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Savage Survival

 

Darrell Bain's Monthly Blog - December 2012

The contents of this Blog may be copied and sent to both friends and enemies with the stipulation that the source www.darrellbain.com is noted and included.

Bainstorming: Darrell's Bain's Monthly Blog.
Copyright © December 2012, by Darrell Bain
http://www.darrellbain.com

Responses to subjects brought up by this blog are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

Subjects This Month: Christmas presents for readers, Lies and damned lies, Children of the Sex Gates, Day Dreams, Book reviews, Roman Empire and America, State of America series: An incoherent energy policy, Excerpts from Life On Santa Claus Lane, Laughing All The Way and Doggie Biscuit

Neat Christmas Presents For Readers

Who doesn’t like humor? And almost everyone likes funny but inspiring Dog stories. For your friends who like to read, may I suggest Life On Santa Claus Lane and its companion volume, Laughing All The Way? And for your friends and families with Dogs then Doggie Biscuit is the perfect gift. The events related in all three books take place on a Choose and Cut Christmas tree farm owned and operated by Darrell Bain and his wife Betty. The reviews will tell you how good they are for young and old alike!

Lies and Damned Lies

Everyone lies. Most everyone lies in one way or another several times a day. However, we couldn’t function as a society without a plethora of polite little white lies. It is only lies that deliberately hurt others or deliberately distorts truth for personal gain that are the damned lies.

Children of the Sex Gates

The most popular book I’ve written, at least in number of sales is The Sex Gates, both the trilogy written with Jeanine Berry and the Original Sex Gates as written by myself. I prefer the original novel because everything is contained in one long book which has one more main character and has a completely different and better ending than the trilogy.

Children of the Sex Gates is the long-awaited sequel to the Orignal Sex Gates Novel (available in print and ebook editions both). I have finished it and sent it off for editing. You can look for it soon.

Daydreams

I’ve said it before so this is just a reminder of the humorous situation of daydreams. If some of our daydreaming fantasies were actually carried out most of us would be in jail and the rest of us dead. Aren’t we a curious species?

Book Reviews

I’m currently re-reading The Complete Calvin and Hobbes. It is a huge three volume set I got Betty for Christmas when it came out, consisting of all the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips the artist did over the ten years the strip was in newspapers. I’ve found that the best way to read it is about 20 pages at a time; otherwise your humor circuits short out. When I’m reading it I always wonder how that little brat ever lived to be six years old! It is hilarious, though.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand was turned down by numerous publishers when it was first written. Too intellectual, most said. Won’t sell, others proclaimed. Finally one editor, after the big boss turned it down told him, “If this is not the book for you, then I am not the editor for you.” His boss wrote back, (or sent a telegram, actually) “Far be it for me to decry such enthusiasm. Go.” And it was a sensation.

The Fountainhead is indeed an intellectual novel but written in language that can be understood even as you’re enjoying the story of Howard Roark, who will not compromise his principles for anyone. If you’ve never read this book, try it. I highly recommend it.

The Long Way Home by Darrell Bain. Yes, I do read my own books, particularly ones where I had what I thought was a great idea and wrote a novel about it. In The Long Way Home I had a huge exploration spaceship destroyed by a xenophobic alien species while a thousand light years from Earth and home. The only survivors were the crew of one of the ship’s longboats, Hurricane Jack. The long boat is not designed for voyages of a thousand light years, yet it must be attempted in order to warn earth and its nearby colony worlds of the danger it will face in the future. The longboat can only make jumps of ten light years or so and must stop frequently on unexplored planets to renew their water, used for fuel after being broken down into oxygen and hydrogen, and for organic material that can be processed into food. And all the while on the years-long voyage back, a warship of the alien species is trailing Hurricane Jack, wanting to find the location of the human species. The dangers and travails of Hurricane Jack and its crew make the epic voyage of Captain Bligh after the Bounty mutiny pale by comparison. Jeremy Costa is one of the crew of specialized Explorers. It is his first assignment after graduation from the Explorer Academy and turns into an unrivaled coming of age adventure. I’m proud of myself for writing this book.

Job: A Comedy of Justice by Robert A. Heinlein was one of his last books. It takes on the subject of religion in ways that are sometimes funny, sometimes startling but always entertaining.

Winter of the World by Ken Follett is the second of a trilogy covering five families from the start of the twentieth century to the end. This one tells of the events leading up to the triumph of the Nazis in Europe, WWII and the formation of the United Nations. Follett is always good and this trilogy certainly gives scope for his talents. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Racketeer by John Grisham is something of a departure from his usual lawyerly dramas and all the better for it. An innocent lawyer sitting in prison for something he didn’t do dreams up a plan for revenge. I’d like to see him do stuff like this more often.

Once an Eagle by Anton Myrer takes a young man from the time he enlists as a private in the U.S. Army and follows his career, with highlights of a battlefield commission in WWI, the trials and tribulations of the peacetime army during the Great Depression era, through WWII and on to Southeast Asia. It is fiction but absolutely the best military fiction I’ve ever read. Written by a man who was there, it is authentic in every detail. It is a very long book but well worth the time spent reading it because it gives those who have never served an insight into the life of military families as they protect the country. Absolutely outstanding, enough so that I’ve read it three times.

The Boundary series by Eric Flint and Ryk Spoor begins with the discovery of a 65 million year old fossil of a strange species, evidently from another solar system. The discovery leads in time to a Nerva type spaceship with a crew of fifty who set off to explore an alien base on Phobos, a moon of Mars, that was also established 65 million years ago. Mysteries abound as well as the interplay of characters on the expedition. A great series. I have the next one ready to read and the third is to be published shortly.

