Thursday, July 30, 2009


“Mike that was a rattlesnake back there!”
I’ve been shifted over to a new area which means I have new co-workers. I’m a known snake person. This makes some people uneasy but this guy seems cool with it. How cool with it is he?
“He’ll never make it out there in the road, we have to go back.”

Pretty cool, actually.

I didn’t think it was a snake, I didn’t see it at all, but the man has eyes, I tell you. And he didn’t want to kill it. He wanted us to save it somehow. It was in the middle lane of a five lane section, and I didn’t have any snake gear with me at all. No hook, no bag, no buckets or boxes. And this was a sizable three and a half footer. I’m not going to bare hand this thing, no.

Photos, follow.
Below is a full body shot of an Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake. This isn’t a coiled cocked, which is to say the snake isn’t coiled up in a tight circled, but rather it’s a sprawled cocked. The head and neck are up above the body which is lying outward. The advantage of this is altitude. The head is higher above the ground, and it’s harder to pin a snake like this, but easier to barehand. You can forgive the snake for not realizing there are human out there stupid enough to grab it by its head. I got old. I got slow. I got smart.

Below is a shot of where you do not want to be when dealing with this snake. Front on its range is at least half the length of the body. It’s excited, so add another half foot. If it’s an exceptional individual, you might be too close.

This snake is obviously older than one year, but the rattles have been broken off. The old tale of a rattlesnake having one rattle per year of life is pure myth.

Below is my favorite photo. This is a very beautiful and fascinating animal. We scooped it up off the road, and into the ditch, and hopefully it fled into the fields to live another day. I’ve never felt the sense of risk when saving these animals, but I have felt a sense of failure when I did not.

Take Care,

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Human Mind; The Good, The Bad, The Very Ugly

When things go very right in a human brain, and I mean when things go as absolutely right as they can go, you wind up with a masterpiece painting, or a symphony, or some astrophysics thesis that changes the way we view the universe. Any political process that refuses to acknowledge the power of one individual to make that incredible leap is doomed to failure. As a whole, as a species, we have to be ready to recognize this when we see it, or we may very well lose what is offered to us in genius.
Imagine the human mind as some sort of disjointed effort made by the various parts of the human brain. The parts of the brain that compose the mind must somehow get the human body connected to it to feed, clothe, and house itself, and then it has to establish relationships with other minds, and then after all of that, it has time to consider how to launch a space shuttle and bring it back to earth again. Meanwhile, the body has to be maintained well enough for vision, sight, hearing, and automatic functions to do so. It does not always operate smoothly and in some cases the entire system cascades into disaster in ways most of us cannot comprehend.
A woman in Texas is in jail after decapitating, disemboweling, and partially eating her infant son. Afflicted with schizophrenia, post partum depression, and likely something far worse, this human’s brain went wrong, and went wrong hard. Houston, we have a problem, and this time failure is not only an option, but a seriously horrible outcome. We, as a species, as a society, as a people, are as ill prepared to deal with this sort of thing, as we are a child prodigy, or some new form of genius. The answers we have always held for this sort of thing have yet to prevent it from happening again and again.

Otty Sanchez, 33, is charged with capital murder in the death of her son, Scott Wesley Buchholtz-Sanchez. San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said that Sanchez apparently ate the child's brain and some other body parts before stabbing herself.
Woman kills infant

It’s curious the woman claims to have been told to do this by “the Devil”. The last Texan mother to kill her children claimed she wanted to “give them to God”. Is this some sort of odd copycat type excuse, or does mental illness lend itself more towards supernatural explanations? It would be easy, and a cop out, to ascribe this sort of behavior as evil. It is one individual’s brain coming apart at the seams, and the human mind’s attempt at making sense of the very confusing signals it is getting.
It’s easier to get to the heart of went when wrong if we can only step away from assigning blame or motives. Regardless of whether or not the woman goes to jail, or a mental hospital, the what went wrong and why it went wrong still remains. The part where something might have been done has not been explored. The idea this is preventable in some way that doesn’t involve blaming someone for not doing their job will not be considered.
The idea that we are all just a chemical imbalance away from infanticide is repugnant to almost everyone. The reality of the situation is we cannot comprehend the crime, and therefore we illogically assume what happened is evil, or an act of malice. But we must understand the human mind which cannot comprehend the act is also a human mind that is not affected as the mind of the person who killed and ate part of her son.

