Sunday, April 30, 2017

Lazy Eight

Well now, it's a beautiful day in this part of the world. Temperature is 30 degrees and blustery northeast winds are driving the roiling scud layer across the majesty of the heavens. A good day to not be outside.

There's still snow adhering to fence posts.

Clear glaze ice adorning much of the upright plant material.

Calves are hunkered down close to the ground where the wind is less fierce.

Over by the west windmill the stock tank and reservoir are both full of water.

The windmill is still pumping water into the reservoir tank, and it's overflowing a bit. As you might imagine, turning the windmill off under these conditions is less than optimal. Keeping the flow going will prevent the water from freezing in the pipes. Which is a bad thing.

The wind is flinging overflow from the reservoir tank.

This makes cold but pretty ice sculpture on the ground.

Okay, where was I?

Lazy Eight! That's it.

As cattlemen we brand our cattle to permanently identify them and prove ownership. Humans have branded livestock for the same reasons for thousands of years. Here in America brands are registered ownership markings, and every change of ownership requires a brand inspection to prove that the cattle are, in fact, what the seller claims them to be.

Most of you have probably heard of "lazy" brands. They're featured in countless westerns. The term lazy comes from the way a brand symbol reads on the animal. In the case of an upright 8 the symbol would be read simply as "eight". So a brand that looked like this -- H8 -- would be read from left to right as "H eight."  If you turn the brand upside down it would read "H crazy eight," as "crazy" means upside down. A symbol turned on it's side is a lazy symbol, and if the 8 in our notional brand was on it's side it would be a lazy 8, and read as "H lazy eight."

Our ranch brand is a simple EJE. That was my great-grandfather's brand, registered back before the turn of the 20th century. His name was Evert Jay Evertson.

But what about this Lazy Eight?

There is a series of science fiction novels by Nathan Lowell which take place in the universe he invented during the "Golden age of the Solar Clipper." Basically it's the adventures of merchant sailors carrying cargoes back and forth across the vast sea of galactic space. I really enjoy these novels. Written by a former Mud Duck Coast Guardsman they ring true in a way that most sailors will recognize.

At any rate, in one of the novels, Full Share, the main character, Ishmael, is serving aboard the SC Lois McKendrick. The ship is in port, docked at a space station or "orbital" located at a planet called Betrus. He asks a shipmate which bar everyone is heading to on liberty.

"Down on the oh-two," says Art, "the sign says Lazy Eight."

"Lazy Eight? A cowboy bar?"

Art looks at Ish strangely. "What's lazy eight got to do with cowboys?"

"It's a joke, nothing. You mean an eight laying down horizontally?"

"You got it," said Art. "I don't know why they have that sign, it's not the mane of the bar."

"Lemme guess," said Ish, "It's called Infinity?"

"How'd you know?"

Now what does this have to do with ranching or cattle or science fiction or anything?


The other day I was listening to a podcast and the fellow was going on about how people really shouldn't be surprised by the unexpected. He had a somewhat interesting point, and one worth thinking about. But as proof for his theorem, he trotted out the old monkeys and typewriters analogy. "You know," he said, "an infinite number of monkeys playing with an infinite number of typewriters will sooner or later produce the complete works of Shakespeare."

And it occurred to me that the fellow had no more understanding of infinity than Art had of cowboy bars. His assumption is that infinity is just a really big number. But that's not it at all.

Infinity is an abstraction, and is defined roughly as being without bound, both larger than and smaller than any number.

So an infinite number of typewriting monkeys wouldn't produce a finite quantity of the works of Shakespeare. Not one, or a dozen, or forty-'leven. They would produce an infinite number of the complete works of Shakespeare.

This is one of the ways people get confused when discussing or arguing things. Incorrect assumptions and imprecise use of language often devolve into fistfights.

So at the end of the day, or near the end of this post, anyway, my entire point is that it's never a bad idea to check your assumptions and see whether they match up with reality.

But before you give in to despair over the future of a species which can't quite pull off the whole rationality thing, let me share a couple of things.

First, this.

And secondly...
Our local HS students painted this on the side of a building. See it?

