Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Groundhog Day -- Weather Report

Today, February 2nd, is Groundhog Day. This is the day when grown men and women congregate outside of rodent burrows and wait patiently for a groundhog named Punxsutawney Phil to emerge.

If the groundhog sees its shadow on this day, legend has it that there will be six more weeks of winter.

If the groundhog doesn’t see its shadow, it either means it will be an early spring or the groundhog was too busy gawking at the people who were gawking at it to notice.

In 2016 -- No shadow -- there will be an early spring.

There are many other holidays involving rodents but few people pay much attention to them.

WOODCHUCK DAY. Woodchuck is another name for a groundhog. Lumberjacks celebrate this holiday exactly seven weeks after Groundhog Day, when enough time has passed for the woodchuck to get a bit frisky after a winter of hibernation. On this day, lumberjacks from Maine to Oregon stalk woodchucks to see how much wood a woodchuck chucks, if a woodchuck could chuck wood.

SQUIRREL DAY. This is the first day of warm weather in the coming year when squirrels emerge from their nests to check on their nuts. Having spent much of the fall season squirreling away nuts by burying them in strategic places near their domicile, they must take an inventory every spring to make sure their nuts are all present and accounted for. This holiday is observed mostly by accountants, warehouse managers and store clerks by conducting a complete inventory on that day, then taking the rest of the week off to celebrate and cook the books.

GOPHER DAY. This holiday comes at the end of the college football season. Primarily observed by the alumni of the University of Minnesota, it only occurs if the Golden Gophers have a winning season and have managed to avoid NCAA probation for recruiting violations at the same time. Thus, this holiday is only celebrated once or twice a decade, making it a very special occasion for former Golden Gophers everywhere.

SEWER RAT DAY. This is strictly a local holiday for residents of New York City and Newark. Depending on the temperature and humidity, Sewer Rat Day can occur anytime in the late summer, usually in early August. This is the day when the highest concentration of rats emerges from the sewer systems to taunt the citizens of their respective cities. This is also a very special day for pest control companies and alley cats.

MUSKRAT DAY. A muskrat is basically a slippery rat that lives in or near water. Consequently, Muskrat Day is celebrated by slippery people who live clandestinely along rivers and pay no taxes. This holiday is observed on April 15, when federal taxes are due. The celebration includes drinking tax-free moonshine and taking an annual bath.

SWAMP RAT DAY. A swamp rat is basically a slippery rat that lives in a swamp. Consequently, Swamp Rat Day is observed by slippery people who live clandestinely in the middle of a swamp and pay no taxes. This holiday occurs after the first sign of frog mating season. It’s celebrated by drinking tax-free moonshine and kissing a loved one or a frog, whichever croaks the loudest.

BEAVER DAY. Dam engineers across the nation celebrate this occasion, always the first day in the early winter when the beaver has completed construction of its dam for that year and goes into hibernation. Most dam engineers have been in hibernation since 1939, when construction of the last of the great dams was completed. Rumor has it that some of the more militant dam engineers have formed a secret society that is scheming to create another mighty river system in a secluded location where no one will notice until it has been completed, somewhere like North Dakota or behind the Dick Cheney Library.

MOUSE WEEK. Timid people everywhere celebrate this holiday that coincides with Mardi Gras. Although the festivities are always very quiet, it’s the only rodent holiday that lasts more than one day. Timid people have a hard time releasing their emotions but once they do it lasts for a whole week. They dine on crumbs and avoid cats for seven days. Then they apologize for their outburst, usually to a goldfish or a potted plant, and shrink back into their comfortable lives of silent despair, patiently waiting for the day when the meek shall inherit the earth.


Quote for the Day – “It always rains on tents. Rainstorms will travel thousands of miles, against prevailing winds for the opportunity to rain on a tent.” Dave Barry

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where if you don't like the weather, just wait a few minutes.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lady in Distress

I have a friend in Canada, Frankie Picasso (a.k.a. Unstoppable Frankie) who is an author and the founder, CEO, radio host of the Good Radio Network. Since I live in Arkansas, she brought the following item to my attention.

Kathy Tarochoine lives in Harrison, Arkansas. She has been a life-long contributor to animal shelters and is the owner of Pet Productions, LLC, which operates Dog Connection TV, connecting humans with dogs.

At age 69, her husband died a few years ago and she is on her own. Plus, she has chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and congestive heart failure making it difficult to breathe, requiring her to be connected to an oxygen tube at all times.

A couple who worked for her asked her for a loan to help pay their mortgage and feed their child. Kathy felt a kinship toward them and felt she could trust them.

But once she asked for her money back, the couple ended their relationship with her, no longer visiting or taking phone calls. In addition, the couple began a campaign to discredit her with the community.

