Monday, January 07, 2008

Home is so Sad?

Home is Where I Want to Be!
"The cows are doing ok."
(Image from Wikipedia)

Yesterday, in a roundabout way, we learned from Philip Larkin that "Home is so Sad," but he was speaking of an empty home, which "stays as it was left, / Shaped to the comfort of the last to go / As if to win them back," whereas my family and I will be returning, in precisely one month, to a full, Ozark home for my children's first visit to the States.

Among other experiences -- such as hiking up knobs, descending into caverns, circumabulating my little town -- I want them to visit a farm or two to learn a bit about my childhood, partly spent on farms.

In that vein, I'll share an early morning email from my Uncle Cranford Hodges, providing today's farm report in real time. First, the weather:
After some cold days, it is back up near 60 [= 15.5 degrees centigrade] this morning. There is a chance of rain, which would help our ponds, but there is also a chance of stormy weather, which we always dread.
Sixty degrees fahrenheit is quite mild for early January, but it often presages stormy, even violent weather, possibly tornadoes, so I'd rather hear of temperatures around freezing, but if the winter stays mild and without storms, then February should be fine for our Ozark trip.

Next, the health report:
Everything is about the same here. Everyone seems to be on an even keel for the moment, and no colds or flu so far. I had a little time, so our woodpile has been replenished and should do us until sometime in February. My old body doesn't want to exert itself so much any more, so I try to keep about four weeks ahead.
Cranford must be near 70, for he was born a couple of years later than my father, who was 20 years older than I, and I'm 50. A youthful 50. Or maybe just immature. I hope that in about 20 years, I'll still be physically able to chop and stack firewood. Not that I want to actually be doing that, merely that I'd like to be able to.

It was hard work...

I remember woodpiles and putting up ricks of wood for winter, often having to replenish a rick midway through a cold winter. Just thinking of that, I can almost smell the freshly split pieces, which we would stack under the eastern eave of our old rock-walled house to shelter them from westwind-driven winter storms and thereby keep them dry for the woodstove. I can even now feel those cold winter mornings, with me getting out of bed to watch Grandpa Perryman take a poker and punch up the embers to get a new fire going to warm the house.

Enough nostalgia. Back to the future. Uncle Cranford reports on his old tractor, which the kids will love to see, maybe take a ride on:
I had to get some things done on my diesel tractor. New fuel line, fuel pump, filters, power steering, lube job, a new alternator, oil drips sealed, and a tank heater mounted to heat the water. It should make it a lot easier to start on cold mornings. Until now I had to put a heater blowing over the engine, and a magnetic heater to heat the oil. That took over an hour and the tank heater should do a better job.
This reminds me of the philosophical problem of identity. If you gradually replace every part of some object over a period of time, do you still have the same object that you started with? Is Uncle Cranford's tractor still the same tractor, or is its identity slowly changing? Perhaps my uncle merely thinks that his old tractor is now easier to start on cold mornings. Possibly, however, he's starting up a different tractor. I may need my cyber-buddy and maverick philosopher Bill Vallicella for insight into this one.

But that can wait, for the next detail in the farm report is always of pressing importance:
The cows are doing ok.
That's good to hear, but what about the pigs and the chickens? Don't laugh! These are important questions . . . like checking to see if one's stocks are up or down. It's serious stuff, despite the lyrics to Jollity Farm...

Uncle Cranford's work includes more than labor on his farm, for he also does some carpentry, or used to (along with some preaching), so I'm assuming that he's referring to that line of work in his allusion to "projects":
I still have a few work projects, then maybe some time off to do some things at home.
News on two of my cousins:
Matthew & James are both in their new assignments, so we keep them in our prayers.
They serve in the military, and their new assignments happen to be Iraq, which isn't as dangerous as it was for a while, but which is still no picnic, as Andrew Olmsted, who used to blog about the war there, now reminds us from the great beyond.

Spare a thought for him...

News on Kevin, the brother of Matthew and James:
Kevin is doing some job interviews, and we pray for wisdom on what he should do. All the offers so far require a relocation to another state. The slowdown in housing caused his previous employer to have a big layoff.
The slowdown that Uncle Cranford is referring to would be due to the subprime crisis, about whose effects I have previously blogged.

Finally, the signoff:
We hope this finds everyone being in good health.
Same to you and yours, Uncle Cranford. As for me, I'm feeling somewhat better than yesterday (no thanks to Mr. Larkin), though still not perfect, but well enough to face today's editing, the galley proofs of a tome on Northeast Asia and the Two Koreas: Metastability, Security, and Community, a book of articles to which I have contributed by having co-authored one article with Myongsob Kim, having translated another scholar's article from French into English, and having proofread all of the articles numerous times. I hope that I'm up to it again this cold morning. Maybe I need one of my uncle's magnetic heaters to help start up my brain...

Anyway, there it is, a report from home, which is also where I want to be...

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At 7:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You seem so wistful, I thought it might be helpful for you to send you a link to the nearest thing I could think of as a real hometown paper.

If you look at the state news you'll notice that a couple of women in Sharp County are doing good work toward cleaning up the environment, they say "Al Gore style."

I mention it because well, you know how the Ozarks is. Their solution - make Sharp County wet. I don't think I can adequately explain it. Hope to see you soon.

But it sounds like it might work as well as a magnetic heater.

Herschel D.

