Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Now That Is a Lot of Beans!

It is amazing what you can find in the road ditches of America when you look. This weekend, my father, while field scouting on the farm, happened across a number ten can of baked beans and a huge glass jar of navy beans. I haven't seen a number ten can of anything since my grade school cafeteria days. I was reminded of the day my father and I were working out in the shop and my dog Ted came trotting up with an object wrapped in white butcher paper. Ted laid down on the floor, carefully bit off the white paper and proceeded to eat two of the nicest T-bone steaks I have ever seen. Ted himself was dumped in the ditch near my grandfather's house along with most of our other adopted dogs and cats.

We once found a half dozen large trash bags in the gravel road ditch in front of our house full of mail and magazines all addressed to someone that lived in the nearby town of Milton. We kindly informed the county sheriff, who I'm sure kindly informed the owners of the mail, who then had to pick it up and pay the county a fine for their troubles. Once when the Lions club were doing their annual trash pickup of the highway ditch on the outskirts of town, they found a used condom and a 'Dear John' type of breakup letter only ten feet apart from each other, the letter having been written by a girl in the grade ahead of me in high school. Perhaps it was the quickest romance in history!

My parents own some of the best land in southeast Iowa for pheasant, deer and turkey hunting and allow family friends to hunt on it every year during the appropriate seasons. So they work hard to preserve the hunting experience for those people by running off other people who hunt illegally or trespass on their land. One fall day as I was coming back from discing a field, my father spotted some illegal ditch hunters slowly walking the ditches along some of our land and radioed me because I happened to be nearby with another tractor and disc. With him coming at them from one direction and me from another, we lowered our disc wings down to prevent their escape and confronted them. Turns out they were hunting worms. One type of worm likes to bore into the woody stalk of a particular weed found in the ditches surrounding our fields and when the stalk breaks off, it is a sign to the passing hunters that there is a worm directly below the break. They drive around finding and harvesting these worms to be later used for fishing. We bid them a good day and happy hunting before raising our disc wings and heading off again.

As a kid, I used to pick up bottles and cans along our road to redeem them for the deposit money. All proceeds from that endeavor were put directly into my firework fund for the fourth of July celebrations every year. Fairly often I would find a full, unopened can or bottle of soda or alcoholic beverage. Although tempted, I never did drink any of them thanks to the poisoned Tylenol scare that was happening at that time and you just never knew what someone would try to poison next.

I found a lot of things in the ditches of America over the years. I have found everything from an entire wardrobe of clothing (Are that many people driving naked?) to enough car parts to fabricate one of my own so I wasn't surprised when my father found two huge containers of beans. Now if I can just find a pot big enough to cook them in.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Doing What Any Good Samaritan Would Have Done

We were driving along in a rural part of my home county last night when up ahead we spotted some smoke coming from the vicinity of a homestead. It was an extremely windy day and we thought it odd that someone was burning something on a day like today so as we drove past we both looked over our shoulders to see what was burning. My wife vocally expressed what I had seen, the garage was on fire and we needed to stop and go back. I got turned around as fast as I could and sped up the curved driveway, abandoning my car out of harms way and went sprinting up to the house. I banged on the door and looked inside the house but nobody seemed to be home. Finally as I was just checking to see if the door was unlocked, an old man came stumbling out from the back room still groggy with sleep. I opened the door, stepped inside, and told him that his garage was on fire and that he needed to call the fire department. As my wife stayed behind with him, I ran back outside to his garage to see what I could do.

The garage was a detached garage situated between his house on one side ten feet away and a large Morton building on the other side two feet away. Unfortunately for the man, the garage was up wind of the house and already in the space of a couple minutes, the flames had gone from just being visible in the window to twenty feet in the air out of a charred hole in the roof. It was a three-car garage with the far west stall (on the upwind side) converted into what I soon found out was a woodshop and from the back of this stall is where the flames were. All of this, I mentally accessed as I ran into the one open garage door to rescue the car I saw there. I hopped inside.... no keys. There was another one in the next stall. Also, no keys. I ran back outside and yelled down to the house over the howling wind and sound of roaring flames for my wife to find the old man's car keys. I went back inside the garage to open the garage doors so that I could back his vehicles out but quickly saw that they were automatic and I couldn't find the opener. My wife came running back with the keys and I got into the car in the already open stall first, which at 6'2" was like doing a contortion act and got it backed out into the lawn. I ran back and got the van after locating the opener under one of his sun visors and then the new pickup parked in front of the third stall.

