Thankful Thursday June 2020

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Even as this tree grows among rocks, I keep on keeping on.

Even in a world full of unkowns, I have a lot for which to be grateful. Let me count the ways.

#1 First and foremost, The Man and I have our health. Neither of us have or have had symptoms of COVID-19. We’re both doing well. Jerico the dog is well too, although sometimes his acid reflux condition rears up or he strains a leg while playing ball.

#2 No one I’m close to has been sick with COVID-19. A couple of distant friends from my young adult years have come down with it, as did my sibling’s friend’s husband. Thankfully, they’ve all recovered. My mom and her husband are ok, as are The Man’s father and his wife. My sibling is fine, despite an immune disorder. My sibling’s spouse and child are fine too. The Man’s siblings, siblings-in-law, and nieces and nephews are doing well. Our elderly friends haven’t gotten sick. We are grateful that COVID-19 has not struck close to home.

#3 I appreciate Brent’s recent financial support, the cool things he sent in the mail, and his ongoing emotional support and friendship.

#4 I appreciate the anonymous supporter who recently clicked the donation button in the column to the right and made a financial contribution.

The man and I made this whole stack of tortillas ourselves.

#5 I appreciate my Patreon sponsors and other folks who support me monthly. (You can support me on Patreon too and reap the patron benefits.)

#6 The Man and I have plenty of food, and we’re eating well. (We recently started making our own tortillas. They are delicious, and working together on them is a good team-building exercise.)

#7 A nice lady in one of the Facebook groups I’m in made a mask for me and one for The Man, so each of us can cover our mouth and nose when we go out in public.

#8 There is plenty of space between us and the neighbors. We can walk in our neighborhood without having to interact with anyone.

#9 We have found several hiking trails and lots of natural beauty less than a half hour drive from where we live. We have opportunities to get away from home and out into stunning nature without having to go too far.

Stunning nature close to home.

#10 The daytime temperature is still very pleasant, not too hot. The temperature doesn’t dip below freezing at night.

#11 My phone allows me to stay connected to the people I care about. It connects me to the internet too.

#12 As a friend said in March (I’m paraphrasing here), I’m not stuck in an apartment in a city with three little kids. Parents who are holding it together while stuck at home with children are stronger than I will ever be.

I’m grateful I’m not stuck in an apartment in the city.

#13 The Man and I have each other. I don’t have to go through the weirdness of these times alone. I sure do sleep well at night with him on my side.

#14 I appreciate you reading this blog post today. As I’ve said, a writer without readers is very sad indeed. A big thanks goes out to everyone who reads this blog, whether you check in every day, read occasional posts, or if this is the first experience you’ve had with me and my writing. I hope you enjoy what you’ve found here.

What are you thankful for this month, this week, today, right now? Please share your gratitude in the comments below.

Stunning nature from up above.

I took all of the photos in this post. If you enjoy my photography, follow me on Instagram @rubbertrampartist.

What You Can Do to Help the Rubber Tramp Artist

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I have always gotten by with a little (or a lot) of help from my friends, and I sure do appreciate it. I try to keep these pleas for help from my readers to a minimum, but every now and then, I do like to let you know I could really use your support. Here are some ways you can help me get seen, heard, and read, and most of them don’t cost a dime.

#1 Tell your friends. Have you read a Rubber Tramp Artist post you think a friend or family member would find useful or inspiring? Share the link! Do you have friends who enjoy high quality writing and beautiful photographs? Invite them to check out this blog! I would love to have more readers with whom I can share my stories, rants, and observations.

#2 If you’re on Facebook, like and follow the Rubber Tramp Artist Facebook page. (You can also like and follow my Blaize Sun and Blaizin’ Sun Creations Facebook pages.) Next, find the reviews section of any (or all!) of those pages and leave reviews of my writing, my art, my book, or my jewelry. Also, you can invite your friends to like any or all of those Facebook pages. Finally, like my Facebook posts, comment on them, and share them with your friends. If you want to do those things but can’t quite figure out how, let me know, and I’ll help you.

#3 If you’re on Instagram, follow me there @rubbertrampartist. Like my posts and comment on them too. Turn on notifications so you’ll see when something new goes up on my feed. If you see a post of mine you think your friends would enjoy, tag those friends in the comments. Share my posts in your stories. Read my stories. Comment on my stories so I’ll know what you think.

#4 Comment on my blog posts. Your comments mean so much to me. They let me know you’re reading, that you’re here with me. Sometimes your comments help other readers. I love it when that happens. I really do want to know what you think.

#5 Write a guest post for my blog. If you’re a writer, consider writing a guest post so I can take a day off or concentrate on writing a a long, research intensive post. If you’re a reader of my blog, other readers and I probably want to know what you have to say. If this idea intrigues you, read my Guidelines for Guest Posts.

#6 If you’ve read my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods, review it. Post a review on Amazon. (You can post a review on Amazon even if you didn’t buy the book from them.) Post a review on GoodReads. Post a review on your blog. Send your review to me, and I’ll post it on my blog.

#7 If you haven’t read my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods, buy it now and read it. Once you’re read it, please consider reviewing it. (See #5 above.)

#8 Buy copies of my book Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods for your friends and family members. It’s rated PG (I removed all the cursing), and has been read by at least one elementary school aged kid. It’s a particularly good gift for anyone who is, has been, or hopes to be a camp host.

#9 Put in a request for your local public library to buy a copy of Confessions of a Work Camper: Tales from the Woods so everyone in your community can read it for free.

#10 Buy the arts and crafts and the Rubber Tramp Artist loot I have for sale. I have handmade collages for sale, postcards featuring my photography for sale, and Rubber Tramp Artist stickers and buttons for sale. I also make hemp jewelry and warm winter hats. (I’m going to try to get photos those items up on the blog soon.) I do custom work, so let me know if there’s something particular you have in mind.

#11 Consider making a donation. There’s a yellow donation button to the right, not far below the search bar. Click there to give me some dollars, if you feel so inclined.

The content on this blog is free, but I put a lot of time and effort into each post I share with you. It is not unusual for me to spend 8+ hours pulling together a single post. I spend a lot of time writing, revising, taking photos, editing photos, choosing photos, researching, etc. If any of my posts have proven helpful to you, please consider donating money or a gift card in the amount you think the posts are worth. I know many of readers are on a limited income, but even a couple bucks would mean a great deal to me.

#12 Consider becoming my patron on Patreon. You get lots of extra goodies when you support me on the Patreon platform. Goodies range from exclusive updates available only to Patreon supporters to a monthly email update to handwritten cards sent through the mail and custom bracelets and one-of-a-kind collages. Each support tier offers different benefits; they’re all explained on my Patreon page linked above or click on the button to the right just under the search bar.

Anything you an do to help me keep this blog going would certainly be appreciated. As always,thank you for reading.

I took all the photos in this post. The Rubber Tramp Artist logo was created by the talented Samantha Adelle before her untimely, tragic passing.

Chicago and Cloud Gate

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I once had to catch a bus in Chicago. There were many hours between the time the first ride deposited us in the Windy City and when we had to board the bus. Instead of sitting and waiting, my traveling companion suggested we explore downtown.

