Monthly Archives: July 2011

A Brown Road Campfire

So that you can vicariously enjoy the whole Brown Road experience and since I can’t think of anything to write about, here’s me singing a campfire song, including all of the outside bird and peeper sounds from the swamp behind us! One of the critters got so loud towards the end, I think maybe it was sitting right underneath me. Maybe it was singing along. I laughed because I thought it sounded like one of those combination music and nature sounds CD’s you can buy.

Sweet Baby James is one of my favorite songs.  My Mom sang it to me to help me fall asleep when I was a baby. I don’t really remember that, but I imagine that’s where it all started. My parents had a copy of the James Taylor album that this song was originally recorded on and I would listen to it all the time. Of course, JT is one of the iconic singer/songwriters of our time!

If you’d like, here’s a video I found on youtube of a crackling campfire, that you can look at as well!

You may have to adjust the volume settings on the videos to watch them together, the crackling fire is pretty loud.

Have fun at the Brown Road campfire!

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The Dolly with No Head

Let me tell you a story that will fill you with dread.
A tale of the dolly who had no head.
A horrible creature that haunts in the night.
If you were to see it, would give you a fright.

A dastardly tale of lies and deceit.
A memory I’ve tried to keep fairly discrete.
As not to revive those visions I feared.
As not to have people think I am weird.

This dolly, you see, was missing its head.
And somehow it chose to live under my bed.
I never knew, ‘twas it a girl or a boy?
Just a horribly, frightfully, disfigured toy.

Why this dolly picked me, I never quite knew.
Surely there was some other kid who was due,
to have his room haunted, to be filled with fear.
By this dolly who seemed to never appear.

T’was never a sight for my frightful wide eyes.
Looking under the bed seemed profoundly unwise.
So I’d leap to the mattress, climb under the spread.
To avoid being grabbed by the dolly with no head.

So how did I know that this dolly existed?
I’ll tell you the story, beware it’s quite twisted.
I was told by my brother’s that the dolly was there.
Living under my bed and that I should beware!

Then one night I mustered up all of my grit.
With the biggest flashlight my hands would permit.
I entered my room which was darker than black.
I turned on the flashlight, to deter an attack.

Then I crouched on the floor and with chattering teeth,
I inched toward my bed and I peered underneath.
Alas, nothing scary was there to be seen.
From the front to the back or the space in between.

So this moral I learned, you shouldn’t ignore.
What you hear from your siblings is probably lore!
There’s likely no truth to what they have said.
Especially if it involves a dolly with no head!

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Diary of a Flat Tire… How I got to keep my man card for another day!

Archive from September 2009… the very first post I ever wrote! Funny! :-)

I dragged myself out of bed last Friday, normal time, about 6:30 a.m., and started the regular routine.  Shower, shave, Cheerios coffee, fight with the kids to get ready for school.  “At least it’s Friday I thought”, even though I had a 10 hour work day on my schedule for Saturday.  My wife usually leaves for work after me, I drive the kids to school in the mornings and she picks them up in the afternoons.   This day she had to leave early for a staff meeting she had at work.  So I finished getting the troops ready and by 7:20 we headed out the door, got in my truck, a 2003 Dodge Ram 1500, Hemi pick-up, a manly vehicle if I don’t say so myself!  Backing out of the driveway just as I hit the main road outside our house, I heard a little popping sound but didn’t really think much about it.  We have a gravel driveway and live on a dirt road and I figured it was probably just the sound of gravel popping on the tire treads.  So we headed off to school and within a minute or so, there was that sound that every driving adult somehow knows, even though thankfully we don’t get to hear it that often.  Flup, flup, flup, flup…

“Hey, something doesn’t sound right” I said to the kids as I pulled to the side of the road.

“What if we have a flat tire?” my daughter said anxiously.  Mind you, she just started middle school two weeks before and was still trying to get all her ducks in a row.  Now I was about to be responsible for her first tardy!

“Let me get out and see” I said.  Sure enough, my driver’s side rear tire was flat as a pancake… Ugh!   Since we were still close to home, I turned around, and slowly drove back to the house to assess the damage!

