Category Archives: Old Horsetail Snake

The end of a wonderful correspondence



Dear Dr. Doolittle Here’s a forthcoming colm from ‘ol hoss. Read and comment, please:

Sometimes I start out writing a b**g and forget what it was supposed to be about.  You’ve never done that.  Me, I start out writing about winter squash and first thing you know I’m fishing in Mud Puppy Lake.

 Here’s a persample:  I found this youtube thing the other day and captured it for my b**g.  Put it where you see it now — and promptly forgot what it was all about.  It could have been about finding long-necky dinosaurs in Montana, but I’m pretty sure it’s not.  It, more likely, was about dung beetles in Tumbuktu, but I’m not sure. And then suddenly it dawns upon me!  It is about The Finger.  And not just any Finger, but The Deadly Fickle Finger of Fate!  Let’s look in and see.  Maybe it’s not so bad…….

 + + + + + + + +

In 1887, Mikele Mebembe was on holiday in Kenya after graduating from Northwestern University in Illinois.  On a hike through the bush, he came across a young bull elephant standing with one leg raised in the air.  The elephant seemed distressed, so Mikele approached it very carefully.

 He got down on one knee and inspected the elephant’s foot.  There, he found a large piece of wood embedded in it.  As carefully and as gently as he could, Mikele worked the wood out with his knife, after which the elephant gingerly put down its foot.  The elephant turned to face the man, and with a rather curious look on its face, stared at him for several tense moments.  Mikele stood frozen, thinking of nothing other than being trampled.

 Eventually, the elephant trumpeted loudly, turned and walked away.  Mikele never forgot that elephant or the events of that day.

 Twenty years later, Mikele was walking through the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago with his teenage son.  As they approached the elephant enclosure, one of the creatures turned and walked over to near where Mikele and his son were standing.  The large bull elephant stared at Mikele, lifted its front foot off the ground, then put it down.  The elephant did that several timnes, then trumpeted loudly, all the while staring at the man.

 Remembering the encounter in 1987, Mikele couldn’t help wondering if this was the same elephant.  Mikele summoned up his courage, climbed over the railing, and made his way into the enclosure.  He walked right up to the elephant and stared back in wonder.  The elephant trumpeted again, wrapped his trunk around one of Mikele’s legs and slammed him against the railing, killing him instantly.  

Probably wasn’t the same elephant.

Yours, Hossie


Darlin’ Hossie,

I like your column- so publish. At which point I will comment that we no longer keep elephants at said zoo because they belong in the wild where they are free to kneecap tourists. I am curious about the fickle finger of fate- perhaps I will go do a YouTube search. Snuggle the dog and the woman. V


Hi, Sweet Gene,

Best thing this week was the polar bear christmas card I got this morning! Great seasonal letter, too. Tell Scamp she doesn’t look to be nearly 29, let alone 39. Thank you both for the lovely greeting.
I’m okay-had an extraction of upper molar and a bone implant- it was very rough because I ate so much Wonder Bread as a child- builds strong jaw bones 12 ways. In process they hairline cracked jaw. Hurts, hurts, hurts like the dickens. Overall, tis nothing and will heal soon enough. Then they will put in an implant tooth in the new bone- which came from a person and a pig. I would have preferred a meerkat and a dung beetle. Oh, well.

Also, Bud is in Marquette Hospital with kidney and heart problems- he was supposed to be winging his way to us for the holidays. We shall see what the next few days bring. I was in Florida last week for holiday house tour- 1247 people came through in 5 hours- yikes! Who’s dumb idea was that?? Pictures attached. They did give us nice  painting of the house- you can see it in the one pix.

