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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Tis two weeks before Christmas

A little under two years ago (in the middle of the night, New Year's Eve, to be exact,) I waxed poetic musing on a brief poem about "Arturo the mouse" that accompanied a bag of cookies I had picked up at our local BiLo, my select grocery store.  Amused at my parody of Clement Clarke Moore's immortal work, I emailed a few verses to a few buds, attempting to enlist them in a little competition.  No one bit, however, and I was left holding my own bag.  Oh, well, though greatness eludes me, the work remains, and, since the Christmas season has again encroached upon all that is holy I find the need to resurrect little Arturo.  Maybe this will be his year.  SVG, December 2012

A Visit from Arturo

Twas the day after Christmas, when all through the house,
The kids were all hunting for Arturo the mouse.
We parents were, likewise, all consumed with the thought
That this Christmas might pass with our wits still uncaught.

If you wonder what's happening, you won't be alone,
For this ditty's been sent to many a crone
And,  if you choose, you can take up your pen
And write out your verses from beginning to end.

Just stay hale and merry, don't be a retreater,
And copy the rhythm and attend to the meter,
And soon you will see your pen will have written
Your own Christmas verse (with a smile you'll be smitten.)

Fifty-six lines is the name of the game,
If you've not fifty-six, it just won't be the same;
And so, here it is, you've been issued the call
And you may respond or not answer at all.
Whatever you do, you know I don't care,
You may type out your verses or just sit there and stare.

More rapid than eagles, the verses they came,
If you're working on yours, you have no one to blame.
Come line! Come verse! Now meter, be merry;
If you don't like my offing, 'tis your right: Be contrary.
To the top of the page, to the top of the folder,
Now run with the ink like a looney-tunes bolder.

As old friends, when smitten, get a glint in the eye,
When they meet an assignment, and put on the try;
So up to our keyboards we all soon drew,
With dictionary, thesaurus, and St. Nicholas, too.

And when with that help we searched high and low,
To find thoughts that would cause our assignment to grow,
While we hiked up our night shirts and were just sitting down,
Across the floor rushed Arturo, to the kitchen he's bound:

He was brown, like I thought, from his head to his foot,
His demeanor was more than this writer could put,
(down on paper, I mean,) but back to the question:
Just who is Arturo, and what is his lesson?

His eyes--two brown orbs! His whiskers, were hairy?
His feet were in motion like a feather-weight's parry;
His mouth carried two teeth set right at the front,
And that's all that I saw, he was ready to punt.

From somewhere in the background, I heard a ref's whistle,
And away went Arturo like a latter-day missile.
Away to the kitchen, he flew like a flash,
Made his way to our cupboard and then to the trash--

It was then that I saw, sitting out on a shelf,
A bag of small cookies from our furry, small elf.
Chocolate chip, they were, and that's only right,
For a gift from the small guy in which all could delight.

And now that I know why Arturo was sent,
I now can go back to the quest that's my bent:
While eating what cookies the kids left behind,
I'll end up this work with a satisfied mind.

Away to my task chair while the tea-kettle whistled,
And soon stacks of paper to my out-box had bristled;
And for you, my good friends, all in internet sight,
Be it Christmas or New Years, God bless you this night.



Sunday, December 9, 2012

Oldie but goodie--What it takes to be the Boss

OK, so here we have an oldie but goodie.  Thought I'd put it in the blog on the chance that some of you hadn't yet had the opportunity to partake.  I first heard this while I worked at the City of Columbia “Metro” Wastewater Treatment plant.  Seems somewhat fitting.  For some reason I’ve been thinking about this tale for a few days now and, lest it be lost, I am now going to reduce it to bits.  If anybody knows the original author, I would appreciate knowing too.

What it takes to be the Boss

           One day all the parts of the body began to discuss who should be the boss.  The brain (thinking the question was really a no-brainer), thought he should be the boss.  After all, said the brain, I provide thought and direction for all the parts of the body.  No one really does a thing unless I direct it be done.  I should, obviously, be the boss. 

            Well, all the other body parts thought this over and there was some considerable disagreement.  The muscles spoke first, saying, look here, brain.  We make motion possible for the whole body.  We get us up out of bed in the morning, we take us to work, and we even provide all you need whenever you want to enjoy a good game of golf.  Obviously, we should be the boss.  The heart and lungs next joined in as a partnership.  Without us, where do all of you think you would be?  The blood we send to you carries your sustenance, your oxygen, and literally keeps you from drying up.  Why, if it weren’t for the white corpuscles we send to you, you wouldn’t last long considering all the diseases that are out there.  You should make us the boss—we are, after all, absolutely indispensable. 