Roman Empire and America

There are various reasons assigned to the fall of the Roman Empire. Reading about it you see frequently the expression “Bread and Circuses”. This refers to the Empire furnishing free bread to the masses and entertainment in the Coliseum and keeping slaves. The Empire couldn’t afford all this so rather than try to pay for it or reduce the giveaways, they simply began debasing the currency, i.e., adding lead to gold coins in ever-increasing amounts. The Empire eventually collapsed under the financial burden because they couldn’t pay for enough legions to stave off the barbarians.
Now take America. One in six persons are being provided with free food stamps. Football and other sports are free to watch on TV. America can’t afford all its giveaways. We don’t have any gold coins to debase so instead the government just prints more money and borrows ever-increasing amounts of money. We don’t have slaves but we do have about two million persons incarcerated in jails and prisons. Same thing, almost. Eventually our country, if this isn’t stopped, will collapse under the financial burden.
Can we not see the comparison? Or does anyone else not care? May I hear from you?

State of America series: An incoherent energy policy

Until the advent of fracturing and horizontal drilling we were becoming ever more dependent on oil form the Middle East. Our presence in the Middle East and our subsequent wars have ultimately been because of our shrinking oil supplies and don‘t let anyone tell you different. There was no coherent policy concerning the supply of oil other than to try finding Middle Eastern countries who would supply it to us and befriend them no matter what kind of government they ran or what their Imams preached. Saudi Arabia is a good example. A sparsely populated country with huge reservoirs of oil. We turned a blind eye to their autocratic government that follows a very strict sect of Islam and to the preaching in their mosques that belittled and demonized America. Guess what? They began exporting terrorism against us and 9/11 was the result. Two huge wars were another result, although to be honest the war in Iraq was more of young Bush trying to outdo his Daddy than it was about terrorism. He wanted a war and used the theory that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and intended to use them as an excuse to invade Iraq, even after inspectors had been all over the country and found none. Bush’s advisors gave him what he wanted to hear and we got a trillion dollar war that resulted in an unstable Iraqi government that is cozying up to Iran, which is bound and determined to get nuclear weapons. “Nuff about that.

Now our technology has given us a chance to be energy independent. Do you see us becoming uninvolved in the Middle East? I don’t. After all, the countries there supply a hell of a lot of oil to Europe, our fair-weather friends. Our only business there should perhaps be a series of strikes to keep Iran out of the nuclear bomb business because sanctions and “negotiations“ sure as hell ain’t working. However, Iran aside we keep a presence over there because….why? I sure as heck don’t know. We’ve got plenty of oil and gas now but I can’t seem to find any evidence anywhere of an energy policy based on us not having to depend on those unstable countries. In the meantime, our government keeps subsidizing alternate energy companies and watching them either go broke or struggling along with enormous tax breaks.

We’re supporting the “Arab Spring”, which as far as I can tell is simply exchanging one set of despots for another, worse kind, the Islamic Brotherhood.

Israel is our only friend in the Middle East. Since the West Bank Palestinians refuse to negotiate and the ones in Gaza, Hamas, are in agreement with Iran: Israel should be wiped from the face of the Earth. Given that, why don’t we get with Israel, draw reasonable boundaries and tell the Palestinians to take it or leave it. And then leave Gaza to the Egyptians. You can’t have a viable state when it’s separated by another state you don’t like. Remember when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan? Didn’t work, did it? Look at Kashmir. It’s divided along an armistice line and neither Pakistan nor India will negotiate. None of our business, I use it merely for illustration.

Even after it is evident that we’re going to have plenty of gas and oil, there still exists that stupid mandate of using megatons of food (corn) for fuel. It’s not only stupid but doesn’t save a bit of the environment. The energy used to produce ethanol and the enormous amount of fertilizer necessary to grow the corn causes runoff of gigantic amounts of phosphorous and such, harming the environment more than burning ethanol helps. No one in government seems willing to admit a mistake, not when some farmers are getting rich off our tax dollars that go for ethanol we don’t need and is harmful and drives up food prices. We could be exporting a lot of that corn and maybe drawing a bit of good will from hungery countries instead of wasting it on ethanol.

Other non-petroleum sources like wind and solar are good ideas and eventually might become necessary but certainly not in the near future. I could agree with quite a bit of research sponsored by the government in order to have it ready when we need it but I can’t see spending our tax dollars on it--and I’m not ever real sure about government sponsored research. Private industry usually finds a way when a need becomes apparent--so long as there aren’t too many roadblocks put in its way. If it is economically viable, energy companies will develop it without government help, other than the research perhaps.

What else? Oh wow, those east and west coast states that are willing and ready to use the oil that comes from offshore in the gulf of Mexico but froth at the mouth at the mere mention of drilling off their coasts where God only knows how much gas and oil is available. Our politicians let them get away with it. Votes, don’t y’know.

How about regulation? We can’t do without it, contrary to what some far right wingers think. However, our government has become so entangled with bureaucratic interpretations of laws and regulations that departments overlap, work is duplicated or contradicted and time and money wasted on useless efforts at control that doesn’t control much of anything. Lawyers get rich off the laws and regulations promulgated by divergent departments such as EEOC, OSHA, Environmental laws, and preservation of obscure species that no one has ever heard of or knows what they’re good for , if anything. Lately work on a 15 million dollar overpass was halted because of the discovery of a little spider on the premises which doesn’t amount to a hill of beans. Bureaucrats don’t care. They follow regulations no matter how ridiculous and never bother to ask for exceptions.

Environmentalists and politics halted the Keystone pipeline for at least two years for supposed reasons of safety but actually because they didn’t want that oil from tar sands in Canada to contaminate their dainty little minds. There was also more than a bit of politics mixed into the decision. I believe the environment should be protected to a reasonable degree but vested interests won’t stop there and the government won’t go against them because of…votes??? Rats.

