Bare Spots

Now here is something new under the sun … at least for me it is. Before I tell you the answer, what do you think made these open spaces in these cornfields?

It was bears.

Turns out that they love sweet corn as much as we do. And since for a bear each year is a race to add enough body fat to carry them through the next winter’s hibernation, in a situation like this they can set up housekeeping in a cornfield and munch away. No one at ground level can see them and they can eat all day and sleep in the space they have created.

While I think this all very interesting and amusing, apparently the farmers who own the fields have other feelings on the matter, some of their thoughts turning toward ursicide. There is a piece in today’s local paper that accompanies the photo.

It’s (a cornfield) got everything they need. They tend to eat the sweet corn rather than the field corn, because it’s a lot more palatable. In a cornfield, they’ve got food, they’ve got water and they’ve got shelter. They’ll just bed down in those fields and they won’t leave,” Renneker said.

Bears are unlikely to be successfully trapped from a cornfield. They have no reason to go after the bait when they have plenty of food at hand.“The corn is a really high-calorie treat for them,” CPW spokesman John Livingston said. “It’s one of those things that is hard to prevent. Once bears get used to getting that food source, it’s kind of a hard deal. With corn, especially, it won’t be long before a bear will take out a whole field.”

Montrose Daily Press, August 17, 2022

So these bears don’t have to do all that tedious berry-picking and ant-licking as long as they live in sweet corn country. When I was a kid visiting my grandfather’s farm, it would have been an absolute hoot to think that there might be bears in the cornfield. And when I think of the lost opportunities to tell terrifying stories to “city kids” about what might be lurking there amid all those bright green stalks, I weep.

I certainly hope that some arrangement can be worked out before tempers further fray. But if it comes to a community vote, I’m pulling the lever for Smokey.

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From The New Yorker

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Since Robin had been away from home for nearly a week, I wanted to give her a welcome-home gift that said how much I appreciate all the she does and what she has meant to me for more than three decades and so I searched for the gift that would perfectly reflect all of this and more.

That’s how I came to buy her this Ruth Bader Ginsburg action figure. I know, I know, it’s embarrassingly personal and way too sentimental, but I guess that’s who I am after all.

(The only disturbing thing, once I got the figure home and glued the gavel in place, is that I realized that I’ve seen that stern expression before, and it was on the forbidding face of my third grade teacher, Miss Behrens.)

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When I was in pediatric residency training, each day was spent jumping from one hot spot on the griddle to another, as fascinating and challenging cases rolled in through the University Hospital doors in continuous succession. Inevitably I acquired a decent level of proficiency in acute care medicine, dealing with the kinds of illnesses that required constant conferencing and consultations.

And at the end of that time, I got drafted into the USAF medical service, where I faced what seemed to be an endless line of colds, earaches, and comparatively minor complaints. The glaring discord between my training and what general practice asked of me couldn’t have been more obvious. What our residency staff would have called “fascinomas” came along only every few months, if that.

At some point I made a decision to stay in general practice pediatrics, but I realized two things. If 99% of the time I was going to deal with the more common sorts of illnesses, there was no excuse for not doing them well. And secondly, if I wanted to remain ready to take on the remaining 1% of problems, keeping those acute care skills sharp was going to be a challenge. When you run a “code” a couple of times a week, no problem. When it only happens a few times a year … that’s a problem.

And those were the tensions that I worked under for the next 35 years.

All of this is echoed in my approach to cooking. For quite a few years now, the division of labor in our household has involved me doing most of the meal preparation. At first I would look up exotic recipes and try to follow them, even if I had never eaten whatever it was I was trying to make, and therefore had no idea if it ended up tasting the way it was supposed to taste. There were some spectacular failures and occasional unrepeatable successes.

And so I made the decision to focus on doing “everyday” meals well, and leaving the more showy stuff to others. Gradually I developed my own collection of recipes that always, or nearly always, worked. I would stick with each of these until I ran across a new version that looked interesting and would try it out. If the new one seemed an improvement, that recipe joined the collection and its predecessor would be eighty-sixed.

So if you want to make a damned good coney island, I’ve got a recipe for a killer meat sauce. My pinto beans are worth wolfing down even if they make you gassy enough to be a fuel source. Pulled pork sandwiches … step right up, folks. And so it goes.

But if you ever come over and I tell you that I’ve cooked up an osso buco for you, I would suggest either crossing your fingers, murmuring a quick prayer, or feigning sudden illness and bolting for the door … whatever you’ve found works best for you.

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Something happened the other day for which I was not prepared. This is not in itself unusual, since my whole life could be described as a form of Brownian motion, with me bouncing from one thing for which I was unprepared to another. Fatherhood, husbandhood, toilet training, the list goes on.

Our home is located in a row of houses whose back yards face across an open space that contains a small irrigation canal and a paved walking path. The path gets regular use, with dog walkers, students moving from home to school, and seniors forcing themselves to exercise (just in case they find themselves in the longer-living group after all). The path is about forty yards from the deck where I was standing, idling on a summer afternoon, when a young girl of perhaps twelve years old passed by.

In an unexpected move, she waved and greeted me with a cheery “Hi.” I paused for a moment as I thought to myself, where are her parents and what sort of training has this girl had? Because I have long since become accustomed to kids giving me no sort of greeting at all as we all try to figure things out in these days of #me too and its predecessor, which was #avoid creepy old men at all costs.

But I returned her “hello,” which made her smile, and she then called out: “Jesus loves you!”

The best response I could come up on such short notice was “I hope so.”

Totally lame on my part.

The young lady kept walking and passed from sight, but not from memory. She had said what was probably the nicest thing she could think of to say to a stranger. I don’t know if her goal for that day was to walk around town warming hearts, but she had done it to mine.

Jesus Children of America, by Stevie Wonder

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