Search This Blog

Monday, September 17, 2018

"Facts And Fears Hard Truths From A Life In Intelligence" by James R. Clapper--Book Review

Clapper, James R. with Trey Brown.  Facts And Fears Hard Truths From A Life In Intelligence (New York, NY Viking 2018)

First and foremost, let me say that this is one of the books that every American citizen should read.  If you only intend to read one book this year, this book is just as viable a candidate to be that singular book as any other.  James Clapper grew up in the American intelligence community because his father was an American intelligence officer.  His wife's parents also raised her in the intelligence community and she spent her career working in that area also.  Clapper rose from the lowest entry level position to be in charge of the entire seventeen agency American intelligence service.  He served honorably and well at all levels of the intelligence service and is one of the most experienced former intelligence administrators to ever work in the field.  His co-author Trey Brown served as his speech writer for several years both as an intelligence agency head and as Director Of National Intelligence.  The two men have produced an informative, honest, well written book.  

The one real drawback to the book in my mind lies in the fact that both authors are incredibly well versed in the language of acronyms which permeates all levels of government service.  The average reader is not likely to be so and the book is filled with hundreds of acronyms for numerous agencies at all levels of the federal government.  In defense of the authors, editor, and publisher, the book does have a Glossary of Abbreviations in the back which actually covers more than three pages.  But, if you are not particularly adept at reading and remembering those acronyms, you find yourself flipping back and forth to that glossary as you read which makes it time consuming and mildly irritating.  But, once again in defense of the team which produced the book, eliminating the glossary and printing the full names of all those government agencies every time they appeared would have added a sizable number of pages to the book, expense to the purchaser, and a different set of problems.  But nothing I have said in the preceding sentences should ever be considered justification for not reading the book.  If you love America, American Democracy, and world peace, you should definitely read it.  

There is a common misconception about this book that it is intended as an indictment of the crimes of Donald Trump just as there was a similar misconception about James Comey's book, "A Higher Loyalty...".  Nothing could be farther from the truth in both cases.  These are books about the lives of loyal, patriotic, American public servants and heroes and not remotely about the TRAITOR who is illegally occupying the White House due to his TREASON. Any and all references to the TRAITOR Trump are necessary as a part of the story being told and support the greater threads of discussion in the book.  This is a book about patriotism, heroism, and honorable government service by a man who will someday be clearly and universally honored as the hero his is, always has been, and will always be.  James Clapper would much rather have been allowed to end his government service quietly and peacefully in the company of his family and friends instead of finding it necessary to continue to serve his country as a retiree in order to further the defenses of America, American Democracy, and a peaceful world in the face of a Russian originated and directed plot to destroy all the aforementioned.  James Clapper is an American hero.  Read this book and you will understand to just how great a degree his heroism has grown as his country has been faced with the worst constitutional crisis in our history.  

Monday, September 10, 2018

"Kentucky Voices" Edited by James Alan Riley & Elgin Ward (Ass't Ed.)-- Book Review

Riley, James Alan, Ed. & Elgin Ward, Ass't. Ed. Kentucky Voices (Pikeville College Press, 1997)

This book is a collection of short stories by authors with Kentucky connections.  Not all the authors are native Kentuckians but all do have some arguable connection to the state and its literary movement.  The editor is James Alan Riley who has taught Creative Writing at the University of Pikeville since 1987. His poetry collection, Broken Frequencies, has been accepted for publication in 2018 by Shadelandhouse Modern Press. ElginWard, who is listed as the assistant editor, can be found listed as an Associate Professor of English at the University of Pikeville since 1992 although he is not found when a search of his name is run on the university website.

The book has several stories written by well known Kentucky authors such as Ed McClanahan, Jim Wayne Miller, Chris Holbrook, and Chris Offutt.  It also has a few stories by relative unknowns.  In my opinion, the stories vary widely in the quality of work.  For instance, "My Vita, If You Will", by Ed McClanahan, was the title piece in a collection of his work published by Counterpoint in 1998.  The stories by all the established writers cited above are all well worth reading.   "Out Of The Woods" by Chris Offutt is an unusual and highly readable piece of work which uses an unusual plot that reeks of both originality and genuine Appalachian Culture.  A few of the other stories would have been better off left on the cutting room floor. 

One truly baffling aspect of the editorial work, at least to me, is the fact that the stories are arranged in straight alphabetical fashion by author and the story used in the first position is not one that I would have selected to publish at any level.  I tend to believe that such a choice of arrangement speaks to some level of trepidation about making editorial choices such as using the better stories or more well known writers to "tent pole" the placement of the individual pieces. It leads me to believe that the editors chose to avoid the possibility of hurting the feelings of any of the contributors.  For the uninitiated, "tent poling" is a method of placing short stories by a single author in an arrangement where the best works or previously published works are scattered throughout a book to ensure that the reader will be less likely to become bored with too much lesser work running consecutively and, therefore, more likely to finish the entire book.   In an anthology such as this one, "tent poling" would either have the editors bravely choose the best story in the book, in their opinion, and place it at the beginning of the book and to choose a nearly equal story to end the anthology in the hope of leaving the reader well pleased at the finish. 

But the book is worth reading by the person who has an interest in the literature of Kentucky or Appalachia although not all the work is Appalachian or clearly understandable as Kentucky literature.  Some of the stories are just stories which might just as easily been selected for anthologies in Boston or Seattle.  But, I repeat several of the stories are above average such as "Out Of The Woods" by Chris Offutt or "Death Is A Stranger" by Mary Lou Brown-Byrd, one of the lesser known authors in the book.  She wrote extensively in a small town newspaper in Salyersville for years but had no national, or even regional, reputation as an author of fiction.  Yet her story is one of the best and most authentically Kentucky stories in the book.  When you read it, if you know anything about Salyersville, you can see the buildings, know the characters, and smell the Licking River.  

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Hiking At Broke Leg Falls On Labor Day!

Broke Leg Falls Photo by Roger D. Hicks

On Labor Day, Monday, September 3, 2018, my wife Candice & I traveled about 30 or so miles from our house to Broke Leg Falls County Park in Menifee County, KY, between Ezel and Wellington right on US 460.  Since Candice is in a wheelchair, she could not hike or even easily access the handful of available picnic tables since there are either steps or rough routes across grass to all of them.  She gracefully had come up with the idea for the trip so I could get some hiking in and continue my daily exercise routine.  She took a book and her reading glasses and found a shady spot in the edge of the parking lot to read.  I took our camera, which is possibly on its last legs.  I do not waste my time, money, or effort on an I-Phone since I really do not care to see the majority of people with their faces stuck in their phones in a multitude of places where they should either be paying attention to those around them or the scenery. I sure as hell have no intentions of becoming a part of that rampant desocialization of America.  I also somewhat despise the practice of taking selfies and have never done that and never will.  I use the internet every day of my life but last October on a 26 day road trip vacation across the south and southwest I was probably not on the internet five days total for any amount of time and did not miss it. But, anyway, I took some photographs of the area around Broke Leg Falls and will add some of them here.