What’s the first thing you think of when you have a flat tire? “Damn, I hope the spare is still hooked to the bottom of the truck!”  I tried to remember the last time I’d looked under the truck to inspect the spare tire, and decided I wasn’t sure if I’d ever looked under there.  This truck has 108,000 miles on it and I’d never had to use the spare tire!  I climbed underneath and alas, it was there and appeared to be in good shape other than the years of accumulated road gunk on it.  So I got out the jack and the tire changing tools, all of which appeared to be severely inadequate for a 1.5 ton truck, but I figured the guys at Dodge must have known what they were doing when the spec’d out this toy jack and the various metal pipes that came with it, and I got to work, figuring I could bang this job out quick and still get the kids to school in reasonable time.

I’ll be the first to admit, I not the manliest of men.  I’m about 6’1”, 170 lbs, somewhere between scrawny and reasonably built.  Although I live in Michigan now, I grew up on 1980’s Long Island, wearing parachute pants, pointy shoes and other bit and pieces of apparel that hopefully never show up in photographs on Facebook!  I still like clothes, and try to dress well most days.  I am reasonably athletic, but other than Little League and the occasional intramural team, I never played any organized sports in grade school or in college.  In fact, I spent most of my time in the high school orchestra playing the cello and still occasionally listen to classical music.  I lift weights and exercise a few days a week, but don’t have the guns, pecs or six-pack to show for it.  But I’m also not a complete nancy-boy!  I recently suffered  through  two knee surgeries on an arthritic knee that continues to plague me every day.  I’m handy around the house, having done some major renovations to the 100+ year old farm-house that my family lives in Michigan.  I’ve installed floors, doors, toilets, appliances.  Heavy, physical, exhausting work, weekend after weekend!  Plus, I drive a 2003 Dodge RAM 1500 Hemi pick-up!  Surely I could change my own tire.

The kids had quickly forgotten about going to school and were playfully running around the yard while I got to work on my truck tire.  I assembled the spare tire rod and cranked the spare down from underneath the truck, removed it from the attachment cord and pulled it out to inspect.  “Wow, looks good” I thought, “first crisis averted!”  Next I set the jack underneath the side of the truck, a couple of feet in front of the rear tire, hooked the crank to it and started cranking it up.   Crank, crank, turn, turn, crank… pretty soon this thing was fully extended and would you believe it, the tire wasn’t even off the ground!  Maybe those Dodge guys didn’t know what they were doing!  Or maybe they accidentally slipped the jack for the Dodge Avenger into my truck.   Crank, crank, turn, turn, I jacked the truck all the way back down.  “Guess I better look at the manual” I thought.  I looked through the index, which guided me to Page 258 – How to Change a Flat Tire.  Blah, blah, blah, there it is, you have to “locate the jack underneath the axle between the spring and the shock absorber.”  I guess it pays to read the directions.

But before that, better call the middle school, my daughter is now going to be late.  “Hello, this is Mr. Warner, Madeline Warner’s Dad.  We just got in our car to drive to school and we have a flat tire, so she is going to be a little bit late.”  “But it’s okay”, I wanted to say, “her superhero Dad has changed his share of flat tires before and will just bang this one out… so we’ll see you in about 20 minutes.”  But I didn’t.

Back to the truck.  I got down underneath, put the jack where it’s supposed to be, and started cranking.  Crank, crank, turn, turn, crank, turn and there it goes, the tire is off the ground, and we’re ready to roll.  Next I got out the lug wrench, attached it to each lug nut, stamped on it to loosen each nut, twisted each one off, thought “we’ll be done here in 5 minutes”, grabbed the flat, and pulled… and pulled… and yanked… and pulled.  “What the fuck” I said, hoping afterward that the kids we’re not within earshot.  I couldn’t get the damn wheel off the truck.  I continued to pull and yank and pry until my arms were vibrating from the workout I was getting.  By this time the kids were fascinated with this whole routine and were watching anxiously, wondering now if they were ever getting to school, or if maybe they’d get to take the day off.

“I can’t get the friggin wheel off” I told them, toning down the four letter words that were shooting out of my mouth like fireworks on the 4th of July.

“Can I try?” asked my son.

“Yeah, give it a whirl buddy” I said with a smile, his comment taking some of the edge off this whole troubling situation.  No, he couldn’t get the wheel off either.

