Less Talk, More Action

Have you ever heard the advice to use action words to describe your experience and assets when writing your resume?  Potential employers want to be entertained just as much as the rest of us.  They want to know what you can do and not fall asleep while reading about it.  You know, like this:

Job Title:  Master Castration Assistant and Novice Ranch Hand (Dec. 2017):

Duties:  Secured young bulls’ hind quarters via tail and one rear leg while Rancher surgically transformed them from bulls into steers.  Promoted to Junior Gate-Juggler concurrent with hind-quarter responsibilities.  Mastered teamwork necessary to help herd each nervous patient through network of increasingly smaller pens and chutes until they reached operating table enclosure.

Achievements:  Miraculously maintained steely grip on own stomach and the contents therein throughout the entire procedure.  Promoted to Ranch Hand at the end of the day.

 – – – – – –

Not too shabby, huh?

John (Head Honcho) and his wife, Carol (Co-Honcho), suggested I add this new skillset to my workamping resume after helping them castrate this year’s bull calves.  I have mentioned these friends in other posts.  They have been raising cattle in north Texas for 55 years, and they do it the old fashioned way, doing most of the work themselves, including birthing, tagging, weighing, inoculating, castrating, weaning, and so on.

One Lucky Heifer

This visit, they let me assist during the messy task of castrating 10 bulls.  It was supposed to be 11, but one lucky calf, upon closer examination, turned out to be a heifer (see glossary of cow-terms below).  That became apparent once she was on the table and John couldn’t find what he was looking for.

When John first started raising cattle, a local teen showed him how to do the castration.  At that time, he had no special equipment beyond ropes and a sharp blade.  They literally tackled the young bulls and did the deed as quickly as possible.  He had to learn an awful lot the hard way.  A momma cow just about took him out one time with a good head-butt.

Momma’s Watchful Eye

Carol joined John sixteen years into the endeavor.  One of her early jobs before they had a network of pens to control the herd’s location and movement was to keep the Mommas away until John finished each calf.  Picture a 98 pound woman shooing off a 1,200 pound cow intent upon dealing with those mean men who just tackled her calf.  Ya.

Their calves are Angus Source Certified in accordance with USDA and Angus Association requirements.  Operations like theirs are the start of what you eventually see in your grocery store labeled as Certified Angus Beef, which is among the highest quality beef you can buy.  Great care is taken in the raising of these calves in order to meet strict requirements.  Carol is in charge of the meticulous record keeping necessary to maintain this qualification.

Whenever I visit my rancher friends, they treat me to a delicious steak grilled over an open fire.  I appreciate each year’s meal even more than the last as I learn more about the hard work and dedication that goes into raising our food, especially by small, private operations.  For the vegetarians out there, the same applies to the farmers that grow our vegetables, fruit, and grain.

A Texas-sized ‘thank you’ to all those hard workers and to my friends, Carol and John, for yet another wonderful, educational, mind-opening, resume-padding visit.  Who knows… If I time my next visit just right, I might gain another new skill for that resume:  Assistant Cow Midwife.

 – – – – – –

Glossary of Cow Terms:

Cattle:  Generic term that covers all the members of a herd.

Cow:  A female who has given birth.  Also used generically to refer to all the members of a herd.

Calf:  Juvenile member of the herd, generally under two years old.  Refers to either male or female.

Bull:  A non-castrated male, either adult or juvenile, the latter often referred to as bull calf.

Steer:  A male castrated before reaching sexual maturity.

Heifer:  A young female who has not given birth.

Arlo Who?

When I turned 30 years old, old woman that I was, I had a mind to treat myself to a fancy haircut of fancy proportions.  After all, I was surely deserving of such a fine treat, seeing as how I was a fine, upstanding member of a fine, upstanding society complete with a fine, upstanding career and a fine sort of marriage if you didn’t look too closely.

