Saturday, January 18, 2014

Crumbleocity - A New Word for the #Farming Vernacular

crumbleocity (crum-bull-ah-ce-tee): the degree to which a cow patty breaks apart and the distance it travels when kicked.
Our Manure Machines

There is a reason we rednecks are referred to as sh*t kickers, and it's not just because city folks think we're big and dumb. (In fairness, anybody who spends time around cattle or other livestock could be called a sh*t kicker. You kick loads of manure, whether you intend to or not - the stuff is everywhere.)

No, I believe the phrase arises from the jealousy city folks feel over our traditional redneck pastime of kicking cow patties around the pasture. In addition to the hilarity caused when watching someone line up for a cow patty kick, there's quite a bit of value in kicking poo, including the benefits of manure spread as fertilizer; the reduction of unsightly cow patty mounds that linger in the pasture for ages (which the fire ants love and the cows won't graze near); and the increase in heart elevation and muscle tone due to the exercise.

But cow patties differ in their suitability for kicking. Therefore, there is an art to kicking poo, as follows:

Weather: the freeze / thaw cycle works wonders on the creation of crumbleocity, so there's good kicking to be had in winter. Regardless of the time of year, choose dry days when the temperature is between approximately 45 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Too Wet

If the day is too wet, you're likely to slip while taking aim and letting loose with your kick. 

Too much colder than 45 F and the cow patty will tend toward frozen, hurting your foot when you kick it. (They're hard as bricks when they're frozen - yes, we've learned that the hard way.)

Much hotter than 90 F and the dang things crust over quickly, fooling you into thinking they have the potential for good crumbleocity but instead smearing all over your foot.


Footwear: you can kick cow patties in your bare feet or sandals, but I don't recommend it. (Icky between the toes. Enough said.) Cowboy boots work fine, but I prefer wellies because they're easily rinsed off. If you're inclined to kick when the weather is cold, choose wellies with steel-toes to protect your toes.

Too Dry

Patty selection: this is where the true art comes in. Wet cow patties don't crumble well at all, and they don't travel any distance when kicked. Cow patties that are too dry might fly a fair distance, but don't crumble. (They are an excellent choice for that other traditional redneck pastime, the cow chip flip.)

Just Right

The perfect cow patty to provide good crumble and distance / spread when kicked is only slightly moist and still well mounded. It's dark in color or is starting to turn a lighter brown in places and has lost that 'new poo' sheen.

Good Crumbleocity

When you kick a cow patty with solid crumbleocity, it spreads in a "V" from the point of origin, fanning out to six feet or more. Delightfully satisfying.

This, I believe, is the origin of the phrase 'sh*t kicker'. If the label has been slapped upon you, wear it with pride and know that those city folks are really hoping to join in, and wondering if Prada makes a wellie suitable for patty kicking...

Sunday, January 5, 2014

It's Time for Torture #amwriting

Time is the perfect element for torture. It's silent, stealthy, and leaves no marks of its own accord, although those suffering from a bout of torturous time may show signs of wear. It's an arbitrary beast. Have you noticed? And if you're in the market for a way to torture your characters, time can play a role, becoming a character in and of itself.

Just so we're clear, I'm not talking about the science fiction working your way through a worm hole type of arbitrary. I'm talking about your everyday garden variety type of arbitrary. Take, for example, time spent waiting for a subway train. Like those that run on the London Underground, where most of my subway experience has occurred.

There are electronic signs that tell you which train is coming next and how long you'll have to wait until that train makes it to the station. But if you pay attention, you might notice that the number of minutes you actually wait bears no resemblance to the number on the sign. You might also notice that the numbers count down the minutes until the train is due to arrive, but the numbers don't always move in 60 second increments.

A three minute wait for a train might actually take thirty seconds, or could stretch into twenty-two minutes. All the while, the sign reassures you that it'll only be three Underground minutes until the train arrives. This lack of reliability used to drive me crazy when I lived in London and I can imagine a similar wait causing untold damage to the psyche of a character who's in a hurry.

 Hospitals and doctor's offices are places where time warps, usually expanded into a mind-numbing slowness. Could an illness lurk in the wings for one of my Forney County characters, forcing them to twiddle their thumbs or watch inane daytime television in a doctor's office or medical waiting room, testing their powers of perseverance?

I've noticed another truism about time. The older I get, the faster time passes. When I was a kid, summers lasted f o r e v e r. Remember that? When I once moaned about time passing quickly, my 96 year old grandmother told me to wait until I reached her age. The years literally whipped past. It's as if we're born into the outer edges of a whirlpool, making wide, lazy circles around a massive drain. As we age, we draw nearer to the drain plug, spinning faster and faster toward our final destination.

(Sorry. Didn't mean to get morbid. But this aspect of time might be relevant to one of my characters as they age, driving them to behaviors and decisions they might otherwise not have made.)


To add a more unique twist to this whole discussion about time, let me tell you about a friend. She was the pedestrian victim of a hit and run accident several years ago, and nearly died. Although she's lost the use of her right arm, she's able to walk short distances using a walker and she has regained her ability to paint. Her mental capacity, however, has changed significantly. Her doctors estimate that her short term memory lasts about 45 seconds. Think about that. In about the same amount of time it takes to sing 'Happy Birthday' three times, her most recent memories are gone. When we see each other, we have the same conversation over and over and over and over. "Your sweater is so pretty. I love that shade of brown. And it looks warm." Pause for about 20 seconds. "I love that sweater. That shade of brown is gorgeous, so earthy, and it looks really nice on you." (Is it troublesome, having basically the same conversation again and again? Given her sweet, funny, resilient personality, absolutely not. In some ways, it makes me love her more.)

Maybe it's time that one of my characters experience an event that impacts their memory, altering their sense of time. That could wreak some havoc for a detective, a criminal, or a witness to a crime.

What do you think about the 'reality' of time? Do you use it and its many deviations from our 'real' reality to torture your characters? To increase the tension in your stories?

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