Monthly Archives: June 2012


And are you celebrating the Summer Solstice today? Mordecai, of course, went about his pre-solstice preparations with a reckless abandon and ended up burning down my garden shed last night.

Thankfully, my flying machine was not in it. I was taking her out for a midnight flight last night (before today’s heat wave struck) and on my way back home I noticed a ball of orange flames. Was Mordecai contrite and apologetic? Of course not. He woke early today and took to the streets with his special Solstice Mead, declaring that the Solstice is the perfect day to find “inspirational women” to keep company with. He’s trouble. One might even say that he is a rantipole.

Rantipole is a noun that means a wild, rakish, roving, sometimes quarrelsome person; a rude romping young person. It can also be used as an adjective and as a verb. It’s a versatile insult, really. And it IS an insult.

Some believe that the word is derived from the Dutch word randten meaning to talk foolishly, rave, while others believe it is actually derived from the English dialect ranty, meaning riotous;wildly excited plus poll, meaning the head. A slang dictionary from the 1700s has rantipole defined as a rude wild Boy or Girl.

Rantipole is used liberally in literature, naturally, as it’s a marvelously descriptive insult. You can find it in Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow:

“This rantipole hero had for some time singled out the blooming Katrina for the object of his uncouth gallantries, and though his amorous toyings were something like the gentle caresses and endearments of a bear, yet it was whispered that she did not altogether discourage his hopes.”

And you can find it in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations:

“Well!” cried my sister, with a mollified glance at Mr. Pumblechook. “She might have had the politeness to send that message at first, but it’s better late than never. And what did she give young Rantipole here?”

Mordecai is an embodiment of rantipole. He is wild, uncouth, and terribly quarrelsome. I have no doubt that his Summer Solstice will be spent in a mead-soaked giddiness. I, ever the more staid brother, will be sipping lemonade whilst the dragons play in the charcoal aftermath of the garden shed. Today is hot, and – if only for a fraction of a second – the longest we will have all year.

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Burrowing Owls vs. Screech Owls

Burrowing owls are relatively small at 9 to 11 inches. They don’t actually dig a burrow; instead, they take over an abandoned animal burrow and then use their well-developed claws and long powerful legs to enlarge it into a nesting chamber, which they line with animal dung. Burrowing owls may develop a colony in the interconnected chambers of an uninhabited prairie dog “city”. They hunt in the evening, often following large animals that stir up prey. You may spot the birds lounging in the doorways of their burrows in the daytime.

Screech owls are about the same size as burrowing owls, but have shorter legs, and prominent tufts on their ears. During the day, they roost in hollow trees or old barns. They don’t construct nests; they lay their eggs in unimproved woodpecker hols in trees.

via Sierra Club

Text by J. Baldwin


Bubo Sculpturine
Great Horned Owl


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Apology for the Hugs

An apology to the early-morning joggers who thundered past my garden just after dawn this morning:

Glo is a gentle monster, and as he gets older, he wants more hugs. It’s a quirk of his breed. (Though we do not know his breed other than “monster” and I’m postulating that he’s not the only “monster” who likes to hug more as he ages.)

I imagine that his dropping out of the old elm onto your backs was quite a shock. I’m sorry that his horn hit you in the head; it’s put a hole in my oven door, so I can only imagine how painful that was. He’s really such a sweet creature and he’s been feeling magnanimous and “huggy” for the entire month of June. I’m sure you would have appreciated a Glo hug if only you’d been prepared for one.

I am also sorry that Mordecai responded to your shrieks before I did. My brother excels at many things, but public relations is not one of them. I am sorry that he spritzed you so liberally with his new invention – Memory Enhancer. It only momentarily makes this a vivid memory – soon it will seem like a dream that was incredibly “real”. Useful, yes, but it does smell rancid and he cuts quite an imposing figure in his dressing gown in the mornings. The flight goggles are to protect his eyes from the carnivorous newts he’s been raising in his bedroom. They consider eyelids a delicacy.

I do hope you have a Happy Father’s Day. I’m sure that after some bloody mary’s, a hot shower, and perhaps a barbeque, you’ll feel much more like yourselves. The scars from Glo’s over-zealous hugging will fade soon. And no, unfortunately, no one will believe your story.

But I do. I am currently sipping my morning brew with Glo wrapped around me like a backpack. My brother is listening to Wagner and cursing the airplanes who fly over the house (their flight plan seems to have changed; they’re much lower as they approach the area airports and the noise pollution has increased). Bubo is snacking on one of Mordecai’s carnivorous newts and it sounds like the dragons are either making breakfast or re-wiring the house. Either option is a bad one.

Happy Father’s Day, oddlings.

Glo in his natural habitat

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Un-Flagging Patriotism in the Face of Fabric

Well a Happy Flag Day to you, American oddlings!

As many of you know, June 14th is Flag Day, a holiday to commemorate the American Flag. It was in 1777 that the Continental Congress officially approved the design of the Stars and Stripes as the national flag for the United States of America. Flag Day was established as a national day in 1916 by President Woodrow Wilson.

Until 1912, when President Taft standardized the arrangement of the stars, the placement (each star symbolizing each state of the union) was up to the individual flag-maker’s discretion. In those days, you see, flags were sewn by hand.

Imagine if Bubo had been sewing flags in the 1800s. I envision flags with stars outlining a great owl head or an ax.

Legend has it that in 1776, George Washington approached Philadelphia seamstress Betsy Ross to create a flag for the new nation. Scholars disagree on whether or not Mrs. Ross was a seamstress (some say she was an upholsterer’s apprentice) and on whether or not Mrs. Ross actually did create the first flag. Everyone does agree, however, that Mrs. Ross knew Mr. Washington and, in fact, did sew flags.

It also appears that Mrs. Ross was married a total of three times (Mr. Ross being her first husband) but what this has to do with flag sewing, I do not know.

The Birth of Old Glory [detail],
Percy Moran, artist, copyright 1917.
Library of Congress Prints & Photograph Online Catalog

The current flag – with 50 stars – has been in place since 1960, when Hawaii’s statehood was ratified, and has been in use the longest.

Public buildings display “Old Glory” on this day each year, and some folks declare the entire week to be “Flag Week”.

Here, all the creatures in the house are encouraged to create their own flags; our family’s crest has long been in dispute with so many missing factions appearing whenever a design seems to be solidified. I appreciate the symbolism of flags, and the difficulty of creating an image that inspires hope, power, freedom, and perseverance. Our family hopes to inspire none of these feelings, and perhaps that is the root of our problems.

Mordecai has been strutting about with a flag fastened to his shoulders like a cape; it is black (naturally) and has a single word emblazoned upon it: “YES”.

I, for my part, responded to him as only a brother can. I made a small flag (approximately the size of a cigar box) that simply says “NO” and I have it in the brim of my cap. Once he realizes my flag is made from a panel of his good tweed coat, this Flag Day shall go from passive aggressive to aggressive faster than a dragon in summer.

That’s impossibly fast.

Happy Flag Day, dears.

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