I have been honored to know Dave since back before I was blessed to help field test the Fisher F-75, a spin on Dave’s original platform, the Teknetics T2. Mr. Johnson (Dave J. in the MD forums over the years) has done WAY more than just design metal detectors over the decades (Troy, Tesoro, Fisher “original” and First Texas Teknetics/Bounty Hunter/Fisher.) Mr. J is something of a renaissance man…delving into many disciplines. I asked Dave if he would mind sending me a list of his “tech” heritage and he wrote up the following (amazing stuff). His essays (which he shared with me and gave permission to post) follow the intro. *I have to put a disclaimer here… neither I nor Detector Stuff necessarily agree with the opinions and/or content expressed in his essays.


“My biggest tech accomplishment wasn’t even in metal detectors.  It was in real-time freeway traffic control, early 1970’s, when ramp metering was in its infancy.  The state of the art, to the extent that there was such a thing, was to put a red-green signal on the on ramp and operate it at a fixed cars per minute rate, selecting a new rate every 15 minutes controlled by a sprinkler timer.   
At the time I was a mid 20’s semi hippie just barely high school grad Engineering Aide working for CALTRANS in the San Francisco District.  I researched what cars actually do in freeway bottlenecks and when merging, by sitting out there with a stopwatch and pencil and notepad.  Then did some computer simulations writing my own programs in BASIC on a teletype in San Francisco, the mainframe itself was in Sacramento.  And then said it was possible to meter individual cars into individual gaps in freeway traffic flow, putting more cars through and even making it safer in the process.  The “experts” in their offices at HQ in Sacramento regarded this as utter heresy.  
At the time my supervisors Keith Marolt and Mas Tamura had wide latitude to do anything they wanted (more freedom than I ever had working in private enterprise).  

 I told them I could design and build the control equipment to do it, all anyone else would have to do is to actually install it on the freeway (done by maintenance dept).  They said go for it. 

Well, I built up a complete signal control cabinet equipped with analog computers of my own design, and the District had maintenance dept. install it on the freeway.  I documented how to set the controls for that particular location (northbound 101 Story Road on-ramp at what was then the San Antonio Street overpass bottleneck), and said what I expected the result in traffic control to be.   The morning we turned it on, it did exactly what I said it would, no fiddling with control settings was needed.   More cars, less congestion, traffic accidents ‘way down. 
After a couple months, I told HQ they oughta send someone down to take a look at it.  Well, they were sure this was all nonsense, so sent one of their lower level guys.  We sat up on a berm and watched it work.  I was afraid he’d be so biased that he’d watch it work and what he saw wouldn’t even register.  But after 15 minutes, he said,  by golly, it works!  It wasn’t a report that HQ welcomed. 
I had everything fully documented, it was meant to be replicated by others.  But nothing ever came of it.  The new Story Road interchange was built, which wiped my work off the map.  Civil engineers are a very stodgy sort, deathly afraid of anything new, and they want everything real simple.  This was brand new, not an improvement over something that already existed that they understood; and to implement it you had to actually understand how traffic works.  HQ couldn’t stand all the experimenting that was being done independently in the Districts, so they established a real simple fixed time ramp metering standard that used a specific Fairchild microcontroller instead of mechanical timers.   To my knowledge what I did at Story Road in the early 1960’s has never been replicated anywhere. 
My second biggest tech accomplishment was development of the CojoTruk.  That whole story can be found at www.cojotruk.wordpress.com
I did some great technical stuff in the field of climatology working for State Climatologists of Arizona and California.  My best stuff was based on the concept of climate being a steady-state phenomenon.  By the mid 1980’s nearly everyone in the field of climatology knew that climate was changing, especially since the “climate scientists” who said it ain’t so were employed by fossil fuel companies, proving that of course they also knew.  The work I’d done was destined to become obsolete.  Even so, it was good enough that when the Hurricane Katrina disaster hit Houston, I computed the return period of the event (as I recall, about 1,000 years) before NOAA got it figured it out. 
Medicine practiced scientifically is technical stuff.  I had arthritis, and cured it (not just suppressed symptoms.)  I got ALS and nearly cured that.  Later I cured Biot’s Respiration (a central apnea syndrome), and now in hospice for more than 2 years seem to have cured “untreatable” colon cancer.  Over the years, I’ve helped friends with medical problems that doctors didn’t know how to treat or refused to treat. 
My tech accomplishments in the field of metal detectors don’t manifest much ingenuity.  Mostly just thoroughness to get good solid designs that will be manufacturable and that will be desirable enough that customers will buy them.  Some of my designs were (and a few still are) in production for decades.   
–Dave J.  15 Jan 2023″

Essay #1 The Blues

The Blues

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRu60tECT9A   “Blues” in the narrow sense is a specific 8-to-the-bar chord change.  You’ll hear it over and over again in this collection.  In the broader sense, “blues” is variations on that theme, and music done in that style if not that specific chord sequence.  Most of these are from the early 1900’s or are covers of stuff from the early 1900’s. 

The blues is everywhere in rock & roll.  Familiar examples:  Crossroads, Kansas City, Rock Around the Clock, At the Hop, Love Me Two Times, Back Door Man, Red House ….. Some of these you hear them and you’re not thinking “blues”,  but pay attention.  It’s blues.  

Blues is 8-to-the-bar, six bars. I’ll explain each bar, in terms of C major.  Variants in minor, 7th, or diminished are common, as are syncopation and/or tacking on an extra 4 notes to the bar here and there. . Heretical variants are common which skip bars 6 and 7.  It’s still blues. 

1. C major

2. C major with 7th

3. F major

4. C major.

5. G major

6. F major

7. C major

8. G major lead-in to the next C major sequence.  It begs to return to C major to begin the next verse.  

That specific.  Something about that sequence opens up such a wide world of possible variations on theme that it reinvented popular music.  I suppose professional musicologists have studied it to death and have good explanations why it works.  My explanation is that its dramatic sequence parallels that of Greek Tragedy, the literary form that made Shakespeare the greatest English playwright, and made The Gospel According to Mark the greatest story ever told. 

