our neighbors, the warren(s)

“Be cunning, and full of tricks,
and your people will never be destroyed.”

Richard Adams, Watership Down

“Love the animals.
God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled.
Don’t trouble it, don’t harass them, don’t deprive them of their happiness,
don’t work against God’s intent.

Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov”
Richard Adams, Watership Down

We have some neighbors…its a family of 5 and they live outback
someplace behind the house.

We believe there were perhaps 6 or even more, but one of their smallest family
members met a tragic demise…
Our older cat, Peaches, might know something about all of this but we won’t talk
about that today…

Rather we’ll just enjoy those who call our yard their own…

The other day, I went to open the front door and this is who greeted me on the walkway
directly at the bottom of the front porch steps.


(julie cook / 2019)

Next, I went out on the back deck to check on what was cooking on the grill when
something down below caught my eye…
That’s when I spotted him, or is it a her, under my blueberry bushes


(julie Cook / 2019)

Definitely munching on the blueberries…


(julie cook / 2019)

This afternoon I went out front to water my plants when suddenly someone darted
out, right in front of me…


(julie cook / 2019)

That’s when I turned around only to see these two youngsters chasing each other around the yard.


(julie cook / 2019)

Without a vegetable garden these days, I certainly don’t mind our neighbors sharing my yard.


(julie cook / 2019)

Do not plan evil against your neighbor, who dwells trustingly beside you.
Proverbs 3:29

“It’s an attack on Christianity”…Vol. III to the Chronicles of the Asinine… or…St Francis has got to go!

“It is a persistent evil to persecute a man who belongs to the grace of God.
It is a calamity without remedy to hate the happy.”

Saint Cyprian of Carthage


(a yard, as seen on the web, celebrating a birthday with pink falmingo yard ornaments)

Today’s installment of Vol III to the Chronicles of the Asinine, we find that an
HOA has seemingly lost their minds.

Now my disclaimer is that I live out in a more rural area and I do not live in a subdivision
that has an HOA or Homeowners Association.

I’ve never lived in a subdivision that has ever had an HOA.

But from my understanding, residents pay monthly dues and in turn,
are told what they can and cannot do…
The HOA of Jurisdiction…
The law of the land…
As in:
How high one must keep their grass.
What type of mailbox one is to have.
When one needs to get rid of their weeds.
When one needs to take down those overdue Christmas lights.
And everyone is reminded not to leave their garage doors up…

Violators will be fined.

Now I would like to think that most homeowners are well-meaning,
law-abiding, and courteous.
Thoughtful of their neighbors while they toil keeping
up their property.

Yet sadly all we need to do is to simply watch any local news to know that
that is not always the case.

We learn about the quiet neighbors down the block who were running a
meth lab in their home. As if the hazmat team showing up wasn’t sign enough.

Or what of the neighbor around the corner who was running the prostitution ring
out of their home?
Hence why the HOA says how many cars may or may not be parked on the curb.

But today we have a story about an HOA that has told a resident that after 16 years,
this resident’s small yard statue of the Virgin Mary has got to go…

Well…if you ask me…something smells fishy in Denmark…
or rather make that Detroit…because this is a story out of a suburb of
Detroit, Michigan.

And so I suppose that now means that my St. Francis has got to go.


(The Mayor loves St Francis as they are close in stature)

And what of my tiny little cherub birdbath that is nestled up under the
viburnum and butterfly bush?

There’s a house on an adjacent street that has a small statue of Buddha
sitting in their garden.
And what of the other house further down the road that has a small statue of
a Native American Indian by the front door?

Small, tasteful non-garish, demure and personal.

As a Christian, I’m certainly not up in arms that there is a Buddha statue in a neighbors yard,
And for the record, you have to pull down my driveway and come along my front walk in order to
see St Francis.

And the Native American statue always leaves me wondering as to the family’s roots.
Offended?
Absolutely not!
Only intrigued as by what their story must be.