If this all sounds as if I’m leading up to releasing this woman back into society as soon as we fix her that is not at all what I’m trying to say. Clearly, we do not understand what happened and it certainly behooves us to know why the human mind does this. Yet we cannot trust ourselves to repair the damage to the point she is no longer a threat to us, or herself. Were we truly passionate about punishing the woman we would cure her, and make her mind whole again. Can you imagine the horror of realization she would have?
I suspect in the end we will warehouse her, drug her, and keep her chemically balanced enough to not be a threat to anyone else. We simply are not prepared to deal with this sort of human mind, no more than we are prepared to deal with the mind of a genius. When something horrible, or something wonderful, appears in our midst, we tend to try to kill it or hide it. Very rarely to we learn from it, and even more rarely, do we understand that in all of us, lies both the horror, and the wonder.

Take Care,

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Tallokas Road

Tallokas Road runs from Barwick Road in Brooks County all the way into Moultrie in Colquitt County. I’m working in Moultrie now, and Tallokas Road is my shortcut, and old shortcut at that. Many years ago, I dated a woman who lived at the end of Tallokas Road, and she’s the one who taught me how to get from Valdosta to Moultrie’s inner parts and avoid traffic. She is in Texas now, has five kids, married, and I often wonder if she ever thinks of me. I think of her at least once every trip to and from Moultrie, and I wonder how that affects what I see.
There’s a lot of emotion in sight, and anyone who has ever studied the art of photography knows this. There have been photographs I’ve taken and once I get them on screen I can see more of what I was feeling than what I was seeing. Moreover, sometimes there is more to a photo than I saw to begin with, depending on how I feel about the shot.

Tallokas Road isn’t as desolate as, let’s say, State Route 94 between Fargo and Statenville. It’s a bendy twisty road with every opportunity for drinkers late at night to become statistics early in the morning. It’s a lot more crowded now than it was back when I was going back and forth years ago. There is a gracious plenty of the old farmhouses as well as the new more modern homes that sprung up in the housing boom. There is an equal chance of seeing some soccer mom putting her make-up on in the rear view mirror of a minivan while she’s driving as seeing a pickup truck loaded down with farm workers heading to the fields. The town is coming to the country, because the country never goes into the town.
Still, I’m on the road early enough to miss most of the traffic. The first part of the trip I have the road to the sunrise, and myself and there isn’t anyone else around. As I get closer to Moultrie, the commuters begin to rush out and the farmers begin creeping around in their tractors. As the people pass me, I wonder who they are, and I wonder where they’re going. It’s a weird thing, sometimes, to see a brief glimpse of a human face both of us traveling nearly a mile a minute, or faster. How long is that flash of a face, where I can tell if the person is young, old, bearded or breasted, smiling or snarling, or just plain bored looking? Maybe it’s the light, or maybe it’s the optics of the windows, but sometimes the people are cartoonish in appearance or ghoulish. Maybe it’s me, and the mood I’m in, or maybe it’s the music I’m piping into my head from the MP3 player that affects my vision in that snapshot of a traveler. Certainly, beyond any doubt, when I see someone that resembles someone I once knew, that’s something that is all in my mind, as most things are.
The young woman in the little blue car looked like an old girlfriend of mine and I wonder by what process that ghost is resurrected from my past, from my mind, and what part of my brain was she sleeping in, waiting for this moment in time, on Tallokas Road, with Anna Nalick singing, and the sun just getting up in the day? All of a sudden I’m nineteen again, and we’re both trying to figure out who we are, what we are, and we know for sure is the heat is good, and getting better. I still remember the first time she allowed me to undress her. I remember the time she came over and was angry at me, furious I had started drinking early in the day, but I knew she would give into me, and I told her so, and that made her even more mad. She did give into me, because she couldn’t stand not to, and we didn’t see each other enough, and couldn’t see each other enough. I still remember the last time I saw her, and how the sun shone on the side of her face, making her so beautiful the moment was branded, seared, and tattooed into my mind until this very day.
I firmly believe each recollection of a memory distorts the memory, changes it, and recreates the person or the event in some small way. She’s long gone from my mind, but kept there incomplete, and subject to summoning in ways I can neither explain nor control.
A truck passes and a leering mutant drags my mind kicking and screaming away from the past. Forever, this poor man will be replayed in my mind as some freak of a nuclear blast too close to his pregnant mother, and perhaps he is just that. There is no way I will ever know, of course, unless I read in the local paper about the man who was a mutant dying on Tallokas road, in a car crash that claimed the life of a woman, who someone knew from a very long time ago.
Take Care,

Monday, July 27, 2009

Remembing Nothing & Hearing Things.

