Ask Old Jules: Held a snake, Polygamy, Opposing war, Wise lesson, Greatest life challenge?


Old Jules, have you ever held a snake, what breed & what was it like?

I’ve held a lot of them in my life ranging from rattlers, copperheads and cottonmouths to bullsnakes, gopher snakes, hognose and kingsnakes. Some were dead, some were alive. Alive ones tend to want you to release them and communicate it by wrapping themselves around your arm. Dead ones are just dead snakes. No particular sensation involved. Past summer I killed a gopher snake 5-6 feet long with 8 bulges spaced along the entire length caused by his having been raiding my chicken house for eggs. Handling that one was a bit weird, I confess.

egg snake 3

Old Jules, isn’t polygamy the solution for enhancing society?

I’ve sometimes thought a woman with several husbands would be an interesting mix. The hubbies who aren’t on duty could play poker, get drunk, watch television or read a book without having to have anything to do with the woman of the house on their days ‘off’.
They’d provide roses, boxes of candy and whatnot when their day in the barrel came up to stay in her favor. She’d love it.
And several adults in the household, husbands-in-law, if she wanted to sit around and eat bonbons all day, could live well with everyone pooling their incomes for the good of the household.
Perfect setup.

Old Jules, what is the most effective way to oppose war?

Refusing to be part of it and refusing to vote for any politician who supports funding for it in countries where elections are a part of the illusion of power might be the only ways. That, and voting for anyone who speaks out against military budgets, military spending, military projection of national power or national interests and concerns.
It ain’t much, but it’s probably all anyone has unless they are ultra-wealthy and part of the actual power community making decisions and manipulating voters and obfuscating actual goals for warfare.

Old Jules, do you have a story that taught you a wise lesson in life?

I learned not to take off a Cessna 140 from a short airstrip when windsocks at both ends of the runway were showing wind in opposite directions. I learned not to have a big breakfast and wait until the density altitude at a 6000 msl runway was feeling the mid-morning sunlight before taking off in an under-powered aircraft.
Most other wisdom in my life acquired the hard way rhymes with those, one way or another.

Old Jules, what is the greatest challenge of our lives?

Learning to be people [individuals] we can love and respect might be the greatest challenge and power we can experience or accomplish this lifetime.
Romantic love is just one of those joys and heartaches we’re blessed with time to time and has little, if no power.
The love that comes with being able to forgive life, humanity and the entire hostile planet of everything feeding on the carcass of everything else is fairly powerful and for the purposes of individual peace it certainly conquers all. Learning to be grateful for the good, the bad and the ugly is probably something requiring love of sorts and it’s definitely a source of power in our lives.

November 30, 1999

Jack had already moved to his property not too far from Pie Town, NM in preparation for Y2K when he wrote this:

11:15 pm November 30, 1999

The Great Divide

Hi Jeanne.

I said I’d be there for Y2k and I will. You might find it comforting to know Roy, the mechanic in Grants will also probably pull an RV out here if things go sour.

Dean, they guy from Belen might also show. Dean is unmarried, but Roy has a wife. Of course, Mel will probably be here, and Vic also. That’s before the stragglers from Acoma, Laguna, Albuquerque and who knows where else begin arriving in whatever numbers they manage to get here.

It’s a dry winter thus far, so there might be a lot of refugees down this way if they shut down I-40 at 117 to keep them out of Grants.

So, there should be a number of good men around to assist you and your family even if anything happens to me, and if Ken doesn’t come with you.

Vic tried to pick up medications for me on his way back to Houston and ran into a lot of trouble at the border. He only got a 60 day supply across. So there’s no telling what size horde of medications I’ll be able to stock.

Guess the Y2K rush to stock up on meds probably got the U.S. pharmaceuticals worrying enough about loss of profits to put pressure on the US Border Patrol. Pretty disgusting. I used to think I loved the United States.

5:40 pm December 1, 1999

The Great Divide

Hi there.

Sinfully satisfying day here despite cold 40 mph gusts.