The blues.  When you hear it and realize what it is, you know it.  First verse.  Every time.  You can sing or play ad lib any melody you want, right there on the spot even if you’ve never heard the piece before.  If you can jam it, it’s blues.  If you can’t jam it, it’s not blues.  Blues is the majick formula that makes a whole new world of music possible right then and there.  Write some lyrics, jam a little, and you have your own new song.  It doesn’t have to be a hit, it just needs to be competent.  To make it sound just a little different, you can throw in an extra half bar somewhere in there, repeat a bar, do a tempo changeup, do a little switcheroo between major-minor-dimished, invert the melody and the bass line, there’s a thousand different things that can be done to the Blues to make a song unique.  Spend a few hours listening to different blues (including a wide variety of rock & roll, half of that is blues) and you’ll hear the different things that songwriters have done to make their song unique.  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dey4wHOm11k   Excellent compendium.  Most of it’s real blues, even some that at first listen you may not realize it. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPBCpXFrz-Q  The absolute first distinctively “rock & roll” recording.  Pete & Joe thought they were just doing their own twist on boogie, they didn’t know they’d just invented the music form that would define popular music in the last half of the 20th century.  This recording is from the Christmas 1938  From Spirituals to Swing  event, financed by the Communist Party because mainstream America wouldn’t fund a “n***r music” project.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Spirituals_to_Swing  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13DgGtDGIpg  Boogie.  It was being played in the late 1800’s and some got transcribed to sheet music, but of course not recorded until later. Rock & roll descended from blues boogie lineage.    

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwMePuqZsZc   The earliest recorded blues music.  The blues was older, but to be recorded it had to wait on the technology to record it, and someone who thought it was wasn’t beneath their dignity to record “nigger music”. 


The Johnson version of Rock & Roll history

This is where it came from….. who knew that the grandfather of rock & roll was a Johnson??!!


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cNW2dZMyWE   Roll ‘Em Pete   1938, and no question, it’s rock & roll!   

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEKsF2NWQUI  Death Ray Boogie 1941  not rock & roll, but incredible jumpity melodic boog.  Johnson was best known for boog. 

The roots of rock & roll weren’t just Bro. Pete………..

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_lqJk5JzeA  roots of rock & roll,  snippets of performances/artists from the 20’s up till about 1950.

But as far as I can tell, the first recording about which one can say “that is rock & roll” , is Roll ‘Em Pete 1938. 

The breakthrough for “Negro spirituals” as well as boogie, was a grand historical musical event (actually two): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/From_Spirituals_to_Swing   The whole project was so radical in its day that nobody would finance it until the Communist Party stepped up to the plate.  (Such an event nowadays wouldn’t even be regarded as political, that’s how much the world changed for the better in a mere 80 years.  Thank the dreaded Commies for that one.)  

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VmuJO3Vek34  From Spirituals to Swing, 24 Dec 1939 (the first was in 1938).

Look at that playbill!  Pete Johnson among others….. and it was headlined by the Golden Gate Quartet!  whose music we Johnsons grew up with and was us inside and out, no matter what our skin color was.  ……….This is all history I didn’t know anything about a day ago.  Y’all Johnsons, check out that second track, a version of I’m On My Way that I never heard until right now….. so totally fresh ..love it! 


But many would say that Sister Rosetta Tharpe was rockin ‘em through the roof years earlier:  https://youtu.be/RuVzm86oB1Y   That steel guitar has a sound unlike any other, it didn’t need electrical enhancements.   And her stage presence was in the same league as Jimi Hendrix. 


The genre didn’t even have a name until 1954:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_and_roll

*******  NOW FOR THAT PERSONAL STORY… **************

In 1957 when my parents thought I was asleep, actually I was listening to Lucky Lager Dance Time on a crystal radio clipped to the bed springs for an antenna.  It was about sin, of course. Beer and dancing.  Ads for cigarettes, too.  Couldn’t tell my parents. And some of the songs had some rather risque lyrics, although most of that went over my head. 

I wasn’t the only kid playing that game.  100 miles away another kid was doing that very same thing.   https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/blindmanfr/the-lucky-lager-dance-time-radio-show-t9500.html   

The secret weapon of R&R acculturation was a little jobbie with germanium diode and crystal earpiece, all fit in the palm of the hand, just hide it under the pillow.  

https://riverroadrambler.blogspot.com/2018/12/four-cheerios-box-tops-and-1-buys-radio.html   The “Midget Monitor Radio”    The selectivity was crap.  Built much better ones myself (even DX’d Mexico XERB Wolfman Jack through the vast array of interfering Sac and SF area AM broadcast signals).  But those were not things you could hide under a pillow.  



Buddy Holly – Peggy Sue HQ

Buddy Holly “Peggy Sue”   One of my favorites on Lucky Lager Dance Time.

In early 1959, my mom told me that Buddy Holly had died in an airplane crash.  

My mom didn’t listen to rock & roll, hardly even knew what it was. So I’m doing a double-take:  how does she even know who Buddy Holly is, much less why would she think it mattered enough to tell me?  

My parents were professional photographers.  “We took his girlfriend’s graduation photos.”  

“Peggy Sue”?   Yes.  

My mom didn’t know that I knew who Buddy Holly or Peggy Sue were.  She’d just heard news of the tragedy on the radio, and it had to do with people she knew.   That made it personal. I just happened to be the first one she saw whom she could tell.  Just to be able to tell someone.   

In the studio there was a portrait of a girl that I’d fallen madly in love with just from that photo. A graduation photo.  I pointed to the one.  “Her?”  Yes, that’s her.  


I came unglued.  Not angry unglued, just, well, unglued.  I didn’t even have any hair on my balls yet, but they’d taken control of my brain.  “All this time you had a portrait of Peggy Sue on the wall, and you never even told me?”   “Sorry, David, I had no idea you even knew who Peggy Sue was.”  

So I explained it to her.  The song that connected her to Buddy Holly, was the song that connected me to Peggy Sue.  I left out the little detail of Lucky Lager Dance Time.

Peggy Sue married one of the other band members  

https://www.texasmonthly.com/arts-entertainment/peggy-sue-gerron-buddy-holly-died/   and lived in Sacramento.  My mom kept in touch with her for many years.

Essay #3 David and Goliath


One of my favorite Bible stories, not the least because it’s why my parents named the runt they’d just given birth to, “David”,  3,200 years after the first David. 

Another reason why it’s a favorite, is because when you think about the details of the story and unpack what everyone was doing and why, it’s a window into how war was fought before there were standing armies.  The story itself is not entirely factually accurate (that was neither possible nor expected), the point is to tell the story.  It is clearly a narrative of a real historical event, told in such a way that it explains far more than just a kid who slew the giant.  

