching another intermediate/advance photography class. We had a great time. At one point, one of my students asked, “Is there and advanced advanced after this?” which I consider very flattering.
  • One of my reporters and I covered a story about a firefighter who delivered a baby by the side of the road recently, and we both noted how cringingly stupid tv reporters’ questions are. “How does it feel to deliver a baby like this?” It’s like being punched in the groin, Sylvia. “Is there anything your want to say to the firefighters who delivered your baby?” Yeah, perv, get out of my coochie.
It's hard to believe based on his appearance, but Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is still a puppy.
It’s hard to believe based on his appearance, but Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is still a puppy.
  • Max the Chihuahua, who is now completely deaf, dug out of the front yard for the first time in a couple of years. I was very proud, though, when I caught up with him, that he followed me back to the house without a leash or picking him up. Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is off the charts lovable. Sierra the Chihuahua is fine, and eats her breakfast and dinner in about three seconds. She’s also been eating a lot of sh!t lately. Bad girl.

All is well. Abby was briefly very ill, but we got her fixed up. Later this morning I hope to make her cottage cheese eggs.

The magnetic dry erase board in the kitchen has been replaced by the Reminders app on our iPhones, so it's just for-fun art now.
The magnetic dry erase board in the kitchen has been replaced by the Reminders app on our iPhones, so it’s just for-fun art now.
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More Fun Facts…

When it comes to tea, dryer is better.
When it comes to tea, dryer is better.
  • If your tea doesn’t taste right, it might be because it is what connoisseurs call “too wet.” To fix this, just add a dryer sheet when steeping! Try it!
  • The new iPhone 7x allows you to charge the device in a microwave oven. Try it!
  • When Author “Fonzie” Fonzarella jumped over the tank of sharks in the fourth season of Happy Days, all of the sharks and 52 migrant workers were killed.
  • It is impossible to photography distant objects with fast shutter speeds because light only travels 186 miles in 1/1000th of a second.
  • All my towels are named Thurston Towel III.
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Worms on a Stick at the Fungus Farm

This is a delicious, nutritious sandwich I made with cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, cheese, and mustard on a whole wheat roll.
This is a delicious, nutritious sandwich I made with cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, spinach, cheese, and mustard on a whole wheat roll.

My wife Abby spotted some nice whole wheat sub sandwich rolls at Wal Mart the other day, so much of this week’s dining has been in one iteration or another of sandwich.

Stick it into the web, give it a twist, then pull, and out comes the web and the worms that made it. I made this tool from a broom handle and a shelf bracket.
Stick it into the web, give it a twist, then pull, and out comes the web and the worms that made it. I made this tool from a broom handle and a shelf bracket.

After dinner tonight, I tried to devise an apparatus for removing webworms from hard-to-reach branches of trees on the patch. Every Oklahoman knows these ugly parasites that weave thick, sticky webs on hardwood trees while consuming all the green within. The webs are tough enough that the birds can’t get to them, so I decided to fashion a stick with a metal tool on the end – a shelf bracket, actually – that would allow me to stick-twist-pull to remove the mess from the branches I could not otherwise reach, and it worked pretty well.

Later when I was mowing near the old walnut tree, I came across a lovely, funny stand of mushrooms that I’d never seen before, and photographed them.

Nothing indicates a healthy ecosystem like a stand of mushrooms like this one under our walnut tree tonight.
Nothing indicates a healthy ecosystem like a stand of mushrooms like this one under our walnut tree tonight.

Also, today was the Stratford Peach Festival, and while the local farms didn’t have much to offer, I was able to secure some from nearby Sallisaw, which are quite tasty. I bought a very large bag of them and in addition to eating them fresh, I’m sure Abby will make a cobbler.

