From Autumnal Equinox to half past Thanksgiving. Found a little work and a little play. Now, the first snow has fallen on the North Country and so it is time for this desert rat to roll up his tent and follow the snowbirds south.
23 Sept Center Conway, New Hampshire
Jim writes from Chula Vista:
> WTC. Takes my breath away seeing how evil some people can be.
And Dennis writes from Acton:
> A lot of innocent people were killed for no good reason.
There are no innocents and there was every good reason. Evil, like love, is in the eye of the beholder. We see what we want to see.
Good and Evil must always be in balance. What distresses me the most
is some of the reaction to this atrocity. The people of the United States
are just as caught up in their western logical thinking as the eastern
people are in their religious fervour. Americans conveniently forget their
Christian foundations and all the historical atrocities committed in the
name of their God when someone strikes close to home. Americans are for
the most part ignorant of the greedy machinations of corporate America
manipulating themselves let alone the governments and the people
of those countries wherein there exists some prop for the American Way
"We want this man dead or alive" the president said. The simplest way for the Taliban to defuse this situation is to find martyr look-alike and deliver him up dead and then go on about their business.
Americans simply do not understand that they are dealing with religious fanatics. This is not a war for territory or for resources. It is a war for the control of the minds of the children and it will not be won with guns and bombs but with rhetoric and deeds. Americans are too busy cutting off the limbs of the trees in the park so their young kids will not climb them and risk the indignity and injury of falling out. How can they expect to win a war against a people whose children are willing to forego their childhood and die for their parents beliefs?
I have long believed there are no innocents in war and it was particularly gratifying to hear some pundit make that point on one of the plethora of talk shows recently. Even since I was much younger and studying the history of WWII I could make no sense of "The Rules of War" and such concepts as "civilised war". The rules that these eastern peoples play under are different and Americans are first going to have to come to terms with that matter. The so-called civilised rules of war would have the United States and its allies defeat a clearly defined enemy, a "country" defined by its borders. But this enemy is not a country. This enemy is a people, a way, a sect. This enemy lives in many countries, including these United States. There will be no victory in any western sense without exterminating that sect, those people--including the so called innocents--in all the countries they inhabit. And that may only martyr them, for others to emulate. Better the United States, the American people, should take their Way of Life and mind their own business. It just may be that some folks aren't interested in it.
Amo ergo sum. What would life be like if Descartes had said --I love, therefore I am.
Welcome to the fourth day of the 2nd Hundred Years War.
24 Spt, Fryeburg Fairgrounds, Fryeburg Maine
It's that time of year again but I've never been here the week before the fair. Seems like a slower pace, getting everything ready for the fair, than it is the week after when cleaning up is done against the deadline of freezing temperatures that make outside work all the more arduous and might damage the water system.
Sawdust is one of the things I shovel lots of during the "cleaning up after week". Today I watched as one truck after another delivered 40,000 pound loads of tailings from a pine mill to the sawdust barn. Each truck holds 70 yards and the barn holds over 500 yards. I wonder how many pine trees that is, or was, and where they all use to grow. The sawdust is steaming warm and smells piney pitch sweet as the truck off loads it onto the barn floor. Outside, the morning is thick with foggy mist; inside, the barn is filled with piney mist.
25 Spt, Rake It Out, Shovel It In
Some of that load of sawdust was distributed to all the pony barns and the horse barns and the cow barns and the sheep shed. --Rake out the top layer of old stuff and shovel in a new layer a couple of inches deep. That was our instruction this morning from Gerry. The requisite amount of sawdust was already in a pile in front of each stall. Most of the people on the crew are old timers from "down Maine" but some seem to be more like the so-called mechanic I wrote about in my previous letter. Gerry drives large green garden variety tractor pulling an orange trailer full of crew with all our "shovels and rakes and implements of destruction" and drops us off in twos and threes at each of several barns. By the time he got back around to the first barn a couple of hours had past and he expected to be picking up crew to move them to a new task.
These two guys were standing where he'd left them, still standing from the looks of the sawdust piles, leaning on their shovels. --What are you guys doing? he asked, how come you're not all done, how come you're not even started yet? --Well, they drawled in their best down east twang, you didn't tell us which end of the barn to start with.
26 Spt, Traffic Control and Disease Warning
Nine tenths of an inch of rain yesterday afternoon and four tenths last night. This morning was foggy and cool but clear overhead.
