Monday, February 19, 2018

My Father's Gun

I grew up with a gun in the house.  My father inherited it from his father who inherited it from his father.  All three Walker men carried the Winchester 25-20 in scabbards attached to their saddles.  This particular lever action rifle was first manufactured in 1892 and could hold six bullets.  I inherited the gun from my father.  I have never carried it in a scabbard attached to my saddle and I have never fired it.  Nevertheless it is among my most treasured possessions along with the memories associated with that gun.  The gun was, when not in its scabbard, leaning in a corner of the living room.  Out of its scabbard it was never loaded.  In fact, I'm not sure I ever knew where my father kept the bullets.  I was often given the honor of cleaning the rifle.  My brother and I played with it.  The rules, however, were strict.  Before picking up the rifle we had to first check to make sure it was empty.  And then, even confident there were no bullets, we could never point it at any living being.  My brother followed that rule even when a stranger wandered up to the door of our screen porch and began asking when our parents would get back home.  The man was disheveled and wide eyed and scary.  Our doors had no locks and we had only an old rifle with no bullets for protection.  Luckily we had been playing with that rifle and it was leaning against the wall near my brother.  Just as the stranger reached to open the door my brother stood, picked up the rifle, and pretended to chamber a bullet with the lever.  As he did this he quietly said, "Sir, you need to turn around and leave and never come back here."  The man looked from my brother to the rifle, turned around and walked back down the road into the desert.  My brother followed the rules and never pointed the gun at the man.  Besides learning and adhering to strict gun rules, the rifle and my father taught me a deep respect for life.  During my childhood wild horses still ran on our ranch.  On rare occasions a very old near death horse would find its way to our barn.  A practical man, my father chose to euthanize the horse using the by then old 25-20.  On one such occasion I asked my father if I could shoot the horse.  He said I could but before even lifting the rifle into firing position I must first take a moment to look into the horse's eyes.  I did as instructed and in that moment I saw the pain and sorrow of a life lived freely coming to an end.  I gave the rifle to my father whose only comment was that taking a life should never be easy.

Friday, February 16, 2018

This Guy Is Brilliant

I refer, of course, to Yuval Noah Harari, author of Sapiens, my current read.  I'm currently on page 24.  I've got 392 more pages to read but I'm in no hurry to finish it.  I'm stunned by the information and inspiration I find on every page.  Let's start with the basic premise that a hundred thousand years or so ago there were at least six human species inhabiting the earth.  The question then becomes how of all the Homos did we the Sapiens become the only humans around today?  Our first encounter with our neighbors the Neanderthals didn't go too well for us.  About thirty thousand years later, though, we, the Sapiens, began doing different things.  We returned to our Neanderthal neighbors and drove them and all other human species off the face of the earth.  About fifteen thousand years after that we crossed an ocean to Australia.  And then we invented boats and oil lamps and bows and arrows.  We created art and religion and commerce and social stratification.  Harari calls this the Cognitive Revolution.  Many scientists attribute this Revolution to accidental genetic mutations that changed the wiring of our brains.  Whatever the reason, one of the first things we did with this mutation was develop an altogether new type of language.  It wasn't the first language because every animal has some kind of language.  But our early language proved to be incredibly supple and with it we could share information about each other.  Put in the basest possible terms, one of the first things we did with our amazing new language was gossip.  Research indicates that we've been gossipping for about seventy million years.  The other amazing thing we do with language is talk about things we have never seen, touched or smelled.  With that ability we create myths and legends and gods and religions.  These creations are not individual to each Homo Sapien.  Our fictions become the collective myths of nationalism and religion shared by millions.
I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A flat tire turns into a Valentine gift

Linda Walker
The news yesterday, Valentine’s Day, was dominated by yet another gun killing at a school, this time at a high school in Parkland, Fla. And yet another NRA-backed bunch of politicians mouthing the same tired, sickening lines. Too soon to talk about possible solutions, but thoughts and prayers blah blah blah.

