May, 1999

I know that when somebody is in a position of power, other folks are always trying to pull them off to the side to give them advice. I do not normally do this, myself, but the more I watch this mess in Kosovo, I want to pull Bill Clinton over and tell him about my old tomcat.

 

Tom could have been the poster-child for stray cats, which is what he was when he found himself adopted into my little family back in Mississippi.

 

After he settled in, he cleaned himself up pretty well, working at his armor-plating of mats until his long fur looked fairly presentable. He was chunky, and looked a little like a mohair cork.

 

Tom was a lot to contend with, about 20 pounds of bad attitude with claws. He as a warlike old cuss who would actually take off across the yard toward any dog he saw coming into his territory.

 

As far as I know, the only thing on this earth he was afraid of was Minsky.

 

Minsky was our little female cat. She was tiny, about half Tom’s size, and excessively cute, with long brindled black and orange fur, and a little three-inch stub of a tail, the result of a close call with a large neighborhood dog.

 

That stub is an important player in our story. It was sharp, and Minsky was in the habit of holding it straight up in the air when she was happy or in heat, which for Minsky usually meant one and the same thing.

 

In an effort to be delicate, let me just say that Minsky suffered from an excess of, er, romance when it came to cats of the opposite sex. In fact, when she went into heat, which seemed to happen every 20 minutes, she became so flirtatious she even embarrassed me.

 

In fact, it was Minsky’s affectionate nature that was Tom’s downfall.

 

One rainy winter night, my wife and I sat reading in bed, enjoying the heat and glow of the industrial-sized open gas heater, which stood against the wall opposite the foot of our brass bed. Minsky, the hussy, was lolling around all over the floor, making odd little cooing noises, and casting steamy glances across the room at Tom.

 

Tom, poor boy, was totally smitten. A passionate creature by nature, he approached matters of the heart with the same verve he used in attacking dogs and small children. Used much of the same technique, too, as I recall.

 

Tensely, he watched Minsky from where he curled on the new bedspread. I watched them both. Minsky was giving an Oscar-grade performance. She lolled. She mewed. She made suggestive remarks.

 

Tom grew more and more…interested.

 

Finally, he dropped to the floor, and crouched into a coiled stance, like a coiled spring ready to let go.

 

A few seconds later, after Minsky uttered one more invitation, that spring exploded into life. Tom launched himself across the little room, to land with all his weight and speed right on top of…that cruel, sharp, rigid little spike of a tail.

 

It was not the sensation he had been expecting.

 

Giving something between a grunt and a yowl, he catapulted himself backwards through the air, performing a lovely parabola from point A, (that would be Minsky,) to point B, (which would be the big gas heater,) which promptly set him on fire.

 

Now a ball of flaming fur, Tom launched himself in the other direction, landing on top of the bed, burning merrily.

 

My wife screamed. I screamed. None of us screamed as much as Tom.

 

Thinking I ought to do something immediately, even if it was wrong, I threw the new bedspread over Tom and wrapped him tight, extinguishing the flames. Tom, not happy with being smothered, proceeded to yowl and shred his way out of the bedspread.

 

My wife, not happy with what was happening to her new bedspread, started to yowl and beat on me with her Bible. Yowling a little myself, I took the whole sorry bundle out the back door and dumped Tom on the ground. He took off, still smoking, into the garden.

 

Minsky, meanwhile, was still looking for companionship. I picked her up and, resisting the urge to drop-kick her, set her down on the ground. She took off after Tom, whose smoke trail was easy to follow, even in the rain.

 

After a few days, things were back to what passed for normal in our household. There was yet another new bedspread on the brass bed. Minsky was calm and, we learned later, pregnant, papa unknown. Tom, however, was a changed cat.

 

Even after his fur grew back out, his lion-like bearing fell away whenever he came into the house. If Minsky came anywhere near him, he slinked around the edges of the room and went to go hide under the couch.

 

This is the cautionary tale I would tell Bill Clinton if I were to advise him about the situation in Kosovo No matter how small and tempting your target, remember there may be sharp and unpleasant surprises lurking in what looked like an easy victory.

 

Now, if he wanted to apply that advice to any other aspect of his life, that is his business.

There Is No App For That

August 31, 2014

By T.W. Burger

Guns are not dangerous in the same way that a sharp knife or a hammer is not dangerous.

There, I said it.

It’s the people. It’s us. We are the danger.

