Monday, April 30, 2007

Fences, cops, a funeral and a wedding..

Susan, my precious and delicate sister’s secretary, has tasked me to submit posts to this effort a bit more often. As she is an understandably under-employed English major, with an inexplicable sense of humor (rare among the species)so I feel obligated to comply. As I went about my weekend of hard labor, I made sure to take stock and notice, to try to squeeze some interesting stuff out of whatever popped up. I was barely successful.

A truly beautiful weekend. Warm, and as of Sunday afternoon, almost too warm for the stuff Angel wanted to do…
Imagine if you will, five, fifty-foot rolls of welded wire fence, five feet tall, twenty or so heavy t-posts, and about five thousand square feet of uneven, rocky, rutted, un-cleared land, covered in tall oaks, small oaks, sickly, light starved cedars, various weeds and saplings, and several accumulated years of dry leaves, and about three tons of softball size rocks. This is to be the new alternate dog-pasture.
When we first moved in to the house, we had a professional firm install a chain link and wood picket fence around the back yard. This is the main run for the dogs. However there’s a lot of vicious traffic with the running, rolling, occasional digging, and the frequent charge-and-wrestle matches. This is very hard on any grade of grass. Bailey herself has worn a permanent perimeter path already. So we decided to establish a larger, less delicate area adjacent to the existing fence line for roughhousing.
Before the chain link guy did his stuff last year, Angel and I spent a couple of weekends clearing off enough ground for that small effort. What we needed to do this past weekend was expand it, about twenty five feet out, and running a two hundred foot length.
Angel had already pounded in most of the steel posts in order to measure, and as a guide for the clearing. A couple or three posts a day, then she started clearing out a little bit at a time. This weekend, with both of us available, we went full steam ahead with the goal of finishing it up.
The ground is very rough, strewn with large rocks, exposed roots, and hidden construction residue of various heavy materials; steel, concrete, etc. The Riding mower would never make it. Too many mature trees for a brush hog to corner, so all that left was a manual effort with an axe, clippers, rakes, and the occasional employment of the weed eater.
The saplings, and there were thousands, took a lot of time, dulling the clippers over the course. The raking though is what really took the toll. In some areas the leaf cover was over a foot thick, several years old, decomposing at the bottom, rotting and moldy about halfway down (currently suffering savage sinus issues). We had to break through all the way as best we could, since leaf cover is prime, luxury accommodation for ticks, chiggers, and about two hundred species of alien insect life I had not previously encountered……
It took the two days, both of us, and also proved out something I had suspected. Angel is in much better physical shape than I am… I live in a nice, cool, cubicle most of the time. She works the dogs outside for several hours a day, every day. I buckled in the heat… As I napped on Sunday, I could still hear the pounding of smaller, supporting T-posts in the back.
We did indeed finish, though Angel is sure to be out again today primping, checking and tightening the fence.

Saturday we worked hard, went out to the buffet for dinner, and stayed up late. At five-thirty Sunday morning a very rare thing occurred, someone knocked on our door. As it was very, very early on Sunday morning, I ignored it. But that bold gesture did nothing to thwart the rude attack. I tried to awaken Angel, but no-go. So I got up and stumbled forward… the sun was up a little, enough to see that there was a Sheriff’s cruiser in the driveway. There is a very long list of things that can quickly and completely sour up a beautiful spring Sunday morning.. having a sheriff’s deputy wailing away at your door at five thirty a.m. is definitely high on the list.
“Is this (insert street address) ?” she asked as I stared down at her feet trying to make out the brown plastic box. I had of course forgotten my glasses, and for some reason the box looked like a small animal carrier, which, in our household is not a rare thing, but it was too small for any of our massive dogs, and I didn’t think the deputy would be BRINGING us a small animal, especially at FIVE_$$%#@!!- THIRTY on a Sunday morning… and what is she saying? I hear her talking but I can’t stop trying to figure out what’s in the plastic box….”Yeah that’s right” I finally replied, though not really sure, as I’m now staring at her; checking to see if she really was a deputy, or maybe animal control, did one of our dogs tunnel out of the basement and kill someone? No not likely, wouldn’t explain the box, what is that? It looks familiar…..
“Sir, we had a bunch of kids knocking over mailboxes in the area, is this one yours?”
That explained it… as if coming out of a coma, things started making sense. It was my mailbox. Just the head, and it appeared to be in good shape, other than for being about five hundred feet away from the end of the driveway, where I had installed it.
“Uh, yeah, that’s mine….” Things cleared up as if pulled out of a deep fog… “…We caught them in the act, sir, would you like to fill out a claim report to prosecute? “