Americans complain about gas prices but we have some of the lowest gas prices in the world except in the countries where it is subsidized. I can clearly remember paying two bits a gallon and getting full service with it! That was before we had a department of energy though. Any correlation? You decide.

Let’s move on since we’re no longer dependent on the Middle East for our oil. How about our immigration policy, which is part of foreign relations. I’ve expounded on this subject already but there’s the fact that we have science and technology jobs going begging here yet the graduates of our top notch university system from overseas are allowed to stay and work in only limited numbers. Why? I believe it has something to do with the liberal notion of equal treatment for all, whereby equal numbers of the uneducated and penniless are allowed to come here in proportion to the educated. It’s silly and stupid not to retain these top notch people. All it does is drive more of those jobs overseas. Mexico is our neighbor. Rather than antagonizing them we should be establishing a reasonable immigration policy and giving green cards to ones here illegally. They came to work, not create terror and they work at jobs hardly any American will take any more. Criminalizing them is silly.

How about our law against bribery by corporations of foreign officials in order to get equal treatment with their own corporations. It is a universal practice and while we may not like the idea it hurts our exports and the establishment of our companies overseas, again contributing to job losses at a time when sure as hell can’t afford it!

Back in 1972 or 73 President Nixon opened up relations with China by kicking our long time ally Formosa in the teeth. In the four decades since our government and leaders have stood idly by and watched China’s manipulation of its currency steadily drain manufacturing jobs from our shores. That in turn has lowered wages (which haven’t materially increased in terms of inflation for years and years), cost us tax revenue and increased our national debt. And I don’t see anything on the horizon being done about it yet. It is as if our leaders want to make us a second rate country.

What else? Oh yeah, our closest neighbors, the countries of South America. It appears that many times we go out  of our way to antagonize them when they should be our closest allies and supporters. Can you say Cuba? The Cold War has been over for two decades or more and yet we still forbid trade with Cuba, only 90 miles off our shore. Why? Hell, I think it’s a simple case of inertia combined with vote-seeking from Cuban immigrants.

To conclude we, or our leaders rather, want to try making the world over in our image whether the world wants to imitate us or not. We try to instill democracy in nations that have no preparation for it, don’t know how to handle it and in many cases don’t want it nor the benefits that could come with it. They don’t want equal rights for anyone except the ones in power. More than sixty years after the creation of Israel most of the nations near it still don’t accept the fact and apparently never will. Palestinians insist that any treaty should include the right to return to ancestral homelands and take back the original land they lived on before war displaced them. It’s as if The Plains Indians of the western United States demanded all the land they once lived on before war displaced them. Ain’t gonna happen any more than Palestinians getting their homes back. They weren’t driven out, by the way. They ran away, at least as best I can figure from extensive reading about the area.

I have to break off for this month because of space limitations and time frame for getting this to my web site. Please excuse the rather disorganized wording this month.
           
           
Excerpts from Life On Santa Claus Lane and Doggie Biscuit

From Life On Santa Claus Lane:

THE PIE-MAKER OF SANTA CLAUS LANE

            This  event happened soon after I thought I had really pulled a sneaky one by talking Betty into letting me quit my job to grow Christmas trees and write books while she kept working. As mentioned earlier, I found out that I had outfoxed myself: I was now expected to use my free afternoons to cook supper and have it waiting when Betty got home from work, not to mention doing the wash, polishing furniture and other mundane activities which I really thought were too mundane for a budding writer but found that they had to be done anyway.

