Category Archives: Essays

A Famine of Festivals

A Famine of Festivals
©2013 Kirby Sanders

There lurks within us all a remnant of the American Innocent who loves our local festivals. Every town and county and community has them. Yes there are the archetypal County Fairs, but also we have our smaller versions — where communities themselves gather to celebrate the bounty that binds them.

The spring, summer and fall harvest and “hell let’s just have a party” weekends that towns arrange simply to recognize and celebrate themselves as communities. The Athens TX Black Eyed Pea Festival — the Gilroy CA Garlic Festival — the Sparta WI Butter Festival — the DeKalb IL Cornfest — The Pella IA Tulip Festival — the Hatch NM Chile Festival. Even mammoth Houston TX has its high-profile remnant in the Livestock Show and Rodeo. Fort Worth has its Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering. I think Dallas has an annual Visit Your Money in the Bank day — or something like that.

Heritage Days, Pioneer Days, Stagecoach Days, Railroad Days — events where the community gathers to recognize who they are, why they are and what makes them a community. One people bound together in some small way or another.

Even the generic small college town springfests are fun and quaint in their own way — spring break for the kids too broke to expose themselves in Cancun with their demurely naughty bed races and bar hops along “the strip” leading into the campus.

We all know how the festival days go. Mom says “don’t get those new britches and dresses dirty.” Dad gripes because old man Johnson wants five bucks to park in his yard. The town square is packed with people. The twirlers twirl and the marching band plays. Blue and red and white ribbons festoon the favorite homemade pies and preserves and the Queen of The Whatever waves from her perch on the boot of a snazzy convertible. Local musicians play and cloggers clog and folklorico dancers swirl atop stages that are really flatbed truck trailers. Carnies shill games and rides on a carnival midway. Politicos make some boring speeches, the bank and the churches hands out free pencils and everyone runs off to see what treasures the local vendors have to offer.

These are the only places in the world where you can sample jalapeno ice cream or blackeyed-pea pie. The places where your first memories of the exotic and the unusual reside. Where Oddly Ollie the clown (whom everyone knows is really the creepy coach) performs and entertains or frightens small children.

Sometimes these community festivals celebrate only memories. There is one wonderful Grape Fest in a town that hasn’t produced a single grape in better than 50 years. Another with a Pickle Fest in a former company town where the pickle factory shut down in 1952. But it doesn’t really matter — the festival is the festival. Grapes are grapes and pickles are delicious and those are what made those towns into towns.

But there is a growing blight in the crop, creating a famine for our festivals. Corporate sponsorship.

What brings this to immediate light is a recent situation in Johnson County, Arkansas. Their annual Peach Festival is coming up — but local growers have been banned from selling or sharing their crops at the festival. A certain “largest retailer in the world” has sponsored the festival — and announced that they will supply all the peaches. Local producers not allowed to show or sell. The local producers are up in arms — but banned and helpless.

The twirlers will twirl and the marching band will play. The Johnson County Peach Queen will wave and smile from her perch on the boot of a snazzy convertible. The community will be judiciously directed past the cleanup on aisle five and Muzak will fill the gleeful air. Blue and red and white ribbons will festoon the coolers containing frozen pies by Marie Callender, Sara Lee and Paula Deen.

The producers whom the festival celebrates will be relegated to their truck stands on the outskirts of town. Hoping to snag an occasional wayward consumer away from the corporate orgy.

What lovely memories are we leaving to our children?

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Flight of the Felis Familiaris

The Flight of the Felis Familiarius

©2013, Kirby Sanders.

Have you ever noticed that there are never any cats on the bridge aboard ship in outer space movies? There’s a reason!



The Evil Alliance is pursuing and attacking our underdog heroes! The valiant Capitan Weit Leche Carton shouts “Get us out of here, helmsman — Burp Six!!!”

Helmsman Mr. Yohoo replies “Working on it, sir. Dammit cat, get off the control panel!”

