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A Cathedral in the Cornfields of Beaverville, Illinois

St. Mary Roman Catholic Church, Beaverville, Illinois, on the National Register of Historic Places. (Wikipedia)

St. Mary Roman Catholic Church, Beaverville, Illinois, on the National Register of Historic Places. (Wikipedia)

I was once a Morocco Beaver. Let the titters begin.

Morocco, Indiana High School, 1963-64, 7th grade: there was no middle school or junior high. I was on the basketball team, though I was terrible and seldom played. My oldest brother Dick, a senior, was the manager of the varsity team, which played nearby schools in Beaverville, St. Anne and Sheldon, Illinois, as well as Indiana schools, since we were only four miles from the state line. I’m sure he rode the team bus ten miles to Beaverville – maybe it was an intense rivalry way back when, the Beavers against Beaverville – but today was my first time setting foot in enemy territory.

Morocco doesn’t have beavers anymore, and neither do Beaver City or Beaverville. This whole area was once part of the Grand Kankakee Marsh, a wetland the size of the Florida Everglades, until settlers started digging ditches to get rid of the water. They committed a terrible environmental crime – but when the land dried out it was good for farming, and that’s the way of life here.

Beaverville and Morocco don’t have high schools or basketball teams now either, but they still have farmers and a grain elevator, located on a highway, a railroad or both. The elevator’s really the only reason these towns still exist; Morocco’s current population is about 1100, while Beaverville’s down to 300. I live in a metropolis of 1800 and we’re all 70-80 miles due south of Chicago.

Now about that church: it’s really something, especially for a town that tiny. I would guess the building seats 300, the entire population. There aren’t any other churches, because the original settlers were French Canadians who didn’t like being oppressed by British Canadians. Someone built a church, they named it after Mary (and the village too, St. Marie originally), a town grew up, a few stores and the grain elevator. (The Post Office made St. Marie change its name, since there was already a St. Mary, Illinois.)

I was urged to check it out by local readers who saw my previous post, Visit to a Smalltown Catholic Shrine in nearby St. Anne, Illinois, and got a little jealous perhaps, because they’ve got a great church too. And they’re right, so I owed it to B’ville and my own education to visit.

Front of the church from St. Charles Street, June 27, 2013 (Josh Thomas)

Front of the church from St. Charles Street, June 27, 2013. (Josh Thomas)

The draw at St. Mary’s is the stained glass windows and the architecture. The origin of the windows, all by the same studio, is not certain, but likely they came from Lascelles and Shroeder of Chicago, which served French Canadian congregations in the city and downstate.

The architect is known, Joseph Molitor, a partner with Charles W. Kallal in Chicago, the city architect who restored the famous Water Tower, the most prominent survivor of the Great Chicago Fire. A brochure says the Beaverville church is an eclectic mix of styles, predominantly Romanesque Revival, with a central octagonal dome over the nave, surrounded by small windows. Its ceiling is a moderately dark blue sprinkled with painted stars to resemble a night sky; it needs some work, but the rest of the building is looking good.

Angel with a font of holy water - or a moist sponge, anyway. (Josh Thomas)

Angel with a font of holy water – or a moist sponge, anyway. Gorgeous blue robe. (Josh Thomas)

The windows use a lot of opalescent glass made in Kokomo, Indiana (where my mother’s family are from) in the Munich Style as developed and refined by Louis Comfort Tiffany and John LaFarge. The windows are rare, numerous, and the parish was able to restore them ten years ago at a cost of $320,000 – or more than $1000 for every man, woman and child in town.

That was some prodigious fundraising, even miraculous, considering that first they had to spend another 465 grand redoing the roof. Those bake sales must have multiplied like Jesus feeding the 5000.

Windows and arches, with a glimpse of the central dome. (Josh Thomas)

Windows and arches, with a glimpse of the central dome. (Josh Thomas)

It makes a visitor wonder where they got such dedication. But they’ve always had it, from the beginning in 1851 when the town was founded, through erecting the present building in 1909, to today. Surely this reflects very strong family and community ties – as well as a succession of priests and nuns who flogged those poor folks mercilessly to empty their pockets, punching every guilt button they could find.