I’d been to Chicago before. Once I flew into Chicago (which airport, I don’t remember), then traveled on public transportation to the bus station where I caught a bus that took me to a small town in Wisconsin. At least twice I traveled by train to Chicago and caught a connecting train for the next leg of my journey at Union Station.

I’m not one of those people who leaves the train or bus station or airport for a bit of fun before I make my connection. I’m one of those people who fears missing my connection. I’m one who sits. I’m one who waits.

I once sat for three or four hours in the packed downtown Las Vegas, NV Greyhound station because I was afraid of losing my place on a probably overbooked bus. I could have stored my bag and walked outside to see the sights, but I didn’t. I waited in the crowded waiting room so I was sure to make it home as planned.

Even more unbelievable, I once spent an entire eight hour layover in the Hong Kong airport because I was scared to venture out and find public transit in a strange land. I was worried about all of the many things that could have gone wrong if I had left the security of the transportation hub. I was afraid of a disaster that would have made me miss my connecting flight.

However, this time in Chicago my traveling companion insisted we venture out and look around. He was not one to sit and wait. Luckily, we had access to luggage lockers, so we were able to secure our big backpacks rather than haul them around with us.

We walked toward the water, and by water I mean Lake Michigan. I’d seen Lake Michigan before, when I’d visited my college boyfriend’s hometown of Milwaukee. I vaguely remembered the hugeness of the Lake.

As we walked down the urban sidewalks, we saw many panhandlers standing back against the buildings. They were mostly older Black people, and they had a panhandling technique I’d never encountered before. Instead of muttering Spare some change? Spare some change? or asking for a dollar to catch the bus or get something to eat, they simply shook the cups they held. The cups obviously already had some coins in them; I could hear the coins clinking against each other. I guess words are unnecessary when everyone already knows the script.

Before we made it to the Lake, we saw the huge reflective sculpture in Millennium Park. I’d seen the object in movies. It often turns up when filmmakers want to distinguish an anonymous big city as specifically Chicago. I don’t remember trying to find the sculpture; I think we just happened upon it nestled among the skyscrapers of downtown.

According to the Choose Chicago website, Cloud Gate (also known as The Bean)

is one of the world’s largest permanent outdoor art installations…

The exterior of The Bean is made entirely of stainless steel. It was created using computer technology to precisely cut 168 massive steel plates, which were then fitted together and welded shut for a completely seamless finish…

[It is] is 33 feet high, 42 feet wide, and 66 feet long. It weighs about 110 tons — roughly the same as 15 adult elephants.

Cloud Gate was designed by Anish Kapoor. According to his biography on the Artnet website, Kapoor

is regarded as one of the most prominent British-Indian sculptors of his generation…

Kapoor is well known for his intense, almost spiritual, outdoor and indoor site-specific works in which he marries a Modernist sense of pure materiality with a fascination for the manipulation of form and the perception of space. Kapoor, who was born in Bombay and moved to London in the 1970s to study art, first worked on abstract and organic sculptures using fundamental natural materials such as granite, limestone, marble, pigment, and plaster.

Anish Kapoor’s webpage about Cloud Gate features preliminary sketches for the sculpture, plans for construction, and a photo of it being built. The webpage says

Cloud Gate is a single object of around 25×15×12m. It is made of polished stainless steel and is seamless. Cloud Gate draws in the sky and the surrounding buildings. In a vertical city, this is a horizontal object. Seamless form confuses scale.

I was a lucky photographer on the day of our visit to Millennium Park. There were clouds in the Chicago sky, and they were reflected in the shiny surface of Cloud Gate. We were also fortunate to arrive early in the morning, before crowds surrounded the sculpture. I was able to get some nice photos without too many people in the frame.

I recently came across the article “Every U.S. State’s Most Overrated & Underrated Attraction” by Lissa Poirot. Cloud Gate (AKA The Bean) was named the most overrated attraction in the entire state of Illinois! Zach S. (whoever he is) calls it

…a blob-shaped mirror that vaguely resembles a bean.

He goes on to say,

It is as unremarkable as it sounds.

Oh Zach S., I beg to differ! Yes, Cloud Gate is rather blob shaped, and it is certainly mirrored. As to whether or not it looks like a bean…Who cares? “The Bean” is only a nickname anyway. I suspect the artist was not necessarily trying to convey the idea of a bean when he created the piece.

Where I really disagree with Zach S. is his assertion that Cloud Gate is “unremarkable.” I think Cloud Gate is quite remarkable. I like its size and its heft. Cloud Gate takes up space, yet its reflective surface brings the sky down closer to human level. The reflective surface also draws people to the sculpture, including me and my traveling companion.

What’s that over there? we wondered.

Let’s go see it, we said as we went closer.

I don’t remember what day of the week we wondered into Millennium Park and discovered Cloud Gate, but as the day progressed, more people arrived. By the time we left the area, crowds had come and gone, all looking at the art piece and taking photos too.

My favorite part of my experience with Cloud Gate was playing with the reflective surface. Like a funhouse mirror, Cloud Gate shows visitors a view of themselves that’s not quite true. I moved closer, then backed up to see how my figure changed with distance. The changes made me contemplate who I was, really.

Lake Michigan (Chicago)…bigger than I remembered

After spending some time with Cloud Gate, we walked down to the water and looked out at Lake Michigan. It was as big as I remembered…bigger, maybe.

We sat on the grass and contemplated the water. It was nice to rest for a while before we got up again and walked to a new adventure.

I can’t say I’m a big fan of Chicago. To me it seems to lack the charm of San Francisco with its bright murals and Painted Ladies Victorian houses or the gritty but captivating street culture of New York City. Maybe I’ve never been to the right places in Chicago, never seen what it has to offer me. In any case, I really enjoyed seeing Cloud Gate, Millennium Park, and Lake Michigan. I don’t care if it’s more a touristy area and less what locals think of as the real Chicago. I don’t care if locals think it’s overrated. I don’t care what Zach S. thinks. I think Cloud Gate is really cool.

Lake Michigan with ship and Ferris Wheel (Chicago)

I took the photos in this post.

This I Miss (COVID-19 Edition)

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I live in the boonies.

My physical distancing experience has been very different from the experiences of many of you who live in big cities, the suburbs, or even small-to-medium size towns. I live in the boonies. I live 20-ish miles form the nearest small-to-medium size town. Also, there’s no home delivery of mail way out here. My mail is delivered to a box in town. All of this means we receive no mail, no packages, no groceries, and no restaurant food delivered to our door. If we want anything, The Man and I (usually together) get in the truck, drive 20-ish miles to town, get what we need, then drive the 20-ish miles back home.

Also, due to a preexisting health condition, we are very careful about what we do when we go to town. When we need groceries, we arrive at the supermarket as soon as the store opens so I can be one of the first shoppers inside. We do the same when we check the mail or fill our propane tanks. We don’t typically eat in restaurants even during “normal” times, but we’re not getting takeout or going through drive-thrus at all. How do we know the people preparing or handing over our food aren’t sick?