And how goes it with you, dear friend?  I want to see you and touch you but I can’t figure out how to do that at the moment. Good you have Sylvia and me, my Rich. He took a picture of the inside of my mouth today for fun and entertainment. Oral surgeon wanted to see it by e-mail and responded that, given the 10 inches of snow and more coming, I should just drink up and see what tomorrow brings.
Love, V                  

Dear Susan B. Anthony
I, too, am nervous about this election.  But I am saving some nerves for later, since nothing will be decided tonight.  I have my game plan in place, though:  If Obama wins the nomination, all is well.  If Hillary wins, then I gotta vote for McCain.  Simple, when I think about it.
 Looks as if you are eating well down south.  Happily for me, I don’t like crab, finding it tasteless.  So I am missing nothing.
 I am feeling swell, by the by.  Today was a very good day, breath-wise.  I know I’ll never get well, but there’s a lot to be said for being comfortable.
 Love and hugs, Patrick Henrietta
Dear Boris,
Three contractors are bidding to fix a broken fence at the Governor’s Mansion in Springfield, Illinois; One from Chicago, another from Tennessee, & a third from Kentucky .
They all go with Blagojevich to examine the fence.
The Tennessee contractor takes out a tape measure and does some measuring, then works some figures with a pencil. “Well”, he says, “I figure the job will run about $900: $400 for materials, $400 for my crew and $100 profit for me.”
The Kentucky contractor also does some measuring and figuring, then says, ‘I can do this job for $700: $300 for materials, $300 for my crew and $100 profit for me.’
The Chicago contractor doesn’t measure or figure, but leans over to Blagojevich and whispers, ‘$2,700.’
Blagojevich,incredulous, whispers back, ‘You didn’t even measure like the other guys! How did you come up with such a high figure?’
The Chicago contractor whispers back, ‘$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire that guy from Kentucky to fix the fence.’
Yours,  Natasha Fatale
That’s a beauty of a joke, of which I will want leave to use promptly. 
Thank you.
When do you move to North C?  It sounds like a swell place and I know you 
will make it proud of you.  Like I am.
Thanks for the neat catalog, Ms. Boleyn.  I noticed a docent (not you) wearing what seems to be Boy Scout merit badge outfit.  But, more than that, I noticed a dung beetle sort of at work (we are kind of lazy, actually).  And that’s why you sent this, right?  I can smell a rat from Oregon to Illinois.
Henry the 8th I am I am
Dear Miss Nightingale:
 You are a savior!
 Gen. Pershing
Dear Seabiscuit:
The old “Perfect Post” thing comes up once a month, so it figures that I would get around to you once again because you’re so Perfectly Pretty and Post-it Note.  I told Momma K. you were the Perfect Post for June for your tale of Rich and the compactor, which was accompanied by sexy molasses cookies. So herewith the Perfect Post button.  Put this in your template, if you will.
Your admirer,
 Man ‘o’ War
Hah!  Caught you not reading my b**g!
 I used this joke about a month ago.  But keep trying.  I have had 667 posts, and I doubt you memorized them all.
Hi Clyde-
I love seeing pictures of you on vacation in Hawaii although, frankly my dear, you are looking just a bit tired. Have I said how often I thank Big Ernie that you have your Scamp? She’s lovely (great pix of her) and a wonderful sport to push you hither and yon-especially to the zoo, because that’s where it’s all happening, of course. I love you, dear, and I’m thinking I might be up for a visit to Oregon at some point. I would like to see you again. Remember the very first time I came to see you in the old fart home? What goes around comes around and Scamp must have found that lovable, smart and funny piece of you, you lucky guy. You know, there may not be a Big Ernie- who knows?- but there is certainly Christian love (the kind that has to do with forgiveness, tolerance, forbearance and what have you) all over your old opinionated ass. I’m so thankful for that.

Listen, do me a favor and make sure Scamp has my e-mail so she can send me top secret, double handshake updates on how you are doing. Did I mention that I love you? As my mother, Jan, used to say, stop sniveling or I’ll give you something to snivel about. And, btw, your hotel lobby looks almost-not quite, but almost- like the Bellagio. Bud and Rich send regards and love.
As ever, Bonnie
me-myself-onlyHi Princess Iolani:
Thanks for the wonderful note.  And I have to admit that I have less wind than when we were in Vegas.  So that explains the tired look.  But I am getting along okay — so far so good and so it goes.
 I’ll have Scamp write you either from here or from Wilsonville.  We are scheduled to return Oct. 16, but might go back sooner than that.
 Never thought I’d have a pusher for a girl friend.
 Duke Kamehama

Vicki – we were hoping to hear from you. My early report to a friend here is below, written before hospice arrived. They are truly a gift, and he is in good hands. Morphine and Lorazepam – called comfort drugs – have given him the best day he’s had in weeks, thanks to Hospice. Wonder why the pulmonologist who sent him for 2 days in the hospital didn’t think of it. The new chair allows a reclining position and easy in and out – fabulous. More later. Time to feed the man.