It’s the same way at nearby St. Anne; both French Canadian towns, devout in their beliefs, stuck in the middle of nowhere, just raising their crops, taking their kids to church every Sunday, watching them intermarry, and obeying the Fathers, Sisters, Bishops and Popes as much as humanly possible, when they weren’t out getting in trouble.

Regular readers know I am a sharp critic of the Roman Catholic Church – that is, the hierarchy, not the People. What these folks in Northeast Illinois built in their humble surroundings is two small versions of a great cathedral in Europe. So what if they’re on the prairie next to a cornfield? Their churches gave them an identity, a purpose, a mission. And they’ve stuck to it.

Comparing the shrine at St. Anne with the church at Beaverville, I see they both had their advantages. St. Anne always has been a place of pilgrimage, while St. Mary’s had a school for many years called Holy Family Academy, staffed by nuns from an order in France; the cemetery at St. Mary’s has a special section of the sisters’ graves, dozens of them, whose headstones are sensitively carved with both their religious and birth names.

The front of St. Mary's Cemetery was reserved for the Sisters. (Josh Thomas)

The front of St. Mary’s Cemetery was reserved for the Sisters. (Josh Thomas)

The school is gone now, with only mentions and artifacts available to visitors, but it must have been thriving in its heyday; I imagine, since it was an academy, it may have been more than just a parochial school, but drew from all over the area. Meanwhile nearby St. Martin’s, Martinton is only a simple frame building like you’d expect in such an isolated, rural spot.

Corinthian column under the organ loft, topped by gold leaf (Josh Thomas)

Corinthian column under the organ loft, probably topped by gold leaf. (Josh Thomas)

Martinton is on the highway (U.S. 52), as Saint Anne is but Beaverville is not. I took a county road to get there, called 2950/3000 North; tourists never see the light of day in Beaverville. Instead what it had (and still does, three tracks right next to the elevator) is the railroad – specifically the Kankakee, Beaverville and Southern Railroad. Amazing!

There ain’t no Chicago and Morocco Railroad, lemme tell ya. But Beaverville has always been on the line; David, one of my correspondents, said the stop there shows up as “St. Mary” on the old maps, from before the Post Office intervened to change the town’s name.

My point here isn’t a travelogue, much less an architectural review; I’m a layman. Instead it’s all the things the People built.

They’re not quite my people – my family and my town are English Protestants, not French Catholics – and yet they are my people; my drive today cost 50 miles and two gallons of gas round-trip. These folks were and are farmers, and wherever they started out from, I know where they ended up. We can still see today most of what they built, and we can guess at some of the reasons why. Nationality played a part – all the windows at St. Mary’s and St. Anne’s are inscribed in French – but so did faith, family, business and pure survival.

Organ loft and rose window (Josh Thomas)

Organ loft and rose window (Josh Thomas)

As much as I tease the Roman clergy and sisters about mashing all the guilt buttons, let’s think about their motives, too; it’s inherent in the Catholic religion that churches be as beautiful and edifying as possible, so they can reflect the glory of God and teach us who our Creator is.

That’s a very worthy project.

The rectory, behind the church before you get to the cemetery, has been updated a little since it was built; the pastor serves Martinton, too.

The rectory, behind the church before you get to the cemetery, has been updated a little since it was built; the pastor serves Martinton, too.

As an Episcopalian who is both Protestant and Catholic, I am used to beautiful churches in large towns. But I am awed by what these farmers did in these two villages. They built far beyond their means, but somehow managed to match their means to what they built – and all for a reason, the best reason, to glorify God. They didn’t go practical, as farmers usually do; for practical, see that little “nothing” of a church at Martinton. At Beaverville and St. Anne, they built their ideals – and this area is richer because they did.