Broke Leg Falls Photo by Roger D. Hicks

Broke Leg Falls has a long and interesting history and I am certain that it extends well into prehistory as well. Since I am not very well versed in geology, I am uncertain just how far back in prehistory the area was formed. There are several commonly used travel and hiking websites which have pages devoted to the falls and I have provided links to two of those above. The website KYHomeTownLocator is one to which I have not bothered to provide a link because of their erroneous and condescending decision to list it as Broken Leg Falls which is not and has never been the correct name of the site.  It has always been and will always be Broke Leg Falls.  Enough said about that website and their condescending ignorance.  For many years, Broke Leg Falls was under private ownership and for awhile you had to pay ten cents to see the falls and there was a restaurant beside the highway run by the owners.  Then for  a few years, it was leased by the Kentucky Parks Department and operated as a state park.  Then, presumably because of low traffic and/or money losses, it was allowed to revert to private control.  Eventually, a few years ago, Menifee County bought the property and returned it to use as a county park.  The tornado which destroyed West Liberty, KY, on March 2, 2012, ravaged the trees around the falls and they are still not fully recovered.  The county wisely, and partly due to the difficulty of the geography, decided to leave most of the down timber around the falls to lay where it fell but cleared the paths and steps down to an area below the falls, built two picnic shelters, and set up a few other picnic tables after the tornado.

Broke Leg Falls Photo by Roger D. Hicks

No one knows exactly how Broke Leg falls got its name but it is safe to assume that some person or animal most likely suffered a broken leg in the area in the early days of white settlement.  I have never seen or heard any claims as to any Native American name the falls might have had.  But I am certain that the tribes which commonly hunted in the area before the white settlers came had to have a name for such a unique place.  The major waterfall is somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty or sixty feet high with a narrow, damp, and slick rock overhang which must have been used by both Native Americans and settlers at times. The overhang is not deep or dry enough to have been a long term living situation for either of those groups.  But I am certain that it has provided brief shelter in bad weather for thousands of years. The stream which runs over the falls is small and in places can be jumped across above the falls and most probably below also although I have never hiked the downstream area.  The stream flows from a small hilltop not far to the north of the falls and drops over a few small riffles until it arrives at the major fall.  There are a few pools of water which might be knee deep at times but are still not filled with fish, frogs or turtles.  The only wildlife I saw while I was there was a skink but there were several people in the area and some wildlife might have disappeared to avoid the noise and foot traffic.  But I also suspect that the falls are too high and the stream too small to support much wildlife of an aquatic nature or to allow it to return to the area after washouts.

Broke Leg Falls, Photo by Roger D. Hicks

Broke Leg Falls is a beautiful spot in Northeastern Kentucky, not far from Natural Bridge State Park, the Daniel Boone National Forest, the Red River Gorge, and Cave Run Lake and is well worth spending an hour or two hiking or having a picnic.  I actually met a couple from Northern Indiana who were on a motorcycle trip who had stopped to see the falls.  Visit it whenever you are in the area.  But be aware that there was no Porta-Potty on site and you would be well advised to go to the bathroom before you arrive.  There is also no overnight camping, no food available, and the area is thinly settled, but in a nod to modern business practices, there is a Dollar General Store at Wellington, KY, about three miles away which has a public bathroom and everything else you need to avoid starvation.

Broke Leg Falls Photo by Roger D. Hicks

Friday, August 31, 2018

The Fascism Of Donald Trump

Below is an article called "The 14 Characteristics of Fascism" by Lawrence Britt in Free Inquiry Magazine on which this blog post is based.  As we continue deeper and deeper into the ongoing American constitutional crisis which has been precipitated by the TREASON of TRAITOR, International Terrorist, Russian Agent, & Quisling Trump, it becomes more and more important for every citizen of this country to become aware of the issues at stake in this horrible situation.  Since January 20, 2017, this country has allowed a known Russian collaborator, election fraudster, career criminal, TRAITOR, unconvicted sex offender, and idiot to illegally occupy the White House.  Nearly every day the legitimate news media or the federal court system report another crime from another member of this man's coterie of co-conspirators.  Nearly every day this man commits another moral, legal, and political atrocity and never seems to be held responsible for his actions.  Why?

There are a sizeable number of reasons why we have, as a nation, allowed this criminal occupation of the White House to linger almost two years.  The Right Wing Radical Repugnican majority in both houses of congress is unwilling to relinquish their ill gained power, at least some of which may well also be related to Russian interference and contributions, in order to rescue the country.  The Democratic party is outnumbered and has never had the requisite majorities in both houses of congress in order to bring about indictment and impeachment of the TRAITOR Trump.  They also seem unwilling to face the issue of impeachment out of fear of losing even more seats in congress.  While a significant portion of the electorate does support impeachment, no legitimate empirical political poll in the country has so far indicated a majority in favor of removing the TRAITOR Trump from the White House. But just today a poll from ABC News & the Washington Post found a majority of 60% disapproval of Trump's job performance in his illegally seized residence and 53% who say they strongly disapprove which is still a majority in a very empirical poll from two of the most professional and ethical news agencies in the country.  49% of those polled in the same poll also are in favor of impeachment which is only two percentage points short of a statistical majority.  Secondary to those aforementioned polling numbers, there is also a consistent 30% to 40% of the populace who are still supporting the TRAITOR Trump.  The electorate overall is poorly educated about constitutional remedies to the problems which are presented by allowing a treasonous individual to occupy the White House.  All of these factors have consistently combined to prevent the necessary actions from being taken. But this most recent poll does show that the worm has finally turned among the general electorate toward ridding the country of this treasonous conspiracy.  Also, on this same date of August 31, 2018, another of the associates of Paul Manafort has plead guilty to money laundering charges and failure to register as a foreign agent for funneling $50,000 in Ukrainian money to the Trump "inauguration committee".  We are getting closer and closer to the day when the key indictments come from the Mueller investigation which will clearly indicate to the country that Trump is a TRAITOR and a Russian Agent, no more, no less. 

Let's examine the article below point by point to discuss the multitude of ways in which the TRAITOR, International Terrorist, Russian Agent, and Quisling Trump meets the definition of a Fascist and how his Russian Owned Criminal Syndicate of co-conspirators are carrying out Fascist acts on a daily basis in America.

The first factor involved in Fascism which Mr. Britt discusses in his article is "Powerful and Continuing Nationalism".  The entire campaign and deliberately chosen public persona of TRAITOR Trump has always been based on his stated slogan of "Make America Great Again".  Do not be misled into believing that has happened or needed to happen.  The United States of America was far greater at sunrise on the morning of January 20, 2017, than it has been at any time since TRAITOR Trump was allowed to illegally occupy the White House.  The US National Debt is now $21trillion as of March 15, 2018. The national debt first hit the $20 trillion mark on September 8, 2017, according to government records. It rose more than a trillion dollars in less than six months due to TRAITOR Trump's disastrous economic actions built around and supportive of his treasonous trade war.  Nothing which is happening in the White House today is intentionally or accidentally making America great.  His frequent rantings about his love of the country and his efforts to please his Right Wing Radical supporters in the White Right are tailored in the mold of Adolph Hitler's language in Germany in the early 1930's and it has the same purposes, to instill both fear and pride in a significant portion of the electorate who by their very nature are inclined toward violence and irrationality in support of his TREASON, and to make TRAITOR Trump appear to be genuinely interested in the welfare of this nation which he has and will continue to betray on a daily basis.  His intentions are clearly Fascist.

