Monday, June 19, 2017

In a precarious place

The place where I walk with the dog in the early morning or in the afternoon when the weather is not quite so hot is a long paved loop that connects at both ends of a church parking lot and wraps around a large pond in front of the building. It is a safe place for us to walk – no cars to dodge. For me, I am not afraid of falling because the road is clean -- there is no gravel or rocks or debris to stumble over. The asphalt is sort of dicey in some spots but easily negotiated. There are plenty of things to keep the dog entertained, from hunting small mammals that scurry around under the tall grass to barking at those big things in the pastures. Ah yes. Barking.

Behind the church is a large pasture that curves around to the east and then comes down the hill and stops at the pavement. Living there are 20 young heifers and steers of various breeds of beef cattle: Black and Red Angus, Herefords, black ones with white faces, and some white and cream colored ones that may be Charolais or Simmental.

I love looking at these cattle. They are on open pasture, so when they lay down to chew their cud in that mesmerizing circular grinding motion, they are not laying in a slurry of excrement and mud as they would if confined in stockyard pens. They are clean. Their hides are glossy and beautiful, especially the Black Angus.

Molly loves to bark at them.


Mostly they ignore her, but occasionally they become curious about this small gray thing bouncing around and making noise at them, so they will come up to the fence and stand in a line watching her.


And then on the opposite side of the loop is the back pasture of a small farm where a herd of goats lives, guarded by 3 big Great Pyrenees dogs.

The dogs know we are there as soon as I slam the car door, and they come trotting up to the woven wire fence, letting us know in their low big-dog voices that they are on the job. They and Molly bark at each other, trading insults, issuing challenges, and explaining how tough they are. She doesn’t seem to care that they could easily be 60 pounds heavier than she is. She lets them “have it.”

And then there are the Killdeer. As soon as we start to walk past the area where I think they have their nests, one will begin running in front us on its twiggy stilt legs, piping continuously as it goes. If the dog stops to sniff something, the bird stops and waits for us and then resumes leading us away from where its eggs are.

Killdeer prefer to nest on bare rocky ground and there is no real nest as such, just a small cleared area. The eggs look like gray stones. They have a habit of choosing very unsafe places to make their nest.

This one sits inches from the asphalt on the frontage road we drive to get to the main road into town.

She has been sitting there for a while. When cars pass next to her she will get up and spread her wings, but I fear one of these times the jerk who deliberately swerved off the road to smash the turtle 2 weeks ago will try to do the same thing to her. Pretending to have a broken wing is not going to stop him. I hope her eggs will hatch soon and she will be able to move her little ones to a safer place.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Deliberate cruelty

Yesterday a report came in on the scanner that someone in a car was seen throwing a kitten out the window while they were speeding down the highway. The car got off at the convenience store, and the local police looked for it but didn't find it, and turned the license plate over to the state patrol.

And this morning when I was driving home, I noticed a a dead turtle in the gravel right of way on the frontage road by our house. The turtle wasn't there when I left the house an hour earlier. I could see from the tire tracks in the gravel that the driver of the car had deliberately swerved off the road to smash it. I stopped to look, and it was a large female full of eggs. So not only did this horrible person go out of his or her way to kill the turtle, he or she wiped out another generation of turtles in doing so.

I get it that people run over animals. I have run over a squirrel in the road, and on our driveway a chipmunk, frogs, and in fact, I ran over a turtle once myself that I did not see because it looked too much like other rocks on the road. They were accidents, and I felt terrible when I saw what had happened.

But to do it deliberately? We are so cruel to each other--killing, maiming, and destroying--that I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that it trickles down to all creatures great and small. But at the moment I am having trouble figuring out what to do with all of this anger.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Repeat and rerepeat: The same old story


I have been taking the dog to the vet about three times a week since May 12. Last Tuesday when I made the trip I saw a dragon, a whale, a pig, and a hag, complete with hooked nose and jutting chin, chasing each other across the sky. It was lovely. And then up ahead I saw something that wasn't quite so lovely -- a turkey vulture in the middle of the road picking at the remains of a very large snake that had tried to cross and was almost certainly run over on purpose. I slowed way down and crept along to give the vulture time to think things over and launch itself into the air.

And this was because some years ago when I still worked at the post office, one of the women who delivered the mail on a rural route came up on some vultures having lunch and frightened them badly. At least one of them threw up all over the front of her car. She said it was horrific. I never forgot that story.

From that point on I have always approached vultures on the road very cautiously.

When I got home, I told Richard all about the vulture I saw and about the woman at the post office. She had driven to a house nearby to wash her car off, and the children who lived there later gave her a card with a drawing of a vulture puking on her car. I told him about that too.