But there was another story that also deserves attention. This one happened very close to home. It involved numerous acts of kindness, and it happened to my wife, Linda Haley Walker, who is herself a kind and gentle person.
Linda also is a good writer; she co-wrote our new novel, the soon-to-be-published “Half in Two.” So I’ll let her tell her story.
“I went to our grocery store in the afternoon to pick up groceries for the week. My adventure began when I came out of the store to find it raining. (This is a somewhat rare occurrence lately for us who live in Tucson. It is very much generally appreciated since we’re almost constantly in the middle of a drought.)
“I put the groceries in the trunk of the car and went to the driver side door where I found a note informing me that I had a serious car problem:


 "I checked to see, and indeed, the tire was flat as a proverbial pancake.
 "Since I don’t have, and never have wanted, a cell phone, I went into the store to use the store phone to call AAA. The store employees were very sympathetic and allowed me to tie up their phone line for several minutes. The lady at AAA told me that someone would be there to help within an hour. She also said that if I didn’t have a usable spare tire, they would send a tow truck to take me home.
“After transferring the groceries from the trunk to the back seat so AAA could get to the spare tire, I waited in the car for about twenty minutes (the rain falling even harder) and then got out to be more visible to whoever was coming to help me.
“A man and woman came out of the store, got into a van parked in front of my car, and backed out to leave. Then, I guess, the man noticed me standing with my umbrella, and he pulled back into his parking place and asked me if my battery was dead. I told him that I had a flat tire and had called AAA.
“He got out in the rain and came to tell me that he couldn’t leave someone in distress. He then found my spare tire, which, unfortunately, also needed air. He apologized for not having an air compressor to inflate it. And then, he reluctantly left after wishing me well.
“About fifteen minutes later a AAA repair truck arrived with a very pleasant and helpful repairman.  Without even checking my identification or membership, he re-inflated the spare and put it on the car for me Again, I received an apology. He said that he was sorry that I had to wait so long in the rain and then he wished me well and went on his way.”
So that’s it -- the end of Linda's story. Nothing too dramatic or earth-shaking, but no shootouts in the rain either. Just people being kind, caring for others, doing their jobs well.
I wish every day were like that. Every day could be Valentine’s Day -- the good kind, with love and kindness.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Just Another Book Suggestion

If I had my way I would read nothing besides escapism fiction.  Rarely would I venture into reality, choosing to remain, instead, in worlds created by David Baldacci or Lee Child or Vince Flynn and the guy who took over the Mitch Rapp adventures after Flynn died.  Harry Bosch is real even though I know Michael Connelly created him.  I inhale books by Kathy Reichs, Tess Gerritsen and, yes, even hidden away where no one can see me Patricia Cornwell.  Sadly for Kinsey Millhone the alphabet end at 'Y' when author Sue Grafton died.
Those are the books I would read if every once in awhile I didn't feel I should do my brain a favor and read something a little harder to decipher.  So it was that my brother, Tom Walker whose posts you frequently read here, suggested I read The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich.  It's not an easy read and it certainly isn't predictable.  I do, however, recommend it as a good read.  In its way it also is a mystery but then isn't most of life just one big mystery?  Read the book and let me know what you think.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

I'm A Novice EGGHead

I recently purchased a Big Green Egg which is the brand name of a kamado-style ceramic charcoal barbecue cooker.  "What is a kamado-style ceramic cooker," you might well ask.  "That's a really good question," I might answer.  About 3,000 years ago the Japanese developed an earthenware cooking urn called a kamado.  There are a lot of these kamado-style cookers on the market today.  I chose the Big Green Egg because after extensive research I decided it was the prettiest.  It also weighs a couple hundred pounds so there didn't seem to be much chance that the strong summer winds would blow it over.  I'm still learning how to use it.  Of course I'm still keeping my propane Weber and my plain old charcoal Weber because you just never know when outdoors may be my only place to cook.  The EGG uses lump charcoal which is a cleaner, longer burn than than regular charcoal.  I was told to not get the EGG temperature above 350 degrees the first few times I used it so I've limited myself to smoking first a brisket, then a whole chicken, then some beef short ribs.  I will smoke one more chicken and then the EGG and I will be ready to higher temperatures.  I'm looking forward to using it to bake pizza and bread as well as the more traditional things we cook outdoors.  A fellow EGG devotee said that when she lived in Maine she didn't know which to shovel first-a path to her EGG or a path to her car.  She generally decided to shovel the snow to her EGG because there wasn't much of anyplace to go anyway but at least she could have fun cooking and eating good food. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Happy 300 To The Colts Neck Inn

