Sunday, March 31, 2019

A story of rings and robes

Today's Gospel reading was from Luke and it was the story of the Prodigal Son.  Depending on how you read it, the story of the Prodigal Son is either the easiest and least demanding of Gospel readings or one of the very hardest.

In both cases the story of the Prodigal Son is a story about redemption.

Let's start with easy
The easy version is like the verse in a Hallmark card. In this version we "learn" that God the Father's middle name is "Milquetoaste".

In this version we put ourselves into the sandals of the prodigal son and we are comforted to know that no matter how heinous our behavior toward God and his church, we are already forgiven.

The hard
I need to lay a bit of groundwork here. The portion of the story where the father first sights his returning son is very tightly written. There is no gratuitous detail or fanciful window dressing. Everything that is there is there for very specific reasons.

...his father caught sight of him, and was filled with compassion.
He ran to his son, embraced him and kissed him...
But his father ordered his servants,
‘Quickly bring the finest robe and put it on him;
put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.

"Kissed him" The first time "kiss" appears in the Bible is in Genesis when God the Father kissed Adam and breathed life into him. The father's kiss of the Prodigal Son returns him to life.

"Ordered his servants" is code that we as servants and brothers of Christ are expected to be active participants in the story.

Tiny scraps of cloth are still used to "confer" authority. An officer who attempts to issue direct orders while out-of-uniform might not be obeyed.
"Finest robe"  Clothing was more than a badge of authority. It is authority. We still use the term "investiture ceremony" when somebody new is sworn into office. Investiture; where "vest" or formal clothing is the root.

"Ring" Signet rings were used to seal documents and to enter into contracts. Giving the prodigal son one of the family rings meant that the son was granted the power to commit the family to potentially ruinous business ventures. It was the full equal of a CEO's legally binding signature.

"Sandals" Feet were unclean. Those horses and oxen, donkeys and camels did not wear diapers. Jesus washed the apostle's feet to show service and ennobling humility. The story of the Prodigal Son compels us to be actors in the redemption of others even when it is "icky".

Now to make it really, really hard
Using the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke's Gospel as a lens, how does it inform us to treat the clergy who misbehaved?

I own the next part
Q: What are the similarities?
A: The preface to the story has the opinion makers gigging Jesus for ministering to tax collectors, lepers and others who were unclean. In today's society it is difficult to find any group of people who get treated the way lepers were back at the time of Christ but I submit that clergy who committed sex crimes fall into that group.

Q: Do I propose "re-vesting" clergy who misbehaved and setting them lose in the community?
A: No. There are ample examples in the Bible of needing to balance mission with stewardship. It would be a failure of mission to put individuals with documented weaknesses into situations where they will sin.

Q: What I proposing for the Church community with regard to fallen clergy.
A: Nothing. I am simply sharing where MY head is. I would willingly eat lunch with a defrocked clergyman because I still see them as members of the family and worthy of social interactions. Nobody else needs to climb on board. This essay talks about where I am.

Q: But doesn't the Bible single out sodomy as the most vile and disgusting of sin?
A: All sin is repugnant to God.

A counter-argument can be made that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah is even more about failures of hospitality. Sojourners from the desert enter Sodom and Gomorrah in a weakened state and the residents sexually abuse them. To use a man (male) for sexual purposes was to steal his claim to humanity, to virtually steal his soul. He was now a woman.

The sin was failure of hospitality. Sodomy was the means of denying hospitality.

To break bread with a repentant sinner is to fulfill the duty of hospitality. Ironically, to shun a repentant sinner is to repeat the sins of non-hospitality which is to repeat the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah by a different means.

As always, your mileage will vary.

Not yet

The water temperature where Silver Creek enters the Grand River was forty degrees. Probably a little early. As long as I was there I decided to drown some worms for an hour.
Still ice on some of the backwaters where it was shaded.

A very low tech setup. The buckets have about 4" of water in them for ballast. The poles have bells on them. It was raining while I fished.
The view of Silver Creek farther up-stream. This is just below a cemetery where two branches come together.

This is the south branch. The water tumbles out of the culvert and gouged out a nice pool.

If you can believe the forecast, the average of the daily high and low temps will be about 45 F for the next six days. That is not going to pull the water temperature up very quickly. There is probably not much point in trying again until April 7 or 8.
Later in the day I went to a book store. It seemed fitting that True Crime was next to Social Science in the aisle of oxymorons.

Phrenology report

I lost the season's first pair of loppers.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Regression to the mean

Lake Wo-be-gone, where the women are strong, the men are good looking and the children are all above average.

One quirk about the statistical concept of "regression to the mean" is that it dominates as numbers get larger.

In a town with one child, there is a 49.9999% chance that the child is above average.

In a town with twenty children, here is a 1.0e-6 chance that all children are above average.

So it is with professions. A profession with a half dozen practitioners can be stellar compared to the average for the species.

A profession or industry that comprises a significant percentage of the gross domestic product, not so much.

Assume the ridiculous, that healthcare expanded to 99% of the economy.

Healthcare could have the same percentage of buffoons, knaves, idiots, psychopaths, illiterates, greedy fuchs, zealots, heroes, saints, nauseum as the general population.

In the long run, perhaps the most corrosive consequence of the college admissions scandals is the inarguable fact that the gate-keepers were bought. The person administering your meds might have gotten into, and passed based on the largess of their parents.

Nor did the best engineers design your automobiles, airplanes and bridges.

What can you do?

Learn to pack your own parachute.


First micro-eyeroll at five seconds. I invite you to mute the sound and count the number of micro-eyerolls in the first fifteen seconds. Source of video
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a book titled Blink. In one chapter he interviews experts at body language. The experts make an extraordinary claim, that they can watch a few minutes of interaction and determine whether a couple will still be together in a year.

The researchers demonstrated by showing a short video clip of a man and a woman discussing whether they should get a pet. The man wanted a dog. The woman did not.

After fifteen seconds the researcher said, "They won't be together for long."

The key in that clip was the frequency of "micro-eyerolls".

What is a micro-eyeroll?
First, let's start with what an eye roll communicates. When somebody rolls their eyes in a conversation they are overtly communicating "I have zero respect for you. Your opinions are utter bullshit that I have no intention of giving any consideration."

Another variation on this is "I am telling you lies and you are SO stupid that you will believe them."

Parents of teenagers know what I mean.

A micro-eyeroll is a semi-feral eye roll. It makes the barest concession to civility. It hides just enough so the other party in the conversation is not forced to call them out.

The person doing the eye rolls still lets enough shine through so the contempt is still communicated. Let me repeat, the person sending the micro-eyerolls wants the other party to know, at some level, that the sender despises them.

The micro-eyeroll is picked up by slowing down the video and looking for the upward movement of the irises as the lids start to close and partially closed eyes with the irises not showing.