Don’t judge me yet…. There’s another story or two you need to know before you yell at me for being a weepy, timid sheep. I declined. Without explanation, I thanked her for her trouble and sent her on her way.
The mailbox wasn’t damaged. It was not just dumb luck though that it escaped harm. It was, in fact, by design. We’ve lived in the country before. We’ve had several mailboxes fall victim to local kids trying to wreak a little havoc on a dull, warm Saturday night. When we bought this place, one of the first items we installed was a sturdy, ‘break-away’ mailbox. If hit by a bat, hammer, or club, the head of the mailbox snaps out of its slots and tumbles away. Time to repair: about thirty seconds. Cost to repair? Zero dollars.
Sure the vandals deserve to be at least admonished, but remember, they’d been caught in the act. They had already smashed several, non-repairable mailboxes along the road… So it is very likely that others may pursue charges. The families of these misguided punks are now aware of their deed, and so they’re already dealing with that. Then there’s another thing….. for lack of a better word, I’ll call it Karma.
Without going in to unnecessary (embarrassing) detail, I’ll admit to having pushed the legal envelope when I was a teenager. I was caught, and the man that caught me contacted my parents, they came down on me hard. The shame, the humiliation, completely stifled any notions of a career, or even casual dalliances in crime. And because that man called my parents, instead of the police, I was able to quickly fix my life and go on without an ugly smudge in my record. One that could have kept me from certain positions I have held. So Sunday morning, at five-*%$#!! –thirty a.m. I cut some kids a little slack. What the other neighbors did, or will do? That’s up to them and their own philosophical baggage.

Angel talked to her mom again last week. Barbara is quite the peach. I’ve always liked her and Virgil, really good people. Angel’s dad is retired from building fine, upscale swimming pools, Barbara got to retire too since she kept the books for that business. They golf now even more than they once did.
Barbara has a wonderful, intelligent sense of humor; I know that simply because she says I make her laugh.
Angel was telling her about the ‘few words’ I had said for dad’s birthday party. Barbara asked if I’d be willing to write something for her.. like her obituary. Better than leaving the task for a stranger, I suppose.
Why, yes I take it as a serious request! Think about it… Rather than some marginal newspaper hack or dark, morbid, funeral director throwing cold, heartless factoids into a barely remembered tedious and formulaic recitation of a stranger’s life, why not get someone you really know, trust (?) and someone you can work with ahead of time?
I of course told Angel that I’d love to..
Now is a very good time to do this, Angel’s mom is in good health, and really not so very old, and still seems to have her mind about her (though with that side of the family it is not always so easy to tell).
I’ve started wondering if there might not be an ongoing gig here… I should start to think about how much to charge… by the word, or by the lie? Extra charge for NOT mentioning something?
I do birth announcements too…..

On a related note, sort of.. I am hustling, with tentative success, my garrulous female cube-neighbor for a spot as a male bridesmaid in her wedding, currently scheduled for August ’08…