The old man came back outside of the house obviously in a great deal of shock and I asked him if there was anything of value inside that he needed to get out first and he said no so I ran back into the garage and opened the door to the third stall only to find the entire thing engulfed in flames and thick black smoke. I slammed the door shut again and concentrated on getting anything I could out of the remaining two stalls before they went up in smoke. Another man showed up and together, he and the old man got a garden hose strung up and began squirting at the flames but in the howling winds, they were just doing as much good as a squirt gun would have. But in that situation, there was nothing to do but keep at it and hope the fire department gets there before the fire gets to the house.

More good samaritans started showing up as I muscled an air conditioner and a deep freezer out of the garage. Soon people were following my lead and within ten minutes, we had the entire garage contents moved out to the safety of the lawn. Just as I was getting the last of the twenty boxes of Christmas decorations that I had saved for last, the fire department showed up. Flames were starting to shoot across in the rafters above me and the door that I had checked to the third stall just ten minutes ago was now a deep charcoal color with flames licking out from around the edges.

The fire department, with their multiple hoses putting out many gallons of water a second, took about fifteen minutes to get the fire under control but were able to save half of the garage and the house. The large Morton building on the upwind side with a large motor home inside sustained some damage but was largely intact. The old man and his wife (who had been out mushroom hunting and came limping back as fast as she could when she heard the sirens) were both in a deep state of shock. The man had just gotten discharged from the hospital and had gotten home just fifteen minutes before I happened to drive by. I felt sorry for both of them and wanted to help but they had friends at their side now and me being a stranger had done all that I could.

This is the first time in my life that I have been the first responder to the scene of an accident and I didn't know the logistics of any reports, insurance claims, etc. that might need to be filled out but all the firemen were busy tearing apart walls to find any hidden embers and by that time, more than fifty bystanders were milling around. So I wrote my name, number and a message stating what time I had driven by and spotted the flames and gave it to the old man, telling him to give me a call if he needed any statements from me. He thanked me for my help and I told him that it was nothing (and it was). It is simply what any good samaritan in my shoes would have done.

As I drove away, in my still unmuffled car, I felt sorry for the old man who had to deal with this in a time when he was still weak from the hospital but I was happy I was able to save all his vehicles and with the help of other good samaritans, his possessions in two of the three stalls. With the quick response of the volunteer fire department in a very rural area, they were able to save his house, his large building and most of his garage. I shudder to think what might have happened had I not driven by when I did, with a sleeping, old, sick man less than ten feet from a burning inferno and a wife out mushroom hunting. The man upstairs was looking after all of us yesterday and for that I am thankful.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Signing Your Rights Away

I live in a rural part of Iowa in a small town of around 10,000 people. It would be your ordinary average small Iowa town if it weren't for one fact; a large group of people into transcendental meditation and followers of Maharishi have made Fairfield their home. Basically, other than a few quirks, they are nice people and easy to live around but once in awhile I come across something of their doing that just makes me scratch my head and say, "Huh?"

Enter into evidence as exhibit X, a restrictive covenant agreement that the Maharishi following owners of a small farm acreage want to try to impose upon a fellow non-Maharishi following co-worker who was interested in purchasing the place a few months ago. This little farm consisted of fifteen acres of fenced in land with a house and two large outbuildings. Needless to say, this little farm, which has been on the market for over a year, is still on the market. I found this more than a little humorous and fully explained why, even though it is priced competitively, it hasn't sold. Keep in mind that this is a small farm four miles outside of town and not some exclusive gated community within city limits. Enjoy.

Restrictive Covenant Agreement

This Agreement is made this ________ day of __________200_, by and between the Fairfield Tree Farm Company ("FTF") and John Doe (the "Buyer").

WHEREAS, FTF owns the properties described in Exhibits A and B attached hereto and by this reference incorporated herein, and

WHEREAS, Buyer intends to purchase a portion of the property described in Exhibit A, as indicated on Exhibit C attached hereto and by this reference incorporated herein (the "Property"), and FTF, and its affiliates will benefit from the terms and provisions of this Agreement.

