Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Dog Days of Summer

When I was a little boy, my mother always cautioned me about the Dog Days of Summer. She would warn me that if I cut myself, which I invariably did with my trusty Barlow knife, that the wound would not heal until after that period ended. And, as usual, Mom was right. I had always thought that the term " Dog Days of Summer" referred to the fact that it was so hot down here that even the dogs couldn't stand it and tended to go crazy.

I now know that is not the case. I believe that the Romans coined the phrase, and it refers to that time when Sirius, the Dog Star,rose just before or at the same time as the sun. The Romans believed it to be an evil time when" the sea boiled,wine turned sour,dogs grew mad,and all other creatures became languid". Well, the Romans had at least some of that correct.

I have also read various dates which encompass the Dog Days, and those dates have changed over the years. My best estimate would be to peg the Dog Days of Summer as somewhere from mid July through mid August. What really got me to pondering on this subject was watching our weather forecast for the first three days of this week. Our local weatherman said that Monday of this week was going to be "hot", Tuesday was going to be "oppressive", and that Wednesday was going to be "hideous". Now I have been watching the weather for as long as I can remember, but this is the first classification of "hideous" that I can recall.

My best description of this time of the year is that it is too hot to fish any more, and it's still a little too early to begin getting excited about hunting season; so I think that I will just become languid like the Romans of old and the Riverview employees of today. However, I really can't blame anyone for moving slower and taking more breaks in this heat and humidity!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Follow up on dog kennels

One of my guests recently emailed me and asked me how our bird dogs fared in this heat we have been experiencing in South Georgia for the past three weeks, and wanted a better explanation of their housing facilities. The best way to answer that question is to first explain that the pointer breed of hunting dog was born and bred for the south, much like the Brahma cattle and us southern rednecks. You just have to be a native to survive this weather.We shave all of our English setters and any other long-haired, bigger hunting dogs late in the spring so that their hair looks very similar to mine.

However, to be more specific,our big dogs all have concrete runs with automatic feeders and waterers in them. Each run accommodates two dogs, and they share a dog house. Over the top of each house, we run a sheet of reflective metal to bounce the sun's rays back skyward. But, make no mistake about it--It is still very hot at the kennels in July and August.

Now the new digs for our English Cockers are different. To begin with, each of them have individual houses, and each house has a fan mounted to blow air on them. I can just see their neighbors in the lower class kennels glaring at them each day. In my opinion, somebody is going to bite somebody when they get a chance because jealousy has to be rampant at the Riverview kennels.

The most interesting time to be around our kennels is usually around the second week in September. That's when Moss, our kennel manager, starts assigning dogs to guides. Each guide will have a certain number of consecutive runs that houses his dogs; so dogs that have been living together suddenly have new roommates. Guess what ? Dogs get along with one another about as good as people do. Someone almost has to live at the kennels for a while until we can figure out the pairings of dogs that can share a kennel without fighting. And a bird dog fight is not a pretty thing. They fight to win, and play for keeps. I have actually seen a male pointer rip another pointer to shreds.

When I was a kid, I had a huge German Shepherd that liked to walk out to the dog kennels and torment them with the fact that he was roaming free while they were in confinement. Our kennel manager at that time, Mr. Bobby Sharp, had asked me repeatedly to keep my dog in the yard, but I ignored him. He finally got enough of it one day, and let one of our big male pointers out while Vengie was tormenting them. We never had to worry about Vengie visiting the dog kennels again after he drug his bloody, whipped butt to the house.

In closing, the woods and food plots look great. Hunting and football season will be here before we can blink an eye, and we are ready !

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Weather

An old friend once told me,"Don't knock the weather because without it, no one would ever know how to start a conversation". Well, I can guarantee you that our weather in South Georgia is the number one topic of conversation these days. It's so hot down here right now that I'm fairly certain that I saw Satan sitting under an oak tree a few minutes ago fanning himself with a church fan. I couldn't tell what church the fan belonged to, but I'm certain that it was not a Baptist church fan.

