The redneck awakening

My hero and favorite author, Edward Abbey, sometimes referred to himself as a redneck philosopher. Abbey was born and raised in Appalachia, but lived most of his life in the Southwest. He was a Fulbright Scholar and attained a Master’s in Philosophy, examining the relationship between anarchy and morality. He did a post-graduate writing fellowship at Stanford and published over 30 books in his lifetime. Not bad for a hillbilly kid from rural Pennsyltucky.

Rednecks have a poor reputation in modern American society, and deservedly so. Stereotypically, rednecks are under-educated, insular, bigoted, xenophobic and narrow-minded. But that’s just the stereotype. Of course there are exceptions to every stereotype. It’s interesting to see what happens when the redneck rises above the stereotype.  Continue reading “The redneck awakening”

The Little Cardinal

His parents were wise, building their nest high under the eaves of the house, where the downspout from the gutter formed a sheltered platform inaccessible to all but the most determined of predators. I noticed them early in the spring, flitting about the back deck, gathering materials for their home construction.  Continue reading “The Little Cardinal”

Book Review: The Emperor and the Elephants

Upscale Shack readers will recall my 2014 review of Dr. Richard Carroll’s first book 2000 Miles around the Tree of Life, which recorded the author’s experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail from start to finish in the mid 1970’s. In his latest book, The Emperor and the Elephants (ISBN: 1935925709), Carroll recalls his Peace Corps service in the Central African Empire (today known as the Central African Republic, or CAR), in the late 1970’s, and his subsequent years working as a conservationist in Central Africa .

Continue reading “Book Review: The Emperor and the Elephants”

The Myth of Wild Africa

For nearly 100 years, the land that is today the Bubye Valley Conservancy (BVC) of Zimbabwe was not wilderness. The land was a cattle ranch. Wild animals were intentionally wiped out, for fear of disease transmission, and to eliminate predators that would kill cattle. For nearly a century, the land hosted a cattle monoculture, devoid of wildlife; and elephants, rhinos, leopards and lions were completely wiped out. For a century this land was the furthest thing in the world from wilderness.  Continue reading “The Myth of Wild Africa”

Most Useless Inventions

For no particular reason I’ve been thinking about gadgets lately. Those inventions that claim to “make life easier.” If a gadget could truly make the trials and tribulations of life easier, then I’d be all for it. But I’ve never seen a gadget that could mend a broken heart, or deal with the horrible attitude of a surly employee on a Monday morning. If only there was a gadget that would pay my mortgage, that would make my life easier.

Here are five examples of inventions that I could live without: Continue reading “Most Useless Inventions”

Useless Information

Yesterday, as I was waiting for the train, I leaned against a column at the station and recognized it to be of the Ionic style of columns. From somewhere deep within the recesses of my brain I recalled the 3 basic styles of columns: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. We had been forced to memorize these in elementary school for reasons that escape me to this day. Perhaps the curriculum was a vestigial remnant of the classical education. Rather than teach us Latin or Greek, they taught us about columns instead. Maybe thinking that a smattering of knowledge about classical architecture would help us in some way down the road. Continue reading “Useless Information”

The Light

When you use a kerosene lantern every day the globe eventually becomes blackened from soot and starts blocking the light. It’s gradual, hard to notice. But slowly and surely, the light dims. So one day you tear off a piece of discarded newspaper and remove the globe and wipe it clean of soot. It’s not hard to do, the soot wipes away easily. Then you reinstall the globe and light the lantern and wow! It’s like you’ve been blind and had your sight restored. The lamp is now so bright that it almost hurts your eyes. The lamp hadn’t failed to burn, it was doing its job, but something had been blocking its output, keeping it from reaching its full potential.  Continue reading “The Light”