Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Labyrinth Redux

This is your word for the day: "redux."  I thought I knew what it meant but wasn't sure so I looked it up.  And it means revisited or revived.  That's a good word for what I've done.

I painted a labyrinth years ago.  In fact, I was so proud of myself that I did just what I'm about to do now:  I published it on the internet via this blog.  When I got frustrated with the current one I thought to myself, "I'm sure I'm not the only one having trouble with this.  I'll check the internet and find instructions from someone else who has so much wisdom that there are wisdom "left-overs" I can glean.  So I went to the internet and the first How To that came up was my own posting here on this blog telling others how to do this.

For the last three weeks I've measured and sketched and calculated.  I bought a case of marking paint. And I did it.  I have a new and much easier method for making your own personal labyrinth.  Try this method:

Find about 50 square feet of space.  Mow the grass in such a way that you're blowing grass towards the outside of the circle.

In the center of this pristine plat of grass drive a strong stake into the ground.

You can do this next step inside where it is cool and comfortable:   Get four lengths of good rope that measure about 25-30 feet in length.  Tie a knot at one end that will let you slip the knot over the center stake.  From this point at the stake measure 48 inches and draw a line on the rope with a bold black marker..  At the line wrap some duct tape to make a little "flag" a couple of inches square.  Leave that flag unmarked.  Measure out 24 inches (or whatever you want your path to be) and make a flag.  Mark this flag with a "!" on both sides of the flag.  Then measure another 24 inches and tape flags for "2" through "12". Make three more ropes just like this one.

You'll need a fifth rope the same length but you don't have to mark it.

Line the four ropes at the center stake going straight out.  Call the ropes North, South, East and West.  The entrance to your lab will always be South no matter what the real direction is.

Mark the North quadrant first.  Standing at the center stake and looking to the outside of the lab lay two of the marked ropes 24" to the left and right of the center rope.I call these lines Larry and Ralph You can stake the rope with a tent stake to keep it into position. 

Take the fourth rope that you're not using to mark lines and use it like you do a compass to mark circles like you did in geometry class.  Except and this is VERY IMPORTANT don't hold the rope and make sweeping lines because you can stretch the rope doing this and everything will be all gummed up.  Instead lightly place the rope and make a little hash mark with just a spritz of paint.  When you get to the turns and have a good feel for line which going around line whatever to meet another line to make your turns you can free hand these lines. Like the green lines below. Now you will start to see a pattern emerge.

Do all three:  North West and East alike.

Don't worry about filling in the lines just yet.  Just get a big picture of the turns   Later you can use the flags on rope to fill in the path markers.  Your back probably hurts by now, anyway and you still have the hardest part ahead.

Mark the Entrance at the 'south' position.

Take an unmarked rope and lay it from the center stake straight down past the entrance to the lab. This rope doesn't have a name. It's only purpose is to help position the other.  Lay ropes on either side of the unmarked rope BUT instead of your normal 24' distance lay these ropes half of the path size (in this case, 12 inches)  Call these lines Larry and Carlos.  Carlos will end up as the center of the south entrance ropes. Mark two feet on either side and call them Lucy and Ralph. Finally one more rope 24" to the west of the ropes and call it Rita.

If you are paying attention you will notice that you're a rope short.  You can mark Carlos first because it is an unbroken line.  Once you have Carlos marked you can use that rope for Rita.

Mark the path lines and turns using this diagram.  And that should finish the hardest part.

All you have to do now is finish the path by fluffing a marked rope and making hash marks then filling in the hash marks.

Pack it all up in a box for the next time.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where the Jackrabbits Were

Here's one of my favorite pieces of writing.  It was written by Bill Moyers for Newsweek magazine and published on October 21, 1974:

Where the Jackrabbits Were    

 When I was born in 1934 my father was making $2 a day working on the construction of a new highway from the Texas border to Oklahoma City.  We were living in the southeastern corner of Oklahoma in an area known as "Little Dixie" because so many people had come there from Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
     I have not spent any time in Oklahoma for years, although my childhood impressions were sharply etched in my mind and I have always felt that men like my father, coming to maturity in the '20's and laid low by the '30's, were a special lot; they were born before Oklahoma was admitted to the Union and the state took shape around their labors and losses.  They had no option but to cope, and their experiences fueled a whole generation's determination not to repeat them.  As "Adam Smith" wrote a few years ago, "it is the first generation off the farm that provides the longest hours and the most uncomplaining workers." It wasn't sheer ambition alone that drove my crowd in the '50's to hallow the success ethic; we had memories