Capitan continues “Ready weapons! I want plastic torpedos in tubes one and two. Fire on my mark in five, four, three …

Weapons officer – “Direct hit, sir! They are breaking off! We have disabled their nacelle cavity!”

Capitan Weit Leche Carton — “But … I didn’t say ‘fire.”’

Weapons officer: “Damned cat!”.

Capitan Carton – “Security! Mr. Dork! I want that cat off my bridge! Now!”

Mr. Dork, a hulking alien warrior looking dude who is oddly alluring in a Mandingo sort of way, approaches the Weapons Control panel. Cat leaps from control panel and runs across the room – hides under a console at the far wall. Mr. Dork pursues. Cat hisses from behind the panel as Mr. Dork attempts to get his arm into the small space.

Capitan Carton – “Mr. Dork! Status report?” I want that cat off my bridge!”

Mr. Dork – “I can’t reach him, sir. He is back behind the recalcitrance rectifier and the inanimate object.”

Capitan Carton – “Communications! Ms. OhHerWho! Get Commander Dada up here to retrieve his damned cat. Ensign YooHoo – assist Mr. Dork.”

Helmsman Mr. Yoohoo – “Not a good time sir. We seem to be taking a Delta Fawcett evasive maneuver pattern. I can’t control it, sir. I believe the cat has interfered with the inanimate object controls!!!”

Capitan Carton – “Stand your ground Mr. YooHoo. I didn’t order evasive maneuvers! Delta Fawcett? Which one is that?”

Mr.YooHoo – “It’s the pinwheel like nutcakes, I think we’re going to crash into the nearest moon ruse. The Kubiashi Moron maneuver developed by Capitan Quirk in the Grapes of Wrath of Cahn.”

Capitan Carton – “Ah yes, Cahn. The depraved guy from the studio exec’s office attempts to control the universe …”

Comm officer (Ms. OhHerWho; on shipwide intercom) – “Commander Dada! Commander Dada! Report to the bridge immediately. Capitan’s orders. Bring a can of catfood.”

As the ship spins out of control, an Evil Empire Firebird (circa 1967) decloaks off the starboard bow of the intrepid USS Entertainer (That’s the left front of the ship if you are facing forward from the rear of the ship – I think. I don’t remember.)

Gnarly looking Evil Empire captain – “Ooot de smook the dune niew?”

Gnarly looking Evil Empire helmsman – “Zoom wired sheet. Fosho! Delta Fawcett?”

Back on the bridge of the USS Entertainer. Commander Dada arrives on the bridge. He is  humanish looking android – pale and pasty, and his face looks like a collaboration between HP Lovecraft and Pablo Picasso. “Dada reporting as ordered, sir.”

Capitan Carton – “Get that damned cat of my bridge – and airlock the catbox in your quarters. The entire corridor stinks!”

Commander Dada joins Mr. Dork on the floor by the far wall and says comfortingly “Spot! Spot! Out, out, damned Spot!” as he sets a can of replicated Hot Tuna on the floor. The Hot Tuna immediately begins playing the song “Uncle Sam Blues” and wafting a fishy aroma through the bridge.

Capitan Carton “I do love those classical tropes.”

Spot complies and comes to Commander Dada.

Mr. YooHoo – “Capitan, we are out of freefall. But I’m not sure where we are. It looks like the dog star – Sirius.”

Mr. Dada carries Spot toward his quarters, but pauses at Mr. YooHoo’s station.

Commander Dada (to YooHoo) – “The tail formation is too long and the ears of the twin nebulae are too pointed. Surely it can’t be Sirius.”

Mr. Yoohoo – “It looks like Sirius. And don’t call me …”

Capitan Carton – “Mr. YooHoo! Clsssical tropes only or stand down on report! Ms. OhHerWho – report from the away team we left on the surface?”

Ms. OhHerWho – “Three redshirts down. One gold shirt asking to beam aboard. Communications are erratic and the enemy’s Ronald RayGuns are disrupting transporters.”

