IT'S THE TIME OF THE YEAR THAT THE WEEKS GET SHORTER

Today the battle cries of "More Elixir for the god's of Neptune!" begin.

A friend of mine after observing me at several sporting events said that I reminded him of an old movie that he had once seen where a group of men in Viking attire sat around a round table. The barmaid will bring out a pitcher of adult beverage and pouring it into their outstretched mugs would retreat. In unison the Vikings downed their drinks and then banging their huge mugs on the table demanded service with the cry, "More Elixir for the god's of Neptune!"

This same friend would ask for the Sports page of the local newspaper by asking, "are you finished with the pages of the gods yet?"

"What?" I asked the first time that I was the recipient of this inquiry.

"The pages of the gods, foot-Baal, base-Baal, basket-Baal," (read the Old Testament {or Hebrew Scriptures} if you need an explanation)

And I would add, "Nas-god."

Today with the real beginning of football season (since the Florida Gators play today!), the weeks get a lot shorter. From now until December the weekends begin on Thursday nights with the first College football game and end on Monday nights with a NFL game. In between are the bevy of College games, Nascar races and NFL games that speed up the hands of time.

I know it's hard for outsiders to understand or comprehend all the secret signals that are passed between fans of the various teams or why people get dressed up in the funky colors of their teams. But I can only pity those who miss out on the enjoyment that all of this brings as the weather gets colder and the birds fly south.

I'd like to write more about this, but it's time take the mug off the hook and put on my headgear. I don't want to miss the next round of mug banging...

SEGREGATION

It was cool this morning, actually bordering on cold due to the shorts and T-shirt that I was wearing.

A soon as I walked outside, I heard the sound of cattle in the far pasture and figured this would be the prime moment to put up the gate and segregate the assassins from finding a way to kill the new fatter pig.

For the past several days the cattle have chosen various moments in the day to gather around the pigpen and stare at the pig. This usually lasts for a few moments before they are mooing loudly and the cattle that are not already there run wildly across the pasture to join them. The fence is indented where they have tried to move closer, no doubt to kick some pigskin around.

I usually put up with this for awhile, from my perch up the hill. I can hear them, but I keep figuring that they will tire of this standoff. But they do not.

So I travel down the hill grab a whip and stand inside of the fence next to the pig (who has no appreciation for what I am doing for her), and crack the whip which has the effect of causing the cattle to retreat for about fifty feet. In a few moments they are mooing loudly and staring from their new vantage point, waiting for me to leave so they can get close again.

Since I possess superior intelligence to the cattle, but not the pig (since she has me doing all of her work for her), I jump in the truck with it's nicely banged in passenger's side door and head to where the cattle have stopped. Jumping out whip in hand I move them further up the hill, until finally they are headed far enough away that I figure they are out of range of any porcine scent, that may be flaring up their nostrils.

This temporary solution, like peace accords in other hot spots around the world, usually lasts for about three or four hours. Then they are back at the pigpen again, breathing murderous threats, and I have to go through my act.

All of this makes me feel like I am working at a theme park and this is one of God's favorite shows. I can imagine the heavenly court laughing as I get up and make my way down the hill and repeat the futile exercise.

Which is why we are for the segregation of cattle and pigs here. If we can keep the two far apart at least the immediate threat to the pig's life will be lessened. Although I do fear the pig's cholesterol may be a little high, but I'm not sure how to bring that down. But nothing is ever easy.

The gate that will bring temporary peace to the farm is lying on the ground, one of many unfinished projects.

I went to the barn and found a piece of rope and a bungee cord. I figured they would do for the time being. I then headed for the woods where the dormant gate lie next to the opening in the fence.

Entering the woods a squirrel scurried one way, and one of the dogs the other. I wasn't sure why the dog ran the other way, until I realized that I was holding the rope that had been used to lure her into the barn last night where she could sit in solitary confinement and bark to her hearts content.

Having been released only a short time ago; she evidently had no desire to deal with the ambiguities of human life and take the time to figure out if the rope were for her or some other purpose. The squirrel obviously saw that I was not the type of nut that he/she was in search of.

I reached the gate lying among the rocks and leaves I could hear cattle, but could not see them anywhere. After a few moments of walking around and searching, it finally dawned on me that they were not the right cows. The cows I was hearing were off in someone else's pasture.

Lying the rope and bungee cord on the fence I climbed the hill and looking over the back pasture spotted the assassins. They were eating and seemed rather content. They were not making any noise.

No doubt planning their next attack, I thought. Obviously they are at war and will not take the short trip to the vacation pasture until the war is over. The question is when will the war be over? When they've killed the pig or me?

Name-Calling at Jo's Family Restaurant

I sat there reading the newspaper while I waited for the food I had ordered to arrive. The ordering itself was done in a way that seems to have become rather fashionable in these parts. Rather than a menu, a photocopied slip of paper and a pencil greets you where normally a placemat would be. Then you circle whatever you want and the waitress takes the slip from you, limiting the amount of interaction between the two of you

The problem with this method is that it seems to greatly limit the mental capacity of the waitress. They only read circles!

I like a straw with my drink, because my mother planted in my head that a plastic cup retains germs. I have never taken the time to investigate the truth of this matter, she relayed the information to me some years ago after seeing something about it on one of the countless news magazine shows, and I have accepted her word.

I'm rather picky about which of these scare reports that my mother relays to me that I actually accept. I have received the infrared motel alert both when it originally aired and every time that they have rerun the piece, all to no avail. I sleep very soundly in a motel bed, regardless of what creatures are crawling all over me (that are visible only with some fancy black light). But the plastic cup thing has stuck.

