Sam Aurelius Milam III
Back when I was young, from about 1958 until about 1964, I spent a lot of time hiking around on a big piece of vacant land that was adjacent to my home in southeast Bexar County, Texas. It was a large piece of land, about 20 square miles. That's almost 13,000 acres. It was roughly rectangular in shape and was bounded by three country roads and one two-lane country highway. So far as I ever discovered, the land was devoid of humans, except at the edges. There were small communities at the intersections of the roads and there were occasional houses around the perimeter of the piece of land, adjacent to the roads. Beyond the back yards of those houses, the land was empty.
All of that land was "privately owned" and, in previous years, I suppose that it had probably been used for farms and pastures. It seems to me, as well as I can recall the situation, that it had been overused, nearly to depletion. Although it had been long unused at the time of my explorations, it was still divided into square or rectangular regions of either bare, eroded ground, or scrubby growth. Such fences as remained were in disrepair. If there were any farm lanes, then I don't remember seeing them. I was aware, at the time, that I was trespassing, so I usually listened for engine noises and tried to stay close to the cover of the scrubby regions. I never encountered anybody.
I recall that the land was dry and consisted mostly of depleted and eroding soil, and bare, dry gullies. It might have been at the beginning of a long, slow return to a somewhat natural condition. I don't know. It was, at that time, home to mostly mesquite trees, prickly pear, rattlesnakes, a few mockingbirds, lizards, ants, and some jackrabbits. I recall that there were also buzzards. Once, I saw a chaparral bird. That was such an unusual event that I went right home and told Poppa about it. I should also mention the possibility of a small population of very large and very elusive canids. About that, I can only speculate. In that regard, see my article Sightings, in the February 2018 issue.
During the years of my explorations, nobody travelled there except for me, occasionally accompanied by my brother or my sister and, usually, by my dog, Wolf. During one such exploration, during which I was accompanied by my brother, we discovered the remains of an ancient, abandoned farmstead. It was far and away the furthest that we'd ever ventured into the region. As well as I can recall, it must have been near to the very center of the piece of land, a long distance from any people or habitations. The old house appeared to have been abandoned for many decades. While we were exploring the place, we climbed up onto a pile of old lumber. Fortunately, the lumber supported our weight long enough for us to notice that it was covering a very deep, dug well, and to climb back off of it. By dug, as opposed to drilled, I mean that the well was plenty wide enough that we could easily have fallen into it. We dropped a rock into it and counted several seconds before we heard it thump at the bottom. Nobody knew where we were. If we'd fallen into the well, then we might not have been located for weeks, if ever.
During my explorations, I learned various things about the region. One observation was that there weren't any stickers growing there. Some people might view that as trivial but, in nature, few things are trivial. It was interesting to me because the local houses were mostly surrounded by sticker patches, which were an ever-present peril. Walking barefoot, outside, was absolutely not done. I still don't know why the stickers grew only around the houses. I'm not necessarily claiming that there was some kind of mystical significance, like karmic burrs under our saddles, but I suppose that such a thing is possible. I don't necessarily believe in karma and such things, but I don't necessarily scoff at them, either. I can only speculate. Whatever the case, it's a fact that the stickers grew only around human habitations. They didn't grow in the abandoned land. It was a mystery to me at the time, and it remains a mystery to me to this day.
I haven't been back to that piece of land for almost 60 years. I expect that, by now, it's probably covered with concrete, asphalt, ticky-tacky, and people but, back then, it was an idyllic refuge for me from my various trials and tribulations at home, and from the stickers.
Rights and Unalienable Wrongs
Sam Aurelius Milam III
Political correctness, the current version of imposed secular orthodoxy, is acquiring a religious level of inviolability. It even has its own collection of secular heresies: sexism, racism, homophobia, and so forth. Its ever-expanding religiosity brings to mind the Roman Catholic Church of yore, and the fear that a new Inquisition looms in our future.
Whether or not a person has unpopular beliefs is his own business, and nobody else's. Each person should have as much right to his beliefs, no matter how unpopular they might be, as does every other person. If he doesn't have such a right, then nobody does. In that case, all people will be permitted to have only approved beliefs. So, if somebody is sexist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, racist, or anything else, then he shouldn't be penalized or punished merely for his beliefs. It might be appropriate to punish someone who actually causes harm provided that the person who claims to have been harmed bears the burden of proof but it is never appropriate to punish someone merely because his beliefs are unpopular. In a free society, there must always be that clear and distinct understanding of the difference between belief and behavior.
Regarding the self-appointed enforcers of the new orthodoxy, no matter how righteous or holy such an activist might believe himself to be, he is never justified in compelling other people, merely for the sake of his own worthy cause, by force and against their wills, to behave according to his beliefs and expectations. To paraphrase Lloyd Biggle, Jr., fundamental to any free society is the right of any member thereof to be wrong. No free society has ever retained its freedom after the abolishment of this principle.
Justice Louis D. Brandeis
Olmstead v. U.S.
277 U.S. 438 (1928) (dissenting)
Letters to the Editor
You might say that Buddhism is a way of life & not an organized religion [Referring to It Would Take a Miracle, October issue, page 1]. The fact that they have never made war against anyone is still true, religion or not.