Discreet.
Simple.
Unobtrusive.

All words that describe most folk’s yard decor.

I’ll wager that even pink flamingos and garden gnomes have their place.

As do the beehive boxes, the small chicken coop along with the humble frog cloche.

Everyone’s little touch of the personal connection to their own tiny piece of paradise.

Now I know that there are those individuals out there who go overboard and take a good thing
to the extreme.

Those Howard Finsters of the world.

Howard Finster, if you aren’t familiar, was a Summerville, Ga character.
Both preacher and folk artist.
He claimed that God had told him to transfer his swampy land into a “folk art” paradise.
And so he spent a lifetime expanding and growing his tiny piece paradise into
quite the folk art exhibition.

Finster died in 2001 but his 2 acre Paradise Garden is still open to the public.
And the words ‘paradise garden’, in regards to Finister, are certainly up for interpretation

Whereas Finster had neither HOA or zoning issues, there is still that poor fellow out
in a suburban neighborhood of Detroit who has been told that his small yard statue of the
Blessed Virgin Mary has got to go.

According to an on-line Newsweek article,
A family in the Detroit suburbs says it is being forced to remove a statue of the Virgin Mary
that’s been in the yard for 16 years by an overeager homeowner’s association.
Samona told the Detroit Free Press he believes it’s a case of discrimination.

“There is no doubt in my mind that this is an attack on our religion.
We have already received an outpouring of support from friends and family,
and we are prepared to fight this tooth and nail.”

Samona’s parents immigrated to the United States from Iraq,
where they faced religious persecution for being Catholic.
He says every member of his family stops to pray in front of the Virgin Mary
regularly since they moved into the area in 2003.

He calls the statue “a symbol of peace,” and says the demand to remove it is
“an attack on Christianity.”
Samona says that he’s not only standing up for his family,
but for religious expression in general:
“We don’t know what’s going on over here.
We just want to be able to freely practice our religion,” He told WDIV.
“Whether you’re Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist—
whatever you are—don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t practice your religion.”

I think we would all agree that a 6-foot blowup of a cartoonish Virgin Mary would
most definitely fall under the watchful ire of an HOA but a small 16-year-old statue
that sits unobtrusively at the walkway of a family’s home, is an entirely different story.

And so we have just one more example of the madness and loss of common sense that is
currently taking this country by storm.

At this rate, we might just run out of volumes in which to share these tales of the
asinine, absurd and downright unprovoked attacks buy the PC Police.

I do wonder that if this statue of Mary was rather a statue of Buddha or
a statue of a Hindu god or simply a Muslim man out on his lawn, with his prayer rug,
bowing toward Mecca in prayer…I wonder if the HOA would have raised their flag
of discontent…

Stay tuned…tomorrow we’ll investigate the story about the flash mob of 60 teens who
amassed upon an unsuspecting business as they proceeded to trash and loot
a Walgreens in Philadelphia.

A tale of when the asinine becomes violent, dangerous and in turn a rallying cry for
our culture to finally put its foot down to the madness.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion,
seeking someone to devour.

1 Peter 5:8

erring and snow

“There is no exquisite beauty… without some strangeness
in the proportion.”

Edgar Allan Poe


(a foot of snow blankets the yard / Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas this unexpected early December Southern Snow has blanketed us with a
deep white blanket of mystical silence and stillness…it has not come without
a wealth of woe….

The school systems in and around the Atlanta metro area…north and westward…
school systems who usually err on the side of caution actually decided to listen
to our meteorologists who glibly reported that,
whereas it looked as if there would be some snow….,
we’d been so warm up to now that any snow would be fleeting.
A lite dusting that wouldn’t stick to roadways or driveways as it had just been
simply too warm for any real need for worry.

In other words, a short lived event.

This was to be taking place on Friday.

So on Friday, everyone opted to go about life as normal…
This is the deep South you know….we don’t really worry about winter weather
this time of year.

