Friday, August 23, 2019

feral cats

I love the lady at Allsup's. She's done the right thing, to take in those feral cats, defend them from all comers, make sure they're spayed if possible, and talk to people about standing up for them and saving them. The argument for having spayed feral cats around is simple: they'll keep unspayed feral cats from hanging around, because they're territorial, and that will be good for everyone.

I admit that I don't know the whole story. It could very well be that they get the birds that are feeding in the hummingbird feeders, or they harass somebody else's pets. I'm sure they're not perfect, because, though she feeds them pretty regularly, cats are cats, and they're out there. So yes, they'll haul down a few birds, and maybe a few mice and voles, which in general I'd say, is good for downtown. But downtown has skunks too, and various other things, and I really have no idea who comes out at night.

She would work the night shift at Allsup's, and keep track of which ones crossed the highway, or got hit on the highway, or came back regularly for more. She knew them by name, the dozen or so that she considered the village cats. Some were injured, probably, or imperfect. Most had been abandoned at some point by somebody.

But what happened was, apparently, somebody came around and dropped off a number more. Maybe this happened one at a time, or maybe somebody had five or six they didn't know what to do with. Maybe they thought this was about the best they could do for their cats, since they were moving where they couldn't take them, and they had to do something. Turning them over to animal control is basically allowing for their deaths, so nobody really wants to do that. But alas, now that seems like it will be the fate of all these cats. Animal control is coming. There are too many of them. Somebody has complained, and the tides turned against her. There were simply too many, and they were all over the place.

I once was in a position where I had to get rid of four kitties in one day. I was desperate as I was moving to a place that didn't allow them. I'd already paid $50 to get one or two of them back from animal control; I don't remember the amount, or the details, but I do for some reason remember that it was $50 I couldn't afford. And one of them had fallen from a high shelf and scratched the living bejeesus out of my cello, which was just sitting there uncovered. But that was my fault. These were innocent kittens. I think my two had been doubled by a friend who dropped off two of hers, under the same condition: she was moving.

We were irresponsible cat owners, what can I say? I saw the clock ticking and I had no options for these four kitties.

FInally I took them down to the bar; it was this time of year, late August, and the bar had an outdoor patio where people were passionately getting drunk and socializing.

Well, I had no trouble getting rid of them there; I got rid of four in about twenty minutes. Got rid of the first three in about three minutes. The fourth, I had some trouble with, but someone came by and took him. They were cute; they were kittens. But these were drunks. For months, every time I came to that bar, I'd hear stories about the kittens. Most had come to bad end, or at least gone from owner to owner. Very few of the people who took them were actually able to keep them for any length of time.

Still, I was proud of myself, because I hadn't given them up and let animal control have them. That was a sure death for them, and I avoided it.

So many things are like that these days. There are way too many kitties in this world, not enough no-kill shelters. I admire Kinky Friedman, the Texan who turned over his dad's ranch to be a no-kill shelter (first in Texas? Only one in Texas?) - for one thing, because it saved his musical career, and allowed him, a second-rate musician, to remain a star and play publicly for years, as a benefit. Back on the ranch, I think he mainly ensured that they lived, that they had a decent Texas-country life, spayed but loved, and let their numbers skyrocked as demand ensured. But you know, demand is huge. Cats are legion. Our twenty are not the only ones out there. They are just the ones that are struggling to make it at 9000 feet.

The village needs to do something here, and just killing them, I think, is not an appropriate response. I can't argue with the people who say, maybe two dozen is too much. I have no idea if this over-supply would simply take care of itself over a few years (as the mountain lions, and presumably the fox, and others, would come to learn about the easy pickings). I can sympathize with the people who simply can't wait that long, who want their town back, who perhaps want to be able to feed birds or have them around again. I don't know the answer to this problem.

I sense, though, that somebody needs to take a truck load of them to a no-kill shelter, and drop them off somewhere where they have a chance. Maybe that should be me.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

I remember the first couple of times we came through the mountains, and, in Mayhill, noticed the signs at the Mayhill Market. KILL OBAMA care said one. Surely the guy noticed that with his capital letters, he was encouraging the assassination of a president? Other signs were actually more offensive, as they implied that Obama 1) was Muslim, 2) should go back to Africa, or 3) was intent on destroying the nation.