Skepticism ought to be the default position for human beings when dealing with memory but the exact opposite is true. We all see what happens to the human mind as we age but we all resist admitting it is going to happen to us, or that is it happening to us. My paternal grandmother hallucinated sounds in her later years, claiming to hear noises in the attic. The first time she called me at three in the morning and told me she there was someone in the attic is was frightening. She had called my father, who lived just down the road, and she called 911. In just a few moments my father arrived, assured her no one was else was in the house. Lucid most of the time, she still claimed there were people in the attic even after we all swore to her no one was there. There was a secret door, she claimed, they moved in and out of to avoid detection. The audio ghosts haunted her until she died in her sleep in 1990.
I lived with my father for five months back in 1996. I was trying to buy my first house and had moved in with my father until I could get the house bought. My father had already gone through a very nasty legal battle with his neighbors over their dogs barking at night. In his defense, the people were keeping seven Rottweiler dogs in a quarter acre pen. But while I was there I never heard them barking at night, even those nights he swore they were. On more than one occasion, my father woke me up at night demanding I turn my music off. There was no music, of course, but there was no way to convince him of that. It must have been someone parked outside, who left right after he got up.
My maternal grandmother slipped into and back out of time without warning and sometimes in the middle of conversations. There are those people who believe we ought to try to bring the delusional back into our time, but I think that is futile and confusing. What good comes of telling a woman her husband id dead that all the people she believes she is living with are long dead, and her life is nearly over? Can you imagine the shock you would feel if someone revealed to you the present moment is actually decades into the future? I scolded those who would attempt to drag my grandmother back into a time she had been disconnected from by her brain. Play along with it, I would tell them, whoever she believes you are, become that person, and let her have a decent conversation. Let her be young and whole, if just for a few moments.
Last night, I woke up and thought I heard music. There is no music, I told myself, and I wonder if this was the beginning of madness. Was my brain, which apparently is genetically predisposed to audio hallucinations, beginning the long slow journey into decay? Was this how my father and grandmother felt as they lay in bed at night, hearing nothing at all, but being told there was sound? What else? What else do I see and hear and feel that doesn’t exist at all? With no even so much as a sliver of a moon in the night sky, I could see it was three in the morning, that same time my grandmother called me, terrified of what her brain was telling her. A very chilling thought occurs; what if I’m already ninety years old, and all of this, all what I think is me back in 2009, is actually my brain gone haywire, and any second I’ll return to 2050, to discover my life is gone, and all that remains is madness? Who is there to take care of the crazy old man? What happened to my family? How did they die? Who have I loved and lost since now? The music was faint and impossible. There was no music. This is what it feels like, Mike, and you better get used to it.

During breakfast, I brood upon the ghostly tunes. There are ways to keep your brain younger. Video games that challenge the mind’s reflexes and all manner of puzzles and things like that. Maybe I ought to pick up a guitar and learn to pay. The brain rewires itself to learn music, I have heard, and creates new neural networks. I exercise a lot, and that ought to help, too. There is plenty of time to stave this off as long as I can. The idea I’m already ninety is a powerful and frightening idea. I cannot shake the fear that in a moment I’ll find myself in a chair at a table with strangers around me, and decades dissolved and missing.

As I leave for work, I walk outside and hear music. Someone left a radio on overnight in my neighbor’s barn.


Take Care,

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Old Friends and New Horses.

Going to visit Elbow at Sea Pond is always special whether it be just to hang out and have a few drinks or if she has something new written, or if it’s a HRI. If you’ve never been around horses then do not bother to go any further because this is all about a Horse Related Incident. Her horse vet called and told Elbow she knew someone who was going to euthanize a perfectly good horse for no good reason. So a few days ago someone pulled up in a truck, opened the door to the horse trailer, and out stepped a Tennessee Walker.
It would not have mattered, in the long run. Elbow would have taken the horse in if he had been implicated in a murder plot, or a bank robbery. No, I doubt she would have taken in a hostile horse or someone like that, but she does have a soft spot in her heart of all things equine, and truly, who can blame her?

