Saturday, October 25, 2014

Basic Turf Plan for Texas

There are two main kinds of turfgrass in Texas. Bermuda and St. Augustine. They have different needs, requirements, and faults. There are similarities though. All turfgrass requires fertilizer, when and how much is variable, but they all need Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. Those are the three main numbers on a bag of fertilizer, whether it comes in a plain brown wrapper or a fancy label with glossy pictures of green, thick turf. I really do not care at all what sort of packaging they put on it. I want to know what is on the label, the thing the Feds tell the manufacturer must be on the package if they want to market it as a fertilizer. Not all fertilizer is created equally. A 21-0-0 might be radically different than a 12-0-0 in ways than the amount of N it contains. There are actually quite a few elements required by green growing things. The mnemonic I was taught goes like this:
C Hopkins Cafe managed by mine cousin Mo Clyde. That is Carbon, Hydrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, Potassium, Nitrogen, Sulfur, Calcium, Iron, Manganese, Boron, Copper, Zinc, Molybdenum, Chlorine..I am missing one, that is 15, supposed to be 16. Hmm, been a while. Anyhow the idea is that there are the three main ones of Nitrogen(N), Phosphorus(P), and Potassium(K) and the building blocks of Hydrogen, Oxygen and Carbon. The micro-nutrients (meaning very small amounts needed) of Manganese, Molybdenum, etc are sometimes found in a sack of fertilizer and sometimes not. Sulfur,Calcium and Iron are in between these two sets. They might be in presence somewhat less than the NPK amounts, but greater than the micros. A typical addition of iron and sulfur might be 5 and 10%. This gets to be important when we take into account our soils. A sandy East Texas soil has different chemistry than a red clay in Abilene, which is different than the reddish sandy clay of the Cross Timbers, which is totally different than the Blackland Prairie that runs from north of DFW all the way down to the coast and which is somewhat similar to the mottled gray clay of the Stephenville, Dublin, Comanche areas. Some of it has to do with texture. A sand sheds water fast, a clay holds it like a sponge and hence the nitrogen solution of our watered in fertilizer might leach out of a sand soil more quickly than in a heavy clay or a sand with more clay in it. Y'all keeping up? Let's sum up: There are several kinds of dirt, two main kinds of grass and you gotta feed them both and what that might be varies.

Here take a break and be glad we have motorized lawnmowers. Ponder that a moment. A motor perched on whirling blades that we may or may not get to ride upon. Awesome. Ok, let's keep going.

When do I feed my turf?
I had a doc of grass tell us in a seminar once that a lawn in early spring is like a start-up company, a whole lotta of outgoing and not a lot of incoming. A big stressful situation might crater it entirely. That means when your turf is first waking up from a long dormant winter of perhaps some ice and certainly some hard freezes which ceased its production of carbohydrates it is under stress. It is living off the stored up energy it produced earlier. If I throw a couple pounds of N per thousand sq ft. It is going to force it to use that stored carbo faster. My outgo might exceed my incoming. Again we are talking about sugars. plants take those 16 elements and wheedle them into a sugar. With sunlight, chlorophyll and some good old water, they combine carbon, hydrogen and oxygen to make sugars. Magical even. What that all means is you gotta be patient. The standard rule is to wait until you see a 30% green up or in other words, put it off about as long as you can stand it. That might be Easter weekend. It might be April Fools Day. It might be Tax Day. It will not be Valentine's Day. Unless we get an exceptionally warm March then it is unlikely that we need to feed before the first of April. A good average first feed is about Tax Day or mid-April.

But I am already seeing green growing weeds in my yard. Won't feeding them make them bigger and tougher to kill?
Not necessarily, in fact it might make them more susceptible to my chemical attack. You want them happy and healthy, thinking everything is just peachy when you spray them with an insidious chemical that invades their happy world and wrecks them.

