Obituary: Sadie the Dog Monday, Apr 29 2019 

Sadie the dog departed this world earier this afternoon at the age of almost 14.  She was a faithful and good dog for all of her years.

She came to us as a rescue dog in summer 2005.  Her Uncle Zach was jogging by the municipal softball fields with his friend Dr. Todd Pullin when they heard the distressful cries of a puppy in a Port o Let.  They brought her home and, of course, Ann asked, “Can we keep her?”

sadieOf course, Ann.

We kept her for all of the next 14 years until tonight when she jumped the rainbow.

I’ll remember Sadie the most for the early years when she’d jog with me at LSUE.  I could release her from her leash and she’d follow me around the campus.  She hunted and chased  squirrels—-that was her passion.

We stopped the campus visits after she discovered the ferral cats that lived next to the Science Building and killed a couple of kittens.  I couldn’t take the terror-stricken cries of the  kittens!

Her later years were distinguished by a propensity to dig and destroy yard turf.  She seemed especially to relish hours and eves when we weren’t home to accomplish the damage.  Perhaps she exacted her revenge on our leaving by digging up the yard.

Anyway, we’re sad to bid Sadie farewell.  She was one of our beloved dogs, a member of the family.

We look forward to seeing her again one day, over the rainbow.

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Humble rewards of the profession: An attitude of gratitude Thursday, Apr 25 2019 

I’m finishing year 39 as an educator this 2018-19 school year and enjoying teaching more than any time in all those years.  One of the rich experiences this year was teaching applethe St. Edmund honors class that I taught in their 9th and 10th grade years.  This spring I taught them again for their second semester college composition course.  They’re the only cohort I’ve taught three different classes and at two different levels, high school and college.

So the following thank you note I received from one of those students last week really touched me.  These are the humble rewards that we can’t use to pay the bills or buy groceries, but they’re the intangible assurances that our work and our calling in the craft of teaching has effect.  She wrote the following:

“Mr. P, I know we are finished with your English class, but I just wanted to thank you for the time and effort you have put into preparing and teaching us. I have truly never had a teacher that has cared about his/her students so much, and I wanted you to let you know how much I appreciate that. You have always been so kind and have inspired me to exceed what I am capable of writing. Again, I just wanted to thank you for caring about us and for all of the countless hours you have put into our class just to benefit our future. I have absolutely enjoyed our past couple of years in your class! I wish you and your wife the best. Y’all are so special!! We love you Mr. P!”

What a blessing!  What a motivation!  Next year will make 40 years—-I’ll take the summer off, but when the bells sounds for AY2019-20 in August, I’ll be ready.

Splitting Infinitives Thursday, Apr 25 2019 

57909002_10218751379916999_2055694617721962496_nHaving taught grammar and composition for well over thirty years, I’ve seen my share of split infinitives.  I believe they were a much bigger deal years ago than today, but even as such, as an error in usage, split infinitives are fairly rare.  That’s why the caption on this major media TV news crawl sort of stunned me.

A violation of the 11th Grammarian commandment: Thou shalt not split thine infinitives. NYT should know better than this (the caption).

But even still, who butchers English mechanics more than our idiotic president in his bloviating, ill-edited tweets? What ever happened to grammatical civility? The same as political civility?

Country Roads, Acadiana: Good Friday on the Intracoastal Sunday, Apr 21 2019 

We first visited our son’s in-laws’ family camp on the Intracoastal Waterway at Forked Island, waaaaaaaaay down south in South Louisiana, in 2014.  It’s become a traditional reunion with our expanded family that adopted us into their clan after the wedding.

The feast is traditionally Cajun: boiled crawfish, fried catfish, and a pot-luck buffet of country—-

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Marley the Dog joined the family for the first time this year.  He had a doggie-blast!

Cajun casseroles, veggie dishes, and, of course, sweets.

More than the food, though, we enjoy the family gathering.  After the gourmandise, the grown-ups circle their lawn chairs on the lawn along the canal in the burgeoning spring outdoors and wax gregarious, sharing entertaining assortments of chit-chat, tall-tales, farcical contes, and good-natured ribbing.  Laughter abounds.

The relaxed experience is totally de-stressing, affording several hours of utter retreat from any distraction or vexation that may have been going on at home before the day.  It’s not the Garden of Eden, but for just this day of the year, the camp at Forked Island comes about as close as earthly possible.

