I’m glad this year is over

smilebybrucestambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

It’s funny how we humans are driven by our own artificial boundaries. Calendars are a prime example. It’s simply how civilization keeps track of life. We record daily events, and then summarize them at year’s end.

Given the happenings of 2012, I’m glad this year is over. A sampling of some of this year’s escapades might explain why.

Jan. 12 A judge in Millersburg, Ohio declared a mistrial when juror number nine wore the juror button upside down, making it a six.

lookingupbybrucestambaughFeb. 14 – The Newtown Wastewater Treatment Plant, Brooklyn, N.Y. offered tours for lovers on Valentine’s Day, and 100 people showed up.

Feb. 28 – Greenwood, a town of 700 in British Columbia, Canada, received the award for having the best tap water in the world.

March 8 – Wild Birds Unlimited reported that Americans spend $5.4 billion annually on seed, materials and accessories to feed and watch wildlife.

March 11 – Four Amish youths were charged with underage drinking when their horse and buggy crashed into a sheriff’s cruiser near Sherman, N.Y.

bugbookbybrucestambaughApril 19 – Starbucks announced that it would quit using crushed bugs to dye some of its colored drinks.

May 18 – Delta Airlines offered hockey fans a free flight across the Hudson River to attend the play-off game between the New York Rangers and the New Jersey Devils.

May 19 – A report showed that China had more students enrolled in U.S. colleges than any other foreign country.

June 14 – The youngest player to ever qualify, Andy Zhang, 14, teed off in the U.S. Open.

June 25 – A technology research group announced that for the first time ever in the U.S. e-books had outsold printed books.

July 16 – A 36-year old Bellville, Ill. woman was arrested after calling 911 six times because her boyfriend wouldn’t give her another beer.

August 2 – Two teams of badminton players were kicked out of the London Olympics for intentionally trying to lose in order to play easier teams in the next round.

August 26 – Besse Cooper, the world’s oldest person, turned 116, and credited her longevity to minding her own business and avoiding junk food.

Sept. 6 – A Canton, Ohio man was arrested for attacking his son’s mother by pouring a bottle of hot sauce on her.

Sept. 17 – In Dordogne, France, a dog shot his master in the hand when it jumped onto the man’s gun and accidentally stepped on the trigger, firing the shotgun.

Oct. 5 – After feeding on wastes at an M&M candy factory in northern France, bees were found to be producing blue and green honey.

christmastreebybrucestambaughOct. 10 – Radio station KYXE in Yakima, Washington began playing its all Christmas music format.

Nov. 10 – A 28-year-old pregnant Arizona woman was arrested when she allegedly drove over her husband with their SUV when she learned that he had failed to vote in the Nov. 6 election.

Nov. 14 – By first breathing pure oxygen, Stig Severinsen, a diving and breathing expert, held his breath under water for a record 22 minutes.

Dec. 4 – NASA announced that its Voyager 1 spacecraft, launched in 1977, had reached the end of the solar system.

Dec. 12 – Kiam Moriya of Birmingham, Ala. turned 12 at exactly 12:12 p.m.

These newsy tidbits demonstrate that 2012 was another crazy year, mostly thanks to the zaniness of the inhabitants of our incredible earth. Let’s hope that 2013 will ring in a better, saner, happier life for all of us.

threecrazykidsbybrucestambaugh

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012

After this June and July, do we really need August?

Ohio chaparral by Bruce Stambaugh
Parched pastures in Ohio more resembled California chaparral.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The dog days of August are upon us. The month is notorious for hot, humid and mostly dry weather. Haven’t we already experienced enough of that without adding to the enduring misery?

Once June arrived, the lovely spring weather we had enjoyed literally evaporated. The weather turned unusually warm and dry, not just in Ohio, but also across much of North America. Many record high temperatures were recorded. Geographic areas that had been moist quickly joined other regions that have had ongoing, long-term drought conditions.

Artesian well by Bruce Stambaugh
This artesian well normally runs steady year-round. It dried up by the end of July.
Water became a precious commodity. Wells were taxed. Perpetual springs slowed to a trickle. Local streams, normally gurgling with water from occasional rains, displayed more creek bed than flow.

I pitied those who had to work outside for a living. Many businesses had their employees arrive early to take advantage of the morning coolness, and then let them leave mid-afternoon at the height of the heat.

National Weather Service offices all across the country regularly posted heat advisories and excessive heat warnings. In the cities, where concrete and steel intensified the heat, people sweltered.

It was bad enough here in the country. Lawn care services, usually swamped for work or used to rushing to beat the rain to complete their jobs, simply lost business. They were used to mowing green, not brown. Indeed, there was no need to do so.

Brown lawn by Bruce Stambaugh
Lawns that were mowed short took a beating from the heat.

Farmers watched helplessly as their corn curled and parched pastures more resembled California chaparral. In America’s breadbasket, farm animals were sold off since feed and hay prices soared. By July’s end, two-thirds of the country was in some stage of drought.

Wild animals sought cooler climes, too. Groundhogs abandoned their normal burrows in hayfields and ranged outside their normal habitat for scarce food and water. A young one dug a hole under our back porch for protection from predators. It munched on our herbs and flowers, and boldly drank from our little garden pond in broad daylight.

Curled corn by Bruce Stambaugh
Field corn was so stressed from the heat and drought that it curled.

A pose of raccoons was more cautious. Being nocturnal, they regularly fished and splashed at night. The groundhog and seven of the masked bandits were captured in live traps baited with a gourmet meal of apple slices and marshmallows.

What really stood out though was how people seemed to adjust to the oppressive conditions. Sure complaints were lodged to nobody in particular. The only moisture to fall on some farmland was from farmers’ tears. Still I found people overall to be as congenial as ever. They seemed determined not to let the heat get the best of them.

One exception to that was on the highway. Drivers appeared more aggressive than usual, perhaps incited by the blazing sun and warm car interiors. In my various road trips, I noticed an unusually high number of vehicles, large and small, abandoned along highways or sitting with their hoods up. Their operators peered into the engines or talked on cell phones while waiting for help to arrive.

Brown grass by Bruce Stambaugh
Burned out lawns and parched flowerbeds like these were common all across the midwest part of the United States.

Trees and flowers, too, were stressed. Leaves turned yellow or brown. Some gave up the ghost altogether. When I walked to the mailbox to get the mail, the grass crunched beneath my feet like snow. Right now, I’d rather have the snow. Can’t we just skip the dog days of August and sashay right into a normal fall?

Given such a notion, maybe the heat has gotten to me after all.

This column appeared in The Bargain Hunter, Millersburg, OH.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2012