These are stories from letters written in 1995 between Diane on a Montana cattle ranch and Joanna in a small village outside of Spoleto, Italy in the province of Umbria. Diane and Joanna had been movie and television talent agents representing such actors as Julianne Moore, Emma Thompson, Christian Bale, Stanley Tucci and the comedian Lewis Black. Both jumped ship, skedaddled, flew the coop and escaped to the country. Joanna may have gone farther miles wise, but psychically Diane was on another planet. Joanna could get to Rome in an hour and a half by train. Diane could maybe get to a Costco in that time and only when the roads were good.
What makes us who we are? When we are caught misbehaving who do we point fingers at? In trying to find the culprits involved in shaping my persona, I have previously examined the children’s show “Andy’s Gang” with it’s rascally thing called “Froggy the Gremlin” who appeared when Andy Devine declared “Pluck your magic twanger, Froggy.” Lot of Freud couch time for that expression.
Each week there was some sort of puzzle to figure out by completing the picture on the TV. And each week you would help Winky Dink complete a mission. You could do this if you purchased the magic Winky Dink drawing screen which turned out to be a piece of vinyl plastic that you put on the TV screen. Then you took the magic crayon that came with it and drew on the TV. An example would be Winky Dink needing a bridge to cross a river. You would draw the bridge. This seems to be one of the first examples of interactive games on something like a TV.
More often than not, the kids could not get there parents to fork over the dough for the magic screen. And I too could not convince my parents of the necessity of the screen. Times were supposedly good and idyllic back in the 1950s, but my Dad did not make a lot of money. We were always told that we couldn’t afford this or that. But somehow he managed to take flying lessons. But that’s another part of the puzzle to be looked at later.
In this instance, it may have been that the whole Winky Dink thing was stupid and our parents just did not want to participate in this consumer scam. But we had a way of getting around this. Mom’s lipstick seemed to be a very good substitute for the magic crayon. And why did you need a magic piece of plastic when you could just draw on the TV screen?
A lot of kids, I hear, got whacked for drawing on the brand new TV especially the not so bright ones who used permanent ink instead of something that could be easily wiped off. I too received a bit of scolding. But at least my father agreed that he didn’t see the need to purchase some thingamajig when we could maybe use waxed paper.But that wasn’t great. We tried holding up a piece of glass while one of us used the crayon. But that was way too much labor for the not very interesting puzzle anyway. I vaguely recall that we finally got our 50¢ Winky Dink Kit and also recall become immediately bored with it.
I think there must have been a lot of complaints from parents and that might have been one of the reasons it went off the air. But it was another example for me anyway of ways to not follow the rules and to invent a way around the system. It was much more fun and creative than the actual kit. And my Dad helped. Disobedience, as Martha would say, is a good thing.
Nope, I’m not a Pioneer Woman. I may be somewhat of a pioneer in my business life, but in my domestic life it’s Martha Stewart I turn to and not to the butter and bacon Pioneer Woman of the Food Network.
So last night I invited some friends over to watch Larry David’s “Clear History” on HBO with an out of this world comic turn by Michael Keaton proving he is still one of the most unique comic talents around.
I made her Quinoa Salad with Zucchini, Mint and Pistachios in the September issue of “Living”. We served it with my husband’s potato and onions with his secret rub (Ok, it’s Sirracha and Smoked Paprika), and a Thomas Keller rubbed pork tenderloin from his “Ad Hoc at Home”. I had purchased the zucchini, fresh potatoes right out of the ground, and onions from the Hutterites who sell produce in town every Saturday.
The mint was from the garden. Pistachios from the Community Co-op. I served Martha’s Pistachio and Strawberry Semi Freddo for dessert.
A week or so ago the lawn mower died. What to do when the lawn mower blows up? “Buy a new one?” I asked. “Or maybe get a high school kid to come mow? ”
Rancher husband shakes his head “No” to both.
“How about I call “Down to Earth” yard guys?”
Mr. No strikes again.
So I wake up and there has appeared magically a rope across the yard and our three horses are now munching the grass. Trouble is that in that week’s time when the grass grew, the weeds grew faster. Finicky horses don’t like the weeds so the result is not exactly the well manicured suburban lawn or even that tidy of tidy ranch wives’ lawn on “The Pioneer Woman”.
