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cotton vs. hurricane ......

Saturday, October 20, 2018

... and it seems the agriculture industry in south Georgia was not the winner. I took the photos several weeks ago. Stopping along the highway when I was returning from Valdosta.  Driving south, I saw acres and acres of fully opened bolls of cotton filling the landscape as far as the eye can see. Making for very disconcerting view when the distant fields look as if covered in snow. Your brain knows that is an impossibility in the fall in south Georgia, so you understand your eyes are deceiving you, but still, you know what you are seeing... a really confusing view!

When most of the hard acorn shaped bolls, about two inches in diameter, hanging by stems from a plant about four feet tall are ready for harvest, the boll opens into sections.You can see the divisions if you look closely. Growers contract with crop duster pilots fly over their fields with a defoliant, to cause the green leaves to wither and die, making the cotton fibers easier to harvest. The photos were taken while the plants were still green, before the leaves had died and fallen off. When the leaves are gone, the crop is of greater value, as the end product when baled is much cleaner without trash incorporated into the bale as it goes to market to be turned into cotton fabric.

Gigantic harvesting machines roll through the rows, vacuuming the fibers out, literally sucking the cotton out that is clinging to the now dried plant. Huge bales or containers are taken to the site of a gin that separates the feather-light fibers from seeds, and compacts the cotton into bales that can weigh over five hundred pounds. That is a lot 'o cotton!

What happened here in south Georgia to bankrupt farmers is Hurricane Michael. I thought as I heard weather reports that the pounding rain, and resulting flooding would destroy crops. Soybeans and peanuts ready for harvest would be soaked, and possibly standing in water long enough for the entire years' efforts to be for nought. Farmers who had spent month nurturing crops, planting, fertilizing, irrigating would go to bed weeping at the monumental losses incurred by torrential rains.

But cotton? I thought that might survive, sitting in the field waiting to dry out before it could be harvested. The commentator from the state Department of Agriculture reported devastating losses for the southwestern part of the state. Flooding as I had expected, but the wind was just as damaging. Such high velocity wind blowing up from the Gulf of Mexico at hurricane speeds, the cotton fibers were literally blown out of the open boll, and simply vanished. The total value from all the crops lost in the state will be in the billions. Wow! Hard to comprehend.

I was so hopeful when I considered the vast acreage filled with farm land across the south, and knew the damage untimely rains could do to crops those families depended on. Confident those vast fields of cotton could withstand the wet, and would dry out over time, be salvaged while knowing other crops would be entirely lost due to extended rainy period. Never considering the effect gale force winds from a category four hurricane could have on those tiny delicate feather-weight cotton fibers.

down a rathole...

Friday, October 19, 2018
... not a rabbit hole, as when people disappear a la Alice in Wonderland, but a rat-hole. If you pay the least bit of attention to the billboards or other media outlets that advertise the jackpot for the current week of lottery you know it is extraordinarily large. The Man Who Lives Here commented on it recently. Just telling me what a gigantic number the amount has become. I told him if he felt the urge to toss his cash down a rat-hole, he should give it to me,. I assured him I would give it a good home, and promised it would be much more well spent in my hands at the grocery store.

When I carted around small children in car seats we played a game every time we passed a billboard advertising for the state lottery. Talking about what we could do if we were winners. I have yet to purchase a ticket, and do not think they buy them with any frequency if at all. But we still had good entertainment talking about the fun we would have with millions, looking like Scrooge McDuck rolling around in his vault full of sparkling coins, tossing cash in the air.

on the way...

... to donate at the thrift store. Amazed at the things she kept and found too valuable to discard, or possibly that sentimental attachment made her unable to part with the oddments that had belonged to her mother. Lots of small containers, like the pitcher you see in one of the cartons I clearly recall seeing in my  grandma's house. Made of cast aluminum, battered, dented but still quite serviceable.