Mr. Britt's second descriptor of Fascism is Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights and is being met on a daily basis by TRAITOR Trump and his minions.  The Zero Tolerance policy of immigration seizure and separation of children as young as two from their parents absolutely disregards the rights of those children and families to be protected even if they are being held for possible deportation.  It is both inhuman and inhumane.  It is Fascist.  His withdrawal from the United Nations Human Rights Council is clearly a blow to human rights protections worldwide and a highly public admission that he has no regard for any human no matter who they are or what their particular individual limitations might be.  His disregard for humanity and the human race in general is Fascist.  Here is a link to a lengthy list of human rights offenses committed by TRAITOR Trump and every one of these acts was Fascist.  He is a Fascist.  There is no room for argument on that point. 

Mr. Britt's third contributing factor to Fascism  is Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause. There is no particular descriptor of Fascism that better describes the TRAITOR Trump than this one.  On a daily basis, he attempts to scapegoat a variety of groups who have the best interests of the country at heart.  That list includes the Mueller investigation; the Democratic Party; the free press which is constitutionally guaranteed; immigrants; Muslims; liberals in general; anyone who expresses criticism about him or his actions; and anyone else whom he believes he can make into a victim for any of those who support him.  He uses this kind of rhetoric on a daily basis to delineate others who do not support him as being anti-American and worthy of his abuse as well as the more directly violent abuse of his radical followers.  These actions on his part are clearly Fascist and so is he.  

 Mr. Britt's fourth described element of Fascism is Supremacy of the Military.  TRAITOR Trump's use of this tactic to gain his short term goals has been clearly demonstrated throughout his illegal and treasonous rise to and abuse of power.  It is clearly copied from the actions of Adolph Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Idi Amin, Sadaam Hussein and other dictators throughout history.  While his attempt to stage a military parade in his honor was largely an attempt to make himself appear popular and powerful, it was also an attempt to terrify the entire world just as has been his repeated antagonism of any other country or leader such as Kim Jung Un or the highest officials in Canada and Iran. His stated desire for the US to maintain the world's most powerful military is not genuine in any fashion.  It is simply a Fascist attempt to induce the US citizenry and the other countries in the world that he is in control of a powerful military force and willing to use it to destroy his perceived enemies.  His repeated threats toward a variety of people, countries, and organizations as varied as North Korea, Iran, Canada, the Democratic Party, Immigrants, and Germany are clearly irrational, unjustified, terrorist, antagonistic, and Fascist.  

Mr. Britt's fifth component of Fascism is Rampant Sexism and there is no human on earth more guilty of practicing, supporting, and fomenting rampant sexism than TRAITOR Trump.  He is a misogynist and an unconvicted sex offender who has been accused of sex crimes by at least a dozen credible women.  His numerous illegal payoffs to women whom he has either had temporary liaisons with or made unwanted sexual advances toward, his widely publicized admissions on audio tape that he "moved on her like a bitch" is clearly rampant sexism and borders on sexual assault which several women have accused him of committing.  The two group photos of the White House interns have been clearly dominated by the presence of white males with unconscionably low numbers of both women and minorities. TRAITOR Trump clearly meets this descriptor of Fascism. 

Mr. Britt's sixth key factor in Fascism is Controlled Mass Media.  No legitimate leader of a civilized, democratic country would ever engage in the blatant, unceasing attacks on the honest, constitutionally guaranteed free press as is being done on a daily basis by TRAITOR Trump.  He has frequently described the free press as "the enemy of the people" when they are actually one of the strongest bastions of defense for a democratic country and that is exactly why he is so unceasing in his attacks against them.  He does not want a free press.  He does not want a democratic country.  He wants to be unfettered in his ongoing attempts to gain illegal power and to further the aims of Russia and Vladimir Putin.  These attacks on the media are unfettered Fascism and clearly indicate that the TRAITOR Trump is a Fascist. 

Mr. Britt's seventh component of Fascism is Obsession With National Security and is clearly personified in TRAITOR Trump's chosen slogan of "Make America Great Again" and in his unjustified attacks on immigrants, other countries, and our economic and political allies.  He couches his Fascism in terms which are intended to gain the support of the poorly educated and those motivated by hatred of other groups and countries. He uses these attacks to instill fear in American citizens that America might be under attack but lies daily about the source of the attack, Vladimir Putin and Russia, who own and control TRAITOR Trump. He describes many, if not most, of his attacks on others and their countries of origin as being in the best interest of America when they are only attempts on his part to gain further control of the basket of deplorables which constitutes his cult of supporters.  All these actions being falsely described by TRAITOR Trump as being intended to create a stronger America are only intended to turn his stolen power into greater power.  It is Fascism and it is deplorable.  It proves once again that TRAITOR Trump is a Fascist.

The eighth descriptor of Fascism in the Britt article is Religion and Government are Intertwined. Traitor Trump is not remotely religious and actually meets many of the descriptors of the Antichrist which I might discuss in a future blog post.  But he has managed to gain support, and perhaps control, of many media based preachers who support him because they meet one or more of the qualities I discussed in my earlier blog post "Only Four Kinds Of People".  The hatreds he endorses are similar or identical to many of the hatreds and prejudices of these monetarily centered evangelists.  They clearly fit the category of "Hypochristians".  Their attempts to destroy the Separation Of Church And State, freedom for all religions as guaranteed by the US Constitution, and to destroy a woman's right to choose give TRAITOR Trump a readily and easily activated group of people who are willing to ignore his crimes, his attacks on the US Constitution, and his lack of any form of religiosity.  His willingness to lead these people on and mislead them into supporting his ill gotten power is clearly Fascist.  

Mr. Britt's ninth component of Fascism is Corporate Power is Protected.  The so-called Trump Tax Cut was never a tax cut for the majority of the population.  It was clearly intended and the numbers have consistently proven that it had two or three goals: to open the way for unfettered corporate destruction of the US Tax Code; to further damage the country in support of Russia and the goals of Vladimir Putin; to protect the billionaires of the nation; and to mislead the majority of less well off Americans into believing that they could benefit from it. TRAITOR Trump has even ranted recently about further cuts in taxes for corporations which will further increase the national deficit, weaken the country even more, and continue to increase the national debt as discussed above. The daily destruction of the Environmental Protection Agency and all forms or regulatory controls on corporations further manifest this attempt to please the filthy rich, destroy America from within, and further the desires of Russia and Vladimir Putin.  It is clearly Fascist and just one more part of TRAITOR Trump's Russian managed plan to destroy America.  

The tenth described factor of Fascism as discussed below by Mr. Britt is Labor Power is Suppressed.  Every action taken by TRAITOR Trump with regard to working class Americans, union members, and all supporters of the right to participate in a union have been intended to destroy any rights or power which the working class has gained over the last hundred years.  He is clearly anti-labor and anti-union.  He is also clearly anti-small business as demonstrated by the fact that, in his private business, he has been sued by more than 3,500 independent small subcontractors whom he refused to pay for just debts for labor they provided to his construction projects.  It is very telling that the majority of those legal actions either were settled in favor of the plaintiffs prior to court intervention or were adjudged in their favor by the courts.  This is a Fascist disrespect of the working class.  It is clearly detrimental to labor and America.  It is Fascism and it is being practiced daily by TRAITOR Trump.