Started a bit slow, but then cranked up, repaired the chainsaw, put a bed on the little flatbed trailer to pull behind the 4 wheeler, dragged the trailer out to the corner and cut up the dead tree in the right of way, hauled the wood back and stacked it, cut more wood to clear out near the chicken house for better access, stacked the wood, gathered the brush and took it down to the arroyo on the old road through my place, filled about 30 yards of arroyo with brush, went down to the main arroyo and built two rock and brush dams… started them, anyway, one about 4 feet high, the other 5’ or so spanning the arroyo. Eventually I’ll go all the way to the top with them.

Took a shot at the damned red-tail hawk that’s been snagging chickens.. he dropped a wing feather but he’ll be back.

Somewhere in all this I realized I hadn’t eaten. Gathered 5 eggs and cooked them in green Chile.

Built a nice fire in the stove and am relaxing with a cup of hot chocolate and a warm red glow of a day of hard physical labor.

Hmmm. I also raked out a wheel barrow full of rocks to take down to the arroyo from my back yard and prized out 3 really big ones about 250-300 pounds. I’ll fill in the holes with ash from the stove.

Got water heating for a shower. The 2 gallon insecticide sprayer is turning out to be the best method for that. Put in hot water, pump it up and hang it from the rail I strung from the ceiling, stand in the galvanized tub, and it’s as good as the best hotel money can buy.

I’m feeling damned good. Every muscle in my body is discharged.

I have wood for a few more days, some green, some seasoned but fresh, some dry. And if the moisture comes the arroyos are ready and waiting.

Trailer on the 4 wheeler is awfully handy, too.

Cozy in here. Howling wind outside. Life is good.

Best to you,

A letter to Julia, age 6, Part Four (final)

Continued from December 1st, which was Part Three…

9 PM

I’m looking out my west window at the afterglow of sunset– not quite ready to sleep just yet. It was read, or write, so I’ll write a little bit more in the gloaming. Life’s a strange place, Miss Julia. Looking back, I can tell you it’s  a strange place.
As the guy who was among the highly competent and most thorough preparers for Y2K, which is only marginally (about 98+%) diminished by the fact that Y2K didn’t happen– as the almost certain world expert on the Lost Adams Diggings, which I haven’t found and mightn’t exist, and though there aren’t a dozen people out there who care enough about it to even wonder for a moment if it exists– I can tell you a lot about fool’s errands and their value.
Fact is, I’ve done a lot of things in this life–even done most of them pretty well– that didn’t seem at the time to be fool’s errands– weren’t considered fool’s errands by the people around me, even.
But the weird thing at this moment to me is that the Lost Adams diggings and the Y2K experience are a couple of things I’d least want to remove from the record of my life, if I could rewind and erase certain parts.
I used to be well respected in my professions– had  a strong resume. I came across a picture out in a pile of junk in the storage locker of a small group of people with the governor of Texas signing a bill into law that they’d been selected to write because they were leaders in their field. THe picture is out by the chicken house now, still in a pile of junk, me grinning.
What I’m saying, Julia, Michael, Andrew, Kenneth, is that it ain’t a bad idea to be pretty circumspect when you are figuring out what’s important to you in this life. Which things are actually fool’s errands, or maybe which fool’s errands you choose to pursue become important when you are my age looking backward.
All those years of trying to be important in a job, even winning the respect of my peers– 17 years in one job, 7 years in another– didn’t amount to a pimple on a gnat’s backside for the value I put on them today. That 24 years of being really good at something that honestly didn’t need doing at any meaningful level, mainly only paid off in the eventual realizations about myself and what was driving me. Otherwise, fool’s errands.
On the other hand, falling on my face looking for a gold mine that maybe doesn’t exist– betting everything that the world would fall on its face because of a problem that didn’t exits– maybe they were fool’s errands, too, but they had some side benefits– lots of them, that will put them among those things I’ll be glad I didn’t do differently when my life’s flashing before my eyes one of these days.
I’m telling you thing because it’s a cool evening– the mourning doves are calling one another– and I wasn’t quite ready to sleep. Now I am.
Don’t, I’d advise you if I was gonna give you advice, which I’m not, be afraid to make big mistakes and take big risks– it’s all dancing lessons from God.