He hesitated a minute, and he said…

Don’t you remember you told me very same story about two weeks ago when we went to vet together and there was the group of vultures at the side of the road….

 No. I did not remember until he mentioned it.

I guess I am now at the age where this sort of thing starts happening. It is scary though. Very scary. Hard to know what is “normal” for a geezer and what is not. I have always hoped that my mind would remain "sharp as a tack" as I approach old age and if I live long enough to become an "elderly elder." Now I am not so sure that is going to happen.
I will be making another trip to the vet tomorrow for the dog’s last treatment. No telling what I might see between here and there, but I will think carefully about it before I say anything to him…

Monday, March 27, 2017

No padding here!

I find it rather annoying that authors have forgotten how to have their characters “walk” from room to room. Especially female characters. Oh, sometimes they do walk, but with increasing frequency they seem to “pad” from room to room:

She padded from the bedroom to the kitchen.
She padded from the kitchen to the living room

This usually happens in the morning when she first gets up or in the evening as she is winding down.

And so it goes with variations.

Last night I cracked the window a good 5 inches and fell sleep listening to the chorus of spring peepers in our pond at the edge of our pasture.

And I woke up at 2:45 to thunder and lightening and pouring rain, and it took a while to fall asleep again. Our place has been struck twice by lightening; fortunately, both times it was just the well pump was that damaged, but still. I say fortunately (although replacing the pump wasn’t cheap either time) because a friend at the aerobics class lost her house to a fire caused by lightening. One tends to be a little “concerned” when a thunder-and-lightening storm moves through.

So I was rather groggy when I woke up a little before 5 a.m., and I most assuredly did not “pad” from the bedroom to the bathroom and from there to the kitchen to get my morning cuppa coffee. I might have lurched, staggered, or wobbled. I may even have walked.

As I headed for the coffee pot, I looked at the floor and found myself remembering with surprising clarity the summer of ’62, when I was 12-going-on-13.

Two of my dad’s sisters and their families were going to the Seattle World’s Fair, and Aunt Vera invited me to go along with them. Her oldest daughter, who was the first grandchild born to that generation (I was the second) is about 18 months older than I am. Our ages were close enough that we could really enjoy each others’ company as we grew older.

We stayed in a campground outside of Seattle at the edge of the rain forest. Some of us had a close encounter with stinging nettles. We saw huge yellow slugs. We had a wonderful time. 

Back to the real world: no, giant yellow slugs were not oozing their way across the kitchen floor, but there were 2 (!) garden-variety slugs laying down a trail of slime.


I knew better than to use my fingers (have you ever tried to get slug slime off your fingers?), so I used a scrap of paper to scrape them up and deposit them outside.

And launched myself into the day, profoundly grateful and feeling very blessed to have had such a wonderful Aunt.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Baked projectiles


The daffodils and blooming shrubs are covered with about 2 inches of very wet snow, and I suspect the lizards that have been sunning themselves on the foundations of the house and the porch will once again retreat back to where they go when the temperature is too cold.

This too will pass, of course. It will be in the mid 60s in a couple of days.

He has split the biscuit with a fork around the edge and added blackberry fruit spread to each half. But instead of just picking the biscuit halves and eating them, he begins using the edge of his fork to cut each half in half and eats it that way. With a fork.

Then, a piece of biscuit that he is trying to cut in half shoots out from under the fork and smacks into the plastic bowl of the salad spinner at the edge of the table, leaving a purple smear. He wipes that off with his finger and licks it (no point in wasting good fruit spread). 

Why don't you just pick up the biscuit with your fingers? Why do you have to eat it with a fork? 

With a fork? he says. I need a jackhammer. 

And then begins to laugh, spears the biscuit on his fork and starts eating it and making exaggerated chewing motions.

This is like eating hardtack, he says. 

When I was having dinner with my brother and his wife in November and commented on the wonderful biscuits they served, he said "Bisquick," and then this sweet man sent us a box of Bisquick for Christmas. The biscuits "made from the box" were wonderful, but the Bisquick is gone and Richard is adamant that he does not want to eat "store-bought biscuits." 

So we are back to "same-old same-old"  Just another exciting Sunday morning breakfast, where jaws get the exercise.

Saturday, March 04, 2017

...in which I am somewhat embarrassed

A family--husband, wife, and son--that recently moved here from Houston has been coming to church for a while, and I arranged to have lunch with the wife, Sue, on Friday. Her birthday is coming up, and I decided before I left to meet her at the restaurant that I would pay for her meal as a present. I grabbed a bill out of the envelope of cash I had just gotten from the bank to cover day-to-day expenses for the next couple of months, which had eight $20 bills and one $10 bill, and stuck it in my pocket.

