Wabbit Wars and Mosquito Terrorism

Lobelia erinus

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I just stepped outside with a glass of Shiraz in hand after finishing a beautiful plate of Tilapia and wheat rotini to admire the 2011 Monet Vision. I looked forward to wandering about  the yard sipping the sumptuous full-bodied red while admiring the perennials at sunset. Within nano-seconds, a swarm of Mosquitos attacked. Caught by surprise, I flailed about vigorously swatting with the Shiraz swishing dangerously close to sloshing over the lip of the glass. I fled to the safety of the house without spilling a drop of the mellow red, but now I itch all over. Without a doubt the Mosquitos are a formidable enemy, and put the Wabbits to shame. The Wabbits confine themselves to eating flowers, the Mosquitos attack people. That is not fair.

Thank God, the new air conditioner is working well. I can hide within the Man-Cave in comfort and admire the Vision from behind the safety of glass.

It will be painful to watch the Wabbits accost the Lobelia and be too afraid to leave the safety of the house to chase them away.

A new ally will be visible tonight. The Fire Flies have arrived. I look forward to watching their showy aerobatics around the darkest corners of the yard. The Fire Fly Air Force of 2011 will enhance the 2011 Monet Vision to add a moving light show, and night-time splendor.

A side benefit, the Fire Flies eat mosquitos.

Fire Fly Air Force 2011 Arrives Just in Time To Save Grumpa Joe

Nature is cruel at times.

A Suitable Green Job For POTUS

There are a number of green jobs that Obama left off  his list of high paying positions which would make an investment in the country.  Instead, he insists on promoting ridiculous electric cars, windmills, and solar power as the answer. Yes, these are definitely ways to “green.” The problem lies in the fact that none of these technologies are even remotely close to being capable of meeting even the least of our energy demands.  A few days ago, I published a graph showing where the gallons go in the transportation scheme. Hitting on cars does not make any sense at all.  The single largest opportunity for saving oil and reducing green house gases is in shipping by boat. My calculations did not include the boats used for shipping “stuff” from China to the rest of the world. My graph only includes the oil burned in shipping oil to the U.S. The graph is below for reference.

Chart by Grumpa Joe May 18, 2011, Data from various Internet sources

This week, I learned from a very reliable source that the cursed “green” nemesis of the liberal world is in trouble. The Alaskan pipeline is running at only thirty percent capacity. Why? Because the oil field it serves is running dry.  In a short time the cost of operating the line will exceed the value of oil coming through. When it finally shuts down, conservationists will dismantle it. Once that happens, any chance of drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), only seventy-five miles away from the pipeline, will be slim to none.

The Alaskan pipeline began operation in 1977, and the greenies have been bitching about the negative effect it has on the environment ever since. The opposite is true, wildlife has adapted to the pipeline and the countryside remains pristine. Conservationists should concentrate on picking up liter in trashy U.S. cities before they hit on the pipeline.

It is clear to me that Obama wants to sink the country with his “green ” policy. He does not have a single rational concept for keeping the country moving while making  it more green except to increase the cost of energy to the point of bankruptcy. He doesn’t want to bankrupt the government, he wants to bankrupt the citizenry. He lovingly refers to it as “redistribution of wealth.”  I call it white slavery. He wants the working stiffs to feed his poor. If you have a job, you are also feeding a shadow family the size of your own.

If Obama is serious about anything, he will work a compromise and allow drilling in ANWR immediately. He will encourage a short pipeline be built to connect ANWR to the Alaskan line. If he knew anything at all, he would want to light a fire under the economy to increase the flow of taxes into the coffers. The increases could then fuel his dream to power the world with windmills. What is his problem? His dreams are too large for one term as president. His capability lacks the leadership required for the job of transforming America into socialized medicine, green energy, and a muslim nation. The job is too large. It will take a hundred years to make all that happen. In order to fulfill that dream he must eliminate every conservative from the face of the planet. Don’t get me wrong, he is working on that too. His fantastic ability to multi-task is turning him into the huge failure he is.

The trillion dollars he wasted went to buy votes, to shore up state governments,  payback unions, take over banks, buy car companies, and to nationalize student loans. During the Great Depression of the nineteen thirties, FDR at least got us some infrastructure for the money he spent. The projects didn’t have any effect on ending the Depression, but they did yield benefits. Have you ever visited a National Park to see brass plaques designating features within the park as a CCC effort? Have you wondered where Hoover dam came from, or the TVA? What is Obama’s lasting legacy: Obamacare, General Motors, Chrysler, Student Loans, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac? I’ve included Obamacare even though it is not bearing fruit for you and me. It needs a four-year head start to collect money to get is jump started. Once it gets started, the money it took four years to collect will run out, and the system will be bankrupt in eight years. Meanwhile, Medicare, a system invented in the sixties, will also be run out of money.