How do we know anyone we encounter isn’t sick? What if they’re contagious but not yest showing symptoms? What if we encounter a super-spreader? I know I sound paranoid and a little hysterical, but that’s my reality right now. To stay safe, we have to stay vigilant.

I know we’re all supposed to wear masks in public right now to protect each other, but can I trust my fellow humans to do the right thing? Masks can be really annoying, and humans don’t have the best track record for doing the right thing even when pieces of cloth over their faces aren’t making it more difficult to breathe and fogging up their eyeglasses.

I swear I’m not trying to dump a bunch of spoiled lady complaints on you. In so many ways, The Man and I are very lucky. Neither one of us has gotten sick with COVID-19. We haven’t lost any loved ones to COVID-19. We live in a county with a very low rate of COVID-19 infection (although the number of COVID-19 infected people in our county jumped quit a bit between the time I wrote the first draft of this post and the time it went live.) We have plenty of food and water and a nice little trailer on a nice little piece of land where we’ve been able to hunker down. We live with a cute, sweet dog, and we have each other too.

Yes, I have a lot for which to be grateful, but I’m human. Life has changed in the last couple months. Some of these changes may be forever. I miss certain ways of living my life. Today I’d like to share those things I miss with you.

#1 I never thought I’d say this, but I miss loading up all the laundry, dragging it into a laundromat and getting all the clothes washed, dried, and folded in a couple of hours.

I wish I could wash my clothes here.

Yes, as an essential business, laundromats are still open in my state. Yes, I could take my laundry to the laundromat and wash, dry, fold. But what if someone contagious is doing their laundry at the same time as I am? There are so many hands to touch so many surfaces at a washteria, so many places for a virus to linger. We’re not going!

Shout out to pioneer ladies who did all the washing by hand! Hand washing laundry is hard work! Have you ever tried to rinse the suds from your clothes in a five gallon bucket? Have you ever tried to wring the water out of a pair of jeans? We’ve been washing a minimal amount of clothing by hand for the last two months, and I don’t like it one bit. (Because I have more clothes than The Man does, he’s had to wash garments way more often than I have. To his credit, he doesn’t even complain.)

I wouldn’t mind hanging clothes out dry, but the strong spring winds (still blowing as I wrote this post!) means near daily dust storms. What’s the point of washing clothes if they’re going to be inundated with dirt while hanging on the line?

So many dryers at the laundromat.

If you have a washer in your home, I encourage you to get on your knees right now and give thanks to God, Saint Hunna (the patron saint of laundry workers and washerwomen), the Universe, or the deity of your choice. Please give extra thanks if you have a dryer or a nondusty clothesline at your disposal too.

#2 I miss eating the occasional fast food. While the Man and I don’t eat at restaurants much (mostly because we can’t afford to), it was nice to be able to slide into Taco Bell and pick up a vegetarian option from the dollar menu when we were running errands in town. I miss the ease, low cost, and deliciousness of the Fiesta Potato Breakfast Burrito and the Cheesy Bean and Rice Burrito.

A while back, the Sonic app offered me half price Sonic Blasts for one day only. I sadly showed the offer to The Man.

Do you want to go? he asked me. I want to do something nice for you.

I shook my head. Forty miles is a long way to drive for ice cream and beside, how can we know restaurant workers aren’t breathing COVID germs directly onto our food? Are we paranoid or safely cautious?

Our mail is not delivered to a box in a row on the main road.

#3 I miss receiving mail regularly. As I’ve said before, there’s no home delivery of mail out here. I can’t just walk out to my porch or the end of my driveway to pick up my mail. There’s no group of mailboxes for me and my neighbors on the main road. If we want to receive letters, we have to pay for mailbox in town. And if we want to get our hands on the contents of our mailbox, we have to drive all the way to town to do so.

Our mailbox is inside a privately owned shipping business. While the business is still open, the hours of operation have been cut again and again. The woman who owns the place is not messing around with safety. She was enforcing six feet of distance between her customers when no one else in town seemed to be taking the recommendation seriously. No one walks into the place without a mask over their nose and mouth. The business is housed in a small enclosed space, and germs could linger. I appreciate the business owner for the precautions she’s taking to keep herself and her customers safe.

We have checked our mail three times since mid March. I used to check the mail a couple times a week. I miss receiving cards and letters from my friends on a regular basis. My friends are still sending the cards and letters (and I’m so glad for that), but I receive them less often.

I also miss ordering things online and knowing I’ll have my items in a few days. Nobody is delivering out where I live. I never see FedEx or UPS trucks way out here. We see commercials on television saying CVS pharmacy and Ace Hardware and Pizza Hut will deliver. Not to us they won’t. To be fair, I don’t actually miss this kind of delivery because we’ve never had it out here. However, in these times, I might take of advantage of having things dropped off at my house if the service were available to us.

#4 I miss leisurely shopping. Oh, how I miss the days of going from store to store to buy what I needed (and wanted) and to look around for bargains. At one time, a day in town might mean shopping at multiple supermarkets, checking the mail, seeing what Dollar Tree had to offer, shopping at WalMart, filling propane tanks, browsing at the thrift store, and having a look at free boxes and Little Free Libraries. No more! Now grocery shopping feels like I’m competing on Supermarket Sweep. There is no more casual grocery shopping because every trip to the supermarket is a survival mission.

I haven’t been to a thrift store since the middle of March. The thrift store in town hasn’t been open for a while, but I think it was open last Wednesday morning when I drove by. Even if it’s back to business as usual right now, I won’t be shopping there this month.

At least we’re stocked up on the minced garlic.

#5 I miss feeling confident the supermarket is going to have in stock anything I want to buy. I haven’t seen tofu in months. Months! I used to be able to buy a pound of tofu for between $1.49 and $1.79. Now the stores where I’ve shopped in the last two months don’t even offer it .

In the past two months, I’ve had trouble finding dried beans, brown rice, and powdered milk. Last week when I was at the big supermarket in town, I found all of those things, plus toilet paper. Score! But who knows what will be on the shelves in a month or two when I shop again, especially if we have another spike in COVID-19 cases.

Before we did last week’s big grocery shopping trip, The Man wanted eggs for breakfast. We’ve been a five-day-a-week oatmeal family since March so we could conserve eggs for baking, but he said he really wanted eggs that morning.

We’re going to the store on Wednesday, he reasoned. We’ll get more eggs then.

I tried to explain to him that I might not find eggs at the supermarket. I tried to explain that’ I’ve seen on Facebook groups that sometimes people go to the store and there are no eggs (or beef or dried beans or tofu or flour or baking powder or yeast). We were fortunate this trip; I found eggs and everything on the list with the exception of disposable gloves, rubbing alcohol, and tofu. However, there’s no way to know what the next shopping trip in a month or more will bring.