NOW, THEREFORE, in consideration of the mutual promises and agreements contained herein, the parties agree that the Property shall be held, sold and conveyed subject to the following restrictions, covenants and conditions, which shall run with the real property and be binding upon all partiers having any right, title or interest in the Property or any part thereof, their heirs, successors and assigns, and shall inure to the benefit of FTF and its affiliates owning land in Jefferson County, Iowa, and their successors and assigns;

1. During the period from the date hereof, no pigs, hogs, cattle, poultry or other animals shall be bred, nourished, confined or otherwise kept on the Property or any part thereof for any purpose, other than for the personal/household use and/or consumption by the owner of the Property. In addition, there shall be no animals on the Property for commercial purposes or for use by a third-party. No animal waste or manure shall be collected, gathered, stored or held in any above or below ground structure, tank, or pit erected or existing on the Property. No animal waste or manure shall be spread above ground (in contact with the top surface of the ground) or in contact with the air or water on the Property.

2. During the period of the date hereof, no farming operations and/or practices shall be conducted on the Property except for organic farming operations and/or practices. No chemical and/or inorganic materials, substances, or practices shall be injected, sprayed, spread or placed, into or on the ground of the Property or into contact with air or water on the Property.

3. During the period of the date hereof, no foul and/or obnoxious odor and/or sound or noise that will or might disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of the landowners and homeowners in the vicinity of the Property, shall exist on the Property or be allowed to emanate from the Property.

4. During the period of the date hereof, no storage of junk, trash or any other matter shall occur on the Property that is visible from Pleasant Plain Road (as is presently exists) or visible to the landowners and homeowners in the vicinity of the Property.

5. During the period of the date hereof, no auto/equipment repair, building, dumping or wrecking business shall be conducted on the Property.

6. These covenants will run with the Property and will be binding upon all parties and persons succeeding to any ownership interest in the Property or any part thereof.

7. These covenants shall inure to the benefit of the owner of the real estate described in Exhibit A (as reduced by the sale of the Property to the Buyer) and Exhibit B, its affiliates owning the land in Jefferson County, Iowa, and their successors and assigns, and any such party shall have the right to enforce these covenants and restrictions by any available proceedings at law or in equity against the person or persons violating or attempting to violate any such covenant or restriction, and either to prevent such violation by injunctive relief or to recover damages for such violations.

8. The waiver of any violation or failure to enforce any such covenant, condition or restriction will not in any event operate as a waiver, impairment or abrogation of the covenant, restriction, or condition or the right to enforce the same in the event of future or other breach of the same or any other covenant, restriction, or condition by the same or any other person.

9. In any action to enforce any covenant, condition, or restriction, the prevailing party will be entitled to recover court costs and reasonable attorney fees.

10. These covenants will remain in force and effect for a period of twenty-one years from the date of recording. Upon the expiration of said twenty-one year period, these covenants may be renewed in accordance with Iowa law. For the purpose of giving effect to this paragraph regarding renewal of the covenants, the owner(s) of the Property, and their successors and assigns, shall be deemed to have appointed FTF and its affiliates and their successors and assigns, as their agent and attorney-in-fact for such purpose and shall execute all necessary documents and shall permit all necessary acts to be done to preserve and renew these covenants.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, the parties hereto have executed this Agreement as of the date first above writes.

THE FAIRFIELD TREE FARM COMPANY

By: ________________________________
Christopher J. Podoll,
President

________________________________
John Doe

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Guitar Rock God!

Speaking of "Smoke On the Water," I had a dream, perhaps one of my favorite dreams of all time, about that very song a year or so ago. In the dream, I was sitting in a car with three of my friends and I was playing that song on a guitar. At that point, the song was sounding pretty good but nowhere up to the par set by the original version and then it happened. Snap. I broke a string. I kept on playing and then another string broke and another. Soon, I was down to just a couple strings and the rest were flying around through the air like Medusa's hair. Through all this, I kept on playing like one must do when entertaining others and a funny thing began to happen... the song started really smoking! I mean every note was crisp, clean and sounding better than even the original recording.

Sweat started popping from my forehead with the immense concentration that I was putting forth into working my guitar and hitting those fretted notes; three, six, eight... three, six, nine-eight... three, six, eight... six, three! Guitar strings still swinging wildly around, my friends started moving wildly to the music as the car windows were really steaming up from the heat. I started feeling this raw energy pulse through my body and I knew at that moment in time, I was a guitar playing God! I could play anything, anywhere, at anytime and it would be the best that anyone had ever known. I was on top of the world... and then my stupid alarm clock went off!