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On the left, our first visit in 2014; on the right, 2019.

Country Roads, Louisiana: John Deere-Land + a Memoir Wednesday, Apr 17 2019 

One of my best friends is a farmer in Acadia Parish, Louisiana.  Over the years with his sons, he amassed this amazing collection of John Deere toy tractors and combines.

IMG_0324What a magical display!  When I was a toy-tractor-lovin’ lad of 10 or 12, I would have been mesmerized at the flourescent gleam of row upon row of every sort of John Deere implement that ever rolled across the fields of American farms.

The display also reminds me of my one failed attempt at John Deere tractor driving when I was a 19 year old college freshman.  My north Louisiana roommate, whose family farmhouse was situated on a gravel road  3/4 of a mile from the Louisiana/Arkansas state line, invited me to come home with him one weekend in the spring.  It was March, I believe.

When we drove up at his family home place, his dad, nicknamed Hop, met us in the driveway.  Though I was a rank stranger to Mr.Hop, he gave his son and me orders to disc the field adjacent to the house.  That I had never driven a tractor before mattered not: there was farm work to do!  We didn’t even bother to bring our suitcases in but went straight to the task.

After a quick lesson or two in tractor-driving, I had that JohnnyPopper 2030 marching to and fro across the field, the disc blades breaking and parting the heavy sod.  I was pretty impressed with myself.

But at the end of one row just as the operation was going so well, I made a mistake—-I turned too sharply, causing the back tire or the tractor to engage with the frame of the disc.  Luckily for me, the clash between the disc and the tire caused the tractor to stall out and die.  Had the tractor kept going, that disc would have climbed that rolling back tirelanded upside down on my head.

I finished the job after my roomy came to [literally] back me out of the ham, but I also realized my shortcomings as a tractor driver.  I’ve nevere driven since.  I found myself later to be better suited for other pursuits:  Much better for me to compose a sonnet about tractor driving than to drive a tractor.

Country Roads, Acadiana: Cajun Cosmology? Wednesday, Apr 10 2019 

Thanks to our son-in-law for this humorous photo-take on black holes in space.

I first heard of black holes  from my college algebra teacher, who was somewhat of a kook.  He was peculiarly fascinated by black holes in space.  He was such a weird-oh that we dismissed his black hole rants  as eccentric yo-yo.

But today on the network news, I heard the current news piece on a scientific photo of an authentic black hole, first one ever, according to the prestigious scientists who accomplished the feat.

But to hell with science!

I prefer Brandon’s crawfish chimney solution.  Vive l’ecrivisse cosmique!  (Long live the cosmic crawfish!)  Louisiana Cajuns had this figured out hundreds of years ago!FB_IMG_1554946154825

White Water Eunice: Richard’s Rapids Monday, Apr 8 2019 

IMG_0313If  an inch or two of rain falls in a few short hours, Richard’s Gully, the principle waterway (a glorified ditch?) coursing through our prairie Cajun town of Eunice, sounds mountainous if one allows the imagination to run a little wild.  The white water cascading over chunks of busted concrete produces the sound effects of  a coursing Colorado stream, bounding through a canyon!

The gully is neither a Colorado stream nor a crashing canyon river, but a little imagination works wonders for the soul lonesome for mountain streams.

Rainy Days and Thursdays Don’t Get Me Down Thursday, Apr 4 2019 

We woke in the pre-dawn this morning to booming thunder and crashing lightening.  A complex warm front had established a foothold along Interstate 10 across southwest Louisiana, promising a day-long event of training storms and even episodes of severe weather.

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Rain dampens the back yard, but the patio’s dry!

In all the years of my career, leaving home on days like this was stressful.  I worried about Sarah and me traveling, I worried about the dogs, I worried about the house.

But no more.  One of the principal joys of retirement I’ve discovered since January last year is the peace that I can stay at home on bad weather days.  These days actually prompt a blissful laziness, since the normal routines of working out and doing outdoor chores are disrupted by the weather’s inclimency.

When I worked in education, I was at the mercy of the university or school administration to declare a rainy day closure.  Those days were altogether too rare.  But now, I call my own rain days!  My standards for shutting down are much less stringent.

So what to do but pour an extra cup of coffee, watch the extended  coverage of the rain event with the local TV mets, and in general laze out?

So let the rain fall!