Things that have so little value to anyone who does not know the history they could easily toss in the trash. The chipped enamel dish pans, of which there were at least three, in different diameters. Still water-worthy, but who uses an actual metal dishpan any more? One even had a little hole, probably from being dropped one too many times - but it had been patched with a small bolt and nut that fit so tightly the container would still hold water for doing the supper dishes before houses were built with kitchens that had sinks. Or any other household purpose someone would need a vessel for a hundred years ago: Washing up on the back porch after a hot day of plowing behind a mule, or sitting in the shade shelling bushels of peas for canning.

Canning jars galore: some with glass lids, metal bails and rubber seals. Some with zinc lids, and some still filled with who-knows-what, dangerous to consume, but the mason jars appear to be still in good condition for another hundred years. Baskets: plastic from the discount store, wicker that likely held gifts, made from oak splints that were fashioned by my grandfather nearly a hundred years ago. With bits of his DNA still attached: how to put that stuff in the donation box for the thrift store?

disordered carport/storage room...

... or gigantic closet, that serves as a backyard shed, full of things not wanted, but too valuable to throw away. We all have some of that, right? Either filling a closet, or junk drawer in the kitchen, where little oddments go to languish until you are forced to sort and discard. Due to moving, or when someone literally dies and leaves other people the task or sorting and eliminating. This seems to be the situation I have been facing for recent weeks, forced to be that person.

When the auntie relocated, very much against her will, about eighteen months ago, I did not have the thought that I would be the person responsible for all her worldly goods. I was so astounded and amazed that she had been pried loose from the place she was established, somehow it never occurred to me who was going to be sorting a lifetime of her belongings. That consideration gradually crept up on me, with 'decision time' now leaning forward, staring me in the eyeballs. I have been there in her house twice since the first of October, emptying closets, deciding, sorting, listing, boxing, loading, hauling, donating. Eight trips to various thrift shops later, plus two loads of boxes filled with books donated to the Friends of Library resale store. One more day devoted to the last of the accumulated miscellanea, and the end is in sight.

The person who owns the auction business has been to look a couple of times, and claims to feel that most of what remains will sell. I am profoundly doubtful, supremely unconvinced that buyers will look at some of the items she proposes to list on an on-line site (Professionalauctioneer.com) will find buyers. I fully expect much of what remains will suffer the indignity the in-between step: being donated to Goodwill for public consumption. I have been pretty ruthless thus far, able to part with many things that do have some value - or would for the person who wanted another 'this' or needs a 'that'. Easy to do when you have no personal investment or sentimental attachment to the article in question.

I believe I can get finished in one more day, will have the bulk of the undesirables donated with another trip to Valdosta. There are several boxes that might present a challenge, as they are cartons stacked high, marked 'Christmas'. I expect they will have handiwork created by my grandmother, and be filled with items that I will not be able to so casually load up for the donation bin. The things discovered thus far that were obviously products of my talented grandma's hands have been relocated to relatives, distributed to cousins who were geographically distant and did not have the hometown connection I did over the years. I have enough of the lovingly, devotedly produced crochet snowflakes and carefully tediously hand-stitched embroidery, monograms on sweaters to satisfy.  If the cousins do not care to own the handiwork, they can do as they please: trash, donate, or pass along to the next generation to decide.

I recall the auntie reporting some years ago that she had been going through closets, cleaning out, sorting and making an effort to get rid of some items she felt should go. I remember hearing something similar from my mom many years ago, referring to an attic that had been filled over fifty years of living in one place. I am thankful beyond words that these siblings did make that effort. Two more trips to donate should wrap this up, now that I am down to yard tools, boxes of Christmas decor., cans of paint and haz-mat products. The chemical items will have to stored until recycle day comes around again, but the rest headed for donation bin. That said: there is still a way to go, to get the auntie's belongings sorted and finish the removal project.

Don't even ask me about the attic in my parents home! A memorial left to the memory of the man who built the house from the hand-dug trenches for a foundation of concrete blocks, laid row upon row all the way to the rafters supporting the now-illegal asbestos shingles and brick chimney. The attic still containing things I continue to ignore. An acre of land he devoted his adult life to enhancing, making livable, a place where he could sit in the late afternoon shade of the pine trees and enjoy his one cold beer...