Big government as seen by liberals and Obama only feeds off itself. Systems get fatter, efficiency of systems drop, and we the people suffer more. Meanwhile the Fat Cat Bureaucrats continue to whip the white slaves to extract more.

Baby Bugs Takes Out the Lobelia

Fictional characters on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

Image via Wikipedia

On Mother’s Day Grumpa Joe’s grandkids spotted a big fat wabbit building a nest under the dwarf pine tree. Grumpa Joe’s grandson Ben looked into his eyes and asked him not to harm the bunny. As tempting as it is to trap the little ba____d, Grumpa can not do it. A promise to a grandson is like a marriage oath. It is not taken lightly.

About two weeks after the wabbit spotting, Grumpa Joe spent a day pulling weeds. He yanked a big one from the base of the dwarf pine. A furry little creäture with long ears jumped out of a small hole, and ran for his life.

Since then, Baby Bugs hops around the garden to different places, always chomping on some greenery. This week, however, Baby Bugs found the Lobelia flowers. His ancestors took out the Lobelia last year in a blatant act of terrorism not seen before in the garden. Is it a wabbit thing, or does Lobelia taste like chicken’?

Today, Grumpa Joe spent a couple of hours building a new wabbit barrier that will be more effective than the 2010 experiment.

The 2011 Monet Vision will not become reality without a streak of royal blue accenting the pond. If this barrier fails, Grumpa will use more drastic measures to convince Baby Bugs to leave the yard.

“Don’t worry Ben, Grumpa won’t hurt him, . . . YET.”

Lobelia, a Basic Color in the 2011 Monet Vision is a favorite of Wabbits

The New Wabbit Barrier Dome

Eighteen Feet of Royal Blue Lobelia Highlights the Pond

Spring Variety Show-1955

Homer's Barbershop Quartet

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During Junior year at Mendel the announcement came about a special activity.  I signed up to be in a variety show.  Mendel Men and the girls from neighboring schools were the performers.  I really didn’t know what I was signing up for but I thought it would be fun.  Mister Schulp recruited students to come for try outs.  He organized a chorale group.  A bunch of boys showed up.  He asked each of us to sing a line to test our voices. For some strange reason, he chose me as one of the singers.

This activity created another reason for me to stay at school longer. On days when we rehearsed, and I had to work too, I rarely got home before nine p.m.  On singing only days, I made it home by seven to do homework.

We rehearsed singing in harmony. Until that time, I didn’t know harmony existed, nor could I read music.  I learned to like singing, but it was hard to stay on a line of notes when the guys next to me sang something different into my ear.

Mr. Schulp was patient, but kept pushing and training.  Eventually, we started to sound better. About a month before the performance, the show went into rehearsal at an auditorium west of Mendel down 111th Street.  The stage rehearsals were in the evening, and Dad let me drive the Green Hornet, to the rehearsals.

The chorale did several numbers, the last one being  a barbershop quartet.  That was my first experience with barber shop harmony. The chorale members wore suits with a white shirt and tie.  The barbershop quartet had to change into a red and white striped jacket and a straw hat for their number. My part in the show was short, but I stayed till the end of rehearsal to see all the performers.

Mom and Dad came to the show and enjoyed themselves.  The event was a big hit and a lot of fun.  I never sang in a group again after that experience.

The 2011 “Monet Vision”

The 2011 version of the Monet Vision is beginning to take shape. The recent spell of high temperatures combined with the rain has made the garden “pop.”

Last year, I let the perennials do all the work. I didn’t spend a nickel on annuals. This year is the opposite, I am planting purchased material in colors I want to see, and spreading seed to fill in. Here are a few photos from which you may form an impression.

Looking toward the waterfall. as Garden Angel watches.

The first bloom of water lilies.

Several varieties of Heuchera blend with hostas

The Clematis is barely showing.

This show is to continue all summer long.

Cutting and Smacking Old Rail

Illinois Central Railroad 201, built by Rogers...