The eleventh descriptor of Fascism as described by Mr. Britt is Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts.  Although TRAITOR Trump has consistently throughout much of his life sought to be a hanger on in the world of television, theater, and music in order to be seen in the company of genuine stars, he has sought that access purely to make himself appear to be far more important than he has ever been.  He has no respect for ability to understand or support genuine intellectual pursuits or the arts.  His literacy is marginal at best as demonstrated by his speech patterns and vocabulary.  When television shows such as Saturday Night Live have parodied his ignorance and criminality, he has done exactly what he does to anyone with enough intelligence to understand his crimes and speak out against him.  He attacks in a crass, gross, unintelligent, and unrelenting manner.  His disdain for the arts and intellectual pursuits and his attempts to destroy the National Endowments For The Arts and Humanities are Fascist and intended to further damage the country as a whole.  An educated populace, an intellectual populace, a highly intelligent populace would never vote for such an idiot and TRAITOR.  His attempts to keep us uneducated and uninspired are Fascist.  He is a Fascist. 

Mr. Britt's twelfth factor of Fascism is Obsession with Crime and Punishment.   Traitor Trump frequently rants and raves about various kinds of people who are able to escape what he claims to believe are just punishments for crimes but at the same time he describes a convicted Russian collaborator such as Paul Manafort as "brave" because he refused to accept a deal with the Mueller investigation under the belief that he might not be convicted or might receive a "pardon" from this illegal occupant of the White House.  It has been made clear that TRAITOR Trump only desires to punish his enemies, critics, or honest people who question his motives not real criminals such as the gang of Russian Owned co-conspirators who have assisted him in his ongoing crime spree.  But his gullible supporters believe these lies and continue to support him just as diligently as the Brown Shirts supported Adolph Hitler.  They are Fascist and so is TRAITOR Trump. 

The thirteenth component of Fascism which Mr. Britt describes below is Rampant Cronyism and Corruption. The Washington post stated in this story before the full gang of co-conspirators of TRAITOR Trump took up residence in the White House that they constituted the Worst Cabinet In American History and they were correct.  If you closely examine the closest, most relied upon associates of TRAITOR Trump it is clear that criminality was considered to be a job qualification as they were selected to join his Russian Owned Criminal Syndicate.  The cited news article preceding this sentence was actually written in early 2017, more than a year ago, and even more ties between TRAITOR Trumps co-conspirators and Russia are being revealed just as they were on this date, August 31, 2018, when Sam Patton plead guilty to funneling Ukrainian money to the TRAITOR Trump "inauguration committee".  We may well not know the full range of collusion, cooperation, and criminality between TRAITOR Trump and Russia until a totally new, legally, duly elected presidential administration regains control of the country, if we survive as a country.  These crimes, these criminals, these connections are a prime indicator of the Fascism of TRAITOR Trump and his co-conspirators.

The fourteenth and final element of Fascism discussed below by Mr. Britt is Fraudulent Elections.  God help us all as we fight this crime spree which was based on a stolen presidential election and the illegal occupation of the White House which was engineered by Vladimir Putin and Russia.  Since November 8, 2016, "a date which will live in infamy" for another thousand years if democracy survives these criminals.  As soon as the occupation of the White House began in January 2017, TRAITOR Trump attempted to create his fraudulent "election fraud commission" which eventually found no organized fraud in American elections other than that perpetrated by Russia, Vladimir Putin, and TRAITOR Trump.  The so called commission was eventually disbanded without being able to justify whatever imagined plans they were created upon to destroy democracy in America.  We see Right Wing Repugnican attempts to gerrymander elections in nearly every state in the union.  We know that Russia has attempted to hack state election commissions in nearly every key state in the union.  We see daily attacks on voters of color, minorities in general, the disabled, the educated, the poor, the intelligent and that is all Fascist and all fomented by TRAITOR Trump, his Russian Owned Criminal Syndicate, Russia, and Vladimir Putin.

There is no doubt that America is being held hostage by a rouge band owned by Vladimir Putin and Russia and being led by TRAITOR Trump and his Russian master.  When will America wake up?  I am not sure.  Will America and American Democracy survive?  I hope so but don't know.  Neither do you, dear reader.  Neither do you!  So, when will you begin to Stand Up, Speak Up, and Speak Out in defense of America and American Democracy and call for the indictment, conviction, impeachment, and imprisonment of the TRAITOR, International Terrorist, Russian Agent, and Quisling Trump? 

The 14 Characteristics of Fascism
by Lawrence Britt
Spring 2003
Free Inquiry magazine
Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt recently wrote an article about fascism ("Fascism Anyone?," Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, page 20). Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism. The excerpt is in accordance with the magazine's policy.
The 14 characteristics are:
  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
    Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
    Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
    The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

  4. Supremacy of the Military
    Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

  5. Rampant Sexism
    The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

  6. Controlled Mass Media
    Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

  7. Obsession with National Security
    Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
    Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

  9. Corporate Power is Protected
    The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

  10. Labor Power is Suppressed
    Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed .

  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
    Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
    Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
    Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

  14. Fraudulent Elections
    Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Copyright © 2003 Free Inquiry magazine
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

This article was based upon the article "The Hallmarks of Fascist Regime" by Skip Stone, at

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Only Four Kinds Of People

For several months, I have been telling my friends that there are only four kinds of people who support TRAITOR, International Terrorist, Russian Agent, and Quisling Trump which I firmly believe.  But, for some reason or other, I had not written a blog post about it and that is a shame.  I should have put this online at least 19 months ago.  It is long past time for everyone in America who understands the TREASON of the man needs to be working to bring about his indictment, conviction, impeachment, and imprisonment for the remainder of his slimy life.  But right now we need to discuss the four kinds of people who support him.

  1. Other TRAITORS who fully support his work to support the Russian plan to seize total power and control in the world and to destroy America, American Democracy, and all our diplomatic allies including the members of the G7, NATO, G20, and all other alliances of countries who support representative democracy worldwide. This group appears more and more likely to contain many members of the Repugnican Party as we learn more about the depths to which the Russian spy Maria Buttina was able to penetrate both the Repugnican Party and the National Rifle Association.  
  2. Other Career Criminals who believe they can benefit from the ongoing worldwide crime spree by TRAITOR, International Terrorist, Russian Agent, and Quisling Trump. These people have no meaningful allegiance to the United States or any other country for that matter.  Their only desire is to join in the ongoing crime spree and illegally, illegitimately, and immorally accumulate some level of money or power to which they are not entitled in any way, shape, form, or fashion.  These people range from corporate executives to common criminals.  They include bankers, stock speculators who are betting the the insane trade war will not collapse the US economy, and even people who are simply designing and selling new, trashy merchandise to support the cause of TRAITOR, International Terrorist, Russian Agent, and Quisling Trump.
  3. People Of A Wide Variety Of Stripes Whose Hatred And Prejudices He Endorses This group includes nearly all aspects of the Radical Right Wing in America which can range from outlaw motorcycle gangs to the KKK, Aryan Brotherhood, Neo-Fascists, and, sadly, the self-described "Christians" who ignore the teachings found in the New Testament and are merely Hypochristians, hypocrites who describe themselves as "Christian" in order to feel safe spiritually or to seek public approval.  Many of these people share hatreds of specific groups which are just as vile and virulent as those of the KKK and Aryan Brotherhood.  
  4. Idiots Who Are Just Too Stupid To Understand The Nature Of His Crimes I do not believe this group needs any further explanation as to who they are.  