Back to the manual.  I read and re-read every step but couldn’t find anything beyond the ordinary steps of changing a tire.  Remove the spare, jack it up, remove the lug nuts, pull off the wheel, put the spare on, tighten the lug nuts most of the way, jack it back down, tighten the lug nuts TIGHT!  Nothing anywhere about stuck wheels, or wheels fused onto the lug bolts, or special tools that only the dealerships have access to, so that ordinary guys like me can’t change their own tires.  After another 15-20 minutes of tugging and yanking and kicking I put up the white flag.  “Sorry guys, I can’t get the wheel off, I am going to call uncle Bob and see if he can give us a ride.”

Ring, ring, ring…

“Hello.”

“Bob, it’s Steve, I’ve got a problem.  I have a flat tire on my truck, I have it jacked up, lug nuts are off and I can’t get the wheel off the truck… and I’ve got to get the kids to school.  Madeline is already late, Jonathan will be late shortly.  Are you anywhere nearby?”

“Do you want me to just come by and pick you up?”.

“Yeah, would you mind?”

Sunday morning I got up, made coffee, turned on CBS Sunday Morning, a typical relaxing weekend day.  Bob had picked us up Friday morning.  We delivered the kids to school and me to work.  I had told my horror story to all my co-workers, everyone got a good laugh and all was okay.  “That happened to me once”, a colleague offered, “you need to hit it with a sledge-hammer.”  That sounded a little aggressive to me, but I was accepting any and all advice at this point.  I used one of our business vehicles to get home Friday night and back to work Saturday morning, and my wife picked me up Saturday evening and drove me home.  On Saturday at work I had done some internet research and discovered that I was not alone in my experience.  Lots of folks had written about this situation, and the consensus solution seemed to be, put the lug nuts back on, don’t tighten them up much, drive back and forth a few times, and that should free up whatever evil force is holding the wheel on.

So about 11:30 Sunday morning I headed back out to battle the stuck wheel once again.  I cranked down the jack, pulled it out from underneath the truck, got in, drove back and forth a few times, got out, jacked it back up… and pulled and yanked and pried.  Still nothing!  This wheel was not coming off.

“Do you want me to help you pull”, my wife came out and asked, probably feeling more sympathy for me than actually believing the two of us would be able to pull off this wheel.  But we tried anyhow.

“One, two, three, pull!”

“Nope” she said, “that’s not coming off!”

“This shouldn’t be this hard, I said”

“What if you put it in neutral”, my wife offered, “then you’d be able to spin the tire and maybe loosen it up.”

“Okay, I guess we’ll try that” I conceded.

Let alone being a stupidly unsafe idea, if you want to destroy your jack, put your car in neutral and yank on the wheel a few times.  The truck rolled off the jack, forcing the jack’s crank shaft into the ground and bending it into a nice curved shape.

“Well that jack is finished”, I grumbled.   “Let’s get the jack out of your van.”

“You could call Mike”, my wife offered. Mike is a friend of ours who is a Ford mechanic and can pretty much fix anything.

“Or you could call AAA” she added.  “We pay $75.00 a year and we never use the service, this is what it’s there for.”

“Yeah, I guess I could do that” I offered, thinking “there’s no way in hell I’m gonna call AAA ‘cause I have a flat tire in my own driveway.  That $75.00 is for when I drive off the road on a snowy, icy night on a road trip across the county.”

“You’re not embarrassed to call AAA, are you”, she asked?

“Uh, no, no” I mumbled, “I could, uh, maybe do that.”  I felt my own lug nuts shrink just a little bit up into my body!  Mike on the other hand, yeah, maybe I could call Mike and see if he has ever run into this situation.

Ring, ring, ring.

“Hello.”

“Hi, Jordan, this is Mr. Warner, any chance your Dad is around, I’d like to speak to him.”

“He’s up on the roof” she replied.

“Oh… uh… what’s he doing up there?”

“He and a few friends are stripping off the old shingles and installing a new roof.”

“Oh, okay, well maybe when he gets down, could you have him call me, thanks.”  So, Mike is installing a new roof on his house, and I can’t even change my own truck tire!  I went back in the house, poured some more coffee, waited for Mike to call back, and decided to get back on-line to see if I could Google the “magic bullet” that would finally help me release my flat tire from my truck.