At 7:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Herschel, the address was too long and got cut off. So, I'll just have to imagine what those two women were up to...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just do a search for Baxter Bulletin, newspapers. Google.

I just thought it might be helpful should En-uk or Sun-Ae encounter some hillbilly who replies to their question: "oh, you can't get there from here."

But if you don't have time, be sure to mention that Ozarkian lingolese can be tricky.

Herschel D.

At 8:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Actually, I did do a search when I discovered the address broken, and I found the newspaper, but I couldn't figure out which article. Perhaps if you gave the title...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fourth listed one on this:

State News

Movement afoot to allow alcohol sales in dry Sharp County


At 10:00 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Okay, I've now seen it. That proposal ought to stir up some dust in that dry county...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Should do the environment some good too. Think about the gas saved! Reckon they'll be next in the Nobel line?


At 11:12 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Nobel Prize? Nah, their proposal is all wet!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What are knobs? This sounds like a regional term akin to the notch/gap distinction in the northern and southern Appalachias.

In Virginia we had a high of 75 degrees today. Incredible. Winter was teasing us with a taste of late spring weather.

That's great that your children will have a chance to visit a couple of farms. City kids know nothing of rural life or nature. They cannot distinguish a maple leaf from an oak leaf, have no idea what a rabbit might eat, and have never seen a constellation.

Your Uncle Cranford is rich in all that matters. He is secure in his lifelong community and draws "ki" (life energy) through physical labor on the land. The other day, I googled across an article on aging farmers in Illinois. 25% are 65+, and of those, the average age is 75. That means there are people in their 80s still farming! After turning forty, I started thinking about longevity, and I believe one key component is lifelong labor. The Okinawa centenarian study noted that most elderly continue to work for as long as their bodies can still move. Instead of planning for retirement, I'm planning to work into my senior years.

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Sonagi, a "knob" is a big hill or small mountain. In my hometown, there's one called "Salem Knob" that rises about 500 feet from base to top. About two or three miles away stands "Blackjack Knob," a few feet higher, but not as impressive because the base is not as low. Further distant are still more knobs. To the southwest, the country gets quite rough, due to the White River.

Late spring weather? I guess that you might have meant that if that's the temperature in late spring. In the Ozarks, late spring weather is rather higher than 75 degress (fahrenheit).

I'll do my best to instruct my children in the things of nature. Maple leaves are socialist, like all Canadians. Oak trees are sturdy, like patriotic Americans. Rabbits eat human flesh after biting off a person's head -- as demonstrated in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. A constellation is a grouping of elite Hollywood actors and actresses...

I'll tell Uncle Cranford about the "ki" -- maybe he can do some dowsing and find its source.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 11:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the medicinal chuckle.

At 11:31 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

They don't call me "Doctor" for nothing!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know about the ki, but it is refreshing to the inner man to walk around the farm looking at the cattle, wildlife, birds, trees, sky, et.
You mentioned "rick" of wood. The usual measurement for a cord is 4ft long logs stacked 4 ft high and 8 feet long. A rick is a county measurement of wood of whatever length, but usually 16-20 ft and stacked 4 ft high and 8 ft long.
This is for folks heating with wood stoves or fireplaces. It is not recognized as a legal means of measurement.
Uncle Cranford

At 8:43 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I should have said a rick is stove or fireplace wood of about 16-20 inches long

At 10:58 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cranford, good to hear from you here. I saw your comment yesterday morning, but I had to hurry out and get various things done (including more editing work conducted in a smokey cafe with another scholar).

On cords and ricks, you've said (edited for correction):

"The usual measurement for a cord is 4ft long logs stacked 4 ft high and 8 feet long. A rick is a county measurement of wood of whatever length, but usually 16-20 inches long and stacked 4 ft high and 8 ft long."

I was never sure how much wood a rick meant. I now understand why. It's variable.

I'd love to chat, but I've got a lot of 'thinks' to catch up on...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 3:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, a rick is a variable length of wood depending on the customer's preference, but generally 1/3 of a cord. Commercial sales require a standard measurement. Who wants to figure what percentage of a cord a 4 X 8 stack of 17 inch wood would be.
I read with interest your recent? trip and the various cafes and associates you named. Perhaps when you visit we could have some interesting discussions.
Don't become so broad minded that you become like the story of the world renowned defense lawyer who never lost a case. He could always convince the jury that the defendent could not be convicted because of the "reasonable doubt" clause. He thought his wife might be cheating on him, so he hired a private detective to check on her. When the detective related her phone calls with another man, observing the two together in intimate discussions, together in various places, and finally she invited the man into her home. He could see their outlines through the window in the bedroom, hugging and kissing....then the lights went out, and he couldn't say what happened after that. The lawyer, with a voice of anguish, cried in frustration, "OH GOD, ALWAYS THE ISSUE OF BEYOND A SHADOW OF DOUBT!"
In any issue of life, we have to accept the necessity of exercising an act of faith in our beliefs.
Uncle Cran

At 6:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, you must be referring to "A Diller, A Dollar." I wish that I could present a fuller account of the fascinating conversation with my two friends, but I've never been good at recalling the exact order of topics broached.

Anyway, thanks for the amusing joke about the lawyer. I doubt that I have his problem -- either of them.

I look forward to the upcoming trip and hope that there'll be plenty of kids for my kids to play with...

Jeffery Hodges

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