If you find yourself among these four groups of people, it is morally incumbent upon you to try to determine whether or not you have the requisite intelligence and moral character to change and support the defense of America from the crimes of TRAITOR, International Terrorist, Russian Agent, and Quisling Trump. 

Monday, July 30, 2018


Canning, Skinning, Smoking, Pickling, Drying, Etc. 

My post about Hog Killing Time In Appalachia from November of 2013 has been one of my most frequently visited, read, and commented upon posts since I began this blog.  A recent review of the comments on that post has motivated me to write about food preservation in general in Central and Southern Appalachia.  Although I grew up in a small country store with access to a great deal of prepared foods, I also grew up in a family which still grew and preserved most of the food we ate in one way or another. My parents, maternal grandparents, and most of my aunts and uncles had survived the Great Depression and were extremely frugal with both money and any other assets they owned.  We hunted and fished opportunistically.  We would seize the chance to kill and eat a passing game animal and fished when the work around the house was done. We knew what a Hoover Box was and how to make and use one.  We never forgot the Hoover Days and always strove to never have to repeat them.  We had no intentions of living in a Hooverville.  My maternal great-grandfather Hence Hicks was murdered hoeing in a corn field in 1935, the height of the Great Depression, because he had $4,100 hidden in his hat band which he had scraped out of the ground with a hoe one dollar at a time. The last milk cow my maternal grandfather, Woots Hicks, ever owned he bought from my father as a springing heifer and paid Daddy with $90.00 of Roosevelt dimes which he and my grandmother, Susie Allen Hicks, had saved one dime at a time.

Woots and Susie Allen Hicks Photo by Roger D. Hicks

I have always known I was very lucky to have had that kind of childhood and I frequently tell people that I and most of the cousins with whom I grew up, by the time we were grown, could have successfully hunted, killed, dressed, and preserved nearly anything from a field mouse to a bull elephant if that opportunity had presented itself to us.  My parents and grandparents had grown up in the Appalachia of the early twentieth and late nineteenth centuries in a time and place where self sufficiency was the most important skill anyone could possess.  They had grown up, as had all of their ancestors and neighbors, in a world where nearly everyone caught, killed, raised, prepared, and preserved everything they ate as well as most of the items they wore.  As little as possible was wasted of any animal or plant they raised or acquired.  They used a variety of methods to preserve food for the long winters and lean times which might afflict them in the future.  They salted, smoked, dried, preserved, canned, pickled, and much later froze nearly all of their foodstuffs and they taught me most of those techniques. My wife and I recently bought and began using a Food Saver vacuum sealer to help us get longer shelf life from our frozen foods.  We don't garden anymore but we often buy in bulk, especially if items are on sale.  We also regularly buy organic, pasture raised chickens from a local Mennonite farmer and freeze them for the year.  We still make shucked beans every year from beans we buy by the bushel and freeze them after drying to prevent insect infestations. We also buy produce from a local Mennonite farmer and preserve some of that as it is available. We will never totally abandon our Appalachian ways; even though my wife is a native of Wisconsin, she has culturally assimilated quite well to Appalachia over the last 26 years.   

Mountain Smoke House by

When I was growing up we raised large gardens, kept small herds of livestock of most varieties, and hunted and fished especially in an opportunistic manner which was intended to maximize our utilization of the resources which were available within several miles of our homes.  My father and maternal grandfather, Ballard and Woots Hicks both told me of having hunted wild hogs as boys and young men.  They also had worn clothes which were partially or wholly made from the hides, pelts, and wool of domestic and wild animals until the paved highways and railroads began to bring store bought food and clothing to the mountains.  Today, although I might not ever be considered a likely candidate to participate in such a thing, I sometimes see episodes of the popular "reality" television shows which put cast members in situations requiring self sufficiency and survival skills and find myself critiquing their performances and making negative comments about how poorly they hunt, fish, build fires, or find enough food to survive. 

Another Mountain Smoke House Photographer Unknown

I will discuss each method of food preservation with which I was familiar in childhood and I am betting that many of my readers of a similar age and time will know some of the same techniques I was taught.  I also hope these same people will still be practicing many of these techniques.  First I will discuss skinning, scaling, gutting, and preparing meat from a variety of animals both wild and domesticated. We fished and hunted small game on a regular basis in my childhood and fresh fish, turtles, squirrels, rabbits, ground hogs, raccoons, and other game animals, as they became available to us, were regularly seen on our tables.  When we were fortunate enough to catch or kill more than we could eat at one or two meals, we preserved that meat for leaner times.  Most fish were cleaned the same way by scaling, gutting, beheading, and frying within as short a time as possible. Today, I never eat fried foods and do not recommend that method to anyone due to the high levels of cholesterol it contains. We generally skinned catfish. There were times when we might be able to catch more fish than we could eat and when this happened we usually froze the extras since I was born in the 1950's when freezers were already popular.  Extremely large amounts, such as fish caught by gigging, on a trot line or in a trap, might be canned at times.  Canning is a particularly favorable method for dealing with bony fish such as suckers, which we usually caught by either gigging or snagging, since the double cooking of hot pack canning and later preparation tends to reduce small bones to an unnoticeable state.  These types of fish would be scaled, gutted, beheaded, and cut into sections before being placed in half gallon or gallon large mouth jars.  They were then cooked in a hot water bath process which would kill bacteria and preserve the partially cooked food for later complete preparation.  At times, we might also use gigging, graveling, or trot line fishing which could produce large quantities and varieties of fish, turtles, and frogs. In my youth in Eastern Kentucky, it was also not uncommon to know of people who were "dynamiting" fish with about a quarter stick of dynamite tied to a rock and thrown in a hole of water known to be heavily populated. I have also known of a few people who used old Army field telephones in small holes of water to obtain fish.  By dropping the wires from the telephone into the water and cranking it vigorously, you could sometimes generate enough electrical charge to obtain fish from a small hole of water. Also, I have seen a practice used at times for fish that I would never advise anyone to use, poisoning a hole of water with either commercial bagged and powdered garden insecticides such as Sevin Dust or crushed walnut hulls placed in the water at the top of small hole of water.  The possibility of poisoning yourself is far too great to ever do such a thing even in desperation. I am not condoning, approving, or admitting to these practices since all of them are illegal.  I am simply stating a fact that they were common in Eastern Kentucky in the 1950's and 1960's.