Weeds are on their own schedule. What we aim to do is either get ahead of them and round up the stragglers. There are basically three kinds of weeds; grassy ones, broadleafed and sedges. Sedges look like grasses, but we have to use different chemicals to control them. Grassy ones are a little more problematic. There are some particular ones that require extreme measures. We can get to those later. The vast majority of what we call weeds fall into the category of what is called 'broadleafed weeds' this includes but is not limited to: clover, dandelions, plantains, henbit, chickweed, and about fifty-five other ones. There are several formulations available. The product that is marketed to ranchers under the name of Grazon is the same basic blend that is sold to homeowners called Weed-B-Gone by Ortho. There are three main ingredients, sometimes they play up that fact and call it something like Trimec or Three-Way. They are 2,4-D, Dicamba and Mecoprop. There may or may not be some additional chems in there. Those are the three main ones. This formulation is actually a restricted pesticide. You say wait wait you said homeowners in there but it's restricted? Yes, to both. Here's how it's restricted. Go into your local Tractor Supply. Go over to the chemical section. You will find this same blend in a quart size and a 2.5 gallon size. Homeowner can buy the quart, but unless you have a license of some kind you ain't buying the big size. You are restricted in how much you can purchase of this blend of chemicals at one time. That's how it's restricted. Let's get our quart of stuff and go kill some weeds.

Get a sprayer. A fifteen dollar one gallon from Home Depot is fine. A fifty dollar fancy one that pumps itself while you pull it is fine too(price may not reflect reality). But get one you feel comfortable with and is big enough to do your job. Read the label. Tear off the little booklet carefully and store it somewhere safe after removal. Keep it, you are going to need it.

Friends and neighbors, I say again, read the label for lo and behold Ortho has TWO products with the moniker of Weed-B-Gon. but one is PLUS CRABGRASS KILLER. Ho there, wait just a minute, plus crabgrass killer? Why yes. Exactly what is this crabgrass killer? Oh that is Quinclorac. I see

thanks, will pass. I want the regular, plain old Weed-B-Gon. But wait again, what is this on my label?

  • Active Ingredients

    13.72% MCPA (can't fool me, that is still 2,4-D)
    1.56% Triclopyr (no mecoprop, but this instead?ok....was going to save that for stumps later)
    1.35% Dicamba (yep, still works doesn't it? stinkers)

I gotta go see about Tractor Supply now, this is getting interesting. 

And what do I find? Gordon's Trimec. 5.99 for a pint. Outstanding. Now, this is what a label ought to look like. On chart 3 I see it calls for one ounce per gallon. That's spiffy too. Let's do this thing. 

I go over to my hose and I put some kind of shut off valve on the end of it. I get my tablespoon which will hereafter ONLY be used for chemicals. I put on my good rubber gloves. I also get my leftover liquid dish soap and a teaspoon, which also will never ever be used for anything but chemicals and I arrange them neatly with my newly purchased jug of Trimecky sort of stuff and my newly assembled sprayer and I turn the water on, a little. Not full blast because I had just as soon not blast me and the general vicinity with the rinsate of my spoon nor do I want to knock my sprayer across the patio. I open the valve, squeeze the trigger on my pistol grip spray nozzle and put some water in the tank. 
I don't care if after you let the pressure out it is sorta dribbling. So what? I have all day. I AM NOT GETTING BLASTED IN THE FACE WITH NASTY ASS HOSEWATER. After I put a couple of inches of water in the jug I get out my chemical. Tear off the label and dispose of it properly. Add my two tablespoons equaling one ounce into my jug. I now add one teaspoon of liquid soap to make it stick on the plant well. I am glad if the manufacturer has kindly included an additional surfactant, but I lack confidence in their proprietary blend and so I make sure this stuff sticks A  that dang clover that seems to be taking over that area near the pecan. I fill up my container to the proper marked level. A big fat black marksalot line on the jug at the requisite gallon mark does wonders for speed and reliably hitting the correct amount of water. Now, let's go kill something.

I don't have to spray it to the point where it is dripping off the leaves. I don't want to barely spritz it either. I want a good coverage, but not to the point of run off. I walk back and forth in a pattern so that I don't miss areas. I continue to do this until I run out of mix or weeds, whichever comes first. If I hit one twice, so be it. If I miss one I know I can spot the healthy one in a couple of weeks at which time I can go over it again. 

When do I do this? Whenever I have weeds. There is no set schedule. At the job I never stop. There is always another weed to spray. At the house? On an as needed basis. If we do the next step in the process, the pre-emergent applications, this post-emergent spraying will be minimized. So, let's talk about the least used and little understood part of the yard. Getting ahead of the game. 