This is a good example of a classic micro-eyeroll at the nine second mark. The makers of horror and zombie movies knows this freaks us out at a visceral level. The person doing micro-eyerolls does not regard the other person as human. The other person is either expendable or dinner.
Another, more subtle version is to lift the head and let the fact that you are looking upward "print" through your eyelids. This works when you start the eye roll as your lids are closing to telegraph your intention. This image was taken at the eleven second mark and is a separate even from the nine second micro-eyeroll.
As shown by the puppy example at the lead in, the topic is less important than the other party to the conversation.

The live audience is not the target because they cannot see her face. Remember, the micro-eyeroll is intentional. The sender WANTS the other party to know the sender has no respect for the other party.

That leaves us with two choices: Is the primary target the interviewer or is the primary target everybody who watches TV?

While audience is more important than the topic, the timing of the eye rolls is probably triggered by the specific phrases. The micro-eyerolls are exclaimation points "And this is the TOTALLY, UTTER BULLSHIT!!!"

At the five second mark Bellatrix Lestrange said "...thousands of Americans died..."

At the nine second mark Lestrange said "...terrorist attacks on US soil..."

At the eleven second mark Lestrange said "...our national response..."

What I see as a common thread is underlined.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Gang of ten run down and kill man in Brooklyn

Gang of ten chases down man in Brooklyn and kills him. Yes, they are sagging. No, they cannot run very fast because they need both hands to hold up their trousers.
Man is able to clear six foot fence. Barely. He pushed off the bush growing in the corner.
None of the three men chasing him were able to clear the fence.
This one tried but had neither the jumping ability or arm strength to make it happen.
This is probably the wrong moral to the story, but if you can run one 9 minute mile and clear a six foot fence without a ladder then you can probably leave most of these bozos behind.

The story changes drastically if you are with your wife, kids or grandkids. Then running is not an option. Then, hollowpoints, standard capacity magazines, high-center of mass hits and a good lawyer are your best option.

Rain is coming

Sixty trees in the ground this afternoon.

Rain is coming.

MSU cannot buy a basket at the start of the second half.

Exposed! Sex pistils: Pictures!

The red feathers at the ends of the buds are female hazelnut flowers. More precisely, the stigma of the pistils.

The male sex organs of the hazelnut plant are called catkins. They are getting longer and looser and will soon be dumping pollen into the air.

It is that time of year.

Seven Fat Cows 6.9: Events Quicken

The two vehicle convoy went south to Nye Highway, a minor east-west dirt road. The convoy turned west and went seven miles to Cochran, then south again to Butterfield Highway which became M-78 after crossing the freeway.

The tractor pulling the gravity wagon and the pickup truck pulling a second, smaller wagon with three boys and the gassifier in the back drew attention as they paraded through the village of Bellevue. Just before the river the two vehicles turned left onto Sand Road.

Milo brought a labor crew in case they had to load the wagons by hand.

There they waited, motors idling.

It did not take long for the manager of the quarry to show up. “We ain’t open.” he said.

“We can pay real money.” Milo said.

“We ain’t open.” the man repeated.

Milo wasn’t taking “No” for an answer.

“We can do this two ways.” Milo said. “We can break in and load our vehicles or you can open the gates and let us pay you.”

The man was just as stubborn. “That is stealing. Cash ain’t good for nuthin’ round here ‘sept wiping your ass.”

“I didn’t say I was going to pay with dollar bills.” Milo said. He had, in fact, brought paper money just in case the quarry would take it.

“I can pay with silver coins.” Milo said.

That finally got the manager’s attention. “The price is $30 a ton or $50 a yard for ground ag-lime and $10 a ton or $17 a yard for ungraded limestone gravel.”

Milo and the manager got to dickering about the exchange rate. Finally they settled on twenty-times face which was to the manager’s advantage but then he offered to use the front end loader to load the gravity wagons. He had no problems burning a little bit of precious diesel when customers were paying with silver.

The manager watched Milo restart the gassifiers. “Don’t suppose you would consider installing one of them on one of my trucks?” the manager asked.

“I thought you were shut down?” Milo said.

“I am for now. Its winter and winter is always slow. Farmers, they ain’t spending any money but I think, come spring, a lot of people are going to start gardening and a lot of those gardens are going to need lime.” the manager said.

“I will talk to my partner and we will put you on the list.” Milo promised.

The two vehicles made it back to the Shaw homestead shortly after midnight as they could not go much faster than five miles an hour with the loaded wagons.

The smaller wagon had three yards of finely ground ag-lime in it. The larger wagon had ten yards of crushed limestone varying between 3/4” and dust.

The manager also gave them a sheet certifying that the limestone was 98% calcium carbonate.

Carson was about to get some competition.

Luke’s supervisor caught up with Luke while he was in the cooler where he was picking carrots for shipment to the Oscar’s store in Traverse City.

Oscar's was a large, regional department store that sold groceries.

“Time for you to go home.” the supervisor said.

The crew had been told at the start of the shift that the warehouse was going to suspend operation when the security situation became too difficult. Rioters had breached the interior fences at the other end of the warehouse complex where electronics were stored the day before.

Skeleton crews had been working and there was enough room inside the complex, proper, for them to park.

Luke pulled the mule over to the trailer and dropped the load.

Then he punched out.

He drove to this apartment, kissed his roommate good-bye, picked up his cat and drove to Eaton Rapids. His roommate would join him later.

Gabriella taught 6th graders at a private school east of Memphis. Her principal called all staff to the gymnasium after the kids bused out on Friday. There, he pink-slipped them en masse. In the past week the school had three diagnosed cases of Ebola. It was time to pull the plug.

When they asked where to apply for unemployment, he informed him that there would be no benefits, that everything was being handled through FEMA. He would contact them when there was more news or a change of circumstances.

Bill, Gabby’s husband had been laid off two weeks ago.

They had 20 gallons of gas in the small, streamlined trailer they pulled behind their small SUV. They packed up their Jack Russell terrier, warm clothing and a few sentimental items and headed north. They stayed away from Indy and Fort Wayne by jogging east.

The first documented cases of riots occurred in Cleveland. The FEMA food distribution system was going through growing pains. The temperature was in the twenties and a fierce wind was blowing in off Lake Erie. Most of the people waiting in line were not dressed for the weather.

After waiting two hours to get to the front of the line, Ahsatan D’Yram Johnson was handed a small, heavy package of commodities. Ahsatan said, “What is this shit?” as she dumped it out on the floor

The video recorders on the smart phones started recording.

“This ain’t food.” She said. “Where are the Hot Pockets? Where are the popcorn chicken? Where be the Coco Puffs? Where be my chock-lic milk? I have babies at home to feed!” With each question her voice got louder.

“I know my rights. You can’t make me to eat this shit.” She yelled. It is safe to assume that the common-core curriculum she was taught from never covered the Siege of Leningrad.

