Science Says, What's Happening

Saved by The Marx Brothers and Oak Trees


I am not shy about telling friends who voted for Donald Trump that I think the president is a clown. Many of them agree Trump is a clown, too, but they argue that he’s a better clown than the clown I voted for. We try to be civil with one another.

What a mess.

I worry about what I can do to be a better gardener and citizen.   I can take better care of my garden, but I can’t battle the president on all fronts, nor even most of them.

There is no reason to think the president has any interest in gardening. And he has tweeted, “This very expensive GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop.”

We are at odds.

I’ve been planting small oak (Quercus lyrata) trees and watching Marx Brothers movies with my ten-year-old granddaughter. These diversions take a little edge off the insurgent political chaos. I love planting trees, and we need a few laughs.

I started the oak trees from acorns. These little one-year-old trees are easier to plant and a lot less expensive than larger container, or balled and burlapped, trees. A heartbreaking percentage will get grazed to the nubbin or rutted by deer. Or they will succumb the first few years to drought or perhaps to my own carelessness.

I’m hoping I can eventually establish two hundred trees—reforestation on a tiny scale. What did you expect? I’ll be sixty-six this year. I’m waiting on my first Social Security check.


I have decided to focus on our farm and garden—and environmental issues. I’ve been an active gardener for over 40 years. I think I’ve been a good earth steward, yet I haven’t been involved in environmental politics. Unlike with the social security, I’m not waiting around for this one anymore.

Rose and I installed a solar system on our farm in Salvisa last year. My business friends—Republicans and Democrats— argue that the cost doesn’t make economic sense. It makes do-gooder sense to me. You don’t have to float a barge down the Ohio River to get coal to the power plant. We’re not entirely off the grid. I understand the current need for fossil fuels; still, it feels good to have a power station in my back yard.

Maybe one day you can have your own peer-to-peer solar grid in your neighborhood. Brooklyn’s effort has  “…implications that could be far reaching,” according to the New York Times.

I can’t fight the Koch Brothers on my own, either. They have little regard for the environment, so I’ve rejoined the Sierra Club after a 20-year break. I paid my dues soon after I read the Koch Brothers were trying to mine uranium within a few miles of the Grand Canyon.

Nor will Scott Pruitt, the Environmental Protection Administration’s (E.P.A.) Administrator, do much to protect the environment. He said recently that carbon dioxide’s contribution to global warming needed to be studied more. (Did you ever hear the one about how cigarettes don’t cause cancer?)

Pruitt should listen to his predecessor, William Ruckleshaus, the E.P.A.’s first administrator, from 1970 to 1973. Ruckleshaus to this day understands the value of the E.P.A. The public does, too. In a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Ruckleshaus, wrote: “To me, the E.P.A. represents one of the clearest examples of our political system listening and responding to the American people. The public will tolerate changes that allow the agency to meet its mandated goals more efficiently and effectively. They will not tolerate changes that threaten their health or the precious environment.”

Hedge your bets if you think air and water will become cleaner in the next four years.

We could do so much environmental good.

But as fast as I plant oak trees, we’re dialing back environmental protection and ramping up the military.

Annex - Marx Brothers (Duck Soup)_NRFPT_04

The Marx Brothers understood the war economy. Groucho and Chico traded one-liners in their 1993 Duck Soup classic.

Rufus T. Firefly:

Now that you’re Secretary of War, what kind of an army do you think we ought to have?


Well, I tell you what I think, I think we should have a standing army.

Rufus T. Firefly:

Why should we have a standing army?


Because then we save money on chairs.

Plant an oak tree this spring.

Posted by on March 15, 2017 at 7:35 am, in the category Science Says, What's Happening.

10 responses to “Saved by The Marx Brothers and Oak Trees”

  1. Rachel says:

    I appreciate what you’re doing as a citizen, focusing on things that you can do and on what you can contribute to the country and environment.
    Keep it up.:)

  2. Stephanie says:


  3. Allen Bush says:

    Bernard, long live Captain Spaulding!

  4. Jan Carter says:

    What a glorious combination: the current roll back civilization administration and the Marx Brothers. Thanks for the laugh this morning.

  5. Bernard Leeds says:

    Got my arborday tree surrounded by chicken wire attached to one metal stake.
    Got my pot o acorns covered with wire too. Not sure i have to worry about Joe Creason deer neighbor building his third house behind me.

    Hurray for Captain Spaulding . . .
    The african exporer
    Did some one call me snoorer
    Hurray Hurray Hurray
    He went into the jungle where all the apes can grow nuts
    If I stay here i go nuts
    Hurray Hurray Hurray

  6. Mary Jean Gilman says:

    Good job, Allen Bush! What a fine piece of writing. I, too, have just turned 66 and am waiting on my first Social Security check. Age may have its drawbacks, but it certainly gives perspective. One movie we might enjoy viewing again would be 1,000 Clowns. One for every politician in Washington, D.C. I have also become re-activated after a lull of, oh, thirty years or so. I’ll be working on civil liberties issues. There are more than enough issues to go around. Just like politicians.

  7. Allen Bush Allen Bush says:

    Henry, I don’t think the overcup oak grows in Woodford County. However, some might be planted there. My acorns came from a Louisville planting. Quercus lyrata is native in the southern part of the state. It prefers moist soils. White oak, shingle oak or scarlet oak can handle drier soils.

  8. Pat Hayward says:

    This has me both laughing and crying at the same time. I agree – we need to pick our battles and be evangelists for local-level do-gooding. And pruning and digging and chopping and hauling are all positive ways to get out that frustration we all share.

  9. Henry West says:

    Allen, I don’t think I’ve seen quercus lyrata around here in Woodford County. Which oak would you recommend for the upland Kentucky River area?

  10. Linus says:

    Besides the environmental benefits and possibly economic benefits (depending on the price of electricity), having a solar power station in your backyard also gives you another source for electricity in case of a power outage.

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