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We got a spring morning visit from the local art teacher, Janice Thompson. She's the one who couldn't get accepted into the regional art shows with her own work until she loaded a twelve gauge shotgun with paint pellets and blasted a sheet of plywood. She says she invented the "ballistic" school of art.

So in she came the other day, sauntering up to the philosophy counter at the Mule Barn truck stop and ordering coffee. She brought her own mouthwash-flavored cream stuff for it. We who regularly meet for summit conferences here at the world dilemma think tank are always grateful for these visits from Janice, because we like to see whether our ideas run in double harness with avant garde thinking. Avant garde, of course, is French for "putting on airs."

"Boys," she said, "it is an overwhelming pleasure to see you gathered here again within these hallowed halls to welcome the onset of spring. We haven't seen this much philosophical talent gathered here since ... yesterday?"

"That'd be about right, Janice," said Doc. Doc is our unofficial leader because he has lots of initials after his name and he can cut people open and fix them.

"Yep," she said. "Today I rake my leaves."

"Little late on that, aren't you?" Dud asked.

"Nope," she said. "Just right."

She took a sip and turned to us, focusing her avant gardity on us like a laser.

"Most of us rake leaves in the fall, right?"

A general nodding.

"And then we go out and buy mulch to put around the tender shoots coming up from below to protect them from snow, right? And then in the spring we rake away some of the mulch to allow sunshine in, right?"

More nodding.

"Well, I let the fall leaves do the mulching and only rake once a year. The way everyone else does it is like that silly woman I met who paid $30 to get her poodle clipped and then bought him a $40 sweater to keep him warm."

I guess there's a reason we have artists in this world.

Brought to you by Slim Randles's outdoor memoirs, Sweetgrass Mornings, available at www.slimrandles.com.

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