Colorful, ripe, nutritious and delicious, the Sallisaw peaches were for sale today in Stratford at the Peach Festival.
Colorful, ripe, nutritious and delicious, the Sallisaw peaches were for sale today in Stratford at the Peach Festival.
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Extra Large but Not Wide

I wear shoes every day, all year long. These are the new shoes I got for my birthday this year.
I wear shoes every day, all year long. These are the new shoes I got for my birthday this year.

For my birthday, Abby agreed to let me order new shoes from Zappos.com. (Before you ask me why I didn’t buy locally, ask the locals why the same shoes are 20% more.) I got a pair of  brown New Balance casual walking shoes for everyday wear in my office casual environment at work, and another pair of Merrill Moab 2 Ventilators. I got my first pair of Moab’s because of the name: Abby and I got married in Moab, Utah, but that led to the discovery that these are best shoes I’ve ever owned.

I have the healthiest feet of anyone I know. My feet never hurt and they are anatomically ideal. I don’t require wide sizes or insole inserts of any kind. I wear shoes all day, every day, all year long. It’s possible the shoe companies are sneaking in at night to measure my feet and make shoes exactly for them.

Hawken's idea of posing for a portrait is to tackle me and slobber all over me. The shoes look good, though, right?
Hawken’s idea of posing for a portrait is to tackle me and slobber all over me. The shoes look good, though, right?

Also among the huge and the healthy is Hawken, our six month old Irish Wolfhound. Ten days ago he weighed in at 108 pounds, so he is still growing, but he is well and loves us to pieces. Abby has taken to putting bandanas on him. Last night I tried, but he wants to play with the bandana as a toy, so it’s really a two-person job. Once we got his Harley Davidson bandana on him, I asked Abby to make a few pictures of us, which was particularly fun when he decided to knock me down and cover me in huge-tongue dog slobber.

I finally got Hawken to pose for this image by rubbing his belly.
I finally got Hawken to pose for this image by rubbing his belly.
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“The Bloodbath”

I thought this image of myself reflected in downtown windows at dusk was dreamlike.
I thought this image of myself reflected in downtown windows at dusk was dreamlike.

My wife Abby and I both awoke thinking we heard whistling. She even seemed to hear a tune being whistled, which was too weird to ignore.

I got my Ruger P95 9mm, which has a Streamlight on it, and swept the house for intruders.

“Is it clear?” she asked when I came back to bed. Of course it was, I explained, since if I had found a home invader, I would be holding him at gunpoint and asking Abby to cover the sector behind me and call 911.

Maybe that’s an important difference city life and country living: in the city, you might threaten a potential assailant with a call to the police or to scream, where in the county, we tend to offer the choice between surrender or death, since we know the police could take as much as 30 minutes to arrive.

I was even able to determine that Hawken, the back yard Irish Wolfhound, was fine when I looked through the blinds at him eating some kibble.

We speculated the whistling could have been an owl, a dove, the cuckoo clock, the police scanner, or a dog tummy, but Abby swears it was a tune. None of the dogs reacted to the sound in any way, so my best guess is that one of us, probably me, was dreaming about whistling and whistling out loud.

Back in bed, I dreamed  I was a dog handler at a wedding, in charge of a giraffe-sized Irish Wolfhound. A one point, he felt faint, so I game him a bowl of elbow macaroni and milk.

Those thoughts are from last night.

Yesterday on the way to the grocery, Abby and I got to reminiscing about a recent nail-clipping disaster with Sierra the Chihuahua. I told Abby about the mistakes I made when doing it, and to clarify, she asked, “Was the ‘the bloodbath’?” We laughed and laughed at that, since we now have an event in our lives we will remember as The Bloodbath.

This is a t-shirt I used to try to clean up the blood from our nail-trimming fiasco in November, known from now on as The Bloodbath.
This is a t-shirt I used to try to clean up the blood from our nail-trimming fiasco in November, known from now on as The Bloodbath.
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July Rain

The moon slides over the top of a small, brief thunderstorm in Byng two nights ago.
The moon slides over the top of a small, brief thunderstorm in Byng two nights ago.
Hawken and I play together in the back yard a couple of weeks ago.
Hawken and I play together in the back yard a couple of weeks ago.