I’m richer because I went there. If you ever get a chance, you should go too.

All three of them noticeably contribute to the food pantry at Martinton, which is exactly how it should be. So what if St. Martin’s never had a gimmick; it knows what its ministry is, because there are food-insecure folks in all of these towns and it’s the Church’s job to feed them. So they do.

I still wouldn’t cross a county road to see the pope, even this new one Francis; but once you get past the Vatican’s sexual obsessions, the People are living out the faith despite it all. That’s my kind of church.++

Good work, Sister Holy Cross. (Josh Thomas)

Good work, Sister Holy Cross. (Josh Thomas)

Special Post: YHWH Parts Red Sea for Gay People

Reposted from dailyoffice.org:

StonewallInn

THE LESSON
Exodus 13:21-22 (NRSV)

The LORD went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light; so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, left its place in front of the people.

THE PRAYERS

The Gay Lord’s Prayer
© 2013 Josh Thomas – All Rights Reserved

Our Lover in heaven,
your name is holy.
Your kingdom come, your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today the bread we need.
And forgive us our many destructions,
as we forgive those who seek to destroy us.
Save us from our wrong temptations
and preserve us from violence and hate.
Yours alone are the kingdom, the power and the glory
forever and ever.
In the Name of Jesus, let it be so.

Let us bless the Lord. Alleluia, alleluia.
Thanks be to God. Alleluia, alleluia.

Glory to God whose power, working in us, can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine: Glory to him from generation to generation in the Church and in Christ Jesus for ever and ever. Amen.++

With this added illustration, just for Gay Spirit Diary readers:

50 years ago this month - before the Stonewall Riots, before we'd even adopted the word Gay!

Fifty years ago this month – before the Stonewall Riots, before we’d even adopted the word Gay! The male authors didn’t believe we’d ever get actual legal marriage; they were promoting commitment and long-term relationships within their underground subculture. This “Gay rights” thing you’ve heard about? It’s *always* been about love.

An Abundance of Cherries: 5 Recipes

Cherries ripening 10 days ago. (Josh Thomas)

Cherries ripening 10 days ago. (All photos by Josh Thomas)

I am just indoors after picking three quarts of cherries in about ten minutes.

I have two trees laden with them. To me they’re fun to pick, because my fingers don’t know where to reach next; here here here here? They’re everywhere, the very definition of abundance.

These are sour cherries, planted by a previous homeowner for their springtime blossoms. But the fruit is good to eat.

Last year a late frost killed off the fruit after the trees had bloomed. The birds and I went hungry. Not this year; I’m baking up a storm. And I have so many, most will go into the freezer to enjoy the rest of the year. (Wash ’em, bag ’em, throw ’em in there.)

Free food!

Now the minute you start telling yourself there’s nothing more tedious than pitting a bunch of cherries, I’ll get in your face: it’s easy when you know how, and it’s relaxing, a mindless, hypnotic activity with fabulous results. Wear an old shirt (or none), grab yourself some iced tea or a cocktail, take your cherries and a couple of bowls to the side porch out of the sun, and enjoy yourself, dreaming about all the great food you’ll make.

There are lots of old wives’ tales about how to pit cherries; I’ve tried them all – a plastic straw, a Chinese chopstick, a paring knife. Old wives say the pits are easier to get when you pierce the fruit from the bottom.

Nonsense: use your thumb, it’s why God gave you fingernails. Pierce the top, because the seed grows right underneath it.

Put on some beach music, you’ll be done in ten minutes – so you might as well have another cocktail!

And if this puts you in mind of how much your life is like your Grandma’s, because you remember sitting out in her back yard as a kid peeling strings off green beans, well, good for you – because you loved your Grandma, her green beans were great – and they tasted better since she grew them herself and you helped.

City people think they’re hot stuff when they go to the farmers’ market and buy green beans for $2.50 a pound – “So fresh!” they exclaim – but I secretly pity them. Produce from your own yard is fresher than the farmers’ market. Grandma grew a mess of beans from a 19¢ packet of seeds and a few sticks, then silently congratulated herself for roping the kids into helping her on a summer day.