Sound familiar? The Mayhill Market sat next to pay-yourself gas pumps, and on the other side was the Mayhill Cafe, a restaurant owned by a local family that served and still serves good food. The town is quiet; there isn't much else going on there. There is a community center, a volunteer fire brigade, a few other things, that's it. So these two places, side by side, more or less, were the whole center of the town.

I wrote the Mountain Times objecting to the spirit of the Mayhill Market. To me it was dark, menacing, and borderline illegal. You can't slander or threaten the president of the US; yes, there is free speech, but really whether you can post signs like that depend more on the standards of the community, and, as part of the community, I'd like to say that they are offensive. I don't think the letter was published. I feel though that people in the community need to establish community standards. For the record, I would object also to vulgar, untrue, and threatening signs directed at any American president.

Now the problem is this. In this bitterly divided world, someone got wind of the kind of vulgar, offensive sign this Mayhill Market guy is putting in its windows. An online campaign to find the owner and let him know how offensive it was, was started. But the problem is, the Mayhill Market doesn't have a website, or a Facebook site. So, the trolls found the Mayhill Cafe, and harassed them. But the Mayhill Cafe is a reputable place. It's a good restaurant, and they would never post signs like that in their windows or anywhere else.

I don't really know the history of the place, or of the guy that owns it. It seems to me, it's been for sale for a long time, as has a truck or jeep that is always parked there. Perhaps the guy found out that when he posts signs like that, he loses a lot of business. But my sense is, he doesn't care about the business. It's more important to him to express himself than to make money or please people. And he doesn't care if the store sits just like it is for the next twenty years.

He does get occasional visitors, and he has another sign that says "Free Coffee." This last would be a draw for me, but, I'm not going in.

I suspect that the locals know him, that he's from around here. I suspect that they respect his freedom of speech, and don't feel like they should use the power of law to make him more civil. I suspect that though they agree with me, that he's beyond the pale, so to speak, they don't agree enough to actually do something about it, something that would force him to at least keep his signs within the realm of common decency.

It's actually an interesting story, in the sense that the guy intends to be vulgar, offensive, threatening, etc.; the guy has gotten away with it for years; the guy is getting the attention he wanted; and, he's a test case for community standards as they presently exist in this area.

We don't allow WalMarts here. People raised holy hell when they opened a Family Dollar. We don't have stop lights, and they probably wouldn't even allow a Holiday Inn. Granted, Mayhill is twenty miles into the sticks, out in the country, isolated, not really even Cloudcroft. But it's the same mountain community, basically. So what constitutes "offensive?" I guess we'll just have to find out.

Friday, June 28, 2019

A new chapter

A new chapter opens on our Cloudcroft experience; we've moved to the country. Specifically, we bought 4 1/2 acres out in Sixteen Springs, about 20 miles northeast of Cloudcroft. We now go to town less (we used to be right in town) and appreciate it more.

We put a tiny house on this parcel, and fixed up a hunting cabin that was already on it, so we could put our four kids on there and live here. It's taken a while to make it functional: get the washer to work, cut some trees that were a fire hazard, that kind of thing, and now, the rainy season appears to be upon us, and we can see if the whole thing can handle a little rain. A couple of nights ago, we were being teased with the first rain of the season. Apparently this is typical: February through June are incredibly dry, with only some teaser clouds coming by, but around the Fourth, the "monsoon" season starts; this year, a little early, apparently. I can't pretend to be an expert on the weather in the area.

But I will say this: we are lower than Cloudcroft, and further east. It is sunnier and drier, and a little bit warmer. It is still the mountains, but it is just far enough away to make it feel like Cloudcroft is over a few big hills.

Overall, we still like the area. Our kids are still in the school. Our mailing address is still Cloudcroft (though closer, geographically, to Mayhill). More later.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Facebook cont'd...