As usual, I had a super-fun time covering Independence Day celebrations in Ada’s Wintersmith Park Tuesday. The weather was nice and everyone had a great time.

It rained 3.1 inches Monday, then 1.5 inches early Wednesday morning, then another half inch right on top of us and nowhere else in there state, just as I was about to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound two nights ago.

A raindrop clings to barbed wire on the chicken coop, which we have despite not owning chickens.
A raindrop clings to barbed wire on the chicken coop, which we have despite not owning chickens.
The runt crepe myrtle in the front yard, which we once presumed dead, has huge, healthy blossoms on it this year.
The runt crepe myrtle in the front yard, which we once presumed dead, has huge, healthy blossoms on it this year.

Everything was browning just a bit, but is now turning green again, and growing fast, so I am experiencing a burst of outdoor work.

My wife Abby and I gave Hawken a bath in the front yard yesterday, then took him to the vet,  where he weighed 108 pounds, which is typical for his breed at his age, six months. He is a mess, but he loves us both.

Raindrops cling to a Rose-of-Sharon bush in our back yard. It is our only remaining healthy Rose-of-Sharon, though it was eaten to near-death by our goats years ago.
Raindrops cling to a Rose-of-Sharon bush in our back yard. It is our only remaining healthy Rose-of-Sharon, though it was eaten to near-death by our goats years ago.
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Rainy Days and Sundays

I said, "Wow. Honey, you have to come out here and see this." She came out to see this and said, "Wow!"
I said, “Wow. Honey, you have to come out here and see this.” She came out to see this and said, “Wow!”

I have been taking a few staycation days as things slow to a crawl in the newsroom.

Abby's rose bush in the front yard is doing great.
Abby’s rose bush in the front yard is doing great.

Yesterday turned into one of the rainiest of this spring and summer, 3.1 inches measured at our nearest Mesonet site. As a result, I didn’t get anything done outside, and didn’t even get to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound.

My wife Abby, on the other hand, having spent the last few days organizing some recipes, had a burst of energy and decided to make No-Knead Casserole Bread and Beef Noodle + Faux Beef Noodle Casseroles.

Abby labors with love to make a spectacular meal for us yesterday.
Abby labors with love to make a spectacular meal for us yesterday.
Bread and casserole: dinner is served.
Bread and casserole: dinner is served.

Thunderstorms rolled through and there were a number of severe thunderstorm warnings, and even some minor damage in town, but the Storm Prediction Center never issued a watch of any kind, which I thought was odd.

Abby and I enjoyed her meal, and put up quite a lot of leftovers.

We are binge-watching Season 12 of Criminal Minds.

Hawken is an outside dog, and there are several places he can get to stay dry, but got pretty wet and looked pretty ridiculous. He was bone dry this morning.

After the rain, I took a towel out to dry off Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, and he instantly decided it was a toy.
After the rain, I took a towel out to dry off Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, and he instantly decided it was a toy.
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A Deep Breakfast of Pure Sunlight

Abby has been in a cereal mood for the last few weekends, though yesterday I made scrambled eggs for her breakfast.
Abby has been in a cereal mood for the last few weekends, though yesterday I made scrambled eggs for her breakfast.

I am aware that my last few entries have been about our new puppy, Hawken, and that my readers might have heard enough for a while.

“Evelyn slapped Raymond on the back with a laugh. ‘You must be starved, old friend. Come into my apartments, and we’ll suffer through a deep breakfast of pure sunlight.’” ~Sri da Avabhas

I set up my tablet, or, in this case, my laptop, on the bar so Abby and I can talk while I edit photos or write while she reads.
I set up my tablet, or, in this case, my laptop, on the bar so Abby and I can talk while I edit photos or write while she reads.
While I covered Friday night's Cruisin' Main in Ada, I had a terrific time texting images like this one to Abby, who is very much a car person.
While I covered Friday night’s Cruisin’ Main in Ada, I had a terrific time texting images like this one to Abby, who is very much a car person.

