Category Archives: Culture

Observations on life in America, the environment, politics, and more.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ah, yes, the good, the bad and the ugly about living in rural Montana.

The good: You can do just about whatever you want.

The bad: People do just about whatever they want.

The ugly: There are a bunch of very ugly people living here who do just about whatever they want. The Old Turkey Hunter

The good: The bugs here are just about big enough to eat.

The bad: the bugs here are just about big enough to eat you.

The ugly: There are a bunch of big, ugly bugs living here who eat just about anyone they want.

Good, bad or ugly, there’s a lot to be liked about living in rural Montana.

  • My bank doesn’t have a lobby, but they know my name when I pull up to the drive up window.
  • Within minutes of leaving home, I can park my truck at a trailhead and know it won’t be vandalized when I return. However, I can find peace, quiet and solitude on my porch without ever leaving home.

The good: birds flitting everywhere.

The bad: bird poo everywhere.

The ugly: bird poo in my eye.

So tell me: what’s the good, the bad, and the ugly about where you live? 

The Disconnection Connection

Ward Creek Trail
Ward Creek Trail – Time to Think

 

 

“How do you stand it?”

The question was posed by our youngest son. After being on his own for a while, he’d stopped by for a visit. The TV was off, the radio was silenced and the stereo was resting. The only sound was the methodic ticking of a clock. 

•Again the question came: “It’s so quiet here. How do you stand it?”

I remembered this incident recently when I read about a study done by the University of Virginia and reported in the July 4, 2014 edition of Science magazine. Study subjects consisting of a broad span of ages ages were asked to spend six to 15 minutes by themselves without any external stimuli – no computer, cell phone, music, TV, magazines or books to entertain them; nothing to write with or on. Instead, they were told to occupy themselves with their thoughts – in other words, disconnect from the external world and connect with the internal world.

Most of the people who participated in the study didn’t like the experience. The researchers are not yet sure why, although they have some theories. One of their theories is that the human mind is designed to focus on the external world and when those external stimuli are removed the mind becomes uncomfortable.

•I have my own theory.

As a culture, I think we’re overstimulated. So much so that being alone with our thoughts is almost torture.

I find this hard to understand. I love to get away by myself to a quiet place and have time just to think. In fact, I deliberately create such times. I find them restful and refreshing. Life make sense again as take time to sort things out. As Victor Hugo wrote in Les Misérables, “there are many mouths that speak, and but few heads that think.”

Consider my dog. The pasture grass behind my house is taller than she is. As she romps around in the tall grass, I can only tell where she is by the rusting movements. After a few moments of this, she realizes she’s lost track of me. She leaps above the grass, looks around and finds me. Satisfied, she drops back down in the grass and resumes finding bugs are whatever it was she was doing.

I believe we must do the same. As we rustle through the tall grass of life, we need to take some time out to stick our heads above the mess and get our bearings. In other words, take time to think. Disconnect in order to connect.

What about you? Do you like being alone? Are you comfortable with disconnecting? Why or why not? What refreshes you? We’re all different. What recharges your batteries? I have a friend who recharges by being around lots of people. That works for him. Let us know what you think!

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

Real Men Own Poodles

Overheard recently by my wife at her place of employment –

“You ought to meet Katherine’s husband. He’s this big, 6’3” macho outdoorsman and his dog is a POODLE!”

Ahem. That’s STANDARD Poodle, if you please. Not one of those yappy little car wash mitts.

So why a poodle for a macho man?

Me and Sophie
Me and Sophie

I’m glad you asked that question, because there’s a backstory. Not that I owe you an explanation. But seeing as how you’ve read this far, let’s continue.

When we moved to North Central Montana years ago (The Land of the Upland Bird) I wanted a bird dog. So I got a yellow Lab pup. Named him “Nugget” as I expected him to be pure gold. And he was.

Trained him myself, and in spite of my many mistakes Nugget became a retriever’s retriever. But the inevitable happened. Nugget turned 13 last January, and went the way of all the earth shortly after.

I began thinking about another dog, but after Nugget I couldn’t bear to get another Lab. So I started doing some research, and discovered that Standard Poodles were originally bred as hunting retrievers. Some of them still have it in their blood.

Bonus: Unlike Labs, poodles don’t shed. Labs shed like a Montana blizzard, and my wife was tired of vacuuming up enough hair each week to make a new dog.

Enter the Standard Poodle.

The short story: I contacted Dreamscapes Standard Poodles in Trout Creek, Montana. Dreamscapes breeds their Standards for bird hunting, retrieving, backpacking and carting. We now share our home with a very nice female Standard pup of just under four months of age. Her call name is Sophie – alias Sweet Pea, alias Snuggle Bunny, alias Daddy’s Girlie-Girl and sometimes alias Monster Baby.

After church last Sunday a friend gave me a ride home. I asked him if he’d like to see my new dog.

He said, “Does she have bows in her hair and painted toenails?”

I smiled. “Of course. Bright red.”

He laughed and said, “I’ll pass.”

Silly redneck. Everybody knows poodles make the best hunting dogs.

What do you think? Are you with me or agin me? Would love to hear your thoughts!

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Dropped by the Helping Hand of Obamacare – An Update

I gotta be me, and me is have to be fair.

