Thursday, November 16, 2017

Hitched to History


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2008. All rights reserved.

It hasn't been all that many years since horses were the primary mode of transportation all across the West. They not only pulled buggies and wagons, and sleighs in the winter, but they also powered the plows and cultivators that tamed an arid land.
 
Les Broadie remembered well those horse-drawn days. They were as near to him as his well-weathered hands, and as much a part of his life when I met him in 1995 as they were when he was youngster in the 1920s.

After his retirement from raising draft horses and cattle, Les operated Blizzard Mountain Carriages -- a one-man outfit specializing in buying and selling horse-drawn wagons, carriages, carts and sleighs. At the time, we was one of but a handful of American horse-drawn carriage dealers still in business.

Continued at... Hitched to History

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Out of the Past blog
Artwork: Horse-Drawn Sleigh Ride at Twilight in a Snowy Landscape by Ira Block


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Cold Hardening


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

The crisp night is giving way to a warm morning glow. It will be an "Indian Summer" sort of day, the kind we missed out on last year when winter dropped in early. Some of our coldest weather came in November rather than January, where it belongs.

Most of nature depends on a steady progression of seasons.

These cool nights encourage the growth of fat and fur on dogs, cats, horses and most other warm-blooded critters.

My beard and waistline, too, seem to grow more readily this time of year. By winter solstice, or late December, we'll be well acclimated to the cold.

Continued at... Cold Hardening

Rural Delivery
The Nature Pages
Second Nature
Artwork: Winter Tree Line I by Ilona Wellman

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

A Bite Most Deadly




by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

Some folks are afraid of spiders, others snakes. Lightning puts the fear of God in many of us, and so do earthquakes, tornadoes and dark moonless nights. Living in the country presents many special worries, like the threat of wildfire or the potential for flash floods. More cars collide with wild animals on rural roads than city lanes and the chances of eating a poisonous mushroom or contracting the deadly hantavirus are much greater off the beaten path. But there is no threat so terrifying in rural places, or as fatally serious as rabies.

Growing up, I learned to keep a wary eye on grape arbors and tall, dark hedges of lilacs lest some crazed bat should emerge, grab hold of my hair, bite my scalp and infect me with rabies. Older cousins planted a terror of rabies in my pre-school mind with accounts of the terrible vaccination shots in the belly that bat bite victims had to endure and how, more often than not, the bitten person went crazy and was committed to an asylum, ranting and raving and foaming at the mouth.

Continued at... A Bite Most Deadly

Rural Delivery
Animal Husbandry
Out There
Artwork: Mad Dog


Friday, September 29, 2017

Privy to Privies


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1995. All rights reserved.

Live long enough and many of the everyday skills and experiences you take for granted become virtually obsolete, like operating a manual transmission or dialing a rotary phone.
   
Outhouses are like that. You don't see many privies any more, even on the most remote farmsteads, and few folks can claim to have sat in one.

I'm not talking about those industrial "Johnny-on-the-Jobsite" rental toilets or even the Forest Service's government-issue campground restrooms. True outhouses are homebuilt wood-plank structures with personalized features like crescent moons cut into the door or a shelf for the Sears and Roebuck catalog.

Continued at... Privy to Privies

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Farm Supply
Artwork: Billy Jacobs Morning Commute


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Yellow and Ripe with Autumn


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

The urgency of spring sprouting and the rush of summer growth has given way to a time of laid-back fulfillment. Eggs have hatched and fledglings are now on the wing. Seeds and fruits and nuts and pods are well on their way to completion. Summer is ripe and ready for harvest.

"Live in each season as it passes, breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each... Grow green with spring, yellow and ripe with autumn."

Such was the sage advice of Henry David Thoreau. One hundred sixty years later I find common ground in the truth he tilled. It is not just the crops in the field we gather this time of year, but those in our souls as well.

Continued at... Yellow and Ripe with Autumn

The Nature Pages
Outgoing
Artwork: Yellow Autumn Grass and Sunset


Thursday, September 21, 2017

Boundary Art


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2002. All rights reserved.

