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Do you miss sunshine and long days? I do

We are in the shortest days of the year right now. The winter solstice will be in just a few days, December 21st, the shortest day of the year. We all see it, we all feel it, especially here in central Pennsylvania, Upstate New York, Michigan’s UP, Canada, and I am sure in Russia, too. Just when you feel like the day is about to begin, like your formal work day ends and you are ready to do something fun, it’s actually dark outside. Gloomy. Usually cold, windy, and raw, because it is Winter, after all. Darkness now comes at four o’clock in the afternoon, and by 6:00 PM dinner time, everyone is yawning and stretching, ready for bed, feeling like it must be hours later than it actually is. Because of the early darkness.

I don’t know about you, but this early darkness business is just wearing on me, and I am feeling ready for some happy sunshine and those longer days where I can actually do something fun or productive after working hours. My mind keeps skipping to June and July, when the sun doesn’t set until 9:00-9:30, and we spend all afternoon outside, either doing yard work, or gardening, or just enjoying the nice weather and long days to get stuff done at a leisurely pace. Sundays can be spent barbecuing in the back yard with friends or family….ahhhh, that sunshine and daylight is just so rewarding.

This small fact keeps my chin up: We are about to turn the corner on daylight. In just four days, every day will be getting longer and will have more daylight. This gives my mind something happy to hitch onto. I miss sunshine and longer days, and in fact, they are just about to start.

Hang in there, folks. I know you miss sunshine just like I do. Spring will be here before we know it, and with it all the happiness and relief from these long, dark, dreary, cold days. From yeccchh to yay, coming up soon.

Hang in there.

An apple picker I know has an early morning sunrise and stretch on a farm


I wouldn’t hire a Harvard grad to tie my shoes

Like a bazillion other Americans, I run a small business. Mine is in the land and natural resource management sector. Every week I interface with men and machines, dirt, danger, hard work, and serious situations. Little margin for error, feewings, or personal tantrums.

And when I watched the whole Harvard University debacle unfold over last week, culminating on Friday in students, administrators, and faculty alike all rallying around the racist failure university president, Claudine Gay, I realized something profound: I would rather hire a young, hard-working rural person born to a serious work ethic and with a willingness to take reasonable risks to achieve the work goal, who maybe got tenth grade under his belt before going to work for a living, than to try to train a Harvard University mis-educated fragile weenie with no work ethic, an unreasonable expectation of life, and an obsession with unrealistic nonsense.

Said another way: For many years my experience has been that the attorneys I have worked with, whose law degrees were from “East Succotash University,” as opposed to, say, Harvard Law School, were the very best lawyers I have worked with. To a man and a woman, these so-called “no-name” law school grads are gritty, tough, take no prisoners, hard working fighters who zealously represent the interests of their clients. They always get me results. On the other hand, if I had a dollar for every big name lawyer who only wrote letters to my defendants, and who was afraid to actually file a legal complaint and follow it up with court room litigation, I would be a wealthy man.

Perhaps this comes down to rural character versus urban, because graduates from the small schools, the community colleges, the trade schools, almost all come from rural working backgrounds. These are kids who don’t come from money, don’t really know what having money is like, but they do have a strong work ethic and pride in accomplishment. Because in the communities they grew up in, tangible results are the name of the game. Their families got by with a roof over their heads and food on the table because they daily delivered actual hands-on results that America is willing to pay for, and got paid, as opposed to the spoiled, whiny, entitled urban kids populating Harvard University and the other purportedly high quality Ivy League schools. These kids come from the world of manicured lawns, expensive clothes, and fancy cars from young ages whose parents engage in vague numbers work and white collar make-work paper-pushing administrative exercises whose value-added to America is, well….vague.

Forget the poor technical training, the mis-education and Stalinist/ Maoist/ fascist indoctrination that Harvard University inflicts on its students, just on family and cultural background alone, I would be very unlikely to hire a kid from Harvard University, in the off-chance that such an opportunity presented itself. Unless it’s in the hard/ physical sciences, computer science, or math, a person with a Harvard University degree today would not interest me either as a conversationalist, a lunch partner, a book club member, or an employee/ contractor.

I don’t think Harvard University produces high quality graduates any longer. Probably not for the past ten or fifteen years, and maybe even longer. I think the opposite is true, that this school produces societal and workplace misfits who can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag. They have had little to no critical thinking and analytical skills training. If you are foolish enough to hire a recent Harvard University graduate these days, you are going to learn quickly just how failed that school is and how useless these human beings are who are graduating from it.