George Washington got around a lot.  He had quite a few headquarters.  I see the signs all over New Jersey indicating yet another of his headquarters.  It makes sense that wherever he and his troops stopped became his base of operation.  History also tells us that Washington is the only person ever to be given the secret recipe to the astonishingly potent Laird's Applejack.  History also tells us that Washington frequently ate at the Colts Neck Inn.  I've also eaten at the Colts Neck Inn but history probably won't mention that little tidbit of information.  The Colts Neck Inn opened for business in 1717.  It's been open ever since and recently celebrated 300 years of serving food to the famous, the not yet famous and the just plain folk like me.  History doesn't tell us what Washington ate.  Let the record show that I ate a hot turkey sandwich.  History also tells us that Washington spent more time in New Jersey than anywhere else during the Revolutionary War which probably accounts for the many places where George Washington is rumored to have slept.  The house in which I live was built in the early 1800s doubtless long after Washington had returned to his home at Mount Vernon so I guess I should take down the sign 'George Washington Slept Here' because I don't think he did.  I can still leave the sign up that says 'George Washington and I both ate at the Colts Neck Inn' though.

Friday, February 9, 2018

I don't love this guy's parade

Military parade in North Korea

Hup, two, three, oops!
Try to skip, try to skip, try to skip.
Hup, two, three, darn!
My inability to stay in step has plagued me throughout my marching career. In fact, it nearly sank my effort to avoid the Vietnam draft by becoming an officer in the U.S. Air Force. An Air Force guy, I figured, wouldn’t be slogging through the jungle fighting the Viet Cong. I could skip all that.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t skip – never could, since I was a little kid doing “Skip to my Lou” in Mrs. Jerrells’ music class in Wickenburg Elementary School. Mrs. Jerrells made me sit out numbers that involved skipping. Alas, I missed out on such classics as “All around the mulberry bush, the money chased the weasel … “
And alas, I couldn’t get in step, left-right-left-right-left with the rest of my squadron in marching around the university parade ground in Air Force ROTC.
I think my ROTC instructors finally decided that marching wasn’t that important to real-life Air Force officers. So like Mrs. Jerrells, they let me slide by, mostly out of step, but a good officer candidate otherwise.
All of which brings me to the subject of this guy, Donald Trump, who got out of military service because of “bone spurs” in his heels but now wants a massive military parade in Washington, D.C. with thousands of marching soldiers, tanks, missile launchers and airplanes.
The Washington Post first reported that Trump has been pushing for a huge martial parade in Washington, D.C., like the one he saw in Paris last year. Trump was French President Emmanuel Macron's guest on Bastille Day, and he later called the French military parade he witnessed "one of the greatest parades" he had ever seen.
According to the Post, “Trump was awestruck by the tableau of uniformed French troops marching down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with military tanks, armored vehicles, gun trucks and carriers — complete with fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and painting the sky with streaks of blue, white and red smoke for the colors of the French flag.”
Trump dreams of a similar, but even greater spectacle thundering down Pennsylvania Avenue, with the Marine Marching Band playing, drums pounding out a cadence for a thousand marching feet, war machines rumbling and fighter jets roaring overhead.
Which shows how completely out of step this guy is.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson sums it up this way: “Trump is more a creature of instinct than calculation. My guess is that both his narcissism and his authoritarianism are at play in his need to honor himself with a parade ….
“Imagine all the love he would feel while reviewing a miles-long parade whose participants all had the sworn duty to show him respect as commander in chief. He would be saluted and serenaded to his heart’s content. It would be an egomaniac’s heaven.”
This war parade he so desperately wants would be, as MoveOn says, “a waste of our taxpayer dollars, would not do anything to keep our country safe, and would not honor the men and women in uniform. Its entire purpose is to let Trump play dictator for a day, further eroding democracy, and pushing our country even closer to authoritarianism.”
That’s why I signed MoveOn’s petition urging Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to act immediately and shut down Trump’s war parade.
In this way, I feel totally in step with what I should be doing.