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!

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

It's hot in South Georgia

Since we are primarily a fall and winter resort, our guests often ask us why we do not open up our beautiful facilities during the spring and summer months. I can certainly understand their feelings as they watch the beautiful Flint River roll by while enjoy a crisp autumn or cold winter day. I always reply," Folks, you really have to be a native to endure the summer months here". The heat, humidity, and gnats are real killers!

I have an evangelist buddy, Thomas, whom I love to death. One of his favorite lines is, " I try to preach heaven sweet and hell hot". Well, Thomas, my young friend, if hell is any hotter than South Georgia is today, I'm going to be a REAL good boy! I could not bear the thought of being this miserable for eternity.

 Cader IV and I just got back from the sweet corn field. Those folks started hand picking sweet corn at 5:45 this morning, and they will probably be finished with that planting by 3:30 today. They are some very tough human beings, and I admire the heck out of their stamina and perseverance. I have attached a photo of our weatherman's hand as he was pointing to the predicted temperatures for today during the 5:30 am news this morning. He got it correct this time ! Our property lies between Camilla and Bainbridge if you need a better idea of what life is like here today.

I'm going to sign off for now and work on my behavior so that I never have to worry about visiting hell since I've come close enough for comfort today.

Friday, June 12, 2015

English Cockers

I'm hoping that in the future some of my IT folks are going to show me how to post some photos with my blogs. Right now, I'm posting a blog,then forwarding that blog to my Facebook account where I DO know how to include photos. I took a couple of good photos of these sweet flushing and retrieving dogs this morning. Well, actually Cader IV snapped the photos since my hands shake a wee bit. Martha often complains about my pictures being fuzzy.

If any of you do go to Facebook after reading the blog, you will see a couple of photos of really pretty English Cockers in various ages and stages of training. You will also notice Chuck, Jerry, and Andy in those two photos since they are the three men primarily working in the breeding and training of these lovable dogs. If perchance, these three employees appear to be a little "well fed", I should note that sweet corn is so cheap this year that we are paying salaries this summer in crates of sweet corn rather than dollars. Evidently, they are getting their money's worth.

There is an old song about two tear drops falling and rolling slowly to the ocean. One tear drop is a drop of sorrow over the loss of a loved one. I experienced that tear drop this week as I laid my beloved Lab to rest in my yard. The other tear drop is one of joy over the birth of a new soul entering the world. I had the privilege of seeing that this week also as two of our best English Cocker females had healthy deliveries of litters this week. Jerry and Cheri served as midwives on both litters. They have been very proud of the mothers who have taken to motherhood with much enthusiasm. It may surprise you to know that sometimes Mama dogs are not good mothers, and will reject their puppies. I can't tell you how many bird dog puppies I had to nurse as a child with one of my sister's baby doll bottles because the mother would not let her puppies nurse.

Both of these litters come from great bloodlines, and we are very excited about their prospects. Meanwhile Chuck and Andy tell me that their started dogs are all progressing in their training on schedule or ahead of schedule. The English Cocker is a very smart animal. They are also one of the most affectionate breed of dogs that I have ever been around. When Jerry was holding two of the puppies this morning, they were wagging their tails and about to lick me to death. I absolutely love the smell of puppy breath! You can take all of the perfumes in the world, and it would not smell as good as that to me.

While my heart just is not ready for another dog right now as I continue to mourn the loss of my sweet Sugar, I am going to have to be very careful around these dogs because one could steal my heart in a minute.


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Im memory of my beloved Lab, Sugar

Last night Sugar took her last ride with Martha and me. She was almost 14 years old, and her hips and joints finally gave out all at once yesterday. She could not climb up the two steps she likes to climb up to rest on the door step in our garage. I held her in my lap as Jerry kindly helped us drive her to the vet. For the entire ride to Bainbridge, she continued to lick the tears from my eyes, and assured me that she had led a good life and knew that she was loved. As I held her head in my arms while the vet administered the medicine, the last thing that she tried to do before closing her eyes for eternity was to lick my face once more.

I had already called Cader IV, and he was digging her grave on the banks of her beloved Flint River that she so enjoyed swimming in daily. Cader IV's precious daughter ,Caroline, sent over a few flowers left over from her dance recital, and we laid them on top of the grave when we were finished.