It’s not quite the PC thing, I know. It is quite the fashion now to rage against firearms, as though they are the embodiment of the devil himself.

I like guns. With a couple of odd and mostly inoperative exceptions, I don’t have any, but I like them. I grew up with guns. I had my first gun, a Daisy Model 25 BB gun when I was 11. (If you don’t think a BB gun can be dangerous, talk to any ER physician.) I got my first grown-up gun at about 14 or 15, a single-barrel 16 gauge shotgun, and had a number of firearms afterward.

I never once killed anyone, though I confess to have thought about it once or twice.

As far as the use of guns, well, I like to keep fantasy and reality segregated. The infamously bad movie “Red Dawn” (1984 and again in 2012) and its plucky gang of high school students defeating an invasion by the Soviet Union in the first version and a rogue unit of the North Koreans in the second made everybody feel good.

Despite what we see on TV and at the cinema, it’s not bloody likely. Witness the mess in Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan. It seems that absolutely everybody in those places is heavily armed. Do those places seem placid and safe? Take note, NRA.

So, guns are OK by me. Idiots and crazy people are something else. Put a gun into the hands of any member of those two classes and bad things can happen, and often do.

For example: “People just want to experience things they can’t experience elsewhere,” said Genghis Cohen, owner of Machine Guns Vegas. “There’s not an action movie in the past 30 years without a machine gun.”

Ghengis Cohen? Really?

Cohen was commenting on the recent death of an instructor at just such an establishment who died after a 9-year-old girl was unable to control an Uzi. The Uzi is a submachine gun that fires about 600 rounds a minute in calibers from .22 to .45. On August 25, this little girl from New Jersey was on a family adventure and got to fire a real machine gun.

The instructor, Charles Vacca, a 39-year-old combat veteran, took a bullet to the head when the girl lost control of the Uzi. He died. God only knows what psychological injuries the child will have. Some adventure, huh?

There is no way to keep everybody safe. Not in the real world, not even in our own local country, with more than 300 million people bumping into one another every day. Outlawing guns is not going to happen, and it wouldn’t solve the problem anyway. Better control of who can have a firearm is a good idea, but unlikely to be anything but a move to make us feel that at least we’re doing SOMETHING.

One is tempted to suggest that we need to improve ourselves as human beings. Personally, I think that is the only thing that will likely make any real difference. But creating better humans is beyond the reach of government. Such a leap requires introspection and genuine regard for one’s fellow humans.

Somehow, I don’t think that there’s an app for that.

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© 2014 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:

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http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

http://rockthecapital.com

 

 

A Queasy Bit of Genius

December 2, 2011

By T.W. Burger

I have to admit that a teeny part of me thinks there is somebody absolutely brilliant behind all this.

 

Americans destroying what it is to be American in order to protect America from people who would destroy what it is to be American.

 

I mean, WOW. It’s like MAD magazine on crystal meth.

 

On Tuesday the U.S. Senate, which, I’m beginning to think, may be the terrorist organization we really need to worry about, voted to keep in place a controversial section of the defense spending bill that would allow the indefinite detention of any terrorism suspect, including American citizens.

 

I can really see the attraction, to be honest. There are, plain and simple, really scary people out there. Some of them are just plain crazy, and some of them are crazy but think they are acting on behalf of Allah, or Jesus, or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, for all we know. Like it or not, they’re out there, walking around, watching the world through the warped lenses of their assorted lunacies, and perfectly happy to go to glory on behalf of their own delusions, if they can just take some of us – preferably a whole lot of us – along for the ride.

 

Well, that’s the picture that’s hung on the side of legislation like this, anyway, a poster to convince us that we must do everything in our power to quell the threat against us.

 

No matter the cost.

 

That last part is not even in the fine print. It is not even mentioned.

 

Of course, we are really pretty vague about whom that threat actually comes from. The terror-of-the-moment is anybody who worships Allah, and there are some good reasons for that. On the other hand, back in World War II, We The People locked up a lot of innocent folks – 110,000 Japanese-Americans and about 16,000 German-born citizens and immigrants for much the same reason we want to lock up people who go to the wrong place of worship on the suspicion that they may be jihadists.

 

Of those Germans, perhaps one in 10 was members of the Nazi Party. Eight were actually suspected of espionage.

 

Eight.