            Well, what the heck, I‘ve always been a good loser so I taught myself to cook, after a fashion. Before long I even began producing edible meals and not long after that began getting compliments. Maybe Betty shouldn’t have been so generous with her praise. If she had toned it down a bit I might have stuck with meat and potatoes and not tried to graduate into pastries. But I did. Besides, she had just bought me my first computer for my birthday and I wanted to do something nice for her.
            One afternoon I decided to make a pie. I had seen Betty rolling out dough and it didn’t look all that hard. I mean, you lay the dough down and roll the rolling pin over it then pick it up and put it in a pie pan. Right? I got started.
            First you stir up the batter. I put some biscuit mix in a pan and added an egg and milk and stirred. It got all gummy and began to gob up on my spoon. I added more milk. It got all runny. I added more mix. Ah, just right. However, it seemed like I was forgetting something. Oh yeah. Sugar. I dumped in a cupful. And hadn’t I seen Betty adding shortening to her crusts? Yup. I spooned out a few gobs of Crisco and stirred. Know what? Crisco doesn’t stir all that well. Into the electric mixer it went. No pie dough was going to get the best of me, by golly. I scraped the rest of the mess off the big mixing spoon with my finger and shook it over the mixer bowl. It wouldn’t come loose. I shook harder. Whoops! It came loose on the upswing and splattered onto the cabinet. Out of reach. Well, I could get it later.
            I attached the mixer thingy. Somehow, the batter seemed to be spreading. Besides that glob up on the cabinet I had drips and drabs all over my jeans and shirt. Now I knew why Betty was always wearing an apron when she made pastries. Oh well, I could change clothes when I finished. I turned on the mixer. Maybe I had made too much, what with thinning then thickening. Betty’s pie crust mix never jumped out of the mixing bowl and sprayed itself all around the kitchen, including the ceiling. Never mind, I could clean it up before changing clothes. Right now, by golly I was gong to make a pie come heck or high water.
            I poured what dough was left in the mixing bowl out onto the kitchen counter. My spoon was across the way where the mixer lived so I just used my hand to rake out the rest of the batter onto the counter. What the heck, I had washed my hands that morning and had wiped off all the oil from changing out that tractor filter. On with the pie. I got most of the dough onto the counter but couldn’t figure out why it kept sticking to my hands and not spreading out on the counter like a decent-behaving pie crust should. Oh yeah, dern it. I had forgotten the wax paper. I got some out and made a note to remember to wash the batter off the cabinet handle while I was cleaning the walls and ceiling. I spread out the wax paper beside the dough and grabbed a big double handful of it to put on the wax paper. I placed it there and reached back for more. The wax paper came with me. I shook it but the batter had glued it to my hand. I slithered batter down off my hands, well maybe from down off my elbows to my hands and then off, since it had somehow spread up my arms while trying to get it onto the wax paper. By the time I got the wax paper loose from most of the batter, it looked to me like it was getting too thick again. Well, I wasn’t about to go near that mixer again so I just poured some milk on top of the batter while it was on the counter. Dern it, the milk didn’t mix, it just ran off the batter and over the counter and onto the floor before I could get it to mixing together. I made a note to mop the floor there when I was finished cleaning the walls and ceiling.
            Wax paper didn’t really seem to be necessary even if I did think I had seen Betty using it. I got out the rolling pin, making a note to clean that drawer handle when I was finished. Now I was certain I had seen Betty put flour on the rolling pin before rolling so I got out a handful and sprinkled it on the roller, meantime making a note to clean the top of the flour canister sometime before the weekend. The dadgummed flour just fell off the rolling pin onto the floor and before I knew it I had tracked it into the milk that had run off the counter, but in the meantime I noticed that when I set the rolling pin down for a minute it got into some of the milk on the counter and that made some flour stick to it. Aha! You have to get the rolling pin wet. I ran it under the faucet for a few seconds and said to heck with cleaning the faucet handle. I already had too many other things to clean.
            I dribbled flour over the rolling pin while trying to hold it in my hand and turning it around and around but that didn’t work too good and a lot of the flour still went on the floor and counter and onto my boots and down the front of my jeans. I figured it was already too late for an apron so didn’t bother hunting for one. Anyway, I finally figured out the best way to get the flour onto the rolling pin was to dump some out onto the counter--no! Now I knew  why the dough stuck to the wax paper. I hadn’t put any flour on it! I set the rolling pin down for a minute since I didn’t want to mess any more on the counter and got out some more wax paper and put some water on it so the flour would stick to it and the dough wouldn’t but somehow all I did was make a bunch of paste like when I was a kid. Oh--I bet you should put the flour on dry wax paper then roll the wet rolling pin over it to get the flour to stick to it so the dough won’t stick to the rolling pin so that was what I did.
            Now to roll out the dough but heck, it was still sticking to the counter. That caused me to figure out that I should put flour on dry wax paper, then put the dough on top of it then flour on top of the dough and then use the floured-up rolling pin. I did and it worked sort of, after I scooped up what dough I could get off the counter and used up some more wax paper before learning to put water then a bunch of flour on my hands. By this time I was running out of flour and opened another bag and hoped Betty didn’t notice all the white marks on the cupboard door and handle because like I mentioned, I already had enough cleaning to do and I still hadn’t even got the pie dough finished, much less the pie.
            I saw pretty quick that I didn’t have much dough left to roll out and I couldn’t figure out why. There wasn’t that much of the blamed stuff on the floor or walls or cabinets. Anyway, most of it stuck to the rolling pin no matter how much water and flour I put on it until I emptied that other bag of flour over the dough. That was a pretty good trick in itself because what with getting the rolling pin and paper and dough and stuff all ready to roll out, a bunch of it was gobbed up on my hands and I suspect on my face where I had to brush away flour that made a cloud in the air around my head when I dumped it. I got it done, though, rolled out all pretty even if it was kind of lumpy from that derned Crisco that never did mix in good with the other stuff.
            I picked up the rolled-out dough to put it in a pie pan and it came apart so I just put the pieces in the pan and sort of pressed them against each other, figuring cooking would weld them together. Right about then, I thought I better look in the cookbook and see whether to cook the pie crust first then add the blackberries or add them and cook it all at once. See, I was going to surprise Betty with a blackberry pie instead of a blackberry cobbler.
            The cookbook never did say, not that I could find anyway and pretty soon I couldn’t read it anyhow for all the white marks from dough and flour and so on but I thought a new cook book would make a nice birthday present for Betty so didn’t worry about it. I did know you had to add sugar to the berries do I dumped a couple of cups into them then poured that over the pie crust but then I remembered I hadn‘t stirred the berries and sugar up so I did it while they were sitting there. I think my spoon might have gouged out the bottom of the crust where it wasn‘t already broken but I couldn‘t see through the berries to tell for sure so I just let it go. That’s when I noticed I didn’t have enough crust left to make a top for my pie, but I had it all down pat now so I got started and a couple of hours later I had a top for my pie. I wrote on the grocery list on the wall to be sure and buy more biscuit mix and flour and Crisco and sugar because I sure did seem to have used a whole bunch of that stuff for one little old pie and made a note to clean that wall next week.
            Since I had forgot to read how high to set the oven before the cookbook got to where I couldn’t read it, I figured five hundred degrees ought to get it done pretty quick because I was about out of time and hadn’t even started supper yet. Right quick I decided to let the pie cook and just run get some hamburgers from Sonic for supper. There was a line and by the time I got back I saw Betty’s car already in the driveway. I ran inside and saw her holding something black and smoking in her hand with a potholder.
            “Sorry, honey, I got delayed.” I said.
            Betty didn’t say anything. She put the burnt pie down and just stared and  stared around at the kitchen then began staring at me while her mouth kind of hung open. 
            “Is something wrong?” I asked. I wondered if she was sick because usually she said at least a word or two when she got home.
            “What on earth have you been doing?” Betty finally managed to say.
            “Well, I was making a pie.”
            “How about making a mess?”
            “I guess a little flour got loose,” I said.
            I never have seen a woman sit down smack in the middle of a kitchen floor and laugh and laugh and laugh like that.         
            See if I ever make her another pie.


