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.

Hungry Mother

“I don’t really get along with kids,” I told the sweet young staff member who was trying to find someone to fill in for her on Campfire-and-Marshmallows night.  “I mean, I do have one of my own, and I love him a lot–heck, I would let him have the last piece of pizza–but most others really get on my nerves.”

“That’s OK,” she replied without batting an eyelash at my curmudgeonly confession.  “Most of the campers who show up are adults.”

It turned out she was heading to Florida to help with Hurricane Irma clean-up efforts.  It is one thing to be a bit of a grouch.  It is quite another to be selfish in the face of selflessness and not do your part in providing assistance on the home front.  So, I accepted the task.

Besides, the evening would have one slice of saving grace:  part of my job would be to talk about the Legend of Hungry Mother, the legend that gave this fine state park in southwest Virginia its name.  And I do love history.  And stories.  And the challenge of unraveling a strand or two of truth from the tapestry of an engaging tale.

The event turned out just fine.  Several couples came with their children.  We enjoyed s’mores over a roaring fire and had a nice informal session where I talked a little about the park and its namesake legend.

Thanks to an idea that came from Miss Joyce, campground boss-lady extraordinaire who runs the office with the efficiency of a school teacher tempered by the grace and hospitality of a true southern lady, we started the evening with a perfect ice-breaker of a game.  That afternoon, Joyce and I had been discussing variations on the legend that gave Hungry Mother State Park its name and she reminded me of the childhood game where you whisper something into one person’s ear, they pass it along to the next person, and so on and so on, until the last person announces what they heard.  It is inevitably quite different from the original.

So, that evening around the campfire, I began our chain-whisper-legend with the first listener, whispering into her ear:  “There’s a 10-point stag up on Molly’s Knob waiting for a flat-footed bear to bring him a cheese and pepperoni sandwich.”

After completing the circle of whisperers, it had morphed into:  “A four foot man is bringing us a cheese and pepperoni sandwich.”  I was surprised we didn’t get a pizza by the end.  Perhaps if the chain had been longer and the participants hungrier, we would have.

For those of you who were not around the campfire that evening, here is the park’s version of the Legend of Hungry Mother, rooted in early American folklore:

Native Americans destroyed a settlement in a valley south of where the park currently is located.  Among the survivors taken to the raiders’ base camp to the north was a woman named Molly and her small child.  Molly and her child escaped and wandered through the wilderness eating berries to survive.  Molly finally collapsed and her child wandered down the creek until he/she found other settlers.  The only words the child could utter were “hungry mother.”  When searchers reached the foot of the mountain where Molly had collapsed, they found her, dead.  The mountain became known as Molly’s Knob, and the stream, Hungry Mother Creek.

A less exciting version (Indian raiders being totally absent) has a woman and her child living alone in a cabin on one of the mountain knobs in the area.  She apparently suffered some very hard times and starved to death.  When fellow settlers discovered her body, they found her child had survived because of the food the mother had left behind.

When the state park was developed in the early-to-mid 1930s, the creek was dammed to form Hungry Mother Lake and much of the surrounding area became park land.  As completion neared, there was great controversy over what to name the park.  Several options included:  Forest Lake State Park, Walker State Park, and Southwest Virginia State Park.  Thank goodness more imaginative heads prevailed.  A local newspaper referred to it as “Hungry Mother Park,” after the creek and the old legend, and the name stuck.

Complaints poured in over the name.  Many thought it terribly ugly.  One local news editor/historian lamented the choice, saying they might as well call it “Starvation Park.”  It was built and dedicated during the height of the Great Depression, so I can see how that might be a sensitive point.

Mack Sturgill, in his 1986 book, Hungry Mother:  History and Legends, concludes that key developers and promoters of the park gave it the name and promoted the accompanying legend as an advertising ploy.  Sturgill likens the stunt to “putting an old tale in a new bottle with a provocative label.”  He points out that the legend was not even widely known locally until after the park claimed it and that there are serious doubts about the content of the tale.

Whether you want to criticize or praise the park’s name, let alone delve into history to challenge the legend itself, you have to admit that the name, Hungry Mother, is catchy.  Consuming.

The tale also goes to show one feature of historical “fact” that has not changed over the course of time…

 

. . . Capture the imagination, you create memory . . .  Craft it through repetition, you manufacture truth.     CE-9/20/17

 

 

Sources:

Virginia State Parks website, link:  www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/hungry-mother;

Sturgill, Mack H., Hungry Mother:  History and Legends, 2nd Ed. June 2001 (reissued by Friends of Hungry Mother State Park and sold at the park gift shop);

Linford, Margaret, genealogist and columnist for swva today, April 14, 2014 article, “String of Pearls:  Mystery and Controversy of Hungry Mother State Park’s Name.”  I can’t get the link to work but you can easily find it by googling key words.

