I've been out here for over six months now, and for the life of me I will never be able to understand the way people treat their animals here.

I understand the farming mentality. I know where beef comes from and that most of the lambs I see are destined to become chops.

This is a hunting community. It's bred in the blood here, the desire to kill animals. Little boys grow up learning how to shoot, how to track, how to stalk and how to kill elk, deer, pheasant, quail. I know that the deer grazing in our backyard are going to be prey for hunters come fall. Oregon law requires all hunters to register in a lottery, and everyone hopes to draw an elk tag.

This year my father drew a buck deer, which was a disappointment, but my uncle and his wife both drew elk. This means that Elk Camp will be on late next fall, a makeshift tent and RV city where all the men (and the women who drew elk tags) congregate for a week or so. It's as much a social event as anything else; the wives who choose to stay behind send breathtaking amounts of food - casseroles, potato dishes, steaks, snacks, you name it. It's a feast up there all the time at Elk Camp, and when the men aren't grilling steaks over the campfire they're drinking beer or liquor from the huge wet bar set up in someone's RV.

I don't have any issues with hunters. By and large, they respect their quarry and the environment. They hunt for sport, but nothing is wasted. The elk and deer and pheasant are cleaned and processed and frozen for the winter. Nothing tastes as good as a fresh rare deer tenderloin grilled on an open flame.

The first winter I came out here to visit my parents, I had a good scare. I went into the huge garage where my uncle and father keep all their "puttering stuff" to get a few cans of beer out of the fridge. Imagine my surprise to find that Dad had conveniently "forgotten" to tell me that an enormous buck deer was hanging over a bucket being drained of its blood.

But I understand all that, I really do.

What gets me, what makes me furious, is the way people out here treat domestic animals.

Most dogs here are working dogs; they are retrievers, trained to have soft mouths to bring back fallen dead birds for the hunters. Few of those dogs are truly pets. They live out most of their lives in concrete kennels, not knowing freedom except during hunting season. It upsets me to think of them out there in the wintertime - the temperatures here in the high desert are brutal during winter, and even though they have little doghouses for the nighttime I still believe that every dog has the right to a warm place by the hearth when the bitter winds blow.

But the worst are the cats. My parents live right on the Snake River by the main Oregon Trail crossing point. There's a small bridge close to the property, and people come from all over to dump unwanted cats beneath that bridge.

My mother has an incredibly soft spot for cats of all kinds, and she's taken about thirty-five or forty of them under her wing. Most of them aren't allowed inside, but she feeds them every morning and evening. Our family goes through about three fifteen pound bags of cat food a week. At feeding time it's amazing to watch them all descend on the card table out in back and the front porch where Mom keeps their bowls. Most of the cats are just this side of feral, but a few have taken a liking to people and are a lot of fun to play with. One of them even fetches.

As my parents live on several hundred acres, the cats have a lot of room to spread out, so they aren't a nuisance. They don't spray the area or even come close to the house except at the twice a day feeding times. Mom does her best to trap and spay/neuter all the ones that aren't transient, and she's spent well over a thousand dollars over the past five years to keep them healthy and fixed. Almost every single cat on the property is spayed or neutered, so there aren't even any cat fights to worry about. Fixed cats don't fight or spray, so it's a relatively peaceable kingdom. My father grumbles a bit at my mom, but it's all good-natured. I think he likes the cats a lot, too.

So maybe word's gotten out that this is a good place to dump unwanted animals. My suspicion, however, is that many people just abandon them by the bridge because it's an easy and semi-private place.

I'd noticed an unfamiliar tabby cat a couple of weeks ago while I was sunbathing out in front. She was skulking around near the bridge and I could tell she was attracted to the food bowls but was too scared to come too close. Hunger won out over fear, as it usually does, and she crept closer and closer to the kitty kibble. As she scarfed down the food (she was so starved she barely chewed it) I noticed with a sinking feeling that she was very pregnant. Her distended belly was a striking contrast to her scrawny frame; her ribs were clearly visible even from a distance. I sighed and tucked away the knowledge that she was with kitten.

Yesterday afternoon one of the neighbors from the adjoining property dropped by for an afternoon scotch and a little conversation. Mom shelled beans and I shucked some early sweet corn while Rex (the local charming lush) worked on his scotch rocks and told stories from his days as an EMT.