I arrived and the four part harmony of a mutt greeting howled through the air. Theo, the big Black Lab, and Frank, the ramped up Border Collie with an espresso habit, led the song, with tiny Izzy, the mixed weasel mutt, and gentle giant Lucy, of the Pyrenees persuasion singing back-up. And such a song they sing! It’s been a while, maybe a couple of weeks or so since I dropped in, and they treat me as if I’ve been gone for years! Mutts love me. It’s a good feeling to have all four greet me like this, and it makes me feel alive and whole, as love will. The horses, meanwhile, head towards the other side of the world for all this. No worries, because I brought horse bribes; carrots and apples!
I pet the dogs, greet Elbow, and then go to meet the new horse, who she has named Rojo. Diamond is the lead mare, and her foal, Mena, is a two year old not terrible at all. I walk to the edge of the pecan orchard and called for them, “Here horse! Here Diamond! Here Mena! Here horse!” and like dogs, they come trotting over to where I stand with the treats. Mother and daughter push and head butt their way closer to me and I have to retreat, but Rojo isn’t quite certain about me yet. My, but he is a beautiful horse! Ah, but enough words, photos follow…

The above photo is Rojo! Below is Mena and Roho!

And finally Diamond below...


Someone once asked me if I write everyday and the answer is no, not every single day. It’s more writing some days than others, but when it gets right down to the bone if I do not write every day I certainly am thinking about writing on those days I do not write. Thinking about writing is a lot like making a grocery list in your head the day before you go shopping. Instead of bananas, spinach, carrots and mutt food, when I think about writing I think about character names, how the story might end, with a twist, and which character are going to die, if any. I think a lot of nonfiction writing in the context of would people like reading it just because I like writing it.
There is no way of telling, of course, what people are going to like. I once cranked out an eleven hundred word essay in less than an hour, during lunch, posted it in a hurry, and people loved it. Perversely, some of my most well thought out essays have fallen totally flat. I cannot explain it. I think a good writer will care what people thinks after the fact but won’t give that a thought during the process of writing.

One question I get a lot is how to become a better writer. If you’re going to write in a language, let’s take English for example, you ought to know how to write in English. A lot of the Bloggers out there today have no idea how to structure a sentence, and honestly, if you’re going to be a mechanic you have to know more than just the basics on how an engine runs. You do have to learn grammar and it is really not as hard as you’ve been led to believe. You have to learn the medium in which you write. You have to do a lot of editing in the beginning because if you do not then you’re not going to retain many readers. People will forgive mistakes in writing but not a lot of them, and not if it destroys the flow of the story, or essay. You have to learn the craft. There are no shortcuts.
Writer’s Block, in my opinion, is a cop out. You never hear about a person having “Super Model’s Block” or someone having “Garbage man’s Block” or there being a cure for “Hunter/Gather’s Block”. If you’ve nothing to say at the time, or your story is going nowhere, or you’ve reached a point where things simply are not going the way you want them to go then welcome to the real world. Don’t sit there and say unicorns are sitting on your keyboard so you cannot write. Writer’s Block isn’t an actual problem brought on by some brain malfunction. It’s an easy whine. If you want to lay claim to being a writer then you’re going to have to work at it. You work during the easy stuff, and you work at the hard stuff, and you work when things do not work. I get flak for this opinion and some of it from people making money writing. But I simply do not believe in Writer’s Block.

If you want to know how to make yourself a better writer then my advice to you is to write. A few years ago I challenged myself to write a thousand words a day, each and every day, regardless. It wasn’t easy but writing is what defines a person as a writer. If you’re going to write then you’re going to have to find the time to write, and you’re going to have to make time to write. You have to crave out of the finite time in one day to sit down and do what you claim to be. You either can do this or you won’t do this. Either or. There isn’t any other way to define it. If you just want to write as a hobby, or you just like killing time in front of a keyboard then it really doesn’t matter at all if you write, or if you do not. If blogging once or twice a week does it for you then that’s fine and you really do not have to put much into it if a blogger is all you want to be. Blogging can be writing and writing can be blogging, but you have to understand the process by which you produce the words you write means something. The process is your craft. Do right by this, and you can be a writer.

No one can tell you what to do when it comes to writing and quite frankly listening to advice (even this advice) can either help you or hurt you. You have to decide how good you will be, and the only way to get better is to write more, and pay attention to what you’re doing. “Write what you know” is some of the best advice you will ever hear, but do not fear going out into the unknown. Your adventure as a writer will be much different than mine. No matter what you might learn from me, or my mistakes, or my methods, you will have to hack out your own trail through the wilderness. Reading great writing will make you a better writer for just so long, and reading about writing will take you just so far. Sooner or later the Great Truth you keep hearing will have to be adhered to, must be paid homage to, and you will have to put down all your hopes, fears, and dreams, and push everything aside to see the one bright shining reality that is both the blessing and the curse here. To be a writer you must write. There is nothing else that will define your art. Do right by your craft and you will be a writer.