Yes, all my life I have known Harvard grads, as well as other Ivy League grads, and today’s Ivy League grads are not that old caliber, not anywhere close. The old reputation has been lost because of people like Claudine Gay, who have traded it for short term power over foolish young people.

Most Harvard University graduates today are not fit to tie your shoe. Not for money or for free.

Jerry Johnson & Johnson’s Furs

A fascinating and wonderful human named Jerry Johnson went to meet his Maker recently, and I would like to say why I am going to miss him so much.

Jerry founded and ran Johnson’s Furs in Enola back in the 1960s. Initially started to just buy, aggregate, and re-sell wildlife furs from foxes, coyotes, bobcat, mink, skunk, possum, raccoons etc., Jerry expanded the business to encompass everything possibly related to furs, like annually buying hundreds of thousands of deer and cattle hides, selling Hawbaker and Carman trapping lures, foothold traps, cage traps, Conibear-style traps, snares, cable restraints, and all of the steel fittings that go with those implements.

Jerry’s inspiration and logistical support came from the number one person in the trapping business back then, Stanley Hawbaker. A central Pennsylvania native, nationally recognized trapping expert and proponent Stanley Hawbaker was most active during the heyday of fur trapping, and he designed trapping lures and baits that are still in high demand today. Despite being a competitor for trappers’ business, Hawbaker saw in Jerry Johnson a rare opportunity to expand the trapping industry beyond its narrow focus at that time. And so Johnson’s Furs grew into a regional powerhouse.

I interviewed Jerry Johnson several times over the past fifteen years, and each time was fascinating. He and I were supposed to get together for some video interviews this spring, but his declining health prevented him from getting out or from talking for more than a few minutes. One of our most interesting times together was in his newly reconstructed log cabin, about five years ago.

The benefits enjoyed from Jerry’s incredible energy included having a one-stop shop for buying everything a trapper needs, as well as being able to drop off both pelts and whole critters. Johnson’s correctly processed everything brought in, and dealt with all of the big tanneries. During my last discussion with Jerry, just a few months ago, when I dropped off a huge elk hide for tanning, he reflected on the fact that only one tannery remains in eastern America that can tan an elk hide. He said he had witnessed the explosive growth of the hide and trapping industries in the 1960s and 1970s, and then had lived to see their eventual retraction and maybe even the demise of the cattle and deer hide businesses.

Jerry Johnson was the nicest person you would ever meet in your life. He was kind, patient, funny, and friendly. Like almost everyone of his generation in Central Pennsylvania, he did not know the word “quit,” and he worked very hard and long hours well into his 80s. And his prices were fair to the point of sometimes being unfair to him. When I ran for public office, he put my brochures up in the office and talked me up to interested voters.

Every year for a long time the District 8 PA Trappers Association held a Jerry Johnson Appreciation Lunch. Because it was on a Saturday and during the heart of hunting season, I never could participate. But Jerry knew I appreciated him because I told him so, so many times, over so many years of buying trapping equipment from him and having him process my furs.

I could write a short book here about what Jerry told me, about his youth, his education, his family, and his small business work. Maybe some day I will write a chapter about Jerry, but for now this is what I have to say: He was one of the last of a dying breed of Americans who grew up working hard, with his family, and who worked hard up until his death in his 80s. Jerry enjoyed and loved America and his fellow Americans, and never asked for more than a fair shot at doing business.

Among many other of your fans, I will miss you, Jerry Johnson. I will miss your advice, your quick smile, your quick wit, your outstanding service, and your kind personality. Thank you for all you did for me and my son, and for countless other trappers in the region.

Jerry Johnson and the Princess of Patience in 2021 in front of Johnson’s Furs

Jerry Johnson in 2020, minus mask and no social distancing, thank God.

About James O’Keefe’s apparent ouster at Project Veritas

Because I have both served on numerous boards of directors and also worked for and with non-profit organizations that are subject to oversight by a board of directors, for many years, a kind of “sense of things about boards of directors” has developed in my mind.

My take on the apparent ouster of James O’Keefe at Project Veritas, the organization he founded and ran superbly for twenty five years, is that political moles were planted on his board in order to take down the organization.

Yes, James O’Keefe is probably a tough boss to work for. Given his incredible track record of real investigative journalism, he would have to be a tough boss. When I watch his videos and his reports and his hands-on real reporting from the street, I have no doubt that he drives his employees to work almost as hard as he works. And apparently in February 2023, having a tough boss who demands that employees strive for excellence and who holds employees accountable for failing, is now grounds for terminating the boss.

At least this is the standard for board members who want the tough boss gone so the organization can be greatly weakened.