Courage, and shuffle the cards.


A letter to Julia, age 6, Part Three

Continued from November 29th, which was Part Two…

Same thing with peanuts. About the same time as that butterfly story another came out to be common knowledge that if you found a peanut with six goobers inside there was someone at Eastern New Mexico University that would pay $100 for it. To this day when I come across a really long nut, I look closely to see whether it might hold six goobers before I break it. I’m told kids in my hometown still do the same thing, so there you are.

So what I’m wondering is whether there mightn’t be someone at ENMU who will pay whatever the 2K equivalent is of $100 (1952) for a flock of chickens that are all clucks, save one. Maybe I’ll ask around.
Of course, there might be a problem– the silkies don’t qualify as clucks, I don’t believe– they are smarter than the rest. However, they hardly qualify as chickens. I personally attribute their strangeness to their inscrutable oriental background. So maybe the silkies wouldn’t disqualify me for the Y2K equivalent of $100 at 1950’s values. I don’t know. The odds of finding a 6″ swallowtail or a goober with six peas are hard to calculate– winning the lottery is 82 million to one, I think.
Things might have gone downhill badly in the last 50 years and clucks mightn’t be so uncommon anymore, one to a flock. In fact, nowadays the odds might actually be stacked to you win the lottery if you have a chicken who isn’t a cluck. Maybe there is someone at ENMU that would pay me $100 just for Lady McBeth!

A bit later:
This is getting long, and when I think of it I know just about everything I said after the word “chickens” was  a redundancy..
Give my regards to your mom and dad, your brothers and sister. Although we don’t have any heathen ladies in grass skirts singing “Bali Hai”, likely the various New Mexico girls who saw or heard of your brothers while they were here will pine and pine until they return (though they are probably concealing it from their parents and one another). Likely also the high desert will still be here when you get it into your heads, individually or severally, to come back.
Best to you, Miss Julia.
Best to all of you.

                                                        (to be continued with Part Four)

Ask Old Jules: Life in the ’60’s, Who supports marijuana legalization, Moderate Muslims, Legalizing drugs, Modern society


Old Jules, what was it like living in the 1960’s?

The ’60s were no better, no worse than any since. Different, but certainly not more self-indulgent than those today.
The music was one hell of a lot better, though. And the ’60s had the advantage of some percentage of the living population not having spent their early childhoods staring at televisions and hearing canned laughter.
Also, most people could still read and write.

Do you know there’s no such thing as a non-stoner who supports marijuana legalization? There never has been and there never will be. The only people who think it should be legalized are smokers.

Sounds as though you’re high on Jesus. Do you know there’s no such thing as a non-Christian who supports Christianity? Most of us would be tickled pea green if you just raptured the hell out.

Old Jules, why don’t all these so-called moderate Muslims speak out against or go on marches opposing the extremists?

The same reason Christians never spoke out against the Inquisition. The same reason Christians never spoke out about the 2000 years of slaughter of Jews. The same reason Christians never spoke out about the rape, robbing and murder of Mormons and driving them pushing shopping carts to exile in Utah.
The reason is that probably most Muslims object, but they don’t want the uglies among them knocking on their doors. Any more than you’d want them knocking on your door.

Old Jules, what about legalizing drugs?
Legalizing drugs would create a lot more problems than it would solve. The entire machinery of the illegal drug industry and marketing would have to turn elsewhere to make a living. Cops would have to actually begin holding up convenience stores, politicians would be mugging people in alleyways, prison guards, gangs, lawyers, judges, everyone among them would have to openly begin picking the pockets and otherwise snagging the money of the citizenry in more obvious ways.
Best leave drugs illegal.

Old Jules, what are the beliefs of people living in a modern society ? Their ways of life, religion, dreams,  and who are they?