One of the bags split after she kicked it to show her disgust. Split peas scattered across the floor. Then she started kicking the others and dried rice and beans scattered

The Ohio Department of Transportation had been tasked with administering this particular food distribution center. They had not anticipated any issues. They dealt with tens of thousands of citizens every business day. What they failed to anticipate was that people can live (and drive) without a driver's license. The stakes are much higher when you are talking about the food you need to live.

“You be racist.” She said repeatedly as she started turning over tables. Like many grossly overweight people, she carried a lot of muscle.

In the past this had always resulted in the store bending over backwards to mollify her. This time, guards with TASERS started toward her to drag her out.

Other people waiting in line, hearing the ruckus and seeing the kinds of food that were being distributed, became enraged. They hadn’t frozen their asses off for two hours to get pig food.

Social media platforms could not stay ahead of the video of the riots being posted and emailed. In time they stopped trying. They had their own issues with Ebola.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

"Placebo" is to "Medicine" what "Facebo" is to...

"Placebo" is to "Medicine" what "Facebo" is to...
A.) Information
B.) Friends
C.) A Functioning Society
D.) All of the above

Big Don

Big Don
Big Don

Ev'ry mornin' at the mine you could see him arrive
He stood six foot two and weighed two forty five
Kinda broad at the shoulder and narrah at the hip
And everybody knew, ya didn't give no lip to Big Don
(Big Don, Big Don)
Big Bad Don
(Big Don)

Nobody seemed to know where Don called home
He just drifted into town and stayed all alone
He didn't think much, he shot from the hip
And if you spoke at all, you just said, "Hi" to Big Don

Somebody said he came from New Orleans
Where he got in a fight over a Cajun Queen
And a crashin' blow from a huge right hand
Sent a Arkansas Shyster to the Promised Land, Big Don
(Big Don, Big Don)
Big Bad Don
(Big Don)

Then came the day at the bottom of the mine
When a timber cracked and men started cryin'
Miners were prayin' and hearts beat fast
And everybody thought that they'd breathed their last, 'cept Don
Through the dust and the smoke of this man made hell
Walked a giant of a man that the miners knew well
Grabbed a saggin' timber, gave out with a groan
And like a giant Oak tree, he just stood there alone, Big Don
(Big Don, Big Don)
Big Bad Don
(Big Don)

And with all of his strength he gave a mighty shove
Then a miner yelled out, "There's a light up above"
And twenty men scrambled from a would-be grave
Now there's only one left down there to save, Big Don
With jacks and timbers they started back down
Then came that rumble way down in the ground
And then smoke and gas belched out of that mine
Everybody knew it was the end of the line for Big Don
(Big Don, Big Don)
Big Bad Don
(Big Don)

Now they never reopened that worthless pit
They just placed a marble stand in front of it
These few words are written on that stand
At the bottom of this mine lies a big, big man, Big Don

I am at mom and dad's today so you get drivel and scrapings.

First spring peepers of the season

Note to self: First spring peepers of the season heard this morning.

According to this site, Charlotte has 28 GDD base 42, 15 GDD base 45 and 5 GDD base 50.

Seven Fat Cows 6.8: Limited Partners

Milo asked Nyssa, “What’s the big deal about eggs and calcium?”

The neighborhood was in an uproar. It was a constant topic of conversation at Kate’s Store. Kate merely nodded with empathy. It was out of her control.

Carson had not skimmed the top of the spoils heaps like Shad. He, his wife and Cameron had broken the partially frozen piles into chunks and then shoveled them into the back of his truck and trailer and hauled the entire line of spoils two miles back to his property.

He was charging $4.00 a pound for muck that was only 25% marl. Folks raising eggs were stuck. If they didn’t buy from Carson nearly all of their eggs cracked. If they did buy from Carson they lost money.

The producers bought the muck/marl mix and raised the price of eggs from $4.00 a dozen to $6.00.

Nyssa tried to figure out how to explain the importance of eggs in the new economy.

“Do you notice how we don’t have much meat?” Nyssa asked.

“Yeah.” Milo said.

“That is because it take two years to double the number of mama cows and a bit more than one year to increase the number of mama sheep.” Nyssa said.

“Pigs reproduce a lot faster but need almost human-quality food. The number of brood sows can increase by factor five in half a year.” Nyssa said.

“Laying hens, however, a grower can increase by a factor of thirty in half a year. And they can lay their body-weight in eggs every seven weeks month-after-month-after-month.” Nyssa said.

“Not only that, but increasing you laying flock means that half of your chicks growing into roosters that you might as well eat.” Nyssa said. “Chickens put more animal protein on the table, quicker than any other animal.”

“OK.” Milo said. “I get the point on about chickens...but what is the deal about calcium.”

So then Nyssa explained that eggshells are pure calcium carbonate and are 10% of the weight of an egg. No eggshell, no eggs.

Milo shook his head. “Carson is really a dick-head isn’t he?” he said.

Nyssa agreed. “The funny thing is he thinks he is getting way ahead. He can’t see how he is really pissing people off.”

A couple of days later Milo brought up the topic with Kelly.

“Where is Duckworth from?” Milo asked. “His house looks really new.”

“I don’t know.” Kelly said. “They bought a bunch of acreage and moved in about five years ago. He says he is a plumber but nobody ever sees him working a job. He never leaves the house for very long.”

“What I don’t understand about him” Kelly said “is that he seems to be made of money. Everything is top of the line. He has a 30kW generator that had to cost $15k installed, and that is just for back-up power. Made of money and the cheapest guy you will ever meet.”

“So tell me about this limestone stuff. It is a special kind of stone, right.” Milo said. “Where does it come from?”

“Limestone is pretty common. It is basically fossilized coral reefs. Nearly all the mid-West was under shallow seas at one time.” Kelly said.

“The problem around here is that the glaciers dumped about ninety feet of clay, sand and gravel on top of the bedrock.” Kelly said.

“So where is the closest place to find limestone?” Milo asked.

“There might be some places closer but I know there is a limestone quarry in Bellevue.” Kelly said.

Milo pointed to the southwest. “That little town southwest of Charlotte?” he said.

“Yup.” Kelly said. “The Battle Creek river cut away most of the over-burden.”

“So why doesn’t somebody just drive down to Bellevue and pick up five yards of it?” Milo asked.

“Maybe you haven’t noticed but nobody is going anywhere and nobody is extending credit. Heck, most people aren’t even accepting paper money anymore.” Kelly said, dryly.

A few days later Milo swung by the Shaw household and asked if he could take Shadrack ice fishing. Since Mr and Mrs Shaw had a lot of mouths to feed, they thought that was a fine idea.
Teardrop ice fishing jigs
Kelly was already fishing on his pond. The panfish were biting. It was no longer possible to drive to the bait store for mousies and wax-worms but the fish ferociously hit tear-drops with little strips of chicken skin for meat.

Milo scooped the new ice out of an existing hole and put a bucket down for Shad to sit on while he jigged.