     I went back last week and the memories were still there.  My father, who is 70 now, came up on the bus from Texas and we drove from Oklahoma City down through familiar parts of the state.  His brother, my uncle Harry, still lives in Pauls Valley, an hour south of Oklahoma City; he and Aunt Emily have moved into town from the farm they rented and worked for more than a quarter of a century.  Even at 68, however, Uncle Harry can't stay away from the land; partly to earn money--their old-age assistance is less than $200 a month--and partly from habit, he hires out when someone needs him.  "I'd make good w in those days he and my father and men like them qualified to vote in local elections by helping to build country roads-two days wages if I could just find the work," he said.  This summer he took a hoe to 100 acres of soybeans and earned $2.50 an hour, which he says "was a big help to Momma and me when the inflation bug hit."  They still grow potatoes, corn, tomatoes and okra, and at lunch Aunt Emily served strawberry cake and three pies.
     A late afternoon sun the size of a prospector's imagination was hanging in the sky as we drove out to their old farm.  We turned off on a levee along the Washita River that Uncle Harry had built with a team of mules; in those days he and my father and men like them qualified to vote in local elections by helping to build country roads--two days of work to qualify if they brought a mule, five if not. "There was a time during the Depression when the only meat we had to eat was jackrabbits we caught in the fields," my father said.  "And sometimes," Uncle Harry added, "we'd fun alongside 'em to feel their ribs to see if they were fat enough t'cook." Uncle Harry has never been able to pull a Republican lever when he votes; he always thinks of jackrabbits and Herbert Hoover.
     The old house to which Uncle Harry brought Aunt Emily from Little Dixie in 1030 is still standing in the fields a hundred yards from the river, abandoned and beginning to fall apart--a simple frame house with two bedrooms where eight children were born."I couldn't even afford to buy this land when it was selling for $200 an acre 30 years ago," Uncle Harry said, "Now they're gettin' $2,00 to $3,000 an acre for shoppin' centers and stuff like that."  He signed and said: "Even in the worst times I couldn't leave it.  It almost killed Momma and me, but this place needed us as much as we needed it.  They got bulldozers now, and they don't need us anymore."
     My father and I drove on southeast through an Oklahoma that is changing fast and prospering, in ways to be discussed in this space next time.  But now we were putting the past together again.


    My father's parents married in Tahlequah, in what was then Indian Territory, in what was then Indian Territory, and moved south of the Red River into Texas, to farm the waxy black land.  Grandfather died of pneumonia in 1916 and two years later the family returned to Oklahoma with a new stepfather.  They owned four mules and two wagons, a buckboard buggy, two milk cows, two calves, a pig and some chickens.  The January weather was cold and wet and it took them two days to travel 30 miles.  After they had ferried the Red River near Frogville the two young mules got stuck in the muddy bottom land, became scared trying to get out, and turned the wagon over into the muck.  My father, who was then 12, and his brother Harry tried to recover some of grandmother's canned fruits but they failed.
     They settled in Choctaw County, not far from where the "Trail of Tears" had ended years earlier for the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Cherokee, Seminole and Creek Indians who had been forcefully removed by the U.S. Government from their old lands in the Deep South.  Sadness and hardship were the lot of most people, red men and white, who tried to impose their hope on the realities of nature in this part of the country, and the incident on the Red River wa only a harbinger of difficult times to come.  Men swore and watched helplessly as it rained when they didn't want it and didn't when they desperately needed it.  Their wives cooked on wood stoves and washed clothes in black pots and buried children who couldn't survive the diphtheria and malaria and bore more who did; twin daughters born to my mother both died, one of whom might have been saved had there been a doctor or medicine nearby.  When the flu and pneumonia struck, people wrapped asafetida gum in a cloth around the necks of their ailing kin and waited often in vain.


   In the winter they shook with the cold and in the summer they sweltered.  My father and his brother used to scoop 15 tons of cottonseed a day from a wagon onto the conveyor belt, in 110 degrees, for 50 centsa ton each.  That was a temporary job when the gins were running and the rest of the time they tried to farm, always on another man's land--fourteen hours a day behind a team of mules.  My father wanted to stay with farming but he had to give up shortly before I was born.  He had expected to get half a bale of cotton to the acre on 35 acres, but it rained all of July and half of August and the boll weevils came like an Old Testament plague and it was over; he went to work on the highway.  Eventually he got a job driving a truck for a creamery--$15 and expenses for a six-day week--and we moved to Texas.  One by one his own brothers--except for Uncle Harry--left the land, migrating to California and into the pages of a Steinbeck novel.
    In recapturing the past last week, we were not trying to do so in some idealized way, to make thins what they never were, nor to escape; a 70-year-old man who has buried four of his five children doesn't extol the good old days, and I still have places to be.  We were looking, instead, for landmarks to share again after years of separate journey, and in ordinary places, while there was still time, we found them.