Animals on Parade


I live in a small town where news is often scarce. We are limited to the free weekly paper that includes the latest high school basketball scores, city council minutes, obituaries and the police blotter. Ads for farm equipment, pharmacies, restaurants and exterminators are scattered throughout the pages, and words of thanks from bereaved families can be found. With the demise of the larger newspapers, it’s one of few ways to find out what’s going on in our neighborhoods.

Aside from the usual speeders, those driving about sans a license, loose dogs and the occasional wellness check, the local police blotter is pretty benign. However, last week it was noted that our men in blue were called out to respond to a report of three dead squirrels in the street. The post went onto say that the bodies were removed. I’m wondering what kind of training our officers undergo for such a task.

Recently, the Dallas Zoo reported the theft of two emperor tamarin monkeys. Thankfully, they were recovered unharmed. The monkeys are named for their resemblance to the German Emperor Wilhelm II, although they also look a bit like Hulk Hogan. They live in small groups and the fathers take on most of the responsibility of caring for their young. The culprit who kidnapped them was found, but the reason for the theft has not been revealed.

Meanwhile, a British monkey sanctuary hired a Marvin Gaye impersonator to croon love songs to endangered Barbary macaques, with the hope of getting the lady monkeys in the mood to mate. As with the tamarin monkeys, macaques males take on a lion’s share of childcare. Perhaps the Brits need to ramp up day care efforts to get the couples to monkey around. Or, try some Taylor Swift.

Now, back to the squirrels. The life span of a squirrel is long – up to 18 years. Unless, of course, you happen to sit too long on a busy street. Baby squirrels are called “kittens”, and although many people think they are pests, they actually help reforest our land. They don’t need romantic music to get them in the mood to mate, nor are they in danger of being kidnapped. Unlike our enlightened male monkeys, momma squirrels shoulder most of their infants’ care, while dad’s out counting his nuts. Amazingly, both parents can find food under a foot of snow.

The paper will arrive in my mailbox tomorrow. I’ll let you know if anything needs reporting. Until then, squirrel away a few coins for a rainy day and monkey around if you get the chance.

Farewell to Frosty


It’s January in Illinois. Where weather mimics NASCAR as changes in temperature, wind speed and cloud cover can go from zero to 100 in just seconds. Last week was thin wrap only. This week, you need to cover yourself in Yak fur to survive.

We had a snow fall two days ago. The beautiful, heavy white stuff that blankets everything and makes every yard, tree and rooftop look like a Christmas card. Nearby ski slopes put away their costly snow machines and commuters made certain their car was equipped with a broom and a full gas tank. Snowplows pushed their way up and down the streets in town, and highways and blacktops were cleared in good form. The salt trucks were busy as well, spreading the grains around and guaranteeing that my car will look two toned – red on top and white on the bottom.

School had been dismissed about a half hour before I drove home from visiting a friend the day it snowed. I took the long way around, checking out the trees and parks that were covered in Mother Nature’s latest bounty. While admiring the clean, crisp look of the neighborhoods, I realized something was missing. No snowmen, Anywhere! This was the perfect snow for building such creatures. Their various segments would be easy to roll and place together. A few sticks would give them arms, a couple of rocks some eyes and a carrot from the kitchen would complete that familiar look. But alas, I saw not a one as I perused the town.

In my day (I’m old so I say this) snowmen, snow forts and snow tunnels were not just works of art. They were a necessary part of childhood in the Midwest. Dressed in a mishmash of outer wear (no fancy brands or Kardashians to emulate) we braved the cold willingly and remained outside until our mothers insisted we come inside to thaw. Coats, hats, mittens and boots were draped over the radiators and registers to dry. If we were lucky, they would be dry enough for another trip outdoors. Even luckier if mom made us hot chocolate…

I suspect that now, kids are inside on their tablets and phones, or engaged in X-box games. Even with the availability of outerwear from Land’s End, Carhart and UGG, kids don’t play outside anymore. Images of snowmen (and snowwomen) might adorn the clothing now and are still a favorite for holiday cards. But they are gone from the landscape. So is much of childhood, I fear.

Frosty, you are missed. Please come back. The children need you.

The Swedes Have Gone Ape#@%&!


According to the December 30th issue of The Week, the folks in Galva’s sister city, Gavle, Sweden have created their own version of The Planet of the Apes. However, this time, the Apes lost. Apparently seven chimpanzees escaped their confines and took over the “great ape house” creating quite a stir. So much so, that zoo officials shot and killed four of the rogue primates, thus containing the insurrection. Appalled Swedes voiced their displeasure by condemning the action, insisting that tranquilizer bullets would have been much more appropriate. Zoo officials disagreed, claiming that the chimps were dangerous and put people’s lives at risk. It was also noted in the article that one of the slain chimps had made headlines several years ago by hoarding rocks and then throwing them at zoo goers. There was no mention of any uprising in the Lutefisk exhibit.