Pre-emergents will save your time and money. If I can prevent or kill upon germination a weed, then I have done my job in keeping the turf weed free (or close to it, Augusta this ain't). There are several on the market these days. They vary in price and target weeds. Most will do a good job, though there are some which have been used so many times that resistant populations are beginning to develop. The one I most commonly recommend is one called pendimethalin. It is marketed as Pre-M. It will contain some fertilizer, one blend for during the growing season and another for during dormancy. The kind I am going to recommend for use is the version that has 0-0-7 on the label. The little bit of Potassium is not going to make your grass green up in December, no matter if we had 90 degrees F last week. But it will keep the dandelions that seem to be popping up from continuing to germinate. It is a bright canary yellow product. Looks about the same shape and size as regular fertilizer, but it is very very yellow. It is of low toxicity. Don't worry about the dogs, cats, horses or birds being poisoned by it. Our goal is to water it into the top layer of soil anyhow so any exposure to living things walking around should be limited to the time of application. Figure out how big your area is going to be. Pace it off at least. It does not have to be hyper accurate, but you gotta be in the same zip code at least. Lets say your front yard is about 100 by 50, give or take a corner or two by the A/C and trash cans. That is 5000ft sq. Our label calls for 4.5lbs per thousand. A solid heaped cup is about a pound. So four and a half cups, (per thousand)give a little extra is ok. (not nine or ten please, doubling it is not 'a little extra') And I put that in my handy dandy spreader and get after it. I see that i have carelessly flung a bunch all down the sidewalk and half way across the porch. I do NOT use the water hose to wash it off. I get my broom or blower and I chuck that stuff back into the bushes or turf. Oh didn't mention it was safe for up under the bushes Sure is, fling some there too. Same rate, no big deal.  Water it in. A good soaking water. Set out some empty tin cans of tuna or whatever container you prefer and when you see a half inch of water in it, you are done. If you know there is a good rain coming, hustle out there and get it done. 

When should I do this? This is where it gets a little sketchy. If I expect this product to last for nine months I am dreaming. If I expect it to last thirty days, that is over doing it too. I should figure on about 60 days or two months. If I start seeing things popping up in the corners where my application might be thinner at day 45, that is about right. Time to start thinking about another application. 

a good schedule might go something like this

January: spray stray weeds on nice days. If it is green and growing, it is probably a weed. 
February: first application of the new year of pre-emergent. keep hunting strays with the spray
March: keep hunting strays. Has the yard woken up yet? Maybe, just a little. Wait then.
April: I have mowed a couple of times, and weeds are starting to pop in corners. I put down another round of pre-emergent and my fertilizer. What is the special this week? I do not buy Scott's Bonus S. I get some sulfur coated or otherwise slow release fertilizer from the Feed Store or other seller of fertilizer. I want it to have the micros, iron and about 20% or better of nitrogen. I care not about the phosphorus, I am marginally interested in the potassium. I put it out not too heavily. Somewhere around 2-3 lbs of product per thousand sq feet. 
May: I mow, a lot. I do not do anything else except water and mow.
June: Starting to show some weeds again. I spray the stragglers and do another round of feeding and pre-emergent. I skip the food for my St.Augustine since I do not want to promote fungal issues. 
July:more mow and water
August: summer gotta end soon. It is so dang hot. Mow, water, yeah yeah.
September: finally. Time for more food and pre-m.(including St. Aug) A few straggler weeds here and there, but dang it looks nice and tight for the most part. 
October: mowing has slowed down. finally getting some rain too
November: seen a frost or two. A few stragglers. 
December: one last pre-m. Caught a nice 50 degree day last Saturday and then rain two days later. God loves me. 
January: brings us back around again to hunting strays. 

I swear it is not hard. I know this seems like an enormous amount of info, but it can be boiled down to a few tasks well timed. Hunt the strays, put a good blanket of chems down to catch most of them and feed only when necessary. Ignore the hype of a label. Disregard Scott trying to sell you something. Educate thyself. Rocket science this ain't. Aggies do this for a living. It CAN'T  be that hard. 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Visiting the Personality Cafe

wordsmith, beat out the keys upon your digitizer of thoughts
find some way to make the amorphous feelings get some root
that cur dog that barked at you when you offered it water
it drank it but only after you put it down and got back
getting closer only made it angry and afraid

all the old despair of ever understanding what cannot be understood
of gunshots to the head in a polar vortex moment when time ceases to be linear
rattling back at me as if it were a chained hammer come back around to swing at me again
the dust of a decade has settled on that relationship
the divorce has hardened me and the absurdity of human behavior
is in sharper focus and I don't like it any more then than I do now
even if I am sometimes entertained by it

wave on wave of emotions that I had rather not have
shocking moments of events unplanned and surprises unforeseen
there is no measuring the strangeness of this life

what if we do have an emotional intelligence?
what if machiavelli had it too?
the carnival barker surely does
and so the other temptations of this life
hoyt axton wrote the song and steppenwolf played it
and my sentiments are the same
though I won't name it in polite company
playing them like a fiddle, toying with their feelings
is a hard harvest 

