Monday, October 25, 2010

Talking Points

Just got back from dinner at the Martin Hotel here in Winnemucca, probably the most famous Basque restaurant for a hundred miles. Of course, a hundred miles from here puts you in the middle of nowhere with yet another hundred miles to get to someplace else.

At a Basque restaurant, it’s country style seating so you get to sit with people you’ve never met.  Naturally, I was at a table sitting between two retired couples and the conversation touched on politics. There is quite a heated Senate race here between Harry Reid and the batshit crazy Sharron Angle. It’s more intense than even the Murray – Rossi race (my Starbucks pseudonymn is “Dino” for now; “Dino, your grande nonfat latte is up”).  The old folks don’t like Reid and one of the men said the incumbents aren’t following the Constitution. So “what part of the Constitution” I ask. Oh, gun rights. So “can you name any recent gun control legislation?” I ask. “Oh, they’re trying, they’re trying.” Look old man, try giving me some facts instead of barfing up Tea Party talking points. I didn't really say that.

Fortunately, we got on to other conversation and they were really genuinely nice people.  Both couples were touring around the west.  One of the couples just got back from hunting deer in Idaho.  Wolves are eating all the deer and elk because that's what wolves did before white people killed all the wolves.  I didn't jump on that topic.  At least there's more vegetation now that wolves are eating the herbivores.  We ended up talking about dogs and stuff, much more pleasant. 

Did I say the food was delicious at the Martin Hotel?  Chicken noodle soup, salad that comes with beans (the Basque way is to top your salad with beans), tender beef tongue slices in gravy, mashed potatoes, and corn.  I had pork chops, three of them, breaded and boneless.  I chased it all down with two Ruby Mountain ales, although the meal included some red wine in carafes.  Dessert was bread pudding with whipped cream.  It was Monday and the place was packed.  Lots of cowboy hats, laughter, and conversation.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Wood Recycling

I learn a lot about the natural world just hanging out on the patio grilling burgers and drinking beer. This time of the year, the great Pacific dampwood termites swarm, the fertile winged ones rising into the skies to start new homes in the fallen trees and branches rotting in the deep forest beyond our back fence. Their flight seems strained and clumsy on oversized wings.

I watch a dragonfly dart through the air along a straight path then suddenly switch direction looping back and doing it again along the same path. In one instant it deviates slightly from its chosen path, grabbing a hapless flying termite in midair, and then continuing along the same flight path. A few seconds later, the dragonfly drops the termite, which flutters downward slowly at the pace of a downy feather onto the patio, the gossamer wings no longer beating a struggling flight. I examine the fallen termite and observe that it seems generally intact but is missing its abdomen. This leads me to believe that the dragonfly simply eats the tender abdomen and casts away the remaining hard parts that include the head, thorax, legs, and wings.

Trees fall in the forest; they rot in place, broken down by fungi and termites. Termites swarm and take flight, most ending up trapped in spider webs or snagged in midair by the colorful and graceful dragonflies. This is how wood gets recycled in the natural world. Sure, I’ll have another beer. Barley and hops get recycled, too.