Excerpt From Doggie Biscuit:

Doctor Bob

    Biscuit had no sooner been cured of puppy strangles than the kittens gave him their ear mites. Doctor Bob was happy to cure them, seeing as how his kids needed school clothes and books and he needed to make a house payment. Biscuit learned to like going to see Doctor Bob, regardless of what was done to him, because Doctor Bob always lets him give his face a lick or two and finishes up the visit with a doggie biscuit.
    It wasn’t long after that when Betty insisted on taking him to see Doctor Bob again. Biscuit liked to chew on things right from the start, but he was so funny and puppyish that, at first, we let it go. However, it got worse. In just one week, Biscuit chewed up :

    1. Betty’s tape measure.
    2. Black Dot’s tail
    3. Black Spot’s ear
    4. My ear
    5. The white and black-spotted chicken’s tail feathers
    6. One of my favorite sheepskin-lined house shoes
    7. A cardboard box
    8. A kitchen towel that Black Spot pulled down to the floor for him
    9. The TV cord
    10. A stick of firewood
    11. A plastic flower
    12. An empty can of cat food
    13. One furry toy referred to as “White Thing”. The third one. They lasted an average of ten seconds or less
    14. A house plant
    15. A porch plant
    16. The corner of our blanket
    17. One of Betty’s tennis shoes
    18. The hem of my jeans
    19. The tip of his own tail
    20. The squeak from all of his squeaky toys, after which he chewed them up, too.

    We tried to think of something he would like to chew on that might keep him happy enough to leave household items alone.
I had an idea. The previous Christmas, Betty had given me a pair of huge wool socks to keep my feet warm during the Christmas tree selling season. The material was almost a half -inch thick. Unfortunately, she didn’t look at the label and gave me size sixteens. Now I have big feet, but not that big. I couldn’t wear them and we never got around to exchanging them.
    Biscuit liked to chew on socks so we gave him old ones. It ordinarily took a day or two for him to reduce a sock to a rag.
    I decided to see what he would think of one of those big old wool socks. I got one and tossed it to him.
    Biscuit growled, grabbed the sock, and proceeded to kill it for the next half-hour. Or rather, he killed it every minute or two for a half-hour. Finally, when he was sure it was dead, he proceeded to eat it.
    We didn’t pay attention at first, thinking he was still playing. Then we noticed that a third of the sock was gone with little or no corresponding debris.
    He was ripping the sock to shreds and gulping down the shreds.
    Before he could finish off the whole sock, I grabbed it from him, risking all the fingers on my right hand--he didn’t want to give it up. Then he spent the next hour before bed, gazing longingly up at the top of the cabinet where I had put the sock.
    There are two conclusions to draw from this: One, Biscuit must have some sort of sheep-eating canine in his ancestry and two, as you have probably already figured out, eating that wool sock prompted another visit to Doctor Bob when it refused to digest. I think that visit is when he started building the new wing on his hospital.

    And then the finale, which sent him to Doctor Bob again.
   
    Betty always fed Biscuit in a bowl by the table and, after he finished his food and all the food he could beg from us, he would crawl under the table and wait there until we finished our meals. It wasn’t until one day when Betty was vacuuming that we found out what he had been doing under the table.
    I heard Betty scream, “You naughty dog! Darrell, come here and see what your dog has done!” When he’s been bad, he’s my dog. Otherwise, he’s Betty’s doggie baby sweetie thing.
    I came hurrying into the den where the dinner table lives. Betty had the chairs pulled back and the table cloth removed, exposing the table legs. Now this table has big feet it rests on, each of them about six inches wide and two feet long. I looked down to where Betty was pointing.
    The leg nearest to her chair, where Biscuit always lay during meals (or at least after he has finished eating), was chewed almost half in two! And that little scamp had managed to do it silently, too.
    I tried to save Biscuit. “Boy, we have some big mice around here, don’t we?”
“Mice, my hind foot! Your dog did that!”
    Biscuit scampered over to see what the commotion was about.
    “Do you see what you did?” Betty asked him.
    Biscuit sat up on his hiney and wagged his tail. You might think a dog can’t wag his tail while sitting on the place where it’s attached, but you haven’t seen our dog. He manages fine.
    “Don’t act so innocent,” Betty scolded. “Tomorrow we’re going to see Doctor Bob and find out why you chew everything to pieces!”
    Doctor Bob? Biscuit wagged faster and woofed. He already recognized Doctor Bob’s name.