Yes, we have the internet now, 200 TV channels, smartphones and stringless beans, but life is still better in the country. I don’t need to get in the car or hop a bus to find a farmers’ market, I just walk outside and start picking.++

Cherry muffins, June 15, 2013 (Josh Thomas)

Cherry muffins, June 15, 2013

Josh’s Cherry Muffins

2 C flour
1 C pitted cherries
1 egg
3/4 C sugar
1 C milk
2 t baking powder
1/4 C oil
1/2 t salt
2 t flour for cherries
1/2 t almond extract (can substitute vanilla)

Oven to 375 degrees F. Oil muffin pan or use paper liners. In medium bowl mix 2 C flour, egg, milk, oil, sugar, baking powder, salt and extract just until flour is moistened; don’t overstir, batter should be lumpy. Put cherries in a jar with a lid; add 2 t flour and shake to coat. Fold cherries into batter, just until cherries are covered; spoon into muffin cups. Bake 20-25 minutes until golden brown; test with toothpick inserted into center. Makes 6 jumbo or 12 regular muffins.

Cherries ripening, 2013 (Josh Thomas)

Cherries ripening, 2013

Cherries are ready to pick when they’re red all over – but at their ripest, they’re a little darker than the brightest color; cherry red, not fire engine. The riper, the sweeter – but the longer you let them go, the more likely the birds are to beat you to them. The good news, as this photo illustrates, is that they don’t all ripen the same day. The best strategy is to pick what you can get every day, just like homegrown strawberries.

Cherry Sauce

3/4 C sugar
2⁄3 C cornstarch
Dash of salt
2 C pitted sour cherries, fresh or frozen
1⁄16 t almond extract or pinch of cinnamon

In medium saucepan, combine the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Add cherries and almond flavoring or cinnamon if desired. Slowly bring to a simmer, and continue simmering until the filling is clear.

– Rosemary Perry-Hessong
Journal and Courier

Josh’s Cherry Cheese Coffeecake

2 cans refrigerated crescent rolls
1-2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
1 C sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 egg
1 egg white
~ 2 C cherries

Glaze:
1/2 C confectioner’s sugar
1 T milk
1/2 t vanilla extract

Oven to 350 degrees F. Oil 13×9 baking pan. Spread a pack of crescent rolls in the pan – the package consists of two rectangles cut into triangles, so lay the two rectangles end to end – and pinch all creases together so the pastry is smooth.

With electric mixer, beat cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and whole egg together until smooth. Spread over crescent rolls evenly, top completely with cherries, then lay the second pack of crescent rolls on top and brush with egg white. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown. Cool 20 minutes, then drizzle on glaze.

NOTES: Rich to the point of decadence. Save money and calories by using 1 eight ounce and 1 three ounce package of cream cheese (lite is fine) or just 1 eight ounce package; it still tastes great. If using less cream cheese, cut sugar to 1/2 C for 8 ounces of cheese or 3/4 C sugar to 11 ounces. The cherries themselves don’t need added sugar; you want the contrast between a sweet ingredient and the tart cherries.

Josh’s Cherry Cobbler

Oven to 400 degrees F.

1st layer: melt 2 T butter in 9×9 pan.

2nd layer: 2 C pitted cherries or pie filling

3rd layer: Mix 3/4 C sugar, 3/4 C flour, 1/2 C milk, 1 t baking powder, pinch of salt; pour over cherries. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm with milk (Grandma’s way) or ice cream.


Cherry Cheese Bars

1/2 C butter-flavored shortening
2 C pitted cherries or pie filling
1 1/4 C flour
2 8-ounce packages lite cream cheese
1/2 C brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 t vanilla extract
2/3 C sugar
(1/2 C chopped almonds or walnuts)

Oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 13×9 pan with butter-flavored shortening.