OK so where was I? I feel like I've closed the chapter, to some degree. I was getting obsessive about the Uncensored Site; I was getting notifications every ten minutes, whenever someone posted, and I was checking them whenever they came in. And they were an onslaught of anti-AOC memes (calling her stupid), or, general pro-wall, anti-immigration kinds of things. The other site, the Community site, is a little more controlled - no politics, less gossip, etc.

I felt like they knew I was watching, and they probably did. Someone complained about one of their posts, and I felt like saying, "Wasn't me!" True, I never complained about anything, but I did check in obsessively. I felt like it was the neighborhood bar, where anyone could say anything, and I was hearing the most rustic of what my neighbors felt like saying. And they didn't hold back; feeling like they were around their friends, they pretty much let loose on whatever they wanted. The pro-Trump stuff was pretty typical propaganda, I felt. They have to work hard to convince themselves that AOC is dumb, for example. So they do. It's what they do.

But the scandal that tipped the scale was when the moderator himself, J.C., was involved in some kind of altercation involving a neighbor and someone parking on his land in the inclement weather, or perhaps blocking him. i'm not sure what happened. But he disappeared from the site for a while, then came back trying to sell something (as if, trying to raise legal fees, or whatever). This is too much, I thought. I have to stop checking in. And I did; I turned off notifications. I still check once in a while; I can't resist. But now I get all the posts at once. An entire week, all bundled up in a single shot.

Meanwhile, I'd found another site; this one was for word geeks. People write in asking about the origin of various idioms and expressions, or they ask about other language-related questions. Ironically, much as I love the commenters on this site (called "A Way With Words"), they too devolved into name-calling. It happened in a post about words that had been "skunked," which was something I never quite got a handle on, but in the discussion about "irregardless," and whether or not it was a word, one commenter called another a "pompous skunk." And then I knew, this is just a characteristic of social media. Even the most intellectual thinkers can get angry when someone even appears to attack them. It happens to everyone. It's quite frequent. As my wife has said, "Never read the comments."

The sites carry on. The Uncensored site had to change its name to "Cloudcroft 700 Club," which to me is confusing as it's an indirect reference to Pat Robertson, and says nothing about being uncensored. One has to read into it to notice that 1) it's very political; 2) it's very pro-Trump; 3) it's very freewheeling in the degree to which people can be aggressive toward you if for any reason they don't agree with you. The moderator himself doesn't see a problem with that, though, to his credit, he has said that he also doesn't mind a few "libs" on there as long as they behave. I think they would act that way if we met them too. I think it's like Texas: what they consider "lib" would be anyone to the left of, say, Cruz. And they've got the memes to back it up.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Tale of two facebook sites

Being new to the community and all (having been here only 2 1/2 years), I am not inclined to set myself up as an authority on how small towns of under 800 behave and speak in public. I think these are intense and shrill times, when an increasingly desperate minority, having invested their trust and votes in Trump, find it increasingly obvious that he was a felon, robbed and tricked them, and will probably bring the Republican Party down with him. This does not make them any less desperate; still, as a strong majority in this area, get these folks together, and what will they have in common: they like the wall; they hate the Dems; they hate Pelosi, etc. I can handle that. I think most of them are by and large still really nice people, generous, honest, and straightforward. I join their site in order to get to know them.

So my tale starts with the first site, Cloudcroft Community, where the moderator (S.S.) is sensitive about the town's image, and doesn't want to get involved in trolling or political disputes. Politics is prohibited, and even discussion about how one of the town's restaurants has gone bad is discouraged, since it makes the town look bad. The simple fact of the matter is that, in a town of <800, you have a few people who are frustrated at the lack of restaurant options (you don't move here for the restaurants), on top of the general blunt rural directness that tends to offend anyone who's not used to it. Several things were said on this site and S.S. did her best to temper them, reminding everyone that lots of people on the site were from Texas and just wanted to keep abreast of community developments.