 

I spent an afternoon walking around what was left of the Manzanar Japanese internment camp in Southern California some years back. It had just been handed over to the National Park Service, but nothing had been done to pretty it up. I was OK until I found the cemetery. A number of the graves were very small, only a few feet long, with toys, trinkets, and folded blankets placed over them, by people, perhaps, who are not simply shrugging their internment off as a temporary inconvenience.

 

Guess what happened to their jobs and property while they were gone.

 

In any case, the long internment of so many without due process, based in large part on the way they looked or talked or cooked their sausage has been a matter of some shame to the U.S. Apparently, it has not be so much of a shame that we have been cured of heading in that direction again.

 

Perhaps the fact that our detention camps are not, strictly speaking, on American soil helps make our updated detentions seem more humane, or at least less un-American.

 

Sixteen Democrats, among them Pennsylvania’s own Robert Casey, joined the usual foam-at-the-mouth crowd to vote against amending the legislation to remove the section on authorizing indefinite detention. It gave me the same sensation I had when I once was convinced there was a snake in my sleeping bag.

 

To be sure, there are not very many people locked up at the nominally illegal military prison in Guantanamo. At last count, there were perhaps 170 or so people who are adjudged to be too dangerous to let go, but who for one reason or another cannot be tried under whatever legal rules they are still sticking to down there.

 

OK, so these are arguably really bad people. I’m sure they honestly hate us. If they didn’t hate us when they were thrown into that hot, humid dog-run years and years ago, they do now. Maybe it’s hard for some of us to feel sympathy.

 

But think about it.

 

The renewed authorization would make it possible, LEGALLY possible, to snap you up and haul you away for as long as they want, even for the remainder of your natural life, without ever allowing you to be charged, to have your day in court, without ever speaking to a civilian attorney. And all because somebody somewhere with the right title on his or her door decided you were a threat to national security, based on an informant, an astrological forecast, or the reading of chicken guts. Doesn’t matter. A paper gets signed and you are gone.

 

There are people who like this bill, obviously, who think it’s just the thing for combating the newest crop of boogie-beings that haunt our dreams.

 

President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it contains the “indefinite detention” language in it, and hooray for him. The really stupid thing about it is that throngs of people who hate anything as long as Obama is for it, would, when not drinking that particular Kool-Aid, be whooping his praises for standing up for the Constitution that is supposed to protect us from this kind of tail-tucked hogwash.

 

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© 2011 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:

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http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

 

Passage and gauges

August 16, 2010

This weekend I helped a young man of my acquaintance begin his instruction in the dying art of driving a stick shift.

I took my old Dodge truck, a well-worn workhorse nearly 30 years old. It has a five-speed that’s a little cranky at times, but good for the instruction of a 14-year-old – we’ll call him T —  whose experience with driving has mostly been via computer games which, unlike real life, have a reset button.

His dad had first honors, of course. A boy’s first experiences behind the wheel should be with his dad, if he’s lucky enough to have one around.

Part of the experience, of course, is to be reassured that sudden stalls, jackrabbit starts, and slung gravel have all been done before and are nothing to be ashamed of. The reassurances come, of course, with the recounting of a few examples from our own youth. They also come with the proviso that we will tell everybody about the more extravagant errors committed by our student, but we will end with comments about how much better, after all, he did than we did.

It’s just part of the tradition. Everybody in my high school, for example, knew how I had gotten the drivers’ education car, an enormous burgundy ’65 Chevy Belair with a manual tranny, up on two wheels in a parking lot.

I had a lump on the back of my head for a week from where the coach’s UGA class ring whacked me after that one.

T. talked about different kinds of vehicles all day. How he wants to have a 4×4 pickup truck for hauling stuff, a sports car for going fast, a motorcycle, and an ATV. I think he also mentioned a jet-ski.

Yeah, me, too.

I had forgotten how important all that is when a boy is that age, before he gets his first real taste of freedom with his own drivers’ license and, if he’s really lucky, his own car. I bought my own, and they were real junkers. There’s no better way to learn about the operation of a vehicle than to own one that needs a lot of tinkering to keep it operating.

Back then, in the 1960s, I could tell you the make and model of everything on both sides of the road. Today, I can still do that, as long as whatever is on either side of the road was build in the 1960s or before. Almost everything else looks equally indistinguishable.

There was something else I had forgotten about being 14 or so. Something that occupies most of a young fella’s attention at that age.