And so right on que the rains came, turning eventually over to snow.

And then it snowed and it snowed, and it kept on snowing…..

The schools scrambled and quickly decided that perhaps they should release the hounds students…
And so we had everyone in a myriad of counties all starting to unleash madness
upon the roadways all at the same staggering times.
Staggered releases seemed to be the best option…yet it was still snowing…hard.
Snow and ice were beating the release times.

Buses found it impossible to deliver their tender cargo as the snow and ice
were blanketing roadways…making traveling up and down hills impossible.

Our very pregnant daughter-n-law, who teaches here in our county but lives in Atlanta,
opted to come to our house verses trying to navigate the snowy icy interstates back
home to Atlanta as the News was painting a terrible traffic picture.

A typical 15 minute drive to our house from her school actually took her 2 hours…
as cars were now slip sliding away.
In fact my husband had to go meet her a mile from our house as cars had simply stopped
in their tracks on the roads as others had landed in the ditches and she was stuck in
the middle. It took him 30 minutes to get to her…a drive that should have taken two minutes.

Meanwhile, limbs were falling left and right in Atlanta.
It is a city known for her plethora of beautiful trees…yet snow and ice are not
kind to trees.

A snow laden limb fell on our son and daughter-n-laws house,
literally ripping out the power lines from the house….lines now laying dangerously
across the lawn.

GA Power has come to access the issue and now needs one of their certified
electricians to come out and reconnect the lines into the house before
they can re-run the lines from the pole to the house…
lest all things blow up.

Our son, dad’s cat and the grand dog are hunkering down in the dark, without heat
as the temperatures plunge down into the teens….
waiting for word of this elections.

This as I watched today those who really suffer through these sorts
of weather events…the animals…
as well as those who have no shelter to call their own…

As God watches over both animal and man who remain without….


(notice to the left of the two bulls, the wee head peering out from the crack
in the dilapidated barn)


(the poor cold bulls / Julie Cook / 2017)

But let all who take refuge in you be glad;
let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them,
that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

Psalm 5:11

Troubles

Nobody knows the trouble that I’ve seen
Nobody knows my sorrow
Nobody knows the trouble that I’ve seen
Glory hallelujah
Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen
Sam Cooke

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(Yellow finch / Julie Cook / 2017)

So the new phone cable that AT&T had to run after lightning fried our phones
and internet a week ago, has sat these many days waiting to be buried.  
When things which are suppose to be buried are not buried .. that is when they should be…
bad things can happen.

The crew came out Thursday.

The backhoe dug a wide deep hole by our mailbox… but then the crew threw up
the orange safety netting and, well, departed.

Saturday morning our neighbor had some guys cutting her yard.  
For whatever reason, one of the guys thought it wise to cut the long black cable
running off the phone pole near her driveway and proceeded to bundle up the
myriad of feet of black cable and dump it all over on the other side of her fence–
as if it was some sort of annoyance to cutting grass– maybe the large gaping hole
and orange safety netting wasn’t obvious enough as to important work taking place.

Again we have no phone nor internet.

I spent two hours on my cell phone with the nice AT&T gal, this time in
Jamaica rather then India–
her name was Mango.

Mango transferred me to a gal from Nova Scotia–
I’ve always liked Nova Scotia.

Do you know what it’s like to explain to people all over the world why you don’t
have phone or internet service and then hope they can magically send a crew out
of nowhere, on a holiday weekend, to fix your little rural Georgia trouble…

My new technitian is to be here in the morning.

Then maybe I wont have to peck on my phone.

Pecking and hoping a post is magically coming together, since I can’t readily see any of
this on my phone as I can on my laptop, is well,
what’s that expression about spitting in the wind?…
something like that.

I’ll push publish and maybe the result will be a successful

Here’s to trouble, gals named Mango, the magic of phones and the internet and
yard men who are or are not considerate of black cable and orange safety netting.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.
In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

the kindred spirit of a chicken

“To love is easy and therefore common –
but to understand –
how rare it is!”