Canning Jars Photo by "Make It Do"

We rarely got enough frogs, even by gigging, to need to preserve them.  But, on the rare occasions when we did, they would be skinned, cut up and frozen.  In an earlier time, they might have been smoked although I have never eaten smoked frogs.  We would also skin and save the front quarters of larger frogs which most people do not do today.  Turtles, especially by graveling or hand fishing, were more likely to be caught in large quantities and saved for later.  I have never liked cleaning turtles although I love to eat them.  There are several ways to clean turtles and while some of them might be easier than some of the others in my mind there is no really easy way to clean a turtle.  The way we liked best, and to my mind the easiest, is to boil a large container of water such as a five gallon bucket and simply drop the live turtle into the boiling water which kills it instantly and simultaneously loosens and cleans the skin and shell.  I realize full well that this method will cause the squeamish to become somewhat uncomfortable just as will the wringing of a chicken's neck or the breaking of a rabbit's neck by hand with the creature suspended by the hind feet.  But survival fishing and hunting is never for the squeamish anyway.  But the end result of putting a turtle in boiling water is a simpler, faster, easier cleaning process.  The dead turtle is then slit along the joint between the two halves of the shell and the guts are removed.  Due to the placement of turtles at the bottom of the food chain, we never ate turtle hearts or livers as we did with most other animals.  The head is also removed although I did work for several years with a man who also cooked and ate turtle heads. I will never forget the time I walked into his house and saw a large aluminum pot full of turtle boiling merrily along with a large snapping turtle head floating to the top just as I walked by. After the two halves of the shell are separated and the turtle is gutted, the four legs and tail are detached from the shell and skinned.  Along with the neck, these are the bulk of the meat of a turtle but there are also several tasty, meaty chunks of muscle which attach the individual parts of a turtle to its shell.  These must be removed with a sharp knife one piece at a time.  When I was young, we usually fried turtle, but it is also quite good in soups, stews, and stir fries. One of my favorite seasonal meals is the annual Wild Game Night at Natural Bridge State Park  in Slade, KY, where they usually serve an excellent snapping turtle soup which they prepare in a manner very similar to New England Clam Chowder. I cannot vouch for the soup actually being prepared from scratch in their kitchen.  The park could be buying it frozen in bulk from a restaurant wholesaler.  But it is good turtle soup.  Another more modern method of cleaning turtles involves cutting off the head and placing the nozzle of an air compressor in a hole in the skin and inflating the turtle until it separates from the shell.  But no matter how you kill the animal and separate the two halves of the shell, removing the meat from a large turtle is always a slow, time consuming process.  But the bright side of it all is that no matter how you dispatch and clean the animal, the food involved, with its wonderful and unique taste, is well worth the effort.  The most difficult way to clean a turtle is to simply use a very sharp knife to remove the head and separate the shell and is usually the most common method used by the novice.  The more turtles you clean the more willing you are going to become to find a faster, easier way to do the job.  The meaty, reptilian, and slightly fishy taste of a turtle is wonderful and well worth the work no matter how you clean and cook it. When turtle is properly cooked, you will get both a mild reptilian taste and a reminder of the swamp.  As I do every time I discuss eating turtles and frogs, I feel the need to dispel the common myth that they both "taste just like chicken".  I have said before in another post that anyone who believes this has either never eaten good turtle or frog which was well prepared, does not have the sense of taste to discriminate between simple, clean flavors,  or they have been in the habit of frying everything they eat in the same old, worn out grease.  Frogs taste just like frogs and turtle tastes just like turtle. Neither of them tastes remotely like anything else, especially chicken. The same holds true for alligator.  If you are frying either of them, use clean, new shortening and bread them with a combination of meal and a bit of flour, salt, and pepper, and perhaps garlic,  and you will find the real taste of turtle, frog, or alligator.  I have never caught or killed an alligator and don't expect to do so.  But more than twenty-five years ago, when I was working on the Vision Quest Wagon Trains, I knew a few Seminoles in South Florida who hunted alligators on the Brighton Reservation.

Smooth Soft Shell Turtle Photo By Wichita State University

Also, let me help you dispel your persistent belief in one of the great myths about turtles, that they are vicious and "will eat you alive".  Yes, turtles will bite but if you know how to catch and handle them they are relatively harmless no matter what size they are.  First and foremost, grasp a live, conscious turtle only by the tail.  When you grasp them by the tail, it is physically impossible for them to bite you.  Grab them by the tail, lift them off the ground or out of the water and hold them at arm's length from your body until you have a more permanent place to put them.  If you are hand fishing or graveling, when you stick your hand under the creek bank, rock, or sunken object and realize you have a turtle, the first thing you should do is quickly slide your fingers along its spine.  The bony projections on the spine of a hard shelled turtle will always point toward the tail.  Grab the tail and proceed as above.   Also, remember that soft shell turtles are almost never involved in biting.  You recognize them by their long, thin, nose, and soft, smooth, leathery shell.  They are nearly harmless.  Also, never forget that Alligator Snapping Turtles are on the endangered species list and should never be caught, harassed, harmed, killed, or eaten.  Go to a good wildlife identification guide in your state and learn whether Alligator Snapping Turtles are native to your waters, learn to recognize them and differentiate them from other species in your area, and NEVER harm an Alligator Snapping Turtle in any way.  Also be aware that the Spiny Soft Shell Turtle is also endangered and should never be harmed either.  Follow the same precautions about them that you do for the Alligator Snapping Turtle. 

Common Snapping Turtle Photo By State Of Michigan

I also have little tolerance for those people who discuss eating some form of wild game and then provide a way "to get the wild taste out" such as smoking, soaking in salt water, or making jerky or summer sausage.  In my mind, this is just a way for people who don't like wild game to still claim they eat wild game.  For me, the entire point of eating wild game is to find the unique wild game taste which is natural for each species, learn to enjoy it, and justify killing the animal without basically wasting its meat and life in order to appease a desire to appear to be "doing the wild thing".

Frogs are one of the easiest animals in the entire world to clean.  You simply pick up the frog and using your left hand fold it over so that the point where the hind legs join the back is up in the air.  Then you cut the hind legs off and find a point at the pelvis where you can slip a finger between the skin and flesh.  Then the skin will slide off the legs nearly as easy as popping a grape. Cut off the feet and you are done. For larger frogs, we usually also skinned and ate the front quarters which takes only a bit more work.  You cut off the head, remove the front legs and shoulders from the spine, skin it, and you are done.  There is less flesh on the front legs but on a large bullfrog there is far too much to waste.  I prefer my frogs fried much as I would a turtle. But I repeat I no eat fried foods due to the excessive amounts of cholesterol frying produces. Frogs are also good broiled, and cooked in soups. stir fries, and stews.  And, to repeat myself, they do not "taste just like chicken".  At times, I have also eaten frogs freshly caught, skinned, and simply broiled on a stick over an open fire within a few feet of the water in which they were caught. There is nothing better than a broiled frog which was alive ten minutes before it was eaten.

American Bullfrog Photo By MDC Discover Nature

Nearly all small game animals are cleaned the same way but might not be cooked exactly alike.  In nearly all cases, you skin the animal by beginning with a slit in the abdomen, peel off the skin while losing as little flesh as possible, cut off the feet and head, remove the viscera, retain the heart, liver, and perhaps the lungs if you are not too squeamish, and prepare the animal in the style you like best.  But there are a couple of exceptions to this general rule.  With squirrels, you never throw away the head.  It is the best part of the squirrel with the unique taste of the tongue and brain.  Just skin the animal and cut off the ears and nose, remove the eyes and cook the head with the rest of the animal. Some people even eat squirrel heads with the eyes intact but I have never done it.  I have generally not eaten heads from other small game animals but I am sure they are nearly as good as squirrel heads based on how many I have seen Andrew Zimmern eat on television. Squirrels are also sometimes cleaned in a faster, simpler way than other small game.  It is possible to cut the tail from the spine without removing it entirely.  You then place a foot on the tail, grasp the squirrel by the hind legs and pull.  This will generally result in removing the skin along the entire back and part of the sides.  The remaining skin can just be slid neatly off the belly and legs with a small cut here and there. I prefer squirrels cooked in a pressure cooker since they have little to no fat and can become tough if they are not cooked properly.  Then I like to make cream gravy over them and serve them with fresh new peas and biscuits which is a wonderful meal.

