Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Hunter, Hunted, and Mountain Biker

On the back of Pinnacle Mountain,
down roads where you rarely see
people traveling about,
rocks rise out of the gravel and dirt
like bony spines of ancient dinosaurs,
and trees are hunched and gnarled,
limbs twisted by winter winds,
now brushy and dark green
with oak leaves and acorns.

Skidding around a corner,
a dark figure on all fours
catches my eye
and locks my brakes.
Ten yards ahead,
in a sunlit patch of road,
dark bristly fur,
too big to be a dog,
the brown nose gives away
the bear cub’s identity.

But mine must have been confusing
to him, maybe never having seen
a boy on a bike,
round wheels instead of legs
on a steel-framed skeleton carcass.
What are wheels to a creature
who can climb rocky crags
and steep ridges
I wouldn’t attempt to clamor up?

----- Instinct identified me well enough,
----- and with a low moan, the cub
----- runs back into the dark green shadows.
----- I didn’t stick around to meet his mother.

The next week I met its poacher
in a red and faded pick up truck
creeping up the same road, slowly.
A gray, long-eared hound dog,
skin and bones, wearing a body collar,
was bolted by a leash to the hood.
Standing with a purpose, it leaned forward
like a rock climber, pulling on her lead rope,
a surfer on a Chevrolet wave,
sniffing the air, first one way,
and then the next.

The man looked just as confused
as the bear the previous day
to see a boy on a bike,
coming down the mountain,
out here where his thoughts
had possessed the solitary wilderness.
As we passed each other
on the narrow, rutted road,
he lifted his hand.
I nodded my head and smiled,
caught a glint of corn liquor
in his red and faded eyes.

----- We momentarily shared the silence,
----- save for the whirring and creaking
----- of his 4-wheel drive,
----- and then we were masters
----- of our surroundings once again.

from Pine Mountain Sand & Gravel 11 (Fall 2004) 25

Friday, July 18, 2008

Two Poems by Carl Sandburg


I saw a famous man eating soup.
I say he was lifting a fat broth
Into his mouth with a spoon.
His name was in the newspapers that day
Spelled out in tall black headlines
And thousands of people were talking about him.

When I saw him,
He sat bending his head over a plate
Putting soup in his mouth with a spoon.

Sky Pieces

Proudly the fedoras march on the heads of the some-
what careless men.
Proudly the slouches march on the heads of the still
more careless men.
Proudly the panamas perch on the noggins of dapper
debonair men.
Comically somber the derbies gloom on the earnest sol-
emn noodles.
And the sombrero, most proud, most careless, most dap-
per and debonair of all, somberly the sombrero
marches on the heads of important men who know
what they want.
Hats are sky-pieces; hats have a destiny; wish your hat
slowly; your hat is you.

from The Complete Poems of Carl Sandburg, 1970.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'd Like to Tell That Officer Where to Park It

No offense to officers of the law (except for the one that pulled me over Memorial Day a few years ago and said I was doing 70 in a 55 -- when I was only doing 60, at the most!), but I took this photo at a rest stop somewhere off Interstate 77 a few weeks ago while on a Civil War class field trip. A blog about that adventure later. I probably could come up with a better caption than this, but maybe someone out there could comment and come up with a better one.

Space Age Outhouse for Johnny Law?

When Smokey's not on your tail, a place to rest his?

State Trooper Poopers?

Darn Nuts!

Since my daughter was two, she loved watching The Andy Griffith Show. To her, though, it's called watching Barney Fife. She also liked those Hillbilly Darlings. She asks me why it's in black and white about every other time. I tried telling her the world didn't have color back then, but she knew I was teasing.

Over the years I explained that people on television pretend to be other people, and that Barney Fife's real name is Don Knotts. The other day she was watching Scooby Doo on Boomerang and Don Knotts was making a voice appearance on the show, playing himself dressed as Barney Fife. I sat down next to my daughter and said, "Wow. Barney Fife is on Scooby Doo." She turned her head to me, rolled her eyes, and said, "No, Daddy, it's not Barney Fife. It's Darn Nuts!"