― L.M. Montgomery

What friends or kindred can be so close and intimate as the powers of our soul,
which, whether we will or no, must ever bear us company?

Saint Teresa of Avila

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(one of dad’s urban neighbors / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’ve written about Henny Penny before.
And no, Henny Penny is not the chicken in the picture above…
that’s just a neighbor.

The real Henry Penny is the heroine of a classic and timeless sweet children’s tale.
The story of a rather hapless and clueless chicken
who gets her knickers in twist when she’s out and about minding her own business,
when suddenly out of the blue, something falls from above knocking her in the head…

This falling object unleashes pandemonium in poor ol Henny Penny.

Convinced that the sky is now falling,
Henny Penny proceeds to run about chaotically alerting all her neighbors
that the time to panic has arrived…
while proclaiming that everyone must immediately seek shelter…
because the sky is…
falling…

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(Henny Penny / art work by Thao Lam)

As it turns out the sky was never falling, as the sweet illustration above indicates,
yet try telling Henny Penny and her now distraught neighbors that it was
just a pesky little acorn falling onto poor Henny Penny’s head.

And not that I’ve become some sort of nervous nelly dashing about
in a frantic panic over a falling sky…
but it does feel as if the sky, or actually life rather, is indeed falling…
and that familiar primordial feeling of panic
is desperately attempting to rear its ugly head…

As I’ve just spent the past three days running around in circles over…
dad…

Add to that some other rather pressing issues of life and we have
our very own Henny Penny running around clucking like a nut.

If you don’t believe me, ask anyone who may have spotted a black car,
early this morning, out on the four lane driving in big circles…
about 3 different times back and forth…

As in driving out toward the interstate then turning back around,
then driving back out toward the interstate, then truning back around…
again…and again…
Not so much a panicky Henny Penny but more like a crazy moron…

Either way I’m feeling a bit Henny Pennyish as of late as I’ve been
twirling about in circles flapping my wings arms trying to make sense of things…

It’s a long story…as are all my stories as of late.
And I’ve promised myself that I will not be overtly verbose today,
for your sake as I wish to spare you the agonizing details…

However…is it not the details which make things all that more interesting??
as in the devil is in the details—
as in really, yes,
he is frighteningly in my details….

It all has to do with a catheter, a nurse, dad, a blockage, the caregivers, the ER
and a urologist that I had hoped to never see again…as I’m not a fan.
Add multiple calls beckoning me to come then don’t come,
come, don’t come… and you’ve got circles on the four lane…

Throw upon that not gas but confusion…adding all the other nuttiness in my life,
throw in the shenanigans of this county of ours just for kicks,
fan the fumes…
and you get me, driving around in big circles
while dad is blowing up like a water balloon refusing to be treated.

So I will take the water balloon dad back to the Urologist today, whether he wants to go or not while taking our chances that
a) the water balloon weren’t burst and
b) that mr nonchalant will figure out the problem
allowing us to get back to our regular business of falling sky….

I think I like Henny Penny…
I think we must be kindred spirits…

Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the Lord your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity.

Joel 2:12

The old couple next door

“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
― Fred Rogers

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How appropriate that today’s quote is by Fred Rogers, as in Mr. Rogers, as in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood.

My neighborhood consists of about 40 rodeo bulls which live across the street (see the post Meet the Neighbors”) in a rather large pasture and a couple of horses which belong to the lady next door. Factor in the deer, wild turkeys, bobcats, opossums, raccoons, owls, coyotes, hawks, buzzards and the occasional rumored bear sighting and ours is a rather wild neighborhood. . .and we won’t, however, count “the chicken little the sky is falling” lady who swears a Big Foot lives in the surrounding woods.
We, on the other hand, have two cats.