Grey Squirrel Photo By Geneblitz

 Ground hogs have musky glands under their armpits which need to be removed which will give the meat a strong, musky taste if they are left intact. I prefer ground hog baked with salt, pepper, and a bit of sage. But younger ones can be fried with success. Another beauty of ground hogs is that they are purely vegetarian and the meat is exceptionally clean in comparison to other animals which sometimes scavenge or even kill smaller animals for food. My mother, when my father had stopped hunting and I was too young to hunt, used to actually pay other older local boys for ground hogs because she loved them so well.  It is also interesting that her parents for several years had a pet ground hog in their home on Rock Fork.  He actually stayed with them for several years and would leave in the fall to go a short distance to hibernate and would suddenly reappear when the ground began to warm up in the spring.

Groundhog Photo by

Opossums should not  be killed immediately upon capture if possible.  Since they are a bottom tier scavenger and will eat carrion they should be caged and fed fresh fruit, preferably persimmons, for a few days to clean out their system before killing, skinning, and eating. But if you do not have persimmons handy, you can use apples, pears, or any fruit available. Sweet potatoes also work well for cleaning out an opossum. This will result in much better tasting meat. Most opossums are also quite fatty and greasy.  They are best baked over a rack to allow drainage of as much of the fat as possible.  Most of the people I knew as a child baked opossum seasoned with salt, pepper, and sage and baked it alongside sweet potatoes which they say improved the meal.  Raccoons are often the largest small game animal available in Appalachia and a good sized raccoon can sometimes weigh thirty pounds or more.  This means you might have enough meat to freeze half for later.  They are also wonderful baked, barbecued, or stewed.  Rabbits are generally the easiest of the small game animals to clean.  You can simply pick the animal up in one hand along the skin of the back, cut a hole in the skin large enough to insert a couple of fingers, and pull in each direction toward the head and tail.  The entire skin will slide off as easy as pie.  Remove the head, feet, tail, and guts and bingo, the rabbit is ready to wash and prepare. Rabbit hearts and livers are also quite tasty. I love the iron rich taste of nearly all organ meats. Rabbit is probably the cleanest tasting, least gamey meat in the woods and many people who will not touch raccoon, muskrat, or opossum love rabbit.  It can be prepared fried, broiled, boiled, used in soups, stews, or nearly any way you might cook chicken.  But please remember, it does not "taste just like chicken".  With rabbits and squirrels, it is also often possible to get more than you can eat depending on the bag limits in your state.  In that case, clean, quarter, wash, and freeze the extra in meal sized quantities.  You can do the same with any other small game animal if you have more than you can eat on the day you kill them.  Muskrat is wonderful food and my family never ate them.  In my late twenties, I was a Thoroughbred horse farm foreman in Lexington and worked with a maintenance foreman named Harvey "Bull" Jackson who finally exposed me to muskrat.  It can be prepared in most ways you would prepare groundhog or raccoon and it is wonderfully clean, tasty meat. Muskrats are pure vegetarians and this contributes to the clean taste of the meat. One of my most treasured memories is of the Sunday morning Harvey Jackson and I were working and he brought in muskrat he had killed the night before and had his wife, Ruth, prepare for our breakfast in a tack room before we went out to work.  Always remember that muskrats must be cleaned without breaking the musk glands near the anus.  They must be removed without puncturing and will seriously ruin the flavor if left on the animal.  I have seen recipes from Michigan in which muskrats are baked with sauerkraut.  It is not appetizing to me at all even though I like sauerkraut in other ways, but you might try that if you do not like them baked, fried, boiled, or stewed.
I have never eaten guinea, goose, porcupine, or armadillo but I have been told by others that all three are good eating.  I live in an area where a few people keep guineas and sooner or later I will buy one and try it.  It might be a little more difficult to find goose but I will get there.  As for porcupine and armadillo, the finding might be even more difficult since neither of them is available in Eastern Kentucky.  I have seen armadillos on a regular basis in the deep south in Georgia, Alabama, Texas, and Florida but I never met anyone who regularly ate them.  It is also wise to remember that the armadillo is the only animal species that can transmit leprosy to humans.  But modern scientific advances have made leprosy easily curable.  So enjoy your armadillo at the next opportunity.  The only porcupine I have ever seen in the woods was in Pennsylvania at a state park called Pit Hole City.

Pit Hole City, a former oil drilling boom town which had completely disappeared over time, was being developed into a park at the time I saw the porcupine.  Candice and I had not been dating very long at that time and we went there to hike and have a picnic.  The woods were quiet and peaceful and we both lay down in the leaves and went to sleep.  Suddenly we were awakened by a rather heavy rustling in the leaves behind our heads.  We had gone to sleep within three feet of a game trail and a large porcupine came sauntering through within a couple of feet of our head.  It ran up a nearby tree when we awoke and jumped up.  I have always thought we were lucky that neither of us made physical contact with the animal when we awoke.  Someday, I hope to find a porcupine in a situation where I can eat it since I have read in numerous places that they are very good eating.

I have also never eaten beaver but they have returned to Eastern Kentucky over the last few years and I have a friend who traps them regularly during trapping season.  He has promised to save a carcass for me after he has salvaged the hide which he sells as a source of income.  I have read that old trappers loved the beaver tail and often lived primarily on those during trapping seasons.  I can't wait to try beaver.  Another word to the wise, if you do decide to eat beaver, remember they also have large musk glands near the anus and those should never be broken during the skinning process.  

These are a few of the wild foods I love best and I hope you love them too.  Always obey the game laws, respect bag limits and seasons, never kill anything you don't intend to eat, and never allow yourself to refuse to try a new food source just because you have never had it.  Bon appetit!  

"Under The Bridge" by Emily Steiner--Book Review

Steiner, Emily. Under The Bridge ( North East, PA, Haines Printing 2018)

Emily Steiner is a young Mennonite woman living in my home county of Morgan County Kentucky,  This is her first book and was printed by Haines Printing in North East, PA, and self-published by Ms. Steiner.  I did not know Ms. Steiner or her family as I do many of the Mennonites in this county until after I had read her book.  Shortly after reading this book, I was walking in Old Mill Park in my hometown of West Liberty, KY, and saw a young Mennonite woman carrying a laptop computer adn dressed in the typical Mennonite fashion of ankle length dress and head covering.  I asked, "Are you Emily Steiner?" which was a good assumption since she matched the photo in the book and it is not customary for Mennonites to work on computers.  She told me she was Emily Steiner and we struck up a conversation which lasted about thirty minutes and was entirely about literature, her writing, her next book now in progress, and many of the writers I have personally known.   Ms. Steiner work briefly as a school teacher in the local Mennonite School.  She has lived most her entire life in Morgan County. She is currently working two part time jobs and working on her third novel, which will be the second book in this series.  This book is the first in that series of books about a young Appalachian woman named Lilly Burchett.  It is labeled on the cover as Historical Christian Fiction.  But in reality, it is presented as a historical novel about a young native Appalachian woman with no connection to the Mennonite religion but does describe her and her family as church goers to a church without mention of the denomination.  