So I moseyed on over to a fancy local salon full of handsome young people wielding scissors and combs and all sorts of instruments of beautification.  These groovy youngsters washed their subjects’ fine hair in bubbles of water and they utilized various electrical appliances and chemical accouterments to shape and pull and shear and blow and inflict bouncing, burning curls onto the locks of fancy, high-paying customers such as myself.

I walked right in and settled on down into the whirly-twirly chair of a handsome young man who had as distinctive a look of familiarity as ever I had seen.  This handsome young man twirled my chair around to face his mirrored glass wall surrounded by twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures of fancy hair-do’s.  He proceeded to wield his scissors and combs and bubbles and blows until I looked like no one remotely recognizable.

And that is when I recognized him.

I said, “You look just like Arlo!”

With as blank a face as ever I had seen, he said, “Arlo who?”  He continued to snip-snip-snip at my limpy-skimpy, old-lady locks.

And I said, “Why, Arlo Guthrie, of course!  Don’t you know who that is?”

“Never heard of him.”  Thud.

Thud… snip-snip….  Thud… blooowwwww… sounded the silence as I took a nosedive down the rabbit hole known previously and remotely as the generation gap, fancy head of hair leading the way, all while twenty seven eight-by-ten color glossy pictures of fancy hair-do’s helplessly looked on.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

That was nearly 30 years ago.  It was the first time in my life that I knew what it felt like to be old.  Or, at least, older.  Or, at the very least, growing older.

I was reminded of all this the other night when I caught Tavis Smiley’s interview with a nearly 70-year old Arlo Guthrie on PBS.  Arlo looked like Santa Claus after half a century of smoking weed.  I don’t know why it comes as such a shock when I see a famous person that I haven’t seen in quite a while and discover that they have aged.  It feels personal.  How dare they succumb to the vagaries and ravages of time?  Oh, heavens-to-Betsy, has that happened to me, too?  “Yes, dear,” responds the little voice in my head, calmly primping her own imaginary hair-do.

But then I stopped obsessing, quieted down, and opened up.  I listened.  I learned.  And I enjoyed a trip to the past where I found hope for the future.  Mr. Smiley did a wonderful interview, and Arlo charmed.

Arlo recounted what it was like growing up as Woody Guthrie’s son.  Remember Woody?  In the United States of America, Woody’s musical and poetic efforts on behalf of the downtrodden and against war earned him the label of communist.  Apparently he was a sympathizer, but never a member.  In the 1940s, Woody was part of the Almanac Singers, where a long friendship and collaboration began with Pete Seeger (another American folk singer and social activist–for any too young to know–and an actual member of the Communist Party for a time, for which he paid dearly).

Arlo, born in 1947, spent his formative years absorbing the music, poetry, politics, and drama of his surroundings.  And in 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, he first performed what would become probably his most noteworthy, long-lived, far-reaching, heart-stirring, laugh-inducing musical opus, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree.”  His father, Woody, was blessed to hear the demo copy shortly before he died.

That was 50 years ago.  Imagine that.

Arlo went on to enjoy his own long friendship with Pete Seeger.  My favorite part of Mr. Smiley’s interview was when Arlo talked about walking with Mr. Seeger, then in his early 90’s, 30 blocks through New York City to join Occupy Wall Street demonstrators at Columbus Circle on a cold October night in 2011.  There they found young people singing snippets of old protest songs, switching from one song to another before finishing any simply because they didn’t know all of the words.  Pete took out his banjo and he and Arlo led the night-time gathering in song.  Teaching words.  Sharing stories.  Crafting connections through the power and magic of song.

When you get old enough, you can be cool again.  As long as you have stayed true (or come back to your truth–it is, after all, so easy to become separated).  True to yourself, your beliefs, your ideals.  True about your past and humble in the face of your future.  And, most importantly, honest with those who come after.  After all, it is a very particular gift to have traveled your road far enough, long enough, and awake enough that you gather even a glimpse of the bigger picture.  You might as well be honest once you get there.

Thank you, Arlo.  And thank you to all who have gone before.  Thank you for your ageless voice and timeless message, your poetry, your song, and your humor.