I will stop thinking about it pretty soon
some other thing will come to interest me
but at the moment I would really like to know
and that means much more reading and testing

somewhere in my gut I am not sure I ever will
but it might prove useful along the way

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

hand of doom

Run rabbit run.
And take the sparrow with you.
Tell the snake to crawl away lest they also fall under my scythe of raining death.
Oppenheimer sat down beside the glass sand
of atomic apocalypse
and he cried
at the work of cunning minds and skillful hand. 
Fear of the yawning chasm 
overtook his heart staring at the chaos.
 All they told me to do was make grass green. 
They didn't tell me about tater beetles and sarin gas.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Beisbol and dust.

Sometimes we get the call
fate hands our task to us
and we go and do it

that there is Joan Miro, dog barkin at the moon he is
and so credit is given and well deserved
climbing Jacob's ladder up and down
we go
we exist here and now
barking at the moon
fun too
I had to go steer the elder father figure on to the house
he's in there sleeping in my bed
whilst i play at words and make things dance 
because I am still not ready for sleep
it is my turn now
to burn the midnight oil
to be the one awake 
in these late watches
It is mine to find the tickets
to make the way before us
get the hats, buy the beer and find food 
he can glad hand the kind officers watching the crowd
and whip their ass with nonsensical stories of fifty years ago
I still think it is a good thing for the FoFo to embrace the social network
same as the scientist 
you mfers better get a clue
the politicians that mark your wages and declare laws before us
had damn well be aware of us
and if you choose to ignore them
that is on you
It was nice that my team won tonight
but they are hamstrung and wounded
this is a season of trying to sort through the debris
to find what can be kept and saved for next year
my time with my dad might be short
and the hours I have with the pre-teen daughter 
fly before me
seize them all
never again willingly 
dear god deliver me from ever ever
walking away 
when I have it in my power to stay
time is fleeting
and the wheel doesn't roll back around again
very often
there is the now
use it
seize it 
it is what we have

Friday, June 20, 2014

Poke Sallet. Phytolacca of many species

Tony Joe White "Polk Salad Annie" 1969
Words change. Sometimes they become obsolete in the terminology of the linguist. Sallet as a food is one of them. Sallet is not known to the Chrome Dictionary. I wonder if it is in the Merriam-Webster. Nope. I stopped down and commented on it. This is what I wrote 
 No, it is not turnip greens exclusively. Or any greens for that matter. It is an obsolete form of salad. My 1971 Compact OED includes it. A Dictionary of Archaic & Provincial Words, Obsolete Phrases ..., Volume 2 By James Orchard Halliwell-Phillipps maintains it was obsolete in 1852,"Sallet. A salad. Hall." but I would maintain that it is still used provincially in the American south to this day but typically in regards to Phytolacca americana though we all know salad can be any collection of greens. As it is understood today and particularly in regards to poke it is a cooked green as opposed to a fresh one. Polk Salad, Poke salad, poke sallet all refer to the same food. Tony Joe White recorded Polk Salad Annie in 1969. Thinking of poke as our typical fresh salad green has caused some at least apocryphal tales of folks suffering from shall we say gastro-intestinal distress?

I did however find it in the Urban Dictionary.
The term poke sallet is an old Southern term for the cooked young leaves of the poke weed. Sallet comes from Middle English and refers to a mess (another Old or Middle English term) of greens cooked until tender. The term Polk Salad is a gentrified way of referring to poke sallet, and I'm afraid it reflects our inferiority complex when it comes to standing up for our Southern terminology. We are not making a mush of Polk Salad; actually, we are being true to our English ancestors who settled here a long time ago.
Some folks around here always add a little molasses and fatback to the water when they cook their poke sallet. That's the traditional way.