***

    Doctor Bob was very glad to see us again so soon. Besides books and school clothes and a house payment, his kids needed a new computer.
    “Why does he chew on stuff so much?” Betty asked.
    Doctor Bob put his face down for Biscuit to lick. He scratched his ears, a process which took a while considering their size, then said, “Some dogs are just chewers. Try giving him an old houseshoe.”
    “He’s already eaten both my new houseshoes,” I said.
    “Have you tried him with squeaky toys?”
    “He kills and eats the squeaks twenty seconds after we give them to him.”
    “What about the rest of the toy?”
    “He eats the rest.”
    “Well, how about furry toys? Does he like them?”
    “Sure, he eats them, too, but he really prefers kittens for his furry chews.”
    “Hmmm. Let me do some research.”
    While Doctor Bob was out of the room, Biscuit ate the rubber off one of the exam table legs, the bottom part of a poster that was within reach and was working on [delete following the stethoscope Doctor Bob and was chewing on] Doctor bob’s stethoscope when he returned from his research.
    “Awk! That’s my good stethoscope!” Doctor Bob said.
    “Those were my good houseshoes, too,” I said.
    “Hmm. Well, here’s the diagnosis. Some dogs are just chewers. What you have to do is find something he really, really likes to chew on and keep it on hand all the time.”
    “Okay, that makes sense,” I said.
    “Anything to keep him away from the table,” Betty said.
    I took Biscuit out to the car while Betty paid Doctor Bob for the visit and a new stethoscope.
    On the way home, we stopped at Wal-Mart and bought a few hundred dollars worth of things which looked as if they might interest a little Weenie Dog. Over the next week or two, we tried him on pig’s ears, hard-rubber toys, soft-rubber toys, balls with bells inside them, rawhide shaped like a bone and numerous other items which interested him not at all. He still chewed on shoes, table legs (if we weren’t watching), bedspreads (when we were asleep) and kitty cat tails (whether they were asleep or not).
    Eventually, we got down to the last item, a package of rawhide chews. They were shaped into rolls about six inches long and an inch or so in diameter.
    Biscuit grabbed the first one and ran with it. He lay down on the floor, held the rawhide roll upright between his front paws and began chewing happily away, just as if he was eating an ice cream cone. And that solved the problem.
    We buy them in the large economy-type packages which last a day or two if we’re lucky, but by golly, that stopped his chewing on household items. Except for one thing. Well, maybe a catnip mouse isn’t a household item, but Biscuit loves them.
    The first time I put a couple of them down on the floor for the kittens, Biscuit walked over, sniffed, then grabbed one away from Black Spot and proceeded to go crazy with it. He played with it just like a cat, tossing it into the air, rolling on it, laying on his back and tossing it around and chewing on it until he decided it was dead. Then he chewed it up and ate it. Then he swiped Black Dot’s catnip mouse and killed and ate it, too.
    We called Doctor Bob, but he had no more idea than we did whether catnip was bad for doggies or not, but just to be on the safe side, we didn’t buy any more of them.

***

    Getting the rawhide chews that Biscuit could hold and eat like an ice cream cone pretty well took care of him chewing things inside the house, but that still left the outside, which he was just beginning to explore. And he suddenly decided he liked to chew on snakes.
    The Snakes Chew Back

    Have I mentioned that Betty is scared of snakes? If not, you can read about it in Laughing All The Way, another book I wrote. I think maybe the first time Biscuit was with Betty and saw her run screaming for me to get my gun or the hoe was when he decided she needed protecting from snakes, even if what she usually ran from was ten-inch-long garden snakes.
    Biscuit proved to be a ferocious snake dog, which was fine. Except that he wouldn’t just chase them off; he insisted on chewing on them. And some snakes chewed back.
    The first time he came into the house whimpering for attention, he was limping and his right front leg was beginning to swell.
    “He’s been bit by a snake!” Betty said.
    “No kidding,” I said.
    “Wherrrifff?” Biscuit said. “Can I go see Doctor Bob?”
    Betty was already running for the car keys, shouting at me to get the baby and hurry up!
    Usually, when Biscuit rides with us, he sits up or crawls up into one of our laps so he can see what’s going on. Not this time. His little foot was ballooning up to twice or three times its normal size and he was whimpering that he needed to see Doctor Bob right now.
    As soon as we turned off the highway into town, Biscuit’s ears perked up. Well, they twitched, anyway. They are too big and floppy to ever perk up for anything less than the trump of doom, but he knew already which turn we took to go see Doctor Bob and that got his attention.
    Biscuit wasn’t seriously ill. He got a couple of shots, some pills for pain, some pills for swelling, a doggie biscuit and several face licks. He did the face licks, not Doctor Bob. And soon he was back home. A day or two later, he was hardly even limping--but he still wanted to chew on snakes, particularly, the ones which chewed back.
    A month later, he zigged when he should have zagged and a copperhead nipped him on the other leg. Back to Doctor Bob. Same treatment. I didn’t go that time, being busy writing or farming or something or other.
    It took one more snake bite to convince Biscuit (temporarily, at least) to do his snake chewing from a safe distance. This time, he got bit at the base of his floppy, Dumbo ear. That really provided a lot of area to swell up. He scratched at the door to be let in and went right to his water bowl to dunk his head in it, favoring the left side.
    That told us right away, something was seriously wrong. I bent down to see. Bending down to see Biscuit takes a lot of bending, especially back then when he was only three or four inches high. It didn’t take much to see his ear, though. It was rapidly swelling, along with the side of his neck and snout.
    Just picture a Dumbo-eared Weenie Dog who has been bitten on the ear by a copperhead. By the time we got Biscuit to the Animal Hospital, his right ear had swollen up until it was about the size of a two-pound package of Jimmy Dean Sausage. It pulled his head over to one side, and that side of his head and neck was ballooned out to twice its normal size, too.
    “Boy, you are a sad looking little pup,” Doctor Bob said when he saw him.
    I could tell that he was trying not to laugh at poor Biscuit, but it was hard not to. He was about the silliest-looking animal I have ever seen. If it hadn’t been for the obvious pain in his expression, we would all have laughed.
    As it was, Doctor Bob let Biscuit lick his face while he was getting shot his usual shots and fed his usual pills. By the time we got back home, he had perked up enough to chew on Black Spot’s tail, though not with his usual enthusiasm.

***

    Just about the time we thought Biscuit’s chewing was under control, he discovered sticks. With a hundred acres of woods and fields to play in, sticks weren’t hard to find. Usually, all he had to do was step outside and slither down the steps.
    Yes, he was big enough by this time to go up and down by himself, but he still looked like a brown slinky going down and a short, brown anaconda going up. And out in the front yard were lots of pine trees which conveniently dropped lots of sticks for little doggies to play with.