It'll be a rough ride, but there's hope for us yet.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The persistence of bananas

You might have seen this about a month ago. I took mom to her first pre-op appointment for cataract surgery. While she was back in the exam room I stepped outside and walked around the block several times. It was ultra stuffy and warm in that office and I was nodding off. Anyway, along the way...

I'm not sure why that struck me as something amusing. Simple things amuse simple minds I guess.

Anyway, a couple of days ago we went back for the final pre-op visit. Yew ain't gonna believe this, but...


On the way home we stopped at KFC as Mom wanted to take home a bucket of grilled chicken. It had to be grilled, because Dad has developed a gluten thingy. Anyway, we didn't get the right answer from the bolt-faced mouth-breather behind the counter.

Now calling the poor girl names doesn't help anything, nor does calling the business "a bunch of losers."

But it did make me feel momentarily better.

And prove that I'm a hypocrite.

Which made me feel worse.


This made me feel better though.


Some days are like that.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Slow moving water

Once again I have to say how great it is that you readers have chipped in with both moral and financial support for my little cousin Elisa and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Your thoughts and prayers and encouragement and dollars mean more to me than you'll ever know.

Over at the Chant this morning Sarge had a great post about nature and bunnies. Who doesn't love bunnies?

I suspect that the little bunnies featured in his post were New England cottontails, (Sylvilagus transitionalis). I base that guess more on location than anything; cottontail rabbits are ubiquitous and the ones Sarge adopted (heh) could be another species entirely.

As I was out and about this morning I came across a Black Tailed Jackrabbit (Lepus californicus). He (she?) looked even more forlorn than Sarge's abandoned bunnies.

Jackrabbits are hares, rather than rabbits, but that's rather splitting a hare.

What? The white stuff?

Yeah. Snow.

Over the last week we've had roughly an inch of rain from a couple of fairly slowly moving weather fronts. This morning the second of those fronts is moving out, but it's being rear-ended by the follow-on front, which features colder air and more moisture. If the weather guessers are reading their chicken guts correctly, we'll have more snow today and tomorrow, followed by a slight sunshiny warming trend, followed by more rain.

All this is to the good, even the snow, for it puts moisture into the ground where the plants can use it.

In many ways, spring snow is even better than spring rain. For one thing, it's very nearly liquid to begin with. You can think of it as very slowly moving water that sticks in place and doesn't run downhill. As it slowly melts the soil can absorb all of the liquid rather than shed what it can't immediately swallow.

As you might imagine, it's the quantity of water that soaks into the soil that's really important. Much more important than the quantity that falls from the sky. You can think of it like this. We average about 16 inches of liquid precipitation (rain+melted snow) annually here, and that's just about the right quantity to make all the plants grow properly. But if we get 16 inches of rain in one storm, and none for the rest of the year, we're hosed. Most of that 16 inches would run downhill, and only a little would actually soak in to be used by the plants.

I'm like everybody else around here, obsessed with the quantity of rain that falls. It's what we can most easily measure. So I feel great when we get an inch of rain, and better when we get two inches, and I'm ecstatic when we get six inches. Even though it's better to get a bunch of little rain storms rather than a few big ones. I never claimed to be the sharpest crayon in the cracker box.

Of course my explanation of what is "best" when it comes to rainfall is based entirely on my own personal desire to have abundant soil moisture so the prairie will grow abundant grass. Then my cows eat the grass and turn it into baby calves that I can trade for cash to support my various addictions. Especially the shooting addiction.

But nature doesn't give a hoot about what I want. And gully-washers are important to her scheme too. Gully-washers fill the playas and allow the great plains toads to come out, breed, and have lives.

So anyway, I'm happy with today's snow. Except for one thing. Last night a cow had a calf, and today this has been as close as I could get to the pair.

She's a cagey one, that cow!

The rest of the cows and calves are completely unimpressed with the rain and snow. It's just another day in cow world.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Informed and uninformed opinions

Before I get started, let me just say thanks for all the support shown for my little cousin Elisa. The readers of this blog matched my sponsorship goal in just a couple of hours. I'll never be able to explain adequately how much your fiscal and moral support mean to me. You'll all be in my thoughts on June 3.

And now, on with the show!

