Tag Archives: rural life

News From the Saloon – Bang for Your Buck

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.


Dwayne Teaches Science

My friend’s eleven year old son, Dwayne, taught a science class last week in his one room school house.  The teacher had started a lesson on bees when Dwayne raised his hand and asked if he could teach the subject.  She agreed.  He started to explain bees and pollen when suddenly he ran outside.  He came back with a bee in a bottle.  He proceeded to show the class of first to six graders the pollen on the bees little legs and then explained the process of pollination.

When he concluded, the teacher exclaimed that he taught the subject better than she could have done.

One room schools are interesting.  I mentioned to a young couple at a dinner that I was intrigued by them and wondered if we could carry the idea of them over into regular schools.  The mother of a nine year old girl said that in the small town in Wyoming from where they came the one room school experience had been great academically for her daughter, but bad socially.   The school had 7 students; six were girls and one boy.  The five other girls turned out to be Heathers i.e. mean girls.   So the little girl was miserable there and is much happier now in their new town in a school with lots of kids.  The mother and father had a unique explanation for the bad behavior.  Except for their daughter, all the kids lived in town and not on ranches even if their parents owned ranches.  They didn’t do chores before school like their daughter did.  They felt that had something to do with the mean girls’ nasty behavior.

Maybe, I thought.  Maybe not.   Perhaps there was a way of combining all these variations.  Why divide learning up by age to begin with?   I mean a kid born in January ends up in the same class as the kid born 12 months later in December.  When I was young there was a school that had half year classes in an attempt to figure that one out.

Combining the one room school idea but in a larger context might work.  Structure or destructure a school like Pixar Studios with the bathrooms and common space in the middle of the building, so kids can mingle.   Also having everybody do animal and plant chores during the day is good for all kinds of things.

Also in the one room school model, the older children are enlisted to help the younger ones with studies they have mastered.   So the teacher gets help and the older children learn the art of teaching.  Always seemed to me that if you could learn to be a good teacher, you would be prepared for almost anything.  And it might replace the meanness for attention with genuine sharing of accomplishment and nurturing of the younger ones.

I’m sure none of these ideas are new.  Utopian schools like the Ferrer Schools in Spain, Summerhill, and Beacon Hill Schools were experiments in giving children the freedom they did not have in most schools.  They came from a view that learning should be voluntary and free.  It is part of the pursuit of happiness rather than a preparation for life as a drone.  Not much is really new.  But maybe it’s time to do another reboot and take a look at what “school” should look like.  Instead of looking at education as a “race” or school as a place for indoctrination into the myths of  a nation, we should all be going in the opposite direction.  Childhood and maybe even a good deal of adulthood should be a time to stop and smell the roses and the alfalfa.

Fun Facts:  Did you know that in Switzerland, you only have to go or “visit” school for  9 years which consists of 6 years of primary school and 3 more years of either a job training program or the college prep type school.  Most students who choose the college prep school go 6 years.  The students who choose job training go 3 years and then start work.  There is no national education department.  The way schools are structured are determined at the canton or municipal level. (Wikipedia).

In ancient Athens Cleisthenes created democracy.  Important public positions like head of the sewer systems, food distribution, army generalships, fixing buildings, etc were distributed by lottery.  500 men called the Boule took care of such things.  (from historyforkids.org)  There was no such thing as “school”.  “Skole” in Greek meant leisure.  The time to think and reflect. Neighboring Sparta was the opposite.  It consisted of regimented living and training in a fake democracy run by elites.  (Paul Taylor Gatto “The Underground History of American Education”.)

Gatto also makes the observation that in science fiction the future or the end of history is peopled by robots not by slaves.

Bar Codes Pt 2

Okay, so more thoughts on whether there is an unspoken etiquette associated with sitting at bars especially if you are female.  In the previous post I speculated that if a woman sits at a bar, she is not supposed to read an I Pad even if she is reading a newspaper on the I Pad.  She can get away with perhaps perusing a paper, but not on an electronic device.  She is to be available…for….conversation.

In the previous post, I had been confronted with a guy that I did not want to talk to, so I just reached for my I Pad and began to read.  Instead of addressing me directly, he loudly exclaimed to the bartender that the laws of the universe, at least the rather small universe of this bar, were being broken by rude self absorbed women with electronic devices. (I was not the only woman that night with an I Pad).

But this week I was confronted again.  This time it was an acquaintance and a pretty nice guy.

“Don’t check your e-mail!  Put that thing away!” he yelled.

I tried to explain that I wanted to relax after work and it would help if I knew no one was trying to get a hold of me.  But, okay, he was right.  That is what “after work” should mean.

Funny thing is that as soon as his male friends came in, he turned immediately away from me and pronounced, “I was wondering when any of the regulars were showing up.”  Thus ended my usefulness.  So I could open up my I Pad and read a blog with no more scolding from my friend.

Sigh.  But then I turned to the woman sitting next to me and we started talking about the difference between grifters and hucksters.  So a rather lame start to the evening turned into a rather pleasant ending.

My small town can be a very small place, but only if you let it get to you.