#6 I miss moving through the world without worrying that everything is contaminated. The Man and I wear dish-washing gloves when we go into any place of business. When we get back to the truck, the one of us who didn’t go inside squirts the gloves with disinfectant. When we pick up or mail, it sits in the hot truck for weeks of decontamination. Every time we buy groceries, we debate the need to squirt each item with disinfectant. After the last two times I’ve shopped, we wiped down each package with bleach water before bringing them into the house. I don’t buy fresh produce (except for onions, which we wouldn’t want to eat without, and we justify by remembering we’re going to peel off the top couple of layers anyway and cook the rest before eating). Still, we wonder if we’ve doing enough to protect ourselves or if we’re doing comically too much.

I want to see a tourist attraction like the red hubcap camel in Quartzsite, Arizona

#7 I miss going on road trips. Geez, I want to explore a place I’ve never been and see some new things. I want to hit the open road. I want to visit a small town museum. I want to see a tourist attraction. I want to take some photos. However, I know it’s not quite safe for The Man and me to go out exploring just yet. I’m trying to stay patient, despite my itchy feet.

#8 I miss selling jewelry and shiny rocks. Some vending opportunities are opening up, but again is it safe to sell in our current situation? I don’t necessarily trust people to protect me by wearing a mask or staying away if they’re sick. So many times people don’t even know they’re sick until after they’ve infected others. Also, if I sold things I’d have to accept cash money. Oh cash, germy, germy cash!

Memorial Day has come and gone, now we’re into June, and I’ve sold nothing to nobody. I feel I should be out there somewhere selling, but I know I really should stay at home right now.

Will life ever get back to “normal”? Is the way we’re currently living what normal will be from now on? Will COVID-19 ever disappear or at least decrease? Will there be a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year or in 18 months or will the vaccine never happen? Will The Man and I be able to sell Christmas trees in November? Will I ever be able to get a job again? So many questions! I don’t have any answers. Living in the midst of the unknown is difficult, but I guess we’re all doing it. I guess we’ll all take the unknown one day at a time.

What do you miss about but your old life, your “normal” life, your life before COVID-19? I would love to know! Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

I took the photos in this post.

Some Resources for Working Against Racism

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Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

Updated June 6, 2020

Since posting this article, I’ve discovered many more helpful resources. I am adding those resources to the original post.

This is not the blog post I want to write today. It’s not the blog post I want to write, ever, but things are bad right now, and I want to share some resources so each of us can work toward solving the problem.

First, a recap.

We’re in the middle of a national emergency due to COVID-19. Some states are opening up, but a lot of people are still sick, more people are getting sick, and it looks like some people are going to suffer the results of COVID-19 for the rest of their lives. Some people have been stuck at home since mid-March. Oh, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says,

current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups.

On May 25, a White woman, Amy Cooper, called the cops on a Black man, Christian Cooper (no relation between the two, I’m supposed to say here) who asked her to leash her dog in an area of Central Park where dogs are required to be leashed. Mr. Cooper began recording Ms. Cooper. According to CNN, Ms. Cooper approached Mr. Cooper and he asked her not to come any closer to him. He

asks her again not to come close. That’s when Amy Cooper says she’s going to call the police.

“I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life,” she says.

Once she reached emergency dispatch, she told the dispatcher,

“There’s a man, African American, he has a bicycle helmet,” she says. “He is recording me and threatening me and my dog…”

“I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble,” she continues in an audibly distraught voice . “Please send the cops immediately!”

Later that same day, an unarmed 46-year-old Black man named George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. You can read the whole story on the WCCO 4 CBS Minnessota website.

Photo by munshots on Unsplash

Over the weekend there were protests across the country, buildings burning, looting. A report by CNN mentions demonstrations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Los Angeles, New York City, Denver, Nashville, Atlanta, Tampa, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia.

So how are these events related? Trevor Noah of The Daily Show made a video explaining the connections better than I ever could. Please, if you don’t understand what this national crisis is all about, please watch this video where Trevor Noah connects the dots between the COVID-19 emergency, Amy Cooper calling the cops as a means of threatening a Black man, the murder of George Floyd, and the subsequent protests and “looting.” This video is definitely worth watching.

If you don’t want to or don’t have time to watch Trevor Noah’s video, let me make something clear. Neither White people calling the cops on Black people and other people of color (POC) nor cops killing Black people and other people of color (POC) is anything new. It’s been happening for a long, long time. Here’s a list CNN published on December 28, 2018 called “Living While Black.” Author Brandon Griggs says,

…police across the United States have been urged to investigate black [sic] people for doing all kinds of daily, mundane, noncriminal activities.

Each item on the list (Golfing too slowly, Shopping for prom clothes, Helping a homeless man, for example) links to a more detailed report of the incident.

In the CNN article “Peaceful Protesters and Violent Instigators Defy Curfews after George Floyd’s Death” authors Christina Maxouris and Holly Yan report,

One community activist said while many protesters don’t condone violence, nonviolent pleas have “gone unnoticed for years.”

“This is what happens when people have experienced the deadliness of racism … over and over again,” said the Rev. William Barber, the Co-Chair of Poor People’s Campaign. “What we are seeing is public mourning.”

Have you seen this content that’s been going around on Facebook?

I have privilege as a white person because I can do all of these things without thinking twice:
I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)
I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hair brush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can live (#FreddieGray)
I CAN BE ARRESTED WITHOUT THE FEAR OF BEING MURDERED (#GeorgeFloyd)
White privilege is real. Take a minute to consider a Black person’s experience today.

#BlackLivesMatter

This is what I am talking about today: White privilege and Black Lives Matter. Today I’m saying that we as White people need to learn about our privilege, check our privilege, and work to undo the racism the United States of America was built upon.

The number one thing I do NOT want you to do in order to learn more about White privilege and undoing racism is to ask your Black and POC friends, neighbors, family members, co-workers, or acquaintances how to go about this task. Black people and other people of color have enough on their plates without having to educate White people. Do your homework. Use Google. That’s what I did to find some of these resources for you. (I found other resources on the Facebook and Instagram feeds of friends and people I follow.)

If you’re White, but don’t know how you could possibly be part of the problem, please start your journey by reading “Reckoning with White Supremacy: Five Fundamentals for White Folks” by Lovey Cooper on the Scalawag website.

White people who need help recognizing their own racism should also read and take to heart Cicely Blain’s “10 Habits of Someone Who Doesn’t Know They’re Anti-Black.” I found this essay assisted me in examining my own biases and anit-Black thoughts.

I found several reading lists online which share books which may help folks learn about racism and dismantle it too. Charis Books & More, an independent feminist bookstore in Decatur, GA offers Understanding and Dismantling Racism: A Booklist for White Readers. Bustle (an online American women’s magazine) shares 17 Books On Race Every White Person Needs To Read, an annotated list by Sadie Trombetta and K.W. Colyard. The New York Times features An Antiracist Reading List by Ibram X. Kendi. Even BuzzFeed News got in on the act with An Essential Reading Guide For Fighting Racism by Arianna Rebolini. Certainly you can find some resources from these lists.

If you don’t want to support big business when it comes to book buying, check out this list of of Black-owned bookstores my friend Jessica the librarian shared with me. The original list is from @worn_ware. (If you don’t live in a city with a Black-owned bookstore, contact one of the stores on the lists and ask if they do mail order.)