As a human being, are you part of nature or not?

I was talking to a university scientist last spring and the fellow had a lot of astonishing things to say.

Now he was a plant scientist with a solid education and years of experience in his field. A very conscientious fellow, and very interested in nature.

Or rather, interested in a particular ideological conception of nature.

For he was convinced that humans are destroying the planet with global warming and acid rain. That modern farming and ranching is one of the biggest threats to the survival of the planet. That he and his like-minded colleagues were pretty much the only ones who were keeping the planet alive, that they were vastly underappreciated (and underpaid) and represented the thin green line fighting a losing battle against the ravages of evil humans.

It was a magnificent speech, and clearly one that he practiced on a daily basis.

Most astonishingly, he was convinced that neither he, nor any other human, was a part of nature. That humans have evolved beyond nature to the point that we have the ability to dictate terms and control every aspect of the ecology of the planet.

The solution to fixing the planet, he avowed, was dead simple. Stop farming and ranching, put everyone to work in community gardens, and go to electric cars.

That’s your tax dollars at work, my friends.

As it turns out, his concept of nature exists only in the minds of people who believe with all their heart that they stand apart from nature. They have a Disneyesque conception of nature as an eden-like sylvan glade, a place where it’s always warm and green and sunny and nice. When they leave their offices and travel away from the campus and the city and they behold the reality of nature, it appears to be flawed, and all the non-green, non-warm, non-sunny and non-nice things are assessed to be the ravages of mankind.

This fellow I’m describing is admittedly an extreme example. I don’t think he really believes everything he says. I think he’s far more interested in dictating what people do and how they live than in studying and understanding nature, which is his actual job description.

Nevertheless, he and his like-minded fellows are influential experts, and their message resonates with a lot of people -- mostly those urban and suburban types who don’t get outside very often. In other words, with most modern first-world people.

This man-apart-from-nature notion is pretty commonly held, at least at a subconscious level. Most of us live in houses or apartments and get around in automobiles. We get our warmth and light and ability to move about by operating clever switches. We forage for food and clothing and other supplies in brightly lit buildings, bustling with other humans. Nature seems far away. The sylvan glade can only be visited at great expense, or viewed by turning on the television or visiting a social media site on the internet.

Most people are smart enough to know better, and can see how false the apart-from-nature notion is. But the narrative is pervasive, and in an ironic way feeds into the natural anxiety people have about the precariousness of their existence. I don’t think modern, first-world humans think about it often, but most of us do realize that if the clever switches ever stop working we will be in for a world of woes.

I think that most modern, first-world humans realize that they depend on a massive infrastructure which, in turn, depends on nature. Most folks have little understanding and less experience of either. So there’s a lot of anxiety there, just beneath the surface of conscious and objective thought.

“What if the doomsayers are right? Someone should do something. I can’t because I’m not an expert. Please, somebody fix it so I can live my life without anxiety!”

Well, something to think about.

New baby calf this morning.

Rainy morning, too. Which is nice.

And now Mom and I are off to the ophthalmologist for her final-final pre-pre-op visit. Knife drops Monday.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

My cousin Elisa

This is my little cousin Elisa. She's three years old and lives with her Mom and Dad and big brother Mateo in the northwest of America.

Elisa's Mom is my cousin too. She's the daughter of my Mom's brother, my uncle Pat. So if I understand the conventions correctly, Elisa's Mom is my first cousin, and Elisa and her brother are my second cousins. Do I have that right?

Elisa was born on February 10, so we share a birthday. Her brother Mateo, who is six years old, was born on February 11, and he shares his birthday with his great-grandma (my grandma or "Nana") Judy.

Because of the way life works, I've never met Elisa or Mateo or their Dad (would he also be my first cousin? First cousin-in-law?). And I've only rarely met Elisa's Mom, and that was many years ago.

Anyway, I'm hoping to change that never-met status and improve the frequency of the rarely-met status.

If my plans come together, my Mom and I will travel to the Pacific Northwest in June. Specifically, we would like to be in Oregon on June 3 for a very specific purpose.

We want to walk in the 2017 Salem Great Strides Cystic Fibrosis Foundation 5K walk to help raise awareness of and research money for CF.