Commander Dada departs to quarters and sets Spot in the sitting area. Per orders, he gathers up the catbox. He re-opens the door (ssshhhh-whoosh) and dumps the catbox into the nearest disposal airlock.

Cut to viewscreen of the Evil Empire ‘67 Firebird. Suddenly, the viewscreen is obscured – blinded – by a collection of grit and adhesive brown semi-solids.

Gnarly Evil Empire Captain – “Woot the smook bedat!??

Gnarly Evil Empire helmansman – “Censors innicate keetsheet, Sir!”

Gnarly Evil Empire Captain – “Keetsheet? In spece? Prepusto ye indigesto!”

Gnarly Evil Empire helmansman – “Postdigesto, zeer. Unable to klir screen or censors. Offensive to both nacelle cavities! Loosing pwer – both nacelle cavities.”

Gnarly Evil Empire Captain  –  “Evad! Evad! Retour to Emiire.”

The Firebird veers off pursuit and recloaks.

Back on the USS Entertainer bridge.

Mr. YooHoo – “Second Emire ship breaking pursuit. Course 50167392586.pi. I have no idea where they re going. Very erratic flight pattern, but it appears they are headed for the neutered zone.”

Capitan Carton – “Looks like a miracle got us out of the box. Make it go, Mr. YooHoo.”

Ms. YeahHerWho – “Gold shirt away reports all redshirts vaporized. Requesting immediate transport back to ship.”

Back at Commander Dada’s quarters. Commander opens door to return empty catbox. As door ssssh-whooshes open, Spot races out the door and down the corridor to transporter room. Commander Dada chases. Door closes and secures as Spot runs in. Open comlink hears desperate Goldshirt begging for immediate extraction. Communication broken and spotty.

Goldshirt – “Unidentified interference. Sudden atmospheric rain of grit and viscous brown matter. Beam up immediate, please!”

Spot smacks a paw on a button on the transporter panel. “Meow! Meow! Rrewr Rrewr! Purr Purr.”

Goldshirt – “Unable to comprehend transmission. Garbled. Please resend via universal translator. Please – hurry. Environment toxic.”

Spot smacks a paw on another button on the transporter panel. Repeat transmission – “Meow! Meow! Rrewr Rrewr! Purr Purr.”

Goldshirt – “Received and acknowledged via translator. Thank you, thank you, thank you. One to beam up, Mr. Spot.”

Capitan Carton, Mr. Dork, Commander Dada and Dr. Waverley Wafer burst through the door as an exhausted Goldshirt materializes on the transporter pad. Dr. Wafer rushes to the inert man. Spot jumps off the  transporter console and into Commander Dada’s awaiting arms.

Capitan Carton – “Mr. Dada. I want that cat confined to your quarters hereafter.”

Commander Dada – “Yes sir. Immediately sir.”

Capitan Carton – “Contact the bridge. Tell them to make it go!”

Spot – “Meow! Meow! Rrewr Rrewr! Purr Purr.”

A Mystery Near Yellville!

©2013 Kirby Sanders

July 14, 2013
12:15 p.m.

NEAR YELLVILLE AR —  Residents of rural Searcy County southeast of the town of Yellville, Arkansas, are reporting a strange phenomenon this morning. According to residents of the idyllic but rugged area along the scenic Buffalo River, a strange “whooshing sound” rattled windows and shook homes early this morning.

Said one rural resident, “It weren’t no wind up and they was no sound like jets or aeroplane motors. Just this big whoooosh sound that come out of the southeast and went on to the northwest. Skeered my blue tick so bad he hid under the bed.”

A Yellville pastor noted, “I was in early to get the church ready for services when the winders started knockin’ and this crazy sound come up like the wings of an army of angels or demons swooping over town! It swooped off kind of westward toward Harrison and Bentonville.”

Air Force officials at the nearest bases in Little Rock AR and Springfield MO denied any military training activities were taking place, as did Air National Guard units in Batesville AR and Fort Smith AR.

The Searcy County sheriff reported, “took me by surprise. I was hauling on my britches, tripped on my Sam Browne and smacked my punkin head on the washtable in the bedroom. I got no clue what the (heck) it was.”