After this list was published, a second list was shared, telling folks about even more Black-owned bookstores across the United States.

On the Instagram post where this list was shared, worn_ware says,

list 2.0 compiled from suggestions made in the comments!! …buying a book on anti-racism from a Black-owned bookstore is cool but we – talking to fellow white people here – ALSO need to be working to dismantle the systems of white supremacy & capitalism that led us to this moment and have always been foundational to the US…

If you want to learn through listening or watching, Isabella Rosario offers up “This List Of Books, Films And Podcasts About Racism Is A Start, Not A Panacea” for NPR. Stuff You Missed In History Class has shared a huge list of podcasts (both their own episodes and those by other voices) that discuss race, racism and anti-Black violence in the United States.

Here’s a an eight page document of anti-racism resources that have been ordered in an attempt to make them more accessible. The authors say

The goal is to facilitate growth for white folks to become allies, and eventually accomplices for anti-racist work.

I was happily surprised that Ben & Jerry’s (yes, the ice cream people) are taking a strong stance against white supremacy. Their website article “Silence Is NOT An Option” says

All of us at Ben & Jerry’s are outraged about the murder of another Black person by Minneapolis police officers last week and the continued violent response by police against protestors. We have to speak out. We have to stand together with the victims of murder, marginalization, and repression because of their skin color, and with those who seek justice through protests across our country.

Other helpful articles from Ben & Jerry’s include “Why Black Lives Matter,” “7 Ways We Know Systemic Racism Is Real,” and “From Slavery to Mass Incarceration.”

If you feel like you are already an ally but want to do better, read Katie Anthony‘s essay “5 Racist Anti-Racism Responses ‘Good’ White Women Give to Viral Posts.” While this essay is (obviously) aimed at women, there’s no reason men can’t read it too and learn some things.

If you’re ready to move from learning to doing in, Corinne Shutack offers “75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice.” Shutack says,

Achieving racial justice is a marathon, not a sprint. Our work to fix what we broke isn’t done until Black folks tell us it’s done.

If you need guidance for talking about racial and ethnic identity with inclusivity and respect, I found what the American Psychological Association had to say very helpful. Of course, when talking to and about specific people or groups, it’s important to call people what they ask to be called. If you’re wondering about capitalization, check out “Recognizing Race in Language: Why We Capitalize ‘Black’ and ‘White’” on the The Center for the Study of Social Policy website.

If you there are young people in your life, and you want to teach them about police violence, racism, and working for anti-racism, I can share some resources to help you meet those goals. Sujei Lugo Vázquez (@sujeilugo) and Alia Jones (@readitrealgood) compiled a reading list for children with topics ranging from Blackness/Ancestors/Elders to Police Brutality/Racist Attacks/Black Lives Matter/Incarceration and Whiteness/White Privilege. The folks at EmbraceRace offer a list of 31 children’s books to support conversations on race, racism and resistance as well as other resources. If you’re looking particularly for books to help kids understand police violence, looks to the these 9 children’s books about police brutality from the Feminist Books for Kids website. .

If you want to learn more about police brutality and how to work against it, start with the Teen Vogue (for real!) article “11 Things You Can Do To Help Black Lives Matter End Police Violence” by Lincoln Anthony Blades. One resource mentioned in the above mentioned article is Campaign Zero, a group working towards ending police violence in America.

What I’ve giving you here are starting points. Start here. Keep reading. Keep studying. Keep learning.

Black Lives Matter.

National Olive Day

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According to the National Day Calendar website, June 1 is National Olive Day. The website says,

Divina founded National Olive Day in 2015 as a way to share the culinary history and traditions of this amazing food.

When I worked in California, I saw lots of olive groves when I came down from the mountain. I even saw a giant olive sitting in a parking lot.

That olive is the world’s largest, and it sits in Lindsay, California. According to the Weird California website, there are two giant olives in California. The one pictured above is a black olive. Weird California says,

It was originally outside the Lindsay Company’s plant in town, but when the plant unfortunately closed, it was moved outside what was, at the time, fittingly, the Olive Tree Inn…The Olive Tree Inn, however, is now a Super 8 Motel. It is not too far from the junctions of Highways 137 and 65. It is located in the motel parking lot, sitting proudly on a pedestal. It is made of concrete..

From the October 2013 article “Growing Olives – Information” by Richard Molinar UC Cooperative Extension Fresno, retired, I learned

California is the only state in the nation producing a commercially significant crop of olives. Approximately 70 to 80 percent of the ripe olives consumed in the United States come from California…The top olive-producing counties in California are Tulare, Tehama and Glenn counties.

A-ha! Guess what! Lindsay, CA is in Tulare County. It makes sense that Tulare County would be the home of the world’s largest olive.

Have you ever wondered if an olive is a fruit or a vegetable? An article by Caroline Picard for Good Housekeeping answers that questions. Olives are

… technically fruits.

The stones inside [olives] act as the seeds for the Olea europaea tree. In any botanist’s book that means they’re technically classified as fruits — specifically a kind called drupes, a.k.a. stone fruits. This category also includes sweeter produce like mango, dates, apricots, cherries, nectarines, peaches, and plums..

You may also be wondering if olives are a healthy food choice. According to the article “Olives 101: Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits” by Adda Bjarnadottir, MS, RDN (Ice) on the Healthline website,

Olives are a good source of vitamin E, iron, copper, and calcium…Olives are particularly rich in antioxidants, including oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol, tyrosol, oleanolic acid, and quercetin…that may contribute to a variety of benefits, such as lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

While olives do seem to be good for most people, you probably don’t want to eat them right off the tree. According to the Olive FAQ on the DeLallo website

While olives are edible straight from the tree, they are intensely bitter. Olives contain oleuropein and phenolic compounds, which must be removed or, at least, reduced to make the olive palatable…There are a number of ways that an olive can be “cured,” though it is more like a fermentation process…[Olives are] cured in one of four different ways: natural brine, lye, salt or air curing.

One type of olive I would not celebrate National Olive Day with are these Pearls Olives to Go! taco flavored ones. They were given to me by an acquaintance who’d gotten then at a food bank. He wouldn’t even try them. The Man wouldn’t try them either. I’ll try most any food once, so I opened the package and popped one of these olives into my mouth. How bad could they be?

The package contained some of the nastiest food stuff I have ever consumed. I ate one. It was so bad I ate another a little while later to make sure it really was as bad as I remembered. It was. I threw them away. I don’t throw away unspoiled food, but I couldn’t figure out how to disguise the unpleasantness of an olive saturated with fake taco flavor.

I hope you find some delicious olives to enjoy while you celebrate National Olive Day 2020!

I took the photos in this post.

A Complete Guide to Summer Camping (Guest Post)

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Today’s guest post if from Harsh Paul of the DeepBlueMountain website. In the post, he’ll tell you all about staying comfortable while camping in the summer.

Summer is everyone’s favorite time for camping. There’s not much chance of being uncomfortable due to cold weather, roads are clear, and nature is at her grandest. It’s no wonder that millions of people take to exploring the great outdoors in summer. 

