Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Confederate Battle Flag Controversy

Racial tensions between blacks and non-blacks seem to be at the highest level they have been in many years -- at least according to our politicians and members of the media.  I haven't observed that heightened tension.  Is it because of where I live? -- deep East Texas where the mix of the skin colors is at a nearly equal level.  I recently spent several days in Virginia and North Carolina where much of the Civil War was fought.  I saw black, white, brown and other skin colors freely mixing everywhere that I went.  They were laughing, conversing, sitting at the same table eating meals and there seemed to be nothing but amiability among them.

I did not travel to the inner city of the major metropolitan areas.  Perhaps that is where the issue is seated.  Poverty breeds discontent -- as it should.  The discontent should lead to efforts to remedy the situation.  I was taught that it is by my own efforts that I will succeed.  Maybe the problem lies in that many of those in the inner cities were taught it is only through government intervention and handouts that their situation can be bettered.  Human nature is such that going back to the same solution becomes habit and if that solution is no longer doing the job, the result is complaint rather than seeking new solutions.

I see the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of resistance.  It has nothing to do with slavery in my mind.  It is a symbol of standing up to the bully -- in the historic sense, standing up to the bully of a Federal Government taking away long-standing rights of the citizens.  Prior to the time of the Civil War, states were allowed significant latitude in how they addressed most issues.  The Federal Government was, by the Constitution, limited in power to things like treaties, international commerce, interstate commerce and defending our country.  The period leading up to the Civil War saw an increasing level of Federal interference with rights previously reserved to the states. 

Yes, slavery was an issue.  It was driven by economic circumstances and the inherent evil in man to exert power over others.  The South was primarily an agricultural based economy in a time prior to automation.  The North was primarily an industrial based economy dependent on other geographic areas for raw material to supply their industry.  Therein lies much of the issue.  The North was dependent in many ways on the South.  They wanted control and they had a tremendous amount of power.  One might say they wished to enslave the South.

The Southerners resisted the exertion of Federal control over them.  It was a difficult decision for them.  The interdependency between the two regions was strong, but worldwide demand for the items produced in the South provided the opportunity to sell to other markets and allow them the ability to overcome that dependency.  The North had fewer options.  They needed the cheap raw goods to continue fueling their industrial economy.  Importing goods from other countries would be extremely expensive and therefore unfeasible.  Their only answer was to stop the Southern states from leaving the Union. Therefore, war.

The war wasn't really about slavery.  The North was just as dependent on slavery as was the South.  The cheap agricultural products needed for Northern industry were cheap because of slavery.  It just occurred at a time in history concurrent with efforts to abolish slavery; efforts just as strong in the South as in the North.  Slavery became a convenient scapegoat after the war to point the blame away from the aggressors -- namely Northern industrialists -- and to the losers of the conflict.  The winners tend to write the history after all.

When the Civil War broke out, there were large numbers of slaves in the North as well as the South.  Most of them in the North were serving in domestic capacities within the households of the wealthy -- the Captains of Industry and the Politicians.  They were replaceable at a cost.  The wealthy could hire cheap Irish and other immigrant labor to replace their slaves.  In the South, there was not a ready replacement for the slave labor.

When Lincoln freed the slaves during the war, it was only those in the Southern states.  Northern slaves were not freed until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified.  Freeing slaves in the South was a move to cripple what remained of the Southern economy to make it more difficult for them to sustain their war effort -- much as the U.S. Cavalry killed all the buffalo to cripple the economic base of the Plains Indians a few short years later.

The Confederate Battle Flag has nothing to do with slavery, or with oppression of blacks.  It is a symbol of resistance to an oppressive Federal Government.

Should it fly over the South Carolina Statehouse?  That is an entirely different question.  Maybe we should begin with "why?"  Is it flown as a symbol of the historic role South Carolina played in the resistance to the Northern usurpation of state's power?  After all, the first shots fired in the rebellion were at Fort Sumter.  If so, it is a strong symbol of their identity and should remain.  Or, is it a remnant of the once-powerful Southern Democratic Party which was controlled by many who were KKK members and wished to use it as a symbol to keep blacks in subjugation to whites?  If that is the case, it should be removed.

Maybe the more important question that should be asked is, "what is next?"  The South seems, even today, to continue its resistance to an ever-more-powerful Federal Government.  Maybe more Statehouses should consider raising the Battle Flag.......

Just my thoughts.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Coffee Jitters

I like a steaming cup of Joe
To start my every day;
It helps to clear the morning fog
And send me on the way.

Two cups before I head to work
Seems just the thing I need;
One won't do and more than two
Sends my motor in high speed.

But, days like this, so wet and cold
Cause me to want to sip
About a gallon of the stuff
At a slow and stately clip.

Then sometime 'long about mid-day
It catches up to me
And I find myself begin to shake
In my extremities.

Wondering what is wrong with me
With head that's all a-buzz
I set my shaking cup right down
And get up to shake the fuzz.

I eat some food and take a break
Trying to clear my head
And find I just can't keep my mind
From wandering instead.