With things slow at the office, I took a couple of three-day weekends. We sleep, we watch movies, I work outdoors in the early summer breeze. Days like these represent everything I wanted from marriage.

This week’s joke between us: “I wish this had subtitles. It’s all in Canadian!”

This time last year I talked about beauty and its significance, and it remains just as significant a year later. The outdoor world on which we live, seven green acres here in southern Oklahoma, changes, and with my tools and my hands and my back, I am part of those changed. The Rose-of-Sharon bushes, for example, are at the end of their lives. I allowed the elm trees, along the fence leading south from the house, to grow, and they are huge and green, and make nice shade.

I photographed this flower in the pasture near the pond recently. Its beauty never escapes me.
I photographed this flower in the pasture near the pond recently. Its beauty never escapes me.

When I mow, I have a lot of time and monotony in which to think. It’s not always pleasant – I often think about negative things and try to imagine successful solution scenarios, but it doesn’t always end well.

Another of Abby's peace roses is preparing to bloom in the front yard.
Another of Abby’s peace roses is preparing to bloom in the front yard.

For example, Abby’s SiriusXM satellite radio was streaming one of Abby’s favorite country music stations recently, and on the playlist was Lee Greenwood’s Proud to Be an American.

“And I’m proud to be an American/Where at least I know I’m free…”

The last Rose-of-Sharon in the back yard has blossoms on it. Our late goats ate three of the four plants along the back fence.
The last Rose-of-Sharon in the back yard has blossoms on it. Our late goats ate three of the four plants along the back fence.

I certainly have no problem with the premise of national pride, but this song is really about being proud to be a rich, white, straight, conservative American. I’ve been to events where they play this song, and the parking lot is full of $36,000 pickup trucks, and the white-to-other-race ratio is 1500 to 1. There are no gay pride flags flying.

“…God Bless the USA.” I don’t know how you can listen to these lines without thinking about the demise of the democracy/republic and the rise of our electoral oligarchy. I am dismayed that we are taking giant steps toward being a pure mercantilist society, all the while posting childish memes about the purpose of life not being about being rich and popular, but about being kind and humble. We are not a kind and humble nation.

It’s possible I wasting my mowing time thinking about too many negative things. I am grateful to be outside on these summer days, cutting the grass or photographing the dogs and flowers, or clearing the brush from overgrown fence corners. I am grateful to come inside, covered in sweat and dust, to see that Abby loves me more every day. I love her more every day.

The mimosa are in bloom right now. They are one of my favorite things to photograph in the summer.
The mimosa are in bloom right now. They are one of my favorite things to photograph in the summer.
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Our 95-Pound Weakling

Your humble host plays with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound in the back yard Sunday night.
Your humble host plays with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound in the back yard Sunday night.
When Hawken plays, he likes to get his mouth around you. As you can see, Abby's slender hand is almost entirely inside his mouth.
When Hawken plays, he likes to get his mouth around you. As you can see, Abby’s slender hand is almost entirely inside his mouth.

Abby and I took Hawken the Irish Wolfhound to the vet yesterday to have him weighed, a necessity for dosing of meds for heartworm and parasites (fleas and ticks.)

I though loading him into the truck would be more difficult than it was, but he is tall enough to get in and out by himself.

Abby tries to usher Hawken around the back deck as the sun goes down Sunday.
Abby tries to usher Hawken around the back deck as the sun goes down Sunday.
I let social media have some fun with this image, asking them to write a caption for it.
I let social media have some fun with this image, asking them to write a caption for it.

At the vet, Abby and I were both surprised, since he is just five months old, to find he weighed 95 pounds.

He is completely healthy.