            Several other parts of the body chimed in, all thinking they were the most indispensable of all.  The last body part to weigh in was the azz hole.  This idea sent all the other body parts into conniptions.  The idea was so absurd—the azz hole being the boss?  The brain, the Heart and lungs, the muscles, all had their supporters, but the azz hole!  More laughter ensued.  The azz hole, initially placing his candidacy for the job with a degree of humility, began to feel bad, at first, then he began to get mad.  To be turned down for the job was one thing, but to be ridiculed and laughed at was quite another.

            The azz hole got so mad he tied himself into a knot.  He was really, really mad. 

The other body parts forgot about him and continued their arguments.  Each had a certain amount of support and each believed they had a chance at getting the job.  This lasted for just over two days.  On the third day things began to become quite grim.  The azz hole’s response to all the ridicule began to take a toll on all the other parts of the body.  As a matter of fact, they all began to feel quite out of sorts, to say the least.  The heart began to beat a bit erratically; the lungs began to breathe in a labored manner.  The muscles were all sore and found themselves having a tendency to cramp.  The eyes found themselves crossing.  The brain was aching and somewhat addled.  The azz hole just sat there.  

            All the parts of the body (except the azz hole) then got together.  What the azz hole was doing was more than apparent to all and everyone wanted relief.  In fact, they wanted relief so bad they all voted to make the azz hole the boss, a move all found quite satisfactory in short order.

            This story, like most, has its moral.  It’s simple and self evident to most people who have ever found themselves in the average work-place.  When it comes to bosses, you don’t have to be a brain, you don’t have to be a shaker and a mover, or be very muscular, you don’t even have to provide any overriding essential services—you just have to be an azz hole. 

S.V. Geddes

14 Nov 2009 ( to Blogger 09 Dec 2012)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Of horsh, fece, and June bugs

Stephen V. Geddes

Many years ago I spent a week in New Albany, Indiana.  I don't remember how old I was--5 or 6, maybe--but I felt blessed since I was staying with my grandparents while my parents were who knows where.  It really didn't matter.  I totally trusted my grandmas and grandpas (and my Aunt Winnie and Uncle Stu, too, for that matter.)  That summer I was entrusted to both sets of grandparents.  They lived 5 blocks away from each other on East Elm street (813 & 1312, I think.)  I could, and did, walk from house to house.  If I was followed, I was unaware.  I suspect I was.   

One day I spied a pretty bug in one back yard.  I believe I caught it in a cup and asked what it was.  It was a June bug.  It didn't bite.  I was given a length of thread and learned how to tie one end to one of the bug's hind legs.  The other end attached to my shirt.  The June bug spent time crawling on my shirt and flying around my head, literally.  I don't remember just what happened, but the bug eventually regained its freedom.  In any case, one episode of being a bug master was enough for me, memorable though it was.

Recently my brother gave me a chance to correct a deficiency in my education.  It seems having found himself the manager of a small horse farm, he, somehow, decided I could use a bit of additional training and education.  So, throwing my somewhat comfortable (if minimalistic) retirement to the wind, I began a five day a week part-time job as a worker of horses or, in any case, a worker in horsh.  But, you say, I digress?  Nay, I say--no digression at all. 

Horsh is the factor that ties the two subjects together, nicely.  In my work on the farm, I have a distinct interaction with the stuff, an interaction that dovetails nicely with my wastewater treatment management training of years past.  You see, wastewater treatment generates a goodly amount of solid waste.  Horsh (trust me on this) is the epitome of solid waste.  Start with a pristine green pasture and introduce a horse.  Provide a short period of time and, voila!  Horsh. 

Now, given a large enough pasture, no thought need be given to the horsh.  Still, if the pasture is relatively small (at which time you may tend to call it a paddock,) and the horse-to-grass ratio is relatively large, the horsh becomes a problem if it is not regularly removed.  Enter the solid waste technician, one of many newly acquired titles awaiting entry to my resume.  Given the technician, a wheel barrow, a stable rake, and adequate time and inclination the horsh ceases to be a problem and, as brother's veterinarian will attest, it turns into a small operator's version of "black gold."  So far I have learned about the "black" portion of Harvey's nomenclature for the horsh.  I guess the "gold" will follow as the composted material begins to work its wonders on sister-in-law's garden.    