Don't you just love Tony Joe White's song Poke Sallet Annie?
by Flem Snopes July 12, 2008
Sallet is another variation for the spelling of salad, archaic, obsolete and I am among the people on the planet that wants to call this dish by this name. I am hard-headed sometimes. Everybody else calls it salad which has led to some unfortunate dining experiences. Despite its reputation as poisonous there is no reason to avoid this plant. Euell Gibbons called it the 'Cadillac of greens'. There are festivals held in its honor. This song was written with an acceptance of it as a normal, everyday part of the diet. It was even the subject of a dissertation in 1757 at the University of Pennsylvania. If you have access to that work, I sure would like to see some of it. Perhaps Google can be of assistance....

A little background first I suppose would be in order. Poke has a couple of different names, but the varieties are essentially the same. Phytolacca is the Genus. That much is straight forward, they haven't decided to change that part yet. 5.5+ million hits and here are the first five for Poke Salad: Wiki Wild Pantry Don't Eat Poke Salad Annual Poke Salad Festival and Cooks/Recipes for Poke Salad

AUTHOR(S): Callahan, R.; Piccola, F.; Gensheimer, K.; Parkin, W. E.; Prusakowski, J.; Scheiber, G.; Henry, S. 
TITLE: Plant poisonings - New Jersey. 
YEAR: 1981 CITATION: MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep, 30(6), 65-67 [English]
FDA #: F07132 
ABSTRACT: Within a 2.5 month period in 1980, 27 New Jersey residents were poisoned, in 2 separate episodes, by eating wild plants. The poisonings were serious enough that 21 persons sought medical care; 4 were hospitalized. Pokeweed poisoning Passaic County: On July 11, an outbreak of gastrointestinal illness related to eating pokeweed leaves affected campers in a large day camp. Initial reports indicated that the outbreak was limited to a "nature group" whose members had sampled a salad made with this wild plant. The group, comprising 52 campers and counselors, had been offered pokeweed salad prepared from young leaves picked, boiled, drained, and reboiled that morning, a method that reputedly ensured the plant's edibility. Sixteen (31%) of the 51 interviewed met the case definition (vomiting accompanied by any 3 of the following: nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps, dizziness, and headache on July 11). Nine others who were not part of the nature group also had tasted the salad; 5 (56%) of these became ill. Of the 21 ill campers, 18 (86%) experienced nausea, 18 (86%) stomach cramps, 17 (81%) vomiting, 11 (52%) headache, 10 (48%) dizziness, 8 (38%) burning in the stomach or mouth; and 6 (29%) diarrhea. Persons became ill .5 to 5.5 hours (mean 3 hours) after eating the pokeweed. Symptoms lasted 1 to 48 hours, with a mean of 24 hours. Eighteen persons were seen in local emergency rooms or physicians' offices. Four of these were hospitalized for 24 to 48 hours for protracted vomiting and dehydration. Food history analysis was done for all 60 persons. Salad was the only food item significantly associated with illness. Twenty (43%) of the 46 persons who ate pokeweed became ill compared with 1 (7%) of 14 who did not eat it (P .01). Moreover, for those who ate the salad, illness was associated with eating at least 1 teaspoonful compared with less than 1 teaspoonful (p=.02). Vomitus analyzed for 7 persons was negative for Staphylococcus aureus. 

There is disagreement about edible parts, season of edibility, and methods of preparation of pokeweed and even about whether the plant should be eaten at all. Indeed, the camp counselor in the Passaic outbreak had been preparing pokeweed salad for many years without apparent ill effects. 

and this
Jaeckle, K. A., Freemon, F. R. 1981. Pokeweed poisoning. South. Med. J., 74: 639-640.
Just google it. It is a book link and Google frowns upon taking whole sections of print from their stacks. 
 and this
In Vitro Antioxidant blah blah blah
What I find fascinating about poke is that it is considered either a green of the highest order or a poison. There is no in between for most people. The scientist sees it differently. They throw things at various and sundry cells just to see what happens. Every PhD had to do a dissertation and every researcher needs something else to research. It was probably a given that they would try this plant out.

I suspect this was one of the early plants that the Euro encountered when they came over the Atlantic. I would venture that it was among the foods served at the first Thanksgiving dinner. There are festivals in celebration of this plant. As cited in from the Poisonous Plants link I did finally manage to find a case of poisoning from eating the greens, but the counselor did not suffer any ill effects nor did over half of those that consumed it. I have eaten it for years. It is delicious. I did not find any citations of poke sallet poisoning in the festivals celebrating it and I sure would love to see the actual case notes from that Passaic case. The other citations I found from the Canadians referred to somebody making a tea from either roots or berries. There is evidence of this plant being used by herbalists in lands other than America. It is cited in "In Vitro" as being used in Iran. There is also a citation in the Canadian link to turkey poults and hogs being poisoned by it, yet its typical vector for being spread around an area is defecation of the seeds by various birds. It is ordinarily found where a bird will perch after consuming the berries and defecating the seeds. I wonder if their system is less likely to break the seed coat and the turkeys more likely to which would release more of the toxin than just the fruit part itself.