They’re all over the waterfront. Although there are human genres, they’re certainly not alike.
Mostly they lock their teeth into an idea or viewpoint and obsess with it, or snort a lot of nose candy, or go glazed eyed over people in moving pictures or on television, or spectator sports, then salt it down with a bit of political opinion.
They are disfranchised from everything their ancestors did, believed, had to do to survive. In most of the western world not one person in a thousand has ever seen anything he ate while it was alive. Never killed anything then ate it. Never grew a veggie, nurtured it, then ate it. Don’t know what color the hair was on the piece of an animal they ate out of clear plastic and white foam from the day they were born until now.
If it weren’t for television they couldn’t tell a cow from a swine.
The way of life is one of synthetic ideas and artificial dreams.

A letter to Julia, age 6 (Part Two)

Continued from November 28th, which was Part One:

So, among the flock of humans out here on the Divide, there really aren’t any Lady McBeth’s to speak of, at least among the men. I’m not familiar enough with the wife folks to these fellows to be able to comment.
So here I am, sort of like I’ve won the lottery, in the chicken reality of things. A whole flock of clucks, and can’t make it pay off in green. Shakespeare could probably have done something with this, though it lacks in violence, cheap puns, murder, and slapstick. Hmmm… well, not the slapstick.

Silkies are easy to love– any hen will tell you that. Cromwell and the two speckled birds are easy to be indifferent about. The little red bantam is just what he is– cocky–all bantam–noisy, and about what you’d expect. But I like Rosencrantz for his bizarre looks and contrary nature. Not cluckishness, though he is one, but there’s a style about him that grows on a person. On me, anyway. But then, I’m the guy who believed in Y2K.

However, these hens evidently don’t want a whole lot of foppish Rosencrantz’s strutting about hither, thither, and yon. Maybe it’s just as well. Rosencrantz is in a class all his own now that Guildenstern sleeps with the fishes. Evidently, it’s a class that the hens don’t really want to send into the next generation. They don’t snub him to his face, which is charitable I think, but just let a yellow chick come poking out of an eggshell and there seems to be a unanimity of opinion about where to draw the line.

A bit later:
When I was a boy of butterfly catching age, not much older than you I’d imagine, there was a story around that if you ever got a tiger swallowtail butterfly with a six-inch wingspan, there was someone at Eastern New Mexico University who would pay $100 for it. The story had been around for years and passed each year from the boys who were older and probably in their last summer of butterfly chasing to the new crop just arriving at an age to find an old lace curtain, a piece of clothesline wire, and a broomstick the head could be cut off of.
A hundred dollars was an awfully lot of money back there when the 20th century had barely turned the halfway point. A new Ford or Chevy could be had for $1200.
Anyway, nobody knew who out there would pay it, but assumed it was true– to this day when I see a tiger swallowtail I automatically estimate the wingspan and briefly consider whether I might yet collect that hundred bucks.

(… to be continued…)

A letter to Julia, age 6 (Part One)

Jack wrote this to my daughter in June of 2000, while he was still living on his y2k property in New Mexico.