And that’s when I found it.  No, not the magic bullet… but the motivation!  I found this website, where there was this big long forum thread where people where talking and bitching about flat tires.  “They always happen at the most inopportune time” wrote one lady.  “Right outside your house is probably the best option,” I thought to myself.  Another guy wrote about how there was no space along the side of the highway to change a tire. “I have plenty of space in my driveway”, I said under my breath, “without the threat of 80 mph traffic flying by my head.”  So I scrolled down farther, past the various musings about flat tires, and there was the post of all posts:

“The first time that I tried to change a tire on my current car, the stupid wheel would not come off.  I was shaking the whole car, trying to get it off, and afraid that it would fall right off the jack. So I call roadside assistance. 30 minutes later, a big guy with a Russian accent arrives, takes one look at the tire, says “this is what you do”, kicks it, and it falls right off. I tore up my Man Card right there.”

I laughed my ass off when I read that!!  Man, I could totally relate to this guy, and I could totally picture this big burly Russian dude, showing up, probably wearing a flannel wife-beater shirt, jeans, ratty work boots with the heels worn down on that angle that makes your feet hurt just looking at it.  He kicks this guy’s sissy little tire, and it falls off like a lump of clay.  “Good thing I didn’t call AAA” I thought to myself, “I don’t want to have to tear up my Man Card!”

I shut down the computer, went back outside, grabbed my crowbar out of the barn, walked over to the truck, laid down in the gravel driveway, just outside the back bumper, just far enough back that I wouldn’t be crushed if the truck came off the jack.  And I swung the crowbar, hard, right into the back of the wheel…THUD!  And the wheel just fell right off, just like the Russian guy said.  I put the spare on and within minutes my good ‘ol truck was ready for another day, or at least ready to drive to the tire shop to buy a new tire.

So, I can keep my Man Card for another day.  I called Mike back, got his wife this time, and told her that all was well, and Mike didn’t need to call anymore.

“He hasn’t come down off the roof yet” she interjected.

“Well, he doesn’t need to call anymore.  I was having some car trouble, but I figured it all out,” I said, not leading on that I was just trying to change my truck tire.  He’ll probably think I was putting in a new transmission or something!

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Goats That Eat Their Own Legs

I try not to dwell on the search terms that bring people to my blog.  Apparently some of the words and phrases I have used sporadically throughout my posts have a tendency to attract some sordid characters of less than stellar moral virtue.  I won’t go into details as I don’t want you to throw up in your mouth.

Yesterday, however, while checking my stats page (have I ever mentioned that I like to check my stats page?) I glanced down to the search terms and discovered this:

borders.com goat that ate its own legs book

WHAT?!?!?!

Have I ever mentioned that I have goats?

Well, I do… I have two of them… and so far neither one has eaten its own legs.  Just as importantly, neither has attempted to eat the other goats legs. I will tell you they do eat all kinds of other stuff, including plastic and paper… but so far no body parts.  Is that even a possibility that my goats could eat their own legs?  Rubbish… I’ve never heard of such a thing!

I really like my goats and have become quite attached to them.  Well, not literally attached, but you know what I mean. They’re like dogs with horns, except only one of them still has his horns. I’ll tell you, we get along smashingly well!  Except for the time I was bending over to pick something up and one of them head butted me so hard that I thought I was going to pass out… but I’m over that now.  Now we get along fabulously! Except for that time that one of them was licking my arm and then bit me, but I don’t hold grudges. Oh, and there was that time just recently that we were putting up fence to protect our garden… you know, from the goats… and one of them kept rubbing on the fence and knocking it over… but we’ve worked that out.  Of course, there was that time that one of them chewed the wires on my lawnmower… and on our bikes.  But, hey, these things happen and we’ve kissed and made up.  Well, not literally kissed, but you know what I mean.

Anyhow, as I said, we get along well.  We hang out in the yard.  We take walks together.  I even let one of them take a sip from my wine glass the other night.  He really liked it and so then I understood why we get along so well.  It’s a special relationship, that between man and goat.  Hey, get your mind out of the damn gutter…

Anyhow, I was perplexed that our goats had not come with any kind of warning that there was the possibility of them eating their own legs.  I was deeply concerned because a goat with no legs would not be nearly as fun to be around as one with legs.  I’d have to put them on a leash and then drag them down the road, and who needs that? So I googled this search expression and found that there is actually a book titled My Goat Ate Its Own Legs: Tales for Adults.  Well thank goodness it’s for adults! It certainly doesn’t sound like an appropriate topic for a children’s book.