This is just skimming the surface some. I might come back and add some more to it, but I have wanted to get this blog entry finished for a while. It deserves some more work, but I have much to do today and I am already being lobbied to get my butt in gear.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Tales of the Red Dog, continued

Three and three makes six
five minus 6 and it is a negative numbre
I got that much
past that. I sort of got lost

I will never forget the day
when i stood at the abyss of mathematics
it was a proof that took up the whole bard
the board was truly full
in the middle was an Epsilon
what the hell does that mean!? 
seriously Bertrand! 
what do you mean by taking 400 pages
to prove 1+1=2?

70 years the calender says
I don't know what it all means
I will never know
i sure hope not anyhow
I can see the flowers on Flanders Fields
I don't have to smell the stench of death
to know man died there

History and time out of mind
you and me and the roll of the dice
yes, i think He does roll dice sometimes with the universe
or is it just us?
rolling our own bones
this existence is what we make of it
I so dearly want to touch as much
as I can reach and then some
there is no tomorrow promised to me

blood, sweat and tears
that is promised to me
this life 
there is no relenting
oh that's silly, yes there is
the rhino boy who saw his mother die at the barrel of a poacher
finds a womankind to lay his head upon until he can sleep again
the communistic socialistic yankee down in mississippi 
finds a song on his banjo to sing
and there in the road
hate is surrounded by a song
and it turns away

is the tree still there?

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

wisteria in the wind

I owed her so much more than I ever gave
I miss her terribly sometimes
somewhere I know she gets a glimpse of me
now and again. I hope she is busy taking care
of all the other people she touched
All i got was a wink from far away
it hurts sometimes, but is ok

He's one of the first I want to see if I ever get there
They tell me I am him or was once
Parts of me woven into the fabric of my DNA
but my environment and his are different

Good gosh Omighty I miss him too
coffee and cigarettes and the grunt of a tractor
the smell of grease and diesel, taste of dust
stories, stories I could tell
and never even make a mark upon the surface
stone cold memories of me and him

Gone. One day or one night we go.
there is no recourse. it is the rending of the thread
we go. we go to wherever we have chosen
I can't make time go back or forward or sideways
it just is. we only get so much of it. We are here
and then gone, like the whiff of wisteria
floating in the wind, passing through our minds
we are here and then gone
and only memories and the deeds of this lifetime
leave their mark upon us and the now
that is and ever will be
make the most of that now
we only get one of them

Monday, March 17, 2014

Moving On with clenched fist and perhaps a bit of hope

Emil Nolde.
"The Prophet"

I kept my cool this day
and it was not easy on St.Padric's day
No, indeed it was not
I had had a bellyful of lies already
the last one was worst than the first
do not put the words of the snitch into my mouth
I did not say them
come to me honestly and put some truth in there
if it is still in you
I might still talk to you
as it was I fought off the itch in my fist
and the holler in my soul

No longer will I be your hourly slave to dismiss
as the wind is too cold for you to bear
neither will I wear your colors
no, I remain here a fortnight for those fellows I have fought alongside
you sir can go suck up to some boss somewhere up the food chain
your predicament is no cause of mine
neither will I aid you in any way
what you have made is your own

but you never saw it
never saw it coming did you?
loud cursing I heard but not in my ears
have they come to roost for you?
those birds of carrion

what comes after I am gone is not for me to concern myself with
I will keep working as I did before
from the very first day I set foot on the property
I'll leave with better than I was given
because I earned it
and it wasn't yours to keep from me

the words may come back to you some day
if the sleep escapes you this night
it will find me in a few minutes
for the adrenaline has worn away
john barleycorn has done his job well
even if we did throw clods upon his head
he pushed them back and struggled up
waving in the wind, shining and shimmering in the sun

fare thee well my fellows
hale and hardy I pass by as a ghost in your midst
not long for this place said the short timer
glad tidings and will you someday some time
I might call you
give me your number and your name
for I go on from here
what you make of it all
that is up to you

in the shaking of my self
i kept the words in my head
when the last lie was worse than the first
quivering in anger I kept working
it was fight or flight
and I kept my head down and did not look him in the eye
or else all hell might break loose
professional demeanor, salute the uniform and not the man
if he tells me he is tired of hearing my voice
or seeing my face
I will be glad to go on from there
but there is so much to do
and we are so far behind
I don't think he has a choice in the matter

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Shocking tales of life and liberty

Not really. Most of life is no more than what you make of it.
I got here same as you. On my own two feet.

