The Antagonistic Relationship Between Extraterrestrial Shapeshifters and Cows

I was recently expanding my knowledge by watching an educational TV program in which men of science investigate extraterrestrial activity at a farm called “Skinwalker Ranch.” The series starts off with the men of science standing around a dead cow in a pasture, and one man of science states authoritatively, “This isn’t normal. It’s hard to kill a cow.” The other men of science agree, which is why my wife has very little respect for men or science. 

Notably, she points out there are no women of science involved in this investigation, which is a good point but easily explained: Likely women of science are too busy trying to cure cancer or other human ailments and not prioritizing what really matters, like whether extraterrestrials are visiting earth and tormenting our cows. 

Apparently, the reason the ranch is called “Skinwalker Ranch” is because the aliens beamed themselves down to earth, where they then use shapeshifting abilities to change skins and impersonate humans, meaning they’re hiding in plain sight and then sneaking off to kill cows in their down time. Of course, the men of science have some alternative hypotheses for the cow deaths, including radiation from UFO spaceships, laser beams from UFO spaceships, and one admittedly outlandish theory that the cow deaths are terrestrial in origin and caused by a yet-to-be discovered cryptozoological species living in a nearby desert cave. 

Speaking of cryptozoological species, the head of security for the investigative team is named “Dragon.” Dragon’s job is to carry big guns everywhere to protect the men of science from the aliens with radioactive laser beams. Dragon takes his job seriously, and on one occasion he gets spooked and shoots a tree, believing it to be an alien shapeshifted into vegetative form, but after closer inspection it was just a tree.

As you can imagine, this show is not only educational but quite entertaining, and frankly it’s not something you’d expect to see on the stuffy ole History Channel. In recent years the History Channel has really upped its historical game with all the focus on ancient aliens, who are much more interesting than their ancient human counterparts who sat around all day chipping away at stones and grunting. Recently, I’ve been trying to better myself by watching more mentally enriching TV like historical alien programming instead of mind-numbing TV like cable news, which spends too much talking about pointless politics and very little time on issues that are important to everyday Americans, like mysterious alien cattle mutilations. 

After about fifteen minutes of watching “Skinwalker Ranch,” I experienced some paranormal activity of my own when the remote mysteriously disappeared and the TV suddenly switched to HGTV. My first thought was to blame my wife–but then I remembered the simplest solution is the most likely, meaning either interference from an extraterrestrial laser beam or my wife is an extraterrestrial shapeshifter. 

The Pond Builder

The Pond Builder

A legacy is

wood ducks, willows, and bubba,

a giant beast who boys tried 

to catch fishing on the 

red clay core, clay stripped and packed

tight by some man on a dozer.

He laid this rusted riser,

checking heights with transit

and rod. He closed the valve

waited for rain and hoped to God 

the pond would hold—maybe 

for ducks and boys, but mostly 

for his name among 

those who build

and understand what holds water.


Some Farm Ponds We Built When I Worked for Soil and Water Conservation

Bringing in a Lethal Librarian

Up to this point in my life, I’ve looked down my only double barrel firearm, my nose, at that other subset of outdoorsmen known as hunters. I haven’t been hunting since the time I bagged a ten-pointer, saber-tooth tiger, and window pane in the same trip, the trip right before my mom confiscated my bb-gun and grounded me for a short eternity. 

I figured it would be hard to ever eclipse the results of that excursion, and thus I focused my efforts on the pursuit of aquatic life, making it my life’s goal to become a charter boat captain on my grandma’s pond. In those days, I had about every color plastic worm available, which is not saying a lot because plastic wormery has advanced a lot since then. (Apparently, scientists have kept quite busy discovering new species of plastic worms, heralding each species as the missing link in the largemouth bass’s dietary preferences.)

Because my hunting skills are a little rusty, over the years I’ve let other people hunt on our farm in the hopes that they would deter the roaming horde of deer that pillage and plunder my crops. But, alas, year after year, I have been disappointed as hunters have killed nary a deer; instead, they’ve merely baited more in and taken pictures of them eating corn cobs. 

