Death Of A Willow

There had been a tightening of security around the Willow tree in the forest near a highly classified area close to our current location. We noticed the tree had been scrutinized by several agencies and even had some type of corrective or punitive surgery, some might say preemptive but we know punitive when we see it, performed in the recent past. Limbs had been hacked off willy-nilly. Untreated wounds were left to heal on their own. It had been rated a Def-con 3 type tree before but lately something had worried the inspectors about its possible interior health and it had been upgraded to Def-con 5 status. This is a severe rating normally only given to a tree thought to be in imminent risk of implosion and usually means corrective if not terminal action needs to be taken quickly.

Prior to any drastic action actually taking place in cases like this such as cutting it down to its nub, or yanking it out root and stem, an arborist is sent in to monitor the tree due to its poor condition. Massive limbs had been mysteriously tearing loose from their moorings high in the canopy of the tree and falling to the ground dozens of feet below. Obviously, havoc ensued amongst those standing or living below it. Each of these limbs weigh several hundred pounds or more and become deadly though unwieldy missiles as they plummet towards the earth at speeds reaching dozens of feet per second. Not quite light speed but fast enough to slam into something pretty darn hard. Several disturbing reports of small animals being terminated had been bandied about, especially the demise of one LlhasaDoodle named Eugene, when he was discovered under one of these errant limbs. Nothing but his four little feet remained sticking out on either side of the heavy branch, his bright little toenails the only sign of joy in that sad scene. The only good news was that due to his now current flatness he was able to be interred in one of those Priority Mail, small flat rate boxes that they give out free from the Post Office. The handy dimensions of the side loading box (8 11/16″ x 5 7/16″ x 1 3/4″) lessened the financial burden on the bereaved owners and made it easier to insert little Eugene with the minimum amount of bending him significantly and speed him on his final journey.

The arborist after being assigned to this tree, in this case an orange-shafted flicker, immediately began extensive boring into the heart of the tree to ascertain what kind and how much damage was really there. You can see the main shaft it had started directly above its right wing. Extensive work had been done by the flicker to drop the main shaft into the vein of misery that had developed near the center or heart of the tree. Unfortunately it was not good news for the tree. The news was bad, in  fact, real bad. A condition known as “TreeKablooey” which taken from the Latin means “that which is ripped asunder”, or to clarify further as it is known in lay terms ” Whoa, Ja see that, that sucker just all swolled up of a sudden and blew itself to begeezus.” This is normally a terminal situation for the affected tree.

The flicker in a vain attempt to save the tree was in the midst of performing a risky and rare procedure called a Tree Colostomy which is technical arborist talk to describe a surgical operation in which a piece of the vein of misery (the affected area of bad crap making the tree miserable) is diverted to an artificial opening in the abdominal wall of the tree’s trunk so as to bypass a damaged part of the mess affecting the tree. That would allow all the bad stuff causing the tree to blow its limbs off to drain harmless down the side of the trunk. Unfortunately it didn’t work. Not only did it not work it aggravated the problem by creating another route for the built up pressure to escape. Now it was every man, bird and squirrel for themselves. The Tree Removal Specialists or the Bring Out Your Dead team was placed on standby and notices were sent out. It looked like the end for a huge old willow that had steadfastly stood there was for decades.

One of the tenants of the tree alarmed by the frequent seismic disturbances that traveled up and down the tree’s trunk came down to find out what the problem was. When the arborist explained the situation to him his immediate response was “What about my nuts? How will I protect my nuts?” The flicker tried to explain that the tree was doomed and about to disintegrate, not to mention blow the hell up, and he should worry more about himself and any loved ones he had and less about his nuts. But as sound as this advice was it did little to soothe the frantic squirrel who takes his nuts very seriously. “Move your nuts now if you’re going to!” yelled the flicker and began a warning drumming on the tree to alert any other tenants who might have nuts or any other valuables to protect who hadn’t gotten the message yet that they should flee. There was a flurry of activity as the various tenants began scurrying about carrying off their valuables in their beaks or in a small rucksacks attached haphazardly to their persons. The squirrel having finally settled down was seen dragging his own nutsack, in which he had all of his important nuts, down the tree to safety. Lives were saved, but unfortunately not the tree. It wasn’t long before there was a huge explosion of sound as the main branch then the other lesser branches following closely behind, shattered and broke loose.

