Tidbits XII

by Donna Schoenkopf

Another (the twelfth) edition of Tidbits for your dining and dancing pleasure, Gentle Reader.

Let us begin.


The Sky

I could watch an Oklahoma sky and do nothing else. I swear to God.

Oklahoma sky


The Nest

I went into the shed to get something or other. I am always careful about this because of Peewee’s story of the man who went into his shed and reached for a can of nails on the shelf and a rattler struck and bit his hand, causing him to jump backward where a cottonmouth was lurking. It sank its fangs into his leg. Which caused him to leap forward again into striking range of the rattler which did its job once again and then, of course, he jumped backward, and, yes, the cottonmouth bit him again.

He lived. But he was in the hospital for a long, long time. It’s a true story.

So I’m scared of the shed.

Anyway, I needed the whatever-it-was, and as I glanced around the shelves I noticed a nest of dried grasses and small branches tucked into a corner of the middle shelf. I immediately thought of rats or mice. And they attract snakes. The reason I thought of rats or mice was because I had just gotten a tuneup for my brave little Prius and the mechanic had pulled a rodent’s nest out of my air conditioning duct.

“What do I do?” I asked the service guy. (I couldn’t remember what Click and Clack had said on their NPR radio show about this subject.)


“Mothballs, wrapped in pantyhose,” he replied.

I bought a box of mothballs and some pantyhose per the mechanic’s instructions to keep the rats out of the underpinnings of my car. Rats don’t like the smell and I can understand why. It’s the most acrid, toxic smell you can imagine. But searching for a place to tuck the damn things in left me bewildered and I never did figure out where to put them, so the mothballs sat outside on the north deck, wrapped in pantyhose. Reeking.

Back to the nest.

I stared at it. Dare I touch it? I was incapable of that. I froze at the thought. Rats. Snakes. God help me. I got one of the pantyhose bags of mothballs and quickly tucked it onto the shelf where the nest was. Whatever built it was not gonna want to come back, I can tell you!

For days I refused to deal with it. Finally I got a pair of tongs from the kitchen, walked out to the shed, stood looking at it for a long time to detect any life lurking there, and gently picked the nest up.

Oh, my dear God.

There were four little eggs, bird’s eggs, nestled at the bottom.

My heart broke. Those mothballs had done their job. The parents of those birdlets would never come back. The whole shed stunk of poison and the nest was reeking.

I carried the nest to the north deck and put them on the table and stared at them. They were so sweet and small and pretty. And then I picked the nest up again and at that very moment the wind came out of nowhere and blew them out of my hands and onto the deck.

They broke. All gone. Life and death in the country.


Armadillos and Leprosy

As some of you already know, my dog Diego (God rest his soul) was an armadillo killer. I have discovered, by virtue of my nose, eight dead ones in various places on my property. This is good. Armadillos, I am told, dig under your house and screw up your foundation. A dog is very valuable in the country.

One dark night (and nights can be very dark out here) I heard Diego barking and carrying on, but ignored it as I always do. He took care of business and I didn’t have to bother my pretty little head about any of it. But this time he kept on and on. I finally called him and he ran up happily, sopping wet. Great. Must have been in the pond again.

I grabbed a towel to wipe him down so he wouldn’t shake all that muck all over the floors and furniture and as I wiped I noticed the towel turning red.

Clay? Nope. Blood.


I started checking him all over for wounds. Nothing. I couldn’t figure out what had happened. I finished wiping him down and called it a night.

The next day I found the dead armadillo out in the front “yard.” The back of its neck had deep puncture wounds. Lots of blood on the ground.

That was several months ago. This past week I saw a story in the Los Angeles Times that caught my eye. It was all about how armadillos, of all things, carry leprosy. About twenty percent of them.

So if you have leprosy and you don’t know why, try to remember if you have touched or eaten any armadillos.

Or have wiped armadillo blood off your dog in the middle of the night and gotten its blood all over yourself.

I’ll let you know if I get leprosy.