HUNTER: “Look at all these deer in the photo I got from the trail cam.” 

ME: “Have you killed any yet?” 

HUNTER: “No, I could of killed some does, but I’m waiting for that big buck there.” 

ME: “But can’t you kill up to six a year?”

HUNTER: “Yeah, but it’s too much trouble to fool with does.”

I’ve heard this so many times that my regard for hunters and their outdoor craft has plummeted. At least if a fisherman doesn’t catch anything, we have the decency to lie about it, but hunters seem perfectly content admitting that they spent four hours sitting in the woods and failed, then proudly riding away in their oversized trucks with no forest ruminant on the back. In fact, I’m starting to think if a hunter drives a trunk big enough to rival an Abrams tank, then they are too much trouble to fool with.  

Apparently, real hunters drive a truck of normal proportions and work at the library, or at least that’s what I’ve learned since we’ve started letting Payne, a mild-mannered student worker and aspiring librarian, start hunting on our farm. In two weeks, he has killed three deer and two racoons–with a bow and arrow. That’s more than the other hunters killed in five years, with high-powered rifles with sniper scopes. You would never see Payne and think, “he’s a deadly hunter,” but I suppose it just goes to show you can’t judge a future keeper of books by his cover. 

Board By Board

In a moment of inspiration, I once grabbed a crowbar and decided on a whim to start a small home improvement project. I decided to start re-siding my house with hardie board and installing insulation in the walls. Now, two and a half years later, I’m finally on the last wall of my house, and I no longer feel inspired. I can firmly say I’m now anti-inspiration. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I need to be inspired to do something, that something probably doesn’t need to be done. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure I saved a ton of money by doing the work myself, but that said I likely also lost several years off my life-expectancy due to lead poisoning. People always talk about how well-built old homes are, but in reality, I think old homes are just well armored. The old wood boards I pried off my house were likely covered in so much lead that I could have pawned them off as metal at the scrap yard. They had at least a dozen layers of paint, dating back to the original paint used way back in 1893. 

On a positive note, in the two and a half years it has taken me to re-side our house, I’ve had a lot of time to think about life priorities and core values while climbing up and down a ladder toting hardie board. Once, after a day of much introspection, self assessment, and ladder climbing, I had a self revelation and decided upon the following maxim as my new personal life slogan, “Never start a project you can’t finish in two hours.” 

However, now that we have a child, I’m considering a revision: “Never start a project you can’t finish in twenty minutes.”

Raising a Man of Taste

Thomas is not a picky eater–he will eat chicken feed, goat feed, cow feed, and cat feed indiscriminately without pretense or shame. I guess it serves me right: I was secretly hoping Thomas would enjoy helping me do farm chores, but instead of helping me feed the farm animals, he mostly just helps himself to the farm animal’s feed. In the process of trying to deter my son from binging on calf starter pellets, I’ve learned that explaining to a toddler why he shouldn’t eat feed meant for other species is a task that should only be undertaken by someone with a Ph.D in logic. Toddler logic is the hardest logic to defeat.

ME: No, no, we don’t eat goat feed.

THOMAS: eat! eat!

ME: “No, it’s the goats time to eat, we just ate. Thomas, stop!”

THOMAS: [grinning with a goat pellet hanging from his lip] time to eat!

ME: “No, goat feed is yucky!”

THOMAS: “No yucky–yummy!”

In the barn, we have three big plastic  trash cans that serve as feed bins to contain the livestock’s vittles. They also serve as Thomas’ buffet line. Of course, the easiest way to keep marauding pests out of feed bins is to shoot them, but you can’t really do that with toddlers (at least you can’t in the South–gun culture is so strong here, the toddlers would likely shoot back). 

And honestly, I’m not sure if I really want to deter Thomas’s adventures with taste. It’s not like he’s only eating highly processed animal feed, he is also developing quite a fondness for farm fresh salads, in particular a fresh orchardgrass/fescue mix which he shoves into his mouth while toddling through the pasture. Anyway, my theory is that if he eats grass as a toddler, he’ll eat broccoli as a teenager. I’ll report back in 11 years.

Thomas caught with hand in cookie jar.