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Collected editorials

What do they do in these here parts?

When I grow up

The following is an excerpt from an exchange on usenet:

“I want to be Richard Harter when I grow up. Or at least steal his muse.” — Kermit

“You want to be Richard Harter when you grow up? Hell, I want to be Richard Harter when I grow up.” — Richard Harter

Things haven’t changed much since then.


The truth is that it is best to pray to deities that aren’t listening to prayers. There is nothing that is so unfortunate as actually having a deity respond to a prayer.

Repositories of Wisdom

Harvard University is famed as an ancient and venerable repository of the wisdom of the ages. One of the university’s presidents was asked about Harvard’s secret and he explained thus wise: Each fall new freshmen arrive with a slight modicum of wisdom; each spring the seniors graduate with no wisdom at all. Over time it accumulates.

Old Settler’s Day in Outlaw County

Every year in mid June Highmore hosts an event called Old Settler’s Day. People from all over the world come back to the town that they grew up in and visit with other people who grew up here. There is a big parade, class reunions, and fireworks. The swimming pool is opened on Old Settler’s Day. (They can’t keep it open too long because it leaks. They paid some company big bucks to stop the leak; unfortunately the contract only had a one day warranty. It leaks worse than ever.) In short a good time was had by all.

Some folks have different theories about what a good time might be. For example, some folks like to watch fireworks. Then again, some folks like to go to a local bar, get drunk, and get into a bar fight. We have both kinds here, and a lot of other kinds that it’s probably best not to mention.

This year there were fisticuffs at a local bar with an unusual outcome. It seems that the bar had a live band. Apparently one of the combatants got too close to the band’s equipment, so the band leader whipped out a taser and tasered him.

You know you’re in Outlaw County when the bands carry tasers.

The community garden

One of the things that we do in Hyde County is garden. Well, actually, only a small percentage of us garden which is just as well. As readers of my editorials will recall (you know who are and so does the NSA) Our Lady of the Large Black Dog was instrumental in getting a community garden started. Last year we had an overly ambitious plot and a small handful of people. We grew lots of vegetables which we gave to the senior center and the nursing home. We (that would be me) sold them at a stand in the Highmore Farmers Market, which was a good deal less impressive than it sounds like. It went all very well until the handful ran out of time and the weeds got ahead of us.

Over to the right is a picture of Farmer Harter surveying this year’s garden. He’s off in the distance, which is the right place for him. He also his hands in his pockets which is his preferred mode of manual labor.

This year we started with a smaller plot and more people, altogether a better plan. Yours truly went out to the dump where he retrieved a quantity of discarded laths. Old laths make excellent garden stakes and are cheaper than buying stakes. We laid out little rectangles and lots of rows of sundry vegetables and marked everything with stakes and twine. “Lots of vegetables” includes an inordinate number of potatoes. Off to the left is a picture of the rows of potatoes marching off into the distance.

Notice the mulch between the rows of potatoes. Last year I supplied clippings from my lawn mowing. I have a lot of lawn but not nearly enough to mulch a whole community garden. This year we persuaded the chap who mows the school lawn to bring the school’s grass clippings out to the community garden. Grass clippings make an excellent mulch provided they are not too contaminated with weed seeds and chemicals.

It occurs to me that there three scales of gardening. At one end there are small personal gardens that are a few square meters in area that are maintained by one person using hand labor. (One square meter is about ten square feet.) At the other end there a commercial operations with thousands of square meters that are maintained with power machinery. In between there are gardens like our community garden with a few hundred square meters that are mostly maintained by the hand labor of a group of people. The point of my observation is that mulching is really important for things like a community garden, both because it conserves water and because it reduces weeding.

This is not the end of the story. Recent Runnings, a local farming and gardening supply store, gifted the garden with the tomatoes that it didn’t sell during this spring – 1400 of them! Many thanks to Shirley Garrigan who negotiated the deal with Runnings. An unfenced plowed area to the east of the garden has become the new garden annex. Not only do we have yet more plants, we have more volunteers. We’ll see how it all turns out when the weather gets hotter and the dog days of summer set in big time.