Now that was a genuine digression--but I liked it.  As I was engaging in my solid waste control function one day last week, I noticed an interesting phenomenon.  One of the horse's fece's, instead of just lying there, was engaging in a bit of self animation, or so it seemed.  Watching this mobile fece for about a minute resolved the question and produced an energetic June bug to boot.  How fitting, I thought, to find a June bug in South Carolina early in the month of June.  If I ever wondered where the June bugs in my grandparents' back yards had come from, I now knew the answer--they came from South Carolina.  I guess the one I found was worried about his one piece of horsh, given that most of the pile had already been relocated to the wheel barrow.  To keep his little piece of home intact, the June bug was attempting to move it to a safer location.  In his attempt, he impressed me as being every bit as strong as an ant, were the ant his size.  He was moving a horse fece that was about the size of a squashed peach, or a very large plum, and, as such was considerably larger than the bug.  Had I super-glued a quarter to the bug's iridescent green back, I would be able to see some of its legs protruding from the conjunction, but that would be about all.  The red head would also be obscured by the quarter, with, perhaps, just a bit of antennae visible.  Which is why I initially wondered what the fece was doing moving around.  The bug was totally obscured, trying, one might theorize, to balance the fece on its back.  When he finally gave up on that idea and began trying to push it or roll it as it turned out, both I and the bug gained the needed enlightenment.

In thinking the bug was trying to save his little piece of heaven, I might be engaging in a bit too much anthropomorphism.  Could be he was just out exercising, and would have been moving that fece around even if I had not disturbed his pile of horsh.  After all, he probably would need a good bit of strength and endurance if he were planning on making a flight to Southern Indiana any time soon.

     P.S.--my Webster's unabridged does not mention horsh or fece.   Horsh came to me via a New Zealander friend of my wife's.  She (Jennie Neuman) mentioned they had quite a bit of sheepsh and a little less horsh in New Zealand.  Referencing my profession, she said the least quantity of all was probably the humsh they, too, had.  "Fece," of course, is the singular of "feces," in this little work--whether or not it is recognized by Webster.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Great Pre-Thanksgiving Canoe Trip

I haven't posted to the blog in quite a while.  I suspect that will be changing in the next couple of months.  I have been working on a project that is very important but that has taken me away from my writing.  In the mean time, I think something I wrote a while back has value.  So, here 'tis.

The Great Pre-Thanksgiving Canoe Trip

            22 November 2010

If I had known how it was going to turn out, I would have done it on purpose. 

A week before Thanksgiving 2010, my son and I got together at the arguably early hour of 8:00 AM to leave on a mini-adventure--a trip down Augusta's Savannah River rapids.  The old canoe hadn't been put to use in almost two years and it was, for the most part, rarin' to go. 

We both felt the need for a mental health day off (a sentiment apparently echoed by our patient spouses who uncharacteristically voiced no opposition) and, as we placed the Old Town on my aged Honda, we both breathed a sigh of pleased anticipation.   We got off in good time carrying with us my new Kodak, his new GAP jacket, and his mother's well prepared lunch.  Our first stop was North Augusta's public boat ramp, our intended destination.  The ramp was just as I remembered it from my last visit several years ago.  North Augusta has maintained this asset well.  Here we left Stash's aged Honda.  We continued together in my aged Honda, heading for the Savannah Rapids Pavilion and its adjacent Columbia County Park.  Recent improvements at the park include a bridge over the Augusta canal and a set of steps to the edge of the Savannah River.  Anyone who might have tried launching a canoe in the river from this point in the past would appreciate this new addition immensely. 

In any case, we launched the Old Town with minimal difficulty and began our trip to North Augusta.  I am guessing this was about 9:30 (will take "ship's log 101" the next time it's offered at Augusta State.)  We passed through a number of rocky areas, adding a few new scrapes to the bottom of the Old Town, and continued until we reached a relatively deep stretch approaching I-20.  We noticed a number of ducks, at least one Great Blue Herron, a spattering of Anhinga and flock upon flock of Canada Geese.  About the time we reached that deep stretch, I commented on the lack of turtles, thinking it was a bit too early, and too warm, for them to begin the annual hibernation-like existence they usually resort to during our not too cold, but cold enough, winters.  Mother Nature, it seems, was listening in on my conversation and, virtually as the sentence about the lack of turtles had rolled past my tongue, a pair of bread plate sized turtles appeared not ten feet from our starboard bow.  Other turtles soon joined them on the surface, mostly as pairs, and I decided probably they were either practicing their life-saving moves or they had other things on their minds. 