National and state parks and private campgrounds are practically overflowing with visitors during this season. So while you’re out camping, here are a few suggestions that might come in handy. This guide will set you up with the essentials for camping in the summer and enjoying it to the fullest.

Essential Summer Camping Equipment

When you’re going camping, you must pay proper attention to gear. Though summer camping doesn’t usually require being overly thorough, you sure can add to your comfort. The favored form of camping for the modern camping enthusiast is car camping. 

In many cases, you might be able to take your car right to the campsite, or at least somewhere comfortably near the campground. This allows the luxury of carrying more gear and equipment than what a backpacker or hiker would take along. 

Photo by Tim Foster on Unsplash

Since your car is doing the heavy lifting, you can be a bit generous with the things you take to the trip. Of course, there’s still the element of being sensible and not overdoing things. You don’t want a cartoonishly over-packed car. You may also want to enjoy a backpacking or hiking trip on the trails near the campground. Here are some essentials for your camping trip.

1) A Tent

It’s always worthwhile to get a quality, waterproof tent. You never want to be caught unprepared in rain – and this is where the quality aspect is important. Check the waterproofing of the tent and also see if the tent needs additional waterproofing and seam sealing. Depending on the specific tent, even new ones may need user intervention before they’re considered waterproof. 

Photo by adrian on Unsplash

The most important aspect, however, is ventilation. Summer weather tends to be hot and stuffy. Tents with poor ventilation are going to be hell to spend time in. Most summer or three-season tents come with a mesh body or at least a mesh roof. This helps ventilation, but there’s a limit on how much mesh you can expose before privacy becomes a concern. 

Tents that have vents, preferably at the floor and the roof are better choices. Make sure the windows and/or the door have no-see-um mesh that keeps bugs out.

2) Boots And Socks

There’s a good chance your camping trip will involve a fair amount of walking. Good shoes are especially important if hiking and/or backpacking are in the cards. You’ll need good boots that are strong, sturdy, and capable of handling rough terrain. Some heel support is necessary and waterproofing is very helpful.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Socks are also important. People often wear quality boots, but ignore their socks. If you’re going to spend substantial time on your feet, ditch the cotton socks. Socks with at least 30% wool blend are great. Performance socks made with synthetic materials and designed to offer foot support are better!

3) Emergency And Communication Devices

If you’re headed to a campground with a spotty or non-existent cellular network, think of other communication devices. A simple walkie-talkie can be sufficient for communication among your group. 

However, more sophisticated communication devices are necessary if you’re headed to a remote campground or trail. Depending on your budget, your options could be a satellite phone (expensive) or personal locator beacon (inexpensive).

4) Food And Utensils

Food, water, and utensils are an absolute necessity. If you’re carrying perishables, use them up within a day or two. Better yet, bring a quality cooler along so the perishables can last longer. Another benefit of a cooler is that it can keep your beverages cold for a long time.

Special eating utensils for camping may not be necessary if you’re car camping. However, backpackers and hikers should get specialized lightweight utensils for their travels. Don’t forget to carry along some snacks to munch during the day and to enjoy by the bonfire with the group in the evening.

5) Sleeping Bag And Other Necessities

Carry a sleeping bag and clothing that can keep you comfortable at night. Sure, we expect summer nights to be hot. However, a lot of campgrounds do see cool (and even cold) nights. Know about the campground you’ll be staying at and expected temperature so you can stay warm at night. When in doubt, err on the side of caution.

Other things you should have are a flashlight and a lantern with extra batteries. Necessary gear also includes sleeping pad, multi-tool, and duct tape. A small knife can be useful, but is optional.

Summer Camping Hacks For A Better Experience

1) Cooling Your Tent

There’s always a chance of getting uncomfortably hot during summer camping, so it’s useful to know how to cool your tent without electricity. A few simple ideas like selecting a shaded tent location and creatively using the tarp can help keep the tent more comfortable.

Many campgrounds don’t have electric access, so some careful planning can go a long way in ensuring a comfortable adventure without an electric fan or air conditioning.

2) Always Have A Change Of Clothes

Consider changing into different clothes at night. Clothes you wore during the day could be sweaty and slightly wet, even if they don’t feel that way. This can end up making you uncomfortably chilly during the night. 

Let your day clothes dry by removing them and keeping them inside your tent and shift into new clothes for the night. None of your belongings should be left unattended in a campground .

3) A Mosquito Mesh Is Your Friend

A tent with no-see-um mesh is necessary for comfort. With no-see-um mesh, you can keep tent windows or doors open whenever you wish, without the threat of getting invaded by bugs. However, some areas can be particularly prone to mosquitoes. In such cases, having a mosquito net or mesh will ensure a comfortable sleep.

4) Make Reservations

Modern campgrounds are busy and overflowing with visitors. Many popular locations are booked up to for six months in advance. If you’re planning a trip, make reservations. This stands true even if you’re going to a relatively quieter campground. A reservation ensures you won’t be far from home with no place to stay.

Summer is the most popular and common camping season. It’s ideal for exploring the outdoors, and this guide is intended to prepare you for the best experience. A few simple ideas and adjustments can make a world of a difference. 

Harsh Paul is an avid hiker, backpacker, and camper. When not exploring the great outdoors, he uses his time time completing home improvement projects. Currently, he’s self-isolating for a better safety and health approach.

We Really Dodged a Bullet That Time

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Jerico does not like gunshots or other loud noises.

Content warning: guns, gunshots, bullet, danger, gun danger, potential for death.

I heard the gunshots, but I didn’t pay much attention to them until Jerico the dog tried to hide from them. He’s scared of gunshots (and most other loud noises) and he tried to get away from these in the corner where wires connect solar components. I didn’t want him damaging the wires, so I coaxed Jerico out of the corner and into the bed with me. I told him everything would be fine.

Gunshots are not unheard of where we live, but they are certainly not a daily occurrence. Occasionally we hear someone pop off a few rounds, but we chalk it up to target practice and go on with our lives. We live in the Wild West. Tumbleweeds roll down the dirt roads (for real) and sometimes guns are shot.

On this particular day, the shots went on and on. They were coming fast, but we could tell they weren’t close, so we went on with our lives that Friday afternoon.

I was lying in bed, messing around on my phone. We’d gone a little hike earlier in the day, and the heat and the sun had worn me out. I’d been lying in bed, messing around on my phone since about 3:30. I’d told myself I’d get out of bed at 4 o’clock and start dinner. Four o’clock came and went, and I was still lying in bed, messing around on my phone.

(Have you ever read the Dear Prudence advice column by Danny M. Lavery on Slate? I thoroughly enjoy reading that column; it’s what I was reading that Friday afternoon instead of cooking dinner.)

The Man was lying in bed too, watching television. He got out of bed and went into the kitchen. He stood at the sink facing the long window that runs across most of the width of our little trailer. I’m not sure what he was doing there in front of the window. Maybe he washed his hands. Maybe he prepared and ate a peanut butter sandwich. When he completed his task, he walked back to the bedroom in the back of the trailer and flopped down onto the bed. I’d heard shots the entire time he stood in front of the window, but I didn’t think the shots were close enough to worry about.