Then there was nothing left but a pile of broken branches, leaves, twigs, empty nut shells, displaced bark, and other debris to mark the site of a once great member of the forest. Even the mighty trucks as big around as a Russian swimsuit model had fallen and shattered. It was well and truly a spectacular death of a Willow. Could this have been prevented? I don’t know, maybe. Did it happen at all? Uhmm maybe, probably not even, but it could have. Stuff like that happens all the time. Do squirrels worry about their nuts that much? Yeah, I’d say they do. And with that we leave you with the warning “Do not your house build under the large Willow for it might just come crashing down and bust your crap up.” Just something to ponder.

 

All Dreams Must End

A view from the main deck of the World Headquarters of The Institute, “Even the hills are sad” said The Director from his gold plated Chair of Immensity as he gazed out into the unknown one last time.

As many of you know *The Institute has been a constant in the life of the blog here at BigShotsNow.com since the blog was started. It has been the center of knowledge and wisdom gained by a continuous quest for the unusual, the ridiculous, the sublime, not to mention the impossible. It has more than fulfilled its mandate to collect, observe, analyze, collate, spindle and in some cases mutilate the facts that have been collected. Our constant scientific approach to reporting the incredible but strange observations we have made has made us an unrivaled source for those who need to know stuff. Stuff being the little niggling thoughts in the back of your mind, such as “Are there more fake flamingos in the world than real ones?” Answer: Yes. What, you didn’t know that!

Our motto ” Tell them and they will believe” has been our guiding precept since the very beginnings of The Institute from its inception back in the misty, raw, primeval formation of its creation. Back to the time when we first began to make stuff up and then tell people about it.

The “The Institute” (it is always referred to as The Institute no matter how awkward that may make things) is composed of many huge interconnected yet rambling structures with ancient high walls and soaring towers, narrow deeply cut windows suitable for defense if needed, balconies and various platforms that jut out from the walls at dizzying heights for observation and the making of photographic studies.

There is an open to the air aviary with gorgeously colored birds from every part of the globe, a celestial observation dome with a one-off custom Hubble telescope to make discoveries never before seen by human eyes no matter how keen, weather modification facilities, galleries with art collections rivaling the Louvre, single use bathrooms, a dirigible tower for the mooring of The Institute’s own fleet of sleek but shiny airships that continually arrive from all four corners of the globe bearing visitors and dignitaries, educators and students, really smart people and some just a taco short of a combination plate. All of them here to soak in the tenacious atmosphere of The Institute. There is a full-sized fully automatic medical center staffed with neat medical stuff so advanced even an intern can run it and often do, that we haven’t even unpacked it all yet. It’s still sitting there in boxes, with labels like “Heart Installer !!! This end up” and Billy Kimshee’s “New and Popular Lymph Node Stripper” plus others too medical to list. Whole operations have been performed here with and without human assistance, or anesthetic for that matter. Just lock them in the chair, select what procedure you want done from the digital menu and hit the on button.