On the way to see a blood-and-guts action movie (lots of muscle, car chases, explosions, and gun-fire…a perfect guy pic) T asked me if I had ever noticed that the clear plastic covers on the instrument panel, conical with black plastic tips, looked just like breasts.

I had never noticed. I had always been looking at the gauges.

“No, I never noticed that,” I told him. “However, I promise you that I will never be able to look at those gauges the same way, ever again.”
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© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

Note: This column appeared in the March 20, 2010, edition of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg.

Known for his coon skin cap, Fess Parker as Davy Crockett was an idol to many young baby boomers.

When I opened up the Web site for my hometown newspaper, out of the corner of my eye I saw a photo of Fess Parker in the far left column, the one reserved for the obituaries of famous or infamous people. I hesitated before I would let myself look.

Davy Crockett was dead.

“LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor Fess Parker, who became every baby boomer’s idol in the 1950s and launched a craze for coonskin caps as television’s Davy Crockett, died Thursday of natural causes. He was 85.”

He got me drunk once. Well, a little tipsy. More on that in a minute.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember that tall, lanky figure dressed up in fringed buckskin, fighting his way across the mythic American frontier of the first half of the 19th century, wrestling bears, fighting or befriending Indians and besting bad guys.

OK, it was the frontier as imagined by Walt Disney, which had little relationship to reality, but never mind. Disney was all about imagination, and he gave us somebody bigger and better than real life — a hero, a straight-shooter (literally and figuratively) and a guy we all wanted to be.

Parker later sort of reprised his role as Crockett in a TV series about Daniel Boone, playing the title role and, for all appearances, wearing the same suit, expression and personality.

Back in the spring of 1997, I was in the Santa Barbara area on vacation with Sue. Her dad had worked for Disney for a long time and during an occasion where he and Parker were receiving Disney Legend awards, Parker had said if we ever got up his way, to stop in and visit his winery.

A few years later, we did. We went in, sent a message to the offices upstairs, and went to look around in the gift shop.

“He’s not going to come, you know,” I told her. “Somebody will come down and say Mr. Parker is tied up, but they will be happy to give us a tour.”

A few minutes later, I’m poking around wondering if I could live with myself if I bought a Fess Parker golf shirt, because I don’t golf, when a voice, THAT voice, called out Sue’s name as a question.

Sue, Fess Parker, and me, slightly inebriated.

I turned, and there stood Davy Crockett.

He looked about nine feet tall, with a mop of white hair, a cotton shirt and blue jeans. Solemnly, I shook his hand and introduced myself. I am a newspaper reporter. I have interviewed my share of famous and notorious people. I am cool.

In my head, though, a small blond boy inclined to chubbiness and wearing a coonskin cap charged forward to the front of my mind and squealed “It’s DAVY CROCKETT!”

It went pretty much like that all day.

It was like hanging around with an old friend. Part of that, for me, was because I had known him forever, had been him, in important ways, wearing my coonskin cap and slaying swarms of bad guys in scores of backyard battles.

He invited us to a private wine tasting. My memory is foggy, but it was from nine to a dozen wines. He was giving me a lesson in why wine lists use words like “earthy” and “woody” to describe background flavors in various wines. By the end of the tasting, I was pretty buzzed.

He piled us into his enormous old Mercedes sedan and hauled us into the village of Los Olivos for lunch.

On the way, he told a story about little Fess riding his dad’s mule into nearby Fort Worth. The animal got into the middle of an intersection and decided he had had enough traveling for one day, and simply stopped. Parker said his father had to come to town to jump-start the beast.

All the while, though I remained outwardly calm, that dumb kid in the coonskin cap kept running around in my head, issuing war whoops and being obstreperous.
Finally, I told him about that little hellion stomping around in my imagination.
“Don’t worry,” he said, with that lopsided grin, “I get that a lot.”

I’ll bet he did. Goodbye, Davy.

Note, this “Burger to Go” ran as an item on the Review & Opinion page in Jan. 17,2010 Patriot-News, Harrisburg, Pa. Part of the text was adapted from an earlier “Burger to Go.”

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. would be 81 this year, perhaps gone frail and a little dotty. Thinking back on his arc as firebrand and martyr, that is frankly hard to imagine.

Those of us who were around in his day remember him differently than younger folks do.

While he was alive he was, depending on where you stood, a visionary, a man of God who held his country’s collective feet to the fire of its own founding documents or a royal pain and a threat to the (white) American way of life. Some saw him as the devil himself.