Thursday, October 18, 2018

... what an interesting date. I was going through papers doing a little chore I do not enjoy, though when completed, I feel remarkably self-righteous. The responsibility of being guardian and conservator for my auntie is (as I should have known, due to some obscure corollary of Murphy's Law) far  more complicated than anyone realizes before they jump feet first into the mire-y mess of probate. After you have committed yourself to the care and feeding of another adult, you slowly begin to find your life considerably more weighted down by the responsibility placed on your shoulders as more of the details are revealed.

In my case, in addition to the physical care of this other, often obstinate, consistently dis-satisfied individual, there is also the equally weighty burden of conservator-ship: keeping detailed records of all her financial business. I have, on occasion, thought it might be easier if she were destitute with the barest of resources, dependent on the generosity of the gov'mint to provide funding for maintenance. Not a serious thought, as she would not be in the perfectly Perfect facility where she now resides, and would be in dire straits in a variety of ways - none of which would be to her liking. Therefore even though she consistently reports to 'not like being here', I know she is well cared for, kept tidy, fed regularly and safe. All those things that are necessary if not to her liking.

In the process of trying to keep orderly records, I bought file folders, but had no place to file them. Started with a green plastic mesh shopping basket that might have been heisted from my work place, as it was of the perfect dimensions to hold file folders upright. But as things have progressed, as paperwork has increased - meaning I do not know what will be important when questions are posed by probate judge, and I want to be able to produce accurate answers - I have bought more file folders, which require more space to store.  I remembered that the auntie had a two drawer file cabinet in her house - jam-packed full of eighty-plus years of paperwork. It would have to be emptied before I could bring it home to make use of it for orderly record-keeping.

Going through that file cabinet in her house recently, deciding what to keep, papers to trash, documents to shred, I found a copy of my grandparents marriage certificate. Their anniversary is today. Wow. It has been One Hundred Years. Remembering when there used to be a daily radio program by Paul Harvey, telling interesting anecdotes, often footnotes to history that revealed things you never knew, "The Rest of the Story". At the end of his interesting little talk he would often mention some married couple with remarkable longevity: people who had been together for sixty plus years. Amazing little snippets of couples with an unbelievable ability to stick it out. Often a pair of Nebraskans, or Texans who you would know had come up as children and young adults in really harsh circumstances, living through hard times as pioneers in sparsely settled country. Devoting their lives to manual labor of farming or raising cattle in blistering heat or rip-roaring blizzards.

My fore-bears did  not survive the droughty seasons of west Texas or blowing blue-northers of Minnesota, but they did live in Georgia and survive Depression years. Moving to raise a family on a farm so they could grow crops, livestock to provide plenty for four children to eat. Homemade clothing, home grown food put up in a muggy, steamy kitchen in the summer from garden produce. I clearly remember a Fiftieth Anniversary Party, hosted by the four adult children, in  my parents house back when I was still  in  my teens.

But: I thought their annniversary date was October 20. Which is why when I got married, I chose the twentieth for the date I would be wed. And now, after over thirty-five years, I find that the date was wrong? Oh, well, guess I might as well stick it out...


Tuesday, October 16, 2018
... at work today. No one thought to mention it was a 'made up holiday', something dreamed up by Hallmark Cards as a way to get people to run to the store and make a purchase to send greetings and salutations to special people. There is: President's Day, Nurses' Day, Firefighters' Day, Teacher Appreciation Week, Grandparents' Day, Administrative Assistant Day. You probably did not read the fine print at the bottom of the square on the calendar, or you would already know that it is: Boss's Day. Yay for all the people who make the big money and have the sign on their door that says 'The Buck Stops Here', just like Harry Truman.

I am almost certain Hallmark did not overlook it, and there were dozens of choices on the far side of the store where the card selections are located. But no one on my side of the store, where the balloons and flowers are, thought to mention that I would spend about eighty percent of my day filling helium balloons and putting together flower arrangements for people who love their boss. Along with at least half a dozen baskets people ordered to pick up right now filled with fresh fruit and candy, wrapped in cellophane and tied with a big fluffy bow.