Milo clear another hole for himself.

Kelly told them the magic formula. Drop it down. Bounce it off the bottom a few times to stir up the mud. Then suspend it 8” off the bottom and jiggle it.

The fish hit steadily through the afternoon and the catch started to pile up.

As light started to fade, Milo asked Shad if he knew what a “limited partnership” was.

Shad said “No.”

Milo said “A limited partnership is where one person supplies all of the management while other partners supply capital. A lot of times, the other partners are anonymous.”

Shad chewed on that information for a bit, wondering why Milo brought that up.

As they looked the fish over, Milo suggested that Shad take all of the bluegills while he would take the ‘punkin seeds’ and perch. There were four bluegills for every punkin seed. “Nyssa and I don’t eat as much as your family and she thinks those punkin seeds taste extra buttery.” Milo explained as they admired the vivid colors.

“Looks like gold, don’t it.” Kelly said.


Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Liberal tears

Apologies to my friends from Nebraska

Prickly pears and figs

The pads (Cladone) are 16" long and by 6.7" wide on this selection.
I am back from the dentist and don't feel much like planting trees this afternoon. That means you will get a post that is long on theory and short on action.

It is almost inevitable that gardeners and folks who raise animals want to push the envelope.
This picture was taken in early spring. Scaling from the oak leaves, the pads are about 1.5" wide by 3" long.
Opuntia cespitosa, prickly pear, are native to Michigan. They survive by flopping down and letting the snow cover them. They are surprisingly common between Muskegon and White Hall, Michigan and are easily spotted when they are in flower since they have large, brilliant yellow flowers. They even grow on freeway overpasses in Muskegon.

One would expect this species to be abundant in the D.C. area given its species name, cesspitosa. But, alas, it is not common there.
Image taken by William Cullina, Executive Director of Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens
Three species of Opuntia also grow in Wyoming where temperatures are far lower than occur in Michigan. I saw some growing in the terra cotta like soils northeast of Wapiti, Wyoming.

Those are not the Opuntia of nopales and prickly pear fruit. Nope.

TAMUK #1319.
That would be Opuntia ficus-indicia

OFI has been domesticated for so many centuries that probably absorbed genetics from clusters of similar species. Sadly, this "species" hits the wall at 15 degrees F. That makes it a no-go in Michigan without protection.

Mrs ERJ will not allow me to grow Opuntia. The spines are almost invisibly thin and don't mix well with impulsive children.

Part of me wonders if elite selections of OFI are cross-compatible with the more hardy species from Wyoming and Michigan. I suspect that I will never find out.

Figs are also another fruit I will probably never grow.

There are folks in Canada successfully growing them.

Neverella fig. Image from HERE
Hastay's Greenhouse in Eaton Rapids has a large specimen. It may be Neverella.

Figs grow like weeds in some places and are pushing-a-rope in others. A man has to know his limits. It is more productive to grow plants that WANT to grow in your climate than to fight mother nature.


I am scheduled to go to the dentist today.

My current dentist is very, very good. He is fast, efficient and a charming fellow.

His staff is courteous and pleasant.

I still do not like going to the dentist.

Growing up, the family dentist was a drunk. Harsh words, but that is what the evidence suggests.

He took twenty minute breaks in the middle of drilling fillings "for the drill to cool off." He came back smelling of cigarette smoke and "after shave". And his hands did not shake.

He once put in a filling and took so long he had to give me a second shot of Novocain.

There was never another patient in his waiting room and he was the cheapest dentist in town.

Our family had the worst teeth in the world. I suspect that the number of cavities he found had something to do with the number of bills he had to pay in the next week.

"Yup, mama ERJ, your little son has seven cavities."

It was our little secret that each of my teeth did not have four filling apiece. I was happy to flee after getting drilled once because he did not reliably hit my teeth. I am probably one of the few people with multiple filling in my gums. Not below them.

We see things differently as a kid. I had no radar regarding the possibility of substance abuse.

The first time I had a cavity I had to lend him a dime to grind up for a filling. He said he was out of silver. I thought it was cool.

The last time I did it I wondered how much money I had given him over my lifetime as his patient.

As I approach the age of sixty, the chickens are coming home to roost.

The first time I went to my current dentist he said, "Dang! Those are some huge fillings! Stephanie, come over here. You gotta see this."

Big fillings means that much of the tooth's structure has been cut away or compromised.

Now that I can access my IRA without punitive penalties I can have some crowns over those teeth before they split down to the roots.

Seven Fat Cows 6.7: The Homesteading Act of Kate's Store

Rick invited representitves from the various parts of the neighborhood to talk about Carson Duckworht’s insistence that the commons area be parcelled out.

Jonathan O’Brien was from the northwest corner. Jonathan, never John, was very religious and had run his own construction business before the Plague.

Wade Hawk was from the north-central part of the neighborhood. Dave’s family had owned much of the land that now made up the neighborhood. Dave knew the land intimately because he had hunted over every square inch of it in his youth. Over the generations bits and pieces had been sold.

Rick tapped Kelly to represent the south-central portion of the neighborhood.

The east end of the neighborhood was tough because that end tended to be more transient, but eventually he settled on Margaret, a tough old lady who scared the bejeebers out of kids at Halloween.

Rick was number five and only voted when a tie-breaker was needed.

Hawk started out with “Duckworth needs a righteous ass-kicking.”

Wade Hawk had been a brawler in his youth. Then he had moved into management and was known for his unyielding adherence to “the rules”. Hawk was reputed to be the only man in Eaton Rapids who wore out the seats of his trousers, from the inside.

The Shaw family lived across from his house.

Rick said “That may be so, but Duckworth brought up some issues that need to be addressed.”

“For one thing, are we in favor of private property or are we going to be a hybrid socialist economy.” Rick said.

“I don’t see why we have to talk about that.” Jonathan said.

Kelly piped up at this point. “Either we deal with it now or people are going to get screwed.” he said.

“I talked to some of my neighbors and some are for it and others aren’t.” Jonathan said.

“Same here.” Margaret said. “Some want to take ownership of commons property and others don’t want to. Seems like the ones who have commons touching a property line are more for it than folks who are hemmed in by private property.”

“Lemme throw a stake in the ground.” Rick said. “Since we probably can’t stop it, let’s put some guard rails around it.”

“Just for talking purposes, I propose we take the area of the commons area and divide it by the number of adults and set that as the limit of what any one person can claim.” Rick said.

“That’s not fair.” Hawk said. “The few are gonna cherry pick the best pieces and leave the others with total crap, just like that bastard Duckworth is doing.”

“Jonathan, I can see you are thinking of something. Is it something you want to share?” Rick asked.

“The Bible has a concept called Jubilee where contracts were dissolved every fifty years. I don’t know if fifty years is the right number. I was thinking that maybe it makes sense to allow folks to lease a patch of common land for five or ten years.” Jonathan said.