"Oh, hey. Lucy." Rex suddenly said. "I almost forgot to tell you. When I was walking by the bridge this morning I noticed a whole litter of kittens in a little nest by the bank."

"Oh god, not more of them," Mom sighed.

"'Fraid so," said Rex. He sipped his scotch meditatively. "What's worse is that they're all half-blind. Some goddam eye infection. I think one or two of 'em are blinded outright."

Mom sighed again and went back to shelling her limas.

This evening while Mom and I were having our usual pinot noir nightcap, just visiting and listening to the wind, we both heard a quavering, hoarse mewing sound over the rustle of the trees. "Must be that litter Rex talked about," Mom said, so we grabbed a flashlight and went out front to investigate. The mother cat had indeed brought her new litter up to the house and deposited them in the carpet lined hutch my father had fashioned to keep a few of the strays warm in wintertime. She hovered anxiously on the periphery of the circle of light while we stooped to inspect the litter.

Rex had understated the kittens' condition. The whole litter - three khaki tabbies and two beautiful snow white fluffballs - had eyes crusted entirely shut by infection. At first I could only see two of them clearly, but one of the tabbies turned toward the flashlight and I had to look away. The infection had eaten completely through his eyeballs, leaving nothing but two suppurating holes in his tiny head.

My mother started to cry. "God damn them," she wept. "How could anyone just leave a cat to have a full litter like that? These babies are so sick. If I'd gotten hold of them sooner I could have squirted them up with that triple antibiotic ointment I used on Opie last summer, but they're beyond help now." She swiped at her eyes angrily and clicked the flashlight off. "Well, there's nothing to be done. The momma cat obviously knew there was something wrong with them, and I'm sure she thought they'd be safer here in the kitty hutch. She might have even thought that we could somehow help them."

We walked back into the house, our warm wine buzz completely wrecked by the sight of such suffering. I closed the window, hoping to block out the pitiful mewing.

"We'll have to get your dad to take care of them while we're in Portland. I won't have time to run them to the vet before we leave in the morning," Mom said wearily. "I hate to take a whole litter away from a momma cat like that; she'll be sick from worry."

"Take care of them?" I questioned. "I thought you said they were beyond help..."

"They are," Mom said flatly. "He has to take them to be destroyed."

"Wait...wait...isn't there something we can do for them?" I was in tears myself by now.

"No, honey, they can't be left to suffer like this. They could also transfer whatever disease they have to the healthy cats. They'll have to be put to sleep."

We downed the rest of our wine as though it was medicine and Mom headed off to bed.

I'm sitting here fuming at the fucking ignorance and thoughtless cruelty of these damn local people. Sitting here with tears in my eyes at the waste, the pure waste of life it is to have to kill an entire litter of kittens. Little lives unled, little fluffballs blinded by disease. Thinking of how frantic the momma cat will be when my father gathers up her babies and takes them to be destroyed. How she'll pace and cry for days, because momma cats have long memories for their young. She'll be sore and swollen with milk, and she'll comb the property looking for those babies. Thinking about how awful my father will feel.

I can understand not wanting animals. I can understand bringing unwanted animals to the pound. I'm not so naive as to think that every cat is going to have a home one day, as much as I wish that were so. But to dump them like trash by the side of the road is to reserve yourself a nice toasty spot in hell as far as I'm concerned.

I hate death...

Maybe that's too strong a statement, maybe I just don't understand it.

A good friend of mine passed away in her sleep the other day. Her mom and her older brother found her when they saw that she hadn't left for work and thought she just might have overslept. They said it was due to complications related to her battle with diabetes. She was 30.

I had just seen her the night before and offered to buy her a drink. She declined and said she was in a hurry. That she was looking for one of her girlfriends because she had something important she wanted to tell her. With that, she was off for places unknown.

So much for "See ya tomorrow".

Another brother of hers is busy dodging bullets in Iraq. I guess whatever Supreme Being was in charge of running the planet the other day must have some kind of warped sense of humor.