And isn’t it simply amazing that the two board members who want James O’Keefe removed from his own Project Veritas are the two newest board members? One has to wonder just how much money is being secretly paid to board members by the targets of PV’s investigations, to incentivize them to take such a drastic step, especially as such new members. New board members are usually “back bench” and “learning the ropes” of the organization’s board they just joined. When someone new joins a board and immediately begins to significantly, even catastrophically dismantle the organization, then it is a clear sign that the person joined not to help but to hurt the group.

I once worked for an organization where a newly appointed and very married executive seemed to be having an open affair with a subordinate. Employees who obviously knew about the relationship were either summarily or eventually fired by the executive after he took power, and as a result the board became heavily fractured. Big time infighting on the board resulted, and about a year later the executive was allowed back into board meetings, held onto his job, cemented his power over the board and the organization, and survived.

When I see the apparent blitzkrieg coup d’etat against James O’Keefe at Project Veritas, I absolutely know that something is really deeply awry on the board. And the only explanation I can logically arrive at is that huge sums of money were paid by the enemies of PV to people on the board to act as moles and work directly against the interest of the organization.

For the record, I have donated to Project Veritas about a dozen times over the years. It is one of the very few investigative news outlets left on Planet Earth, and PV repeatedly showed a huge glaring spotlight on a lot of really bad, illegal, and immoral behavior by people in positions of public trust and power. As we all know, democracy dies in darkness, and the enemies of democracy and the advocates of darkness are now trying to turn off the lights at Project Veritas.

Wherever James O’Keefe goes, so goes my support.

UPDATE: James O’Keefe’s resignation discussion.

Keith Oellig, another American keeping America moving forward

Every day of his life, Keith Oellig was one of the few Americans who, rain or shine, kept America moving forward. He grew the crops and raised the beef that Americans across America take for granted every day that they simply buy and eat these products.

Raised on a central Pennsylvania farm with chores and work, work, work before play, Keith’s friendship was as strong as his nonstop work ethic. He was a dear and devoted friend to many fortunate people, including me, and he died unexpectedly last week from a life-long heart condition he managed as best he could until it caught him by surprise one last time. He was just 56 years old.

This essay is my way of memorializing this amazing human being, and saying goodbye.

Keith was a representation of everything the farming life is supposed to be – down to earth, honest, truthful, hard working, generous, natural, patriotic, devoted to community and fellow man. He served on many boards, including the Dauphin County Farm Bureau, the Central Dauphin East School Board, the Dauphin County Planning Commission, and others I can’t recall off the top of my head.

His heart was golden, always ready to do a kindness for someone, and the more distant the stranger the better. Almost every year he grew great patches of sweet corn and donated much of it to his church food pantry, and to any others in need. But they would have to pick it themselves. Straight out of the Bible, which is what inspired him, drove him, filled him.  (Those friends who merely enjoyed sweet corn got the phone call that it was ripe about three days after everyone else in true need had had a shot at it)

Keith was politically active, but he had mixed feelings and thoughts about politics, because so much of it is divorced from the sacred walk of life whose values he cherished.

Every election he and I would run around his farms putting up signs, especially really big ones along the road frontages and both sides of I-81 by Penn National Race Track/ Hollywood [!?] Casino.  And as hard as he worked putting them in, Keith would also grouse about career politicians, even about the person whose sign he was putting in. He even did it to me when I ran for state senate. Like out of a comedy movie: “Sure, I’ll help ya, and I’ll bet you’re going to be just as corrupt as everyone else. Now hurry up because we have a lot more signs to put in the ground.”

Here he is with one of two big banners we put up last October at his main farm, one on either side of I-81.  Every.Single.Vehicle.Driving on I-81 honked at us. We used a loader with bale spikes and twine, and it was hard but fun work. 
This is how many of us will remember Keith, with his innocent, gentle smile and loving eyes.

Keith and I worked as a team to fell dozens of dead and dying ash trees, and some oaks and poplars (see background), in an area where he wanted to expand the cattle pasture. I ran the chainsaw while he pushed with the front end loader. It was dicey and scary work, as his smashed windshield shows. A week later, a huge limb carved a gigantic V in that cab, but Keith just kept on, peering around either side of the destroyed metal and glass to see where he was going.

I am sure going to miss you, buddy

Why socialism is now “cool”

Several years ago at a political candidate’s announcement event, an older woman came up to the candidate after his speech while I was standing next to him, and asked him to do something about how liberal colleges have become. I was close enough to both people to see their feelings.

“My grandson became a socialist and has disavowed everything his family has worked hard for since we moved here from Italy three generations ago,” she said, almost crying.