 I asked my daughter to watch this (a video, don’t remember which one)  with me and used it to explain the details of how and why warfare was done back when there was no military-industrial complex, and how rational it was (nobody went out there to be killed, they were hoping it would all be resolved by bluster and threats and intimidation).  Goliath overplayed his hand, the “peasants with pitchforks” probably thought they were “fighting” over possession of this valley, and Goliath gets pigheaded and yells that nope, this is going to be which tribe will rule the other.   ……It took Saul by surprise as well, he’s the king who thinks he went out there to watch a shouting match, completely unprepared to fight a real war in which he could lose his own head. 

Nobody wants to fight Goliath,  so it’s a stalemate.  Read:  the Philistines are not attacking.  It’s all about having a couple “champions” (literally, players on the field) duke it out, the peasants with pitchforks want to go home.    Watch the action:  David tells the king “I’ll fight the guy.”  Saul:  “You’re just a fukkin’ kid, go home.”  David: “I’m a shepherd.  I’ve had to kill lions and bears.”   Saul, grateful that someone has finally volunteered to go get their ass kicked so everyone can go home, says “well then go for it!  May God be with you! …..making the sign of the cross and muttering to himself this ain’t gonna be pretty but at least we’ll finally have our excuse to run like hell and this whole nonsense can finally be over.”

Well, it doesn’t go the way everyone expects.  David has a secret weapon.  The Philistine panic at the unexpected outcome is so great, that they don’t know when to stop running and take up defensive positions in their own territory.  The peasants with pitchforks take several Philistine cities.   It’s easy to miss this part of the story, but think how important it is to understand how when the bluff of the overconfident is called, the rout is thorough because they have no backup plan. 

 “The LORD does not save with sword and spear, for the battle is the LORD’s.” 

Actually it’s not quite that simple.  Goliath is not felled by a lightning bolt from heaven, he’s felled by a hit from a secret weapon.  A ballistic missile launched from a high-speed centrifugal hand-held catapult.  Like Dr. Dobb’s Journal used to say, “running light without overbyte”.   

But even that line of reasoning is deceptive.   Everyone on the battlefield knew what a shepherd’s sling was, but they’re all out there scared so schittless that nobody’s thinking.   The secret weapon was to have the insight that the battle could be won with a shepherd’s sling.   That insight was possible for David precisely because he was NOT out there on the battle lines stuck being afraid of the big bad bully who was calling the shots and the Israelite army including the king himself  allowed themselves to get sucked into it.  

“the battle is the LORD’s”.    Not that of an anthropomorphic god up in the sky, but of that LORD which is here and now in the real world acting in human affairs from within us.  

To explain that, I will draw on the theology of the world’s oldest universal monotheistic ethical religion, Zoroastrianism.   What the Judeo-Christian-Muslim religions refer to as “God” in a variety of ways, Zoroastrianism calls “Wise LORD”.   Wise LORD is not an imaginary anthropomorphic “person” up in the sky, but is spirit, an abstract representation of the power of Truth as opposed to the Lie.   Truth is not about “believing dogmas”, it is literally about truth.  Living honestly, neither deceiving nor being deceived.  In Zoroastrianism, the Last Judgment that leads to either Paradise or falling into the fires below, is not St. Peter checking the books.  You walk a narrow bridge across the river of fire to Paradise on the other side.  If you lived honestly, in balance, then thanks to a lifetime of practice you will keep your balance and make it to the other side.  If you lived according to The Lie, the walk across the river of fire on a narrow bridge , you can’t fake this one.  There’s nobody to be deceived but yourself.  You lose your balance and fall into the river of fire. 

That is how the Battle of the Valley of Elah belonged to the LORD.    Goliath’s job was to look big and mean and to yell real loud and make threats.  Read between the lines, the guy was actually a huge clumsy oaf so burdened by armor that he couldn’t even carry his own shield.   The Israelite “army” all the way up to King Saul himself allowed themselves to get sucked into the Philistine strategy.  From the moment they got sucked into it, their fear kept them there.  They were victims of The Lie.  They were so busy believing the puppet show that they didn’t even realize they were victims of a con job.  The big bad bluffer won from the moment he went out into the middle of the valley doing his power display. 

It took a kid who hadn’t been sucked into the deception, to realize that they’d all been paralyzed by Goliath’s con game.   The secret weapon was not the sling, the secret weapon was not allowing himself to be lied to.  The sling was merely the outcome.    Heck, if Saul had just said “to heck with fielding a champion, we’ll just attack”, the Philistines would probably have been routed because they had no Plan B.  They’d placed their faith in their bully,  and were unprepared to defend themselves.

We’ve all heard the story of “the king who rode naked”.   A fable, not an historical event, but just as true.  People are trained to believe bullshit and to defend it because they got their egos wrapped up in believing it.  The little kid isn’t old enough to know he’s supposed to lie and then defend the lie, so he tells the truth.  Everyone is astonished that someone has called the king’s bluff, and the king flees the kingdom riding on the back of a horse …… naked. 


Many times  in my life I’ve gone places that people told me “Don’t go there!  Bad neighborhood!  Too dangerous, especially for a white guy!   How ya gonna protect yourself, you don’t even have a folding razor in your shoe!”    I told people “If I have a reason to be there, I go there.  Nobody’s going to bother me.”   And that’s how it’s always been.   If I’d been packing heat, my reasoning would have gotten backwards and things would likely have gone rather badly.  And  had I been properly intimidated, I’d have missed out on some really good experiences.

Once in a while I’ve reassured people who were trying to dissuade me from going freely where I wanted, “I have protection of a kind you can’t see”.   They have no idea what I’m talking about, because they’re like King Saul and his army of peasants with pitchforks.  They fell victim to the delusion and insist that I should do the same.  They are NOT reassured, they’re like Saul telling David “Go for it then….   God be with ya ….. (thinking “what else can you say to a fool who’s about to get his head cut off?” ) 

Yet oddly enough when I then go where I want to go, the people whom I was supposed to be afraid of, do see something.  They see a white guy  who didn’t fall victim to the customary delusions.  Refreshing!  The fact I’m a white guy just stops being a problem.

Goliath saw the kid who carried no sword and wore no armor.  His mistake was to not shake the kid’s hand for showing some guts and not falling for the con game.  Nobody had to die, not David and not Goliath.  Goliath died only because he was every bit as much a victim of the con game, as everyone else but David was.  

Essay #4 “That’s how we all did it”


                     David Johnson

Possibly my all time best piece of writing.  Wrote it in 2017 for an ALSTDI essay contest.  Meanwhile they changed the rules and it became ineligible, so no need to ask how it placed.