Some people make a personal statement through their clothes or in the choice of car or truck they drive; some wear a particular style of hat or cut their hair in some unique fashion.

Other folks, particularly in rural America, express themselves by decorating their mailboxes.

Travel almost any rural two-lane still frequented by farm machinery and you're likely to come across mailboxes painted with flowers and flags and animals and astrological symbols. Some mailboxes simply have the owner's name scrawled across one side, while others are ornately decorated with bright colors or sculpted in the shape of houses, barns and old railroad engines.

Continued at... Boundary Art

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Collectibles
Artwork: Tractor Mailbox


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Equinox


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1994. All rights reserved.

We lie on the brink of change. Great storms are brewing. This is the week of equinox, when the Earth stands up straight to the sun before it begins to tilt again, northern hemisphere tipping outward.   

At this moment everything hangs in balance. The hours of day and night are nearly even. There's some powerful physics at play.

Equinoxes are times of special powers. Calendars are created around them; crops are planted by them.

Continued at... Equinox

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Holidays and Notable Events
Artwork: Precession of the Equinoxes


Friday, September 1, 2017

New Neighbors



by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved.

All across the country, in rural places from Maine to Mendocino, there are terrible conflicts raging between folks who have lived in these places all their lives and newcomers who want to change them to better meet their expectations.

Some novice ruralites want to look at cows grazing in a pasture without having to smell them. Others expect farms to operate without machinery and harvesting to occur on bankers' hours. And a few even want to recreate our small town business districts with boutiques and tourist attractions.

Continued at... New Neighbors

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Where Oliver Found His Place
Artwork: New Neighbors


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Where Did Dogs Come From?


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2002. All rights reserved.

Dogs haven't always been around. Part of the Canidae family that includes wolves and coyotes and jackals, domesticated dogs are rather new to this planet and what they've accomplished since teaming up with humans is miraculous.

In the space of just a few thousand years, dogs have changed their shape and behaviors to fit into almost every known human environment and endeavor, from Huskies pulling sleds in the Arctic to Border Collies herding sheep in Scotland and Pekinese warming laps in midtown Manhattan.

And yet, at the molecular level not much has changed since dogs branched off from the family of wolves. The DNA makeup of wolves and dogs is almost identical.

Continued at... Where Did Dogs Come From?

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Animal Husbandry
Artwork: Wolf Pups


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Some Summer Days


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

There are days in summer that are dry as a bone and blistering hot. There are days when the sun burns and the wind peels and lightning starts wildfires that race out of control. Summer skies can be brown with soot and thick with allergens, or they can be broiling with a violence that strips and drowns and washes away.

But there are other summer days, such as today, that open like the bloom of a colorful flower. Scented with the sweet fragrance of fresh-cut alfalfa, they arrive with a kiss of dew and the enveloping warmth of dawn.

There are summer days sweet as a crisp apple that beckon bite after bite down to a core of contentment. Their still mornings lie across the countryside like a Maxfield Parrish painting, lustrous and idyllic.

Continued at... Some Summer Days

Rural Delivery
Outgoing
The Nature Pages
Artwork: A Summer's Day by Alfred Sisley


Monday, July 31, 2017

The Dog Days of Summer


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

These are the dog days of summer, a time of year when creeks run dry, the air stands still and the sun beats down relentlessly, day after day, or so it seems.

These are the days when we rediscover shade, pools, and the contents of our freezers. Cooling off becomes an obsession.

Over-heated hounds do lounge beneath porches and trees on hot afternoons, but it is not for them that "dog days" were named. Instead, this parching period pertains to Sirius, the "Dog Star," which rises and sets with the sun from mid-July until September. Sirius is also called "The Scorching One." Its lurid presence on the horizon evokes desperate memories of withered crops, raging wildfires and infernal droughts.

Continued at... The Dog Days of Summer

Out There
The Nature Pages
Artwork: Dog Days of Summer Garden Flag


Friday, July 21, 2017

The Northern Spy and Other Edible Antiques

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

A Rhode Island Greening is about as common in the contemporary American kitchen as a butter churn. It's as likely to be used as a woodburning cookstove or an icebox. Few of them have ever been microwaved.