It was a busy day, traipsing from the front of the store to the back, over and over. Waiting on customers and feeling like I was getting nothing at all accomplished towards my assignment of making salads. Now that I can sit down, rest my weary feets, and think of all that I did get accomplished, I know it was productive. But sort of like living in a house full of children where you never have a sense of finishing anything you start - you keep plodding away, but feel like you have been swimming against the tide, or walking in quicksand all day. Nothing to show for all your efforts at the end of the day, even though you know, your tired feets, aching back, mushy brain put in a long day on the job.


... a station on the radio randomly found when twirling the knob, trying to entertain myself while driving. Hoping to stay awake long enough to get to the destination, without ending up dangling from a tree limb should a short snooze overtake me on the road. In my travels to and from Valdosta in recent days, I happened across a syndicated station: JOY FM. Rather than move back to the usual spot of public radio, I left it on the Christian station, even though the music is so 'current' there are not many songs I am familiar with. As if feeling outdated and Old School is not bad enough when I discovered that the music I know and love is now on the Oldies Station: both pop and country, all the things I can sing along too are ancient by today's standards.

I was listening this morning to the DJ chat with a well known singer, though I do not know anything at all about him other than his name. I could google  him, but if you are interested you can do that for yourself. I hope I can remember enough of the story he told to make it even half as amusing as the version I heard today. I am sure they all make the rounds, like having to go to book signings when you have something published. All the people releasing new music must surely have agents that get them into radio stations to talk on air and tell anecdotes to the 'morning crew' and get more air time for their newest songs.

Chris Tomlin was telling these radio personalities about getting started in the recording business, trying to break into the world of popular Christian music. He got a call to go to a small town in Alabama and play his first every concert at a church. He called his mom, so excited he had to share his good new: a paying gig! So he loads up his guitar, and heads to Tuscaloosa. Arriving at the church where he is to play, with the understanding he should expect an audience of about five hundred youth.

He is told the person who would normally handle the sound system is  not available, but there is a substitute who is very capable and knowledgeable: a fourteen year old. She soon proves that she knows absolutely nothing about electronics, is completely incapable of providing the least bit of assistance. Chris is going back and forth between the stage in this large sanctuary and the booth in the far distant back of the room, up and down, back and forth, up-and-down, back-and-forth. Trying to get the sound he is comfortable with, what he knows he is capable of doing.

In comes the minister of music, a much older man that his contact person has advised him is likely to present a problem, as he is a person who is completely opposed to the contemporary sound. The man comes charging up to Chris and asks: What In The World Are You Doing? That Awful Sound Is Completely Unacceptable! You Are Being A Poor Steward Of The Human Ear! (I may not have that last sentence exactly right, but Chris found it so memorable, he could quote with great accuracy!) 

He tried his best to tone it down, but knew he had been hired to play the songs he had written, the music he loved and love to performed. He's getting the sound right, while watching the time, waiting for the youth to start coming in the room. It gets later and later, someone comes in to say that the kids are all at some sort of big rally/festival down town, so there might not be such a good attendance. Finally eight or nine surly teenagers come in, proceed to sit on the very back row of the sanctuary, as far away as possible from the stage and performer. Great Big Sanctuary: Eight teens with poor attitudes, talking, chewing gum, being noisy and disruptive, completely ignoring the guy who is being paid to entertain, who is so excited about his first ever professional gig!

In comes a group of about thirty kids: someone has taken a bus and picked up some students who wanted to attend the concert. They all came from the school for the Deaf and Blind! They either cannot hear  him sing or cannot even seen him up  on the stage! This struggling young musician's first ever contract for a concert.

The radio personalities he was telling this story to were laughing so hard they could not talk. Probably more to this tale of woe, but that was all I heard. Enough to keep me smiling for the rest of the day. I know he is a well-known, successful musician and a popular singer of Christian music - but everybody has to start some where, right? One of the interviewers commented: 'the only way to go is up!'