 Happy Thanksgiving to you both. Sylvia

 The beach was gorgeous all Saturday. Back, and Gene hospitalized Mon-Wed, but failed to improve breathing and he continues to decline rapidly. Hospice arrives today and  the wheels of assisted suicide are in motion, both at his request.

—– Original Message —–
From: Vicki
To: Gene 
Subject: Dung beetles don’t know fear

Dear Demosthenes,

Well, maybe they worry about getting stepped on by elephants. But don’t worry or be afraid, dear friend. I wrote the note below to Sylvia and then I thought, well, anything I say to her I can say to you. Most of all, I want to tell you directly that I love you. Write if you can.
Always, Penelope

Begin forwarded message:
From: Vicki 
To: Sylvia  
Subject: Re: gene

Dear Sylvia (and Gene)

I have to say, your note breaks my heart. Never in such a short time and in such odd fashion have I come to know and love such a smart, funny curmudgeon. The wonderful thing about Gene, for me, is that he has lead such a remarkably rich and human life: full of adventures, women, mistakes, friendships, children, good works and great good humor. A true Renaissance dung beetle if ever there has been one. It will be a significant loss to those who have been touched by him, in life and via his writing in the b**g neighborhood, when he is no longer alive. 

What, oh what can I do to help the two of you? And what will Gene allow me to say, when the time is right, on my blog? He was one of my earliest and most devoted readers, he followed closely through my mother’s death and then came to be friends with Bud. And he’s the only man I’ve ever been to Vegas with- we had some fun playing the slots and watching Cirque. How amazing! 

I want you to please tell him that I love him so much, that I think he’s one lucky sumbitch for the life he has led- and to please not be afraid. Big Ernie or dung beetle, there’s something good in store for him. Sometimes a good thing is an absence of a bad thing and this breathing has been bad for some time. Personally, I am holding on to the notion of Big Ernie setting him up at a very fine desk with the best computer ever, working at the speed of light. Gene will be put in charge of the St. Peter jokes.
The same  thing that has made it hard for me to comment at  Old Horsetail lately makes it hard to write anymore but I am here. I wish I was there to help you with feeding, hand holding and just to chat- but I am here. Loving him, loving you for loving him. 
My phone number again is … Call anytime, night or day. And seriously, you need to tell me what, if anything, I can say to all those who care for him via the world wide web. I could publish his funny obit for him if he wants…
Hugs to you both. I hope he’s in a medicated daze, watching football today. Rich sends his heartfelt love and concern. V
Dear Sister Carrie,
You’re so kind.  I love you too!
 Actually, with two new medicines I am feeling better.  Not having to breathe so deep to get some air.
 Honest, I AM better, so I am not going to kill myself anytime soon.
Sylvia mentioned my obit, which I have written and have on standby.  Maybe I’ll lighten it up some more and run it for practice.  With appropriate warnings, of course.
 You are my all-time favorite b**gger, so your words mean a lot to me.  Thanks, Ted