Nestled on the slopes of an ancient caldera The Institute hugs the side of a mountain and overlooks the meadows and forests that make up the floor of the bowl formed after the last eruption that seems like months ago. Down on the gentle land in the valley miles below you can see great herds of mule deer and Elk making their way from stream to pasture. Parts of the valley floor are sectioned off for agricultural pursuits, you can see some of our indentured servants and interns (same thing really) working happily away bringing in the harvests and tending to the livestock, keeping them from straying into the razor wire and the fell pits dug to discourage trespassing. Our huge fields with crops of sisal and myrrh used in the production of quinine and other life saving drugs lie next to the great barren areas of crushed volcanic ash, mined for the making of tooth whitening powder in the mills and factories scattered throughout this great land of ours. Enormous herds of nearly extinct wildlife, black rhinos, lowland gorillas, Minah birds, black racers and African spitting Cobras, ferrets, rare blue wildebeest and Snow leopards are cultivated for sale to the many Wild Game restaurants throughout the United States and parts of the Far East but not North Korea. The Institute is a bucolic land full of life and love and sometimes puppies, but not always.

If you are the kind of reader who is brave or merely curious, or just plain bored, you could type in the phrase “The Institute” into the handy and permanent search box at the top of the page and you would find dozens if not many examples of the amazing if not incredulous varieties of scientific discoveries, unrepentant adventures, steamy instructions on how to live a more fulfilling life, pleas (read begging) for funding our many sketchy unsupported government projects, new unique explanations of how things really work and handy tips on how not to be a dweeb but instead be someone cool and fun without being that good looking, that your friends and that gorgeous chick with the insane betty’s in 7b would admire. Go ahead, take a chance it might just change your life (be sure to read our disclaimer page before making any real life changes). We are not and never have been responsible for weird stuff you choose to do after visiting the internet.

The Institute has been a fully realized dream of the author and as such it has been representational of a time and place that happened in a blink of an eye, or the firing of a synapse in the lower dark place of his brain. It has been a way to share events and happenings that actually took place in the real world but perhaps not completely as they were described in the various posts that were written. But like all dreams the dreamer is forced to wake and face a new day. Even as you read this the mighty walls of The Institute are becoming thin, slowly folding in on themselves, becoming transparent, the far-reaching borders of The Institutes’s grounds pulling in to the center, shrinking until the once mighty reaches of its borders are nothing more than a mote in God’s eye.

The indentured servants, interns and our tame PhD’s that have faithfully served us since we began making them up way back in 2013, a year that will live in infamy, are evaporating like snowflakes landing on steaming prose, returning to whatever state they were in before being shanghaied to live and exist here in the confines of The Institutes world. It is a time of change. Bold, tumultuous, totally unexciting change, where due to some awful but catastrophic events that have occurred that we would like to share with you but can’t, mostly because it might cause depression on a scale unprecedented in the world to date, the The Institute has been forced to close down, shut its doors, and perhaps, and this is the tear-jerker part, cease its activities forever. As Mr. Bill said on Saturday Night Live some time ago “Oh No! Not that! Don’t do that!” yet it’s true Virginia, The Institute may be gone forever.

When you next wake The Institute will be no more than a brief if not exciting dream, sometimes a nightmare, sometimes one of those kind you learned about in High School health class, but always interesting, always fun, or meant to be anyway. All dreams must end. The dreamer wakes, looks about, struggles to find meaning in the new day, and soldiers on. As do we all. Yes it’s a memory, some might even think it a loss, we love those people, they’re the ones that kept the dream alive for as long as it lasted, but if you stop and consider that after a long day we have a new night, a time to rest and rejuvenate, a time to turn the days thoughts, activities and stresses off and perchance to dream again. Remember in dreams anything may happen.

The blog BigShotsNow will continue with new images and new stories to accompany them, as often as The Director can write them, and as always some of them will be true, not all, but some. The fate of The Institute is up in the air, like the author stated, perchance we’ll dream again.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

A New Day Dawning

There’s big, Big, Big news coming concerning *The Institute. We mean huge enormous news. Unfortunately we cannot tell you what it is yet as it is still unfolding. But you’ll be really surprised. Some of you may be upset by it. Others may be happy. You’ll know who you are when we can disclose it.

One thing for sure is that the blog BigShotNews.com will still be alive and well and posting all the news, stories, images and advice that you have come to depend on and for the most part, cannot live without.