Because Elisa has Cystic Fibrosis.
After a CF clinic visit.

I'm a registered walker in the event. Now just in case you might be interested in throwing a little bit of money into the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation pot, you can sponsor me for the walk. Just go to this link, scroll down to the roster and find Shaun Evertson, then click on the donate button and chip in. Another option would be to join us on June 3 (you can be a virtual walker) and and find people to sponsor you! You can figure out how to do that at the same web site. And of course you can also just donate to the foundation. It all goes to the same great cause.

It wasn't many years ago when those afflicted with cystic fibrosis could expect to live only a few short years. Thanks to the Great Strides made in treating the disease, life expectancy has increased greatly, and a cure for the disease might be just over the horizon. This is due in large part to the efforts of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and to the donations of people from all across the nation and around the globe.

After Mom and I make acquaintances and re-acquaintances, we'll drive down the coast and visit family north of LA and in San Diego. I'm eagerly looking forward to visiting family, stomping my old navy stomping grounds, running wild on USS Midway, and bothering the hell out of restaurants and museums.

But most of all I'm looking forward to meeting my little cousins and doing just a little bit to help to help out.
Birthday Girl!

Check out this cool video.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A little bit of old stuff

Busy again today so I thought I'd post up some old videos. I wasn't very good at the videography bitd. Not that I'm an expert now, but I seem to have learned a few things. Maybe.

Kittens from back in 2009.

A rattlesnake of the same vintage.

The end of the old barn.

Bottle calves check out the action.

Somethin' wrong wif dat boy.

Visit to the USS Midway.

Hoping to get back to San Diego in June.

Monday, April 24, 2017

The road to hell is paved by good people

If you believe in the First Principle (uh-oh, there he goes again mabel), that it is self-evidently true that all men are created equal and endowed with unalienable natural rights, then you understand that there are no good people and there are no bad people. There are just people. People who take actions which are both good and bad.

Now everybody knows that the taliban and isis are bad people, right? I mean they chop off peoples heads and machine-gun children mutilate the genitals of little girls. Bad people, right? Only bad people do bad things, right?

And you're a good person, right? You would never do those kind of bad things, right?

Oh really?

Down throughout history, from the time when Cain slew Abel to the genocide happening right this minute in Syria and Venezuela and North Korea and Bolivia and Somalia, in every case, the killers were normal people who thought of themselves as good people. When confronted with the choice of doing good or doing evil, their choice came down to whether or not they actually believed in the First Principle, whether they believed in treating others as they themselves would be treated, whether they believed in holding themselves to the same standard they held others to.

We never know when we're going to face a crisis in which we have to choose to do good or to do evil. History tells us that those who don't already know the right path when the crisis arrives will pick one that appears to be easiest or least immediately painful.

So yeah. Those guys at Babi Yar? They weren't bad people. They were just people. People who made a conscious decision to do bad stuff, to perpetuate evil.

Far better to know that you are simply a person, nothing special, and just as capable of doing good and bad as the next person. Otherwise you might not have worked out what you will not allow yourself to do, and why.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Quite a bit of busy

In my line of work it's best not to count a Sunday egg as a day of rest unless and until it hatches into an actual day of rest. Nothing out in the country pays attention to the calendar, you see. And that includes me.

So no day of rest but solid progress made on the spring chores list. I might even get caught up to April by June this year!

I did squeeze in room for four miles of hiking and and a very little bit of cap busting. It's a perishable skill.

And now I really need to get my newspaper stories formatted for this week. I'll leave you with this clever bit of British cow-gineering.


Saturday, April 22, 2017


After checking cows and calves this morning it was time to check the bulls, which are housed in a pasture several miles south of where the cows and calves are presently domiciled.

I decided to check the bulls on foot. Couple of reasons for that. I wanted to scout grass in the pasture, and I always do a better job of it on foot. And of course a nice little prairie stroll would fit neatly into my exercise routine.

It was just a beautiful morning. Yesterday's rainy weather system was passing and the dreary gray overcast was breaking into blue skies and cottony-white puffball clouds. There was a bit of a south-southwest breeze, and while it wasn't much of a breeze it combined with the 40 degree air temperature to make it just a bit chilly. I wore a sweatshirt.

