I Play the Accordion for Cows

A while back, I watched a YouTube video of a man playing his piano accordion on a vacant country road out West. I was interested because I, too, play the accordion. He sang a cowboy song. After the first few bars, cattle started emerging from the woods one by one, drawn by the music. After they’d come all the way to the fence that separated them from the accordionist, they stood respectfully in a semicircle, riveted by his song. Not a head moved. Not an ear twitched. When the accordionist finished, folded his instrument, and snapped it shut, the cows dispersed and moved back into the woods.

I thought, wow, I could do that. I recalled that when I drive to my morning A.A. meeting in Gainesville, I pass a field of cattle belonging to the University of Florida College of Agriculture. Maybe these cows would enjoy accordion music, too.

One morning, I put my instrumcowsent in the back seat of my car. After the A.A. meeting, I headed for U.F.’s cattle field. Parking on the curb adjacent to the cattle enclosure, I unloaded my accordion, strapped it on, and began to play. I sang, “Git along, little doggie” at the top of my lungs.

The cows slowly headed in my direction. When they’d come as close to the fence as they could, they stood quietly, listening to every note. Oh, joy.

Then a police cruiser pulled up on the curb behind me. I didn’t notice him at first. But when I was about to pack up and head home, I turned, and there he was, wearing his seamless and solemn police face. I said excitedly, “You can’t believe this, Officer. I saw on a YouTube video that cows love accordion music.” Looking at his face, he didn’t seem to share my excitement. In fact, he looked as though he was thinking about writing a ticket.

Then his features began to melt, the corners of his lips lifted, and dimples appeared in his cheeks. Finally, he laughed. I knew he was in. I said, “Too bad you missed the concert, Officer. I’m on my way home now.”

Pulling away from the curb, it occurred to me that someone probably called the police station to report a crazy old woman on Williston Road playing her accordion and singing to a field of cows. I also realized that the cruiser undoubtedly had a video recorder and the officer would be taking the evidence back to his buddies at the station who would get a good laugh out of it.

Me, too.


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NEWS FLASH–Louis Pasteur Busts Fruit Flies

Fruit flies appear from nowhere.  You leave a ripe peach on the kitchen counter for more than a day—Voila!  You’ve got fruit flies.  You’ve no idea how they found you.

No wonder people use to believe in “spontaneous generation”—the theory that insects and other small living things can arise from dead matter without going through a cycle of birth, reproduction and death. Fruit flies (Drosophila) were thought to come from rotting meat. In 1859, Louis Pasteur, a French scientist, debunked this theory.  His laboratory experiments proved that fruit flies mated and had tiny offspring just like other living things.

Fruit flies spend their whole lives on decaying fruits and vegetables. Mama Drosophila lays her eggs on a piece of fruit, they hatch there, and her offspring eat their bedding. Nature gave them the perfect mouth for extracting moisture from fruit flesh.  Because their eyesight is excellent, they can see danger approaching. Even a shadow cast across the kitchen counter spooks them. Off they fly, zigzagging out of reach.

Wikipedia calls fruit flies “major pests in the world.”  The only way to escape them is to move to Antarctica.

Fruit flies aren’t completely useless. They help genetic researchers study inherited diseases. Over half of the diseases afflicting humans have a match in the genetic code of fruit flies.  Laboratory scientists always have a fresh supply on hand because Drosophila live only a few days and produce about a gazillion eggs.

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Chinese wife and husband

The old Chinese couple sit in straightback chairs.
The old wife looks down at her hands.
The old husband turns his head to look at her.
He doesn’t move but a plastic tube threaded into his nostril trembles.
He speaks.

The wife inclines her head slightly, rises, and shuffles from the room.
She returns and gives a cup of tea to her husband.
She sits.
He speaks again.
She rises, leaves and returns with the teapot.
The old man blinks.
The old woman looks in the distance.

They wait in silence.

Shadow Puppet

Her lips curve upward.
She lowers the puppets onto the stage.
She makes them talk.  They start to argue.
They raise their voices.
One hits the other and laughs.
Now they throw things and scream.

She shrieks with laughter.

You no say this.
You no can have.
I make you do.
I not do.
You no good.
Come and kiss me so I can leave you.

I not know where I am.

Happy Birthday, Maggie Kuhn

Happy Birthday, Maggie!

August is Maggie Kuhn month.  Maggie founded  the Gray Panthers in 1970 and fought for the rights of elders all her life, even before she became an elder herself. She was affronted by the lack of respect with which the young treated the old.  She once said, “The ultimate indignity is to be given a bedpan by a stranger who calls you by your first name.”

Old age is a time of liberation, Maggie believed.  She said, “It’s the time for the mind and spirit to flourish.  The body may be tired, but you can always reach out to new ideas and new ways of thinking.”

On her 80th birthday, she announced that she intended to make at least one outrageous statement a week.  In her late 80’s, she changed it to one a day.  “You get people’s attention that way, she said.  “You get energized, you can make an impact, and it’s just fun.”

Although she never married, Maggie always enjoyed the company of men.  She believed in an active, guilt-free sex life.  At the age of 75, she was still having romantic affairs, generally with younger men.

Maggie stood up for herself, other elders, and disenfranchised people in general without seeming to flinch.  She once admitted that it wasn’t always easy, though.  She counseled others to “Stand before the people you fear and speak your mind—even if your voice shakes.”

Maggie Kuhn died peacefully at her home in Philadelphia at age 89.