In 1976, for several months off and on I was doing assay work on a gold mine in the mountainous outback of Sonora, Mexico.  The details of how that happened is a story for some other time.  But basically, I had a good pickup truck, had time on my hands because I was unemployed living off savings, was probably smart enough to be useful to the operation, and wasn’t inclined to get into trouble of the stupid kind.

In Mexico, my driver was Arturo Ramirez who lived in Imuris. Other than being a tailgater, the guy was an incredible driver.  It only took ten minutes for me to figure out he could drive my truck better than I could.  And I thought I was good. 

The mine was ‘way out in the middle of nowhere about 50 kilometers from the nearest paved road.  It was on the Palafox ranch, but Mr. Palafox didn’t own the mineral rights.  It was under claim from a sociopath crook who was mining a renewable resource (investors) with no intention that a real mining operation would screw up his business plan.  But the story of Pepe Tinajero shall wait for some other time.

Crescencio Palafox had two daughters and two sons. The sons were young adults, one away on his own in the drug business, the other still at home being a jolly good fellow trying to be a ladies’ man in a place virtually without any ladies.  The oldest daughter Laila was about 22, a real beauty and it seemed to me smart as well, with a 5 year old son. I gotta admit that if I weren’t there on business, I’d have been tempted to chase her a bit to see whether or not she wanted to be caught (by me, anyhow).  She rode a horse well and often went away for a day or two at a time, I suspect she had a boyfriend on another ranch.  That’s the only story I have to tell about Laila.  

The youngest was 14 years old. In Mexican culture girls aren’t allowed to have boyfriends until their 15th birthday.  And then it’s under close supervision.   Don’t remember her name, she didn’t interact enough to form an opinion about her personality, and wasn’t much to look at, kinda scrawny.  Even if I were sixteen I probably wouldn’t have looked twice.  

Well, there are rules. But things happen the way they actually happen.  

One day she disappeared.  And so did Arturo Montijo, a fellow from a nearby ranch whom I’d figured was probably early to mid 20’s.  They’d eloped. 

Crescencio Palafox hadn’t a clue this was going to happen.  The womenfolk knew all about it, and hadn’t told him.  Poor Chencho truly needed to get rip roaring drunk.  As word got out, people came from nearby ranches to join in the condolence festivities.  Bringing locally produced bacanora of course.  Best moonshine on the planet, not even Tequila Herradura Silver is up to that standard.  

I’d been away from the ranch.  My driver got us back in the afternoon bringing cold beer as we always did, since that was both greatly appreciated and not stockpiled locally (no electricity, no refrigeration).  Crescencio had somehow up to that point not met my driver.  And I didn’t know yet what had transpired.  I introduced my driver Arturo Ramirez.   

Chencho:  “Que nombre tan feo.”   What an ugly name!  My driver somehow intuited that this wasn’t about him.  Greatly puzzled, but not  fightin’ words.  My partner in the venture saw we’d arrived and came over and explained what was going on. 

As the evening wore on and Mr. Palafox gradually got used to the idea that the facts on the ground superseded whatever dreams he may have had, he reasoned “Well, I didn’t raise her for me.”  Couldn’t quite yet bring himself to say he raised her for Mr. Montijo.  Got the impression he didn’t have a high opinion of the guy even prior to this rude surprise.  

Poor Chenco wanted some sympathy from the other fathers, but there was none to be had.  “Church wedding?  Who can afford that?  Besides which the nearest church is in Cucurpe.  We all got married by eloping.  How else would one do it out here in ranch country? ”   

I can’t say that a good time was had by all.  But least all made the best of it that they could. 

And that’s today’s fogie reminisce.

      **********  FREE BONUS ESSAY! **********

Mexico has a special administrative zone (la Frontera) along the US border 28 kilometers deep.  So the customs checkpoints are not at the border itself, they’re at kilometer 28.  

I lived in Tucson, and entered Mexico via the border twin city Nogales.   Third time headed south, the km 28 experience wasn’t quite routine.  The customs officer looked at my tourist visa.  “I’ve seen you through here a couple times before.  You’re not a tourist.  You’re either trafficking drugs, or working without a work permit.  …… (long pause)…..  Been working here a long time, I know by instinct who’s hauling weed and who isn’t.  You’re not a drug trafficker.  That can mean only one thing — you’re working without a permit.  I’ll let you go this time, but next time I see you, you better have that permit.”  

Well, it was an informal work situation.  I couldn’t have gotten a permit even if I’d wanted to.  So from then on I had to use other checkpoints, going hundreds of miles out of the way.  Sonoyta-Lukeville. Naco.  Agua Prieta.  (There was no road through Sasabe.) 

The most popular song on the radio at that time was Vicente Fernandez “Los Mandados”.   About a Mexican guy’s attempts to get into the USA without getting caught.   Names all the places one might cross, and the tricks one might use to evade detection.  But U.S. Immigration always grabs him (“La Migra me agarro” ) and kicks him back to Mexico  — “trescientos veces digamos” — let’s say three hundred times.  But, he finally gets through! and celebrates.  

That became my favorite song.  I was doing the same thing, just in the opposite direction. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_pLQmbnCmPk   Los Mandados   ….the video reminds me of my own adventure.  However mine was a brown primer pickup truck, not a white van.  Don’t recall getting any flat tires.  Most memorable mechanical breakdown was losing the fan belt out in the middle of nowhere halfway between Imuris and Cananea.  A local driver passed word to a nearby ranch that we were in trouble, and some cowboys came out to figure out how to help us deal with the situation.  They had some nylon rope, and very carefully rewove the strands into a single loop of the correct diameter.  (So much for the legendary “Yankee ingenuity”, those days are gone.  I’ll take Ranchero ingenuity any day.)  It held all the way to Cananea where I was able to get a real fan belt installed.  Kept the Full Custom Version both as a spare, and souvenir.  

*********  WHILE I’M AT IT, ANOTHER FREE ESSAY! *******

On one occasion I went through Lukeville/Sonoyta.  Kilometer 28 was a little customs post out in the middle of nowhere.  

There were about 50 Mexicans standing in line waiting to get their documents processed. (Yep, the Frontera is just as much an internal international border for Mexican citizens as it is for “tourists”.)   I figured maybe a 2-3 hour wait. 

Mexican time is different from U.S.A. time.  The clock may say the same thing, but trust me, it’s different.  The only thing that happens in a hurry, is if there’s a traffic accident.  Then, you flee the scene, because under Mexican law, traffic accidents are presumed criminal offenses and witnesses can be jailed in order to guarantee their presence in court.  [Update:  I’m told the law has been changed.]  