In our part of Mitchell County, there are a lot of folks with poultry houses who raise chickens. Now in case you are unaware of this fact, let me tell you that chickens need very little of an excuse to die. If it is too hot or too cold, they just check out for greener pastures. Maybe they are smarter than I think they are, and are merely choosing to die earlier rather than ending up in some preacher's belly on a Sunday afternoon. At any rate, one of my poultry grower friends told me where to order a gizmo that measures all kinds of things that he needs to keep up with in his chicken houses.One of the functions on this gadget measures the temperature/humidity index. In South Georgia we call that the "feels like temperature".

I was shocked to find out that I had to order this device from Pennsylvania. You would think that southerners would have cornered the market on how to measure heat. I took my handheld device outside a few minutes ago, and it gave me a temperature/humidity index reading of 114.2 degrees! Hey folks, we have not reached the hottest part of the day here yet! This old boy is retreating to the office for the remainder of the day. I'm not ashamed to admit that I am not as tough as I once was.

In my next blog, I plan to share a bit more about the kennels being built for our English Cockers. Suffice it to say, I am not nearly as concerned about Martha making me sleep in the dog house as I once was. I also firmly believe that our pointers are going to be seriously offended as they compare their accommodations with the ones these Cockers have.

Please allow me to close with this quote from John Adams,"Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people". To that quote, I would like to add one of my father's favorite sayings that went something like this," never under estimate the dumbness of the voting population of this country". Is it any wonder that our laws are being broken, our constitution violated, and our rights taken from us on an almost daily basis? We have a voting population who primarily get their news from the late night talk shows when folks like me are asleep.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Sweet Corn and Saw Timber

Well, we are finally finished with our sweet corn harvesting and will finish our timber thinning program this coming week. I know that everyone is familiar with the old expression," sometimes you get the bear, and sometimes the bear gets you". Well, the bear got us in the sweet corn business this season. We had high yields and great quality, but struggled with weak demand and low prices for almost our entire window of production. We finally got to the last ten days of harvest when both demand and prices strengthened, and then along came the storms and blew a lot of this spindly stuff to the ground.

Our Haitian harvesting crews call blown down sweet corn,"sleepy corn". They do not like to pick it, but they will. Of course they charge more money for having to bend over so much and struggle with picking it off of the ground. Yield declines in blown down corn are inevitable. Our average crate per acre harvest dropped by about 100 crates to the acre in what was our best price market. As I was chatting with my close friend and partner yesterday about this business, he commented," Isn't it so much fun to work this hard to break even?" He also told me that I had made a joking but disparaging comment in an earlier blog when comparing my hunting guests to my harvesting crews; so let me set the record straight on that issue. My comments were meant as tongue-in-cheek. After re-reading it, I can see that it was insensitive. While our workforce of migrants are uneducated, they are some of the hardest working folks in the world. They do a job that no one else in this country could or would do. I will still stick to the fact that my mind will never be able to grasp" Haitian logic". I do not and can not understand how they think, but they are some hard working human beings.

Perhaps if anyone in this business of growing sweet corn is not very bright, it is us farmers who continue to take huge risks each year growing what is annually becoming a more expensive crop with diminishing returns. I am beginning to ponder the risk/reward relationship in this business. A crop that once cost me about $500 per acre to grow now costs north of $1200 an acre to grow. It is much harder to walk by and skip harvesting a $1200 per acre planting due to weak demand than it was to skip a $500 per acre cost planting in the past.

On a more pleasant subject, God blessed us with great weather for a timber thinning program. We have stayed right behind the thinning operation with two big, rubber tired front end loaders. Our employees cleaned up and burned all of the debris left behind. We then came behind that operation and planted a bunch of different grasses on the bare land. Thanks to the abundant rains( some of which produced the storms that blew down the sweet corn), the grass has flourished, and healed the land. Honestly, if I did not know the areas that we had thinned, I would not be able to tell any logging operation had even occurred on those tracts.

 Now I plan to ride out and look at these Taj Mahal kennels that Jerry and Cader IV are constructing for our English Cockers. I think that if I were one of our pointers, I would hire me a lawyer and file a class action discrimination lawsuit. So far, all I have seen is the bills for this project. I plan to look at the actual facilities this morning, and may reserve me a room there. Depending on how I get along with my wife this weekend, reserving a room might be mandatory rather than optional.