That’s all we can say about things right now, but stay tuned, as events unfold you’ll be the first to know. OK then gotta run. Stuff is happening and we’re like busy people right now.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

11:00 o’clock And All’s Sort Of OK

We had gray skies and Camelot rains here the last couple of days and this morning as I was making my rounds inventorying the trees here at the top of the world I was suddenly struck with the realization that one of my oldest friends was not doing so well.

We’ve known each other for over 25 years and have weathered many a storm together. Although old and past its prime it always appeared to be strong and vital and nowhere near ready to give up and lie down as so many of its peers have done. It has withstood one hundred and one mile per hour winds. Incredible snow loads. During the storm of the century the snow was half way up its trunk. Every bird that could peck holes in its slowly softening trunk have done so. Flickers, woodpeckers of several varieties, anything that could make a hole in it has. It has been the home of legions of Canyon wrens, black-capped chickadees, even a family of bluebirds. It has participated in life to its fullest.

Through it all it has stood steady and resolute, Nature’s own version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Defiantly strong in the face of all adversity while its lesser brethren gave up, tottered and fell to the ground to begin their long journey back into the earth that had nourished them for so many years. Not so my friend. It was as if it seemed to say “Is that all you have? Come on throw it at me. I can take it.”

As the years passed we both have been through our storms together. As each wave of turmoil swept over me I would look out and there my friend would be leaning into life with a strength I envied and tried to emulate, not always doing the best job of it, but buoyed up by seeing my old friend still standing firm. There were the successes too, some monumental, at least in my life. Great huge highs that were caused by family, or business, or simply being in a place that I loved as much as life itself. Always I shared it with my friend just outside the window.

Sometime ago I went and stood next to it feeling the texture of its rough and weathered surface. Pieces flaked off beneath my fingers yet it still seemed vital and present. Not fragile, not at the end of its road. I even pushed at it, testing whether it was as firm in its stance as I thought it was. It didn’t budge. I thought, well there’s a lesson there bucko. Keep grounded, keep a firm grip and you can make it too.

Of course at that time I wasn’t taking in the fact that time marches on and all things change. Now I see that the slow passage of our journey together has finally caught up with my old friend and it is calling its name. It is a tired old tree now. I fancy that if I look real close I can see it shiver in the wind, slightly swaying. Then I don’t. I really don’t want to see that. I’ve always thought that my friend and its sons next to it have represented the hands of a clock. The hands pointing to eleven o’clock, measuring our friendship in its own slow way. I, unable to see the slight movement of its hands but knowing they were moving even if I can’t see them do so. Now it seems the hands have stopped moving for my friend, even reversing themselves a little. If their position is eleven o’clock now, it is inevitable that as it must do, they will move to nine o’clock some time. When that happens my friend will have completed its journey.

Soon my old friend and I will part company. I to a new place where hopefully there will be new old friends. It to its final journey and rest on the earth that has sustained it all its life. I hope that it waits to complete its mission until I’m gone. I need it there to be strong and resolute in its constancy so I can be too.

 

 

A Path Not Entered Lightly

This path we’re on, the one that gets you from one day to the next, one year to the next, one decade to the next and beyond is a convoluted, meandering trail that you can’t get off of. It’s filled with shadows and bright spots, twists and turns, only showing us a small glimpse of what’s in store for us and that murky at best.

During the dark parts of the journey you’re constantly gazing to the right or the left, always on the lookout for whatever may be lurking there, if anything. There must be something hidden in the shadows, waiting to come out. That’s where the things that growl softly and bare sharp teeth lie in wait. The three o’clock in the morning demons that call softly to you. The places where you just keep moving, move along folks, nothing to be seen here, yet you know there is. Those dark times when all you can hope for is that bright spot just down the trail doesn’t go away.