The Northern Spy, once a standby at neighborhood grocers, is rarely seen in today's supermarkets. It's gone the way of the horse-drawn carriage and the stagecoach. Just try to find one.

The Greening and the Spy are both apples, two of the finest-tasting varieties ever to touch the American palate. But today they are "antiques," each more than a century old.

Continued at... The Northern Spy and Other Edible Antiques

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Apples
Artwork: Northern Spy


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Where Oliver Found His Place


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2006. All rights reserved.

This is the 1960s, and a wife's place is at her husband's side, as Oliver testifies:

You are my wife!"

Lisa had forgotten about the Hungarian Parliament's "Big Dumb Law of 1924," which stated: "All Hungarian women have to do whatever their husbands want them to do, no matter how dumb it is."

Goodbye city life.

And so the Haney Place becomes the Douglas Farm -- with all its clutter, fallow fields, and telephones mounted atop telephone poles -- for six television seasons. Oliver struggles gamely to make his farm a success while Lisa brings some graciousness and finer things of life to their rural experience. They stand side by side, in a parody of American Gothic, and declare:

Green Acres, we are there!

Continued at... Where Oliver Found His Place

See the Movie, Read the Book
Farm Supply
Artwork: Green Acres Poster

Monday, July 10, 2017

Flown The Coop

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.

Nowadays, I'm hard-pressed to find a chicken coop. We have no chickens. None of our neighbors keep chickens. There are chickens around and eggs for sale someplace nearby, I'm sure, but I couldn't give directions.

We've talked about raising chickens. Every spring, as the slugs rise to gnaw on the strawberries, my wife says, "We ought to have chickens." Free-ranging hens are an effective deterrent to slugs, grasshoppers and many other insect pests. They'll also keep down the weeds and add nutrients to your soil if you manage them carefully.

Every time I trim the fat off a fleshy store-bought chicken I'm preparing for the grill, I tell myself, "We ought to raise our own chickens."

Chickens convert feed to meat efficiently. Most broilers will gain a pound of weight for every two-and-a-half pounds of feed. If a bird is allowed to free-range, not only will it be less fatty, but nearly half of its feed will come from foraging grubs, weeds and worms.

Continued at... Flown The Coop

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Husbandry
Artwork: Chicken Coop at Eugene O'Neill House in Contra Costa County, California

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Folks




by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

Grayce grew up on horses. By the age of seven she was riding alone. At 18, she drove stage teams for her uncle up to mines in the Ochoco Mountains. She'd ride up from Prineville, stay overnight at the stage station, and return the next day. One day up, one day back, day after day. It was great work.

"My mother wanted me to be a lady. That was always a bad word with me. I just wanted to be me," Grayce explained.

For a time, she lived with her mother in Portland, working at a dimestore. But soon as she could arrange it, Grayce was back in Prineville. There were two problems with city life. First, there were no horses. ("Horses were my first love.") Second, she didn't like the people.

"I don't like people," she said. "I like folks."

"What's the difference?" I asked.

Continued at... Folks

Out of the Past
The Corral
Artwork: Oregon Summer Cowgirl by Paul A. Lanquist


Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Full Bloom

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

Have you ever wondered why the tulip drops its petals just as orchids are unfolding and while pansies and petunias go on blooming? Is it the heat of summer that makes them fade? Or some aversion to longer days?

Blame it on plant genetics. Flowers don't die off; they are deliberately strangled by the rest of the plant.

A tulip's bloom, however beautiful, serves one purpose to the plant: pollination. A lingering flower saps the energy a plant needs for bulb and seed development. Once pollinated, its beauty is a useless distraction from unpollinated flowers, and so it dies like Desdemona at the hands of Othello, its life tragically cut short.

Continued at... Full Bloom

Rural Delivery
Out There
Growth Spurts
Artwork: Tulip


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Sunday Drive


by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1996. All rights reserved.

Folks on a Sunday Drive count livestock, assess crop conditions and take notice of wildflowers. They pause for rainbows, old weathered barns and small animals crossing the road. And they're likely to stop at any yard sale, flea market or roadside fruit stand.