I hope everyone has a great weekend. Unless you have to come to South Georgia this weekend, I would advise you to stay well north of us. It's going to be HOT down here this weekend!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Modern Tecnology

It is absolutely astounding how quickly we become addicted to technology. Our high speed Wifi has been down for 8 days, and we finally got it back up over the weekend. Thank goodness my IPad has 3G capability. Otherwise, we would have been unable to make some tax deposits to the government which can only be done on-line, and we all know what an understanding bunch the IRS is.

This situation got me to thinking about the things that we did not have growing up, but have become quickly addicted to. The list is almost endless, but I'm just going to mention a very few in this blog. We did not have air conditioning when I was growing up, but we did have a big attic fan that moved the warm air around the house all day long. I would leave my bedroom windows open at night, and the air would suck the curtains over my bed like a set of ghosts hovering over me. Of course the windows were open, the doors unlocked, and the keys were in the car because crime and drugs were virtually non-existent. These days I keep my heating and cooling man's phone number on my speed dial because I figure that I can survive about three hours without a functioning cooling system.

We did not have cell phones. As a matter of fact, I remember our first phone in the house. We were on an 8 party line which meant 8 families out here in the sticks shared the same line. Each family's phone had a distinctive ring. Ours was two short rings followed by one long ring. If you were a child and you were using the phone when an adult from another family picked up the phone to use it, you would hear someone say, " You young'uns get off the phone. I need to make a call". And we would hang up pronto. Now days, my cell phone attached to my hip seems as essential to me as my billfold and pocket knife.

We did not have GPS, and this is the one that I am going to close on for today. All of our tractors are equipped with GPS units. The tractors actually lay out and plant the rows of crops in unerring straight lines. The inside of our farm tractors look like the cockpit of a jet. In my day, we had to use a row marker and a steady hand to plant our rows. My Dad once commented that some of my rows were so crooked that we were going to have to bend the plows in order to cultivate our peanuts.

I read a book a couple of years ago titled, One Second After. I encourage everyone to read it. It tells a fictional tale of what happens in the US if something destroys all of our computer and GPS systems in an attack. I wonder if anyone under 30 years of age even knows how to read a map? I fear that many of the skills and talents of our ancestors are lost to antiquity. I am happy to say that I am still of the generation that can identify and live by the words of the old Hank Williams, Jr. song, A Country Boy Can Survive. In that song, Hank says," I can skin a buck, I can bait a trot line because a country boy can survive"!

Well, this old boy can survive, but I would prefer to keep my creature comforts and technology that I have grown accustomed to!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Of cats and dogs

Over this past Father's Day weekend, my older sister and I were reminiscing about our lives as children growing up in the country. I reminded her that Pop had me in the tobacco and peanut fields before daylight while she never had to do that because she was a "girl". She quickly came back and said,"yes, but I had to go to the garden every morning to pick peas and butterbeans. Then I had to shell the darn things until my fingers were numb. After that, Mama would make me go to the fence line to pick blackberries to make a blackberry pie for her hard working men in the field".

And then Sis took it one step too far when she said, " I had to pick blackberries for y'all while dodging rattlesnakes". That's when the memories came flooding back. My sister was a cat person while I have always been a dog man. She loved cats, and had them all around her. I always felt like her cats were looking at me thinking," If I just weighed 25 more pounds, I would kill you and eat you right on this spot". I guarantee you that none of her cats would have jumped between her and a rattlesnake while I had more than one dog do that for me.

If we had the coyotes back then that we do now, they would have all been sitting around the Cox house wearing a red napkin around their necks and a knife and fork in their hands just waiting for one of Sis's cats. I learned a lot of things about cats while learning to dislike them. It is true that no matter how you turn them or how far you drop them, they do,indeed, land on their feet. I paid a terrible price to learn that lesson. Did I mention that my older sister could beat me up until I was in the seventh grade?