Mix flour and brown sugar; cut in shortening. (Add nuts.) Reserve 1/2 C of crumbs; press remainder into bottom of pan and bake 12 minutes.

Beat cream cheese, white sugar, eggs and vanilla until smooth. Spread on crust and bake 15 minutes.

Spread cherries over cheese; top with reserved crumbs and bake 15 minutes.

Refrigerate; cut into 2″x1″ bars. Makes 36.

Almost ripe (Josh Thomas)

This year the birds seem to be waiting for all the fruit to ripen, then they’ll gorge themselves and strip my trees bare. The fact that the fruits ripen at different rates gives me an advantage, as long as I don’t put off my picking. As soon as I decide “I’ll get to them next week,” the birds set their watches and finish off my cherries an hour before.

Must-See Interview with 3 Previous NSA Whistleblowers

Here’s a video from USA Today, but I found it more helpful to read the article printed right below it. National security and its associated technology (that is, the government’s worldwide dragnet) are such specialized topics that I needed to re-read some sentences to understand them. Boy, is this an eye-opener – including suggestions for how we could be preventing misuse of all our phone and internet records.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/06/16/snowden-whistleblower-nsa-officials-roundtable/2428809/

Don’t worry that the link doesn’t look like a video; just click it and go. They formatted it this way so they could include both the video and the text on the same page. There are several videos embedded here – go and see what I mean.

This is the best reporting I’ve ever seen from USA Today. They deserve a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

This article also makes me really upset with the ignorant posts of some of my friends on Facebook – I’ve got one beloved grandmother in mind – spouting off on topics they know nothing about. But instead of lambasting them, I figure I’ve probably done the same thing on other issues, so I’ll eat my own slice of humble pie.

I know nothing about national security, but these three witnesses USA Today got together sure do. It’s a Brave New World, people.++

Retired RC Bishop Calls for Complete Re-examination of Teachings on Sex & Gender

Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia. (Graham Crouch/Daily Telegraph)

Geoffrey Robinson, retired auxiliary bishop of Sydney, Australia. (Graham Crouch/Daily Telegraph)

I posted a photo and notice about this yesterday on my Daily Office sites, but it deserves wider attention: a retired Roman Catholic bishop, Geoffrey Robinson, has emerged as a thoughtful, constructive critic of Vatican policies in light of the worldwide sexual abuse of children by priests and some religious.

He knows what he’s talking about, because he was the Church’s lead investigator when the scandal hit Down Under. That has led him to question the Church’s entire approach to sex and gender issues.

To me he speaks with the voice of an insider who loves his Church. It’s lost its way, he knows it and he says so publcly.

The Vatican, including this new Pope, who’s been yammering lately about a “Gay lobby” inside the hierarchy, will probably dismiss him as just another publicity-seeking turncoat. That’s their first response to all criticism; the real pressure comes later.

An absolute monarchy is the same thing as a dictatorship. But Jesus of Nazareth never ruled with a pope’s iron fist; Christ left people free to choose, because that’s God’s way.

Joshua J. McElfee of the National Catholic Reporter had a great article on Robinson last year, reprinted on The Huffington Post. Read it here.

McElfee wrote:

Among the other aspects of Catholic culture Robinson said contributed to the abuse crisis are mandatory celibacy for priests, a “mystique” some attach to the priests as being “above other human beings,” and a “creeping infallibility” of papal decrees, which is used to protect “all teachings … in which a significant amount of papal energy and prestige have been invested.”

The application of the church’s teaching on infallibility is a “major force in preventing a pope from making admissions that there have been serious failures in the handling of abuse,” Robinson said.

I took particular interest in Robinson’s critique of homophobic and simplistic “natural law” theory, which states that since human reproduction occurs due to sexual intercourse, Gay people are “outside of nature” and “intrinsically disordered.” These concepts, endlessly repeated by popes and prelates, have led to murders and suicides all over the world.