At one point Abby was tugging at his leash to keep him in one spot and the leash broke, sending Abby back and to the floor, fortunately landing squarely on her butt, uninjured.

Abby hugs Hawken around the neck. He is her third Irish Wolfhound.
Abby hugs Hawken around the neck. He is her third Irish Wolfhound.

 

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Self-Esteem and the Real Value of Life

Abby and I planted this peace rose earlier this spring.
Abby and I planted this peace rose earlier this spring.
I have peaches on my trees this year, which aren't pretty (because I don't use pesticides), but which taste great and are beautiful to watch grow.
I have peaches on my trees this year, which aren’t pretty (because I don’t use pesticides), but which taste great and are beautiful to watch grow.

I had an epiphany recently when my wife Abby and I were watching some politically-charged testimony regarding Donald Trump. Frustrated and angry, Abby said, “Trump doesn’t care about anyone but himself!”

Then it hit me. No he doesn’t. People who really care about themselves are emotionally whole enough to care about humanity. People who care about themselves understand that we are all part of the same world, that we all depend on each other, that without each other and our fragile planet we are nothing, and that we are all mortal.

Donald Trump is a sociopath. He feels neither empathy nor sympathy. He doesn’t understand love or meaning. His life is empty.

Rain clings to clover in the front yard. We have enjoyed ample rain this spring.
Rain clings to clover in the front yard. We have enjoyed ample rain this spring.

Two song lyrics are stuck in my head this week, both brought to me by internet radio ambient/chillout channels, both by Sia, about whom I know little except I like her etherial voice…

“Living in your head
Without anything to numb you
Living on the edge
Without anything to numb you…” ~Numb

and

“Be my friend, hold me
Wrap me up, unfold me
I am small, I’m needy
Warm me up and breathe me…” ~Breathe Me

A mimosa blossom, a welcome harbinger of summer, shines in late afternoon light in my orchard.
A mimosa blossom, a welcome harbinger of summer, shines in late afternoon light in my orchard.
Abby's iPhone plays SiriusXM Radio through her stereo in the living room.
Abby’s iPhone plays SiriusXM Radio through her stereo in the living room.

I got Abby hooked up to listen to SiriusXM streaming at home, so there is country music in the house frequently now. Though I am not a country music fan, its sound is 1500% better than the prattle of television.

Ploughing through my journal from 1993 looking for mention of something I was trying to recall, I came across several interesting items.

“I’m going to start listening to my thoughts. Lately I’ve been finding them to be much too violent and petty. I’m looking for the silence, the nothingness, the emptiness that can set me free. Eventually it all comes down to this reality now. Too often I’m lost in fantasy and conjecture, the past and the future. I’m looking for NOW. I think I’ll become a nowist.” ~Journal, November 1993

I colored my beard last night, and got it about right. I'm getting pretty good at it.
I colored my beard last night, and got it about right. I’m getting pretty good at it.

“Kathy was very hard to get along with this weekend. She reminds me of my hurtingmost times in 1988-89. I hungered to be with people, to be soothed by their company. But at the same time, that hunger drove them away.” ~Journal, November 1993

I was flying all the time in those days, and we weren’t always mad at the President.

A friend of mine died this week from injuries she sustained when she was kidnapped and assaulted in January, meaning she was murdered. I am horrified and baffled, but I feel that somehow these feelings are naive. In any case, she is in my thoughts.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound is tall enough at the shoulder to eat with his dish in the seat of a chair. He is strong, majestic, beautiful.

Hawken takes his supper on a chair now that he is tall enough at the shoulder to reach it.
Hawken takes his supper on a chair now that he is tall enough at the shoulder to reach it.
On the grill last night was hamburgers for Abby, veggie dogs for me, and roasted vegetables for both of us.
On the grill last night was hamburgers for Abby, veggie dogs for me, and roasted vegetables for both of us.

It is warm but not hot on the patch these days, and we have gotten healthy rain.

I cooked out last night.