Take Care,

Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Spider Truce and Fireant War

I had stashed a box of mutt treats in the top cabinet and had almost forgot about them. But mutt treats ran low, the dogs looked as if they were going to go into some sort of canine catatonia, and my memory was therefore jogged. I was retrieving the box of said treats from the top shelf of the cabinet when one of my resident spiders slid down from the ceiling and stopped just short of landing on my nose.

A lot of people freak out over the presence of my eight legged roommates, but truth be told they’re here for a reason. In eight years living here I’ve yet to see a living roach. Okay, there was that night the click beetle invaded, but by and large, the spider, having been given free rein to live as they please, have feasted on any bug that has dared enter the house.
“Mike, spiders are %$#@#$&^ bugs!” a woman who I once dated told me the night after this very same explanation. A very large and what I considered handsome species of house spider was making its way across the ceiling when my female companion noticed it. Needless to say, the evening certainly took a turn for the vertical as she began to scream in regard to the spider. But my stance is fairly clear. You will either live with bug, you will live with spiders, or you will have someone come in once a month and hose down your place with chemicals, and live with the idea that there is a substance capable of killing roaches spewed all over your house. I watched a roach live for two minutes in a microwave oven that was running at high.
No one ever developed a tumor from living with spiders.

I thought I recognized this particular spider as Bella, a friend of my from the %$#@#$&^ bugs night.
“Greetings, Bella.” I whispered. Speaking even at normal tone vibrates the web and makes for difficult arachnid conversation, at best.
“Greetings Firesmith, but I am Beattie, great granddaughter of Bella, whom you saved from the Screaming One. Your compassion is noted well, but I fear I must recall details of our treaty at this point.” Her seven eyes held my steadily.
“But I have held my part, oh, I know it was the web I ran into this morning wasn’t it?” There was a massive circular web at the front door this morning. I hate it when a get a face full of spider web first thing in the morning, really.
“No, no, no, Firesmith, the treaty clearly states that incidental contact with webs are not a breach of peace, nor are they an act of aggression, and clearly the first section of the treaty states that our kind must not block the entrances and exits of this abode. Indeed, each new clutch is schooled on those places of traffic.” Beattie told me. Spiders are the most patient critters you will ever meet. They are accustomed to waiting for things to happen, except the jumping spiders, who are like small dogs on caffeine betimes.
“And I replaced the towel in hot tub. I know the woman removed it, but she doesn’t understand.” I figured it had something to do with something a woman had done. I leave a towel hanging into the hot tub when it’s dry because the slides are too slick for spiders to climb out of easily.
“No, Firesmith, the problem lies with our kind. But we told you this before; there are certain prey animals we do not hunt easily, nor do they become ensnared. It is in the agreement, but I thought I ought to warn you about them.” Beattie began rising in the air, back towards the ceiling, as if immune from gravity.

“The fireants in that container you hold.”

Just then I felt a thousand tiny feet all over my arm and back. My home had been invaded, and Beattie’s warning had come a few seconds late. The command was given and each fireant, tiny but well armed, stung me in unison. I spent the better part of Friday night cleaning out my kitchen cabinets, and using hot soapy water to kill the little bastards, because I have zero pesticides in the house. My arm, shoulder, and low back look like I’ve been hunting with Dick Cheney. The spider did their job, were not obligated to take on the fireants, but damn, a little warning sooner would have been nice.

I think they’re still pissed about me cleaning the back porch with a blowtorch last winter.

Take Care,

Friday, July 24, 2009

In The Beginning there was Blog

It had to happen one day; I would get my own blog. Yes, I’m still found at the sites you’re accustomed to reading me, but this is going to eventually evolve into my own writing site. I guess it just did.

Hickory Head is where I live. It’s a very small community in Deep South Georgia, where a man can live alone, and in peace, and be a Hermit. My neighbors, and here that is a relative term because I’m fairly isolated from everyone else, understand I value my privacy so they very rarely intrude except when they have spare produce to share. I lend my help to them as they need it, and graciously accept them onto my property whenever some event calls for such. I am accepted as that odd man who loves dogs.

Bert is part Husky, part Chow, part badger, part kangaroo, and part otter; he digs, he jumps, he swims, and he’s all heart. Bert is my favorite dog of all time, and that’s saying much. Bert went out a few years back and found a mostly dead, starved, and abused Greyhound/Lab mix. We named him Sam, and he’s the one who produces the most writing material.

As soon as I get my legs under me I’ll start tagging things and sorting things, and more or less moving in. But this is where you’ll find me.

Take Care,