Friday, October 7, 2016


199. WOOD
'Advice for the lovelorn' :
one step at a time, don't
go overboard, treat each
item separately and be
sure to clearly finish each.
Those were the tidbits
I'd see. No, it wasn't
called 'lovelorn,' but I
forget otherwise  -  I
started getting this
really dumb magazine,
a large, over-sized,
monthly. Delivered. It
was called 'Pennsylvania
Farmer' and it was just
what it said  -  including
those hokey advice things
I opened with. That's
where I learned all about
silos. They had all these
really cool monthly, in-depth
articles, about real farm
stuff. For me it became
like an instant vocational
education, a textbook of
sorts for an accelerated
course in dairy/agriculture.
There was even a monthly
agri-themed crossword
puzzle. Tractor articles,
restoration, old tools,
cow medical stuff, corn,
additives for gasoline
and fuel, the entire
crazy gamut. And the
best things were the
ads. Quaint, Bizarre. I
must say, I did actually
wait for that magazine
each month to arrive.
And I do wish I had
saved them all. As duly
eccentric as that tale I
told way, way back here,
in an earliest chapter,
about moving into the
house and barn and
finding, in the barn
apartment bathroom,
all those 'Arizona
Highways' magazines.
They were even more
bizarre because they 
had to do with nothing 
at all 'germane' to the 
situation. Wish I'd 
saved them too.
There was a book I fell
in love with too. By some
fellow named Eric Sloane,
it was called, 'Reverence
For Wood.' It was an older
book, even back then,  - or, it 
always just seemed old. I was
actually surprised when I did
learn how recent it was. It
had been around and had its
own little cult following. It
would be very hard to say
exactly what it is about it;
it's like an 'ode' to wood.
And I don't remember
from when it dates, maybe
1960 or so. It's the sort of
book you don't much see  -
no detours, no glamour, it's
just about one thing  -  old
wood, and wood, and how
it ages and forms into things.
A varied 'history' of the very
thought of wood and its uses.
The sort of book that really
takes a lot of patience to stay
with, to absorb. But worth it.
It's as good and as engaging
as 'Desert Solitaire', by
Edward Abbey, from 1968.
Each of those books was
to me totally engaging,
enormous in both intensity
and scope. They were
definitely NOT the sort
of thing you'd figure as
'intellectual' reading. In
fact, neither of them are
the sorts of books that
people would put up
with today. They are
'thought' books; they
do one thing, and they
stay with it, remaining
planted on their subjects
and material, and
nothing else. They
are, each, vast, single
meditations on their
subject matters. Only.
If I had a pre-requisite
for friendship today,
I'd say 'read these 
books', and report 
back. Yet, out there in
farmer-land I couldn't
see any one reading 
either of these. You see, 
there was in every attribute
of things done, of things
gone about, a certain 
element of the frivolous,
or at least an element of 
lack of anything veering
from the utilitarian and 
most reasonable. I never 
saw an intellectual farmer, 
or a farmer that thought. 
The homes and center 
rooms were devoid of 
books, and if there
were any they were 
of the utilitarian or 
accounting variety, 
the 'how-to's and 
the procedural. 
Nothing ever about 
awareness. That
used to bother me.
I'd think to myself, 
even out there in a fairly
wonderful Eden of a place,
how could anyone go on
with a life without any 
self-examination or
any collection of the
vital and interesting 
information that goes
into a valued life? It 
never made any sense 
to me. Why do people 
want to live as dumb 
as the pigs in their
sty? I would figure 
even a most basic layer 
of self-respect would 
bring forth some interest,
in anything  -  even if just
to be able to talk with
your own kids as a semi-
wise Dad and individual
and not some dumb drone.
The other funny thing was 
how Cornell University 
made pride out of being 
a 'Land-Grant' College. 
Which meant, sort of, 
that some long time ago, 
after the Civil War or 
something, these
particular colleges 
were given rural 
acreages for free, 
'granted' the land to 
establish their places of
learning, for rural folk 
and farm folk and the 
like to implement an
education and to learn 
things. In Cornell's
place, they even made 
a great institution, beautiful
to see, perfectly situated and
well cared-for, and a grand, 
major place of learning and
intellectual currency  -  for
'students' imported in from
all around the world. Not too
many local hick farmers 
walking in that place. What
happened? How did the
relationship between the
learning and the 'place', the
geography, get so skewed?
Students from all over the 
globe, but the wrong sort 
of people too, not those for
whom the place was meant
originally to be for. Now it 
had gotten all theoretical,
Chinese, Indian, Euros, all
of a curious intellectual bent of
their own, with characteristics 
all different than the origins
were meant for. Strange. In
the 'American' vein, I think it
was as education slowly turned
into a viable American 
growth industry.
It was all and everywhere a
battle of some sort : it you
weren't fighting flies and
mosquitoes, like a cow 
constantly flicking its 
tail to ward off the bugs,
then you were fighting
the sensation of falling  -  
turning yourself into a 
real dullard. The utility 
guy, the drudge with the
pail, and the shovel, and
the cow. How could I
ever talk to any of these
guys, in truth, about what
I felt and lived and knew
and thought? Impossible, 
like an alien world, a real
Mars with nothing but
dead earth soil 
to deal with.

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