And then the tears and memories came flooding in. Sugar was almost 14 years old. I remember like yesterday the day we went to Rodney and Luci's house to pick our puppy from the litter. This litter all ran to big dogs with the females weighing 80-95 pounds and the males weighing 100-125 at maturity.The only thing we were certain of is that we wanted a female. Martha asked me on the way," How will we decide which puppy to choose"? I told her that we would not choose the puppy, but the puppy would choose us. When we arrived, Rodney let all of the puppies out, and we sat on the ground while they cavorted around us. One little brown fur ball kept climbing between my legs and nestling in my lap while the others rambled here there and yonder. I knew that our dog had chosen us, and we registered her as " Martha's Sweet Brown Sugar". Of course, she quickly became known as just Sugar.

Sugar was my first Lab that I owned after all of my children were grown; so I was able to train her as a real hunting dog. I had allowed the kids to ruin the others by chasing after them with balls, but I have always believed that it was more important for the kids to have a pet than for me to own a jam-up retriever. I did not have that to contend with when Sugar came along; so I trained her to be a first class retriever as well as a wonderful companion. She may have been the smartest dog I ever owned, and had an excellent nose as well as eyesight.She learned hand signals on her own by jogging with me daily as a puppy. When we would come to a fork in the road, I would motion to her which direction I planned to jog. She had directional hand signals down pat before we ever really started serious training. Once trained to all commands, she would only obey Martha if she looked at me first as if to ask," Do I have to do what she says"? That was funny to both Martha and me as she would only obey a sit,stay, or come command from Martha after looking at me for a head nod.

On our first dove hunt, everyone was in stitches watching her. When no birds were coming in, she would insist on crawling in my lap. She probably weighed about 75 pounds then, and 75 pounds of fur sitting in your lap in September is hot. I also recall on that hunt, I made a snap shot at a dove flying behind me in a thicket. I thought that I had missed the bird. Sugar kept whining and trying to leave our stand, and I was becoming agitated. Jerry Cooper, who is a great dog trainer, was on the stand up from me. He finally walked down to me and said," Boss, you killed that bird. I saw it go down, and Sugar did also. She wants to go get that bird". I turned her loose, and she came back proudly in about five minutes with a dove in her mouth.

Another thing that absolutely amazed me about Sugar was how gentle she was with my grandchildren. The only time she ever hurt any of my triplets who were very young when Sugar was young too was when she would accidentally knock them over wagging that big tail of hers because she was always so happy to see them.It absolutely floored me that a dog with enough bite pressure to snap her jaws on an armadillo and squeeze its intestines out of its rear end could feather a tennis ball out of a four year old's hand without ever touching a finger of one of my grandchildren.

 I read a story once of a man who realized that he had died. He found himself walking down a dusty trail with an old dog of his that had died many years ago.After they had walked for a while and had become thirsty, they came to a gate. He knocked on the door. When the gate keeper answered, he asked what this place was and was informed that this was heaven's gate. The man asked if he and his dog could come in and get a drink of water. The gate keeper replied that he was welcome to come in, but no dogs were allowed. The gentleman said, " Well, I reckon that I don't belong here either. They traveled on a few miles and came to another gate. He knocked on that one also, and inquired if he and his dog could come in for a drink of water. The gate keeper replied,"Certainly".Once inside, the man asked what the name of this place was and was told that he was in heaven. The gentleman was puzzled and mentioned that the last place that would not allow his dog in had claimed to be heaven also. St. Peter replied, " NO, that was a test. Any man who would leave his dog and walk in that gate entered hell!

All theology aside, I choose to believe that my sweet Sugar is in heaven. She has all of her strength and stamina back. She can now not only chase squirrels and armadillos, but she's catching them again. I miss her, but I have a lifetime of precious memories of my sweet,old girl!

Friday, June 5, 2015

sweet corn and pine saw timber

We are harvesting two crops on Riverview this summer that could not be more different in character--sweet corn and pine saw timber. I'm going to spend a few minutes talking about each of them this morning. However, when I get to the part about saw timber, I'm going to have to be very careful. I have at least two friends who read my blog who both know more about timber than I do. One is my preacher, and if he catches me in a tale, he will place me in the penalty box.He already placed me in the pew for 'smart Allecs" at Wednesday night prayer meeting. The other person is my good friend,Earl(last name redacted for security reasons), who has purchased about three states and two small countries worth of timber in his life.

First, let's go back to sweet corn for a bit more information about this product. When we first started planting sweet corn on 1982, there were only two varieties of sweet corn, Bonanza yellow corn and Silver Queen white corn. All sweet corn is date harvest determinant. In other words if we planted 15 acres of sweet corn on March 10th, that 15 acres would need to be harvested on June 3rd. With the old varieties mentioned above, if you did not pick it on that exact date, the corn would not be harvestable the next day. It would "dry back" on the ends and would not grade USDA fancy.