An unconfirmed report from an intern at the area Federal Aviation Administration offices said, “We don’t know what it was either. There was no incident reported from commercial aircraft in the area. We suspect it may have been logic and reason flying over the heads of area state and federal legislators.”

Books by Kirby Sanders

Book Catalogue

The following books by Kirby Sanders are available via CreateSpace at the following links:

Fiction

• Nusquam Res, Nusquam Esse; The Final Journey of Ambrose Bierce • Historical fiction  –  A fictionalized accounting of  the final months in the life of the famous American  journalist and author of “horror” tale leaidng to his mysterious disappearance in Mexico during the  Revolution in 1913. https://www.createspace.com/4177092

• A Death In Texas • Crime / murder mystery – Based on actual events, officials and a reporter for a small town newspaper unravel the strange events surrounding th death of an “Average Joe” factory worker in an apparent murder-for-money scheme gone badly awry.  https://www.createspace.com/4196001

History

• The Butterfield Overland Mail Ox Bow Route Through Missouri; 1858-1861 • Reports as filed under the auspices of the National Park Service establishing the preliminary parameters for further study in future preservation of this iconic Old West stagecoach route. https://www.createspace.com/4216629

• The Butterfield Overland Mail Ox Bow Route Through Arkansas and Oklahoma; 1858-1861 • Reports as filed under the auspices of the National Park Service establishing the preliminary parameters for further study in future preservation of this iconic Old West stagecoach route. https://www.createspace.com/4224063

• The Butterfield Overland Mail Ox Bow Route Through Texas; 1858-1861 • Reports as filed under the auspices of the National Park Service establishing the preliminary parameters for further study in future preservation of this iconic Old West stagecoach route. https://www.createspace.com/4225431

• The Butterfield Overland Mail Ox Bow Route Through New Mexico and Arizona; 1858-1861 • Reports as filed under the auspices of the National Park Service establishing the preliminary parameters for further study in future preservation of this iconic Old West stagecoach route. This volume is illustrated with modern or recent photographs of station sites and vicinities.                                                            https://www.createspace.com/4228907

• The Butterfield Overland Mail Ox Bow Route Through Southern California; 1858-1861 • Reports as filed under the auspices of the National Park Service establishing the preliminary parameters for further study in future preservation of this iconic Old West stagecoach route. This volume is illustrated with modern or recent photographs of station sites and vicinities.                                                            https://www.createspace.com/4236238

• The Butterfield Overland Mail Ox Bow Route Through Northern California; 1858-1861 • Reports as filed under the auspices of the National Park Service establishing the preliminary parameters for further study in future preservation of this iconic Old West stagecoach route. This volume is illustrated with modern or recent photographs of station sites and vicinities.                                                            https://www.createspace.com/4240002 

All of these books are available to the public via amazon.com at the listed links with order handling and fulfillment via amazon.com. Bookstores, online resellers, historical societies and non-profit groups, libraries and educational institutions may purchase copies at industry-standard discounts by establishing a wholesale account with CreateSpace Direct – order handling an fulfillment also via amazon.com. CreateSpace Direct information is online at https://www.createspace.com/pub/l/createspacedirect_terms.do?rewrite=true

CreateSpace resellers application  is online at https://www.createspace.com/pub/l/createspacedirect.do?rewrite=true

Two New Novels by Kirby Sanders

I am happy to announce that I have two new novels available via CreateSpace or amazon. They can be purchased through Amazon CreateSpace or normal AmazonUSA sales channel in the United States. Also available on most international Amazon. Retail resellers, bookstores, libraries and educational institutions may purchase at industry-standard discounts via Amazon CreateSpace Direct or Ingram standard distribution channel.