You'll know these folks by their sun-bronzed forearms resting atop drawn-down windows and their willingness to wave at passersby. Sometimes they'll be stopped side by side in the middle of the road facing opposite directions and jawing at each other across the center line.

Continued at... Sunday Drive

Rural Delivery
Outgoing
Holidays and Notable Events
Artwork: Sunday Drive


Monday, May 29, 2017

Read the News Backwards

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

So I've turned off the TV news, which is all about celebrities and monstrosities anyhow. (Ever notice how only celebrities are mentioned on network news when they die?)

I cast my lot with newspapers, the more local and personal the better. It's not that they don't sensationalize, because they often do -- especially on the front page. But newspapers also report on weddings and weed control and local high school sports, and the like, when no one else will bother. And the best way to read a newspaper, I have discovered, is back to front, classifieds first. This way I learn about the weekend auctions and the baseball scores and the city council's new ordinance before I get to the holdups and hijackings and beheadings.

Continued at... Read the News Backwards

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Farm Supply
Artwork: Farmer Reading Newspaper


Friday, February 10, 2017

Country Auction

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

Driving down almost any rural lane it's not uncommon to come across a sudden gathering of pickup trucks parked this way and that along the shoulders. Unless there's smoke rising from some burning barn, chances are there's an auction in progress.

Step outside and, sure enough, there's a cry of "Eight-five, five, five. I have eighty-five. Ninety, give me ninety," wafting across a fallow field.

Move up closer and you'll find old plows and roller harrows and cultipackers lined up on display along with cardboard boxes filled with bolts, drill bits and other assorted items. A crowd of bidders follows the auctioneer up and down rows of tractors and corrugators and shop tools, hovering over each item just long enough to determine whose bid will buy it and then moving on.

Continued at... Country Auction

Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Farm Supply
Artwork: Country Auction by Ken Zylla


Monday, February 6, 2017

Beware of Bambi

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

More people perish in the U.S. from close encounters with deer each year than with bears and sharks and snakes combined (bees are the next most deadly creature). Many of these deaths are the result of collisions on roadways, but deer are also killing people with their hooves and antlers.

The most dangerous deer, according to biologists, are bucks which have become used to people and are no longer afraid of them.

Population growth, both in deer and humans, has a lot to do with a number of these attacks, but they are not a new development. Roger Caras, in his 1964 book "Dangerous to Man," reports that the excessively shy deer can also be formidable and attacks on people are not uncommon.

Continued at... Beware of Bambi

Rural Delivery
The Nature Pages
Artwork: Trophy Buck Deer With Big Rack


Friday, January 20, 2017

In The Quiet

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

Out here in the country things are different. There is still room for silence. Step away from the TV and the radio and the cell phone, and you often find something rarely found in the city: stillness. Rural places have their share of noise, to be sure. A combine in a field or a hungry herd in the feedlot produces plenty of decibels. Neighbors can be heard revving engines or pounding nails or taking target practice from miles away. And the passing freight trains wail at every crossing up and down the valley.

But these are singular sounds, like simple sentences on a page with lots of white space around them, and they aren't heard all the time, night and day.

Continued at... In The Quiet

Rural Delivery
The Nature Pages
Artwork: The Road To The Farm Saint-Simeon In Winter, 1867 by Claude Monet


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Incidents in a Small Town

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1998. All rights reserved.

Living in a small town, you share a sense of common destiny with your neighbors. When tragedy strikes, the whole community trembles.

Our town has been shaken twice in recent weeks. The police chief, a popular and respected man with a young family, died in a freak highway accident when a delivery truck swerved into his lane and hit him head-on with its load.

Barely two weeks later a single mother and her four small children were murdered in their home and a local sharecropper, known to be a friend of theirs, was found dead in his pickup from a gunshot wound to his head. Investigators suspect a murder-suicide, but they are still trying to find a motive.

Continued at... Incidents in a Small Town

Rural Delivery
Second Nature
Artwork: The Mill in Winter by Dwight Baird