Kelly said, “Leasing makes sense because the land owners might show up, that can be a clause in the lease.”

“We are gonna need a deposit. I rented property before and it always comes back wrecked.” Hawk said.

Margaret said, “I like the idea of the lease. That way they have to sign a contract. I think five years is too short but ten years might work.”

“Wade, you raised the concern that the first people would grab the best pieces. How big should the parcels be to make it fair?” Rick asked.

“First of all, I would take all the wooded land off-the-table. People are going to freeze to death if things keep sliding into the ditch.” Hawk said.

Everybody nodded in agreement. That made total sense.

“Second, I think people with parcels must allow easements across their plots. That means that they need to put in at least two gates if they fence it.” Hawk said.

“Third, somebody claims a piece of the commons then they give up all claim to the rest of the commons, and that includes the wooded areas.” Hawk said.

“Those are all really good points.” Rick said. “But it still doesn’t answer how big of a parcel we should let people claim.”

“I’m getting to that.” Hawk said. It was clear he was irritated by Rick’s interruption.

“By my figuring there is almost two sections of land that is ‘commons’. Call it 1200 acres. How many folks are left in the neighborhood?” Hawk said.

“About three hundred.” Rick said.

“OK, so about two hundred adults.” Hawk guestimated. “If it was distributed evenly then it would be six acres per adult. I think it should be half or even a quarter of that.”

The discussion went round-and-round after that but they finally settled on two acre parcels per adult. Adults were defined as fifteen and over so Shadrack Shaw could participate if he wanted to. The rent was three face cords of fire wood a year and the deposit was another three face cords.

The resolution passed unanimously.

To nobody’s surprise, Carson, Carson’s wife and Cameron, Carson’s 19 year old son latched a hold of three parcels lined out along Gruesbeck’s Drain.

They loaded up their truck with fence posts and wire and immediately fenced off the three parcels.

The first time Carson brought a bucket of marl to Kate she refused it. She said “This isn’t marl. Its muck.”

“Its got marl in it.” Carson said. “And you are going to pay me $4 a pound for it or I will sell it to somebody else.”

“I can’t charge my customers that kind of money for that.” Kate said.

“You don’t understand, do you. I am the only game in town. You either pay what I tell you or you lose the business.” Carson said.

“Knock yourself out.” Kate said. She wasn’t going to be party to somebody who not only screwed nice kids like Shadrack Shaw, he screwed his own customers.


Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Bummer of a birthmark, Bevis

Rapper "detained" after verbally abusing teen wearing apparel with Confederate flag.

A white man would have been charged with a "hate crime" had he done the same to a black teen wearing a Black Lives Matter shirt...and his career would be forfeit.

Seven Fat Cows 6.6: Edwards Muck

Shadrack Shaw came into Kate’s Store lugging a five gallon bucket half filled with gray clay.

“Ma-am, Mr Ed on the radio said you were looking for limestone. I think I can help you out.” Shad said.

The Shaw family home-schooled their kids and the curriculum was eclectic.

Kate was in the process of cutting Carson Duckworth fifteen feet of 3/16” galvanized steel aircraft cable. Kate looked down, into the bucket and honestly commented, “That doesn’t look like limestone.”

“That’s because it isn’t.” Shad said. “It’s marl. Limestone and marl are both calcium carbonate.”

“You sound very sure of yourself.” Kate said.

“I did a unit on local soils.” Shad said. “Parts of Gruesbeck Drain cut through Edwards Muck.”

Kate’s face registered lack of understanding.

Edwards Muck sits on a base of marl. The spoils bank for the drain is topped with marl...pure calcium carbonate.” Shad said with the certainty of a fifteen-year-old.

Kate said, “I am certainly no expert on soils but I am more than willing to let local folks try this. They are desperate for something to strengthen their eggshells. For that matter, so am I. I can’t sell eggs with broken shells.”

“I can work with that.” Shad said. “Let me know if it works out and you want me to get any more.”

Shad left the bucket.

Kate’s customers gave her rave reviews for the marl. Adding five pounds for every hundred pounds of food went through a lot of marl but it also solved the problem with the breaking egg shells. Everybody was happy.

The next time that Shad came into the store, Kate said “We need to talk about what is a fair price for your product.”

“Aw, heck Mrs Salazar. I will just give it to you.” Shad said.

“That won’t work for me for a couple of reasons.” Kate said.

“For one, it isn’t fair to you. Digging up that marl is cold heavy work and it will get a lot harder once you mine out the spoils bank and have to dig for it.” Kate said.

“The other reason is that I need a lot of it. Maybe more than you can dig by yourself. You will need to be able to pay people to work for you.” Kate said.

“How much do you think you need?” Shad asked.

“Hard to say. I could probably sell twenty pounds a week but that could go way up if the other neighborhoods can’t get limestone. It might go up to a hundred pounds a week...dried marl, not wet.” Kate said.

Shad winced. “That is a lot of marl.”

“So, what do you think is a fair price for marl?” Shad asked.

“I have been thinking about that.” Kate said. “I get the equivalent of $4.00 for a dozen eggs. That is, ten dozen eggs trades for a face-cord of firewood. That works out to about $2.75 a pound. Seems to me that would be a good starting place for marl, $2.75 a pound. What do you think?”

“Sounds really high.” Shad said.

“Maybe so, to you. But think of all the work that goes into raising chickens and making eggs. It all gets wasted if the eggs break when the hen lays them or they break in the basket on the way here.” Kate said.

“Think of it as selling insurance.” she said.

Quite by chance, Carson Duckworth was in the store while this conversation was going on.

It was no big trick for Carson to walk Gruesbeck’s drain and see where Shad had been digging. Nor was it a big deal for Carson to throw a bunch of fence posts into the ground and string wire and put up signs declaring it was his property. After all, the drainage ditch cut through “common” property where the legal owners were not in a position to enforce their rights.

Duckworth’s audacity created a firestorm within the community.

Duckworth contended that Shad was a kid and did not have the resources to exploit the marl deposit.

He also contended that there needed to be a mechanism for turning “common property” over to private ownership to ensure it was properly looked after.

When families with far less property than Duckworth commented that they were counting on the common property for firewood, he said that they should make their claims. He also said that every adult member of the community should have an equal claim on the commons regardless of whether they were rich or poor.

By his figuring, that meant that every adult was entitled to three acres of “common land”. Between him, his wife and Cameron his nineteen-year-old son, they staked claim to the stretch of Gruesbeck drain that cut through the Edwards muck.


Monday, March 25, 2019


University of Spoiled Children.

No, not sour grapes.

I went to Lansing Community College because it was the least expensive option for the first two years at $8.50 a credit hour. Then transferred to Michigan State because it was the closest four year University and the least expensive option since I could live at home for free. The cost per credit hour was a staggering $21.50.

I had a VERY clear goal in mind. I was going to be employed when I graduated.