Eventually, Kathy had no choice and took the matter to court, which amounted to thousands of dollars, where she won a judgment against the couple.

But after winning a civil judgment, collecting funds on is no easy task. Instead of receiving any money from the couple, Kathy's home was egged and the air was taken out of her tires. When the sheriff was called out, he immediately realized that she was the target of elderly abuse.

I post blogs in a couple of newspapers in northern Arkansas and will definitely submit this piece for public display. -- perhaps word will trickle over to Harrison and someone will assist Kathy.

You can also listen to Frankie Picasso's radio interview with Kathy Tarochoine on-line at:

Kathy Tarochoine is a good person who needs assistance in her present situation -- I'm certain other good people will soon come to her aid.

Every time you help someone, you are helping humanity rise.

Quote for the Day -- “Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none." William Shakespeare

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where neighbors help neighbors.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Free at Last

Monday, January 18, 2016, is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day -- it always brings back distant memories for me,

* * *

In 1955, at age 26, Martin Luther King, Jr. was thrust into civil-rights leadership in Montgomery, Alabama, after Rosa Parks had made her courageous stand not to move to the back of the bus.

A group of blacks, formed by the community to lead a bus boycott, chose King as a compromise candidate to lead their moral crusade.

Immediately, King was besieged with threats. The Ku Klux Klan gave him three days to leave town. He spent a night in jail for driving 30 mph in a 25-mph zone. A bomb exploded on his front porch.

But it only made him stronger.

In April of 1966, I was drafted into the U.S. Army (Vietnam Era) and stationed at Ft. McPherson, Headquarters of the Third Army, in Atlanta, Georgia, whereupon I was one of a half dozen data processing analysts, working night shift, supervised by a civilian employee, coding documents to be processed by computer.

On April 3, 1968, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. (MLK) was in Memphis, Tennessee, speaking to a capacity crowd of striking garbage workers and others at Mason Temple about the climate of racial hatred.

King’s final words in his last speech were… “I've seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

At 6:01 the following evening, King was struck in the face by a rifle bullet as he stood on the balcony outside of room 306 of the Lorraine Motel.

He was rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital and pronounced dead at 7:05.

Martin Luther King believed in non-violent protest of racial injustice -- it cost him his life. He was 39 years old.

Racial riots broke out that night in over 100 cities, including Detroit, Chicago, Boston, New York, Newark, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Nashville, Kansas City, Oakland, Memphis, etc.

On April 5, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson called out 4,000 federal troops to quell the rioting in Washington DC -- plus, 20,000 Army and 34,000 National Guardsmen had been ordered to anti-riot duty elsewhere.

April 11, 1968, was my scheduled discharge date from the U.S. Army. However, King’s funeral was to be conducted on April 9 in Atlanta, just a few miles from Ft. McPherson.

My plans to become a civilian once again were temporarily put on hold. The entire world, including the Army, expected massive outbreaks of chaos during or shortly after the ceremony. Instead of packing to go home, I was in combat gear, practicing bayonet thrusts, wondering how much live ammo would be distributed for riot control.

Lester Maddox, an outspoken racist who once chased blacks out of his restaurant by passing out axe handles to his white patrons, was the Governor at the time. He was furious that flags at state buildings in the capitol of Atlanta, and elsewhere, were at half-mast the day of the funeral.

Surrounded by 200 armed state agents, he proceeded to personally hoist the two flags back up, but backed off when the major TV networks showed up to record the action. This added mayhem gave those of us standing by with bayonets an extra sense of anticipation.

The funeral service was held in Ebenezer Baptist Church.

King’s casket was placed on an old farm wagon, with steel-rim, wooden-spoke wheels. 30,000 marchers were sent ahead to start the procession. An estimated 200,000 mourners took part in the procession that eventually passed directly in front of the Capitol.

Governor Maddox, along with 160 helmeted troopers and 40 enforcement officers from other state agencies, remained inside the statehouse. There were eight armed men at each entrance.

Maddox had given them the following orders: “If they should go so far as to break through the locked doors, then start shooting and don’t stop until they are stacked so high above the threshold the followers would be unable to climb over them.”

The procession passed by solemnly and the funeral occurred without incident.

Two days later, I was discharged from the Army and returned home to Minneapolis, where I kissed the ground and embarked on a new life once again.

Quote for the Day -- “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains in the Land of Ark on Planet Earth -- where the human conscience is eternal and will never die.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Return of the Ice Beast

A movie opened this weekend called "The Revenant" -- the true story of a mountain man named Hugh Glass. In 2009, I wrote the following piece, which included the Hugh Glass event of 1823, and became a chapter in one of my books, ORB OF WOUNDED SOULS.