Oh, and by the way, you’ve still got great hair.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _

You can find Mr. Smiley’s April 14, 2017 interview with Arlo Guthrie through the following link:


And, for a youtube recording, complete with lyrics, of “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” here is a link for you:


Please, enjoy!

Breaking News!!!

Made ya look.

Absolutely no new news here, breaking or broken, unglued or reglued.  But I figured I would continue with my curmudgeonly theme and talk about something that has been bothering me for ages.  TV news.  Not radio news.  It helps that most radio stations only allot a small fraction of time to the news.  It helps even more that radio news lacks cameras.

TV news, not so much.  On most TV news shows:

  • Everything is breaking!  Even stories that broke days ago continue to be labeled as breaking news as reporters dig through every detail in search of some tantalizing tidbit that can be labeled as the next surprising item.  Even better, an exclusive breaking item!
  • Celebrity deaths are milked until you are ready to vomit.  R.I.P. Prince.
  • Warnings that the upcoming video may be disturbing are given gleefully over and over and over and over again as viewers are tortured with near-death and even real-death events.  It reminds me of futuristic movies I saw in my youth where death became just a part–a tool–of the larger goal:  entertainment and money.  (Has anyone else seen the 1975 film “Rollerball,” starring James Caan?)
  • Teasers drive me nuts.  “Tune in tonight for the full story!”  I was hoping to be asleep by then.  Or watching something that I actually might enjoy.  Please.  Just tell it to me now.  If you don’t, please know that I will not be tuning back in just for that snippet.  I’ll find it later on the internet if I am really that interested, thank you very much.
  • Newscasters barely out of their teens reflect the sorry state of our educational system when they can barely string a proper sentence together even when it is spelled out for them in detail.  And then, heaven forbid, something goes wrong with the teleprompter.  The result is likely to be an embarrassment to us all.
  • Most weather girls and half the female newscasters believe that professional dress means bare arms and daring necklines.  What isn’t exposed is stuffed into tiny, tight outfits better suited for date night.  Note:  If you don’t want to be called a “girl,” and would prefer to be treated like a professional woman, please dress like one.  If you don’t want someone to stare at your chest, please cover it.  It is really that simple.  Oh, God, I have become such a curmudgeon.
  • Donning hip boots and wading into rushing waters after six more inches of rain fell than you forecast two days ago does not raise my estimation of your heroic forecasting abilities.  You just look like a little idiot.  A wet little idiot.
  • By the time the weathercaster gets to the part you want to hear–after spending the bulk of their time describing the weather you and others have witnessed with your own eyes over the past 24 hours–you’ve tuned them out.  The jaded part of me, which grows larger by the day, thinks that is probably their intention.  Oh well.
  • Weathercasters think it is necessary to tell you how to dress each day, for each part of the day…  Jackets at the bus stop…  short sleeves at lunch…  umbrella in the afternoon…  hip boots yesterday…  I can figure that out myself, thank you very much.  Just tell me what I don’t know, like the forecast.  Like, now.
  • … … …

Okay, wait a minute.  I actually have some breaking news.  It fits all the criteria:  It is of timely, critical importance, weather plays a vital role, we receive relevant wardrobe guidance, video might be fun, and it is news to me.  Tomorrow is World Naked Gardening Day!  I discovered this golden nugget from nothing other than this evening’s news, oh my!

What gives this pronouncement such tremendous value?  Nothing less than its practical application to real life–my real life–which is as it should be.  Tomorrow I had been scheduled to help plant a tree as part of my volunteer duties.  The lovely volunteer coordinator heard my tiny squeak loud and clear a couple of weeks ago when I noted that I am not the best person to put in a situation with kids, and I was put on bathroom and cabin cleaning duty instead.  Oh!  How fortunate we all are!

Happy World Naked Gardening Day, everybody.  Hopefully some of our local newscasters will show up to promote the event.  Just be careful with those shovels, ladies and gents!