With the advent of new seed technology in these shrunken gene, super sweet varieties of sweet corn, several improvements have taken place. First, and most important to the consumer, the new varieties are much sweeter than the old ones. The advantage for the grower of the new seeds is that they are a bit more forgiving on that date determinant harvest day. The one day window has stretched out to two-four days in which the corn can be picked and still grade fancy. However, even accepting the outer edge of four days, that's still a fairly short window to harvest a perishable crop when supplies are heavy and demand is light. Consequently, we sometimes have to walk by a planting of sweet corn in order to stay in fresh,fancy corn. Unless demand picks up very soon, we will begin skipping a planting shortly. Our sweet corn brokers are telling us that our supplies are not too heavy, but the demand is weak right now due to cool weather up in the northeast where the bulk of the nation's population lives. I did not realize that weather affects what one eats. I will eat chili in the dead of summer, but we have already established the fact that I do not think like most folks.

Now let's look at pine saw timber. We are conducting a much needed timber thinning program here this summer which will improve our quail hunting. We have not cut any timber on Riverview since 2004. We would have thinned again in 2008, but the "Great Recession" hit about then, and the housing market collapsed. Timber prices plummeted as much as 40%. Now here is where the big difference in sweet corn and pine trees come into play. While sweet corn has a four day window, timber has a 50 year window. That old pine tree did not care whether it was cut or not. It just sat there and continued to grow. Not only did that tree not spoil because we were unable to harvest it, the tree actually got more valuable while waiting for the market to adjust.

As I said earlier, I have a couple of friends who will read this that know a lot more about timber than I do. But I will guarantee you that neither of them enjoy watching a pine tree grow anymore than I do.One of the books that I was required to read in high school was written by a man named T.S. Elliott. There is a line in one of his books that says," I have measured out my life in coffee spoons". Well, I have measured out my life here by watching trees that we have planted grow to maturity.I see majestic pines in places that I once remember helping my Dad plant peanuts. There is one tract of mature pines on our Lakeview hunting course that I used to step over the tops of when I was teaching Cader IV how to quail hunt. While seeing those trees soar to such heights makes me feel old sometimes, I love the fact that we are cutting and replacing trees for the next generation.

God gave us the stewardship of the land. Trees clean the air and protect our waters and streams from runoff. I'm proud to be a tree farmer. I like growing sweet corn also. It's just more fun when profitable, but the fat lady ain't sung yet on the corn crop. We are just getting started good!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Musings

Well, I left the sweet corn field shortly after daylight and rode up to the chilling plant to see how many semis had shown up during the night after I went home. There were six big trucks in the yard, and I had been praying for about 20. Come on folks! You need to get corn hungry all over this great nation.
 While Martha and I were sitting out on our patio last night following a brief and blessed shower, my mind got to wandering about some of the things that I had read lately of a political nature.

A month or so back our current administration in Washington stated that unemployment was at the root of terrorism. They indicated that what we needed to do was find jobs for these poor terrorists. I believe that millions of dollars have been poured into the city of Baltimore over the last decade using that same thought process. That's turned out to be a real winning plan, has it not?

Now and even more ludicrous, I read that President Obama calls climate change and global warming an indisputable security threat. He stated that climate change aggravated tensions and creates political insecurity. Let's think about this for a few minutes. First of all, when we speak of global warming, we are talking about a rise of temperatures in the tenths of a degree over a period of time. Does anyone honestly believe that someone who lives in a region where the temperature is 110 degrees in the shade is suddenly going to go stark raving crazy when the thermometer rises to 110.1? I bet that tenth of a degree is what pushed ISIS over the edge.

Another reason that I struggle with this excuse for terrorism is that I live in a fairly hot part of the world. During the months of July and August, it is not unusual for us to go days on end with temperatures approaching 100 degrees each day. Coupled with that heat is high humidity which normally creates a temperature/humidity index of 105-114 regularly. To the best of my knowledge, I have dealt with this weather for 65 years without ever feeling prone to strap on a suicide vest or behead anyone. Lord only knows how much meaner ISIS would be if they had to deal with the heat AND our south Georgia gnats.

Finally, I need to defend the current administration by stating perhaps I am not wired to think like the rest of this country any more. While watching the local Albany news last night, I watched a clip where they were interviewing the police chief about a rash of lawn mower and lawn equipment thefts. He stated," Well, it is the season for these thefts". Color me stupid, but I did not realize that burglary had a season. I know there are harvest,football, and hunting seasons, but theft season is a new one on me.