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More Dogs on Main Street

President Bush’s approval ratings have dropped to the 30 percent range. Who are those people? There’s his immediate family (well, maybe minus his dad), his inner political circle and a few Evangelicals who still haven’t figure out that they are being used. Throw in the Creationists and those who lie awake nights worrying about gay marriage — well, I still have a hard time getting to 30 or 35 percent. But it turns out that Bush has some support from surprising quarters. Summit County Democratic Chairman Rob Weyher is a big Bush fan. He said that Bush’s tax cuts have saved him a bundle of dough, and he likes Bush because of it. He contributed heavily to his campaign and the Florida re-count debacle.

One might expect the leader of a political party to take sort of predictable positions, or even go ballistic like Howard Dean when talking about Bush’s tax cuts, even if he had privately gloated when filling out his tax return. When giving big bucks to the other party’s candidate, one might think that the Democrat Chairman might have found a way to have the check come from his spouse or in some name other than his own. But not here in Summit County. When the local party chieftain decides to fraternize with the enemy, it’s right there on the public record.

Personally, I believe that political parties are the root of most of the corruption in government. They exist primarily to launder bribe money paid to politicians and, but for special legislative indulgence, they would be treated as on-going criminal enterprises. If only Tony Soprano could get re-classified as a political party, everything would be OK. On the local level, having partisan elections for county offices is just stupid. Is that Republican or Democrat snow being plowed from the streets? The party system creates a nearly invisible layer between the electorate and the elected. The party process works as a filter, managed (or mismanaged) by a few party officials who exercise a surprising amount of power for no public benefit. So a pox on both their stinking houses.

Speaking of stinking, I’ve been dealing with cows this week. I attempted to put up an electric fence to keep the cattle out of an area where a grove of aspens is struggling to put up a new generation of saplings. There is nothing a cow likes better than an aspen sapling, whether to eat it, or just to roll over and break it off. So I bought a solar-powered electric fence. It’s not much more than a line of string with some wire in it, and when the cow pushes against it, she gets a sharp jolt of electricity. Not enough to barbecue, but enough that the cow learns not to push against the string. It’s a lot easier to install than barbed wire, especially in a situation that is probably temporary.

I got it all set up, and the cows came over to investigate. After a minute’s thought, they marched right through it, tearing down the string and several posts. I hooked it back up again, and decided I better test it. I gingerly brushed against the string. Nothing. There is more spark in kissing Aunt Myrtle at a family reunion. I re-wired things and tried again. The cows began to chew on the line. In desperation, I resorted to reading the instructions. The thing came with a thick manual that covered installation of a dozen different products, a discussion on the uses of electric fencing, and the history of agriculture in New Zealand. There is a chart with animal icons showing which model will control which animals. The solar powered unit is not effective against kangaroos.

The electronic part was made in New Zealand, where they speak a slightly different version of English. I was instructed to tighten certain parts with a spanner, and how to properly earth the electrical system. The solar unit was to be pointed toward the equator. There was a special section on tropical cattle, who are apparently very excitable and prone to jumping over the electric fence rather than backing off when they get shocked. The discussion of tropical cattle had me thinking of Gary Larson cartoons with cows in Hawaiian shirts sipping daiquiris while trying to get the new cow to touch the wire.

Nothing worked. The best I got was a slight tingle. I had my nephew’s wife, a computer engineer, look at it. She claimed it was outside of her training. A neighbor with an advanced degree from Stanford demurred, saying his engineering was in bridges and pipelines. The cows, however, were smart enough to figure out where the business end of the device was. They knocked it off the post into a ditch, then managed to kick it to pieces.

In the process of reassembling it, I noticed a label on the bottom of the battery. When the unit comes out of the box, the battery is already installed in a little cradle (held down with nuts tightened with the spanner) so that only the terminals on the top can be seen. But the label, conveniently located on the bottom of the battery, explained that the battery must be charged for four days before installing the unit. I guess the New Zealanders are used to looking at things from underneath. Once it was charged up, it did the trick.

Another set of instructions I had to read came with an air conditioner I bought for the bedroom. There’s a little reservoir on the side of it that catches the condensation water. It has to be emptied periodically. "Never push or kick it rudely, otherwise the unit will failure and show ‘P-1’ on display area," the inscrutable instructions said. It turns out that the design of the tank is such that it almost demands that you kick it rudely to put it back in place. But I’ve figured out how to kick it politely, while facing the equator. We don’t want "P-1" to be displayed and upset tropical cattle.


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