Let it not be said that I do no gardening on my own lands. I do. I admit that I have been remiss of late and things are a bit out of hand here and there. Still, I have my own little herb garden in a wash tub, guarded by my avatar who is sitting there reading a book. The tub and the avatar were a present but the herbs are of my own doing.

The triumph of Walmart

Deborah had a class reunion during the recent old settler’s day celebrations. Two of her classmates, George and Leigh, had dinner at Chez Harter where much good food and wine were consumed amidst excellent conversation. During the course of the evening Deborah mentioned problems with soaker hoses blowing out under high water pressure. George allowed as how he was familiar with the problem and that the solution was to get a 25 lb pressure regulator that put on the hose. George said that they were available at farm and garden stores and that they cost about five dollars.

As it chances we were in Minneapolis recently where we spent an evening at the Sofitel hotel. This was part of our “Into every life a little decadence should fall” program. On our way back we passed a Runnings farm and garden supply store. We stopped, confident that we could pick up a regulator there. No such luck. They were very helpful but knew nothing of 25 lb regulators.

We went on to Sioux Falls, South Dakota, where we had stashed Bridger (the large black dog). We checked at a Home Depot. Surely they would have a magic regulator. No such luck. Again the people were very helpful and hadn’t a clue as to what we were talking about. Not good. We began to worry that we were complicating something very simple.

On we went to Walmart where we wanted to pick up some odds and ends straight from China and Mexico – hard goods from China, produce from Mexico. Whilst Deb was shopping for whatever women shop for I told her that I was going to check Walmart’s garden section to see if they had one. Indeed they did. With no difficulty at all I located a box of little black thingies labelled 25 lb pressure regulators that sold for $5.27 a piece.

George was right. We just didn’t know that Walmart is your local farm and garden supply store of choice.

Highmore Urban Transit

Yes, that’s right. Little Highmore, population approximately 800, has a public two van urban transit system. Our transit system is a subsidiary of River City Transit of Pierre, SD. They supply the vans, the insurance, and the administration. We supply the drivers and the local transit committee. Local rides are a dollar – you get in and get out, that’s a dollar. You get in and get out, that’s another dollar. You can get rides to local towns. Dispatching is done out of Pierre.

You, dear, dear, taxpayer, pick up the brunt of the cost of this. It’s a government program to reduce the impact of rural poverty and isolation. It’s all very socialist and we Red State folks are vehemently opposed to such things unless we are the beneficiaries. Still it is a good thing. Little old ladies for whom even walking to the senior center is onerous can get a ride to get their noon time dinner.

Incidentally, Our Lady of the Large Black Dog is the person to thank for all of this. She discovered that other communities had little transit systems under this program. She found out how it worked and who to talk to. She organized things and got them going. She thought it was a good thing to do, and something the community needed.

Sometimes things just don’t happen unless the right person makes them happen.


Quite some time ago I created a facebook entry which I then ignored. Recently, however, it seems fandom is getting big time into facebook; I received a flurry of invitations to become people’s friends. I said what the hell and signed up, recording a slew of friends.

It’s interesting in its way but disconcerting. What on Earth makes people want to broadcast the trivia of their lives to the world? Mind you, there is something to be said for it. Archaeologists value the shards that record the petty details of life more than the chronicles of kings.

Still, I envisage a future in which aliens visit Earth and survey broken ruins haunted by the ghosts of intelligences gone long ago. Working with skills beyond our conception they retrieve and decode fragmented computer records. From them master archaeologists deduce the very nature of our lives, our ambitions, and our dreams. In that nature they discover the fatal flaw within us that doomed our species, a flaw that infected our lives, our thinking, and our judgement. The time came when we were put to the test; our flawed nature failed us, and we were swept away.

The flaw? Terminal narcissism.

This page was last updated July 2, 2009.

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Collected editorials