They don't know if he'll be able to get home in time for the funeral. They did manage to get the news to him and I can't fuckin' imagine what's going through his head. Hopefully they at least pull him off whatever mission he's on so that his emotions don't take over and that he does something stupid. Between her tears, her mother says that he has an extra angel looking over his shoulder these days.

Moms always seem to know the right words to say.

What does a mother pick for her youngest daughter to wear when she's going to be wearing it for forever? What mementos and keepsakes get placed in the ground to keep her company on her final journey? Does she even know that they're there with her?

Not too long ago, she came back from Ireland where she went to re-visit her roots. She came back with little trinkets for all of the regulars at the bar. Mine was a Guinness apron. She knew I liked to drink and to cook. I've never worn it.

I will now.

So here's to you Molly. A friend for the ages. We'll do the best we can without you. My world's a little bit darker today than it should be. If you get a chance, shine a little light my way, I could use it.

We all can. (prayer for the departed)

The Welsh Pot Debacle

a study on internet privacy

The new Prank call / Social engineering, on Soulseek, A certain Mr. Ownership Unclear is on an indie rock chatroom spamming some nonsense while downloading, He sent me an annotated copy of the following:

begin transcript

Ownership unclear : any one got the new Jigga joint, wit the beep beeps and sh!t???
abelincon: my di*k is so small i could fu*k a cheerio (the small ones)
Ownership unclear:hgfrtred: i have a small cock but thats good because after they have one go they don't want anouther and thus make room for the next in line” potential best quote ever!!
Trystan: anyone selling skunk that lives near north wales
Ownership unclear : yeaah
Ownership unclear : hhhaa
Ownership unclear : I live on longley blvd
Ownership unclear : imagine that
Ownership unclear : I only deal in pounds
Ownership unclear : where you live Trystan?

Now he pm’s me:

Trystan:(18:49) where u live
Ownership unclear: Hammerstead park
Ownership unclear: you?
Trystan:(18:50) wheres that?
Ownership unclear: Just block down from Langley
Trystan :(18:50) what!!
Ownership unclear: near the turnabout
Trystan :(18:50) wheres that
Ownership unclear: north wales mate
Ownership unclear: you?
Trystan :(18:51) u sure
Trystan :(18:51) !!!
Ownership unclear: hahaha
Trystan :(18:51) which county
Trystan :(18:51) i live in denbighshire
Ownership unclear: imagine finding anothe welsman lookin for reefer on the web haha
Ownership unclear: welsh
Ownership unclear: man
Ownership unclear: haha
Trystan :(18:51) yeh man u being serious
Ownership unclear: I'm so high my typing is bolocks
Trystan :(18:51) which county u in
Ownership unclear: yeah come down to Hammerstead park, take the dollycar
Trystan :(18:52) im pretty high but i just finished all my skunk
Ownership unclear: haha
Trystan :(18:52) where bouts in north wales is it?
Ownership unclear: I have skunk that will blow your mind
Ownership unclear: you know the courtney turnabout?
Trystan :(18:53) what do u sell and for how much

*at this point I've logged into the North Wales tourism webisite to get a location name that is legit*

Ownership unclear: just south of Holyhead
Trystan :(18:54) oh sweet now ur making sence
Trystan :(18:54) sense
Ownership unclear: hehe
Trystan :(18:54) i know holyhead
Trystan :(18:54) quite a distance from me though
Ownership unclear: Where you at mate?
Trystan :(18:54) near denbigh
Ownership unclear: oi
Ownership unclear: my best mates from Denbigh
Trystan :(18:54) near denbigh
Ownership unclear: You know Chris Rose

*the chief of police for North Wales*

Ownership unclear: ?
Ownership unclear: haha probably not
Trystan :(18:55) no how old is he?
Trystan :(18:55) what so u ever in denbigh?
Ownership unclear: yeah we punt down for a weekender with the missus
Ownership unclear: seen that dj there
Ownership unclear: oi whatwas his name
Ownership unclear: let me ask the missus
Trystan :(18:56) lol i dunno mate
Trystan :(18:56) u grow it or summit then?
Ownership unclear: hehehe we was quite buttered that weeker
Ownership unclear: I grows a lil personal something, keep the thumb green innit
Ownership unclear: but for moving purposes I have a connection who works on the stena line