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Dear Julia,
In every flock of chickens, there’s usually one called the “cluck.” The cluck is the stupidest chicken in the flock–stupider even than the roosters, or other roosters, if it happens to be one itself.
I’ve watched this flock of chickens for a long time now, wondering which chicken was my cluck. For a while it was definitely the big white hen, whose name has slipped from my memory. Later, I thought it might be Crooked Beak– old Crooked Beak certainly is as stupid as a chicken needs to be.
The guineas don’t count– they ain’t bred for smart or stupid– they’re cunning, but really a lot more stupid than chickens–can’t find their way out of an opening they just came in. So who, says I, is my cluck?
I’ve thought a lot about this and finally reached a stunning realization: I have an entire flock of clucks! With the exception of Lady McBeth, every chicken I own is stupider than all the rest–stupider than a chicken has any business being, except Lady McBeth.
Can you imagine the odds against that? Thirty or forty clucks all in one flock? It’s like rolling boxcars 10 times in a row, or drawing to an inside straight (something no gentleman does) and ending up with a straight flush. For a while I wondered if there wasn’t money to be made from this, but I finally realized that nobody pays attention to such things anymore, more’s the pity.
Fact is, most people don’t even know what a cluck is. Some don’t even know what stupid looks like in a chicken. And some have so much in common with clucks that they find a sort of kinship with them– I suppose I’d have to put myself in that category. Shore do like these chickens, even though it’s plain to me they are a flock of clucks.
There are about 15 little chicks out there now. The chicks are a good mix, some of uncertain parentage, but one obvious silky, and the yellow one that had to come from an indiscretion by Rosencrantz. Likely he’s seen the error of his ways now, with this poor dogie chick that looks too much like him for deniability running around and wondering whether water is to drink or to drown in, and what became of its ma an pa. I’ve begun pulling eggs from the remaining brooding hens. Mostly they aren’t good mothers– likely as not to kill a chick if they don’t like the looks of it, or forget it’s theirs and not be a mama to it, letting it starve or get kicked around by other hens.
The yellow chicks have had a lot of that– one has been beaten up pretty badly and I think it won’t last the night. The other is the only one left, though healthy and protected for now. On the other hand, the mamas all seem to dote on the silky offspring. Guess they remind them of how sweet and cute and what good dancers their papas were.
Anyway, if you ever hear anyone refer to me as “the cluckster” you’ll know what they are referring to. When they say it, you might notice a bit of a sneer in their voice, or a curl to their lip, but never you mind. I’ve done as much to earn the title as any man on the planet and I’ll wear it with the same pride and charming savoir-faire as the idiot down the road wears the title “rancher.”  After all, the reason there are no clucks among cow critters is that exceptional stupidity is almost impossible to identify in creatures at that level. Who ever heard of a stupid snail or fish? Same’s pretty much true of ranchers these days I expect.
(to be continued)

Flying Story: Citabria Killeen

I spent several years trying to find new ways to frighten myself in a 1947 Cessna 140 without killing myself. Lots of hair-raisers and close calls in the left seat.

But I was with a guy who later became an airline pilot one day in his Aerocobra, him piloting, and came nearest to scaring the pants off me.

We were buzzing the house of a pilot friend during the super bowl game, lower and lower, then up, hard around and back down and over.

The guy in the house came running out and sprayed us with the water hose….. spray all over the windshield and we couldn’t see anything except out the side windows.

We had a lot of airspeed coming down so John pulled the nose up hard and up we went until the airspeed was gone gone gone and we were a couple of held-breaths from being scattered all over someones yard.

Last possible fraction of a second John kicked the rudder hard over and we reversed nose down, plane falling, not flying. Full throttle and the plane got enough fly into the wings to allow him to pull the nose up in time to knock down the television antenna, tear up the prop and send guy-wires from the antenna whipping around battering and tearing the wingtips.

We staggered back to the airport and hid the plane in John’s hanger hoping to avoid an FAA in-flight accident report.

Close enough for government work.

Ask Old Jules: Fear of getting old, Thoughts that blow your mind, Meaning of life, What people don’t know yet


Old Jules, are you scared of growing older? Lately I’ve been depressed I’ve been worrying about a lot of things. A lot of people are so negative all the time around me lately. How can I change my attitude towards this all and try to ignore the pessimistic idiots who keep dragging my mood back down again?

I’m three-and-some-change times your age and growing older doesn’t frighten me. Nor, for that matter, does not growing older.

What you’re talking about is not an age thing. It’s in the fact human beings just aren’t all that intelligent and certainly aren’t enlightened enough to give you advice worth following [though many here think they are both].

Nobody’s dragging your mood down except in the sense you’ve handed over the reins to them, said, “I give you the power to influence how I feel, how I view life, how I respond to whatever’s around me.” You have the choice not to give them that power.

Old Jules, what thoughts have you had recently that have blown your mind?