I don’t carry a purse around town, so that was all I had.

Sue arrived, and I told her I would pay for our food in honor of her birthday. When the cashier gave us the total ($16 and change), I handed her the bill. And she stood there holding it, looking expectant, and repeated the amount, and I said “I gave you a $20,” and she said, “No, you gave me a $10” and she held it up. Sure enough. I had managed to miss all of the $20 bills in the envelope and instead pulled out $10.

Sue stepped into the breach, whipped out her credit card, and said “and we will put the rest of the cost on this…”

Eventually I knew I needed to shut up and stop apologizing, so I did, and we went on to have a pleasant lunch together.

How embarrassed was I? Had a hole opened in the floor, I would have happily crawled in and pulled the linoleum back down on top.

But I have learned a lesson. The next time I decide to do this, I will actually look at what I have in my hand.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Guns and roses

Having heard enough stories about the behavior of family members after the death of an elderly relative—circling like vultures before the person dies and then squabbling like scavengers on the carcass of a dead animal over who will get the choice bits—our mother decided years before she died that we “were not having that in our family.”

So she began making lists of the things she wanted each of us to have, and she didn’t wait until she was dead for some of these things to be passed on.

Some time ago our dad fell and fractured vertebrae in his spine. He spent some time in a nursing home and then recovered enough so he could be moved to a group home, but would never be able to live in the family home again. We moved to that house in early 1960s, and most of the childhood memories of the two youngest in the family are connected with that house. My brothers and sister began the gut-wrenching task of clearing the house so it could be sold.

And the lists came out, and I had a long conversation with the brother who is the executor of the family trust, and he began reading things off the lists that my mother and father had left, making sure that I either had those items already or still wanted them.

I was to get was the butcher knife. The butcher knife? Me? My dad’s sister had given my parents a set of kitchen knives as a wedding present when they got married in 1945. The knife is razor sharp. On the occasions when the four of us have been in the kitchen working to prepare a meal, we would get into good natured “mock arguments” – especially the younger brother and I -- about who was going to get the knife. I think everyone would have liked to have it.

My sister e-mails me and wants to know if I want one of the fine china tea cups my mom loved to collect. She didn’t just collect them and sit them on shelf to gather dust. She gave tea parties and her friends drank tea out of them.

A box arrives. There is the knife, which I will eventually mail to one of the others so they can enjoy it too. There is one of my mother’s teacups...

some aprons, some kitchen towels, the good stainless steal flatware, a stoneware mug I always drank out of when I stayed there on vacation. There is the bobble-head Chihuahua that one of the kids got Dad when it was the Taco Bell promotion. Something is wrong with one of its eyes and it looks sort of creepy.

Another box arrives. Only I have to go to the pawnshop at the end of the road to pick that one up. The two old .22 rifles that our Dad got from his father have arrived. I suppose my brother could simply have boxed them himself and mailed them, and no one would have been the wiser, but he decided to do this legally. This means they have to be shipped from someone with a Federal Firearms License to someone who has a Federal Firearms License, and for me to take possession of them, I have to fill out the ATF Form. I find myself chuckling under my breath as I answer “no” to questions wanting to know, among other things, if I am…
  • a felon…
  • a fugitive from justice…
  • addicted to illegal drugs or controlled substances…
  • mentally defective (well, Richard might have an opinion about that)
  • in the country illegally
And one day a big Mercedes sedan pulls up in front of the house. This man was the lowest bidder at a shipping Web site that my sister used to find someone to pick the desk up and bring it here. He had a truckload of stuff, but by the time he reached Oklahoma, where he lives, my desk was the only thing left and so he wrestled it into his car. I used the desk throughout high school and college, dad took it over when I moved out and used it to prepare Bible study lessons and funeral speeches and wedding ceremonies...


 and now it is here. 

And a chapter in our lives is about to end.

My niece writes:
Said goodbye to my Grandpa and Grandma's house today for the last time before it is sold. While this collage might seem like pictures of random little things, these things are packed full of wonderful happy memories for me. I have so many memories at this house I could fill a novel. From tea parties and puzzles with my Grandma, to snacking on loquats on the bench swing in the backyard and spitting the seeds with my Grandpa, I could fill pages with these memories…

A lot of tears have been shed…

The house has been sold, and escrow is supposed to close on March 2. Another family with two little boys will be moving in. I hope they have as much joy in that house as we had.