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The summer after my bout with polio, I was sixteen going on seventeen and barely over the legal age to work.  Dad lined me up with a job in the scrap yard of the Illinois Central Railroad in Markham, Illinois.  They paid minimum wage. The work was physical and mindlessly boring.  Markham was a long way from Burnside, so Mom asked Mrs. Schulz whose husband worked at the Markham yard to give me a ride.  I gave him $5.00 a week for gas.  The Schulz family lived west of Cottage Grove on 92nd Street.  Every morning I rode my bike to their house by 7:00 a.m.   The ride to Markham took forty minutes.  I carried a lunch pail with a sandwich, an apple, and a thermos of coffee.

The job excited me in the beginning because I learned to use an acetylene torch to notch old rail. A partner and I worked together.  Our job was to “break rail”.  We faced a field of old steel rail stacked neatly in rows.  The rails wore out and had served their function.  It was time to melt them into something new. The steel mill could only put short pieces of scrap into the smelter;  the twenty-foot rails were too long.

My partner and I took turns with the torch. The “torch man” went along the rail and cut a shallow notch into the surface every twelve inches. When the rail cooled, the “hammer man” smacked the end of the rail with a full swing of the sixteen pound sledge-hammer.  Like magic, a short piece of rail fell to the ground.

All day long we cut and smacked, trying to get rid of the pile of rail.  When we finally finished, a crane car came and picked up the pieces with a magnet and loaded them into a gondola car.

When the pile of broken rail filled the gondola, they shifted us to sorting scrap.  There were many different kinds of steel used on the railroad and when they pull out old rail,  spikes, tie plates, connectors, bolts, and nuts came out with it.   All of this junk came to the scrap yard mixed up.  A magnet crane unloaded the mixture into a twenty-foot hopper.  An opening at the bottom of the hopper allowed me to pull scrap to the shelf with a big hook.  I started sorting when junk covered the shelf.  Behind me stood two lines of empty fifty-five gallon oil drums. I threw spikes into one drum, tie plates into another, and so on all day long.

On most days there were two of us sorting so we talked as we worked.  On other days I worked alone.  I set mini goals to fill an entire drum with spikes in one day.

A whistle let us know when lunch started, and ended.  Everyday, a milk-truck came, and many workers bought a quart of cold milk to drink with their sandwich.  I started doing the same thing.

The milk came unhomogenized so the cream rose to the top of the glass bottle.  I peeled off the metal cap, and picked out the paper insert sealing the bottle. My ritual was to drink off the cream first.  Gulping an entire quart of milk with lunch made me bloated.

The summer sun was hot and when we were cutting rail it got even hotter.  One day my teammate and I needed some shade to cool off.  The only shade was under a gondola car parked near us.  We sat on the rail in the shade of the car when Mr. Lassiter, the yard supervisor, drove up in his pickup.

“What are you boys doing?” he asked.

“Getting some shade”, we answered.

Mr. Lassiter got out of the truck, walked over and proceeded to chew us out. I’ve never been dressed down like that before.  He gave us a lecture about how dangerous it was to sit on a track anytime.  What if a switcher pushed another car down the track we were sitting on?  We’d be cut in two for sure.  We never sat under a rail car again.

Hudson Hornet four-door sedan finished in burgundy

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By the time the whistle blew to end the day, I was dirty, tired, and needed to go home.  I dragged myself through the scrap yard to the parking lot to find Mr. Schulz’s Hudson Hornet.  He come out of the shop all washed up and fresh looking.  I plopped into the back seat and fell asleep.  His regular carpool friend sat in the front.  I got home at 5:45 to take a bath, eat supper, then went out to spend time with my friends.

Proms to Dear Johns

Duke Ellington Orchestra - Mood Indigo

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In the nineteen fifties, Junior and Senior Proms in high school were important events  The Senior Prom was the really big deal.  The Junior Prom was a training event. Let’s face it, Junior boys are not very coördinated when it comes to the social graces, at least not in my time.

My brother Bill colluded with a buddy to set me up with a date in the fall of 1954. Bill’s friend, Bob Keough, had seven sisters, one of whom was a Junior in high school. Jacqueline attended St. Louis Academy on State Street near 115th.  Mendel and Saint Louis often attended each other’s sock hops, but I never saw Jacque (pronounced Jackie) at any of them.

Bill talked me into calling Jacque.  At the same time, her brother Bob told her I was going to call her. I am not a big talker, but when I heard Jacque’s freindly voice and her infectious laugh, the conversation went easy. We talked for an hour about all kinds of stuff. Finally, I asked her out for a date. We went to a movie and followed with ice cream.   We learned a lot about each other on that date and became great friends.  That date led to another, and soon we were going steady.