I don’t know what the book is about but it is fictional so that gave me a sliver of relief.  Although I am immensely curious, I think I will choose NOT to read it, however.  I don’t want my relationship with my goats to become tainted.

In case you'd like to read it. Just don't tell me what it's about!

 

 

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A Ghostly Tale

Our old house is sometimes creaky.
Sometimes noisy, sometimes squeaky.
We love it still with all its quirks.
So long as all the plumbing works.

We live there happily undaunted.
Although we’re told the house is haunted.
Our guess is that it’s just a hoax.
Though spirits are elusive folks.

There’s a story ‘bout a ghost that’s told.
She harkens from a time of olde.
We think her name is Abbie Hill.
Albeit we haven’t seen her still.

See, Mrs. Hill and her loving spouse.
They used to own this big old house.
They built it as their family grew.
Way back in Eighteen-Ninety-Two.

Now why she’d rather stick around,
than head off where she should be bound.
The answer, surely no one knows.
But this is how the story goes.

The previous owners told this tale.
To us, before we closed the sale.
They saw her at their kitchen table.
They swore this story was no fable.

She sat there in a kitchen chair.
A fancy bun up in her hair.
She wore a nineteenth-century dress.
Her image had a slight fluoresce.

Then just as fast as she’d appeared.
Her ghostly apparition cleared.
It took all of their common sense.
To explain this strange experience.

Then one night as the wife was sleeping.
She awoke to find the ghost was peeping,
at her, as she lay in bed.
A sight that filled her up with dread.

But this ghost seemed not to bear ill-feeling,
as she played this game of brief revealing.
Then with a touch of Laissez Faire.
She vanished quickly in the air.

So when we heard this new disclosure.
We had to keep our strict composure.
We loved this house with all our might.
Why worry about a ghostly sight?

We bought the house with nervous laughter.
And moved our stuff in shortly after.
Wondering then, to what extent,
We’d see our ghostly resident.

But so far she has not presented.
Apparently she’s quite contented.
To share this house on old Brown Road.
This home with which we’ve been bestowed.

And now we’ve lived here many years.
Shared smiles and laughs and hugs and tears.
Regardless if we’re rich or poor.
We hope we’ll live here many more.

And if our ghost decides to show.
In all her radiance and glow.
I guess we’ll have to let her stay.
To haunt us for another day!

Most of you have read the full Ghost Story here!  If you’d like to read more about Abbie Hill, check out the link! :-)

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Crybaby!

When did I become such a crybaby?

I know… sometimes I post stuff that might make you think I am an insensitive ass… but…

The other night we were sitting outside and my daughter was playing music on her iHome which is basically a dock for her iPod with an outside speaker.  I wasn’t really paying attention to the songs, but at one point heard pieces of a song that was mostly acoustic guitar and a nice female voice and that always tends to catch my ear.  A while later I asked her what the song was and she skipped back a few and we eventually tracked it down.

The song was “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert.  My daughter played it again and I liked it because of the guitar fingerpicking, but I didn’t really listen to the words at first.  I asked her to play it again and this time listened a little closer.  It’s basically about someone that goes back to the house they grew up in as a kid.  You can listen to it if you want.  Maybe you’ve heard it already.

The song made me tear up.  Yeah, seriously, it did!  Then my daughter was trying to talk to me and I had to hide my face in my blackberry.  Of course I’d had like eight drinks so my “drunken sorority girl that’s like just been dumped by a totally hot guy she met a week ago” emotional buttons had been pushed. You’re surprised?  Go listen to the song and see if it doesn’t make cry you heartless sociopath!

Anyway, I used to be a pretty stoic guy.  I could sit and watch a sad movie and be completely untouched. My wife on the other hand would cry at everything, movies, news stories, hallmark commercials, whatever… it never took much.  Maybe that’s why we get along so well.  There’s nothing wrong with being emotional, I think its okay.  In fact, it’s probably healthy!  But, not me, I’d sit there and watch them haul “Old Yeller” into the back field and shoot him and not shed a tear.