I would have very gladly gone to any state university had they been closer. I might not have become an engineer, but I would have been employable when I graduated.

The way I tried to explain it to my kids: You don't have to go to Harvard to attend a school that has more books in their library than you can possibly read. Harvard has approximately 18,000,000 volumes. You would have to read 12,000 books every day to deplete Harvard's library in four years.

Saginaw Valley State University is one of Michigan's newer universities. It is also the least expensive and has the lowest reported crime rate. They only have 240,000 paper books in the Melvin J. Zahnow library. You would only have to read 16 books every day to deplete their library in four years.

It reeks of pathos to peak at the age of 18, accepted by an "elite" university based on the corrupt machinations of your parents.

Taxes, Part II

Belladonna is not a happy girl.

She worked her butt off last year. She had income report forms from four different businesses.

The work at one business was episodic in nature and they did not withhold any taxes. They issued her a 1099-MISC.

Bella also got some scholarship money and received a 1098-T. No taxes were withheld from the scholarship money.

Bella is crying in her root beer. According the H&R Block software she owes about $500 in taxes between Michigan and Federal.

Welcome to adulthood, Bella.

Sucker fishing

I went sucker fishing yesterday.

I did not catch anything.

The first fourteen seconds are dead time. You might want to turn down the sound.

The video shown above shows how densely packed the suckers can become. This was filmed on Michigan's Grand River, probably at a dam spillway. Each fish is in the 3-5 pound range. That is a lot of protein.

Folks joke that you can catch them in your backyard with a scoop shovel if you leave the hose running anytime in April.

I am new to sucker fishing. Some videos show snow on the ground. Some chat boards talk about catching them near the middle of May.

One of the factors that causes the dispersion is that different species of suckers have peak spawn at different water temperatures.

Shorthead Redhorse suckers have peak spawning runs when the water temp is in the mid-forties, White suckers when the water temp is about fifty while Greater and River Redhorse suckers spawn when the water is closer to seventy degrees F.

Ultimately I want to can some suckers.

The picture in my head is to cut them into steaks or darnes. I want to pack them into pint jars, cover with Bloody Mary mix (sans vodka), add 2 grams of Prague #1 Pink salt and pressure can.

The pink salt will be added because Botulism freaks me out and the USDA ruled that up to 500ppm of Sodium Nitrite is allowable in cured fish. 2 grams of Prague/450 grams of contents should give me about 300ppm if my calculations are correct. Prague #1 is 6.25% Sodium Nitrite.

But first I have to catch some suckers.

Seven Fat Cows 6.5:Mr Ed's Coffee Hour Dec 15

“Welcome to Mr Ed’s Coffee Hour.” Ed Hall said into the microphone. “Transmitting on FM 104.3 at eight in the morning and 1087AM a half hour before sunset with a tenth of a Watt power. Mr Ed’s Coffee Hour where you will hear the news straight from the horses mouth. If we make it up it is only to entertain you.”

Ed took a sip of tea to sooth his throat.

“Today’s tipple is a big tablespoon of blackberry jam in a cup of hot water. You might be able to tell that I have a sore throat and this is a soothing drink.” Ed said.

“First a word from our sponsors. I am transmitting from Kate’s Store where the men are men and the women and children can shoot the wings off a blow-fly at a hundred yards.” Ed said.

“Folks with chickens are having problems with eggs breaking. The grain elevator closed and now they cannot get special chicken feed or oyster shell grit. Kate is looking for somebody who can supply high calcium, crushed limestone to supplement chicken feed. If anybody has a source, get ahold of Kate.” 

“Things are happening all over.” Ed said.

“I am proud to announce that this show is brought to you by solar power. Rick just installed 900 Watts of solar panels and that is where our power is coming from today.” Ed said.

“He installed the solar panels to power his back-up water pump but he doesn’t need all that power.”

“In other broadcast news, those of you with CB radios will be happy to learn that Gladys Swartz will be monitoring channel 31. If you run into too much traffic to drill through, they jump up to channel 33. After that the progression is channel 37….prime numbers if you haven’t figured that out already.” Ed said.

“Neighbors installed a killer antenna on Gladys’ roof and she now has outstanding reception.” Ed said.

Gladys was housebound and was delighted to be an active part of the community.

“Things continue to fall apart elsewhere.” Ed said.

“You might have seen the orange glow in the northern sky last night. Both lumber yards on Market Drive caught fire early in the evening and then several apartment buildings on Trestlewood Drive caught fire. Delta Township fire department put out a call for mutual aid and nobody came. They were either pinned down with their own fires or were running too short of manpower to respond.” Ed said.

“It is not known if the apartments caught fire due to wind-blown embers or whether it is a separate incident.”

“Word from the CDC in Atlanta estimates that one-half percent of the US population contracted Ebola. That is pretty close to the one-percent that some experts estimate will totally collapse the economy. We are already seeing shortages of gas and other necessities.” Ed said. “Have a plan. If you have a full tank of gas in your vehicle, don’t aimlessly drive around. You may need that gas later to cook your food or run a rototiller in your garden.”

“I don’t intend to be an alarmist but I do want you to walk around with your eyes open.” Ed said.

“Today’s guest is Sergeant Steve Smith who will be holding another firearms class. The class size is limited to five students. Steve is looking for loaner guns for the new students. Many of his new students have never held a gun, much less owned one.”

“So, Steve, are you an NRA certified instructor?” Ed asked.

“Well, no, Ed I am not. But somebody had to step up. I looked around and decided I am the best guy. I use NRA teaching materials but I have to confess I am not certified by the NRA.” Steve said.

Ed was taken aback but recovered quickly.

“Steve, you were telling me about the three big rules of gun safety.

"I remember taking a Hunter Safety class with Ethan." Ed said. "I remember that there were Ten Rules."

That surprised Sgt. Smith. "Well," Sgt. Smith said "can you tell me all ten rules?" throwing it back in Ed's lap.

"Hmmm." Ed said, stalling for time. "Don't put 20 gauge shells in a 12 gauge shotgun?" he guessed.

"That is the problem with ten rules." Smith said. "You might remember some of them but the ones you remember might not be the most important ones. That is why we boiled it down to three rules and then we hammer those three so you will remember them when you are ninety."

"OK, I see your point. Can you share the Big Three with our listening audience?” Ed said.

“Sure, Ed. No problem.” Sergeant Smith said.

“One: The gun is always loaded.”

“Two: Never point the gun toward anything you are not willing to shoot.”

“Three: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.”

“You corrected me earlier when I said ‘Treat the gun as if the gun is loaded.’ Do you want to tell me why?” Ed said.

“You bet. If you load a gun in front of somebody and hand it to them they treat it differently than if you hand them a gun that they ‘know’ is unloaded, even if you tell them to treat it as if it were loaded.” Steve said.