I’ll get up in a few minutes, I told myself. I’ll just finish reading the most recent column, I told myself, then I’ll get out of the bed and cook dinner.

Suddenly I heard a loud thunk! Something had hit the trailer!

Get on the floor! The Man yelled. Get on the floor!

I jumped off the bed and crouched between the exterior wall and the platform that lifts our mattress a few feet off the floor and provides under-bed storage for our three solar batteries. Jerico followed me out of the bed, and I held onto him so he wouldn’t leave the bedroom to meet The Man where he was lying on the floor between the bathroom and the hallway cupboard.

The Man grabbed the first phone he saw (mine) and dialed 911.

Some manic is shooting at my house! I heard him say to the emergency dispatcher who took his call. My window is busted out!

This is our kitchen window after the bullet went through it. Shattered. Busted. Scary.

When I’m lying in bed, my view of the kitchen and the kitchen window is mostly blocked by the wall between the bedroom and bathroom. While I’d heard the thunk of the bullet hitting the front window, I couldn’t see that the glass had been shattered from the impact. From The Man’s side of the bed, he had a clear view of the window and the sink below it. He’d seen the shattered glass before he jumped out of bed and threw himself onto the floor.

I heard The Man tell the 911 dispatcher that the police would never be able to find our place. He said we would meet the officer on the main road.

Com on, come on, The Man said to me once he hung up with the emergency dispatcher. We have to get out of here, he said as we fumbled around for our shoes. I managed to slip my feet into my grey Crocs; The Man ended up in his bedroom slippers.

We hopped into the truck, not knowing if another bullet was headed our way. The Man drove us to the main road, expecting to see a police officer at any moment.

Immediately after fastening my seat belt, I texted our nearest neighbor.

Someone shot out our front window, the text said. I sent the message at exactly 4:30pm.

The next event of note was the call from the deputy sheriff who had been dispatched to handle our emergency. He called to say he wouldn’t be able to respond to our situation for some time. He said we should give him directions to our house, then go home and wait for him there. It was as if he didn’t realize that someone had shot a bullet through our window and into our home. Maybe gunshots and bullets weren’t a big deal to him, but they certainly were important to us that afternoon.

While sitting in the passenger seat of our moving truck, I tried to wrap my head around what had just happened. I had many questions and no answers. Who had shot the gun? Where had the shooter been standing when the shot was fired? Was there a sniper on the loose? Had someone just killed his whole family and the bullet through our window was a byproduct of a massacre? Had the shot that sent a bullet through our window been made on purpose or by accident? Had a gun been fired at our window because the shooter thought our trailer was abandoned?

After calling the 911 dispatcher twice more and making known his displeasure with the runaround the deputy sheriff was giving us, The Man pulled the truck off the road. Neither of us knew what to do.

After a few minutes of sitting on the side of the road, we saw a sheriff’s department truck heading in our direction. The Man laid on the horn and the truck pulled over. The Man whipped our truck around and pulled up behind the deputy, but left quite a bit of distance between the two vehicles.

I really don’t want to see you get shot, I told The Man, so he got out of the truck with his hands high in the air. I kept my hands where the deputy could see them too.

The deputy was a woman, but she looked more like a girl. She probably wasn’t older than 25, but she looked about 15 years old. The Man talked to her outside, so I couldn’t hear their conversation.

Another sheriff’s department truck pulled up behind our vehicle. A short man walked over to where The Man and the female deputy were talking. I couldn’t hear what the new arrival said either, but The Man was back in the driver’s seat shortly. The deputies were going to follow us home.

We drove down the long dirt road with the deputy sheriffs behind us.

When we arrived at our property, we showed the deputies the shattered glass of the kitchen widow at the front of our trailer. When The Man and the male officer looked for the bullet on the floor inside, they found a small hole in the platform supporting our mattress. They then went outside and found the exit hole in the back wall of the trailer.

I think it was the female deputy who found the bullet. It was lodged in a wooden block supporting a small propane tank. Usually we had a bigger, taller propane tank sitting right there providing fuel for our refrigerator and stove and furnace and water heater, but when the large tank was empty, The Man put the small tank in its place. If the large tank had been sitting there, the bullet would have struck it instead of a block of wood. We imaged there would have been a large explosion and a fire.

The bullet that went through our trailer lodged in this block of wood. You can see the small propane tank sitting on top of the wooden block.

(We are probably wrong about the explosion and fire of our imaginations. According to the Propane 101 website,

…it would be hard to say that a propane tank will explode if it were hit by an airplane or bullet.

Yes, you can watch YouTube videos of people shooting propane tanks and ending up with fireballs, but the ones I’ve seen have involved a source of flame like a garden torch or road flares. In retrospect, without some additional fire source, I don’t think a propane tank would typically burst into flames upon being shot.)

After taking photos of our shattered window and getting our names, driver license numbers, etc, the cops took the bullet and set off to do some further investigation.

About that time, I received a text from our neighbor They had been out on a hike and only received my text about the shooting when they returned home. She said her husband JayJay was on his way over to our place.

Our neighbors are good people. They’re in our age group, funny and pleasant to talk with. Whenever they visit, they leave while I’m wishing they’d stay longer. They’ve come over for dinner, and JayJay has helped The Man with several repairs on our truck. Sometimes when we’re out for a walk, The Man and I stop in at their place, and sometimes they stop at our place to say hello. Of course, COVID-19 and the required physical distancing precautions have put a damper on our in-person friendship. However, a bullet through our window seemed to take precedence over the virus, and JayJay came right over.

Based on where the bullet entered our trailer, it seemed like there were only a few places from which it could have been shot. The most likely location, in JayJay’s opinion, was a place that seemed impossibly far to me. It was about half a mile away, but JayJay said the direction of the wind and the size of the gun (a .308) made it entirely possible for the bullet to travel that far.

JayJay asked The Man if he wanted to go talk to the people at the house where he thought the bullet had come from. I understood if The Man was a little hesitant. Those people had guns and (obviously) bullets. JayJay said he’d go with The Man, and The Man agreed. I stayed home with Jerico.

The Man and JayJay found the place from which the bullet that went through our window had been fired. The deputies had been there earlier. The cops asked the young men at the house if they’d been shooting. The young men told the cops they’d been shooting a .22; of course, the bullet that struck our trailer was from a .308, so the cops left without arresting anyone.

When The Man told the young men that a bullet from a .308 had shattered our window and traveled through our entire trailer, they all grew contrite. The fellow whose property they were on began weeping and embraced The Man.

Most of the young men at the house worked on a crew together. They somehow knew our neighbor and had come out to his place for a Friday night of fun. They had been partying for a while, and their party consisted of drinking whisky, eating barbecue, and shooting guns, among other things. The property owner told the visitors they could shoot the .22 but to leave the .308 alone. Of course, as soon as he walked away from the party, the visitors fired the .308. They told The Man and JayJay they’d heard the bullet ricochet, but the hadn’t been aiming at our trailer and they certainly hadn’t meant to hit anything.

