No signal? No worries out here

Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, introduces the iPhone X during a launch event in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2017. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)
Apple Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller, introduces the iPhone X during a launch event in Cupertino, California, U.S. September 12, 2017. (Stephen Lam/Reuters)

About a dozen female northern flickers have been wandering about my yard for the last couple of days, poking long beaks into the grass, ridding the immediate vicinity of insects. Soon enough they will be riding easily on warm thermals to a great height, before turning south for the winter.

I didn’t count any males among their number and it felt familiar; males everywhere like to be in charge without doing much of the work. It’s endemic in certain groups. You likely know whereof I speak.

Out here seasons are becoming more difficult to define, warm temperatures lasting well beyond summer, sometimes bumping uncomfortably in to mild winters, winters without much snow. Birds don’t seem to mind but I get anxious, not so much for me but for those who are here long after my passing, those who will one day have to decide enough is enough.

In the meantime the world fixates on odd things, things allowing for more communication with less human interaction.

Apple will introduce the new iPhone X in November, a cellular phone with facial recognition features, a phone wherein Apple tells us “a single swipe will take you home from anywhere.” Not sure what that means, but Dorothy Gale surely would have loved such a phone when returning to Kansas with Toto.

I’d like a phone that knows the names and digital addresses of anyone I’ve ever offended, with an app allowing me to apologize to each of them, and mean it. If Apple can do that, I’ll purchase a cellular phone. Until that time I plan to take a knee.

Not carrying a phone has been an easy call for me. I’ve long hated talking on the telephone, ever since my parents were able to hear every word I said to my high school girlfriend because there was only one phone in the house, an avocado green number hanging on the kitchen wall.


I loved her with all of my heart, but couldn’t say it over the telephone. No need for a psychoanalyst on that one.

Some years back I worked for an employer that insisted we carry company-assigned cellular telephones whenever we left the building. Mine remained in a desk drawer, battery dwindling to nada. I never did learn how to handle the damned thing.

And recently someone asked me to take a photograph using a phone. I had to get instructions, and even then I took nine photos because I failed to lift my finger.

In addition there is no cellular phone coverage where I live. Good folks who visit always seem a bit troubled by it, like they have become somehow unmoored from civilization, rocking in a tiny boat a long way from shore.

I love it, and I’m comfortable in the knowledge that when I work in the woods with my ax there is every possibility that, given my health history, my heart will one day claim it’s had enough for one life, and no one will be able to make a phone call on my behalf.

On that day I hope a long-awaited snow falls gently all around me and in a nearby town people look out their windows and think “it sure is beautiful,” then call their friends.

• Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County



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