It used to be unremarkable when political contests were determined and the loser would contact the winner and congratulate him or her, publicly concede and pledge support for the winner.

Of course, there were occasionally sore losers but the peaceful transfer of political power is our country’s magnificence. One has to wonder today whether the presidential election of 2016 will set a new standard.

As the 2016 campaigns claw their ways to Election Day the rhetoric gets increasingly scary. It’s accepted, I know, that politics is a rough game. Politicians have to be able to take it as well as give it. Guns are left at the door and armies are not assembled in battle stations.

But as Nov. 8 approaches it’s difficult to be sure that there isn’t a little apprehension (tension?) in the atmosphere. And it’s not Halloween.

A nagging question in my mind is how to keep up with politicians when the subject is finance. Sometimes I ponder whether presidential hopefuls have even the slightest notion when they yak about the national budget, national deficit, national debt and the nation’s economy.

In my 1998 book “The Curmudgeon Chronicles,” I wrote an essayabout that.

The zeros in government

… To be charitable, maybe it’s because the numbers are so enormous. To be less charitable, perhaps it harks back to when I was a lad, when there was a mordant joke that when millionaires call for sacrifice, the poor tremble.

A million is a concept that people I know can comprehend. The notion of a single person becoming a billionaire is inconceivable. The idea of a nation messing around with a trillion dollar economy — let alone a $4.4 trillion debt — is surely beyond everyone’s imagination, sort of like grasping the concept of “light year.”

Follow me here. A million is a thousand thousands: 1,000,000. Well, sure. A billion is a thousand millions: 1,000,000,000. Huh? A trillion is a thousand billions: 1,000,000,000,000. (The English cleverly say it aloud, a thousand billions. Good show.) But what does it mean? John Paulos, in his recent book on what he calls “innumeracy,” put it this way:

It takes 11 1/2 days for a million seconds to tick away.

It takes 32 years for a billion seconds to pass.

It takes 32,000 years — thirty-two thousand! — for a trillion seconds to pass.

Well, heck. That helps me — particularly when some pol stands in the well and drawls out some phrase like $27,000, then in the next breath blithely skips over $650 billion.

Here’s another essay from “The Curmudgeon Chronicles”:

Renewal

When uncivil politicking makes you irritable and causes a chafe, which of course it must, hours spent outdoors will renew your spirit.

Dawns are nice. Dawns that put the lie to the old saying about red skies in the morning, sailors take warning. Dawns that don’t.

Daytimes are pleasant. Elk coming onto the refuge. Antelope not ready yet to migrate waltzing about still on the west side of the river. Quiet days. Clear, low streams. Although most deciduous trees and shrubs are hunkered down for winter, a few stand out bravely here and there in fading glory.

Evenings are laudable. Sometimes highlighted by fierce sunsets, deepening from orange to plum, through indescribable bronzes, purples, mauves and peaches.

Nighttimes. Chill, often clear. Planets and stars pop out. A waxing moon, full tonight; probably the harvest moon in some parts of the country, a hunter’s moon hereabouts.

Oh, heck. Stay inside and trash your radios and TV.

Field Notes: A great horned owl siting on a deserted osprey nest on Route 22 and Green Lane in Wilson (Frances Clark). The immediate area surrounding that intersection is frequently occupied by osprey, in season, red-tailed hawks and great horned owls.

It appears we have bid farewell, for a time, to ospreys and await the arrival of rough-legged hawks. We also wait to see how our winter birds, those that stay with us rather than migrate, will decide what looks like habitat that can sustain them. If I were to judge from my feeding station, in the past few weeks I’d have to concede I’m not gonna have that many birds this winter. But I’m not predicting it.

With notable exception the valley’s deciduous trees and many shrubs have dropped their leaves. Some cottonwoods and willows in the town of Jackson still stand out, especially when the sun hits them.

Halloween, which has now become the state of the union for most of the week, starts any day now. Take your pick. Trick or treat.

Bert Raynes©2016

Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways. His opinions are his own. Contact him via columnists@jhnewsandguide.com.

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