Thank you for your mentally provocative work with the Frontiersman, which I always look forward to reading.
J.M., Victorville, California
The distinction that you've noticed is interesting. It suggests to me that we need to consider some definitions and usages.
I don't know much about Buddhism. I don't know if that belief system includes God or gods. Anyway, there is an accepted sense of the word religion that lacks any reference to God or gods. An example is, "a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith". That's from Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary, 2011. It's important to note that the sense of the word is given in a separately numbered entry and, thus, it isn't related to the other senses of the word listed under the same heading, religion.
I spent some time looking through my collection of old dictionaries. The earliest occurrence that I found of the sense of the word in which we're interested, or at least something close to it, was in the Thorndike Century Senior Dictionary, 1941. It was, "matter of conscience. She makes a religion of keeping her house neat." That definition is similar in principle to the 2011 definition because it defines a sense of the word religion that isn't connected to God or gods. That sense of the word, in Thorndike as in Webster, is a separate, numbered entry, thus distinguished from the other senses of the word under the same heading.
It suggests to me that we need a new word in the language, a word to designate systems of beliefs toward which people have a religious kind of dedication, but without any involvement of God or gods. Maybe such a word already exists but, if it does, then I'm not aware of it.
Thank you for your continuous fodder for thought....
FYI on the COVID-19 front, Big Brother CDCR's failure to oversee virus spread, and continued bureaucratic hubris, I offer:
On May 19, 2020, CDCR reported: Out of 35 prisons 6 reported COVID-19 infected prisoners with a total of 862 and 6 dead.
Six months later, on October 30, 2020, CDCR reported: Out of 35 prisons only 1 prison reported no COVID-19 infections (that prison is Tracy which is closing), with a total of 15,825 infected prisoners and 78 dead.
ON YOU! CDCR.
On October 20, 2020, the Court of Appeal of California, First District filed an order and opinion on rampant virus spread and death at San Quentin prison, and system wide. In the opinion the judges wrote: "...respondents' (CDCR) failure to immediately adopt and implement measures designed to eliminate double celling, dormitory style housing and other measures to permit physical distancing between inmates is morally indefensible and constitutionally untenable."
After a brief history of what the Federal Courts, state legislators and university experts, have reported to solve overcrowding in prisons especially with the elderly the judges wrote: "...refusal to consider ... expedited release as part of its COVID-19 response is at odds with judicial, legislative and academic recognition of this correlation."
DOUBLE SHAME ON YOU! CDCR.
The Appeals Court ordered 50% reduction of San Quentin's population with a lot of shaming of CDCR.
On October 20, 2020, Associated Press article quoted CDCR "We disagree with the ruling but have yet decided if we will comply or appeal." Their hubris is alive and well.
Waiting for COVID-19, I remain,
R.O., a prisoner
Hello, greetings, I pray your health and spirits are good....
In response to your November 2020 Frontiersman in your letters to the editor, "F.L. a prisoner", let me respond to what he said. F.L., actually, Sam is right, 6 million Jews dying isn't a myth. If nothing else, the Nazis were tedious record keepers. The tattooed numbers on Jews forearms were for, like the department of corrections for identification and record keeping. If you ignore "hard-line Jews" and simply review the records the Nazis left, the count is between 6 and 7 million deaths. But, I agree with Sam, they should quit seeking sympathy. They [the Nazis] killed twice as many Soviets, and over 10 million allied troops and citizens (France, U.K., and U.S.A.), the total count the Nazis killed is over 29 million. So 6 million Jews, although a lot, is paltry when compared to the total number....
S.H., a prisoner
A kindergarten student asked his teacher to help him put on his cowboy boots. She could see why he needed help. Even with her pulling and him pushing, by the time they got the boots on, she'd worked up a sweat.
The teacher was annoyed when the little boy said, "Teacher, they're on the wrong feet." She looked, and sure enough, they were. It wasn't any easier pulling the boots off than it had been putting them on. She managed to keep her cool as they worked to get the boots back on, this time on the correct feet.
Then, the little boy announced, "These aren't my boots."
She tried to stay calm and asked, "Why didn't you say so?"
She struggled again to help him pull the boots off. No sooner had they gotten the boots off than he said, "They're my brother's boots. My mother made me wear 'em."
She didn't know if she should laugh or cry, but she mustered what grace and courage she had left to wrestle the boots back onto his feet again. Helping him into his coat, she asked, "Now, where are your mittens?"
He said, "I stuffed 'em in the toes of my boots."
She'll be eligible for parole in three years.
Sam Aurelius Milam III
Growth is a temporary condition that cannot be permanently sustained. This is true of all things, at all times, and in all places.
Don't worry, ladies. We understand it perfectly. No means maybe. Maybe means yes. Yes goes without saying.
My thanks to the following: El Dorado Bob; Betty; James, of Victorville, California; Eric, of Ione, California; and Robert, of Stockton, California.
It's Hot and Dry in Georgia
Signs That You're Getting Older
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Sam Aurelius Milam III, editor