It is also the season for fruit, which I feel is far more nutritious than, well, almost anything.

It is with all these things in mind that I am grateful for my life.

I know I post a lot of images like this one, but they never cease to be beautiful to me.
I know I post a lot of images like this one, but they never cease to be beautiful to me.
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Paws Pause, or Faux Paw

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound plays with a stuffed dog on the back deck earlier this week. He is as good-natured as any animal I've ever known, but doesn't know his size or strength yet, and can be a handful.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound plays with a stuffed dog on the back deck earlier this week. He is as good-natured as any animal I’ve ever known, but doesn’t know his size or strength yet, and can be a handful.
For a while it seemed like we were feeding Hawken his weight in dog food, but this growth spurt has tapered off.
For a while it seemed like we were feeding Hawken his weight in dog food, but this growth spurt has tapered off.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound’s astonishing growth spurt has plateaued. He is still very much a puppy, but he is learning to mind a little at a time. I walk him on a circular route from the house to the front of the patch to the pond and back once or twice a day. It might be a half a mile. It tires him out, and he sometimes wants to stop and rest.

Abby works with Hawken on his leash last week.
Abby works with Hawken on his leash last week.
My Nissan Juke sits in the grass near the redbud tree recently. I've had it almost four years now, and it remains my all-time favorite car.
My Nissan Juke sits in the grass near the redbud tree recently. I’ve had it almost four years now, and it remains my all-time favorite car.

We had a huge rain last week, so I wanted to mow to keep up. The last thing I need is a forest to cut. Two nights ago I got started, but the John Deere riding mower’s battery suddenly died by the back gate. I drove down to it in my Nissan Juke and jump started it so I could put it away for the night in the garage, where I removed and tested the battery. Much to my annoyance, not only was it stone cold dead (putting out less than 9 volts), upon examination, it was a full-sized automotive battery. $100 battery in a lawn mower, John Deere? Really?

Yesterday I took the battery to town and decided I was going to make a $25 mower battery work, which only required attaching the cables in a slightly creative way. It worked fine.

Anyone who knows batteries knows that 12 volt batteries need solid contact to move the amps needed to crank an engine, and this arrangement did exactly that, without me having to buy a car battery.
Anyone who knows batteries knows that 12 volt batteries need solid contact to move the amps needed to crank an engine, and this arrangement did exactly that, without me having to buy a car battery.
Abby's dad's CB radio lives in our garage. When I asked some social media groups for advice about it, they were no help at all.
Abby’s dad’s CB radio lives in our garage. When I asked some social media groups for advice about it, they were no help at all.

I also recently got into the rafters in the garage and pulled down Abby’s father’s Johnson Messenger citizen’s band radio from the 1960s, hoping to power it up and see if it still works. I was unfamiliar with the connector, so I blithely asked several amateur radio groups of social media how to do it. After a litany of useless, patronizing comments, I decided that amateur radio operators on the internet are just as douchey as they are on the radio, and deleted all my memberships to all those groups. I don’t know why I thought otherwise, but all anyone wanted to do was look smart and try to make me look dumb. Goodbye.

Abby's new recliner resembles a captains chair from Star Trek.
Abby’s new recliner resembles a captains chair from Star Trek.

Abby bought a new recliner this week. She loved her old one, but seldom sits anywhere else, and just wore it out. The replacement is a home theater chair, with electric reclination, lighted cup holders and footrest, and armrest bins big enough for a laptop computer.

It’s almost summer, so it’s melon season, and the grocery has my current favorite melon, the golden honeydew. If you get a chance, try one. They are sweeter and more complex than regular honeydew, and are softer and slightly less edgy than cantaloup.

If you are a melon fan, try the golden honeydew.
If you are a melon fan, try the golden honeydew.
Despite being a very old dog, Max the Chihuahua still has the fight of a pit bull in him, particularly when confronted by the giant, derpy puppy Hawken.
Despite being a very old dog, Max the Chihuahua still has the fight of a pit bull in him, particularly when confronted by the giant, derpy puppy Hawken.