Nusquam Res, Nusquam Esse; The Final Journey of Ambrose Bierce is historical fiction based upon the last months in the life of acclaimed war and horror writer Ambrose Bierce before his mysterious disappearance in Mexico during Revolution in 1913. Details / availability at:
https://www.createspace.com/4177092

A Death In Texas, set in 1995 in rural Henderson County, Texas, is a crime / murder drama based on actual events whilst working in the area as a newspaper reporter. Probably the weirdest murder case I ever reported. Think along the lines of a Redneck “Fargo”. Details / availability at:
https://www.createspace.com/4196001

Stone Soup — My version

Stone Soup

Adapted by Kirby Sanders – 28 Feb. 2013

Once there was a village. Hard times and drought had hit. The people were starving and everyone was hoarding what food they had. They were becoming distrustful and envious of one another for who had what and who had too little.

One day, a stranger came to town and the village elders met him — as they did with every stranger who came to town.

“Y’all look hungry,” he said. “Do you know how to make stone soup?”

“?Stone soup?” the elders asked, “what the hell is stone soup?”

“Well,” the stranger said, you make a big fire in the village square. Get a big pot of water to boiling. Wash off three large rocks and cook them up in the pot. Then everybody in the village comes out and shares the soup when it is cooked.”

“That doesn’t sound very tasty or nutritional,” the elders concurred.

“It is better,” said the stranger, “if somebody throws some potatoes into the pot and somebody else throws in some meat and somebody else throws in some carrots and other folks throw in some shallots and onions  and  turnips.”

“I don’t like turnips,” one of the elders said.

“So,” said the stranger, “when the soup is cooked and served, pick out the turnips from your bowl and give them to someone who likes turnips.”

The elders, being wise and judicious, were skeptical of the stranger’s fancy new idea but decided to try it. They built up a fire and put on a big pot of water with three clean large stones at the bottom. Soon enough a passer-by inquired about the big pot of boiling water and offered some extra potatoes that he had. Another added a big ham bone. Another put in some spare onions. Others added stray carrots and tomatoes and a couple of apples – and, yes, some turnips. The stranger just stood at the pot and stirred it all day long.

Come evening, the entire village turned out with plates and bowls in hand to taste what they had all created. The stranger stood at the pot and dipped out ladles of soup onto every plate and bowl. By late of the night, the envious and the greedy alike were all full and happy — dancing with one another and singing silly songs.

The stranger dipped the very last ladle of soup into his own bowl.

The elder who did not like turnips asked the stranger “who is going to clean up the pot?”

“Everyone who ate – if you resolve to make another pot of stone soup next week. I leave that to you. Thanks for dinner.”

The stranger finished his bowl, washed it, gathered up his own few possessions and left the village.

On the last day of every week thereafter, the village created and shared a big pot of stone soup and celebrated what they came to call “Stranger Day.”

Quarrel With Dylan Thomas

A Quarrel With Dylan Thomas

©2012 Kirby Sanders

Do not go gentle into that good night? Do tell, please sir – why not?

I understand, sir, that you are speaking in villanelle – wherein the structure of the poem is almost of greater importance than the content, but why “rage, rage against the dying of the light”?

It seems to me that a reasonable man, after a long metaphorical and metaphysical “day” might welcome his eventual rest. As you well put it yourself, sir, “men at their end know dark is right”.

You speak of men whose “words had forked no lightning” – but what of those whose words have indeed forked lightning?  You speak of men “crying how bright 
their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay” but what of those whose deeds have indeed danced in every green bay they came across?

You speak of “Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight 
and learn, too late, they grieved it on its way” – but what of those who caught and sang and whose hands were burned and scarred in the process? Whose voices were sometimes hoarse from raucous singing?

You speak of “Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight – blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay” but what of those whose eyes were not blinded in the moments they stared into the sun itself? Who celebrated the gaiety as it occurred?

Why should such men “Rage, rage against the dying of the light”? Why should they not “go gentle into that good night” – retaining dignity in the knowledge that they have lived to the best and fullest of their abilities?

Why not, at the end of the troublesome metaphorical and metaphysical “day”, just quietly put on your pajamas and gracefully go to sleep?

Sometimes I wonder about these things.