Jacque invited me to her junior prom. A prom is a very formal dance.  The girls wear gowns and the guys wear tuxedos. The guys buy the girls a corsage to make it nicer. The St. Louis Academy Junior Prom was held at the school.  The band played great music. I prided myself on being able to dance the jitterbug. Dancing fancy made a guy popular. We had a fantastic evening.

We dated through the summer and all through our senior year. I asked her to my prom, and she reciprocated. The Mendel Prom was at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in the Grand Ballroom. The Saint Louis Academy Prom was at the DelPrado Hotel in Hyde Park.

When prom ended, it was customary to go to a night club on Rush Street.  None of us was old enough to drink, so we wound up paying the cover charge and getting Cokes for our drink minimums.  We went to the Blue Note Jazz Club on Rush Street in Chicago. The Duke Ellington Band played until it was time for us to leave.  Each of us had a curfew to make.

Jacque and I were an item for two years.  We talked on the phone all the time.  We went to every sock hop, dance, game and pep rally that our schools had.  When the school social calendar was quiet we dated on our own.  We went to movies, or to the Grant Park concerts, or we just hung out together.

Mom took a shine to Jacque too.  Why, I don’t know, Jacque wasn’t Hungarian, but she was a good conversationalist and listened well. Mom always wanted her kids to hook up with a Hungarian mate.  That never did happen.  I never even dated a Hungarian girl.

After the proms and graduation, the summer sped by as we prepared to leave for school.  Saint Joseph’s College in Indiana is where I headed, Jacque enrolled in nursing at Saint Francis School of nursing. We spent every minute we could together.  I was hopelessly in love with her, but too young to marry.  Neither of us wanted to marry until after we finished our college.

I started college in August of 1956. St. Joe’s is a small school in the middle of a cornfield on the outskirts of Rensselaer, Indiana.  Jacque started nursing school on the far north side of Chicago.  Each of us lived at school.  We wrote letters to each other daily.  I looked forward to the mail with excitement.  We wrote about our classes and how hard everything was, especially pop quizzes and exams. Her life was very different from mine. I attended classes while she did class work and worked in the hospital.

My roommate in freshman year was my good friend Jim Geil from high school.  Jim and I were bosom buddies.  Geil, as I called him, and I were always looking for ways to entertain our ladies.  We learned of the Junior-Senior Prom at St. Joe.  We did an unusual thing, we joined the prom committee. We were the only freshmen that ever volunteered for the prom committee. It was an upper class event, but because the total enrollment of Saint Joe was eight hundred, invitations went to the entire student body.

We worked every spare minute we could on decorations for converting the huge gymnasium into a Roman Garden.  I painted two very large canvasses with scenes from ancient Rome.  These paintings were the back drop for the two balconies overlooking Rome.

Jim invited his girl and I invited Jacque. The band was the Duke Ellington Orchestra.  The girls had to stay in town at a boarding house for women only.

The committee transformed the gym into the courtyard of Roman Villa. The ceiling was dark blue with tiny lights for stars. The exterior walls were stucco with two large windows overlooking Rome. A long pond with a fountain adorned the center of the floor.  Jim and I made a lot of friends in the Junior-Senior Class because of our participation on the committee and that made us popular at the dance.  The Ellington Band was also fabulous.  I collected his music for years afterwards.  I can still recognize Ellington music within a few bars.

After the prom, the year ended with exams. The summer was busy with work to earn money for school.  Jacque went to school through the summer and our dating became sparse.

A few weeks into sophomore year at St. Joe I received a letter from Jacque.  I was just as excited as ever.  This time, however, the tone of the letter was different.  The letter more popularly known as a “Dear John”,  started “Dear Joe”.  The lady I loved with all my heart dumped me.  Devastated, mad, and sick,  you name it, I was it.  How could she?  Didn’t she know I loved her?  Well, I sent many a letter asking why, but I never got a response.  I made up my mind to get over it and put the energy into my studies instead.  My letter writing didn’t stop, though.

Jim did not return to Saint Joe that year, but we corresponded. Our friendship helped me get through a very rough emotional time. Jim began dating Carol Jean, a student at St. Anne’s School of nursing. The letters continued, and led to some very interesting times. It was during this period, that I invented Steve Star, a character I could hide behind.

This story does not end, but it will continue.

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