Since his assassination in the spring of 1968, he has undergone a sort of apotheosis and elevation almost to a kind of deity. That’s too bad.

What was remarkable about King was that he was, in the end, an ordinary man who accomplished extraordinary things. His death by an assassin’s bullet was unusual only in that he was in the forefront of the national awareness when it happened.

The Ku Klux Klan and any number of groups and individuals scattered fear and death across the landscape in those years, indeed, for decades beforehand.

One of the most heinous Klan murders happened 15 minutes from the house where I grew up in Athens, Ga. I was 14. It was in the summer of 1964, just nine days after the Civil Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Baines Johnson. The victim was Lt. Col. Lemuel Penn of the Army Reserve, and a Washington D.C.-area educator, husband and father.

He and two colleagues were on their way back from a Reserve event at Fort Benning, Ga., when three KKK members pulled up next to the out-of-state car and gave Penn blasts from a pair of 12-gauge shotguns, blowing off the back of his head.

That happened at home, MY home. This wasn’t a grim photo of a lynching in the rural South. This was now.

People I didn’t know, but knew by sight, had done this. The world looked just like it always had. People went about their business, shopped for groceries and did laundry. Adults talked about it in hushed tones, some fearful, some gleeful. Some of the kids at school joked about it. A good start, some said.

Years later, one of the Klansmen involved in that murder, though not one of those in the car, owned a greasy spoon called The Open House Cafe across from where I worked the night shift at a print shop.

I used to go there for coffee and watch him. If it was me the way I am now, after 20-plus years as a reporter, I’d have asked him what he was thinking that night, what they thought they’d accomplish. But I was 19 or 20 then and afraid.

It was a different time. Almost a different country.

I mean in the sense of “Whites Only” signs over water fountains, and public rest rooms labeled “Men,” “Women” and “Colored.”

Fast forward nearly 50 years. Things are different. Not perfect but different. Change has come to America, as President Obama said in his acceptance speech, if at a glacial pace. It wasn’t fanaticism we saw on those faces in Chicago’s Grant Park that election night, despite fearful comments to that effect.

To be sure, there were and are fanatics on all sides, some of whom would deify Obama and some of whom would gladly put him in his grave rather than see him succeed.

The light in those faces late on Election Night was not the deification of Obama, but that of people who have for centuries stood out in the cold of our nation’s further reaches, allowed only to look in the windows and dream. On Nov. 4, 2008, they suddenly saw the door to that house open and a hand beckon them to come in.

Yes, there is still racial hatred and violence. Witness the 2008 beating death of a Latino man in Shenandoah, not so far from where you probably sit reading this.

But I can tell you that in 1963 that story would likely have never made even the local news outside of a one-inch police blotter entry, if that.

Even if it had, nobody would have investigated to the point that five locals, including three cops, would have been indicted in the case.

Back then, it would have been a thing whispered in bars and in sitting rooms. Some might even have called it a shame.

We can only speculate as to what Dr. King’s take would be on the movement he helped spark.

On the one hand, the same nation that once enslaved African-Americans has elected one to its highest office.

On the other, well. Look deep into your own heart. What do you see?

(Note: I believe all four of the Klansmen are now dead. One of the triggermen was shot in the chest—by a shotgun, ironically—by a man with whom he had been arguing.

The last time I drove by The Open House Cafe, which had been closed for some years, it had become a church.)

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© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:

https://burger2go.wordpress.com/

http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

(Note: This is a slightly written version of a column written many years ago.)
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In the King James version of the Bible, the 19th Psalm has it that “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shewith His handiwork.”

These deep summer nights, when I watch the spiders harvesting moths snared from their ecstatic loops around the floodlights on the deck, it seems as though He is “shewing” us a dark, fevered Nature unlike the brave, noble version most of us were brought up to believe in.

In an earlier essay I wrote about the praying mantis that lived in a potted plant on the back porch of our apartment in town. I admired her for a number of reasons, not the least of which is her role as a reminder not to become overly sentimental about “nature.”

Most often, when you hear somebody say they love “nature,” what they really mean is they enjoy scenery, the “Nature” that they see in the advertisements for 4X4 vehicles and motor homes.

“Nature,” after all, is the whole package, from the dawn mists around a forest cataract, to the shelled and jointed things humping and dragging their way through the leaf mold. These are what the essayist Loren Eiseley called the “ugly, innocent, necessary” aspects of Nature with a capital “N.”