***

    One day, Biscuit scratched to be let inside. Betty let him in and he ran over to me and began some of the most peculiar gyrations I’ve seen any animal, much less a dog, perform. He waved his head back and forth and up and down, sat up on his hiney and wherfed at me, then lay down on the floor and rubbed his head on the carpet as if he were shining shoes. Then Biscuit sat back up on his hiney and jerked his head up and down and barked at me, saying just as plain as anything, “Hey, stupid! Can’t you see I’ve got a problem? Do something!”
    By this time, Betty had joined us and we were feeling and looking all over his body for a snake bite. Biscuit gave an exasperated yap and opened his mouth as wide as he could and waved it back in forth in front of my face. I finally got the idea and looked in his mouth.
    Sure enough, there was a stick wedged sideways in his mouth between his upper rows of teeth. It took a couple of minutes to work it loose, but finally, I pulled it free.
    “Look, sweetie,” I said. “He was just eating a stick.”
    “Do you think we should take him to see Doctor Bob?” Betty asked.
    “Not for a stick. We have to set limits somewhere. If Doctor Bob gets too rich, he’ll retire, then where would we be?”
    “Well....”
    “Not for sticks,” I said firmly. “By the way, what did you do with the stick?”
“I didn’t do anything with it. I thought you put it in your waste basket.”
    My memory is usually good for more than three minutes, but I looked anyway. No stick. About that time, Betty shouted, “Biscuit, no!”
    I looked around.
    Biscuit was just polishing off the last of the stick, evidently having figured out, it went down easier if he ate from one end rather than from the middle.
    After Betty got back from taking Biscuit to see Doctor Bob, who had assured her (for a very reasonable fee, only enough for his summer vacation) that Biscuit was in no danger, Biscuit went outside to look for more sticks.

***

    There were several more instances of Biscuit getting a stick caught in his mouth, but as he grew older they tapered off and we thought we were finished with the stick-in-mouth syndrome. We weren’t, not quite, but that came later. In the meantime, Biscuit had discovered something else to put into his mouth.   


From Laughing All The Way:

THE GREAT CLOSET EXPEDITION

       Biscuit has gotten most of the attention here when it comes to the Junior Citizens on our farm. However, we’ve always had lots of cats roaming around. They are supposed to help keep the gopher population under control but for some reason they seem to prefer cat food instead of gopher meat. Anyway, we do have cats, and usually they start out in the house as kittens. There was this one kitten that really caused a commotion.