In fact the word "Texans" itself turns out to be slightly charged, since locals, in their ordinary day-to-day conversation, tend to blame Texans for everything from littered campsites to beheaded elk, and even when they use the word, it has an undercurrent to it that you can't quite place but know is not entirely good. The fact is, it's a complicated relationship; we're a tourist town, and rely on Texans to a great degree; they have money, have an economy, and have riches we'll never experience except through them; many of us (including me) came here from Texas and feel both the pleasure of no longer being one, and the pain of giving up the good things that it represented. So I can't quite accuse everyone of being anti-Texan, yet shades of it come out often enough that one Texan posted on the board that he wanted to move here and retire here, but has changed his mind based on what he read.

To get back to the two sites, S.S. was basically trying to keep her site civil, and friendly, and put a good face on the village, so J.C. decided that what we needed was an "Uncensored" site, and being young but retired, set one up. The first thing that would be permitted was pro-Trump, pro-wall memes, and the first people who took the word "Uncensored" seriously and said anything bad about these, got trolled immediately. Now generally a discussion is over the second one person calls another a name, and this happened fairly quickly; once we are calling each other "di**head," as J.C. called the most recent liberal on the site, it's over. He's gone. He's not going to fight a moderator, and if he does, seriously, they just give him the boot.

Actually I think J.C. intended to let a few liberals say whatever they wanted; I think he even said so publicly. He's not a bad guy, it's just that that's how he feels, and if you come near him and say liberal things, he'll let you have it. That's the way I interpret it anyway. To him, "uncensored" means he can say how he feels about your opinions, and no other moderator will tell him to temper those feelings.

The first liberal interloper that made an impression on me was a guy who actually tried to use reason in his arguments; I can no longer remember the topic. I remember that he gave a thoughtful comment outlining his reasons for whatever it was, and they were not well received. Another thing I remember is that this particular spat came right when the "Uncensored" site was being formed, and was carried out on both sites; in other words, I'm not sure when the name-calling started, but it might have been on either site. This guy thought he could mix in, use reason, and provide arguments for whatever his cause. Yes, at the risk of being called names, I guess, as reason is not something that people seek in this kind of situation. My only hope is that these things don't escalate, and that these guys aren't out looking for each other with a loaded gun. It's kind of like the middle finger in a Texas traffic jam - lives are lost over less. Sometimes it's better to bite one's tongue, as, do you really think reason is going to change someone's mind?

The second was actually S.S., herself, the moderator of the first site, who couldn't resist coming into the second one and testing J.C.'s sincerity in being "uncensored" and allowing some liberals to freely express their opinion. As a moderator who had learned too much about both moderating, and the nature of her community, she was interested in his site and what it became, and what he did about various problems she'd had. In addition, my guess is that a lot of these people are pretty good friends from before the days of facebook; if you know any of them personally, you know that they are as friendly as people can be. So I have no doubt that some of this ribbing is good-natured, as friends would do with each other, fully intending to stay friends afterward. And the first thing she ribbed him about was that he'd already kicked a couple of people off his site, one being the liberal (first interloper) who had called him a name.

The second time she came into his site, they were talking about how Trump had got Pelosi by denying her her flight, and S.S. jumped in to say, what about Melania. I could practically hear the silence on the part of the dozen or so friends of J.C., all pretty conservative and ready to troll someone, wondering who would go first. They are for the most part gentlemen, unwilling to call a woman a vulgar name, but they include some women, and one jumped in to say that Melania is on Secret Service, so that doesn't count. We could call this polite discourse, a reasonable working out of differing opinions (after all, the left would maintain that the government's paying to send Melania to Mar-a-Lago is hypocrisy) - and the story isn't over yet. Maybe S.S. is satisfied to put forward her opinion and let it sit there. It is, in fact, uncensored. J.C. left it there, and I believe he's sincere in saying that he doesn't mind a few liberals ("libtards," his friends would call them) on his site, as long as they behave. Such liberal comments dangle like ornaments on a dump-bound christmas tree: one wonders how long it can stay there until someone notices and does away with them.  Some will go away naturally; the site produces memes at a rate of a dozen or more a day, and things move down fairly quickly. But most of the people we're talking about can't sit and bear a liberal comment, or let it go unaddressed.