The horses were old when we moved here about 15 years ago, making them much older today. I’m no horse person, meaning my knowledge of horses is somewhat limited, but if the one on the left, whose back is sagging rather notably, is any indication of age, old pretty much sums it up.

The lady next door is rather elusive and not at all sociable. She is, however, what I would consider to be, a gentleman farmer, or in her case, a gentlewoman farmer. She supposedly runs some sort of company, but seems to retreat to this “farm” as a home. At one point she had about 8 cows but that was short lived. As long as we have lived here, I’ve never seen her ride the horses nor actually pay them much attention. We are also wondering if she may not have moved closer to town as she seems to be gone a good bit of the time, returning every blue moon.

I do know the horses names. . .Logan and Nick—however I don’t know which is which. Don’t tell anyone but I have been known to wander over to the electric fence she has up between our two properties with a couple of carrots for the lonely pair who gratefully seem to nibble the lanky orange sticks from my hand. Sadly, this is the type of woman who would most likely not appreciate my giving her horses carrots. Nevertheless the animal lover in me just hates seeing lonely or neglected animals.

Upon close observation the casual viewer will note that both of these two horses are inseparable. We have never seen one without the other–always in close proximity one to another. Neither allowing the other to wander too far from sight. They have obviously lived a long time together and seem almost dependent upon one another.

There is much about the relationship between these two horses which can be said for and about us all. Companionship is such an essential aspect of the human psyche. Even for those of us who consider ourselves to be a bit of a loner, the comradeship, if not the companionship, of another like minded soul is often most comforting. We were and are wired for connection with other living creatures–be they human or animal.

It is during this bleak time of year, when the weather turns most foul—when it is neither fit for man nor beast, that my thoughts turn to our homeless population—both human as well as animal. I do not live in a major metropolitan urban area. My life is that of a rural dweller. I have, however, traveled far and wide on this planet of ours and I have seen those cities which seem to have many a homeless dweller.

The need for the creature comforts of shelter and warmth are indeed paramount but I believe that the need for the kind interaction of one’s fellow man is what is truly most essential. To be acknowledged as a living breathing being is imperative. But how often have we all walked along a sidewalk not giving the person nestled in the crook of an empty doorway, or huddled under a piece of greasy cardboard a second glance?

I say all of this as I was driving home yesterday from Atlanta. It was raining with temperatures in the low 40s. Along the side of the interstate, just a stones throw from a city center, sat a lone tent pitched in a clump of weedy bushes. As I barreled along the interstate, racing past this lone little wet tent, my thoughts wandered to the whats and whys as to a tent pitched just off a major interstate artery leading either to or from Atlanta–depending on ones perspective.

I suspect it is not only a very hard life to live without a place to call ones own, but more disconcerting is the thought of the loneliness. Having no one to help bare any of the tremendous burden. No one to offer comfort or solace. No one to hear the cries, the mutterings, the empty anguish. No one who can offer a warm touch, an embrace, a whispered “I love you”. . .

All of which brings us back to my 4 legged friends next door. My thought is that if something happens to one of the horses, the other one will most likely mourn himself to death. Just as we often hear happening with older couples who have been married for many many years.

As the exuberant joy of the holidays has now passed us by and we find ourselves settling into the long darks days of a cold bleak winter, may we all work at being mindful of those who are less fortunate than ourselves—particularly the homeless and the oh so very lonely. . .

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
(Matthew 25:37-46)

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Meet the neighbors….

They are loud, mean, obnoxious, big, dirty. . . plus they smell really really bad. . . and worst of all— they live right across the street. . .

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When we first bought this property almost 15 years ago, this entire area had once been part of a large farm. Our property had actually once been pasture land, as was the property next door, as our neighbor still actually maintains it as a farm and pasture for her horses. The land across the street was still a fenced off, rather large, pasture full of cows. The owners did not live on the the property but would drive out, checking on the cows at least twice a day, bringing in hay or water as needed.