I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately, about how the past within personal memory seems concrete enough, but how it resembles a venturi as it approaches the present. About how the present is gone so quickly it mightn’t exist at all as a practical matter. Any attempt to nail down the present is doomed to failure because it’s gone before you can get a hold on it.

Been trying to build an analogy or model to allow a better look at the way I, we understand time, or ignore it, and maybe arrive at a better grasp of what it’s all about, behavior of something in physics, particles or some such thing, with behavior that rhymes with the way time behaves in our minds.

Because time probably doesn’t exist. Which should mean the ‘future’ is as fixed as the past.

One of the analogies I’ve considered is something akin to a lens with the present being a retina, but I’m generally liking the venturi better at the moment.

I’m leaning to the opinion we aren’t better prognosticators, predictors of the future is because we’re looking in the wrong place for it. A straight line through the past, through the neck of the venturi and out into the future would appear to be the logical place to look, but it isn’t there or we’d be a lot better at figuring it out. I have an idea the location is being distorted by the movement through the retina or the neck of the venturi.

Old Jules, what would happen if all but 20 people suddenly vanished from the planet?

If no two of them were located within 1000 miles of the nearest other they’d each learn to live with themselves pretty thoroughly.

I’m a hermit anyway, and too many decades around the star to care much one way or the other. If I happened to be one of them I’d do my best to avoid the others until my time ran out. I’m not much impressed with humanity.

Old Jules, what do you think is the meaning of life?

It isn’t complicated. This pre-schooler figured it out all by herself:

Jessica’s “Daily Affirmation”

Old Jules, what’s something no one knows yet?

1] Why the magnet poles of the sun reverse themselves every 11 years, roughly.…

2] Why there’s a huge, empty piece of space out there [discovered since Hubble] with nothing visible in it.…

3] Why the magnetic poles of the gas giants are sometimes so far from the spin axis……

4] Why the mountain range a mile beneath the ice in Antarctica doesn’t meet our expectations derived from our speculations about how mountain ranges are formed.……

5] Pretty much everything else.

November 20, 1963, Letter from Korea

8:30 PM
20 November, 1963

Dear Folks,

 Got your letter, the fruit cake, and the peanut brittle, etc. All today, all the guys and me too were awfully happy to see it come. Thanks!
 Please pardon the fact that I haven’t written recently.  We have been in the field for about two weeks now, and it looks at the moment as though Thanksgiving will be spent out here.
There has been a lot of rain, snow, sleet, and a cold that just doesn’t seem to care how many clothes you put on. Commo seems to have been hit hardest by this alert. The phones have been silent for about 3 days. I’m beginning to wonder if there is anyone else left out here but us.
 Still, a battalion of tanks came down the river bed headed north about an hour ago, and the engineers have been skittering around ever since trying to undo the damage they did.
You know, it’s hard to believe I was 20 years old as of yesterday. It has been an awfully fast year. And a lot happened during it.
 This tent has all sorts of things in its favor that no home should be without. A field phone that doesn’t work. A coal-oil stove that soaks the ground around it in kerosene, a typewriter with no carriage throw, a file desk with nothing in it, and a camouflage  (this is probably the most useful thing around, because air harassment  has been nil in this camp). I imagine this camp is one of the smallest, most nearly forgotten ones in Korea at the moment. There are about 8 CP tents here, and numerous pup tents around. It consists of civil affairs personnel, 16 personnel, DSO personnel, and a few non-combatants. There is no activity whatsoever in camp the majority of the time. The best I can figure it we are somewhere to the rear of division rear, along the Han, and north Seoul and Yong Dong Po. I understand (through the grapevine) that EUSA HQ moved out of Pusan and the 7th Division is up on the line with the 8th and 9th Cavalry right now. Also there is a kind of confirmed rumor that the 7th Special Forces Group has moved off Okinawa and is up there with the best of them. The Slikky Boys are terrible out here. The Colonel caught pneumonia this week and they hauled him south this morn. 
 Closing for now- write soon and I’ll do the same.
 Happy Thanksgiving!
As always,