The Republican candidate seemed unmoved. Fighting socialist indoctrination on college campuses is probably not a big potential money maker for most would-be elected officials.

And no question about what she said, American colleges are now Ground Zero for socialist indoctrination and brainwashing. You can take a good kid from a solid loving, working home, with law-abiding working parents, a good work ethic, good grades, and a positive outlook on life, and within two semesters at pretty much any college in America, lose them to chic leftist radicalism. That is, socialism aka Everything that America is Not.

Which begs the question of Why.

My observation is socialism is popular because the younger generations have had to fight for nothing. They are spoiled rotten.

Everything has been given to them. Cars, expensive phones, expensive clothes, trips, freedom to come and go, time off from chores and work, peer-to-peer equal relationships with their parents and grandparents. As a consequence, America’s younger people are the world’s most spoiled little brats in the history of our planet. At their sixteenth birthday they are convinced they already know everything, including how the latest car racing simulator on XBox is actually – I AM NOT MAKING THIS UP – more realistic than actually driving (Yes, I really did hear a 16-year-old say this to his family recently).

As a result of being so spoiled and having no real meaningful adversity in their lives, the younger generations are looking for, searching for, adversity. Even if it means dreaming it up, inventing it out of thin air or out of bits and pieces of reality stitched together with bubblegum and bailing wire. It gives them a sense of meaning and purpose. And when they find it, it gives them a cause. Teenagers are nothing if not moral purists, and when they discover from their fake teachers that all of the money their parents worked hard for is actually stolen from living American Indians and ex-slave Blacks, they have discovered some adversity worth fighting against.

And off on the socialist crusade they go, filled with rage at their parents’ callous disregard for the poor and the suffering, the dispossessed.

The fact that their own grandparents disembarked from a boat into New York Harbor in 1948 with a grand total of a suitcase half-filled with clothes and the name of a nephew to their name doesn’t register. Or if you are from coal country, with your own grandparents telling you stories about how they and their parents worked in and around the coal mines, you are coached by a professor in “sociology” (yes, this is a real college thing, even though it is real nothing) to see your grandparents not as hard workers, but as exploited labor who enriched a bunch of wealthy aristocrats.

The entertainment industry is now the primary source for role models, values, and social cues, and add in some Hollywood movie virtue signalling, and we have now two generations of American kids who are spoiled, nearly worthless, unappreciative, un-grounded, disconnected from reality, and uninterested in anything except behaviors that make them feel good for the moment.

Even though my wife and I come from dramatically different backgrounds, we shared one common experience growing up that forms the foundation for our relationship: We had to work hard from a young age.

My wife made her own nice clothes for school, because neither she nor her parents could afford to buy nice clothes at the stores. And while I grew up splitting firewood daily from the age of nine, I had to work for my dad starting at age 14. Working on construction sites as the boss’s kid, doing all the worst jobs, got me plenty of abuse and socked arms by workers who wanted to put me in my place. I learned then to drink buckets of shit and just do my job, to the satisfaction of the meanest, grumpiest old worker on the crew. So now that I have been paying federal taxes since I was 14, I think I have a work ethic, and my wife does, too.

Like all of our friends our age (fifties), my wife and I actually enjoy working and seeing the fruits of our labors. But like our friends, we are dinosaurs, kind of the last of the dying breed. The last of the Americans. The next couple of generations seem to think that everything is supposed to be handed to them, and it seems they will cheerfully give away their unique American freedoms to a gigantic all-powerful government apparatus if it promises them mediocre “free” income and healthcare.

Not that our own kids aren’t great. They are, and I love them absolutely. Like most parents, we have done our best to raise them right. But I am afraid that college can warp even them, leading them to believe that socialism is the answer for the mean, exploitative parents who made them mow the lawn, take out the trash, and hang up the clean laundry.


Twenty-five years of sitting by the warm fire

Our family burns a lot of firewood every cold season. Usually beginning in late October and going through February, sometimes into March, we burn split oak 24 hours a day.

Nothing heats up a room better and takes the chill out of the air than a fire in a modern wood or coal stove, and nothing provides a better centralized gathering place for people to read, doze, study, or talk than a fire place or stove. It is a real comfort, and if we think about it, humans sitting by a comforting fire goes back what, 100,000 years? Or six thousand? Either way, a long time.

We are back at it once again today, tending a fire, having now endured Winter’s recent biting return without a fire the past week or so.  Something about this late season chill just works its way into the bones. Maybe we kind of let down our guard, anticipating Spring, eager to shed the heavy coats and boots, and enjoy the warm air and freedom to lounge outside once again. Whatever  the reason, the harsh cold issues a strong call for the fire today, and so we lit one. We will run it constantly until we are fully out of Winter’s grip, and enjoying the comfort of the warm sunlight.