So when I cross the border, I switch to Mexican time. Trying to stay on U.S.A. time doesn’t work.  I took my place at the back of the line.  

With two brand new $1 bills in my shirt pocket. 

Most places in the USA, bribery is so foreign to us that we don’t even know how to do it.  It’s one of the most difficult things to get used to in Mexico.  Even if you accept that bribery is a way of life there, and that the price is usually reasonable, there’s still the awkward mystery of how to actually do it without somehow screwing up.  

At that time, there’d been so many complaints by tourists (a HUGE chunk of the Mexican economy) about government officials demanding bribes, that the Mexican federal government laid down the law — you can’t take bribes from tourists.  Tourism documents are free.  And they launched an advertising campaign in the USA to tell tourists that tourism documents are free, and not to pay bribes to government officials, the officials have been warned not to even ask.   For a while it even sorta worked.  

At the time the standard “fee” up front had been two dollars.  Reasonable price, no problem: whose pocket the money went to was not my concern.  But now I couldn’t pay that two dollars to make it happen.  

But I could leave a tip for services properly rendered.  That tip was going to be $2.  

Okay, back to standing in line at the Aduana (customs house).  Several people looked back at the “gringo” at the end of the line, and decided something wasn’t quite right.  They had to wait, but I was a tourist and shouldn’t have to wait.  They pointed to another office,  open door,  and told me I should just walk in.  I was reluctant at first but they seemed quite sure it was proper.  So I walked to the door.  

The office was obviously that of the manager.  He was sitting behind his desk, friendly look on his face, motioned for me to come on in and have a seat.  No hurry, we chatted small talk a bit.  His son about 7 years old was there and brought him a glass of milk. He said he had stomach problems and couldn’t do tequila any more.  And pretended to savor the milk as though it were good tequila.  Here I was, a total stranger, and it was almost as though he’d made me part of his family.  

After about half an hour of chatting, we eventually got down to the business of processing the visa, about two minutes’ work.  He handed it back to me, and said “That will be two dollars, please.”  

He’d dialed my number. So I dialed his. I didn’t have to go fishing in my wallet looking for two dollars, I pulled $2 right from my shirt pocket. 

He understood instantly what I’d done.  This was a business matter, to bust out laughing would have been inappropriate.  So we just grinned at each other and parted ways with “Gracias” (thank you). 

        ************   POSTSCRIPT  *********

I’m not really that brave a guy.  The Sonoran adventure left me with many wonderful memories, but I was never tempted to do a thing like that again.  

Now with Google Earth, I can look down from space and see the Palafox ranch, what’s changed and what hasn’t.  It brings back those memories.  And I wonder how the lives of the people I knew there eventually played out.  

—-Dave Johnson      January 2019


         ******** finally, that “story for some other time” *********

Anyone know who Pepe Tinajero is?    (writing this 1 July 2020) 

Pepe Tinajero owned the mineral rights on the Palafox ranch. And he wasn’t mining gold, he was mining a renewable resource — investors. 

Well, when that’s the business plan, eventually things start to unravel when the investors get to wondering just what is actually being mined.   By then, there’s a number of people involved.  Some of whom know what’s going on and some don’t.  Of those who do know, some are gladly party to the deed and some are stuck with having to go along with it even though they hate having been sucked into such a situation.  So– there’s a lot of confusion who knows what, who’s on what side, etc.  A person could get shot and haven’t the foggiest notion who shot them or why.  So several of us bailed out rather than sticking around to see if there would be a place for us in the aftermath.  

My partner Rudy, my next door neighbor in Tucson, knew the entire region VERY well and started poking around when he realized that we were being used as tools for mining investors.  Who was this guy?  Well, lots of people in that area knew, but didn’t talk unless asked to do so.  And they told the story of a sociopath con man who ripped off family members with the same enthusiasm as total strangers.  But his ability to fleece total strangers from elsewhere (in this case, some shady characters from Chicago) and pass some of the money around kept the local folks from giving the guy an education he’d only have to learn once.

Several months afterwards, Rudy and I were in a bar just north of Nogales wasting time.  Probably a dozen guys in the bar including ourselves.  Talking about various stuff.  A lull in the conversation. 

Rudy asks, “Anyone ever hear of a guy by the name of Pepe Tinajero?”

Sudden total silence.  Just like in the movies when the piano player stops. 

The chasm of silence had to be Evel Knievelled somehow.  (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evel_Knievel)  Finally one of the guys offers “That was a heckuva boxing match on TV last night, eh?”  


          ****************   ADDITIONAL STUFF *****************

Comment on the video:

1:50 …..DEJA VU!   I remember that!  The road from Magdalena to Cucurpe,  1976.   One of those landscapes that you never forget. 

I hope while you were in the region, you got to sample some bacanora, best moonshine on the planet, made from a small blue agave they call “lechugilla” but it’s not the green vertical spiky lechugilla.

I love rock gardens!………    also in 1976 did a lot of ecological research in a little canyon in Tucson Mountain Park,  just off of Gates Pass road but you couldn’t see it from the road.  Amazing, maybe 5 miles from downtown Tucson and virtually no sign of human activity, no beer cans, nothing.  Had the place to myself and the deer herd that liked the seclusion and the CCC watering holes constructed in a little side canyon.  ……I was impressed at how many different ferns there were: growing up in California I thought of ferns as being plants of wet places.   Also at least two species of wild onion, another plant I hadn’t expected to find in the desert.   During ’76-77 I was also becoming an expert on jojoba, plant density and seed yield in relation to precipitation and also the amount of labor needed to harvest wild stands.     All on my own, no college education but I learn better in real classrooms than artificial ones. 

There were marijuaneros even back in 1976, over toward Arizpe.  They didn”t know who we were and damaged the road expecting that my 2-wheel drive truck would not be able to proceed.  Didn’t directly threaten us though, why make enemies unnecessarily?  Well, I had the best driver on the planet, he  could get that truck damn near any place you could get a Jeep and some places you couldn’t.  We got through.  When they saw we got through we stopped to chat.  “Really good truck you’ve got there !”  Arturo:  “It’s not the truck, it’s the monkey behind the wheel.”    They figured out that we weren’t there to mind their business, just some guys going to do a bit of gold mine development work.   Never had any problem with the narcotraficantes after that.