Potted Mums to be delivered to sundry locations around the fairgrounds started off the morning along with twenty bales of straw for Arts & Crafts. It occurs to me to wonder what we will do with the potted Dads. Strings and tapes and No Parking signs and two trips to the dump with truckloads of scrap metal. The office of disease control and pestilence proscription is out stapling up big orange signs: Help Prevent Foot in Mouth Disease--Don't Speak Your Mind.
28 Spt, Shedding Some Light on an Illuminating Subject
Speaking of light bulbs... How many Maineiacs does it take to change a light bulb?
In Maine we don't change the bulbs; we wash the bulbs and then open the windows. To wash the bulbs takes one person to drive the tractor, two to hold the ladder, three on the ladder to reach the bulb and pass it down to the four on the floor who spray, wash, wipe, and inspect the bulb before passing it back up to the team on the ladder. All the while rock music from a ghetto-blaster is blaring out over the coughing and sputtering of the tractor. And all this just so the cows can see to defecate on the floor where the fair visitors will step in and track it all over the place.
2 October, How Much Does a Cigarette Cost?
Based upon empirical data collected from two members of one of the three sweep crews, and then extrapolated to the several members of the three sweep crews, it can be conservatively estimated that 10,000 cigarettes a day are consumed at the Fryeburg Fair. Given the number of people sweeping and the hours swept I figure there are over 10,000 butts a day just on the paved areas we sweep. It is a small percentage that does not include the grassy areas, and the barns and stables, the carnie enclave and the areas within the ride enclosures, and the camping areas and car parks. Two of us rakers counted them. On one day I averaged 800 an hour and on the next day another raker counted 1800 in two hours.
Considering the number of rakers on three crews one can extrapolate this empirical data into 10,000 cigarettes a day. And that is only the ones on the paved roads of the midway and around the edges of the parks--does not count all the butts in the areas excluded above. The total could easily be twice, or thrice. At three or four dollars a pack...
I've been watching people, as well as cleaning up after them, and continue to be amazed at the depth of stupidity prevalent in the population; it almost seems to be a diabolical or perverse thing. Of the roads raked the greatest counts per linear foot of pavement are in the kiddie rides area--parents standing around waiting for their offspring to use up all the rides and work up an appetite enough to warrant adjourning to a gedunk. ("ge-dunk" is another word, like "dilligaff", that Mr.Webster seems to have neglected.)
8th October, All over but the mop-up
The fair's 151st season is over, now there are a couple of weeks of cleaning up after; I will stay for that, it amounts to another few hundred dollars and a couple of weeks of electricity and hot showers, until the water begins to freeze and they shut it off. The work got off to a rocky start but things smoothed over by midweek and seemed to end on a good note.
No snow here yet but there were some mean cold rain showers on Saturday. Mostly the weather was grand. Now, oh-dark-thirty on Monday morning, the temperature outside is 38f and the electric heat is cranking along. I wish I had a nice little coal stove in here. It is soon time for me to go away.
Jan writes from New Hampshire:
> seem to be more tired this year than in the past. Can't tell yet if
> it's the job or just old age. Maybe both.
I noticed that here in the work this past week. I found reasons and ways to avoid certain tasks which last year were enjoyable, or at least tolerable, but this time around I found onerous. Some of it was due to the rocky beginning--there were two accidents due mostly to hastiness and poor communications, and there were two "firings" and one fire in a couch, all due to frayed edges and over tiredness. I managed to see all that coming and avoid direct confrontations but was still too close to one situation and took some harsh words. But in the end everyone was still here and partied together on closing day.
For my Self I found that I was more tired than I remember from last year despite going to bed early and working carefully. I avoided the high tension tasks and the heavy lifting tho not all of that last is over yet--we still have a lot of picnic tables to move into storage. Perhaps I have been driving too much and not working enough.
May be I am more decrepit...
I need to learn to be less stressed over not getting mail that I will only have to answer anyhow. And I suppose it would be useful to be less stressed over some of the changes in my life that are too big to bother with and learn to rest on my laurels before they all wilt.
I have three seedling trees in my fridge that I rescued from the trash and need to pot and probly should also repot several other of the house plants here. The ivy on the galley table is looking particularly "peek-ed". May be it just knows this is autumn and has started turning leaves yellow cos all the trees outside are.
Back to "peek-ed" for a moment. I tried at first to use "piqued" in that sentence but in my dictionary it does not have the right meaning: when one is feeling or looking a bit off, green around the gills in the case of a person or yellow around the edges in the case of a plant...
In trying to write "feeling a bit ~ "am I dealing with a colloquialism that Mr.Webster has yet to approve?