The third one provoked them enough that even J.C. called him a "di**head," and I think there were worse names that may have in fact been censored. I don't think you can go all the way and have a truly uncensored site. For example, I don't think you can promote the killing of an American politician, or promote revolution, or say things that call for the destruction of life as we know it. There are some things that are illegal to say, and others that are just morally reprehensible, and there are some that will lead others to come find you and do harm. So I say, let's not pretend that anything is "uncensored," and let's carry on like neighbors who have to sustain and maintain a beautiful little mountain village.

The last guy was sharp-edged enough that he really brought out the worst in my neighbors, I'm sorry to say. One guy went into his personal site, saw the picture, came back and teased him about his "man-bun;" others joined in, as this kind of thing obviously doesn't go over well with this crowd. When the guy mentioned that he was going to an Ivy-League college, and was going to make buckets of money, that didn't help much. One local told him straight out that he wasn't welcome around here; I'm not sure if this was a reaction to the man-bun, to his ivy league nature, or to the general sharpness of his comments, but by this point we had reached a pretty hostile exchange and the "di**head" wasn't long in coming.

In any case, it has been pointed out by many that the "Uncensored" site is thoroughly dominated by pro-Trump memes; it's not really a place for open discussion or uncensored comments; and that to some degree, it's like J.C., the moderator's, kitchen table: the main rule is, don't cross J.C., because he's the host. To a number of his friends, this is no problem, since they know him, and he's a nice guy, and he'd give them plenty of latitude in any case. There is a wide swath of us who would never get past the elk humping on the profile, or who see all the Trump memes and say, this would simply make my blood boil. From the outside, it looks like a closed club, pretty hostile to outsiders and not the kind of place you would want to enter into a real discussion about issues.

I have become increasingly fascinated with it, though, because these are my neighbors. I think it's true USA, blunt and coarse, rural by nature, unfettered by politeness though not, generally, common decency. There is incredible wisdom and resources in these folks, if you get them talking about elk rutting season or how to survive out in the mountains. I need these folks if I am going to live out here, and I need them not to say I'm not welcome here, which much to their credit, I haven't heard yet. My account here is not intended to make them mad; it's a straightforward account of what I've seen and read.  We are in volatile times. I feel that to some degree, the behavior of the Trump-supporters is inevitable, given that their candidate has brought ruin onto their views, their political power, and their future. And this is a shame, to some degree, because conservativism by itself is a philosophy, and voice, that should not be drowned out. But it will be, because nationwide, conservatives have been drawn into supporting a con-man, a grifter, a liar, a thief. I hope the way of life, the stubborn resourcefulness, the good things about this culture don't go with him; that's all I can say.

I actually have something important to say about the wall. All these guys are envisioning a wall, complete with a walkway on top, all big and beautiful, all tall enough to withstand a good ladder, etc. etc., and they have gone to enough trouble to picture it and perhaps even figure out how much five billion would buy in this respect. My main point is, it would last all of three to six months, until the onset of drones, which some say has already happened. Drones are now being used by the drug lords, but not yet by the human smugglers, but in any case, a wall that would now catch maybe 20% of immigrants, would catch less than 3% within a year or two anyway. To me, the whole wall is a massive monument to the fear of the white community, and to Trump, who represents them.

But the fear itself is real. The white community is shrinking in its power and dominance, and tribalism has ensured that it defend itself now, before it's too late. Whites are now a minority in places like California (they have always been a minority here) and Texas, but also New York, Illinois, and even Florida; using purely racial politics, it would be impossible for them to win an election <i>without</i> cheating, vote fraud, massive facebook manipulation, etc. The fear is real. When you reach a point where you are not really addressing reason, or the actual effect the wall would have, or the degree to which it would actually change the immigration picture, then you know that, basically, what we need to do is address this fear, not throw five billion at it and sneer at anyone who disagrees. I don't feel like a traitor to the white race when I say, this country was built on immigrants; we need brave and clever people to ensure a good future; and we should not devolve into a race war where we try to eliminate non-white immigrants altogether. At some point we should choose whether we are a great and welcoming country, or whether we are white and narrow country, and I hope we choose the former. But that's because I'm a libtard. And I wouldn't say that on this site, at least not yet.