Now before any of you cat lovers get really mad, please let me say that I do not hate cats. As a matter of fact, I have two daughters that I love so much that I allowed them to own a cat that lived in my house. They gave her the very unique name of "Kitty", and Kitty lived with us for 19 years. Both me and my dogs got very comfortable with the cat. My first lab even got to where she would only take a half-hearted snap at Kitty's tail every now and then. I don't think that she really wanted to bite the cat. She just wanted Kitty to know that it might happen.

I've had some stubborn, hard-headed dogs in my life, but I have never had a dog that failed to love me unconditionally.As my Dad once told me," lock your wife and dog up in the trunk of the car for an hour, and then open it. See which one is happy to see you". I never got up the nerve to try that experiment. Cats appear to act as if we were placed upon the earth to serve them. Just in case my sister were to decide to take offense, why don't we just leave this with this comment." I'm a dog man, and always will be"!

 Below is a painting of my beloved Lab, Sugar, who departed this world about three weeks ago. My sweet daughter-in-law had this painting done for me as a Christmas present a few years ago. It is one of my treasured possessions. I still go to bed thinking about Sugar, and wake up missing her. Nothing gave her more joy than seeing me each morning, and I felt the same way about her.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Thoughts on Father's Day

Pope John XIII said, " It is easier for a father to have children than for a children to have a real father". I believe that no truer words have ever been spoken. If I could judged as achieving any goal in my life, I would like for it to be said at my funeral that I was a good father and grandfather. But, we all learn this profession by following in the footsteps of our own fathers, and that is what is wrong with today's society. There are simply way too many homes without a father in them. How do sons learn without a role model to follow?

So, I would like to take a few minutes to pay tribute to my father who taught me so many of life's lessons, some of them the hard way. I loved, respected, and yes, feared my Dad. He taught me that any job worth doing was worth doing right. He also instilled in me a work ethic, and a desire to succeed. Pop was a tough task master. When I was about 12 years old, my appendix ruptured, my liver abscessed, and I had gangrene throughout my body. The doctors gave me about a one in one hundred chance of surviving the surgery. How did I get in such bad shape? It was because Pop would not let me stop pulling weeds out of a peanut field just because I was complaining of a stomach ache. In his defense, I had used the old stomach ache trick in the past to escape some unpleasant jobs on the farm. Pop later told me that he would never have forgiven himself had I died. Guess what--I would have had fairly hard feelings about it myself !

 My Dad was one of the best wing shots and fishermen I ever knew. He almost never failed to get a double on a quail covey rise, and could tell you whether the birds he shot were mail or female. I, on the other hand, could just see a blur of feathers, and was delighted to just drop a bird. I did become as good of a shot as my Dad, but I never could tell whether I had shot males or females until the dogs retrieved them.

I never did become as good of a fisherman as my dad. He always told me that my basic problem with fishing was that I had to be smarter than the fish. I think that he was implying something with this snide comment, but I chose to ignore it.

Pop was a visionary. When he and Mom began Riverview Plantation in 1957, we were the pioneers of commercial quail hunting in the south. Most of Dad's friends just hooted and laughed over the insane idea that people would pay money for what had always been a free privilege in the south. Pop could also look at a raw piece of land, and see the developed potential. He taught me how to do that.
 Pop was not perfect as none of us are. He battled a problem with alcohol for the better part of his life, but he conquered that demon in 1974, and never took another drink. That proved to me that prayer works, but it works on God's time rather than mine because I sure prayed for my father to quit drinking for many years before he quit.

One of the memories that I will cherish the most was the years that my Dad, my son, and I got to spend together hunting, fishing, and talking about life in general. We would have a cup of coffee together every morning at 7:00 am. That was when I discovered why grandfathers and grandsons are so close to one another--They share a common enemy. Those two would gang up on me unmercifully. I have learned that lesson, and am cultivating Cader B. Cox V even as a two year old. If I am blessed with long life, pay back is going to be a ----- for my son, and I can hardly wait.

In the meantime, I wish all of you fathers a happy Father's Day, and I honor and cherish the memories of the fathers who have gone on to be with the Lord!