As we approached the interstate, conversation became difficult.  It's interesting how four lanes of interstate traffic, all trying to get from one state to the other in the least amount of time, spews forth a din to blight the wilderness.  No serenity here, I'm afraid.  No real problem, though, as we continued our paddling till we reached another stretch of rock on the downstream side of the interstate and returned to hunting passages.  Interestingly enough, since standing in a canoe is not a viable technique, I've decided the next time I buy a canoe I will investigate the possibility of investing in a periscope option.  While it will probably look a bit weird, it sure would help to find the passages through those low-lying rock walls that cordon off sections of the river at this point.

About a half mile downstream from the interstate, on the Georgia side of the river and just beyond a bend, we spotted a number of picnic tables, a portapotty, and a reasonable landing spot.  It was a little after 12:00 and wife's lunch began to beckon.  We put in, wondering who had placed this park on the edge of our watery passageway.  We seated ourselves at the first available table (the maitre d' was no where in sight) and began to eat.  We had sausage-and-cheese balls for an appetizer and continued on with ham, egg and cheese sandwiches on toasted whole wheat bread.  G2 Gatoraide was our libation.  thinking back, I'd have to say this is where we probably slipped up--we neglected to spill the required sip to the gods prior to consuming our drinks. 

Around 12:30, all fed and refreshed, we noticed what looked like an information station a bit uphill.  A minute later, our benefactors became known.  It seems some public agency, the county, or perhaps the canal authority (I really do need that ship's log course) decided the spot we found was a good place for a mini-park, one that could serve not only those who might arrive by canoe but also those joggers and bicyclists traveling between the Riverwalk downtown and the Savannah Rapids Pavilion on the trail provided, I suspect, for maintenance of the Augusta Canal.  Some of those very people began to arrive at that point and we decided we'd leave the park to them for their sole enjoyment, that being what we had had as we ate our luncheon. 

An hour later we were cold, wet, disgusted and our canoe and belongings were headed downstream at warp speed, or so it seemed.  We had just passed by the City of Augusta's raw water pumping station and had continued downstream for about 1000 feet when, all of a sudden, we were in the water.  Neither of us knew why we tipped over, we just did.  In retrospect, I suspect lagging physical fitness was a factor.  I say this because both of us had difficulty folding our legs to sit on the floor of the canoe, and we decided to sit on the seats--and be real careful.  Hah!  The only thing I can think of was both of us shifted a bit to port at the same time and, before we knew it, over we went.  Luckily, we knew what to do when we hit the water, though, in our haste to get out of that 60 degree water (we were sure it was 50 degrees,) Stash stepped in a hole and bruised his shin on a river rock.  We were less than 30 feet from the Georgia bank and soon were resting at the river's edge.   We really were quite fortunate.  We had gone to the Georgia side of the river to look at the water pump station (we weren't exactly sure what it was.)  Had we turned over in the middle of the river, we would have had to make our way several hundred yards in either direction to get to dry land.  I guess one lesson learned would be:  stay near one bank, or the other while making this trip.

Following a few minutes' heavy breathing, we began to climb the 20 feet or so of steep slope next to the river and found a path leading upstream toward the pump station.  A couple hundred feet later, we saw an opening in the trees twenty feet or so to our left and we went to it.  It was a railroad track.  We followed the track all the way back to the pumping station and, ignoring signs telling us where to go, we went to what was obviously an office.  A City employee listened to our tale of woe and directed us to his supervisor.  The operations supervisor was sympathetic and immediately put us in contact with the county sheriff's office. 

I reported our mishap and the dispatcher was about to send a deputy to take our statement and deliver us to the county line (apparently as close as they could legally go to either of our cars) when Stash told me we had an offer that would get us back to Savannah Rapids Pavilion.  I thanked the dispatcher, and we left.  It was our good fortune that this "Good Samaritan" made the offer when she did and was able to assist us.  We got back to my Honda and found its key had not been adversely affected by the river water.  It cranked at once, as it always does.  Good car!  Guess I should drop that "aged" bit.  We drove to the North Augusta boat ramp, looked upstream and saw what we expected--beautiful scenery, but no canoe.  By 3:30 we were home, in Aiken.