Then 'long about late afternoon
When I am feeling weak,
I crave to fall asleep in bed;
It's all I wish to seek.

Such a toll this humble brew
Wreaks on this body mine,
I swear I'll quit this awful stuff....
But, then I smell that smell divine.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thankful to be Inside Today

Rain, freezing rain, sleet, snow and a little thunder -- that's the weather report folks!  Just day before yesterday I was taking photos of a tree that is almost in full leaf. 

So far the freezing rain has been on surfaces above ground -- like my windshield, the pickup door that I was barely able to open, the gate that was frozen shut -- but, not the streets.  Maybe it will stay warm enough the streets won't freeze over.  They called off school in the event that it might.

I shouldn't complain.  There have been no power outages that I am aware of.  With all the trees around here, accumulating ice can be a real problem due to broken branches taking out power lines. 

This is the kind of weather where you want to build a fire in the fireplace, warm up some hot chocolate and get a good book.  Instead, some of us have little choice but to report to work.

We complain about the weather a lot.  It's either too hot or, too cold or, too wet.  Rarely do we get those days that are just right and yet, most of us in this country work indoors where the weather really doesn't affect us too much.  Instead of complaining we should be thankful.  There are folks who are out working in it no matter what the weather is like. 

Once upon a time I wanted to be a cowboy.  I know a bunch of folks who make their living in the saddle.  They're out there in this mess.  It's the time of year when the baby calves start coming.  There are countless individuals out riding the pastures, looking for that young cow off by herself with a newborn.  The cowboy is bundled up, probably wearing a slicker and gloves, but he's cold.  The wet cold just seeps in and chills to the bone.  That's why they are out there.  It affects those newborn calves the same way. 

They will be doing everything they can to warm that calf up so he will survive -- even to the point of carrying them across their lap as they ride to the barn with the momma cow, head up and snorting, following at a safe distance -- or, maybe not so safe distance for the cowboy.  Hopefully, she will follow all the way into the barn where they will be sheltered from the storm.

It is a noble life and a hard one. 

Yeah, I'm thankful for a job in an office on days like today.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Rainy Weekend Forecast and My Real Focus

Working a full time job makes it hard to do the things I want to at the ranch.  It is worse when the weekend weather doesn't cooperate.  We have had beautiful weather this week, but starting today it is supposed to rain and continue through the weekend. 

I can get some things done if it isn't too heavy, but if it is a "soaker" I am stuck indoors for the most part. 

Part of my current job is in new customer development.  I have been spending a lot of my time building prospect lists and starting the process of turning them into customers.  This business, just like most that I have been involved in, is one in which it takes awhile to develop a new customer -- they don't normally jump on board immediately.

I haven't yet figured out what the "sales cycle" is for loan customers.  It is a matter of developing a relationship.  If you think about it, most people don't change banks unless they move.  My target customers are long-established agricultural businesses.  They have banking relationships. 

The thing that sets us apart from others though, is our personal involvement in agriculture -- particularly cattle production -- and plenty of years of experience.  Not many banks are interested in doing cattle loans, but it is something we love.  And more importantly, we have the experience to understand the business like very few banks do.

Now, how did I go from thinking about what the weather is doing to my weekend plans to how my job is about sales?  Probably because that's where my mind is focused at the moment.....

I guess I'd better get with it!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Getting Serious

There are a lot of weighty things going on in this old world.  If I began a list of them here, it would stretch for page after page (or, is that screen after screen?).  When I allow myself to dive into thoughts of all that is going on I become angry, or depressed, or I choose to "wall myself off" and focus on less weighty things. 

But, the relevant question is, "If not me, then who?"

Nothing gets "fixed" until good people step up and work to improve the situation.  But, can I really do anything about ISIS, or children starving in India, or ocean degradation, or drug and human trafficking, or any of the myriad other issues haunting this world?  Well, yeah, I can.  What I mean is, although I can't "fix" them by myself, I can effect positive change in some or all of those issues.

"How?" you might ask. 

By doing all that I can each day to make a positive difference in the life of someone.

The above statement sounds a bit like a mantra from secular humanism.  We hear it in slogans such as "Pay it forward."  They are great slogans and, if humanity was primarily benevolent, they might ultimately make a positive difference.  Hmmm.....back to ISIS.  I don't think there is anything benevolent about them.

The reality is that unless the nature of the person is changed, nothing changes.  The only power that can truly change us is the power of Jesus Christ.  I pray that you will seek Him with all of your heart. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Brush and Thorns

I know that I have posted recently about clearing brush from fence rows on our place.  I am also clearing brush and junk trees from all over the place.  In fact, there is at least 40 acres of junk trees growing where it should be clear pasture with the occasional, scattered oak tree for shade.  It's a messy tangle of thorns where there should be grass.

I could hire someone with a bulldozer to come in and clear the land.  It would be much quicker and also very much more expensive.  Dozer work for clearing brush runs from $85 to $135 per hour depending on the size of dozer that I hire.  It would take at least a couple of weeks to get the job done, but it would be done. 

