Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day Thoughts

There have been periods in our history - at least, during my lifetime -  when Memorial Day wasn't much more than a day at the beach or an excuse for a family barbeque.  Lately Memorial Day observances seem to be more in tune with the intended purpose of the holiday - to honor the men and women who have given their lives for this country of ours. 

It makes sense that a nation at war is more motivated to honor these men and women than a nation that is enjoying a long spell of peace.  After all, when we are at war, the sacrifices are fresh and personal to the friends and family of those who have fallen.  And we've been at war for quite a while now, and the end is not in sight.

Even when I was young I had an appreciation for those who laid down their lives in the service of their country.  But, now that I'm not so young, the weight of sadness is heavier. When I see pictures of these heroes, I'm always astounded at their fresh young faces.  We can't fully appreciate youth until we've lost it.  Memorial Day prompts a sense of awe and gratitude.   But there's also a sense of helplessness in the knowledge that no words we can say and no honors we can give can do justice to the sacrifice.

Then too, I can't help but feel a sense of grief over the condition of humanity that has driven us to war since the beginning of time.  I'm neither a pacifist nor a warmonger, viewing both of these extremes as sinful.  Pacifists lack courage and warmongers lack the milk of human kindness.  But humanity has the habit of swinging like a pendulum from one sinful extreme to the other.  It's this fatal flaw in humanity that Christians long to be free of when they pray, "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." 

Memorial Day was born out of the grief and sorrow of the Civil War.  The new holiday honored both Union and Confederate soldiers.  There's a special place in my heart for Confederate soldiers. They are not only forgotten, but denigrated.   In this age of political correctness, they are seen only as defenders of slavery.  It doesn't seem to matter that most of them never owned a slave and considered themselves to be fighting for the sovereignty of the states they called home - the sovereignty that the Constitution guaranteed.   These facts are ignored by both liberal and conservative commentators.   It's a pity that the Confederate soldiers' cause was tainted by slavery, because state sovereignty was worth fighting for; and we suffer as a nation to this very day because of its loss.   

Here's a salute to all the soldiers and sailors who have fallen in all our sad wars.  As fas as I know, there are no official lyrics to the bugler's Taps but these are the ones I know:

When your last day is past,
From afar some bright star o'er your grave,
Watch will keep while you sleep with the brave. 

Friday, May 28, 2010

Morning in the Barn

We were out in the barn early this morning, doctoring the spot Fay has on the left side of her neck.  Fay has skin issues every summer - always in the same place.  The hair comes out, leaving a little cirle of bare, irritated skin.  If the problem is not addressed, the circle grows bigger.   Peroxide and triple antibiotic ointment will clear it up, but it takes a few days of vigilant treatment.  The first treatment must hurt a little because she flinches.  But she stands still and lets us do our work.  I think horses know when you're trying to help them.  After two or three days - as the irritation subsides - Fay starts to enjoy the treatment.  By this time the spot is itchy and having it rubbed with oinment feels good.

When we finished with Fay, we led all three horses to the triangle pasture to spend the day grazing.  Back in the barn, we cleaned and limed the stalls, and spread out the wood shavings to cover the lime.  Lime and wood shavings are wonderful things.  They keep a barn from smelling like - - well, like a barn. 

Then I set to work cleaning the stall waterers while Jerry got on the tractor and leveled the midden heap on the other side of the pasture fence.  The supply of hay that we bought about a month ago has a fair amount of clover in it.  The horses love it, but we're not so crazy about it.  The dried clover leaves are not as neat as long strands of grass hay.  The clover goes everywhere and some of it always ends up in the water vessels.  If the vessels aren't drained and cleaned often, some kind of chemical reaction takes place that does not smell good.

While we went about our work, a pair of swallows was busy overhead, building a nest on a rafter.  The barn has four stalls.  Since we have three horses, we use the fourth stall to store hay.  This hay stall is a Home Depot for the swallows, wrens, and sparrows.  That's where they shop for materials to build their nests.  It's fun to watch them as they pick out just the right piece of hay or straw for their building project.  I sure hope the newly wed swallows like to eat spiders.  The spider population is getting out of hand.  But I guess that's probably the case in a lot of barns.

When we finished our work, we sat in the barn aisle - in front of the big fan - and talked about how hot it is.  I think work in the barn needs to start even earlier than it did this morning - to get ahead of the heat.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Commencement of Summer

It appears that Spring has said her farewells, and the heat of summer has arrived even if June hasn't.  I watered all the potted plants early this morning, and it was already hot. 

I love growing herbs, but I can't say that I really know what I'm doing.  I'm a trial and error gardener.  The thyme was tall and woody so I did a radical pruning.  The pretty blooms on the chive plant were past their prime so I whacked them off.  Tending herbs - whether you know what you're doing or not - is always pleasant because it is accompanied by wonderful smells.

The news is full of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.  And I can't help but think of Johnny Fever - my favorite character on the old show, WKRP Cincinnatti.  Johnny once said that when people are out to get you, "paranoid" is just good thinking.  The present administration thinks a good crisis should never go to waste, and British Petroleum is in the business of selling oil.  Do either one of them really care if the oil leak is stopped?  An oil disaster on the shoreline will help the administration sell their "green" program; and so far, BP has been able to funnel a significant amount of leaking oil into tankers to sell.  Forgive me if I'm feeling a little bit like Johnny Fever.  I think our govenor, Bobby Jindal, is probably feeling like Johnny, too - well, maybe not - he may be too young to remember Johnny.

Rain has been light and infrequent since March.  The horses spend most of their days in the triangle pasture or in their stalls while we try to nurse the barn pasture back to health after an unusually cold winter and a dry spring.  We're making use of our sprinklers, and the big water bill this month was not a surprise.  Some of my pen pals live in places where water usage is restricted which makes me appreciate our ability to water the pasture.