So every time I am in one of these places with the circle your own damn menus, I have to endure the scorn of the waitress whose eyes retreat to the vacuous space between her ears, when I ask nicely if I might have a straw.

The next eye rolling routine will come after I write butter next to the circled roll. It seems that words are not allowed in this form of order taking. In the parlance of Beavis and Butthead, "Words evidently suck!"

So like clockwork my food arrives, but no butter. I then have to speak to the waitress and ask for it. This request, like that of the straw meets with the same heavy breathed sigh, that in turn is suppose to make me feel guilty for not adhering to the strict guidelines of the photocopied menu.

All of the above probably accounts for the negative reaction that reading the newspaper in the restaurant receives. One waitress, hair piled on top of her abundant head seems to be really annoyed by the practice. She has taken it upon herself to proclaim, "Y'all are some newspaper reading fools!"

Now part of me, the charitable part, wants to believe that she has some notion that the press are all in cahoots with one another for some devious purpose and that I am a fool to pick up anything that they write and believe in it. But the less charitable part thinks that she and the rest of them have something against reading.

If it's Sunday and it's the big stack of paper, she'll come by and look down at the large stack of paper like it was a time bomb and retreat with, "Y'all must be in hog heaven today!"

I've never thought of reading the newspaper as a big deal, but my suspicion is that someplace in these parts there is an edition where you just circle the stories that you want to know about and someone comes and tells you the news.

Fishing

When I was young I enjoyed fishing with my grandfather, but most of the time as I reflect back on it, I was bored. Thankfully he usually bought several soft drinks and plenty of snacks so that eating and drinking would occupy most of the time I waited for a bite.

If one of my cousins accompanied us, it was only a matter of time before the boredom lent itself to our trailing off along the river in search of something more exciting to do. That led to be yelled at by our grandfather, "Did you come here to fish or what?" Under our breath we would mutter the mandatory "what."

Now approaching forty, there is nothing I find more relaxing than going to a small pond and throwing a fishing line in the water. Whether I catch anything or not is only of minor importance. There is something that allows me to enter into another space, to take time to notice the environment around me and to appreciate it in a way that too often I do not.

The boredom that hung over me as a child seems to have vanished. Now there is never enough time to complete the tasks before me, now I find I awake at the crack of dawn and dusk still descends too soon.

As I throw another fish back into the water, I reflect on the fragility of life. The fish in my hands reminds me of the thin hold any of us has on his or her existence, how fleeting all of life is. Yet there is still so much that I have control over and can change in my life. Tonight I choose to allow this fish to live. Chalk one up in the positive karma bank for me.

It is dark and the fish are biting very fast now, but I find my night vision is not what it was a few years ago. My line gets tangled in a nearby bush and I am at a lost to explain how. The simple truth is that I could not see it clearly.

Meanwhile children are throwing rocks into the water on the other side of the pond, their fishing rods lying unused on the bank. I find the words forming on my lips, "Hey did you come here to," but they stop near the tip of my tongue. My grandfather was close to sixty when he mouthed them and I have another twenty years before I earn the right to speak them, and my hearing is still good enough to pick up the wise ass "what."

Bull Headed

I went for a morning ride in the pasture yesterday. My main intention was to hopefully spy on deer grazing in the early hours of the day. The first animals that I encountered were the cows with their latest addition, a black bull.

The bull arrived a few days ago and from my casual observation had not wasted any time in romancing one at a time all of the cows. It's rather touching sight; the mass of cows grazing in one part of the pasture, while the bull and one of their number go off for a private conference about a hundred feet away.

He seems to tire of them rather quickly and soon he is off with another companion sharing intimate tidbits of the latest in cow life. Observing his latest love interest I could not help but wonder if the bull has a future as president of the United States.

Anyway I drove through the morning meeting of cattle who were gathered at the spot where I had hoped the deer would be. Perhaps I will have better luck further back I thought, so turning the wheel of the truck I headed in that direction.

I had to climb a little embankment with the truck that normally would be no task at all, but in the morning with the grass heavy with dew it was like trying to drive up a hill of ice. But I was persistent, perhaps it's my Polish blood, or maybe the French blood, but I kept trying to no avail.

Each time I would go up, the truck would slide down. I was so busy looking toward the front that I did not pay attention to what I was sliding back into, that is until I noticed that I was surrounded by pine trees. Somehow I had wedged the truck between these trees, tires spinning on wet pine needles now. I was in a real mess.

After a few useless tries, I realized I was stuck in the worst way. Getting out and examining the damage I could see there was a tree that seemed to be growing out of the passenger door. There was significant damage to boot.

I began the lengthy trek back home on foot. Cursing myself along the way. How could I be so stupid? This is what you get for being so damn stubborn, why did you have to go up that embankment anyway?

Looking back at the truck nearly concealed in the brush; I could only wonder how I could have backed into that mess.

But then thinking about it, I realized that much of my life has been spent pursuing goals while sliding backwards most of the time. I probably should start taking a better look at what I'm backing into, I thought.

A few hours later, I was back at the scene of the disaster. After sawing a tree that I had backed over, and rocking the truck back and forth it was freed from it's temporary imprisonment.

Now for the all-important question, did I learn a lesson?

Driving through the pasture that I had just a few moments before walked with saw in hand, I praised my obstinate nature for it's ingenuity.

But the stupidity of that nature of mine is there for all to see in the huge dent on the passenger side door of the truck.

I believe the bull even sneered to his date as I approached them. I hurled a few curses at him, and drove off.