Masanobu Fukuoka

A long time ago I wrote a piece about Masanobu Fukuoka. He’s dead now. A couple or three years, I think. 

He is the person who inspired me, back in the ’70s, to do “Natural Farming.” He wrote a book called “The One-Straw Revolution.” It’s about how to farm/garden in a completely natural and sustainable way. On his plot of land in Japan he was able to produce at least as much rice, barley, citrus, fruit, and vegetables as any plot of land in Japan, which has the highest agricultural productivity on the planet.


I can report that what was once just a hard, red expanse of clay with virtually no plant growth is now green and lush and has wildflowers, including about four kinds of lupines, poking out as April has morphed into May. (Here’s a great interview with Fukuoka.)


Obama in the Morning

One of the joys of retirement is getting to have mornings that are peaceful and serene, filled with everything one loves.

I love my coffee, the beautiful world outside all of my sliding glass doors, a house filled with light, and ... morning political talk shows.

I keep MSNBC on in the mornings because they carry all of President Obama’s speeches and appearances. Most people don’t know how magnificent he is on these occasions. He is smart, cool (in the hip sense of the word), happy to be there, a true gift to his audience, which includes me.

Television is a teleportation machine, taking my eyes and ears anyplace in the world.



Compost Bin

I finally made one. Because we had a two day deluge and the clay was nice and malleable, I ran over to Lowe’s and bought some plastic screening with half inch holes in it and some pointed posts that fit those holes perfectly and threaded the posts through the screening and pushed the posts into the ground, making a lovely circular compost bin. I dumped all the rotting vegetable matter that had been collecting in my plastic garbage can into the bin and covered it with straw.

Heh. Nice.


The Trench

Water collects along the base of my house on the north side. So, while the aforesaid rained-on clay was still soft, I got my trusty shovel out and dug a trench to see if I could persuade the water to run down the east hill. It did.

Heh. Nice again.



Went to Rep. Lankford’s Town Hall Meeting. Hung out in front before it started with the other Democrats. We all had signs. We were a happy bunch. Mine read Tax the Rich.

I love doing this.

One old geezer stopped and said the EPA should be abolished. Jeez.

We all went inside and several of us were called on to ask questions. We were all articulate and lots of people, whom we did not know, actually clapped for us.

Did you know Lankford has dyed orange hair?


Sally Kern

¡Ay caramba! Give a listen and a look to this beaut. She’s an Oklahoma legislator who. . . never mind. A picture is worth a thousand words. This bit of video was shown on MSNBC on Lawrence O’Donnell’s The Last Word and The Rachel Maddow Show.


Train Trip

I’m going to California by train. It’s cheap! If you’re an old person like I am you can get a round trip ticket between Oklahoma City and Los Angeles for $239.49 . And that means you can watch the scenery and hang out in the lounge car and NOT have to go on an airplane. I detest air travel. I am always tense in an airplane.

I am going to see my darling daughter get her master’s from USC in radio journalism. I will eat in groovy restaurants and walk on the beach and see old friends and hug and kiss my children and grandchildren. I will carry the iPad my darling son sent me for Mother’s Day and keep a diary about it all. For you, Gentle Reader.

And guess what?

I just heard that some of the intelligence gathered from Osama bin Laden’s computers and notebooks describes how the next bit of terrorism will involve trains. Trains going to Los Angeles.

Great. Just great.

It’s always something.

Donna Schoenkopf recently retired from teaching at 61st Street School in South Central Los Angeles, and has moved back to Oklahoma, where she spent her teens.


Good Lord!  Watch out how you use the Amtrak site to schedule a trip!  I checked to see how much the trip I took four years ago to go from Milwaukee to San Diego would last and cost.  If you go through Chicago its about 50 hours and $250.  If you just type in “Milwaukee” and San Diego” they put you on the Empire Builder and route you through Portland for another 32 hours and two hundred bucks! 

I took the same trip in 1960 with my mom, and the route and schedule seems to be pretty much the same now as then, though now the train seems to spend a lot of time shifting from one route to another in Illinois and moving very slowly.

2011-05-10 by Gary Richard

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