Now I am not a neat freak, but the backyard looks like crap, literally. The grass is chewed down well enough, but besides the tall weeds there is a whole lot of horse poop. So this is not a lawn you’d want to roll around in with your dog let alone have a lawn party. My whole “Out of Africa” kind of vibe I had going is shot. (Yes, I see myself more like Meryl Streep than Ree Drummond. And I’m more inspired by Martha Stewart and Bobby Flay than the local church cookbook.
I’m looking forward to Rancher husband’s (should I call him Bud Lite Guy like Pioneer Woman’s Marlboro Man?”) next idea.
One of my favorite bloggers on the site “Naked Capitalism” is “from Mexico”. On June 4, 2013, he commented on the protests in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey. “How,” he asks “do these places like Taksim Square get transformed into sacred spaces, taking on such immense symbolic significance and becoming larger than life? And even more surprising, this occurs to secularists.”
He refers to the historian of religion, Mircea Eliade and his theory that “sacredness is irrepressible”. Even atheists have privileged places different from others. Those are places where first loves occurred or the first time one visits a foreign city. It can be a book or your grandpa’s farm.
Last night a friend said that she was standing in line in a grocery store and a man behind her dressed in a natty tweed sports coat with salt and pepper hair softly said, “Ah, Channel Number 5.”
Surprised she turned and said, “How did you know?”
“Ah,” he sighed, “the first woman I fell in love with wore it.”
More on the politics of beer in Montana. Politics and beer have been joined together since the beginning of our country. Remember the Whiskey Rebellion? There’s a good book on the history of the saloon period from 1870-1920 called “Faces Along the Bar” by Madelon Powers. People who say they loves their freedoms turn around and like to control other people’s ability to brew their own brew. They also seek to control people’s leisure time. It’s an old story.
That was a great line in “Brokeback Mountain” spoke by one cowpoke to the other. And this week I heard it in reference to party politics. A neighbor came up and informed me that he’d just been to Helena, our state capital.
“The Republicans are plum out of their minds up there, ” he said. He was referring to the new batch of nonsense that clog up our legislative process every two years although it sounds like the atmosphere is not as bat-crap crazy as last time. Continue reading →
There was something strangely thrilling about making it home Sunday night through 10° temperature, blowing snow (wind gusts of over 66 mph) and snow drifts that can stop a truck dead in its tracks. It’s the thrill of quite simply “braving the storm”. And sometimes when things seem really bleak and you are feeling quite numb from tragedies both near and far, a bit of courage is a rather awesome thing to feel.
Last night I decided to go into town to find somebody to watch the totally frivolous red carpet goings on for the Golden Globes. Watching frivolity is a way I can stop my mind from dwelling on bad things happening to good people and bad people getting away with crimes.
I decided to wear my sister’s mink because it was bitter cold and I wanted to be a little “glam” for the Globes even if nobody else around here was in this business but me and could care less. The coat doesn’t have very good closures. Just some hooks. Not good in the wind. But I only had to walk a few feet from the car to the bar, so I should be fine, I thought. Silly me. I forgot about Montana winters since it’s been unusually warm. Continue reading →
The bar has been rather quiet lately. There weren’t as many Christmas parties as in the past. Not as many people bellied up to the bar. It’s always a little quieter after the end of the main hunting season that ends at Thanksgiving. Not as many strangers dressed in camouflage, their orange heads bobbing as they exchange stories of bagging that elk. For that I am always thankful at Thanksgiving. I am thankful that my neighbors have meat in their freezer for the year, yes. But I am also thankful that it is the end of dead animals on hoods of trucks season.
And now we have settled in for winter with mostly locals and the occasional travelers on their way across the state on I-90. They mostly have tales of snow and woe. There is still talk of hunting but it has to do with what the hunter got for Christmas. This year’s present seems to be an electronic animal distress call. And a young man at the bar had just received one. What in the world was that, I asked.
“Well, it mimics an animal in distress like a rabbit so the coyote or wolf will come to it and you can get your shot,” the young man replied.