150 Words or Less – Dear Santa


This year, please – I wish for Democracy to prevail, school shootings to end, a big increase in local retail sales, science to win over politics, rest and safety for health care workers, local charities to overflow with donations, truth in our history classes, the Proud Boys to disband, warm shelter for the homeless, antivaxxers to do the right thing, food pantries to overflow, an end to gerrymandering, more low cost or free options for spaying and neutering animals, an end to villainizing the victims of abuse and sexual assault, relief for those in tornado ravaged towns, rain for the drought ridden areas, Black lives to matter, protection and validation of Roe v Wade, the Post Office to stay in business, successful hot lines for those in crisis, kindness to wait staff and store clerks, protected voting rights, appreciation for our teachers and please! get the Democrats to pull together.

175 Words or Less; Give it Your Best Shot


Facebook ads seem to appear more often that posts from my friends. And certainly more often than the cute cat videos that I love. A lot of them look legit, but I’ve learned that many are not. The hard way. The latest one for “One Shot”, the magical weight loss pill pops up more often than any other. If you’ve seen me lately (the Covid lockdown was not kind to my waistline) you probably figure I need to see a lot of these promotions. The ad boasts that you can lose something akin to 70 pounds in a matter of days. Wow. I mean, really? Furthermore, it’s purported to have been endorsed by the Shark Tank crew, who were supposed to fund it with millions. Of course, that’s unfounded. Both the figures and the sisters who brought it to the show in the first place have vanished.

Sadly, the products are selling like those hot cakes you shouldn’t eat on a diet, and Amazon is making a lot of money shipping out the pills to the overweight and gullible, who dream of a becoming a new age Twiggy in no time. Apparently, they buy any science behind the product, simply because the ads include a reality show twist. And we all know what reality show fans did to our 2016 elections.

My question is this. “If people believe the science behind this Shark Tank phenomenon enough to pay big dollars for a magic pill, why do so many doubt the science behind the Covid vaccines?” I’d think your best shot is the vaccine. And a salad. A big salad.

185 Words or Less – DNA and the Who Done It of Today…


I find the crime shows so intriguing. Watching Law and Order has long been a passion of mine, as well as CSI, Headline News and the numerous programs involving crime fighters and despicable villains. Growing up, the stern, earnest detectives of Dragnet and the cowboys in white hats hunted and got the bad guys the old fashioned way. Cloak and dagger in a raincoat, or a busty barmaid’s tip always helped them get their man.

Today, most are solved in a lab, or on a pathologist’s table. Cell phone records, social media, and DNA data banks can solve a dastardly slew of serial killings and prove, or disprove a suspect’s guilt. Science gets the needed results. The killer is caught and justice is served. Often in less than an hour.

Here’s what puzzles me. With so many fans glued to the miracles of science on their TV screens, why do so many fear the Covid vaccine? If they trust science to solve the case, why not trust science to protect us from this terrible disease? After all, it’s a serial killer, too.

’twas a cat on my head this morning

'twas a cat on my head this morning
as I slumbered, unencumbered, in bed.
He rounded my pillow, and sat
settling in, like a hairy, soft hat.
Then, he started to purr, this bundle of fur
and looking, I'm certain, demure.
Soon, a tail switched over my nose
as he washed both his ears and his toes.
He moved onto my hair, quite unaware
of my protests with nary a care.
Removing him became quite a chore
as he thought it a small act of war.
I grabbed 'round his middle, as he yowled like a fiddle
and placed him down on the floor. 
Hence, he sped to the kitchen like he'd seen a bewitching
and checked out his food dish and more.
In an instant he changed, his needs rearranged
as he sped, like the wind, through the door.
No longer a tiger, or great lion fighter
he sat by his dish, looking poor.
And circling my legs, he shamelessly begs
for a treat, or a spot of my cream.
Just a minutes ago, it was fight, toe to toe
was it real, or a feline filled dream?
A scratch here and there, quickly made me aware
that, indeed, there'd been an assault.
But how could this be, as he gazed up at me
with a look of "it wasn't my fault."
So, I gathered him up in my arms, forgetting
his earlier harms,
and we sat down to try for a nap.
'twas a cat on my head this morning
and now he's asleep in my lap.

Who Wants to Make the Top 10 List?