The bright spots are there, they’re always there and when you get to one you want to stand still for a while. Not moving, not going ahead and certainly not going backwards. Wanting to keep that feeling of the pure light of promise that something good lies ahead. Ignore the darkness down the path a bit, those shadows just past the beautiful place. We can deal with them when we get to them. Right now let’s just feel the warmth of this place. The darkness can wait. Let’s bask in this light for a while.

This odyssey we partake of, this long journey, is filled with marvels and tragedies, lightness and the heavy weight of sorrow. Goodness, sadness, love and the darker emotions that hide in the shadows, the pure joy of life when all seems well, all combine to make our journey incredible and terrifying. One in which if we had the choice we would certainly heed the muse when we’re advised to beware of the path not entered lightly. Of course we don’t have the choice, so travel on, perhaps the next bright spot will be a very wide one. If so stay there for as long as you can.

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Just Past Full

Phases of the moon. For the uninitiated this is the naming nomenclature for how the moon appears to us as we look at it from our lowly perch here on Earth. For years people have looked at the moon and yelled out its name or phase so they and everyone else were clear on what time of the lunar calendar it was. “Hey it’s full moon! Don’t be leaving your Mother-in-law out on the porch tonight or she’ll turn into a real …. “(insert the expletive of your choice here). Naming the phase was important so they wouldn’t accidentally kill their chickens or maybe the sacrifices they were holding from another tribe, or plant their rutabagas too soon and screw things up. There is a system to all things and you could really screw the pooch if you weren’t in phase with the moon.

Luckily for us and actually for you too if you think about it, we have a department here at *The Institute that keeps track of the phases of the moon just in case something weird might occur and upset the balance of things. If you do not know the names of all the phases of the moon, and how could you actually, our staff here at The Institute, all trained Moonies by the way, have developed a short list that states the names of the different phases of the moon in their auspicious, propitious, timely, yet seasonable order. Here they are.

None : no moon, just darkness deep and scary, anything can happen

Only a Sliver, Just a bitty Mr. Nitty: A little rhyme that our interns use to remember this phase

Quarter Moon in a 10¢ Town: 1st Quarter of the moon. Thanks Emmy Lou for your help in naming this phase.

More’n a Quarter But not Half Bad:  This is the phase after Quarter Moon but not yet close to the next phase. Kind of like the Turkish moon with that star near it but not quite. Need training to spot this one.

Half Moon: This is the phase where the moon is exactly half way through its cycle. Half the moon is visible and half is not. This is up to the viewer to decide which is which but usually the brighter side is the one half visible. Some disagree with this but then they also believe that the earth is still flat after all these years, people actually care when they ask you how you are, and that there is some reason for things being the way they are now. Like a plan or something. Yeah, right.

Half Moon Plus a Bit: This is another ticklish phase that is difficult to recognize. Our Moonies can do it because they spend a lot of time sitting around singing, banging on tambourines and thinking about this stuff. If you’re not sure if you’re in this phase or not, Ask a Moonie.

3 Quarters no Dimes: This is another little mnemonic used by our interns to remember what comes after Half Moon.

Full: This is it, The Big Kahuna. The one all the crazies wait for. The one lovers like. The one that shines up the night like Nature’s own Klieg light. This is the full moon. Nearly everyone can recognize this phase with little or no help. Except the Half Moon people of course, they’re still working on that deal about the Earth being 8000 years old.

Just Past Full: This one often slips by without recognition because it looks so much like a Full moon. We have illustrated this phase with the image above taken just a day ago from the Lunar Imaging platform up the West Tower right below the eaves, way the bejuzus up in the air. It is in the Just Past Full phase. You can see it looks pretty much like a full moon and as we are usually still dealing with the crazies that come out to howl at the Full Moon we easily miss this phase.

3 Quarters on the other side of the Full moon: See explanation of 3 Quarters no dimes above and just reverse it.

Back To Half Full: Ditto

More’n a Quarter But not Half Bad The Other Way: You’re starting to get the picture here. Things are going backwards or reversing if you need a more lunar-like term.

