The Ballad of Oscar and Reeva

(To the tune of “Frankie and Johnny”)

Oscar and Reeva were lovers;
It will come as no shock.
She was a 5-8 model;
He an Olympic jock.
He was her man, and he done her wrong.

Now Oscar was a macho gun-lover,
Sharpened his skills at the range,
The semi-automatic pistol by his bed
Didn’t seem all that strange.
He was her man, and he done her wrong.

One night the two lovers quarreled,
She hid from his anger in horror,
But rooty-toot-toot, Oscar did shoot
Right through that bathroom door.
He was her man, and he done her wrong.

Judge shook his head at Oscar:
“Son, I’d love to turn you loose,
“But you don’t have a leg to stand on
“With that sorry lame excuse.
“You were her man, and you done her wrong.”

©Arnold  J. Bradford, 2013.



I always thought I steered my bike with my hands, pulling or pushing the handlebars to one side or the other.  Then I read an article in Bicycling Magazine.  They were evaluating high-end, high performance bikes new on the market.  One review commented about how a particular bike was responsive to just a subtle shift of a hip or shoulder.

I decided to check out my actual body mechanics as I rode day before yesterday and today.  I have been aware, of course, of the way an extended knee on a sharp turn shifts the center of gravity and makes the turn quick and smooth.  And the interconnectedness of the two joints is obvious: “The knee bone’s connected to the leg bone, / The leg bone’s connected to the hip bone, / Now hear the word of the Osteopath.”  Likewise, the arm connects the bar-gripping hands to the shoulders.

But what I discovered was that all along, without knowing it, I too have in fact been steering with my hips and shoulders.  All subtle movement starts there, and the knees, as they pedal, are more or less the flunkies that carry out the orders of the hips; the wrists and hands deliver the shrugs and twitches of the shoulders to the fork.

Maybe I’ll be a better bike handler now that I know what’s going on.  It sure can’t hurt.  Knowing where motions truly originate, I should be able to control my bike’s movements more precisely.  And I should be able to initiate those motions more quickly because I have a better visual concept of the mechanics involved.

Never too late to learn something new.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.

What Will Poor Robin Do Then?

The doldrums of these winter days lead me to wonder about animal behaviors.  On our quarter-acre plot, what creatures are alive and where are they hanging out?  I am guessing there’s more than we think.  Right now I am reading a novel by Jim Lynch called Border Songs.  The protagonist is an awkward man called Brandon who is preternaturally attuned to birds, especially their calls.  He automatically keeps a daily running total of the species he hears calling, and that total usually exceeds 20, often many more.  He’s a Border Patrolman in Washington State, and while his supervisor and mentor thinks he’s carrying binoculars better to see criminals with, he’s really more interested in scouting the flocks of water birds on his daily patrol route.  So far, good read.

Brandon might have a field day on our suburban lot too, but his range would be most limited.  A couple of weeks ago as I went out to get the newspaper just post-dawn (young readers might need to be reminded that some of us elders are addicted to getting our news each morning in hard copy, rolled and bagged and flung into our yard around 5 a.m. by a delivery “boy” with a polysyllabic unpronounceable surname, but if the Caps are playing in Vancouver there’s a big picture of early game action where the game report should be) I startled a pair of Cardinals from the front-stoop-side bushes.  And about the same time I noticed that in a band of 25 or 30 Starlings carpeting our lawn there were 5 or 6 Robins, hopping on the fringes of the flock, looking for the same grubs.  Many Robins evidently do not migrate, but stay around all winter, riding out the few really miserable days in some kind of sheltered roosting spot.

But “the cold wind doth blow / And we shall have snow.”  Or shall we?  So far this winter our total snowfall must be 3 or 4 inches, accumulated in 4 or 5 very light snowfalls resulting from rapidly passing frontal boundaries, or “Clipper Systems.”  They apparently were first called “Alberta Clippers” because of their origins in central Canada and their rapid movement (the first “clippers” were fast ships designed to sail “around the horn” of South America between the American east coast and the west coast in relatively quick time).  Despite, or perhaps because of, the cold temperatures, far below our low-40s normal highs, we’ve had no major coastal storms, the “nor’easters.”

Yet the birds are present very sporadically.  When it stays below freezing all day I can watch for considerable stretches of time and see nothing.  Then one morning, three days ago, in very rapid succession about 9:30 a.m., we were visited by our neighborhood gang of 3 or 4 Blue Jays, a Starling flock with several Robins again, and a Northern Flicker, who flew around the bushes a while, perched in a high tree, and then came down to sit for at least 15 or 20 minutes right in the middle of the back yard.

Then nothing.  No visible signs of avian presence for two days.  This morning, a flock of several Robins.  That’s it.  I have a feeling I am missing something, and I’ll be on patrol inside and out over the next several days to try to determine what’s going on with the local birds.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2013.