A number of weeks later… 

I am in fine fettle, oxygen is 97-98, and pulse is 77 at rest.  Those are goodest numbers.
 I have been on Hospice 3 months.  They are disappointed that I am not dying fast enough.  So it goes.
Lowell Gene Maudlin 
Born Oct. 1 and 2, 1930
Died March 10, 2009
            Gene died today utilizing Oregon’s Death with Dignity plan. He was tuckered out from trying to breathe. His Scamp was with him at Hospice Hopewell House.
            Lowell Gene Maudlin died too soon for me but I’m glad he’s resting and breathing easy with his Big Ernie. I met Gene the summer after we each began blo**ing in Spring of 2005. He was still in the home for Old Folks then, with his wife, Betty. Betty subsequently died of  Progressive Supranuclear Palsy, choosing to use Oregon’s Death with Dignity program. Sad but not beat, Gene, always resourceful, reconnected via his blog, with his Scamp (Sylvia)- previous wife and mother of his children. She was the angel of Gene’s final 3 years, letting bygones be bygones and falling in love anew with an amazingly smart, funny, and loving rapscallion of a man.
            Gene was one of those individuals who engineered a lot of his own fate, for worse and for better. Once, holed up together in the Bellagio in Las Vegas Gene talked with me about the choices he had made that influenced his relationships, his health, and ultimately his death. The Bellagio story is a long one some of you know, but briefly, it was a bloggers convention of sorts, where I posed as Gene’s “eye candy nurse” and pushed him around in a chair with his oxygen. We played the slots, had loge seats for Cirque’s “O” and ate well. Gene paid for the suite and I absconded with a suitcase full of fine hotel soap. Gene was sure he was going to die any minute and was happy to spend his pile on this trip that I didn’t want to take and wasn’t prepared to make so soon after my own mother’s death. Hoo-boy howdy, am I glad that I did because I have amazing memories of those 4 days.
           Gene was able to fully enjoy much of his time once he was rescued from the old folks home by Syliva.  They had a lovely home together where Gene began bird-watching and posting pictures. He and Sylvia traveled to Hawaii and they went on road trips along the PNW coast and visited with family. Most of all, during his final years, he had his Scamp, loving him and caring for him. 
           Gene was a prolific and gifted humor blogger. Rarely has such a fine writer captured the attention and affection of so many faithful readers, many cringing as they laughed. He was a first among ‘senior’ bloggers, giving a voice to his older compatriots. His views on politics, the environment, his running fashion commentary and his love of dung beetles were regular themes. He was infamous for his plans, schemes and inventions that were going to help him “make his pile” and he was a true aficionado, along with John Steinbeck, of abalone. He lived a colorful and rich life and brought that color and wealth to the lives of others through his blog, Old Horsetail Snake
His columns are archived here. I encourage you to read some of his earliest posts, written from the old folks home, where he shared many adventures with his blog character , Feelgood Haines. Quite remarkable. 
            Professionally, Gene was a reporter for the Associated Press, speechwriter for former Oregon Gov. Tom McCall, propagandist for former Congressman Les AuCoin, and Public Utility Commissioner of Oregon.
            From one of Gene’s many notes:
Every time I think I’m on my last legs I get into a recovery mode.  I think if I had felt as good then as I do now I wouldn’t have asked hospice to come in.  But now that they’re here, they can do me some good, plus getting a lot of my air medicines for free for me.  Good ol’ Medicare.
I don’t know why I was in such difficulty breathing in the hospital.  Went away in about two days after I was home.  So anyway, right after I was home I announced on my blog that I wouldn’t be doing much commenting on other people’s blogs — but I am, thanks to getting better.
You know the hospice drill:  You’re supposed to be within 6 months of popping off.  I don’t feel it’s that imminent, but one never knows.  Sylvia asked me this morning if I had any goals, and I said, “Yeah, I’d like to live to be 85.”  She said, “Why 85?”  And I said, “Because it’s such a nice odd number.”  Can’t be any other reason.
I am setting Scamp up to post my obit (which I have written) when I crash.  So you can copy it if you want.  Won’t matter to me (ho ho har de har har).
You will like the last line of my obit:  “Maudlin plans to be cremated and then will reincarnate.”  Really.  A person should be allowed to have fun with his last words.
Love you and your family.
Kinte Kunta
          I hope he does come back- as an inventor or  a door-to-door salesmen making his pile, a politician, a lumberjack, a writer, a humorist, a bird watcher, a gigolo or even as the lowly dung beetle. I’m pretty sure I’ll recognize him. 
Rest easy, dear Hoss. You’ve been loved and will be remembered by so very many. My heartfelt condolences to Sylvia and Gene’s children,  brother, family and all of his wonderful friends in this virtual neighborhood of ours.