After Stash and I told our stories to his mother, I got back to the problem at hand.  My Nokia had allowed me one call after it received its dunking and promptly ceased further operations.  Of course that one call was to my wife.  I took it apart and dried it.  It started right back, like the trooper it is, and has worked fine ever since.  I then used it to call 1) Richland County Law Enforcement where I left a message to be sure my problem was on the record.  2)  The Aiken County Sheriff's department, who promptly redirected me to the City of North Augusta Police, who I then called and left a detailed account of my problem.  3)  The Georgia Department of Natural Resources whose officer promptly called me back and learned about my problem.  4)  The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources whose officer, like his counterpart in Georgia, promptly returned my call and took down my information.  Both of the DNR officers pointed out that hunting was scheduled to begin on Saturday and it would be best, if I wished, to search for my canoe before that time.  This was good news for me to have as sportsmen are generally people you can count on.  It was bad news for the Canadians and the ducks, though.  5)  Augusta Riverwalk Marina, where I talked with a Mr. Christian who promised to let me know if any of his customers found the boat and who also provided me with a number to contact a Dr. Carl with the River Keepers, an organization I was unaware of.  5)  Dr. Carl, formerly of the River Keepers, discussed my problem with me and gave me a current number for the River Keeper organization, which I called and talked with "Andy," who promised to do what he could and gave me a number for a "Steve" with the dive organization that works problems in the river.  Since my Old Town has a double hull with enclosed flotation (it can't sink,) I didn't bother to call him.

Having notified everyone I thought might be able to help, I moved on to other things.  Wondering how much Google Earth might be able to tell me about my boat's possible whereabouts, I checked it out.  Vewy intewesting, as Elmer Fudd might have said.  Not only was I able to look at the stretch of water I had been navigating, and determine its "as the crow flies" distance to be around 7 miles, I was able to zoom in to the very place I thought I had lost the boat and observe the individual rocks I had been avoiding at the time.  Had we not plopped ourselves into the water where we did, we would have had a little more than a mile to go (again, "as the crow flies") to reach our destination.  Of course, part of that distance remained rife with rocks and the actual distance we would have had to paddle may have been double that direct over the top distance.  In any case, it appeared my canoe had a good chance of finding itself a berth in the rocks before it reached that long, narrow pond that is the Augusta-North Augusta riverfront. 

Friday I had things that couldn't be put off and there was no way to consider getting back to the water.  Had I not had other obligations, my plan would have been to find that one-man life raft I bought years ago as I learned the art of snorkeling in the waters of the Aegean Sea between Istanbul and Karamursel Turkey.  I would have had no problem riding that raft over the rocks from the Augusta Pump station area down to the ponded portion of the river.  Surely I could have located the canoe.  Fortunately (since the raft is buried under several tons of my other possessions of yesteryear in a local storage building) I didn't have to try out that plan.  Instead, around 4:00 PM on Friday I received a call from the North Augusta Police.  Someone had called them and said they had found a canoe and had left it tied to the dock at the North Augusta Boat Launch area.  It seems another "Good Samaritan" had enabled my canoe to finish the trip I had planned for it totally without my presence.  Sometimes, God truly does work wonders.

I called Stash and jumped into my trusted steed, planning to meet up with him at the boat launch area.  Stash made arrangements with Grandma for the unplanned children management services and he followed on.  When I got to the boat launch area I saw two men talking by the dock.  I approached them and I explained what had happened.  The canoe and all our other possessions was right there, attached to the dock, looking for all practical purposes just like it looked (excepting for its having taken on about fifty gallons of water) when I experienced my unplanned disembarkation.  About that time, as one of the men left, Stash arrived.  The other man stayed and helped me move the boat around the dock and onto the boat launch area's concrete approach way.  I thanked him and we made our introductions.  Remember that diver I didn't call?  Well, now I know him, too.  Stash (i.e., Stephen Ashley) and I had fun with our new friend doing an updated version of an old MASH routine.  Instead of "Doctor, Doctor.  Doctor, Doctor...Doctor...." our routine was "Steve, Steve.  Steve, Steve...Steve...."  Of course I told him (and showed him the notation on the 3x5 card in my pocket) I already had his number, and explained how I came to have it.  He gave me another number, just in case, though--his cell number.  Small world!

Oh well, as I stated at the beginning, If I had known how it was going to turn out, I would have done it on purpose-- i.e., tip over the canoe.  Lacking that mishap, Stash and I would have missed out on the opportunity to meet quite a few of our area's good people, starting with a couple of the City's water treatment plant operators, continuing with a couple of unheralded "Good Samaritans," and ending with a number of public servants and volunteers I met first on the phone and one, finally, in person at the boat launch area.  Even more important was the opportunity Stash and I had to experience one another in a way we never had before.  Adversity provides opportunities for growth and understanding.  I know and have more reason to admire my son today than I would have otherwise, had our trip gone according to plan. 

Service, it's said, provides its own rewards.  I believe this is true.  Still, I hope somewhere, sometime, I might have the opportunity to meet each of my many benefactors of those several days in November to thank them personally for their faithful service to me and to other members of the public in our CSRA community.  That much, at the very least, they truly deserve.

Stephen V. Geddes

Aiken  SC