As I got ready for work, that feeling stayed around for awhile before it too slowly slipped away to the place where most dreams go, leaving behind just the shell that I still remember and have written down into words for my blog today. Every once in awhile I look at my guitar gathering dust in the downstairs closet, on which I know only two chords and even those sound thick and twangy under my fingers, and remember fondly that once... I was a guitar rock God, if only in my dreams.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Friday, April 15, 2005

Solitude

Solitude enshrouds me as I sit underneath the tree and sky,
I am listening to the tree's whispered story, told through a sigh.
Even the grass chimes in with a charming story of its own,
About the sun and the moon and why through the sky they roam.
The flowers listen politely silently bobbing their petals in the breeze,
As the robins and the blue jays sit witness in the branches of the tree.
Have you ever heard a tree talking, its soft whispers in the wind?
Have you listened to solitude and has solitude in you ever lived?

Falling Water

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Joe Philippines Part 5: Smelling Like... Well... Guano

After my butt had been firmly pounded up into the vicinity of my lower neck by the bouncing of the jeepney over the last few hours, we arrived at the famous Sagada caves in northern Philippines. My then fiance, her best friend, myself and a local Filipino holding a rusty lantern older than all four of our ages combined, headed down a steep path towards the entrance of the cave. As we entered into the throat, the warm breath of the cave flowed over us as we stopped and waited for the guide to bring the flame of life into the lantern. A small, feeble flame, debated whether to burn bright and decided to just stay small and feeble, guided us as we entered the bowels.

Our walk down through the cave boulders quickly turned into something that I liken to trying to walk on greased marbles. I slipped but prevented myself from falling by pressing a nearby boulder only to discover that it wasn't algae and moisture making them that way but bat guano. Shit! After an eternity, we finally exited the range inhabited by bats into good old rough and dry as a bone rocks. I tried cleaning my hands by rubbing them on the rocks but only succeeded in coating them with a chalky limestone coating, which didn't make them feel any cleaner but at least cut the smell.

The lantern that had the ability to light up an area approximately three feet on either side of the guide stopped moving forty feet in front of me. Stumbling through the dark, like a moth to a candle, I finally crowded into the lighted circle with my fiance and her friend to see what was the matter. In the lighted three feet on the other side of the guide, water appeared from nowhere and trickled down into further depths of the cave over rock that appeared to have the same frictional properties as snot. One step and I was sure that I would end up miles below in the stomach contents of the cave along with thousands of other unsuspecting non-Filipinos that the Filipinos brought here for sport. "There goes another Americano! Man, look at him fly!" I imagined them saying as I slid screaming to my doom.

The guide motioned to my shoes and socks in a gesture that I was sure meant that I was supposed to take them off and leave them here. Looking around I saw other piles of shoes scattered here and there and all of a sudden my fears were proven correct. Never the less, I took them off figuring that I might be able to run faster through the guano covered rocks up above should they attempt to try and push me down below. The guide however, wasn't interested in my escape route planning and instead, stepped off the dry rock into the moving water and headed deeper into the cave. The other two women in my group headed off after the guide and as the three feet glow of light started to leave me in the dark; I too stepped out into the water.

The cool water trickled around my feet, which amazingly enough, felt like they had been glued to the rock. I took another step forward with the same result, another and another. For the first time since leaving the surface, I was able to keep up with everyone walking on this smooth water covered surface. As the angle increased, my traction stayed the same until I felt like Spiderman clinging to the insides of this cave. Over waterfalls and down near vertical drops, I walked, savoring the feeling of being adhered to the rock. I was stuck to the rock like a fly is to... well... guano!

Deep within the bowels of the cave, we came to an area covered with shallow craters of water that spilled over and funneled their contents down through a very narrow portion of the passageway in a white frothy fury. The guide spoke to my fiance who translated to us that we could continue down or stop here for a while before going back. With no hesitation, both my fiance's friend and myself opted for the waiting and going back part, both feeling for sure that this was the point of no return. While my fiance and her friend washed their guano slimed hair in one of the pools, I wandered around outside the three feet circle of light pretending to be Spiderman on the look out for Dr. Octavious.

The way back up through the water covered rock floor was just as fun as coming down only better since we were heading in what I thought of as the "right" direction. Our group stopped briefly to slip into their shoes before leaving me behind in the dark frantically trying to lace up the boots I had worn. I had almost caught up before they lost me again in the guano rock garden section of the cave. I slid, crawled, begged for a quick death, and pulled myself up through them and to my freedom. Staggering out into the light, I gave my thanks for having been delivered from this womb sunk into the earth, and smelling like... well... guano, I walked up to the jeepney whose seats never felt so plush.