As usual on these hikes I carried a 25-pound pack along with my trusty rifle. Mostly for the weight and complexity, but also because reasons.

After yesterday's rain the milk vetch decided to boom into bloom.

The winter wheat was lush and emerald green. In only a few weeks it will head out and flower, then begin making grain. In about 75 days it'll be harvested.

As I caught a good hiking rhythm I began to appreciate how beautiful the morning was.

The bulls were in fine shape.

Birds and ants were busy as well.

After I checked the bulls I continued my hike. At about the four-mile mark I noticed some activity up ahead. Something was slinking up out of a gully and moving into the tree line about 300 yards to the south of me.

It was a pair of coyotes.

There's been quite a bit more coyote activity this spring than there's been for several years. I understand why. The last several years of above-average rainfall have produced a lot of green stuff, which prompted an increase in hares, rabbits, ground squirrels, mice, voles, and other prey animals. Which prompted an increase in predator numbers. It's nature. That's how she rolls.

The coyotes have been pressing the cows and calves a bit more than I like this spring. They haven't predated any calves, and I don't expect them to. That doesn't mean they don't go through the stalking/hunting process, nor does it mean that they won't take a calf if they get an opportunity.

My response is to help the coyotes decide to look for better/less dangerous hunting grounds. I do this by shooting coyotes when the appropriate opportunity arises. Which it did this morning.

Now I'm not a spray and pray guy. I don't shoot to frighten, and every round I send downrange I own. When I decide to kill a coyote I have a responsibility to kill it as cleanly as possible.

This morning I had the breeze in my favor, blowing from the coyotes to me. I also had the sun in my favor, casting a lot of tree shadows about and making it hard for the coyotes to see me clearly. They knew I was there, but they didn't know what I was. They cautiously approached to about 225 yards and paused. One turned her profile to me and squatted down on her haunches, nose up and testing the breeze.

I eased over to a fence post, switched the optic on, and flipped up the magnifier. I peered through the optic, and keeping in mind where 55 grain pointed soft point bullets shoot compared to M-855, placed the point of the chevron about two inches above and just behind the coyote's shoulder. I took my time and squeezed off a well-placed shot.

At the moment I fired, however, the coyote bolted. My shot took her through the hips, and she dropped immediately. I hoped that the shock of the hit would be enough to kill her outright, but it wasn't. She flopped about a bit and then dragged herself off into a plowed field.

I followed her into the field and finished the job with a close range heart shot from my .40 S&W. I was disappointed that I didn't get an instant kill. Even though I'd done everything to the best of my ability and made a perfect shot, I'd failed in my responsibility to cleanly kill. That's the way it goes sometimes. You do the best you can.

I feel neither good nor bad about killing the coyote. Those kind of feelings really don't come into play. I'm part of nature, the coyote is part of nature, and today was just another of nature's give-and-take episodes.

Friday, April 21, 2017


I've heard for years that a program of daily stretching would likely pay very large dividends. Increasing flexibility is said to reduce a lot of joint and muscle pain in the olden folk. Non-loaded stretching is supposed to even improve muscle fiber performance and efficiency.

But who has time for stretching?

Obviously, if I have time to sit and read or sit and write or sit and color I can find the time by reorganizing my schedule a bit.

So I was thinking about trying yoga.


I can't abide the thought of wearing yoga pants.

Therefore the whole stretching thing keeps getting kicked to the back burner. The one with the nonfunctional heating element.

The other day I got an email from the local chamber of commerce, with this flyer attached.

Hmmm. I've been intrigued by Tai Chi for several years, prompted entirely by reading Nathan Lowell's Solar Clipper series.

So I'm registered. All that remains is to get me some Tai Chi pants.


Yesterday I was lifting in my workout suite garage. It was a very nice day and I had all the doors and windows open and the tunes blaring.

A neighbor stopped by to ask if he could borrow a trailer. He walked in while I was doing bench presses. I was just starting the second set of 10 reps.

"Hey," he said, then stopped and watched.

"Dude! How can you do that?"