The story is set in Harlan County Kentucky in the period from circa 1918-1922 or so.  The story is also labeled on the cover as "Well researched and rich with detail; the author's first-hand knowledge of life in rural Kentucky shines through in the vivid and sensitive telling of this classic tale of love, loss, hope, and dreams."  It is an attempt to portray the native Appalachians of Harlan County from a period a century distant by a writer who lives a very different lifestyle not only from those natives of the early twentieth century but also quite different from the local native Appalachians of today in this community.  I bought the book at a local bulk food store which is run by another unmarried Mennonite woman whose extended family I know quite well.  Until I saw the book on a counter, I had no idea that any Mennonite in the area was writing fiction. However, Rod & Staff Publishing, one of the largest Mennonite publishers in the country is located in the county in Crockett, KY, and Ms. Steiner's father works there in the editorial department. Since no conservative Mennonite author or publisher uses the internet or modern marketing practices, you cannot find further information about the books of Ms. Steiner on the internet.  The printer, Haines Printing Company, does maintain a minimally informative website about their services but does not directly market this book or any other they might have printed. Their ownership may or may not be Mennonite. Ms. Steiner is directly marketing the book via her personal phone number and address.  I will provide that address at the end of this review.  

Despite the information listed on the back cover claiming first-hand knowledge and positive research, the book misses the facts on numerous occasions in dealing with Appalachian life in the early twentieth century.   However, based on my numerous contacts with the local Mennonite community and my overwhelmingly positive opinion of the Mennonite people in the area, I am willing to say that I do not believe any of these errors were committed with negative intentions. Since that first accidental meeting in the park, Emily Steiner and I have talked face to face three more times, once at the last day of school at the Faith Hills Mennonite Church School and twice at her part time employment in a Mennonite owned fabric and sewing store.  We also converse fairly regularly via e-mail which, due to the Mennonite religious beliefs and mores, is on an e-mail address which actually belongs to her brother who is a local construction contractor.  The book does perpetuate several of the prevalent myths about Appalachian people of the early twentieth century and of Appalachian people and culture in general. However, since Emily Steiner and I have known each other, I have provided her with some guidance about Appalachian Culture and Literature and given her a long list of mainstream Appalachian books which she is reading diligently and working to make the next novel much more culturally accurate. 

The protagonist in the story is Lilly Burchett, a thirteen year old Appalachian girl who is a member of a large family living in "a cabin" in a hollow near a coal camp and a coal mine in which her father, Bernie Burchett, works. Lilly is described as having "...calloused feet that rarely felt shoes" on the first page and so begins the trail of myths and errors about Appalachia and Appalachian life.  The family is composed of the parents, Lilly, and several other of her siblings.  The story begins in early 1918 as World War I is ending and the surviving soldiers are returning from the battlefields.  Lilly is nearing the time when, as she has already been told by her mother, "...'a woman's place is getting married and raising a family'...and then having babies, having them one after another as fast as all the other mountain women."  Lilly is described as a good student in some areas but not in math.  She wants to grow up to leave the mountains and become a writer.  The title of the story arises from the fact that Lilly frequently stops to think, write, and hide her writings under a bridge over the creek on her way home from school where she dreams about the future. I suspect that several aspects of the character are fictionalized versions of thoughts which Ms. Steiner has had growing up as a young, intelligent woman in a strictly conservative Mennonite family and community. To some degree, she has corroborated that belief and disputed it in others.  Another former Mennonite school teacher in the community who actually taught the same year Ms. Steiner did, whom I have known since childhood, has also stated that he agrees with my assessment that many of the cultural errors in the story are rooted not in any prejudice on the part of Emily Steiner but in the fact that the average young Mennonite woman has little contact with the greater non-Mennonite community.  The character of Lilly is much more fully developed than the other characters in the story.  The writing is above average for a first book but not exceptional by any means. But it shows a great deal of talent and is good enough that I am willing to spend time helping Emily Steiner improve both her knowledge of Appalachian Culture and her base of knowledge about writing and literature in general.  The book is readable and for the naive individual who knows little or nothing about Appalachia of the early twentieth century it could be assumed to be accurate in its depictions of the area and its people.  Therein lies the potential damage to be done by this book and all other books like it which are written about Appalachia without sufficient knowledge of the people and culture. 

The errors in depiction of Appalachian Culture, life, and language continue throughout the book and range from simple errors in language to full blown but unintentional misrepresentations.  Later in that first chapter in a description of the local school teacher's opposition to the coal mining companies she has a minor character state "He don't like the mines because he had two brothers killed in a collapse."  No one in Eastern Kentucky would have used the word "collapse" to describe a roof fall.  The generally used word all over Appalachian coal mining country was then and still remains "roof fall" or could have been a use of the word "kettle bottom" to describe a particular type of roof fall.  It is also interesting that in a book about a coal mining town in Harlan County in 1918 there is no mention of the ongoing effort to unionize the mines.  The United Mine Workers of America was organized in 1890.  Kentucky coal production reached a million tons in 1879 and a major producer at that time was already Harlan County and both the United Mine Workers of America and the International Workers of The World (The Wobblies) were attempting to organize miners in Harlan County by about 1905 or 1910.  Ms. Steiner is currently working on the second book of the series with a working title of "Under Fire", the manuscript of which I have read and offered suggestions about improving it both from a cultural and a writing viewpoint.  Ms. Steniner's intentions are to write a book which does address the union efforts in Harlan County Kentucky but to promote the Mennonite views of non-violence and, therefore, to not promote unionism.  She and I have mutually agreed to amicably disagree on that position and to remain friends. 

Chapter Five of "Under The Bridge" begins with a particularly telling paragraph in terms of its depiction of life in Eastern Kentucky in 1918 as Lilly begins working as a housekeeper for the wife of the local mine manager.  "...Lilly grew accustomed to turning a knob for water, dragging heavy rugs up and down stairs, and cooking multitudes of things beyond cornbread, beans, and fried potatoes."  It is quite interesting that this was written by a young woman who grew up in a family, religious community, and subculture which depends strongly on gardening as a major means of sustenance and who knows quite well that anyone who raises a garden in Appalachia eats far more than "cornbread, beans, and fried potatoes".

Later in the book as Lilly is working as a housekeeper in the home of the mine superintendent and meets a couple who are friends of her employer and his wife and is offered the opportunity to return with them to Louisville to live in their home and further her education.  Because of her father Bernie's objections, Lilly turns down that opportunity and begins anticipating life as a young married woman in the footsteps of all the other women in her life.  It is interesting that across many areas in Appalachia such as Knott, Jackson, and surrounding counties in Kentucky,  and several counties in North Carolina schools were being founded such as The Caney Creek Community Center and the Annville Institute which were assisting numerous students in admission to and attendance at colleges outside the region.  Ms. Steiner seems to have not known about any of this history at the time she wrote "Under The Bridge".  But she is working diligently to remedy the shortcomings in her knowledge of Appalachia and Appalachian Culture and Literature.  "Under The Bridge" can be bought directly from Emily Steiner by calling or writing her at Emil Steiner, 155 Memorial Gardens Road, West Liberty, KY, 41472, or by calling her at 606-495-8090.  The price is $10.00.  The book can also be found at Caney Grocery in Cannel City, KY, at the intersection of KY 1000 and KY 191 between Cannel City and West Liberty.  Despite the negative comments in this review, the book is worth reading and buying.  Her second book, "What Money Can't Buy", a purely Mennonite novel is now released and available at Rod and Staff Publishing in Crockett, KY.