I think God made Gay people expressly because we’re less likely to reproduce. But the Roman Church has made a total fetish out of the Stone Age line, “Be fruitful and multiply.”

Heterosexuals multiply too well; that’s their problem. They need some birth control!

On Easter Island in the South Pacific, the heterosexuals reproduced so well they went extinct. The island can't support human life anymore, no matter how many gods they made for themselves.

On Easter Island in the South Pacific, heterosexuals reproduced so well they went extinct; no matter how many gods they made for themselves, the population dropped from 15,000 to 111. (It’s rebounded in modern times.)

The Roman Church isn’t the only group to make this mistake; evolutionary biologists do it too. But bee-keepers don’t; they know that asexual drones keep a queen bee’s colony going.

I call GLBTs “caregivers for communities.” That’s why there are so many Gay guys among Roman Catholic clergy—and so many Lesbians leading those churches that allow women to function.

But patriarchy dies hard, especially in dictatorships.

I have little hope that Pope Francis is going to change much. But he would do well to listen to Geoffrey Robinson. So would you. Patriarchy is killing the Church – it’s killing all religion everywhere. Sexism is patently unjust. It breeds violence and therefore cannot be of God.

Geoffrey Robinson doesn’t come across to me as a partisan. He comes off to me as a thinker. Go now, click the link and see what he says.++

Crop Rotation: My Hot Date with Orville Freeman

Orville Freeman in 1963.

He was about my speed in 1963.

When I was in 7th grade I took a mandatory course in agriculture at Morocco High School. My family lived in town, not on a farm, so I didn’t know a thing about the subject except what I picked up from visits to Grandma’s – where I mostly stayed in the house with her instead of out in the fields with Unca Deed. She owned about 200 acres in the same county, mostly planted in corn and soybeans; he also raised beef cattle and hogs, while she tended the henhouse. The two things I’d learned were that chickens don’t like you sticking your hand underneath them while they’re sitting on eggs (although you have to do it), and stay out of the “itch dirt” at all costs.

Hens get upset when they're trying to hatch babies but you come along and steal them. Plus I was always afraid of chickens; Grandma had a rooster once that attacked my brother at 5 years old; to this day he's got a scar on his cheek shaped like a chicken beak. (Vital Farms)

Hens get upset when they’re trying to hatch babies but you come along and steal them. Plus I was always afraid of chickens; Grandma had a rooster once that attacked my brother at 5 years old. To this day he’s got a scar on his cheek shaped like a chicken beak. (Vital Farms)

I was so good at reading the textbook in that class that I ended up winning the agriculture award that year, which was truly embarrassing considering that most of the pupils in the class (boys only in those days) were farm kids who already knew the difference between a bull and a steer, while I did not. So I asked, with no idea why hilarity ensued. Grinning, the teacher explained that steers had been “clamped.” That is, castrated; yuk yuk yuk.

When I was 15 and ready for driver’s training, I found out that all the farmboys (and half the girls) already knew how to drive – tractors, pickups, the family car. Not me – but in 7th grade I did know the name of the Secretary of Agriculture, which impressed the teacher quite a lot – and the farmboys not at all.

Thus I have never been a farmer, one dinky award or not, but I read all about about crop rotation; don’t keep planting the same crop in the same field year after year or you’ll wear out the soil.

Since then farmers have largely abandoned rotation, because corn is the big moneymaker, so they all practice monoculture now and repair the damage with chemical fertilizer instead – which runs off into streams when it rains, and winds up causing giant algae blooms in the Gulf of Mexico. When your world is as small as a farmer’s you don’t pay much attention to what happens a thousand miles away.

Mind you, I like farmers; I like the human culture where I’m from, but I still believe in crop rotation, especially when it comes to planting tomatoes in the garden. They’re a relative of nightshade, which is poisonous, and you shouldn’t keep sticking them in the same spot year after year.

Fruit of the silverleaf nightshade.

Fruit of the silverleaf nightshade; you can see the resemblance, but these guys are not good for man or beast.