There is another sort of fire, however, and this one will never die out.

It is the fire of human passion, and love, and friendship.

It is that kind of fire which two people share after twenty five years of happy marriage together.

Sure, there are some tough times along that twenty-five years, some hard words, some bruised feelings in that period. Birthing and then raising three kids in that time means some disagreement and frustration are inevitable. But these things are part and parcel of living a committed life. And in a way, resolving the disputes makes the fire hotter, Polonius’ hoops of steel stronger. There is no walking out or walking away, quitting when the going gets tough. There is only commitment, fire. Ebbing, flowing, sometimes blazing hot, sometimes a bed of coals, but always a lit fire.

As a much missed now-deceased life advisor used to say to me, two married people are like two knives, constantly rubbing against one another, sharpening one another’s blade. The knives are working tools, cutting through life, getting work done, and by working together side by side, they also continually sharpen each other’s blades, their cutting edges, the working parts. Once in a while they nick one another. That is just the nature of the tool, the nature of married life. The little nick goes with the territory of work.

It is a good analogy, good enough for me. Because when I look back on twenty-five years of good marriage, as marked today, I feel like we are both still sharp, the Princess of Patience still looks sharp, and our cutting edges are holding up strong.

Said  the other way, I have been sitting by a particular fire now for twenty-five years. Once in a while, while tending it, it has singed me, or given me a minor blister, reminding me of its inherent powerful force. Given that I am klutzy, it is logical that I earned those little burns.

But usually this fire is my friend, my best friend, in fact. I am looking forward to another twenty-five years of her warmth and comfort.


Lazy summertime guidance here

It is a scientifically proven fact that humans can endlessly watch three things:

Fire. Not a building on fire, but a campfire or a bonfire can hold a gaze long into the night. The licking flames dance and mesmerize. So long as it is not a threat, fire is intriguing, even consoling. People sitting around a campfire can stargaze and stare silently into the coals for a very long time, no words necessary.

Running water. Tumbling streams, rivers broken by rocks indicating the flow, running water is equally as eye-gluing as fire, except that its sounds can tinkle and chime, often mimicking voices if you listen closely enough. A medium size free-stone stream is probably the most fascinating to watch of all water bodies, because it is a rich mix of intimate nooks and crannies, power, and music.

If you enjoy staring at mirror-still lakes, see a doctor.

Last but not least, people working. Yes, that is right, watching people work is one of the most fulfilling and enjoyable acts you can do. I do it all the time. Try it, you will definitely like it. It beats actually working, but oddly it makes you feel like you are achieving a lot. That right there is perfect summertime, my kind of summer time.

So, in terms of a lazy summer enjoyment, I am looking for a splashy back yard pool, with a dad barbecuing over a natural wood campfire grill nearby. If you are aware of of such a set-up, let me know.

I’ll be able to just sit there and quietly soak it up all day long. And yes, I will bring the beer.

Hope you are enjoying your summertime…

The power of Dad

Call me patriarchal, but the power of “Dad” still awes me, as it has so deeply shaped all human cultures from our beginning.

At his best, Dad is provider, protector, guardian, best friend, guide, advisor, partner….Someone a boy looks up to all his life, wants to emulate, and shares his intimate life struggles with.

Dad is that one person you can always count on, no matter what. It’s a pretty potent symbol and subject. Everyone loves “Dad.”

Fatherhood is so powerful that it can be used to hurt, too, and some father figures don’t seem to recognize their own strength. Or worse, they revel in their ability to punish, or hurt, though that seems to be a dying breed these days.

Today in America, we celebrate the happy and hard working Dads out there who have busted their butts, hoed tough rows, sacrificed and taken risks for their families.

Heck, we see these Hollywood superhero movies and it’s impossible not to laugh. Reality is a lot more compelling!

Just getting our kids off to school on time in clean clothes with all their books and pencils is a real feat. Paying the bills? Now THAT is true hero stuff. It’s not easy. Parents and dads who pull that off are the real heroes, because without them, the wheels come off.

Here’s to the dads- three cheers.

Chapped hands? Recondition your winter boots

My hands have been badly chapped for weeks now. Outdoor work and play, and cold weather have chewed up the thumbs and finger tips on both my hands.  You’d think I actually worked for a living to look at them.

This morning I was reminded about the best way to fix that chapped skin: Recondition leather work boots and hunting boots. Whether it’s Sno-Seal, Danner Boot Cream, or some other natural salve for dry leather, it also works healing wonders on the hands that apply it. And sitting by the warm fire helps, too.