Only a Sliver, Just a bitty Mr. Nitty but on the Flip Side: Just flip the picture of this moon left to right and you’ll be able to see it. This is often difficult for people with dyslexia. If you have this problem call our 1- 900 number Can’t tell which Sliver of the Moon it Is Hotline, and we’ll straighten you right out. Additional charges may apply. Consult your CPA or Personal Banker to determine if you can afford to make the call. Se Habla Espanol.

None: Yup, you’re back to the scary time again. We recommend staying indoors and bingeing on your favorite HBO series during this phase. Eat lots of carbs, drink lots of water. Lock your doors.

So…….There you have it. The complete skinny about the Phases of the Moon. Feel better? We know we do.

As always we want to remind you that this unsolicited bulletin educating you on the phases of the moon has been a Public Service of The Institute, a non-profit, non-existent, totally motivated organization dedicated to bringing you, our readers, the newest and most comprehensive information available. Remember we’re the Institute and we’re here to help.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Wind Minnows of The High Plains Grasslands

If you’ve ever spent any time in the high prairie walking slowly through the waist-high grass you may have noticed out of the corner of your eye a brief golden flash amongst the greenery of the waving stems of grass. If you quickly glance over trying to catch a glimpse of what you saw, all you see are what appear to be the shining golden seed heads moving slowly back and forth in the wind. You may have even run your hand over them and felt the velvety softness along their sides. But those are not seed heads. They are instead a little known species called Wind Minnows.

Exclusive to the high plains as they run up against the base of the foothills leading to the Rocky mountains Wind Minnows are a rare but necessary species that have evolved to take care of the injured and damaged stalks of grass that occur due to predation by grazers, high wind, careless travelers that may have plucked the seed head from its place at the top of the grass stem, and any other natural misfortune to befall the delicate prairie growth. They may look like seed heads but they are something else entirely.

Most people viewing the grasslands for the first time see it as a strong vibrant lush expanse of foliage as far as the eye can see. But what is not generally known is that the grass itself is a delicate mechanism at risk of injury and death when parts of it are removed before its time. If for instance the seed head is removed prematurely it leaves an open wound at the end of the grass stem and the grass will then react much like a “ringed” tree where its bark is removed around the circumference of the trunk so the nutrients the tree needs to sustain life cannot reach the leaves and branches and the tree dies. The life force drains out of the grass stem through this open wound at the top of the stalk much the same way as the hapless tree and is carried away by the wind and lost forever. The grass unable to stem the flow of its vital nourishment dies.

That’s where Nature in its infinite wisdom has stepped in and provided a solution to this problem in the form of the Wind Minnows. Mimicking the appearance and feel of a seed head exactly, but free to move effortlessly through the canopy and the slender forest of grass stems by using the wing like fronds along its sides to propel it through the air, much like minnows use their fins in the water, they can move quickly from one stalk to another. When they find a damaged stalk they affix themselves to the top of the stem and placing their specially formed mouths over the wound they exude a substance much like an adhesive that seals the opening at the top of the stem thereby saving the grass from dying.

That’s why occasionally, if you are very fortunate, you will see the flash and the abrupt spiraling of the schools of Wind Minnows as they dart and swirl quietly through the tall prairie grass. Their flashing color catching the sun and reflecting their golden shapes as they twist and turn in great golden spirals until they find an area where the grazers have recently been feeding. They are looking for the hundreds if not thousands of damaged grass stems produced by the grazing animals as they forage through the tall grass. When found they spring into action, each Wind Minnow seeking out the nearest injured grass stem and beginning its life saving efforts to save the plant.

The next time you visit the high prairie take a moment to walk through the grasses, watch for the telltale glimpses of brightness as the Wind Minnows go about saving the grasslands. And thank Mother Nature for her foresight in creating Wind Minnows. An unusual solution to an unusual problem.