The cows really never bothered us except for the occasional loud mooing. The truly big annoyance was the influx of flies we’d notice during the summer months or if the wind was out of the Northwest, an unpleasant aroma would waft our way with the worst being when the owners would decide to fertilize the field with chicken manure—let’s just say outdoor garden parties would not be advisable.

All in all however, life with cows as neighbors was ok. Then one day, about two years ago, the owner of the property, an older man, sadly passed away. All that remained was his grown special needs son. The land then passed on to the next of kin. This is when things took a big turn in direction.

One day a big cattle truck showed up and moved all the cows away. “Hummm” we wondered. “Were the new owners going to build on the property or perhaps, Heaven’s forbid, attempt selling it to some big wig real-estate developer?!” we mused to ourselves feeling all a bit hopeless. It wasn’t long until we discovered who, or actually what, was to be our new neighbors. . .

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Bulls.
And not just any bulls, these were the “wood” bulls. Wood bulls you ask? Yes, a most unique species indeed.

It seems that living out of the city limits as we do, there is indeed a hodge podge of what goes on with the county property. There are subdivisions, a retirement facility, farms, individual homes such as ours, plus a multi million dollar golf club and neighborhood all within 3 miles of where we live.

There is also some property nestled in between some beautiful homes and the golf course that is a fenced off wooded piece of property. On this property of woods lived a bunch of bulls and steers. I would drive by these animals always on my way to and from work, feeling so sorry for these bulls as they were not living on a nice pasture, but rather in the midsts of overgrown woods. Who can graze in the woods for heavens sake?! Even this city girl knows a cow needs open space and grass!

Imagine my surprise when the “wood” bulls were unloaded across the street. They now had their pasture I had so wished for them–it just happened to now be directly across from my house! Imagine 30 to 40 giant, all male, very male, bulls living together in one pasture. There is a great deal of vying for being king bull. Are you familiar with rocky mountain oysters? Lets just say that I understand the comparison now to huge mountains.

Loud groaning and moaning goes on at all times of the day and night. Dirt is kicked up into a frenzy. Horns clash and rattle together as domination is sought in the pecking order of life between these wood bulls.

The owners are not the best keepers of these animals. The fence is piece meal and old, patched together here and there with wire. Many a time has a bull knocked through the fence. Do you know what it is like to be driving along a road, minding your own business, when suddenly you are front bumper to head with a massive angry bull? Do you know what it is like to suddenly look out your window only to see 5 gigantic 500 pound animals in your yard pawing at what use to be grass?

How many times have people up and down this road called 911.
operator: “Hello 911, what’s your emergency?”
caller: “Uh there is a bull in the road”
operator: “excuse me?”
caller: “yeah a bull and someone is going to get killed it it’s not moved out of the road”
Enter the local sheriff.
How many local sheriffs does it take to move 1 bull?
One in a car behind the bull and two out walking, waving their arms in front of the bull praying the owners show up soon.

We had to take quick action by putting up a fence along the front of our property. So far it has kept out the unwelcomed guests. I can’t tell you how many people would stop at our door at all hours of the night and day to report that “our” bulls were out in the road—again. It got to a point that I taped a sign by our front door stating that we did not own the bulls nor did we know their owners name.

But I confess–I do feel sorry for these animals. I have discovered that they are rodeo bulls. They are used in the small circuit rodeos that are held in this, as well as, neighboring counties. Their pasture is not fertilized and is full of weeds, the fence is a piece of crap, and there is no naturally occurring water on the property so the owners must bring in massive quantities of water that I don’t think is nearly often enough in the summer months.

So for now, I am learning to tolerate my neighbors while maintaing a healthy respect–all as my empathy towards these creatures continues to grow. . . however my biggest and latest concern is no longer the wood bulls but rather who in the heck has gone and gotten a rooster?! You only think those things crow just in the morning. . . there’s just something to be said for ordinances!

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