* * *


Life is like an unorthodox teacher -- you get the test first and the lesson comes later.

During the evening of January 26, 2009, my region of the country was having a severe ice storm. Ice was forming on trees, causing them to literally explode as large branches were falling, trees were splitting down the middle and some were toppling from the root.

Power lines in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky were ravaged. My utility company reported 32,000 out of 37,000 households were without electricity. The four utility poles in the line across the road from my property had been destroyed. In northern Arkansas, over 6,000 utility poles had to be replaced.

My driveway was blocked by three large fallen trees and a large branch had collapsed on my van rendering it stationary. I was without electricity (my only source of heat) and running water, and my phone lines were dead (for the first few days).

The temperatures dipped into the low 20s and teens over the next several days. The temperature in my place dropped into the high 30s at night. I had plenty of food and water on hand, but no alternative heating source.

I spent the first three days trying to stay warn under some quilts by candle light in my smallest room. My dog threw off some body heat as well. It was a time for staring at walls and contemplating your existence.

Then on day four I started thinking about my grandfather and Hugh Glass.

My grandfather was a very rugged, independent guy who had a plaque on his wall that read, "I felt sorry for myself when I had no shoes until the day I saw a man with no feet."

It was obvious the electricity would not be restored soon, so I decided to stop waiting for help and do something about it. Since my chainsaw was electric, I started sawing by hand on the fallen trees in my driveway. The wood was green and wet, making hand-sawing nearly impossible because it kept pinching the blade. It took two full days to clear a path, thanks to a guy who lives down the road and drove by and helped me with the big pieces toward the end with his chain saw.

Then I had to clear the hanging branch from my van and move it out of there. Unfortunately, the only place I could move it was where it got stuck in some deep mud with no room for maneuvering. I couldn't get it out for many more days until the mud dried.

After 17 days of struggling and hunkering down, my electricity was restored on February 11. It took another two days to repair my running water system because of frozen pipes that had cracked.

Hugh Glass was my inspiration through much of the ordeal. He was a mountain man, fur trader and honorary Pawnee in the early 1800s.

In 1823, Glass was with an expedition party of 13 mountain men in the Dakotas whereupon he was off by himself scouting for game and was attacked by a Grizzly bear. He fought it with his knife and the bear was eventually killed with the help of his partners, Jim Bridger and John Fitzgerald.

Glass was badly injured. He had a broken leg, gashes on his back exposing his ribs and remained unconscious.

The expedition party determined Glass would soon die. Bridger and Fitzgerald volunteered to remain behind and bury Glass when he expired, as the party moved on toward the valley of the Yellowstone.

While Fitzgerald and Bridger were digging the grave, a band of hostile Arikara Indians appeared. Fitzgerald and Bridger grabbed Glass's rifle, knife and equipment, and high-tailed it out of there. When they caught up with the expedition party, they reported that Glass had died.

At some point, Glass regained consciousness. No weapons, no equipment, abandoned by his partners.

He set his broken leg. All of his deep gashes were festering, potentially turning to gangrene, so he laid his wounded back on a rotting log allowing maggots to eat the dead flesh.

The nearest settlement was Fort Kiowa on the Missouri River, some 200 miles away. Glass wrapped himself in a bear hide that was intended to be his burial shroud and began crawling toward the south.

Glass survived on wild berries and roots. On one occasion he drove two wolves away from a dead animal carcass and consumed some meat. In six weeks, he reached the Cheyenne River, where he fashioned a raft and floated down the river, eventually reaching Fort Kiowa.

After a long recuperation, Glass set out to have an unfriendly chat with Bridger and Fitzgerald.

He eventually encountered Bridger near the mouth of the Bighorn River on the Yellowstone. But Bridger was only 17 years old at the time of the incident, thus Glass  forgave him.

Later, he found Fitzgerald. But Fitzgerald had joined the U.S. Army, so Glass refrained from killing him. Killing a soldier would lead to a death sentence. However, he did retrieve his lost rifle from Fitzgerald.

In the winter of 1833, Hugh Glass and two other mountain men were killed by Arikara Indians on the Yellowstone River. A few months later, some fur trappers recognized Hugh Glass's rifle in the hands of an Arikara Indian who was trying to pass himself off as a friendly Minitaris Indian, whereupon he was swiftly dispatched to the Happy Hunting Ground in the Sky.

So I figured if Hugh Glass could travel 200 miles by crawling overland wrapped in a bear skin for 6 weeks with a broken leg, building a raft and floating down a river that I could survive without electricity and running water for 17 days.

The glory of existence is not what happens to you, it's what you do when it happens.

Quote for the Day – "When you're going through hell, keep going." Winston Churchill

Bret Burquest is the author of 11 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where electricity is a very handy item.