When I lived in town, I would often say, thoughtlessly, that I missed Nature. It is an absurdity, of course, like standing in a forest and saying I longed to see trees.

French naturalist Henri Fabre (1823-1915) once said his own back yard contained enough nature to keep him busy for a lifetime. I read somewhere else that the typical suburban yard contains some 40,000 spiders of various sizes and species, and a cubic foot of soil from that same yard may contain billions of individual living creatures.

American nature writer Edwin Way Teale (1899-1980), described his early interest in nature starting at his grandparents’ farm in Indiana. In his book “Near Horizons,” Teale described tucking himself away into a burrowed-out hollow in a field of rye, to spend hours observing ants, beetles, snakes, and other creatures in their everyday existence. He wrote that returning home that evening was like returning from a “distant voyage of discovery.”

What all this means, if one lives in town, is that one does not need to look far to find a very busy nature; one need only look more closely. Even in my third-floor apartment, surrounded by asphalt and a few houseplants, I still found plenty of things to watch.

The mantis, for example. She is cousin to grasshoppers, cockroaches, crickets and walking sticks. Like other insects, she has just enough brain to operate her angular body and that’s about it. Insects are hard-wired, operating on instinct, each species mass-produced by nature from a single mold.

Once I watched a spider, trying to salvage her web during a powerful storm, mooring one of the stays on a branch of my night-blooming cereus, near the spot where the mantis poised, all patience and severity. In the morning, the abandoned web fluttered in the light breeze.

The next day the mantis, calligraphy against white boards, watched as I walked past, her strange, triangular head pivoting on its ball-and-socket neck.

The next night I sat again, watching as she ate another mantis. The female mantis usually eats its mate. The unfortunate Romeo usually gets his head eaten off during the mating, possibly to prevent him from changing his mind.

This mantis lay horizontally before “my” mantis, clutched in the spiked front legs, being eaten aft to fore. Horribly, the victim continued to gaze about, only mildly interested in the proceedings, its antennae waving a vague semaphore while the clockwork mouth parts of its destroyer munched away.

These are the things that inhabit my summer dreams. The profligacy of insects is necessary but the stuff of pure nightmare. If predation and sheer accident did not kill most of the young, who wriggle and rattle near the bottom of the food chain, we would be wading through seas of the things in a matter of weeks. The clattering females of the thousands of species must each lay eggs by the tens of thousands in order to keep ahead of the mortality curve.

The same day I watched the little act of mantis cannibalism, I watched two dragonflies trying to lay their eggs in the parking lot behind the apartment. Female dragonflies lay their eggs by dipping their tails into the water of ponds and streams.

The dragonfly in flight is a spectacle worth watching; perhaps nothing else in the insect world is so graceful or so swift. Teale, who called them “winged bullets,” said some species can achieve speeds approaching 60 miles per hour. The largest living species reach wingspans of seven inches. Fossilized dragonflies with wingspans of 30 inches have been found.

The dragonflies are almost wholly creatures of the air. They scoop their prey into their clustered legs and eat literally on the wing, letting the drained bodies fall without missing a wing-beat.

For all their grace, they are not bright. The dragonflies in the parking lot tried to lay their eggs on the shiny roofs of automobiles. The hapless bugs flew from car to car, thudding uselessly against the shimmering surfaces.

I can watch this kind of thing for hours, on walks in the woods or along a pond, until I just cannot watch any more, and my uneasy sleep is haunted by hockey-mask faces and Rube Goldberg movements.

After awhile, though, I go back, ever curious. If I have learned anything in my somewhat spotty education, it is that “nature” like “art” is a process, never a finished thing. More importantly, as in art, one cannot begin to learn from it until one casts aside any expectations that it’s all going to be pretty.
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© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

This is NOT a column, but DEFINITELY worth checking out. If you’re anywhere NEAR Gettysburg during the dates listed and love photography, and/or love New York City, please go see this exhibit.

http://www.gettysburgfestival.org/program/event_detail.asp?event_id=62

I’ve mentioned fairly often that my own religious beliefs don’t entail a belief in an actual conscious entity out there that is looking out for me or, worse, looking for me.

But I was raised in that tradition, for sure. You know, the one where your parents and the other vast beings that rumbled and boomed way up there over your head, warning that this or that bad thing was going to happen to you if you did or didn’t do this or that.