So I was complaining to my tax consultant about the denial of a subsidy to help with my health care coverage. I had been informed by a heath care advocate I was too poor to qualify. My tax pro interrupted me and said, “This doesn’t sound right. I know the local health care advocate. I’ll call her for you and see what the deal is.”

As it turned out, the deal is (or was, or whatever) that a mistake had been made. I contacted the advocate who apologized for the error and recalculated my eligibility. The Happy Ending is that I now have health care thanks to a healthy subsidy.

Well, maybe it’s not quite such a happy ending for the taxpayers who have to pick up the cost of my subsidy. I still don’t think it’s right for the government to force me to either buy health care or pay a fine. Of course, they don’t call it a fine; they call it a “shared responsibility payment.” But a fine by any other name is still a fine.

My local daily newspaper The Missoulian ran an interesting opinion piece today by George Will. Within the article, Mr. Will asserted that the ACA may be unconstitutional as it violates the Origin Clause. Mmm. It’s worth checking out here.

 

Dropped by the Helping Hand of Obamacare

Help! I’ve fallen through the cracks and I can’t get up!

Recently I decided I’d better sign up for Obamacare, so I telephoned my local application counselor for help. She suggested I make an appointment with her, but I had some questions first.

I started with, “Is the Website secure?”

I could hear some fancy dancing in the background. “Well, personally I’ve never had a problem.” She continued, “No Website is totally secure.”

True dat, I thought.

She added, “You can’t believe everything you hear in the media.”

True dat, too. So I continued.

“What about income requirements for a subsidy? My wife has Medicare, but I’m not yet old enough for Medicare so I’m the only one who needs health insurance. Right now I don’t have any health insurance at all.”

She said, “To qualify for a subsidy you must have an adjusted gross income above $15,210.”

I responded, “Our adjusted gross income was $4,856 last year. Does this mean I can’t get Obamacare?”

“No, you can still buy health insurance on the Marketplace. You just don’t qualify for a subsidy.”

I paused. “Without a subsidy, what will health insurance cost me per month?”

“Oh, $400-500.”

“You mean I  don’t qualify for any help?”

“Well,” she said, “You could have qualified for Medicaid, except the Montana legislature voted against an expansion of Medicaid last year. Unless they vote to expand Medicaid, I’m afraid nothing can be done.”

This brought up my last question: “I can’t afford $400-500 per month. Does this mean I’ll have to pay the fine?”

“Oh, no, sir; you won’t have to pay the fine. You’re eligible for a Hardship Exemption.”

I’m feeling a little dizzy. I think I’ll go the Emergency Room.

Numbed Down

Aaron Alexis of Texas was a whack job. That’s all I can conclude, although as of today law enforcement officials still have no inkling as to why Alexis sprayed bullets into a crowd of innocent people at the Washington Navy Yard in our nation’s capitol yesterday. Before police took him out, Alexis had killed 12 people and wounded three.

When I read the article yesterday in my local newspaper I thought, Yet another mass shooting. Ho-hum. But then I caught myself. Ho-hum? HO-HUM??? Where was my outrage? Where was my indignation? Where was my fury? Have I now heard of so many mass shootings that I have become heartless? Insensitive? Even numb?

And where was God? Could He not have prevented this? Could He not have prevented Newtown? And if He could have prevented these things, why didn’t He?

It’s these last four questions indie film maker Albert Salaz Jr. of Diego Productions considers in his latest film short Moretti, which competed last week at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. I was privileged to screen a prerelease version of Moretti just a few days ago.

Moretti is powerful. Moretti is thought-provoking. Moretti is outrageous. And if you’re sensitive to the F-bomb being dropped a couple of times, you’ll want to plug your ears when the bombs fall from the sky. But to me, the assault on my sensitivities was worth it. The trailer is available online (minus the F-bombs).

A fifth question occurred me as the full film concluded. If you decide to view the full version of Moretti when it’s pubically available, this question may also occur to you –

How far does the grace of God extend?

Americans Don’t Like to Think

Is my title true or false? Think about it!

And think about YOU, especially when it comes to films and/or reading (you DO read, don’t you? Not just on the Internet, but I mean really READ. As in BOOKS.).

Truth is, thinking is hard work and that’s why most of us would rather be entertained than think. Even it we’re readers, most of us would rather read pulp fiction than literature. And we’d rather (especially if we’re male) watch the car chase in the film The Shooter than unravel, for example, the complexities of films like The Kings Speech.

I think of myself as a thinker. Therefore I don’t want people to TELL me what to think; I want to THINK what I think! So I like films that make me think; that’s why I’m a big fan of independent films, or “indie” films as some call them. In consideration of all of the above, that’s why I loved the indie film I just screened called, Leave My Flowers Alone produced, written and directed by Albert Salaz Jr.

In just under 16 minutes, Leave My Flowers Alone interweaves multiple themes and delivers an ending with a punch: an ending that not only entertains, but leaves you thinking, “What if?”

If you’ve ever struggled to overcome things things in your past, this film is for you.

If you have secrets in your past and wonder whether or not to reveal them, this film is for you.

If you’re a man and get frustrated and take it personally when you can’t “fix” things (or people) this film is for you.

Check out the trailer. And let me know what you THINK!