With a puppy on the patch, it’s more evident than ever that our Chihuahuas are getting old. Max, who is 13, is getting kinda deaf, and Sierra, who is 12, has been blarfing on the carpet more lately.

They both certainly have a lot of life in them, but they definitely aren’t puppies any more, though Max plays and fights like a puppy, and Sierra spins excitedly, always counterclockwise, at dinnertime.

Irish Wolfhound owners know that they don't grow into their paws like other dogs, but grow into their noses. Hawken is a beautiful puppy and is going to be a magnificent dog.
Irish Wolfhound owners know that they don’t grow into their paws like other dogs, but grow into their noses. Hawken is a beautiful puppy and is going to be a magnificent dog.
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The Next Big Thing

Your humble host poses with Hawken, the derpy, goofy Irish Wolfhound puppy just four months old.
Your humble host poses with Hawken, the derpy, goofy Irish Wolfhound puppy just four months old.

As I told a fellow news photographer recently, “It will be a flurry of graduations to cover, then *crickets chirping.*” Still, it’s a fun time to do what I do.

Meanwhile, our puppy, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, is growing in fits and starts, and still hasn’t found his paws or his nose. He could end up rivaling me in weight. He’s the next big thing.

  • Hawked apparently scared up a skunk two nights ago. We heard his deep, derpy, “Rooof, rooof,” followed a few seconds later by the distinct (stinked) skunk smell. I grabbed a rifle and hunted around, but couldn’t find the skunk. I smelled Hawken’s fur to find he had not been sprayed directly. Later in daylight we discovered a large swath of skunk spray on the siding next to the faucet, in the back yard, indicating that Hawken had tangled with a skunk, but the foe had missed when he sprayed.
This is skunk juice, sprayed Thursday night at Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. Fortunately it missed the target, Hawken, and hit this portion of siding.
This is skunk juice, sprayed Thursday night at Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. Fortunately it missed the target, Hawken, and hit this portion of siding.
This was the scene a few days ago when I powerwashed the north side of the garage.
This was the scene a few days ago when I powerwashed the north side of the garage.
  • Since we sold our RV, the wall next to its parking spot is open to view, revealing that the siding was covered with mildew. This wall is the worst, since it faces north and is protected by our large black walnut tree. I cranked up the power washer  and dispatched the slime without undue difficulty.
As you can see, the dark green mildew on the siding is quite dark when compared to a portion I have cleaned with our power washer.
As you can see, the dark green mildew on the siding is quite dark when compared to a portion I have cleaned with our power washer.
  • These peaches are ugly, but when I cut off the ugly, they tasted pretty good.
    These peaches are ugly, but when I cut off the ugly, they tasted pretty good.

    My peach trees have peaches this year, but since I don’t spray them, they are ugly. Still, if you cut the bad parts off, they are still richer and sweeter than grocery store peaches.

  • As playoff season winds down, as of this writing we have just one team, the Byng Pirates baseball team, in the fight. As usual, it’s been a great time covering our teams and their parents who I covered years ago. I feel very welcome and very much a part of their community.
    Your humble host poses with some friends at the first round of Class 4A state baseball playoffs in Edmond Thursday evening. I have known Tracey, seated in the center, since she played basketball at Roff in 1990.
    Your humble host poses with some friends at the first round of Class 4A state baseball playoffs in Edmond Thursday evening. I have known Tracey, seated in the center, since she played basketball at Roff in 1990.

    Your host takes on the enviable task of photographing last week's regional playoff games in Byng, as photographed by Tracey Beech Stephens.
    Your host takes on the enviable task of photographing last week’s regional playoff games in Byng, as photographed by Tracey Beech Stephens.
Abby plays with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound puppy.
Abby plays with Hawken the Irish Wolfhound puppy.
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Oklahoma

Just at sunset, I captured this image of an evolving thunderstorm.
Just at sunset, I captured this image of an evolving thunderstorm.
The sky is often beautiful in southern Oklahoma, but last night it was really showing off.
The sky is often beautiful in southern Oklahoma, but last night it was really showing off.

