Thursday, September 21, 2017

Let's Hear It for the Nose

The nose has been much on our minds of late. The main charter of our new detective novel (Forged Blade) has a broken nose as his most distinctive feature. Few authors choose to write about the nose, yet it is planted in the middle of our face and never stops growing our entire lives.
   The nose has more names than any other physical feature. For example: pug nose, Roman nose, Eagle nose, pig nose, Hawk nose, sharp nose, ski jump nose, patrician nose and the list goes on an on. The lady friend who stuck by Doc Holiday is known to history as Big Nose Kate.
   The nose gets a workout this time of year as 'hay fever' season is , in full force with ragweed and other fall plants in bloom. Spring sends thousands of people indoors when trees and early flowers bloom. Spring nose problems are called 'rose fever' and pollen from plants drifts on wind currents from distances as much as 300 miles. We seen our cove, on Lake Cumberland turn yellow from pollen that settles on the water.
   Of all our physical senses smell is the last to fade as we age. Smell invokes memories reaching back through our lives, both pleasant and revolting.
   Our nose twitches when we smell enticing odors coming from the kitchen. We turn up our nose when we don't want any part of a situation. The tip of our nose turns red as an early warning sign of over exposure to cold. We cover our nose when confronted with the smell of offal.
   Dogs with a keen sense of smell have long been prized for hunting, drug sniffing, tracking, rescue missions, and were used to locate the submerged body of a drowning victim near our home.
   Scientifically, what we smell are minute particles of a substance floating in the air reach the olfactory sensatory cells high inside our nose to trigger electronic signals that travel along our nerves to the brain. These human nerve paths were recorded by Bell Laboratories and presented to the public in a film, "Our Five Senses," for use in schools over fifty years-ago.
   Thus, we can disdain the odor of a burning cigar, but wax eloquently about the smell of burning leaves or an open cedar wood fire, or recognize the stink of eggs we put on to boil and forgot.
   Poets use a form of poetry called a sonnet, fourteen lines with a distinctive rhyming scheme to write lovely lines. I found this one to a nose in The Wayfaring Stranger's Notebook by Burl Ives, a folklorist, balladeer, humorist, storyteller, and actor. Since he didn't give an author, I assume he wrote it himself.

                The Importance of Having a Nose       
       'Ths very odd that poets should suppose
        There is no poetry about a nose,
        When plain as is the nose upon your face,
        A noseless face would lack poetic grace.
        Noses have sympathy: a lover knows
        Noses are always touched when lip are kissing:
        And who would care to kiss where nose is missing?
        Whether a vile or wholesome odour flows
        Around us, if we owned no sense of smelling?
        I know a nose, a nose no other knows,
        'Neath starry eyes, o'er ruby lips it grows;
        Beauty is in its form and music in its blows.

   We wish to thank Barbara Appleby, who did the illustration for us several years ago. It is too good to not recycled.
Nash Black, author of Forged Blade.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Pots to Repot

   Many people park their indoor plants outside for the summer. I don't because every time I did my treasures played host to all sorts of bugs and scale, even the one on a screened-in porch.
   I have one exception to this rule. They're two pots of mother's tongue or what my family called snake plant. The original plants sat on each side of my Grandmother Piper's front door every summer. She died, in 1952, at the age of 92. The plants have traveled many miles, been divided, repotted, and shared. Today, their offspring grace the wall by my front door; living in the same jardinières my grandmother once used.
   Houseplants faithfully serve both our physic and health by providing oxygen to the air, with the added benefit of having fresh greenery during the winter season. They too, need seasonal attention and early fall is an excellent time for this easy chore.

   Over time their soil loses its nutrients though water leaching it away and through the roots as they to continue to grow. I don't recommend putting it off like one I once had that was so root bound we had to smash the plastic pot to remove it from bondage.
   1. Use a new container, a size larger if possible that has a drainage hole. Or give the old container a good scrub with water and a bit (half a teaspoon) of bleach to kill old fertilizer and minute organisms that find homes in cracks and creases. I recycle pots from the nursery for my plants and then house them in decorative pots that are lined with aluminum foil to prevent staining.
   2. Remove the plant from the container. Gently, shake old soil from the roots. If the roots are in a tight ball take a knife and slice them in several (four) places. You can trim the ends of the roots and separate them. Wash any remaining old soil off the roots. Fill a pan with water and let the roots soak while you prepare the new pot. Don't forget to rinse the foliage to remove house dust and other pests that find a home in your plants, like tiny spiders.
   3. Use a paper coffee filter to cover the drain hole of the plant container pot. This prevents soil from falling through into the pan. Fill one-third of the post with prepared potting soil that absorbs excess water and releases it gradually to the soil.
   4. Place the plant into the new pot with the crown about an inch below the top of the pot to allow space for watering. Then fill in around the roots with fresh soil gently tamping it in as you go.
   5. Moisten soil.
   Your houseplants will last many years with a little TLC every two to three years, even when your thumb like mine tends to be more tan than green.
   Nash Black, author of Catspaw of Death.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Weird Cures