I am moving closer to finding a cat. I've trapped three mice in here over the past month or so. They have been into several places, not least being the cupboard over the galley sink where I store dry foods like tea and powdered milk and dates and figs... They have not found the stash of pistachio nuts yet but have carried off a handful that I had out on the table. There was an advert for "Maine Coon Cats" on one of the stable doors. They are a large, long-haired breed, are they not? With snowshoes for paws?
Everything I do is good and fun. That has been my failing in life according to some who think work should be something one "has" to do and vacations should last only a week. I have been taking a break from vacation in order to work for the past few weeks--a working vacation?. Since my last walk I spent some more time playing in the grease under the bus at the garage before I relocated to Fryeburg. Here I have been shoveling "shit against the tide" it would seem, and raking up cigarette butts likewise.
I have to figure out how to build a root cellar for all the squashes and potatoes and onions I have been collecting hereabouts. I was thinking that perhaps I could dig a hole out back, something dark and deep enough so's it won't freeze, and then drag it along behind the truck.
In the mail yesterday were two letters from different long ago boys, several years apart. One was in Scouts, the other a friend of a friend, and both having good things to say about my influence on their young lives. Both letters arrive like a gift on wings at a particularly depressing time and I am heartened and lifted up.
This week, and for the next fortnight, I will be in Conway New Hampster. Just finished an arduous five weeks working for and cleaning up after the Fryeburg Fair. That is a kind of Workamper things. Just a little above minimum wage but including hookups and propane when I can find it. Not to mention getting to go to the fair without having to deal with the long, long lines of traffic.
After that I will work the Winston Cup race in Loudon that was postponed from "That Week In September". They are going to hold the race the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Gonna be cold.
Between now and then there are several day trips. I want to visit local friends I haven't seen for several years. First I have to get the brakes on my truck changed.
And after all of the above, maybe by the Monday after the race, I will head south. As plans develop the stopping places pile on. Just found a long lost friend in New York, one of the kids I use to skinnydip with, now married with child, to visit. The slow roll south is becoming more hectic.
>least feel like we are doing something productive, if only for an
That, I have found, is the most important thing. After years of making money, now I am trying to make a difference. This is a much harder task. Most people want to sit still and not be disturbed. The differences upset them, deviations from their norm annoy them, they don't want to know about the possibilities. Worst is that they don't even want their kids to know and that I find hardest to take.
Do all the good you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can. --John Wesley
Today I learnt how to sign up for USDA food distribution. Two cases of assorted tins and boxes. Not much, but with a few adjustments to my diet what they give away should cut down a little on my trips to the grocer. What kind of wine goes with canned cream corn?
News Item from Vermont:
The Men of Maple Corner bare it all on The Men of Maple Corner Calendar 2002.
I'm happy about that. All of the responses I got back--after
the undeliverable returns that is--were from men who said something to
the effect "they were into women"... They missed the point entirely! It
has been several years since that garden club in England did this first
and several other ladies groups have since copied the idea. Now we have
a mens group make national news with a nude calendar to raise money for
their community hall--did you listen to their song?--and people miss the
point. Its not about nude men, its about a clever idea and some "ballsy"
men who seize the day.
And this week the little truck blew out an exhaust valve so I am installing a fresh crop in the head. The last time I was inside an internal combustion engine like this was high school automotive shop class. That was back in the days when carburetors had three connexions: one fuel hose, a vacuum hose for the ignition advance, a wire to the heater on the electric choke. The carb in this little truck has at least a dozen vacuum or air hoses, two fuel lines, several wires. Exhausting work. Nearly ready for departure southwards. But it is with mixed emotions. This time, if I do in fact get underway, it will be more due to inertia than any conscious decision. My great uncle wrote some laws about that. Something to do with relatives and that a relative in motion tends to move a lot and a relative at rest gets old faster.
Sometimes it pays in small ways. Yesterday I was tapped to go to Drunkin Doughnuts. It was my turn to provide the victuals for the morning sugar rush at the garage. When the server toted up the bill I noted a discrepancy in her sum compared to the posted prices by about fifty cents. --How come you charged me four-forty when the posted price is four-ninety, I asked quietly.
--I gave you a discount, she replied with a wink.
I guess my wrinkles must be showing.
I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to
myself I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the seashore, and
diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier
shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered
before me. --Sir Isaac Newton
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Copyright © 2003, A.J.Oxton, The Cat Drag'd Inn , 03813-0144.