I was a little bit confused.

He was astonished that I was pressing 150 pounds. That really surprised me because he's kind of a gym rat and is in really good shape. He said he could bench as much as 275 pounds, but only once or twice, and there was no way he could "effortlessly" knock out 10 quick reps at 150.

I'm guessing -- and this is just a SWAG -- that the geometry of my skeleton and musculature is simply such that I have more power in the press. I'm short and stout, he's tall and slim. He can run like a deer for hours and I can't. I can easily bench 150 pounds many times, he can't.

Interesting to think about.


I had to start taking the blood pressure pills while I was having the bone infection thing. It was kind of scary to see my b/p running 180/100.

A couple of days ago the bottom dropped out and my pressure was 70/40. I felt fine, if a little bit weary. I stopped the pills and today we're back to about 110/70. We'll see how it goes but I think it's a good sign.


Today it's rainy and cool. The temperature is 40 degrees and is expected to fall below freezing tonight.

We've had about 0.39 inches of rain since it began at 5 a.m. I'd like to see a higher quantity, but that's "if one pill is good then 10 are 10 times as good" thinking. Quantity is important, particularly in a land where 16 inches is the annual average for water from the sky. But if the rain comes too fast it runs off into puddles rather than soaking into the ground. So a 10-inch rain makes you feel good for the big number but may add less to soil moisture profiles than a half-inch that comes slowly and gently.

That's my story and I'm stickin' to it. Even though I do still love the gully-washers.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Racism, I Love You!


Sarge had a great post over at The Chant. In addition to the post itself, the comments were superb and thought provoking. One of the comments struck a chord with me in referencing the casual racism to be found in the pages of Belloc's The Modern Traveler.

I looked and looked and couldn't see any racism. What I did see was discrimination.

Now the most common definition of discrimination in today's modern civilization is this:

  • "...the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, or sex."

To wit, racism.

Remember that the above is today's most common definition of the term. Then ask yourself what discrimination really means, and whether today's most common definition makes any sense at all.

Particularly in light of the fact that the real definition of discrimination is this:

  • "...the recognition and understanding of the difference between one thing and another."

It appears to me that Belloc was using satire as a lens through which to recognize and understand the difference between human cultures of the 19th century. Along the way, and to use a relatively modern British colloquialism, he was "taking the piss" out of multiple cultures to illustrate that beneath the superficial differences, cultures are populated by human beings who are fundamentally equal.

So, discrimination. Not racism.

Because racism is:

  • "...prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior...the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races."

See the difference?

I can already hear the sharp intake of breath, the agonized howls of "yabbut, yabbut, YABBUT!"

Now the most common definition of racism in today's modern civilization is this:

  • "...the fact that all pale-skinned humans derived from European stock, excepting a very few special ones, victimize all non pale-skinned humans not derived from European stock, due to the pale-skinned belief that all non pale-skins are subhuman animals."

The corollary to this definition is this:

  • "...all non pale-skinned humans not derived from European stock are victimized by all pale-skinned humans derived from European stock, except for the very few special ones."

See the difference?

I maintain that the only way human civilization can work correctly, prosper, and make human life better is when that civilization holds that all men are created equal and are endowed by certain natural rights which are granted by a power greater than that of humanity. And surprise, surprise, that's what America's first founding document calls an unalienable truth.

Compare and contrast that with the most common (one might say universal) modern definitions of the terms above.

And ask yourself, why does our (American) government, when counting noses, count the color of the noses? And why do all non-American governments do the same?

As it turns out, there are a great many racists in the world, and most modern governments practice institutionalized racism. But it doesn't work the way the propagandists say it does.

Unfortunately, far too many humans have bought into the notion that a particular form of racism is okay, particularly if they can make money on the deal.

And of those not riding the racism gravy train, most have allowed themselves to be brainwashed by the constant pounding of the "you're really a racist"  or "you're really a victim of racism" drumbeat. All the while telling themselves that they're much too smart and independently-minded to be brainwashed.

Interestingly, as best I can tell, both racists and non-racists come in every possible skin coloration.

Either the first principle is true, or it is not. If it is not, then as Sarge said, May God have mercy on us all.