Monday, September 28, 2015

Fall of the Sparrow

I came out here to the desk this morning -- well, let's be accurate, it was just past noon.  I mean to report on Old Age, so let's confess -- these days I mostly go back to bed after breakfast and watch tv movies right through to the end.  Then I wasn't sure what I was seeing through the window here so I went outside -- which sounds more impressive than it was -- I tottered outside with a cane.  And found this bird stuck in the peanut feeder

and definitely dead. 
If I had got dressed at a decent hour, I might have come out here in time to release it.  But that could have been even worse -- there was no way to free that bird from inside the feeder.  I had to tug hard to pull it through.  It would have been terrified to see me -- let's hope, at the end, it was only puzzled.  And I had to pull so hard it would certainly have died in my hand.
So the day started with a death.  Maybe a little death, but a big complete one for that bird.  It didn't know it was simply an expendable common house sparrow.  In itself it felt just as unique and all-important as an ivory-billed woodpecker would.  It was a whole world.  A few inches long, but containing the incredible spark of life.  Warm, operating smoothly, competent -- well anyway, up until the moment it was not all that competent.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Geese and Sassafrass

Earlier this month I tuned in on the re-runs of Ken Burns’ Civil War  just at the battle of Appomattox.  And sure enough, there he was, Ely Parker, the Seneca Indian who wrote out the terms of surrender for General Grant.  It took me back to the first time we ever heard about Ely Parker.
 In April 1965 I was out with a station-wagon full of kids, driving through the marshes west of here, looking at migrating Canada geese.  In those days geese all went South for the winter, and on the right day in spring, it was exciting to find huge returning flocks in the fields and ponds.  We’d start early, have a tailgate breakfast and follow the same country roads every year.
It looked like this one.
Then just for a different route home, I swung south on a road that led through the Tonawanda Indian Reservation.  And how could we not stop, at a weathered one-room log cabin, with a sign on the wooden porch.   I don’t remember what it said  – maybe that it was a trading post – at any rate, in we trooped.  I remember buying a cornhusk doll – “Don’t paint a face on it; it’s supposed to be blank” – and a fragrant clump of sassafras.  Dov says he still has a corn-husk mask, out there in Vancouver, and some sassafras with no frangrance left. 
The most fascinating part was the cabin itself, and the man who was there.  He had just returned, he told us, from Appomattox, where he played the role of his ancestor, Ely Parker, in a centennial re-enactment of The Surrender.  And he took us up the ladder to the cabin’s dusky loft, to show us an old trunk with "COL ELY PARKER" painted on it. 
Googling for a picture of the Colonel, I came across this:

The terms of the surrender were recorded in a document hand written by Grant's adjutant Ely S. Parker, a Native American of the Seneca tribe, and completed around 4 p.m., April 9.[18] Lee, upon discovering Parker to be a Seneca remarked "It is good to have one real American here." Parker replied, "Sir, we are all Americans."
Ely Parker fifth from right?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

No Longer Terminating

That meditation on "terminator" as contrasted with "exterminator" brought a detailed explanation from a PhD friend who specializes in Latin -- but today's mail opens the subject again.
      One problem with writing a blog intended for and about old persons is that it appears not all that many old persons read blogs -- most viewers of this one, as far as I can tell, have not yet reached a respectable age.  So I was particularly pleased, today, to hear from someone who tells me she has moved to a senior living facility.  Says her day's highlight there is feeding the ducks, for which she has even bought genuine duck food.  The card itself shows a grebe -- close enough for government work, as we used to say.
I would have guessed I was hearing from someone of a decent age in any event, for she writes in real handwriting, what I still think of as penmanship -- never even heard that word "cursive"  until a few years ago.  Besides which, she sends a post card!  With stamps on it!   I haven't had one of those in years, except possibly -- memory vague as usual -- when Connie wrote from Newfoundland. 
      But what I started to share with you is her excellent comment on the professional who got rid of those yellowjackets --
Wouldn't an ex-terminator be one who no longer terminates?
                                            Think about it.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Terminator in Action

At great risk to life and limb, I took six pictures of the yellowjackets swarming in the front shrubs, and this is all I got for my efforts.  You'll have to take my word for it -- they were thick here but they were evidently camera-shy.  As proof I submit the note left by the mailman (I know, I know, but ours really is a man), who suggested I put back the winter mailbox.  That's the box I nail up by the garage rather than shoveling, when the front walk is blocked by snow.  But I digress.
Those bees were just trying to make a living like everyone else, but of course I did call the exterminator, whom you can see in action here.  Pretty impressive.  Nice guy, too, but  when I photographed him without the disguise I had the video button on, so I can't show you he's perfectly normal.
 I'm left with just one question -- why is this guy called an exterminator?  wouldn't "terminator" do the job?  Doesn't he look like a terminator?