Essay #5 The Hidden Story Behind Exodus

Optional introduction to this essay: https://www.edge.org/conversation/elaine_pagels-the-social-history-of-religion

The well known scholar of religion and Christian history Elaine Pagels did a YouTube on the social history of religion.  Her premise is that the stories that go along with religions should not be viewed nowadays as just fairy tale fantasies, but as commentary on the worldview of the culture that compiled those stories, the retelling of which then perpetuates that worldview at a mostly subconscious level.  The stories are the flesh that embody the underlying themes, providing the pattern into which we plug our everyday experience into for the purpose of making sense of that everyday experience.  Although the stories may have some basis in earlier real events, the function of the stories is not that of “history”.  Their function is to stabilize a worldview.   

In her video essay,  Professor Pagels talks a lot about how the mythology of the Christian god reinvented the politics of the Roman Empire during the 4th century, and how the Adam & Eve story influences American politics and social thinking today.  She didn’t mention the Exodus story, but it’s an example of what she’s talking about. 


Whatever “really happened” in the “exodus event” about 3,500 years ago is a matter for historians to determine as objectively as possible, and then to draw conclusions from it regarding things like human behavior, and how events are actually remembered since the events themselves exist only for an instant.  History is an important enterprise — in some ways, it could be regarded as the foundation of sociology. 

What has endured in something like its present form for at least 3,000 years, is the exodus “story”.   It was cast in concrete not long after the invention of the alphabet itself 3,500 years ago.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabet     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoenician_alphabet   

The best evidence is that the alphabet was invented in Palestine and/or Sinai, the geographical regions that figure most prominently in the self-identification of the Hebrew tribes.  And that geographical identification has a context:  “escape from Egypt”.  

The exodus story existed in something like its present written form in the court of David king of Judea about 1,000 BCE.  By that time it was already the stuff of fantastic oral legend, a narrative that functioned as the tribal mythology, and was not (and never had been) a chronicle of historic facts.   (The Torah we’re familiar with was redacted from those earlier writings during the Babylonian Captivity about 600 BCE.)  

Exodus is the Hebrew “story of origins”, their tribal creation myth, the story of what made them what they were.  Everything prior to the Moses legends is in the category of tribal prehistory, the stage on which the Exodus drama played out.  (I’m not making an assertion regarding the possible original facts underlying the pre-Mosaic stories such as the story of Abraham, I’m talking about the dramatic structure of the tribal narrative.)  

Here in the U.S.A.  we’re all familiar with the underlying theme of “escape from slavery”.  The ancient Exodus narrative was embraced by black slaves as their own story to be lived out, and later became the narrative that drove the Civil Rights Movement.  

But there’s another theme of Exodus which is not about “crossing the Red Sea”, escape from physical slavery.  It’s the Stone Tablets, a story of the transformative power of that recent invention, the alphabet.  Christians completely miss it.  I don’t know to what degree Jewish scholars have asked difficult historical questions about that part of the tribal creation story, but every Jew internalizes that part of the story subconsciously.  The religious practice that externalizes the interior meaning is the mezuzah on the doorpost, a physical reminder of the Shema written thereon  — a recitation of the power of that remarkable invention claimed by Hebrews as their own — the alphabet. 



I suppose anyone reading this knows the basic “Moses and the Ten Commandments” story, where Moses brings down from the mountain (in other words, brings to the people a gift from the gods) a tribal law literally “written in stone”.   Although the Exodus text does not explicitly spell out (notice the phrase “explicitly spell out”) that the writing was alphabetic, the tradition has always been crystal clear that it was written using an alphabet.  And did the “stone tablets” actually exist?  The followup stories about the Ark of the Covenant make it crystal clear that the “stone tablets” were at that time historical artifacts carefully preserved.  (I’m not asserting that the stone tablets in the Ark were literally the stone tablets made by Moses, nor am I asserting as historical fact that Moses made the stone tablets described in the legend.  Although all that may have been the case.  In any case, the legends point to what was evidently a tribal law of some kind written on stone slabs several hundred years prior to the rise of the Davidic mini-empire.) 

Think a moment about what the “law”/”covenant” written alphabetically on stone tablets was not:  it wasn’t written in Egyptian hieroglyphs on flimsy perishable papyrus.   The Ark of the Covenant and its contents have long since vanished, but before it vanished, the covenant was being written on animal skins and on wood (as instructed by the Shema itself). 

If you’re not Jewish, you probably don’t even know what the Shema is. The meaning of the word “shema” is “Listen up! Hear and heed!!”  It is arguably the most important document in human history.  Here’s links:  sorry, I don’t know a copy-and paste source.  To understand the rest of this essay you need to read that document. 

The ancient core of the Shema, Deuteronomy 6:4-9, King James Version:  https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Deuteronomy+6%3A4-9&version=KJV  (the remainder is commentary)  

The Shema text is not in Exodus, but in Deuteronomy.  Although it does not explicitly refer to the stone tablets, it’s clear from the Torah (Pentateuch) writings that it’s all connected.  And although it is instruction to carry on oral tradition, it literally nails that instruction to the doorpost in written form.  It is a command to be grounded in a written tradition — one written in an alphabet.   That command is carried out to this very day by observant (and even many non-observant) Jews by attaching a mezuzah  to the doorpost of the entrance to the house.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mezuzah

The Shema has evolved over the millenia, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shema_Yisrael  and  https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/706162/jewish/Translation.htm  The focus of this essay is on the ancient core found in Deut 6:4-9.

What binds the Hebrew nation together even after millenia of diaspora?  “The Covenant”.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosaic_covenant  The Shema.  The “covenant” is in the form of a contract or treaty.  The core recites the obligations of the Hebrews.  The commentary recites the reasons why Hebrews should embrace those obligations. 

The “alphabet” is an amazing thing.  It’s a small set of visual symbols that tell you how to pronounce words — even words you’ve never heard before.  In public school we teach the average 6-year old how to read and write.  My daughter knew her alphabet at the age of 18 months (from alphabet blocks).  I figured that by 2 1/2 she’d be reading books, but that didn’t happen and I felt no need to push her on it.  At the age of three she was able to do rudimentary reading and writing self-taught, but tried to keep it a secret (she was afraid if I found out, I’d tell her to read her bedtime stories herself.)  When she entered kindergarten as the youngest kid in the class she decided it was time to read and write, and within several weeks she was pretty good at it.  ……. Now consider what literacy was in the ancient world.  Egyptian hieroglyphs? A professional specialty.  Alphabet? if it took you an hour to figure out how to pronounce a written page so that you can then read its contents aloud to others, and to write a somewhat legible scrawl if necessary, you were literate. 