I could do it that way, but I guess I have a stubborn streak in me that wants to do the job myself.  So, at least for the time being, I am working away at it with a chainsaw and tractor.  It's a good way to wear out leather gloves and a good way to sweat off a few pounds.  Progress is slow though and it is occasionally hard on me when I am punctured by the thorns.

The only way to really imagine what I mean by thorns is to show you a picture.

The thorn in the picture is sticking out of the main trunk of one of the trees I cut on Saturday.  It is about 4 inches long.  The tree is covered in them -- not just on the branches, but the trunk and major limbs as well. 

I have to cut my way through the thorny branches in order to get to the trunk so that I can take the tree down. 

You can't tell from this photo, but this tree is about 12 inches in diameter at the base.  There were limbs sticking out of it all the way to ground level. 

The downed tree farthest from me is the one in the above pictures.  You can see a few smaller ones in the foreground.  Looking in the distance you can see scattered trees that are similar.  In the far distance is a line of trees -- all the same stuff.  It may take awhile.

I am cutting the trees up for firewood and piling the limbs for burning.  The stumps have to be treated to prevent re-growth.  I'm told they will rot in a couple of years if treated.  I sure hope so!

If you need some firewood, let me know.  It is cut your own and there is plenty of it.  But, it is also free if you will pile the limbs neatly and cut only the trees that I want cut!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A Little Travel

I spent a lot of years traveling for work.  I know that I've posted about it before, but it is what is on my mind. 

For the past year, I haven't had to travel much.  It might be because I was semi-unemployed/self-employed/underemployed/whatever you want to call it.  But, with my new job, there will be a small amount of travel.

I got in late last night from Milwaukee.  I attended a school for learning about a new software we are installing here at work. 

Being new to my job, I had a hard time following some of it.  It wasn't so much the software that was difficult, but the acronyms and jargon used that was related to the products we would be using the software to manage.  I have yet to get fully up to speed on some of those things.

It has been my practice when traveling to see a few of the local sights if time allowed.  Milwaukee being on the shores of Lake Michigan meant that a brief trip to the shore was desirable -- if we could just get there in the daylight!  Fortunately, the last day, we had some time to do so.  Photos are posted below.


I also had to sample the local foods.  The deep-fried cheese curds and a variety of sausages were delicious!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Sleep Where Ar't Thou.....

Don't you just hate those nights when you can't sleep well?  It may be that it is difficult to fall asleep for some reason, or worse yet, you go to bed exhausted and fall immediately to sleep, only to wake up an hour later and toss and turn the rest of the night.  Yeah, that was my night last night.

I was tired and went to bed at a reasonable hour.  I read some before turning out the light which is normal for me.  I must have fallen asleep almost immediately.  Then about 11:30 I woke up and felt as though I never truly went back to sleep again.

My head was filled with thoughts of loans and cattle and projects that needed done and on and on.  Nothing that I was really worried about, just thinking about them.  I couldn't turn it off.  I tried every technique I could think of.  Nothing seemed to work.  So, I tossed and turned.

One thing I've noticed on nights like that is the side I am lying on affects what I think about.  I can usually change my train of though by turning over and laying on my other side.  It probably has something to do with the fluid flows in my brain.  There does seem to be some correlation between the side on which I am lying and the type of thinking.  One side is more analytical and the other is more creative.  I suppose that ties with left-brain, right-brain thinking.

Anyway, today I get to deal with the consequences of less than the optimum amount of sleep.  I can usually convince myself that it doesn't matter -- at least for awhile.  But, by mid-afternoon it will likely catch up to me unless I can stay really busy. 

Don't you hate it when that happens -- especially on a Friday!  It may make for a really long day.


Thursday, February 5, 2015

A Cold and Dreary Day

The sound of gentle rain
Seeps into my consciousness
As I awaken
Moments before the alarm.

A sense of dreariness,
Much like the promised day,
My still-tired body.

The routine of shower,
Breakfast, shave and dress
Does little
To break the spell of weariness.

The mist is too light for continuous
Yet, too much for intermittent
On my windshield wipers.

The sound of tires
On wet pavement
Is monotonous
As I make my way to work.

The office is quiet.
The conversations muted.
It is wet
And cold outside.

My desire is elsewhere,
And it calls to me
In silence,
Adding to the moodiness

That marks my path today......

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Cattle Working Facility

Yesterday I posted about Progress.  One of the things that I mentioned was the progress on our new corrals/vet barn.  I thought today a few photos might be in order.

The support posts have been set for the roof of the structure that will cover the working area.

The pile of sand is for mixing the concrete foundation for the Vet Shack and chute/scales.

Here are the forms for the foundation/floor of the Vet Shack.

I ordered all of the corral panels and chute from Priefert.  The chute/scales, etc. will be under the roof so we can work cattle even in the rain.

When we unloaded all of these in the late evening about 1 1/2 weeks ago, we just stacked them as best we could near the area where we planned to build the facility.
It's good to see some progress at the place.  It won't be long now before we will be ready to start turning out cattle.
I will try to occasionally post a few pictures of what is happening out there.