Friday Jots

Brain on a Stick: has nothing at all to do w this post

â–¶ Successful event (on the SWVA scale of things) with my presentation for the DAR yesterday–with the emphasis on scale. That same lack of the human swarm hereabouts that makes life so livable here also makes it hard in a bucks-for-bang way to find audiences sufficiently large so that investments of travel are offset by book sales. Having half the audience buy books is great, but wouldn’t it be nicer if there were 200 instead of 12 in the audience?

â–¶ I’m still considering the camera changes. I will confess here (only because nobody’s watching anyway) that I downloaded the Canon EOS 60D manual the other day and have been reading it. I am such a geek.

â–¶ The Prairie Home Companion Summer of Love appearance in Salem last night was worth the high ticket price. We’ve been listening to Garrison Keillor since the late 70s. The man is an American Institution. His memory is prodigious, his sense of timing impeccable and his nuance of language and song and slapstick are unparalleled. His sound-effects man (is it Tom Keith or was he the one before?) is amazing in his own right, but of course, as a closet sound effects generator (ask my kids) he easily gained my admiration. Sara Watkins of Nickel Creek was a significant contributor and might be a regular touring member. (See the sidebar–her Latest Journals on her web site.) She was new to me as a solo performer; watch out, Miss Krause, the competition is coming up fast from behind!

â–¶ Ready for some Wasted Friday Minutes: (Not really! I’d never do that to you, my imaginary reader!) Watch TWO videos:
1) the most amazing animal behavior video I think I’ve ever seen. Sheep art. High tech. Border collies will someday rule the world. And 2) a 10 minute video produced by a ridiculously young New Yorker who came to SWVA for the first time recently and produced a stunning showcase commissioned by those types who want tens of thousands of people to swarm into the Roanoke and New River Valleys like locusts of wheat fields. Fine. We got no wheat here in Floyd. You hear that?

â–¶ Suddenly, a mile from the house yesterday on our way to Salem, the driver’s side front tire began making a terrible metallic grating noise. We swapped cars and got to the show on time. But I’m left to figure this out. So with the portable phone in the car out on the gravel by the garden, I called Joey at Protocol to give me a risk assessment. “Listen to this” I said, and held the Panasonic handset out the window. “Sounds pretty rough!” he said, but unless the wheel seemed loose, I could PROBABLY drive it safely for him to have a look. A mischievous rock is what I’m hoping. Like Roseanna Roseanndanna used to say, “IT’S ALWAYS SOMETHING.”

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Glad you got to see the show! Was fortunate enough to see it several years ago at Wolf Trap and it was great. I don’t think it would be a bad thing for border collies to rule the world — just look at what’s out there right now! Good luck with the car – hope it’s nothing serious. Have a good weekend!

  2. I don’t know if these videos are “untouched”, but I do know Border Collies are one smart breed! I’ve been to sheep herding trials and have seen the communication between handler and dog. It’s amazing. And I’m amazed at how most of the collies sit in a row, quietly watching the trials themselves. Occasionally you’ll see one collie nudge the ear of its neighbor, as if making a comment on the competition.

  3. The unrelated photo at the top is wonderful!

    By the way, Border Collies are very good at tricks and obeying other forms of human instruction, and have a real ability to heard most anything, but are totally unreliable when it comes to finding game, pulling a sled, water rescue, finging someone who is lost, or bringing brandy to you in a snow storm. My point: dogs have been bred for specific activities, and if you look closely you will notice that all breeds, and mixed breeds have special skills that compliment human behavior.

    If I had a vote for the smartest breed, based on non-human interaction, it would either be a Newfoundland or bloodhound, but that’s just me.

  4. Hi Fred,

    Check out the American Masters show (PBS) on G Keillor–I saw it this past week and the background on both him and the show was enlightening and endearing!

  5. The video about your county was a good sell for sure. The 4 day Floyd Music festival looked pretty impresssive: lots of equipment, etc. I too hope your county doesn’t end up overloved. Best wishes.