The property owner offered to pay for our window. I don’t know it that’s actually going to happen, but I do appreciate the sentiment and the $20 bill he insisted The Man take. It’s difficult for me to stay mad at someone who is truly sorry for making a mistake. Of course, if The Man or I or (Heaven forbid!) Jerico had been injured or killed, forgiveness might have been a little more difficult for them to come by.

The next morning, I moved in front of the shattered kitchen window and calculated where I might have been standing had I been cooking dinner when the bullet came in. Had I been stirring vegetables cooking on the stove, I would have been ok, even with a bullet moving through the house. Had I been doing something in front of the left sink, my right arm would have probably been hit, grazed at best. If I had been standing at the right sink, I would have been hit between my breasts and my belly button. If I had been standing in front of the right sink, I might not be telling you this story today.

The Man measured the bullet’s path. If it had come straight through the trailer with no downward movement, it would have hit him where he was lying in the bed.

This is what our shattered window looked like from the outside.

Luckily that bullet had neither of our names on it. Luckily, neither of us was hurt. Luckily, no one’s life was ruined because some young men allowed alcohol to ruin their judgement.

No, I’m not scared to live where I do. A stray bullet could go through a window in Dallas or Detroit, Phoenix or Fargo, New Orleans or Nashville. For real, it could happen anywhere. Surely, a bullet through our window is a once-in-a-lifetime event.

On Saturday morning, we removed all the shattered glass from the kitchen window and covered the big window hole with cardboard. Now we’ll add “kitchen window” to the list of all the things we’ll eventually need to buy. Still, a kitchen window is a small price to pay. That bullet could have taken a life instead of a bit of glass.

I’m glad to have lived to see another day. I guess you could say Dear Prudence and procrastination saved may life.

The Jolly Green Giant

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I don’t think we knew the Jolly Green Giant was there. We certainly didn’t go to Blue Earth, Minnesota to see the Jolly Green Giant. I think we went to Blue Earth, MN for the free camping.

According to Wikipedia,

Blue Earth is a city in Faribault County, Minnesota, at the confluence of the east and west branches of the Blue Earth River. The population was 3,353 at the 2010 census[5] Interstate Highway 90 is centered on Blue Earth, as the east and west construction teams met here in 1978. As a tribute, there is a golden stripe of concrete on the interstate near Blue Earth.

At the time, there was also free camping at the Faribault County Fairgrounds in Blue Earth. It was a good deal. There was potable water on site. There were restrooms on site too, with flush toilets and hot showers. There were also a limited number of campsites with electrical hookups. All of these amenities were put to use by participants of the county fair and other big events, but when nothing was happening at the Fairgrounds, the county said, Come on over and camp for free!

Many small communities throughout the Midwest offer free camping in town or county parks, or at least they did a decade ago. I guess the town and county leaders figured they had more to gain than to lose. People staying in a small town would probably buy some supplies from the local businesses. Food, ice, propane, maybe gas for the rig would all add up to a tidy bundle of money for the stores in a town. If campers stuck around for a few days or a week, they might even shop more than once. Why not let them stay on land that would otherwise be empty?

We did our part for the economy of Blue Earth, Minnesota at the Wal-Mart (which I read somewhere online isn’t a Wal-Mart any more). I don’t remember what we bought, but I’m pretty sure ice was on the list. It was summer after all, and even though we’d thought it would be cool in the northern state of Minnesota, the air was hot and humid.

At the time, we typically slept in our van in Wal-Mart parking lots. I remember the Wal-Mart in Blue Earth had signs in the parking lot basically saying, You can’t park here overnight. Go park for free at the fairgrounds right over there!

After we procured our supplies, I drove the van over to the Faribault County Fairgrounds. I believe that’s when we saw the Jolly Green Giant statue towering above everything else.

He’s life-size, I marveled.

Jolly Green Giant (Blue Earth, MN) I had forgotten how short his toga is.

I’m not sure a mythical creature who’s never been truly alive can actually be life-size, but according to Roadside America, he’s

55.5 feet tall [about five stories]…[and] [h]is six-foot-long feet fill size 78 shoes.

The Roadside America post also gives the history of how the Green Giant ended up in blue Earth.

The Giant has stood in Blue Earth since 1979 due to the efforts of radio station owner Paul Hedberg…The entire project was funded by Blue Earth businesses, with Hedberg himself kicking in the largest amount…Creative Displays, fiberglass statue manufacturing forerunner of F.A.S.T. Corp., built the Giant in the summer of 1978…on July 6, 1979, the Jolly Green Giant was bolted to his eight-foot-high base, complete with a staircase so that visitors could pose for snapshots between his legs.

After finding a place to park in the sparsely populated camping area at the Fairgrounds and checking out the facilities (Look Pa! a gen-u-ine flush toilet!), we walked over to visit the Jolly Green Giant.

There was a Jolly Green Giant museum near the statue, but it was closed for the day. The Jolly Green Giant himself was always available to receive visitors and pose for photos, however, and I stared up at him in wonder. Did I mention that the statue is really tall?

As the Roadside America article mentioned, there are steps up to the platform the Green Giant stands on. Visitors can climb the stairs and stand between the Giant’s big feet. We each took our turn climbing up for a photo opp with the Giant. At the time, I hardly ever brought out my camera to document our activities, but I was so impressed with the Giant that I dug out my camera that day and photographed the big guy in all his green glory.

Outside the museum there were wooden cutouts of Little Green Sprout and farmers with a sort of lust for vegetables painted all over their faces. I took some photos of those folks too.

According to the Little Green Sprout’s Organics webpage,

Since 1972, Little Green Sprout has been an enthusiastic apprentice to the Green Giant. Little Green Sprout is an adventurous eater who loves to try new things and is always working on nurturing his healthy eating habits.

You can also view a timeline of Sprout’s history on the aforementioned webpage.

Little Green Sprout (Blue Earth, MN)

After looking around and taking some photos, we wandered back to our campsite and had dinner. I have no recollection of what was on the menu, but I doubt we ate any Green Giant vegetables

I’d hoped to hang around in Blue Earth for a few days. Camping was free, after all. (I think people were invited to camp at the Fairgrounds at no cost for two or three nights; after that campers were asked to pay a few bucks for each additional night they stayed.) Also, who could argue with free flush toilets and free hot showers? I really did want to visit the Jolly Green Giant Museum, and it would have been fun to check out what else Blue Earth had going on.

Alas, we packed up the next afternoon and headed out. We never stayed in one place for very long in those days. We were constantly on the move then, constantly looking for something we never did find.

If you want to visit the Jolly Green Giant, the aformentioned Roadside America article offers great directions.

If you are interested in camping at the Faribault County Fairgrounds, the City of Blue Earth website gives the following information:

The campground has 4 tent sites and 9 electrical sites with full hookups. There is a fee of $20.00 per night for the electrical sites and $10.00 per night for the tent sites. The City allows a maximum of five consecutive nights of camping at the campground unless prior arrangements have been made. There is a $5.00 charge for waste tank dumping. A payment box is located at the site for your convenience.

If you have any questions about camping at the Fairgrounds, you can Contact the Blue Earth City Hall at (507) 526-7336.

I took the photos in this post.