"Good for what ails you." How often have we heard that phrase?
   My nephew was convinced a Band-Aid was the prime cure for all cuts. Have you ever tried to put one on a kid's tongue? That experience ended my baby-sitting career.
   I have a collection of old cures for common ills. Some of them could cause serious harm giving birth to the adage that the 'cure is worse than the disease,' but others are fun to read.
   Warts. Who hasn't had a wart at one time or another? Rub a wart with a rock. Put the rock in a tobacco sack and throw it over you left shoulder.
   If this doesn't work try catching a frog and rub the wart with it. I've heard that catching frogs will cause warts. So that one works both ways.
   When all else fails, walk out into the road after sundown in the dark of the moon. Turn around three times and spit over you right shoulder.
   To Prevent a Cold. Eat an onion sandwich and wash you hair. I'm not sure what one has to do with the other.
   My mother believed a teaspoon of Cod Liver Oil before bed prevented winter colds. This may account for my distaste for salt-water fish.
   With colds comes the Chills. Take a new broom and brush across the patient's back.
   Asthma. If a child has asthma stand him up against a tree and drive a nail in the tree one inch above his head. If the child grows an inch in the next year, the asthma will disappear.
   Nosebleed. Every night pour a bucket of cold water over your head. Keep this up for fourteen days and you will be cured.
   This, sort of, works - had a sister who got nosebleeds when we got in a tussle. We'd stick her head under the bathtub facet and run cold water on her neck so mother wouldn't find out we'd been in a fight.
   Sore throat. When you have a sore throat take a black thread and tie nine knots in it and wear it around your neck for nine days.
   Sty on the Eye. Always tell the truth, because lies cause sties.
            Salt for all mosquito bites,
            Cobwebs on the scratches,
            The sickroom fumigated with
            Our Sulphur kitchen matches.
            Somehow there's quite a bunch of us
            That never had a shot,
            But here we are still kicking
            And enjoying it a lot.
                      Author Unknown

A footnote: The use of cobwebs to seal wounds has an ancient history. Caesar's Roman Legion's carried a supply of cobwebs in their field kits.
   Nash Black, author of the forth coming, Forged Blade.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Mules - Beasts of Burden

Kentucky Grey Mule
"Stubborn as a mule" or "kick like a mule" are phrases we often hear applied to individuals. Many images of a mule show  a caricature of the animal nose first, floppy ears hanging, mouth wide open with large bucked teeth going 'hee-haw' like the cartoon on the long running TV show Hee-Haw.
   Evidence of the mule has a long history reaching back to early Greece in the 5th century BC to a rhyton, a drinking cup or vessel frequently styled in the shape of an animal's head. One, now in a museum in Algeria, has the form of a mule's head with its long ears completed by a painted bridle.
   Mules are hybrids who are unique in that they tend to be larger in size, show signs of higher intelligence, and exhibit greater stamina then either parent. A mule is the product of mating of a male donkey or jack with a mare. The successful breeding of a jenny (female donkey) to a stallion is difficult - when it does happen the offspring is called a hinney

Out of a Belgian Draft mare
   The males are sterile, but the females have cycles. There are few recorded instances of a female mule giving birth, about 60 since 1527. One in Colorado, in 2007, has been documented by DNA as having a mule mother.
   The mule inherits the size, ability to run, and conformation of the mare, and the character, endurance, and strength of its donkey sire. They are more independent than other equine species and live longer than their parents, while requiring less food for their size. Mules get their coloring from the mare, hence you will see sorrels, blacks, buckskins, duns, and greys. A breeding with an Appaloosa mare gives a kaleidoscope of colorations.

Snaking logs
Working handlers prefer mules to horses because their skin and hooves are harder than a horse's. They can also tolerate greater exposure to sun and rain. For some unknown reason genetic reason they have a resistance to disease and insects.
   Amish farmers still use them as working farm animals, though they prefer horses to pull their buggies, which we see on the roads. A friend told me about the fun she had, as a town child visiting a farm near Sano, KY, riding the mules from the fields back to the barn. Her mother rode one to school.
   The late western author, Louis L'Amour tells the story of a breeding of a mule by one of the Sacketts who had to leave the Cumberland Plateau in his novel, Lando. The character acquired a retired thoroughbred mare, put her in a field with a jack, and then headed west to make his fortune with a racing mule.
  A true Kentucky racing story is of Old Red, who was owned by Clifford Grover.  Born in 1920, Red's mother was a sorrel mare. He started his career early in that decade and continued a brilliant run into the 1930s. After his racing days ended he was sold and, most likely, spent the remainder of his life pulling a plow.
  Mules have long been used to transport goods over rough country in caravans called 'mule trains.' Daniel Boone used mules to bring settlers into Kentucky through the Cumberland Gap. The trains were immortalized in the song, Mule Train. Cowboy singer, Frankie Laine recorded it in 1949 and it was later sung by Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1957. Drivers of the trains were called 'mule skinners.' Mule Skinner's Blues, tells the life of a driver; it was recorded by the Fendermen in the 1950s.

   Armies used them for eons in mountainous areas like Afghanistan to transport artillery, supplies, and munitions. Sometimes, the poor mule's back was used as a field platform for firing a small cannon. The United States Marines still conduct training classes in the use of animals as packers - the ole mule can go where there are no roads.
  From 1883 to 1889 twenty-mules hitched as a team were used in Death Valley to pull large wagons loaded with borax to railroad lines. The wagons (largest ever produced) were designed to hold ten short tons of ore. Interesting, the actual teams were made up of eighteen mules and two horses, though the famous washing soap was named 20 Mule Team Borax and is still in production.
   Librarians used them as early book mobiles well into the 1940s, as there were few navigable roads in the Kentucky foothills and mountains.
   Today mules, by the select breeding of 'hobby' breeders, participate in all areas of equine sports: such as racing, carriage meets, recreational traveling wagon trains (one operates out of Shelbyville, KY), western style rodeos, show rings, dressage, and pulling contests.
   Kentucky enjoys an extensive breeding industry of mule production, where besides the local market Kentucky bred mules are prized in the countries of China and Mexico.
Nash Black, author of the forth coming detective novel: Forged Blade.