That’s the practical aspect of it.  There’s the less obvious aspect: it was damn near magical.  If it could be spoken, it could be written and later re-spoken by a total stranger. We are storytelling beings, and the alphabet took storytelling to a whole new level.  Hieroglyphs were designed for practical matters of record-keeping, and poorly suited for conveying abstract ideas.  And literacy was the domain of the educated class.    With an alphabet, if a god speaks in human language, the words of the god can be written down and subsequently recited by mere mortals.  Ordinary mortals.

Essay #6 Parable of the Incompetent Accounts Manager 

DEJ 15 Oct 2019

Jesus the Nazorean became the most famous name in human history for mostly the wrong reasons.   But consider this:  he taught in parables and by direct example.  His parables nearly all of them are about “investment”.  He demo’d by literally investing his life.  

So, how the heck did a Galilean hillbilly learn so much about investment?  Well, he was a handyman who lived within daily commute walking distance of the Greek capital city Sepphoris.   The Bible never told you this because his disciples knew basically nothing of the life Jesus led before his date with destiny about 27 CE at Bethabara.  Where John the Baptist washed away what Jesus had been– an “illegitimate child”, a man with zero legal status who owned nothing but the shirt on his back, .   What John didn’t wash away was what Jesus had spent the first 30 years of his life learning. 

***********  HEAR NOW THE PARABLE **********

A parable is literally “something that was thrown alongside you, can you  catch it?”  That’s the freight that the Greek word carries.  Jesus taught the truth that people did not want to hear, so it had to be told as story rather than as propositional doctrine that people either reject at the outset, or regard as clever and then pretend to accept it becoming worthless hypocrites.  

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+16%3A1-14&version=NIV   There’s the parable. Verses 9-14 are NOT the parable:  I have included those so you can see how people who didn’t understand the parable struggled to come up with explanations that don’t add up, rather than simply saying “I don’t get it”. 

There’s a financier.  A capitalist.  Big time.  CEO. Since his business is too big for him to do the whole thing himself, he hires some people, particularly an accounts manager.  CFO.  As such, the accounts manager is paid well, not only because of the knowledge and skills needed to do it well, but because you don’t want the guy thinking he’s underpaid and thus tempt him to sabotage your business.  

Well, all that’s a balancing act.  There were accusations that the manager was incompetent.  Jesus told another parable aimed directly at that issue, the Parable of the Talents wherein a broker was told to go make a deal and earn a profit, and instead simply stashed the money and returned it when the financier asked how the money was being invested. It didn’t go well……..    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+25%3A14-30&version=ESV   

But back to Luke 16.  The financier tells the accounts manager “Turn over the books along with your letter of resignation.  It’ll take a couple weeks for me to understand what’s going on, and whether or not to accept your resignation.  But frankly based on the rumors I’ve heard, it ain’t lookin’ good.”  

The accounts manager realizes that the game has just changed.  He knows what the rumors are, and indeed it ain’t lookin’ good.  

Now, The Gospel According to Kenny Rogers.  Most people who spend half a decade getting an MBA were never taught what Kenny teaches in 3 ½ minutes.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hx4gdlfamo    I don’t regard this as the best investment advice possible, but it is surely the best that can be delivered in 3 ½ minutes.

And, something I figured out for myself on 31 Oct 2001:  If the rules don’t work, reinvent them.  That’s your competitive advantage.  

What does the accounts manager do?  The rules say “Hey, if you’re under investigation, keep your nose clean. And bullshit your way out of anything that’s a problem.  That way you stand half a chance.”  The accounts manager decides he doesn’t stand that half a chance.  He’s been honest, but incompetent.  No way to cover that up.  ……And there’s another problem that the parable leaves unstated, but it’s part of “getting it”:  the CEO is also in deep shit due to the account manager’s incompetence.  And the CEO is about to discover that fact.  They’re in it together whether they like it or not.  And so are the clients.  They’re ALL in it together.  

The rules never said that.  The rules say it’s whatever you can screw anyone else out of.  By that rule, the CEO loses everything, the accounts manager loses everything.  The clients are freed from a debt because the CEO has nothing left wherewith to hire thugs,  but now the clients don’t know who to do business with.  At least the accounts manager was honest and a decent chap sometimes with some valuable insights, even if he wasn’t very good at calculating the difference between profit and loss! 

The accounts manager does what I did nearly 20 years ago.  He reinvents the rules.  Make everyone involved follow you into unexplored territory.  Now you’re in charge. Not because you know the outcome, but because all they can do is follow.  

The accounts manager hasn’t turned over the books yet.  He goes to the clients and writes down the loans to an amount that he and the client figure the client can actually pay without substantial risk of default.  

Ain’t no way the CEO isn’t going to figure out what happened when he gets the books.  Who wrote down the amount owed?  THE CLIENT!  

The CEO has never seen anything like this.  It’s not imaginable.  There were losses on the books that the CEO was going to have to throw good money after bad trying to recover, the most common and also the most stupid fallacy in all of business economics.  The CEO not only can keep his clients, now they’re loyal!  

He can even keep his accounts manager.  In fact he kinda sorta has to.  The clients are going to tell any replacement accounts manager to fark arff, they want the old one back.  

“You never count your money while you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.”  — The Gospel According to Kenny Rogers.  And now you know what that line means.  


“The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind, than are the people of the light.”  That, and not the subsequent confused commentary, is the punchline of Jesus’ parable.  The Gospel According to Mark is the original “Jesus story’ on which all others are based.  And who is this Jesus the Nazorean?  Well……..  the nobody from nowhere who lived and taught among his own kind, ridiculing the “people of the light” who are actually hypocrite frauds.  

We’re all farkarp sinners, Jesus included.  That’s the beauty of his teaching and of his direct example how to live by his teaching.  The Jesus the Nazorean whom many churchmen refuse even to say his name. Because having read the scriptures, they know who he was.  One of “those people”.  

All there is in life, is to make the best of what we have been given to deal with.  To do the duty to others that the circumstances of fate have placed before us to do,  and not someone else.  The two greatest stories ever told are the Gospel of Mark, and the Hindu Bhagavad-Gita, and that is their teaching.  Or, as they say in golf, “Play it as it lays.”  Or as Jews say, “The Covenant”.  That is the meaning of life.  There is no pie in the sky, there is only living in gratitude for life by delivering it to others, as have untold millions before us done for us.   That is what “eternal life” is.  Not a pie in the sky, it is right here right now,  what we do in the real world while we still have the opportunity to do it. 