It was a tradition that taught you that failing to dress up properly for church, or not going at all, showed a disdain for God, and he was gonna getcha for that. And mercy on the pore chile that fell asleep while the preacher droned on and on, though it seemed to be OK for the older members of the congregation to do.

It’s all about ignorance and superstition, as far as I’m concerned, though I have often been moved how faith can get people through some really awful times. I guess you could say I believe in faith, but not so much in the object of that faith.

I was reminded of my own programming in that regard the other day in the newsroom, when the librarians were throwing out a lot of old books, including, to my sorrow, a whole set of encyclopedias. I spent a lot of happy hours as a kid thumbing through our set of Colliers, stumbling upon one wonder after another.

One of the books in the scrap bin was a Bible. I am, as I said, an athiest, an admirer of Dawkins and Hitchins, and of Sam Harris. And yet, seeing the Bible in the trash bothered me, I mean “bothered” as in slightly afraid that bad things would happen because we threw away a Bible. It was an enlightening experience.

Maybe I should go find my copy of Stephen Jay Gould’s “The Panda’s Thumb” and throw it away, just to make up for it.

Nah. Not happening.

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© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

The Kid is 13. He is nearly as tall as I and skinny enough that I think he must have to run around in the shower to get wet.

I am, for reasons that are not clear, on the other side of a badminton net from him.

He is beating the crap out of me.

Correction, it’s not a net, but a clothesline, but that’s a quibble. Also, The Kid’s mom is playing beside me. She is a smart lady, and pretty much stays out of my way.

Oh, yeah, I’m a Badminton-playing devil. I am everywhere at once, racquet whistling through the air, my lithe form bounds like a gazelle from one end of the court to the other….

Well, that’s the fantasy. The closest I came to playing badminton like that was the last time I had played it, when I was about the age this kid is now, nearly four decades ago, when dinosaurs walked the Earth.

He’s Sue’s grandson, full of that goofy, manic energy that kids get when they are growing at the rate of about an inch an hour and they’re interested in everything but holding still.

I, on the other hand, am discovering why it is that all those people I see about my health — my trainer, assorted medical professionals and a chiropractor – tell me I need to get out and MOVE more.

Apparently, sometime over the past five or six years I turned to stone, as though I had caught a fleeting glimpse of Medusa as she drove past in her limo. I can move, sure, but it’s less a thing of nerve and sinew than it is a geological process, like watching a mountain erode.

The Kid slams the birdie my way. It comes in high, and then dives for the grass just barely on my side of the clothesline. I see that I am too far back. JUMP! My brain flashes to my body.

“Huh?” My body responds. “Me? NOW? All the way over THERE?”

The birdie lands ingloriously on the grass. I lumber over toward it, bend ever so slowly and pluck it out of the lawn. I am pretty sure I can hear a sound like rusty gate hinges. I turn and lurch toward my corner of the court. I have a clear image in my mind of Godzilla klutzing his way through Tokyo, racquet clenched firmly in his knobby hands.

We play a fast series of volleys, during which I hit the birdie about six times. Two of those hits were accidental. Godzilla flailing at the buzzing fighter planes. Oops, there goes the train station. Yikes! Sorry about that bridge.

During one graceless lunge, I turn my ankle. I am wheezing and wheeling like a drunken buffalo. The Kid finally calls the game by the simple expedience of jumping on the nearby trampoline. He starts bounding and flipping like a spider on a griddle, or a stretched out version of the Energizer Bunny having a seizure.

I see him trying to figure if he can leap from the trampoline to the rope swing hanging from the adjacent tree-house, but it’s too far. I hobble over, clear the rope, and hold it next to the trampoline. His eyes light up. He boings fiercely, then arcs through the air and grabs the knot I have tied halfway up the rope for a hand-hold, and swings out across the lawn, a scrawny Tarzan.

He runs back to the trampoline and shouts that he wants to do it again. I have a brief, mean thought that I could jerk the rope out of the way just as he goes for it, just to be mean.

I don’t, of course. We do the trampoline/rope thing about six times before he lands at a run and takes off for the farm pond, hitting the little aluminum rowboat in a flying leap. I groan and stagger over to stand on the dock and watch. He hooks a bungee cord to the dock and the rear of the boat and laughing, rows hard away from the dock, only to be pulled backwards to where he started.

“This is fun!” he shouts.

“It’s good practice!” I shout back.

He doesn’t get it. He will.
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© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/