       I convinced Betty to let me quit my job fifteen years ago while she kept working by telling her how much money I was going to make writing and/or growing Christmas trees. That’s still what I’m telling her. I’m going to make bunches of money “pretty soon.” Warning to husbands: don’t try this unless you are very good at pretending to farm and/or writing bestsellers. Or have an extremely supportive wife like Betty.
       Actually, I think Betty may have kept her job while I piddled around with trees and writing for two reasons. One, she advanced rapidly in the Home Health field and was soon making bunches of money, and two, her job title entitled (required?) her to travel a lot. And Betty has never met a new city she didn’t like. Or need new clothes for. She teased the CEO into more trips than I make going up to the road in the morning to check on whether our lazy paper carrier has decided whether to start his day yet.
       Betty seemed to be gone on two and three day trips all the time. I missed her but loved the money she was making. And I missed her for one more thing: raising two new kittens in the house is a two person job. Believe me. Maybe even a three person job.
       Got the picture so far? Okay, let’s back up a bit. When we built this house way back when, Betty helped design it. Of the 2,000 square feet, she allotted 1,499 square feet for her closet, and over the years, especially as she rose in the corporate ranks, she insisted her job required five thousand dollars worth of new clothes per week. Well, since I was never a big corporate executive, I had very few grounds for argument, so the clothes accumulated.
       One day Betty said, “I need new closet space.”
       “Three quarters of the house is already closet. Why do you need more space?” I was foolish enough to ask.
       “To put my new clothes in.”
       Then I said something really dumb. “I’ve got an idea! Why don’t you just get rid of some of the clothes you bought that I never see you wear and we can save all the money a new closet will cost?”
       You would have thought I was suggesting that we sacrifice one of the children. Or one of the kittens, maybe.
       “Oh, no! Everything in my closet is something I might wear again.”
       “But you’ve gained-”
       The glare I got for that statement shut me up and scared both kittens into the curtains. By the time we got them down we were not only talking new closet space but new curtains as well. I retreated with as much grace as I could muster and called the contractor. Carpenters came and went, carrying enormous amounts of building material into Betty’s closet. Hammering and sawing sounds ensued. They left and Betty had a smile on her face for the next month. I did notice that when she was in her closet her voice sounded kind of muffled and distant at times, but dismissed the idea that she was farther away than she used to be. I just didn’t know, not being inclined to poke around in women’s closets.
       Betty got promoted again. “Honey,” she said, “I need more closet space.”
       “But-”
       “Get it taken care of real quick. I’ve got to get some new clothes to go with my new title.”
       “You mean women’s clothes have to match their job title now?”
       “Of course, dummy. Hurry up and call. I’m leaving on another trip next week and I want it finished by then.”
       “But-”
       Betty frowned and the kittens clawed their way to the top of a lamp, sending it crashing to the floor and the next thing I knew I was calling the contractor and Betty was out shopping for new lamps along with new clothes. When she came home with a truckload of new clothes and another truckload of lamps I never said a word. Clothes have to match. Lamps have to match. Break one, buy all new.
       Carpenters came and went. Hammering and sawing sounds ensued. Great loads of building materials went into her closet but none ever came out. Occasionally I wondered how many square feet of closet we had now but it was only idle speculation. Besides, how could you measure it beneath all the clothes and shoes anyway?
       Betty got another promotion. Repeat story, and now we’re all set. Almost. Betty went on another trip, leaving me with the kittens. The second day after she was gone one of them turned up missing. I searched the house then searched again, practically turning it upside down. Finally I decided it had gotten outside somehow, probably streaking between my feet while I wasn’t looking. I searched outside. No kitten. I finally gave it up for lost, wondering how I was going to explain it to Betty. She loved those kittens and it wasn’t just because every time one nicked a dress or pantsuit with a tiny claw she ran off to the nearest store to replace it (the dress, not the kitten), never mind that even with my bifocals I could never see any damage.
       That night I was getting ready for bed. It was coming a storm. I was in the bathroom when, over the rumble of thunder and drumming of rain on the roof I thought I heard a very faint mew, mew. I turned off the water and cocked my good ear. Mew, mew, the sound came again. I went into the bedroom. The other kitten had woke from its nap and was busily shredding my pillow. I went back into the bathroom. Mew, mew, mew. It was definitely a kitten and the sounds were definitely coming from somewhere in the bathroom-or nearby.
       I opened the door to Betty’s closet. Mew, mew! The sounds were louder. Aha! Mystery of the missing kitten solved.
       “Here, kittie, kittie, kittie,” I called, and waited for the little bundle of fur to come running. Poor thing, it must have wandered into the closet while Betty was getting ready for her trip and gotten closed in. No kitty. Only mews, still sounding far off.
       I peered into the distance, trying to see past racks of dresses, shelves of hats, rows of dresses, tons of tops and shoes which seemed to be climbing the wall until I noticed they were in some sort of holders. Some of them.
       “Here, Kitty!” I called again, flicking the light switch off and on, trying to get more light. The bulb went out. I stared into the dark bowels of the closet, then went to get a new bulb-and a flashlight. The light bulb was quite a ways into the closet and the darkness looked sort of threatening to me.
       I returned with the flashlight and braved the depths of the closet. Far in the distance I could see the burnt out bulb. Waving my flashlight I walked forward a hundred yards or so and at that moment a great crash of thunder ensued and all the lights in the house went out. I knew they went out because way back behind me the faint glow of the bathroom lights shining into the cavernous closet blinked out. And right then, I knew I should have changed the batteries in the flashlight before setting out on an expedition into unexplored territory. At least unexplored by me. The flashlight was putting out a beam so weak that it drooped. It wouldn’t even shine far enough to see my feet. Fortunately, there were other flashlights in the house. I decided to go back and get one, ignoring the little mews which now seemed to be coming from all around me.
       As quickly as I started back to the bathroom, I tripped over something, a clothes basket I think, and fell on my face. Fortunately I held on to the flashlight, such as it was, and continued back toward the bathroom. It sure seemed like a long way. And I didn’t remember that sudden right turn, nor the four steps leading down, nor a huge stack of what felt like clothes trunks blocking my way. Evidently, I had gotten turned around when I fell down. Now what?
       Go back the way you came, silly, I told myself, trying to put down the panic as my flashlight steadily dimmed. I had visions of being lost in the closet and starving to death or dying of thirst. I went back the way I came, I thought.
       It led nowhere I was familiar with. Eventually, the flashlight dimmed to nothing brighter than a teensy coal, then it went out completely. Don’t panic, I told myself. After all, the house is only so big and even if it does have enough closet space to hide the inventory of a moderately sized department store, I can’t really be lost.
       I could really be lost. I staggered around, tripped and fell down, bumped into shelves, steel wooden and otherwise, wandered into someplace where a rain of shoes began falling on my head and shoulders from unknown heights, and began imagining that wild animals might have found their way into the closet along with the lost kitten. My heart began beating faster as I thought I could hear growls mixing in with the mews.
       Just as I was on the edge of real panic, the lights came back on, except the one where the bulb was still burnt out, of course. However, there was one shining almost overhead. Way overhead. How did the closet get this high? And long? Never mind, I just wanted to get the out of here!
       I walked and walked, around corners, past stairs-stairs? Where did stairs in Betty’s closet come from?-around corners, and into small rooms with clothes hanging everywhere, shoeboxes stacked to the ceiling and skirts and tops and sweatshirts and tee shirts folded and hanging and blocking paths, and all the time I kept hearing mew mew. Boy, I really felt sorry for that poor kitten, being lost in the closet. Heck, I felt sorry for me being lost in the closet! I wondered if I would ever find my way out.
       While I was peering into an alcove that appeared to contain the complete inventory of a reputable department store, I felt something brush my leg, then begin climbing up my jeans. I looked down. A bewildered kitten looked up. Mew, it said. Get me out of this stupid closet!
Well, I was willing. However...
       Hours later, kitten clinging to my shoulder in a death grip, we accidentally came to a door I thought I recognized. It I wasn’t mistaken, it was the inside of the door to the closet in the other guest bedroom, which was way on the other side of the house from the master bedroom where I had begun my quest for the lost kitten. Tentatively, I pushed it open and sure enough, there I was in the guest bedroom. Those contractors had extended the closet all the way through the house to the closet there, allowing Betty to surreptitiously take over all that closet space, too.
       I shuddered to think of ever having to retrace my path back through that closet. I think I know now why Betty is always asking me for more twine for her tomato plants. I bet she keeps most of it all rolled up at the entrance to her closet and trails it back behind her so she can find her way out. That’s sure what I will do if I ever go in it again.
       I carried the kitten into the kitchen where he jumped down, and ignoring growls from Biscuit the dog, proceeded to drink his water bowl dry then eat all the dog food. Exploring closets takes lots of energy. Myself, I took some liquid refreshment, too. I offered some to kitten but he declined the Jack Daniels and asked for some cat food. I fed him and he ate it all then climbed up some curtains to get a well-deserved nap. I shrugged and added more new curtains to the shopping list.
       When Betty came home she asked if anything had happened while she was gone. I started to tell the truth, then decided to keep it simple.
       “Just a lost kitten,” I said. “No problem.”
       “Fine,” Betty said, picking up the phone.
       “Who are you calling?” I asked.
       “The contractors. I just got another promotion.”

 

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
December 2012

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