Doing Sick Solo

So… about that stupid joke at the end of my last post…  Well, I got bit all right.  Not by a bear, thank goodness.  By a tick.  I usually save the bodies, wrapping them in a little paper with a date on it.  Then I freeze them, just in case I have to get them tested one day.  The latest addition to my tick morgue is dated 6/1-6/3/17, one month before I came down with classic early Lyme Disease symptoms:  fever bouncing between 101 and 104, headache that painkillers wouldn’t touch, chills, extreme fatigue, rash, etc.  I got better after six days.  Six days after that, I was sick again.  Then better.  Then sick.

I thought this would be a good time to share some thoughts and tips for others who might find themselves in a similar situation:  sick, solo, and away from home.  As a full-time RV traveler, my actual home is always with me, so it might be more accurate to say away from family.  In any case, most of what I have to contribute would apply whether you are on the road or stationary.

You are your own best (and only?) advocate.  I am grateful that a friend reminded me of this early on.  It helped give me the spirit and strength to wrestle with the doctor who saw me at the local urgent care clinic during the first spell of sickness.  Yes, I wrestled with a doctor.  Read on.

You know your body best.  This was different from any flu virus I had ever had before.  I also recognized a rash on my chest as out of the ordinary, including a faint “bullseye” pattern that the literature associates strongly with Lyme’s.  I took a picture of it and showed it to the doctor.  He barely looked at it before quickly dismissing it as just red, ugly, splotchy, old lady skin.  Ok, so he didn’t really say the words “ugly” and “old lady,” but I heard them all the same.  The rash disappeared along with the first batch of flu-like illness.

Take notes, in writing!  Don’t rely on your memory.  There is no such thing as a reliable mental note after the age of 33.  During my doctor visit, they took blood to test for Lyme Disease.  I asked the doctor how I would know if I might have Lyme’s even if the test came back negative (false negatives are very common in the early stages).  He said I wouldn’t get better.  I wrote that down.  The test, indeed, came back negative.

Research, research, research.  And take more notes.  Since I spent so much of my adult life in Virginia, I already knew about the dangers of Lyme Disease, especially when not treated early.  When I felt up to it, I got on the computer and googled (I love you, Google!) for more on early symptoms, late symptoms, tests, and treatment. Consistently, the information warned against letting the disease get established in your system without treating it early, even without a positive blood test result.  It also confirmed my symptoms as highly consistent with early stage Lyme’s.

With all due respect, do not back down…  Wrestle if you must!  When I got sick again six days after the first bout, I called the doctor to ask for a prescription for the antibiotic used against Lyme Disease.  He refused.  He said it could be a hundred other things.  I responded that my symptoms tracked very much with early Lyme’s, including the point he made during my office visit that I would not get better from the initial virus-like symptoms.  He said I didn’t have the rash.  I responded that yes, I did… remember the ugly picture?  He said there was no proof I had been bitten by a tick.  I reminded him that almost one month prior to becoming ill, I had a tick latch on for at least 48 hours.  He said he would “mollify” me by prescribing one week’s worth of antibiotics.  I responded that one week would do no good since proper treatment required one month’s worth.  He finally relented.  Yay.

When you can, DO.  I felt better after throwing up, which usually happened in the morning.  So that is when I would get critical stuff done (rather than climbing back into bed, which is what I really wanted to do), like emptying the RV’s waste tanks, adding to the fresh water tank, shopping, and preparing batches of Dawny’s home-cooked meals ahead of time.  Luckily, my workamping job here is very simple and flexible and I was able to do the minimum to get by.

While you are well, prepare for when you are not.  A list of emergency contacts should be placed in several obvious locations (wallet, glove compartment, fanny-pack if you hike with one).  As a workamper, I give my emergency contacts to the office or head ranger when I arrive at each new job.  I also try to let someone there know how to access my RV in an emergency, which is especially important if you have a pet and/or are unconscious inside.  Make sure your emergency contacts know of each other and have each other’s contact information.  Let them know where your important info is (health insurance card, financial stuff, will, spare keys).

Along similar lines, be a proud, practical squirrel.  RV’ers are supposed to travel as lightly as possible.  Nevertheless, it is important to load up on at least a week’s worth of “sick-supplies” to always have on hand (pain reliever/fever reducer, cough medicine/lozenges, other first-aid basics, ginger ale or whatever helps your nauseous tummy, tea/honey, bread/butter for toast).

Finally, yes, good squirrels save ticks.  Wrap the body of any tick that bites you–especially if it has had a chance to feed for 48 hours–in a dated piece of note paper and file it in a discreet corner of the freezer.  If, after my antibiotic course is finished, I continue to get sick, I now know what to do with that body from early June.  East Stroudsburg University’s Wildlife DNA Laboratory (link:  www.esu.edu/dna) will test that tick for Lyme’s for $50.  It will test for three possible pathogens, depending upon the tick, for $125.  For $175, it will test for all pathogens.  The tick can be from anywhere, not just from Pennsylvania, and even after several years the lab can still conduct the tests.

Thank you for reading.  Wishing all of you good health and tick-less happiness.

(Anyone who would like to contribute a tip on dealing with illness while alone and/or traveling, please feel free to use the comment section.  Keep in mind that each comment needs to be individually approved, so it won’t show up right away.)