The town where I live has a small school system. According to the Illinois State Board of Education, our 2018-19 enrollment was 512 students in total.  Our teachers work hard and are paid considerably less than those in bigger cities, and their jobs, as in many schools, requires a lot of social work in addition to teaching. Over half the students are considered low income, and in recent years, enrollment for non English speaking children has increased.

In addition to the drills for tornados and fires, the last few years have seen the need for active shooter drills. Chewing gum and passing notes are no longer a problem. Getting kids to stay quiet and pressed together to keep from being gunned down is the new worry.

And now, Covid-19. Masks, sanitizers, and thermometers will be housed near the chalk and pencil sharpener.  Students and teachers will be separated and sequestered in their rooms all day, with lunch at their desks and recess? With the CDC’s 60+ pages of guidelines mirroring the IRS tax code, it may take half the day just to get the children seated.

Betsy DeVos, the head of the Department of Education has insisted that children need to be in school this fall. She recently thought she’d provide some reassurance by declaring that “only 0.02% of children will die” once the schools start back in session.  For Galva, that means 10 students. Which ones do you think should be sacrificed? Should we chose one from each grade, just to be fair?  And those that get sick, and remain affected – what about them? Or, those who bring the virus home to parents, or grandparents – how many of those?  Miss Betsy failed to mention how many teachers would die, so that remains to be seen.

I’m wondering how many of our adult decision makers met in person to make the decisions about when, and how to open the schools. While I do not envy their job and admit that I can’t offer a better solution,  I doubt that they were in a room for 7 hours with 25 – 30 other people when they made these decisions. But, our teachers and children will be.  Five days a week.

I would be interested to know who is willing to let their child die so we can keep them all at their desks.  The first 10 who respond will win an autographed photo of Betsy.

150 Words or Less – The New Expendables


The Covid-19 pandemic was first a hoax, then a crisis and now China’s fault.  Initially, those most affected were Blacks, Hispanics, Native Americans, the incarcerated, the aged and infirm and the homeless. All expendable, and quickly forgotten. Stacked up like cordwood. Scientists, doctors, nurses and a few governors have tried hard to warn us of the true deadliness of the virus, only to be out numbered by Fox News pundits and gun wielding, Confederate flag waving mobs, all encouraged by the deranged man in the Whitehouse bunker.

States who have denied the lethalness of Covid-19 are seeing huge increases in positive cases and deaths. And yet, bars and beaches must be open, as “bar lives matter” becomes the new chant.

As more younger people fall victim to the virus, and it washes over our schools, our children will be the next expendables. Small stacks of cordwood will line the playground.

Fiddle Dee-dee Miss O’Hara


Margaret Mitchell’s tart and tantalizing Scarlett went from indulged to forsaken during the Civil War.  She saw her world crumble as her many protectors abandoned the sprawling plantation.  Some took to the hills and deserted her.  Some just died. Trauma induced lunacy claimed others. Untethered, she faced her fate alone.  In charge of a tumbled, uncertain future; returning to Tara was her only solution.

I see our world much like Scarlett’s.  Our states are once again at odds. Our lives, previously so insulated, are now unsettled and chaotic.  As we wage war against an invisible enemy, our protections erode. Task forces come and go. Our input and gains from a global effort are lost. We’ve been deserted by the lunatic in charge of the battle, and we cling to the notion that somehow, such horror could never happen to us. We are Americans! How dare we be inconvenienced!  We, too, want to return to our former world. Our Tara.

Rhett Butler’s famous line concerning the illusion of the Confederacy’s strength comes to mind. “All we have is cotton, slaves and arrogance” he warned the zealous young enlistees. Today our lifestyle is our cotton; our conveniences our slaves. And an arrogance that promotes blind allegiance to anything that speaks to our fears; a modern bravado that seeks out easy solutions to perceived threats. Those that find reality too difficult, or inconvenient, cling to theories that feed their need for security. Bizarre conspiracies posted on line, or twitter feeds at midnight go down easier than hard science. Rating-crazy talking heads spew out the latest disinformation, no longer thwarted by the need to fact check.  Those in the usual role model positions indicate one thing, and do another.  Analyze? Not any more. It’s now rationalize and sensationalize.  Facing facts means getting them. Not those alternative ones. The scientifically based facts.

And the facts tell us that we are dying. By the thousands. That increasing exposure by liberating our communities will increase the death toll. That those in charge have no plan other than to inspire the enemy.  And the voters. And the donors.

Clearly, we are on our own. Tara was, and is, a myth. But this virus is not. We will never be able to go home again. Not completely.

So, give a damn. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. And get your affairs in order. The winds are changing…