“When they know it is loaded you can see them thinking about what might be on the other side of a wall or where a potential ricochet might go. They think BEFORE they change where the gun is pointing. You don’t see that level of caution after you tell them ‘Treat it as if it were loaded.’ “ Steve said.

“You also told me a story while we were waiting for air time...” Ed said.

“We had a call when I was with the State Police. It was outside of Jackson.” Steve said.

“A grandmother was watching her grandkids. She lived in a tough neighborhood and had a shotgun stashed behind the couch. Of course the kids found it.”

“Later, we figured out one of the kids had found some shells and they managed to get it loaded. Well, one of the kids got shot. Lost his leg.” Steve said.

“If that grandma had been in the mindset that all guns are always loaded she would have had the gun locked up when the kids came over. It was a completely avoidable accident. It happened because she treated her shotgun AS IF it were loaded.” Steve said.

“That is a sobering story.” Ed said.

“Tell me about the other rules.” Ed said.

“Number Two: Never point the gun toward anything you are not willing to shooting.” Steve said. “I kind of alluded to the fact that a safe shooter is always thinking about what is behind the target, behind walls and where ricochets might go.”

Ed said, "You told me a story about that, too."

"I heard this from a neighbor a few days ago. After you hear the story you will understand why I won't share his name." Steve said.

"He had been hunting with a bolt action rifle but hadn't seen anything. He unloaded the rifle before going into the house. After removing the magazine he unloaded the chamber but the round did not drop into his hand. There  was snow on the ground so he assumed it had missed his hand and fallen into the snow." Steve said.

"After going into the house, he pulled the trigger before disassembling the firearm for cleaning. The gun went off. Because the hunter practiced safe shooting rules, the barrel was pointed at the floor and the bullet lodged in a garbage can filled with dog food in the basement." Steve said. "Embarrassing...but far better than shooting his child or wife who were in the other room watching TV."

"Afterward, the hunter looked at the ammo. It was an inexpensive brand made in Russia. He determined that the groove for the extractor was cut too shallow so he pitched that box of ammo." Steve said.

"Things like that can happen." Steve said. "That is why there are three rules and not just one."

“Number Three: Keep your finger off the trigger until you are ready to shoot.” Steve said. “This can actually help you shoot faster and better with a handgun if you point your trigger finger along the frame parallel with the barrel. Then, if you decide to shoot your barrel will naturally be pointing in the same direction as your finger.”

Religiously following the Big Three will go a very long way to making you a safe shooter.


Sunday, March 24, 2019

A dog's prayer

Hat tip to C W Swanson

Ozone generators

I was trying to think of a way to work ozone generators into the Seven Fat Cows story without it deflecting forward momentum. I failed.

That means you get a blog post on ozone generators.

I had a few questions about them. For one thing, do they rely on consumable inputs. This essay suggests they have a filter to keep dust out of the reaction chamber but other than that, all they use is dry air.

The next thought I had was that I would definitely buy one the next time Ebola is documented as being present in Mexico, the US or Canada.

My third thought was that investing in manufacturers of ozone generators (and UV emitting diodes) would be a good investment play if/when the day comes.

Ozone has the same issues other disinfectants have with particulate contamination. It takes time to penetrate and the disinfectant loses potency as it reacts with materials in the particle or thick layers of contamination.

Ozone can also play hob with dyes and polymers. Ozone also will beat the snot out of lung tissue if you are in the room.

The upside is that you can put an ozone generator in a room and diffusion is your friend. It will throw into every crack and behind every surface. You are not forced to rely on the work ethic of the people you hired.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Another day in paradise (*not* sarcasm)

Stocking the cupboard with canned soup, spaghetti, sauce, instant coffee,peanut butter, ramen noodles and candy.
Just another day of planting oak trees and preparing Salamander's orchard for the new trees.

The skunk cabbage is up. I planted a few of the oak trees where they were pushing. I stole a trick from Michael Dirr. I planted half the root in the hole and covered the top of the root with mounded or bermed soil.

I think I will plant some acorns the same way. Lay them on the ground and put a couple inches of muck on top of them. In a swamp, a couple of inches of elevation can make a very big difference. Obviously this is not something you would try with species that demand good drainage.
Still snow where the windbreak caused it to drift. The bush near the center of the image is a hazelnut bush and the catkins are elongating.
I grew up downwind of a factory that burned coal to create "process steam".

I grew up thinking snow became speckled as it melted.

I like the modern snow that stays white as it melts, even if it takes longer.

Inland lakes are still iced over. There is a wee bit of melting around the edges.

Friday, March 22, 2019

You cannot make this stuff up.

Michigan’s attorney general and Department of Civil Rights on Friday laid out plans to increase the documentation and prosecution of hate crimes and incidents while citing a reported uptick in extremist and hate groups in the state.
Nessel’s new unit will fight against hate crimes and review any groups identified in the SPLC list, her spokeswoman Kelly Rossman-McKinney said.
Pol Pot tried reeducation camps. Gave new meaning to "in one ear out the other."
Arbulu’s plans for a database would document hate and bias incidents that don’t rise to the level of a crime. The database would then be used to identify areas where awareness and (re)education programs are most needed, he said.
And I venture to guess to trigger "Red Flag" laws.
Arbulu said he hopes to have the database operating within two or three months. The department piloted such a plan for a few months after President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.
Editorial note: The next paragraph suggests that Michigan is piloting the project for the other 49 States.

“The challenge is developing protocols that other groups can be bound by and we can be bound by so we can capture all that information into one database,” he said.

Arbulu said he hopes the database will allow the department to be proactive and address issues before they rise to the level of a crime.
   -Detroit News, emphasis added
I wonder how long it will be before Eaton Rapids Joe shows up in the database? They are already targeting the Catholic Church for disciplining gay and pedophile clergy members who acted on their urges.

You cannot make this stuff up. Either the Democratic party is incredibly tone-deaf or they really believe this stuff.

Kicked in the teeth by opportunity

Approximately 4.5 acres of prime land. Based on the density of the grass this property is very fertile and would make a great community garden. The only real limitations are lack of parking and no running water.

Sometimes you are just slogging through your day and you get kicked square in your teeth by opportunity when you least expect it.

I was in Charlotte running a few errands. Mrs ERJ was at Vico 23, an emporium of hair, finger-nails, eye lashes and all things feminine and beautiful.

I dashing about town knocking down my Charlotte errands. We like to consolidate trips.

And Then...
This lady I just sort of know grabbed my by the ear and said, "Hey, look at this."

Overview to show surrounding development. The property in question is due east of the parking lots with Team One Chevrolet labeling.
We walked a bit of the property. I would have walked more but I needed to pick up Mrs ERJ.

The lady explained to me that she was affiliated with the organization that was trying to develop the property as some kind of community asset.

The difficulty her organization ran into is that they want whoever develops it to maintain it. That is, treat it like they owned it. Alas, that is where the grand plans come crashing down.