There are many times when I feel grateful I live in the country. Last night, as I drove from the Oklahoma City area home to the Ada area, was one of those times.

Everything was green, and the sky was wild with springtime. I stopped a couple of times to photograph it, and when I did, the air smelled like honeysuckle and roses.

Windy and turning colder, the sky catches the last rays of the sun in this view looking southeast from the community of Oil Center, Oklahoma.
Windy and turning colder, the sky catches the last rays of the sun in this view looking southeast from the community of Oil Center, Oklahoma.
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“You Don’t Ever Change”

or “You Still Look the Same”

Your humble host photographs himself in a mirror in January 2000.
Your humble host photographs himself in a mirror in January 2000.

As a result of my giant office cleanout project, I have posted on social media a number of photos of Adans (people from Ada, Oklahoma, for you out-of-towners) and their neighbors who I photographed in the 1990s and know in the twentyteens. Some of them look very familiar, but some of them are almost unrecognizable. Why is this?

One thing I feel certain helps me feel and look young is my diet, which I have tried to keep healthy with, among other things, being a vegetarian since 1989.
One thing I feel certain helps me feel and look young is my diet, which I have tried to keep healthy with, among other things, being a vegetarian since 1989.

At the same time, I felt obligated to post a few images of myself from that same era. Almost to a man, people tell me, “You don’t ever change,” “You look the same now as you did then,” or “You never age.”

This is the greyest I ever let my beard get. As you can see, it ages me unkindly.
This is the greyest I ever let my beard get. As you can see, it ages me unkindly.

The truth, of course, is that I have aged, but not as dramatically as some of my friends and neighbors. How much of this is luck, and for how much can I take credit?

  • I didn’t get fat. You might be amazed how much different people can look who double their weight. Often they can be almost unrecognizable. I can take most of the credit for not getting fat. I have been a vegetarian since 1989, and I have always been physically active.
  • I didn’t lose my hair or its color. This is plainly luck. I have great hair. It hasn’t greyed or thinned. My beard, on the other hand, is grey through and through, so I color it, and this makes a significant difference in my apparent age. I see a lot of guys get to a breaking point in their hair lives, when they shave their heads and grow long goatees, or worse. This makes them look old, and kinda creepy.
  • I never smoked or got high. A couple of lifelong smokers from my high school with whom I recently connected on Facebook already look like their grandparents.
  • I dress appropriately for my age and personality. I feel depressed when I see someone my age wear their clothes and hair like they did “back in the day,” only on a body remains very much in this day. I also eschew the “shorts and black socks with sandals” scene that the elderly sometimes inexplicably adopt.
  • I talk to people as though they have value. Young people and old people seem to forget this is important, for different reasons, but the truth is that we are catching more flies with this honey than with their vinegar. One effect of this is…
  • I smile more. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I was unhappy much of the time, and didn’t smile enough. There are few things as effective at disarming and charming people than a decent, genuine smile. I give it as a gift.
  • I try not to complain. No one wants to hear how much my lateral epicondyle tendon hurts, particularly young people who have no idea why old bodies hurt. It just comes across as meanness.

In conclusion, I am 53 as I write this, and have no intention of “acting my age” with the “ask me about my granddog” set.

Abby and I pose for a photo last year. You can see the age in my eyes more than anywhere else, but coloring the beard, as you can see, is a game-changer. Compare this image to the first one in this entry to see how I have aged since my 30s.
Abby and I pose for a photo last year. You can see the age in my eyes more than anywhere else, but coloring the beard, as you can see, is a game-changer. Compare this image to the first one in this entry to see how I have aged since my 30s.
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