This year I’m experimenting with growing tomatoes in containers on my deck – full size fruits, I hope, not those tasteless cherry tomatoes. I’m a little worried about whether this will work out; the vines can grow very large, so you’d think you’d need very big pots, but I only have one. So I did the best I could and we’ll see; I’ll learn something, and that’s half the fun of gardening (and half the frustration).

Is this a big enough pot for a tomato?

Is this a big enough pot for a tomato?

Meanwhile, what to do with that space in the back garden? Planting was late this year; spring has been cold and wet. But now, a month late, everything is in the ground or the pots, and all I have to do is weed and water. I actually like weeding; it’s something physical and mindless to do outdoors, so I don’t live in my head all the time.

All I have in the back are strawberries, a couple of rows of onions, and some flowers, marigolds and petunias. They don’t really fill up the space. I tried to buy some gladiolus bulbs, but Murphy’s isn’t selling them this year, so most of my ground will lie fallow. That’s good for the soil too; it doesn’t have to work every year, so let it rest, like in Bible times.

Strawberries mostly, with some petunias, marigolds and onions just starting.

Strawberries mostly.

Now about my big disaster last year: try to picture a Gay 7th grader who was all thumbs (none of them green), lived in town and didn’t know nothin’ about farming or gardening, because that kid is still me. I got very bold with my experiments last year. Previous experience had taught me that rabbits are the bane of my existence. We’ve got tons of them around here, 4-H projects gone awry maybe; smalltown rabbits love smalltown gardens. Two years ago I tried to grow green leafy vegetables and the rabbits got ’em; I would take Elmer Fudd’s shotgun to them if I could. Last year I mustered all my courage and built a fence, using bamboo sticks, plastic chicken wire and twist-ties. Afterward I felt so butch – so I checked it again the next morning and it was still up!

Take that, you wascally wabbits.

Ready at the rabbit hole.

Ready at the rabbit hole.

Well, my fence lasted a week or two, then one day I came home from Murphy’s to find a young guy and gal messing with my plastic fence, looking all concerned. I parked, investigated and found out what their problem was – a baby rabbit got caught in the fence and was now dangling by a leg.

Personally I’d have left him there as an example to all the other critters. But it was obvious that the girl was all worried about the poor widdle wabbit, which was hopelessly stuck, and the boyfriend couldn’t figure out what to do but for damn sure didn’t want his girlfriend upset. So I sighed and got the scissors and cut a hole in my handmade fence, thus inviting every rabbit in the county to free admission.

I couldn’t have cared less about the girl, and you already know my attitude about rabbits, so I guess I ruined my fence for the guy’s sake. Then a drought came, and what didn’t get eaten by the bunnies withered on the vine, while I swore off building any more damn fences.

I have no mechanical ability whatever. I’m not ashamed of it, it’s simply a fact of life; the same gene that turns on a Gay guy’s verbal ability turns off the switch on his motor skills.

So it’s time for some crop rotation. If I can grow tomatoes and peppers in pots on the deck, where rabbits seldom venture, maybe I’ll fill up my vegetable garden with perennials and tell the rabbits to kiss my grits.

***

Last year I didn’t get cherries because of a late frost after the trees had bloomed. The year before that birds came and ate all my cherries, because I didn’t pick them the very day they ripened. This year they’re back and starting to turn, but they’re not quite ready yet. So I will stay vigilant, with my ladder, plastic bag and maybe a stick or two of dynamite.

Almost ripe.

Almost ripe.

Elmer Fudd was right. When you live in the country it’s all about the shotgun, baby, whatever works, so you can eat.++

Luke would chase the rabbits if I'd let him - he caught a baby one last year and ate half of it - but he's too little to be left alone unsupervised.

Luke would chase the rabbits if I’d let him – he caught a baby one last year and ate half of it – but at night when the critters come out, he likes to snooze in his bed. A workin’ dog he ain’t. (He’s pure entertainment instead.)