That is called a tease. It got you in the door didn't it?
Seen a man called Fat Albert
beaten down old boy. Felt sorry for him
in his sideshow tent
I guess it is a lot like that
that chick up there on the stage
shaking what she got
trying to make a buck
she don't want to fuck you
she just wants to go home and smoke a bowl
and go to sleep after she has some dinner

Don't go see the judge before lunch
or late in the afternoon
all he will want to do is put you off if he gives a damn
or throw your ass back in jail if he doesn't
if they let you give him a Snickers
maybe, just maybe his blood sugar will cause enough synapses
to click well enough to see mercy

me? I'll settle for another taco and maybe some better days
a boss who isn't so full of shit it isn't rolling out his ears
and cannot bear to hear the truth
until he tells you he doesn't want to talk any more
good. I didn't want to hear your crap any more either

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

So long. It's been good to know you. Bye, Mr. Pete.

"Weavers Rebellion" Kathe Kollwitz

Pete Seeger died early this morning I suppose. Sometime in the wee hours of the night the old man slept. I shall miss him. Certain people form part of the overall landscape in our lives. Though our lives might only be connected through some work, they still form part of our lives. I grew up listening to the Weavers. By the time I came along in 67 his trouble with the government had passed. He was no longer under threat of incarceration. An avowed leftist, but not without regrets for his naivete in regards to Stalin, he was still a patriot and served his country in war as well as peace. He went to the South Pacific as a mechanic at first, but when they discovered his banjo he was promptly put to work entertaining the troops. He grew up a privileged life but the condition of humanity was in his songs. Much like Kollwitz took the plight of the working class people who lived in her time and made art, Pete gave them a song to sing. Pete was man of his moment and bore it with humility. Consider the triad of Guthrie, Seeger and Lomax that met in 1940. I don't think it is a stretch to say that during that meeting  parts of rock and roll and parts of country music and parts of protest politics  were born. This renaissance of American Folk music (which isn't really ours to begin with but are bits and pieces of other places we brought here) had its birth in this meeting. The Kingston Trio, the Weavers, Peter, Paul and Mary, a thousand marches and songs of protest, a million people and a million voices time and time again were born in those days. The haters did not know it was coming for them. The song of millions. Surrounding their hatred with hope of song. 
This troublesome gift of art. 

I don't suppose it is necessary to go through his entire biography: of how he was a communist and marched with MLK.  Unashamed to be called a leftist, he did not plead the Fifth and would not snitch on his friends. The history is well documented and the transcripts are available. I'd rather talk about his humility and the gift of song. 

I have looked once or twice to see who said "Let who will write my country's laws, only let me write her songs." I think Pete understood that idea. He certainly reinforced that concept in the American consciousness. When he told MLK he needed a song and "We Shall Overcome" was at hand it was like water on a thirsty tree. That song and songs like it have been and continue to be the armor of protest. Sung in capitols and streets they protect and embolden the protester. They enrage and confound the hatred. While Woodie Guthrie's machine declared it killed fascists, Pete's banjo surrounded hate and forced it to surrender. 

Johnny Cash explaining to Pete how he wanted him on his show. This is 1970. It took some doing on the part of Mr.Cash to get him on there. 

I see troll comments will probably appear for the man today. I don't think they will be worse than what he heard in marches before. I expect he had that word on his banjo for a reason. He understood how music affects people and taps into their being. I think all artists realize that. Their effort is to do that for you and me and everybody on the planet. In Pete's case it was awareness of your world.
 Of the plight of our fellow human beings,
 of solidarity in the face of hatred and oppression,
 of peace instead of war, 
of life and its precious existence.

 I would like to think his songs will live on for many generations to come. That the ideas expressed in them will continue to influence the singers and songwriters yet to be born. I consider him one of the gifts of human beings to each other. There won't be many like him in our history, a bard of the ages.