“As my friend (the poet) George Oppen once said to me about getting old: ‘What a strange thing to happen to a little boy.’”
— Paul Auster, American writer
I have friends, amateur farmers like myself, who rhapsodize about the joys of bush hogging.
Farmer or not, you probably know a bush hog is a cutting device you drag behind a tractor, an oversized lawn mower for brush and pasture grasses. The practice of such is usually called bush hogging.
Not everyone shares my friends’ enthusiasms for this activity, me among them.
I am able to relieve this monotony with audiobooks and podcasts, sources I’ve increasingly come to rely on during this year of the pandemic.
These aural diversions are particularly useful when driving long distances or performing monotonous chores like weeding in the garden, or, in my case recently, while bush hogging.
Like most phenomena in this age of technology, the podcast universe has grown vast overnight (according to PodcastHosting.org over 2 million podcasts exist as of May 2021).
Podcasts are mostly free broadcasts on an almost infinite array of subjects you can download to your smartphone and listen to them when you choose.
The astonishing quote at the top of this piece comes from “A Phone Call from Paul,” a literary podcast someone told me about this past week.
Libraries, too, are good sources of audio.
With the help of a library audio book, this past week, my body spent three hours atop a John Deere tractor while, thanks to Jane Austen, my brain was immersed in early 19th century English society.
Other days I’m in Paris lying low with Alan Furst and the French resistance trying to outwit the occupying Nazis. And I’ve galloped across the Spanish countryside on my Deere with Don Quixote and his sidekick Sancho Panza alert for damsels in distress.
What’s that quote about classics from Mark Twain? “ … something everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”
This past year I’ve listened to classics I have or should have read: Moby Dick, Huckleberry Finn (sorry, Mr. Twain), For Whom the Bell Tolls and Kidnapped, to name a few.
Friends who know my interest in honeybees frequently send things, mostly articles on one more something miraculous scientists has discovered about the humble apis mellifera.
Last week a friend from Alabama sent a feature from AL.com about a beekeeper with 500 hives in Eastaboga, Alabama, near Talladega. The beekeeper, Justin Hill, owner and sole employee of Eastaboga Bee Company, sells his honey at the popular Market at Pepper Place, a farmers’ market in Birmingham.
There he was discovered by Frank Stitt and other members of the Magic City’s culinary elite. Stitt serves an Eastaboga Honey Cake in his flagship restaurant, Bottega. It looks sumptuous.
“Read though to the end,” my friend wrote.
The article ends describing the beekeeper’s efforts to expand his knowledge. Currently he’s working on a masters in business administration from Harvard.
“I honestly don’t think you ever stop learning,” Hill said. “I think you’re a fool if you do.”
Birney Imes ([email protected]) is the former publisher of The Dispatch.
Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.