*A shipping line that sails from dublin to north wales*

Ownership unclear: get that emerald isle skunk innit
Trystan :(18:58) oh nice
Trystan :(18:58) so do u actually sell the stuff
Ownership unclear: But Denigh via Holyhead is quite a step
Trystan :(18:58) this is very true
Trystan :(18:58) u ever in bangor
Ownership unclear: yeah I sells it, puttin cups in the cupboard eh?
Ownership unclear: I bangor and mash I always say hehe eh mate, the missus dun gets tired of that sausage
Ownership unclear: Yeh got an uncle near Bangor
Trystan :(18:59) nice, cos im nearly always in colwyn bay and bangor is pretty close u
Ownership unclear: craziest mate I gots
Trystan :(18:59) man u sound so high
Ownership unclear: eats the glass of broken pints
Trystan :(19:00) sounds mental, wud i ever be able to pick up from there u reakon?
Ownership unclear: yeah if you gave me a buzz in time mate
Ownership unclear: I normally go down quarter of the month, see uncle brice
Trystan :(19:01) how often u down ther
Trystan :(19:01) there
Trystan :(19:02) oh rite sorry, do u only sell in ounces or u sell in 1/4s and stuff as well
Ownership unclear: I'm just getting ready for a walker in Snowdon
Trystan :(19:02) for a what?
Ownership unclear: quite a hiking enthusiast me and the missus

*Snowdon is a mountain in an area known as...*

Ownership unclear: hehe
Trystan :(19:02) yea hehe
Ownership unclear: pretty potatoes here mate
Ownership unclear: mashed up haha
Ownership unclear: umm I work more in ounce and larger, but for a mate and a lager I always say, could work out something
Ownership unclear: You been down by the Llyn Peninsula mate?

*... the Llyn Peninsula celebrated for it's popular mountains.*

Trystan :(19:04) ah sweet well all my friends usually buy alot as well so if i was to buy wud probably be round an ounce or half ounce
Trystan :(19:04) how much u sell an ounce for
Ownership unclear: haha I cross that river when the paddle is carved if you follow my drifty tristy hehe

*I have no clue what pot costs there, let alone what form of currency the Welsh use... prolly the euro but I'm not sure*

Ownership unclear: wot they selling ounces for round Denbigh?
Trystan :(19:06) Drifty...?
Ownership unclear: Oi
Ownership unclear: Missus is getting upsets, must rake the coals if you follow me hehe
Ownership unclear: Lemme give ya my mobile
Trystan :(19:07) ah rite
Trystan :(19:08) about 120

*Wales — Currency: Pound Sterling (£) (GBP)*

Trystan :(19:08) how much u sell for
Ownership unclear: 120!
Ownership unclear: oi
Ownership unclear: not bad
Ownership unclear: good skunk is it?
Trystan :(19:09) sok, last time i managed to buy skunk in denbigh though was long time ago, i go to chester now and it costs me 140
Trystan :(19:09) but i used to be able to get an ounce for 80-100
Trystan :(19:10) my numbers 078__4____4, if ur ever around just give me a bell or summit wud be sweet

*I should really call this dude next time I'm at a house party*

Ownership unclear: I sell you for 110-115, depends on the week innit, but I cant be making personal trips, you call me mobile and I'll let you know when me and the missus is takin the old canterbury tale innit haha
Ownership unclear: prolly in the next fortnight
Trystan :(19:10) yeh yeh sure ill meet u, i knows what ur saying
Trystan :(19:10) sounds sweet
Ownership unclear: 08705 42 11 70

*the number for the afformentionned Chris Rose*

Ownership unclear: fix up
Ownership unclear: look sharp innit
Ownership unclear: hehe
Trystan :(19:11) oh rite nice, whats ur name
Ownership unclear: just ask for Andrew
Trystan :(19:11) rite chees
Ownership unclear: Amen Andrews...
Ownership unclear: cheers it is
Trystan :(19:12) if im desperate i wud probably end up driving up
Ownership unclear: all the best to all area crew... RESPECT
Trystan :(19:12) yeh nice
Ownership unclear: nice up
Trystan :(19:12) yeh nice cheers, cya
Ownership unclear: Trystan, its all love innit
Ownership unclear: peace

end transcript

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