The young woman with him remarked, “He can make all the sounds himself, so he doesn’t really need one. His sounds are better than the recordings and, yes, quite distressful.”
“I learned those calls when I was a little guy watching the hunting shows on TV, ” he added. “My mom would just shake her head as I did my best one, the dying rabbit.”
Now I was under the impression that most youngsters were forced to watch Sesame Street with Miss Piggy or cartoons about rascally rabbits. Instead I find out that there are little boys out there mastering the fine art of imitating dying bunnies and ‘lil Miss Piggy squeals. Indeed, life is strange. But having just see the magnificent “Life of Pi” by director Ang Lee, I’m not sure there is a right or wrong way of explaining the food chain to a kid. Sesame Street or Outdoor Living? Whose to say?
So this is where the tale gets even stranger for me. The young man said that he couldn’t really use his present much in Montana as they have rules about such things. You can’t use electronic devices to lure or bait your prey.
Okay, I don’t hunt. My sister does. My uncles did. My husband used to but hasn’t in 20 years. He is a rancher and only uses his gun to shoot coyotes that come near his cows and calves. So I don’t know much about it and usually only half listen to these hunting conversations which I find as tedious as they might find my conversations about life expectancies in the industrialized nations.
So I asked, “I don’t understand. What’s the difference between you making a distressed “lil piggy” and a gizmo doing it?”
“I guess it’s not fair,” he shrugged. And this, by and large, was the answer I got from about a half dozen people I asked over the course of the next two days.
“Not fair? Not fair?” I declared each time. “You are going off to kill something. I don’t get it. What difference does it make how you do it? Why are there all these rules? I get that there is a quota. I get that hunters are used to thin the herds since there is very little feed around and it is better than having them starve. Okay. I get not shooting near a house. I get asking permission of a rancher to come on his place. But what is this “not fair” stuff? It’s not like the deer and the hunter meet at the center of the field and agree on a set of rules and shake paws or hooves or hands and go back to their respective corners waiting for the gong to sound. The deer and coyotes are not part of this deal. They did not even designate representatives in the capital to speak on their behalf in making these rules. I don’t get why it’s a sport at all, I guess. Is this how an idea like “The Hunger Games” begins? Somebody decides who is predator and who is prey and what’s “fair”?”
The young couple were polite as I finished my rant. They had no answers for me.
The next day I was having my nails done and I asked the question at the salon.
“Angie, come over here,” Melissa said. “You hunt. Why are there these rules about electronic animal sounds?”
“Well, you can’t bait them. You can’t use a bucket of guts and you can’t use electronic calls. It’s not fair, I guess, ” she replied.
“But what is all this “fair” stuff?” I repeated.
“Well, if you break the rules you have to pay a fine. Maybe it’s a way of collecting money,” she pondered.
Okay, that’s an idea I can wrap my head around. That might be a rationale for those rules. Maybe it’s the only way a state can figure out revenue. But there is something more. Something deeper. The underlying idea is that hunting has come to be viewed as a sport and not something of a necessity. And “sport” is an idea that has been around for thousands of years. “Sport” is what keeps the plebes occupied while the elites steal everything in sight. The elites have always resorted to “bread and circuses” to keep the rabble from cutting off their heads. Until one day it stops working. And that’s when the prey becomes the predator. It is forever thus.
He met me last night at our local watering hole and said, “I can’t stop thinking about what you said about that doctor and the other guy not being in the debates. Who decides these things?” Continue reading →
After a long and frustrating day of baling hay (too wet, too dry), my husband goes to town for some beers. There he usually runs into an assortment of fellows who will invariably give him the latest shocking examples of evil government doings gleaned from somewhere in the Fat Cat News.
“The IRS is gonna charge our athletes $9000 for winning a gold medal!” a wizened fellow exclaims.
“That ain’t right. Gud dam gubmint ” grumbles a guy in a green cap as he slams his beer glass down on the bar, “Why they are fighting for us over there.”
“Get the ropes! String ’em up”, two more guys yell out as the crowd now becomes tense and restless, grumbling about lack of good swinging trees because of the gd tree huggers. Continue reading →