Not anymore…

Now stuff makes me cry all the time.  Movies, books, songs, even the damn McDonalds commercial with the Apple Tree song!  In fact, I’m pretty confident that these days any time I hear sad violin music playing I am going to start to cry whether I am watching a movie or not. I’m beginning to wonder if I need to ask my doctor about Testosterone Replacement Therapy if there is such a thing or maybe have my tear ducts removed.  I try to fight it, the tears, the lip quivering, the sobbing and sniffling… but I just can’t hold it back anymore.  Now when we watch a movie with the kids my wife and I will sit there balling our eyes out and the kids look at us like, “dudes, seriously, it’s just the Sponge Bob movie, what is wrong with you two!”

I’m not sure when things changed.  I suspect it has something to do with having and raising kids and the emotional responsibilities that comes with that.  But I don’t know, I guess it’s been some kind of a growth process, something that comes with aging and seeing loved ones pass and knowing that my kids are growing up and won’t be living with us much longer.

Regardless, here I am, like a guy at an AA meeting saying “Hi, I’m Steve, and even though I have spent months and months developing this image of me being this kind of rugged, handsome Marlboro Man, on my ranch, caring for wild mountain goats and tending fences and doing other manly stuff, now I’m going to come clean.” Awhile back my family sat around one evening and watched Toy Story 3. My wife and I cried like babies!  Yep, you heard me right, TOY STORY 3!  At the end, Andy turns over all his toys to another kid.  Tears were flowing, tissues were flying, snot was dripping.  Disturbing…

After the movie I opened my Facebook account and posted “should I be concerned that I just watched Toy Story 3 and cried like a baby?”

I won’t share the responses…

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Dance of the Fireflies

Isn't he cute and cuddly! Image courtesy of nationalgeographic.com

I went to bed early last night while the rest of the family stayed up and watched a movie.  As I lay in bed with the usual ten million things swirling through my mind, I stared out the bedroom window and watched the fireflies dance around in the air. I love fireflies! They’re a sure sign of summer and bring back so many memories of childhood.

My family spends many summer nights sitting outside around our fire pit.  The fireflies swarm around like crazy this time of year.  Obviously since you can see them you get a pretty clear image of how many are out there.  I can’t help but wonder though, what other creepy critters are flying around that you can’t see.  Look near any light and you get a pretty good idea.  If all the insects that are out at night had little headlights on, we’d all probably choose to stay inside.

Lots of these unseen creatures choose to interact with you when you’re sitting outside at night.  When they do, most of us freak out and flail our arms around and squeal like little girls. If a spider crawled up your pant leg as you’re sitting there enjoying a conversation, wouldn’t you be totally distressed and have to go inside and change all of your clothes?  If you were hit with a giant moth that you weren’t expecting wouldn’t you likely tip your chair from swatting it away with such ferocity?  If a big June bug landed on the back of your neck wouldn’t you be traumatized from ever going outside again.  I thought so!  Mosquitos?  I won’t even go there…

Fireflies are gentle beasts though, you can see them coming and sometimes they land on you with their little butts lit up and you feel like somehow you’ve been chosen.  They’re not frightening, they’re not disgusting, they’re not creepy.  Instead, somehow they are charming and loveable, like butterflies and dragonflies.

I’ve had several conversations with adults recently about fireflies and the things these evil people used to do as kids, with these poor, helpless insects.  One said he and his friends used to smear them around their fingers as if wearing a ring. Another said he and his friends would use them as face paint.  One even went so far as to say that he would feed them to frogs and if you gave the frogs enough they would light up.  I’m guessing that story was embellished a little bit. I don’t remember ever using fireflies in such cruel, horrible fashion, but then again, I’ve never been great at squashing bugs of any kind and I suspect I was the same way as a child.  I do remember collecting them in containers and trying to get enough to make the container light up, but I think that was the extent of my firefly recreation.

In any case, this all made me wonder how many fireflies have been sacrificed in the history of the world by little kids using them as some kind of war paint, or how many have died sealed up in jars that some kid was using as a lantern the night before.  It’s a tragedy and I think PETA should be involved.  Then again, it doesn’t appear there is any shortage of fireflies around.  So maybe I’m overreacting.

By the way, you people who call them lightning bugs, they’re not lightning bugs, they’re fireflies.  There’s no lightening involved.  So there.  What? There’s no fire involved either? Yeah okay you’re right, there is no fire involved.  So go ahead and call them whatever you want to… just stop squashing them!

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