In the short time we toured the property, the lady said any number of uses had been batted about: Dog park, Community (aka Allotment) gardens, Basketball Courts, T-ball fields etc.

Everybody is energized by putting monuments in or on the ground. The hairball is coughed up when the planners are asked, "What is your maintenance plan for the next five years."

ERJ's Proposal
Split the parcel into four, nearly equal sized chunks.

Approach Fraternal Organizations: Eagles, Moose, Lions, Knights of Columbus, Masons, Optimists, Locals in Business and the like. These organizations have been stalwarts in Adopt a Highway programs so I think they would be receptive to adopting a portion of a park.

Present an à la carte menu of possible uses. The suggestions are just thought starters, if they can think of a better use then that is great! Examples include all of those listed above and also include some very low maintenance items:
  • Dog park...This is probably the best single candidate. There are two "Farm and Ranch" type stores within spitting distance and they both welcome pets. A dog park would be a useful extension to their business, especially if trainers agreed to use the park.
  • Community (aka Allotment) gardens/orchard
  • Basketball Courts
  • T-ball fields
  • Photo back-drop garden for weddings and senior class pictures
  • Raptor nesting platform structures. How cool would it be to have Bald Eagles? 
  • Koi ponds (gotta feed those eagles)
  • Simply commit to mow their 1.1 acres on a regular basis
  • Disc golf course...This was added because it would not be able to justify a park on its own but can easily piggy-back on other uses.
Then present it to the organizations as a five year commitment. It is not as daunting as asking them to bench-press the entire 4.5 acres. The expectation would be that they could re-up at the end of the five years or another Fraternal Organization could step in.

Maybe five years is not the right length of commitment. Maybe two or three years would be acceptable to the lady's organization if there is enough interest in the Fraternal Organizations to pick-up the load when the starting team needs a break.

The concept of dividing up the risk is similar to the Dutch East India Company. Engaging in business halfway around the globe was beyond the pockets and stomach for risk of any one family. By joining forces and dividing up responsibilities many families, heck many cities, became wealthy.

The needs of the lady's organization is just a bit too large for any one person to tear off, chew and swallow. Breaking into smaller and more managable bites is one step. Another step is to approach organizations with many people. The third and fourth steps are to be up-front about maintenance and to manage for succession.

Seven Fat Cows 6.4: Come home

Rick sent out the email he hoped to never have to send.

“It is time. Come home.”

He sent it to Janelle who he assumed was on the west coast. He sent it to Rick in New England, Gabriella in Memphis and Bro’ham in Detroit. He also sent a courtesy copy to Luke.

It was time.

Crises come slowly. They gain traction and barriers are breached. Once they reached a critical mass they exploded upon the unwary.

Luke lived a scant twenty-five miles away. He could walk in if he had to. The others, not so much.

Janelle was the first to arrive. Rick got a call at ten in the evening. Janelle sounded whipped.

“Dad, I am in Hudsonville. Can you pick me up?” she said.

“Where in Hudsonville?” Rick asked.

“I am west of town on M-121 at the old celery warehouse. I dropped off a load of apples from Spokane.” Janelle said.

Rick had been hording gas but picking up family definitely rated raiding the horde.

He picked her up three hours later. It took a little bit longer because Rick stuck to back-roads. He had been hearing stories about vehicles getting mobbed in cities and even on freeways.

It turned out that Janelle had a Class A CDL license. It was an honorable way to make money when other ways failed.

Janelle told Rick that she had bummed rides to Spokane where she knew a lot of trucks traveled east. She asked around until she found one headed toward Michigan and offered to drive halvsies for just the cost of food. The other trucker jumped at the chance.

Janelle called as soon as the truck hit the dock. She came with the clothes on her back and nothing more.

Rick asked many questions. Janelle said they had taken the northern route. Everything was fine until you hit Minnesota. The guys on the CB said to avoid Minneapolis, Madison and Chicago.

They left I-94 at St Cloud and headed east, picking up Wisconsin 8 at the state line.

They took Wisconsin 8 to the Michigan line and then followed the north shore of Lake Michigan to the Mackinaw Bridge. Then they drove south to Hudsonville.

Gabby said that things were still pretty calm in the mid-South. The school announced that it was going to suspend operations at the Christmas break in light of “issues” in New Orleans, Miami and Houston.

Gabby said they had a trailer packed and would see them at Christmas...or sooner if it got sporty.

Rick reminded her to be sure to avoid large cities and to have multiple routes preprogrammed.

Mark was making money hand-over-fist selling vehicles.

Everybody wanted to buy a tricked out SUV. They called them Bug-out vehicles or G-O-O-D (Get Out Of Dodge) vehicles. Customers were fighting over stock on the showroom floor. They were bidding above list.

Then they were dropping thousands of dollars on custom, extended fuel tank options. The commission Mark got on options was almost obscene.

Mark emailed back that he was keeping an eye on things. He wasn’t.

For all of the feedback Rick got back, the email and texts Rick sent to Bro’ham went winging off into the ether unseen by human eyes.

Janelle’s re-integration into the family was rocky.

From the moment she walked in, Nyssa and Janelle were at each other’s throats.

Janelle treated Nyssa like the kid she left at home seven years ago.

Nyssa thought of Janelle as an under-achieving loser and it showed.

Kate put her foot down. “Treat each other like adults.”

“You treat total strangers with more courtesy than you treat each other.” Kate said. “If you expect to stay in this house then you must treat each other in a civil manner.”

For the next week Janelle and Nyssa’s relationship was frosty. Sometimes one or the other would slip and earn a death-glare from Kate.

One point of friction was food. Kate put them into a rotation planning and preparing dinner. Nyssa was a meat-and-potatoes girl. Give her pasta and she was happy. Janelle’s diet was more eclectic. The only reason Nyssa didn’t attempt to strangle Janelle was because there were no sources of seaweed, tofu or durian in Eaton Rapids any more. But it was a near thing.

Another thing that Rick and Kate had to confront was the incredible, shrinking house. They had never had more than four kids in the house at a time, and now they were looking at the possibility of all six of them, plus spouses and kids. Rick had a strong preference for having the family packed like sardines. Kate did not know how that was going to be possible.

By Rick’s calculations, the camper could hold Nyssa and Milo. Rick and Kate slept together in the master bedroom. Two bedrooms were earmarked for Gabby and her husband and the other for Mark and his family. That left Janelle, Luke and Bro’ham fighting over the last bedroom. Somebody was going to have to sleep in the basement or out in Kate’s store.

Kate was worried about competition for bathrooms. Rick did not have the heart to tell her that they were probably going to have to transition to an outhouse. While they could continue to use the toilets and manually flush them with buckets of water, the septic tank would not be able to handle corncobs or newsprint. That, and there would be nobody to pump out the septic tank when that day came.

The nice thing about outdoor toilets is that users seldom dallied.