Essay #7 The legend of Cain and Abel

Maybe Genesis 4:1-17 is history (of sorts) after all!

The mainstream viewpoint of scholars is that the old stories in the Bible are mere mythology without any historical basis.  I’ve long rejected that viewpoint.  The Cain and Abel story may be one of the oldest of the oldies, and I’m going to show you in what sense it’s historical. 

This is a story from the Hebrew Bible, so obviously you can expect it to take the Hebrew viewpoint.  The Hebrew tradition paints the Hebrews as pastoralists.  Open range livestock. This obviously creates conflict with grain farmers who don’t want their crop being eaten by livestock.  The pastoralists who were there first resent grain farmers appropriating prime grazing land.  The settling of the American West was plagued by the same conflicts until the invention of barbed wire.

Then there’s that “god” thing.  LORD (JHVH) is a retrojection back onto the era when the Hebrew god was a tribal god of the same kind as other gods.  In times of conflict between tribes, my god is not only better than your god, mine can kick your god’s ass.  Same principle as that David and Goliath thing.  As long as we can keep it about the champions duking it out, us regular folks don’t have to be killing each other. 

The setting of the story is long before Father Abraham gave rise to the Hebrew tribes.  But the issues are clearly those of conflict between Hebrews and other tribes.  The original story got reworked into a piece that teaches Hebrew theological ethics, I’ll point out the examples.

1. And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said I have gotten a man from the LORD.  

2.  And she again bare his brother Abel.  And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. 

Many a story begins “A father had two sons.”  It’s going to be a story that pits one son against the other.  This is classic storytelling. 

3. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto the LORD. 

4.  And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof.  

Thus the storyteller sets up the conflict.  The later JHVH universal god gets retrojected into the era of tribal gods because the story in the form we have it now is a Hebrew story that reinterprets the older story in a way that will have meaning to Hebrews. 

And the LORD had respect unto Abel and to his offering.

5.  But unto Cain and to his offering he had not respect.  

A common theme among the later Hebrew prophets is that JHVH doesn’t really want barbecue sacrifice after all, He wants ethical and compassionate behavior.  After all, by then most Hebrews were farmers or city folk, not pastoralists.  To celebrate Passover at the temple in Jerusalem they had to buy animals from merchants there in the big city.

But this story predates the later prophets.  

And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell.

6.  And the LORD said unto Cain, Why art thou wroth?  And why is thy countenance fallen?

7.  If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?  And if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door.  And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him. 

Translation from the Hebrew is difficult.  “Sin” is a bad translation.  The text uses the phrase “croucher”, a reference to the Mesopotamian god Rabisu, which lurks in doorways waiting to pounce on unsuspecting folks or to whisper stuff to them that will get them to do bad stuff. …. God is telling Cain that he Cain is going to have to master the “croucher”, and not to let the croucher master him.

So what’s that about?  The next verse  explains it. 

8.  And Cain talked with Abel his brother:  and it came to pass, when they were in the field, that Can rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him. 

So there’s a dispute between Cain and his brother, Cain’s pissed.  Judging by God’s remarks, the dispute arose prior to the sacrifice thing.  The conflict between pastoralists and agriculturalists begins long before the sacrifices that are done at harvest time. 

Note that Cain got his crop and Abel’s flocks were apparently well fed. There was conflict simmering, but it had not materialized into harm actually done.  

9.  And the LORD said unto Cain, Where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not.  Am I my brother’s keeper? 

Later Hebrew theology insists that yes, we are our brother’s keeper. This story is the foundation of that ethic. 

10. And he said, What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground. 

God’s pissed at Cain for killing Abel for no good reason.  After having been warned by the Hebrew god to control his emotions. 

11. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand;

12.  When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a vagabond shalt thou be in the earth. 

“Vengeance is mine, sayeth the LORD.”  A core theological ethic of the Hebrew tradition. 

13. And Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear. 

14.  Behold thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the earth, and from thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a vagabond in the earth; and it shall come to pass, that every one that findeth me shall slay me. 

15. And the LORD said unto him, Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.  And the LORD set a mark upon Cain, lest any finding him should kill him. 

Again, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth the LORD.”   Why?  Because once vengeance killing starts, it can go on for centuries.   And about the “sevenfold”, I’ll discuss that in the next section of commentary. 

18. And Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. 

In other words, Mesopotamia, land of irrigation agriculture and cities.  Cain doesn’t have to till the ground to earn a living. 

17. And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bare Enoch; and he builded a city, and called the name of the city, after the name of his son Enoch.

A place where people build cities. 


There’s a whole different way to read this story.  

Why the emphasis on cities?   A story persists only if the story has meaning to the people who are passing the story down. 

So you’re a herdsman out in the boondocks.  But you’re not surviving just by eating your own livestock, you raise livestock for sale.  The folks in the city don’t raise their own meat (at least not much), and in the city there are artisans who make neat stuff you want, like woven fabrics and bronze tools and cooking utensils.  And they have stores of things like lentils for soup and wheat or other small grains for making bread. 

Your ability to survive as a herdsman depends on making deals with folks in the big city.  And those folks are different from you.  Different customs, different gods, different ways of doing everything, and possibly a different language.  

If you go there thinking your way of life is best and the folks in the towns and cities even worship the wrong gods, you better zip it.    The “croucher” is already messing with you and you better get control of it.  

Now suppose you do something stupid and kill one of the townsfolk for a reason they don’t think warranted such an act.  Your encampment is probably about 28 people, of whom about 7 are guys old enough to fight.  And with what?  Not everyone is a crack shot with a shepherd’s sling like the legendary David. 

The townsfolk can easily come up with enough guys and well enough equipped to surround your camp and wipe out the guys.  And take the women and kids.  And of course the livestock. 

That’s the general principle of intelligent behavior that the legend of Cain and Abel teaches pastoralists.  Thus sayeth the LORD.  


Did Cain and Abel exist as real people?

People generalize from specifics.  The dispute leading up to the death of the herdsman and having to grapple with the possibility of retaliation is something that surely happened on a regular basis.  This legend makes Cain the bad guy but warns Abel and his kinfolk.  You can just as easily read the drama as having Abel kill Cain, and then figuring out how to finish the story.

There are stories and songs about real events that became the stuff of legend.  Once they become the stuff of legend, from the perspective of storytelling it doesn’t matter whether the event was historical or not.  But historians have an insatiable curiosity about such things. 

This legend smacks of having begun in exactly that way.  The characters may have been real people.  But not much chance anyone will ever be able to prove it one way or the other.