Monday, April 23, 2007

This past weekend (April21) was Dad’s 80th birthday. I traveled to Cadiz / Cerulean Kentucky, to join my siblings, some cousins and dad’s friends to celebrate. The actual trip was rather uneventful, except maybe for the burning tractor in the large field near the river, and the gooey layers of day-glow green insect intestines that completely covered the front and windshield of my truck.
About 70 people came and went during the multi-hour, very well planned party at their church. Dad’s friends, former co-workers, and two of his favorite sons spoke very kind words, or completely made up or irrelevant ones. Jack, (My sister’s rarely seen husband) made an appearance with the new group of traditional/bluegrass musicians he currently fiddles with. They were absolutely perfect for the venue. They opened and grabbed our respect with a rendition of “Tennessee Waltz” that sent the entire audience sighing. I looked around at the growing happy crowd and soon came to a realization that is quite rare, I was one of the youngest people in the room… My father was all smiles on Saturday, and with good reason… people came from all corners to greet and celebrate a good, decent, gentle man.
Before the party at my parent’s home, my older brother Steve and I had a good chance to talk, something we only get to do once or twice a year… and my younger brother brought over some smoked pork he had labored long and perfectly over.. sweet, smoky, tender… the pork, not my brother, ….
Angel stayed behind as her daughter was traveling upstream from Springfield Mo. with her two babies and a new boyfriend in tow… They were still occupying space and eating my food when I left this morning, but should be gone by the time I get home. The babies are, of course, adorable, blah, blah, blah.. The older one, Alexis, about two and a half, a high energy little blonde, blue-eyed sprite fell asleep in my arms as we watched Spiderman (pause for cutesy ‘awww’s) ….. and the baby boy, Corbin… well he’s not much more than a leaky, grunting reptile at this point, still completely devoid of wit or personality… he may yet grow out of it… John, the new boyfriend hails from South Central Missouri, near Winona, for those of you with maps… and seems a quite decent fellow. He attended college for a couple of years, loved playing football, didn’t care for the academics, but now, after working for a year in a logging operation (South Central Mo. Is famous for oak trees and charcoal production) has decided that a degree might be a handy thing to have. He has been courted by the football coach at Evangel College in Springfield, and has been offered a full scholarship and three years of football eligibility. John’s about to accept, assuring all that he’ll put a bit more effort into the classroom than he did a couple of years ago.
As for Angel’s daughter Stephanie, I teased, berated and generally made fun of her, it’s what I do…. They were at the zoo on Sunday when I got home around 2pm, so I had a couple of hours rest before the babies got there and spun up to a very high pitch….
On the four and a half hour drive back from Cerulean Ky, to Hillsboro MO, I decided that since my house was probably full of babies and thus there was no real rush, I’d take a side trip off I-55 onto Highway 61 at St. Genevieve, Mo, about 50 mile SW of Hillsboro. Angel had looked around on the Wide World of Web and discovered that there was a lot of restoration and artsy-craftsy shops in the old river port. I sidled into the town for a quick drive-by and confirmed that indeed it does deserve a day trip soon. The river is very narrow here, and there is an operating auto-ferry in continuous motion. The town is all levee’d up and there is a historic yardstick on one main street showing the various significant flood events and levels. On the outskirts of the old town there is a modern factory complex that apparently is in business to manufacture noise and dust.. white, thin, powdery, perhaps limestone, dust that pours from every pore and orifice of the massive industrial buildings, pipes, and chimneys and rudely settles on everything for a downwind mile. I will investigate further.
Anyway, back to the party…. It was really, really nice… for a geriatric convention…. But that’s much better than being in even a very small gathering of folks in their teens and twenties. As the events dwindled down and the sugar-free cake was all chopped up, the coffee bitter, and the foam in the odd-looking punch had fallen flat, I decided to jack up my brother’s dour mood a bit. I did this by pointing to Judy, the 55 year old daughter of mom and dad’s life-long friends, and truly wholesome and wonderful farm stock, Clint and Pauline. Judy was sitting with her parents, and is a very nice person in her own right. She is long and happily married, has kids and grandkids of her own, and spends some daylight hours cleaning homes for people, including my parents’. I asked Steve, the elder brother, if he had seen her.. he replied that yes he had. So I followed up with an almost inaudible “She is so hot!” The look I got from Steve was quite priceless…. His first reaction though was odd, “ She’s you’re cousin!” I didn’t think so, but reminded him that even if true, we were currently sitting in a less than cosmopolitan region of Kentucky where such paltry things are usually of only the most trivial concern. His feigned disgust continued… even to the point of mentioning it to my father later in the day in an attempt to embarrass me, which was fine, since I’d already clued dad in on the gag. Dad played it like the pro he is, casting doubt on the ‘cousin’ aspect, reciting, as worst he could, the possible merge points in our weaving, colliding, and quite irregular family trees. (bravo dad !) It was all in good fun though… but if any of you really do have Judy’s phone number or email address…..

Of course I have to mention the dogs, no entry on this page would be complete without it. Mystery (the black pit bull) revealed another pleasant personality trait, he seems to love babies…. He hitched himself up to Alexis and appeared to love the ear-tugging and less than gentle petting.. (Don’t worry all activity was strictly monitored and closely supervised, we are professionals!) Blue, was allowed to check out the small, slick, sticky, smelly creatures for himself and immediately began to obsess over Lexy’s, slightly used diaper… following her around, nose-to-bottom. Hey! They’re just dogs!
For the most part the dogs were kept properly and securely segregated for the visit. They have the large basement and a very large fenced back yard, so it’s hardly cruel confinement…. We are always very cautious and have no unwarranted expectations of good behavior so it is always safety first… we are sure to let no harm come to any in our care.. after all a good dog is hard to find and well worth protecting from noisy, nasty little grandkids.

It’s about a month before we drive up to Maryland to watch yet another kid graduate from high school.. I doubt we accomplish much more of interest before then, other than putting out our garden again.. That freezy early April was quite the conversation starter over the weekend, what got ‘bit’ and what didn’t… Angel has purchased about 250’ of fencing and posts to create another ‘pasture’ for the dogs, so they don’t completely decimate the immediate back yard…

Well, greetings to all… and especially to a new reader I only recently found out about… I am afraid I do not know her actual name, but my sister, Kathy, the interim Registrar at Murray State University, simply said “ My secretary loves your stories.” I replied to my sister that in order to avoid being judged as pretentious and haughty in the future, she should not start any sentence with the words “My secretary…” Apparently 'her secretary' is an English major (virtually unemployable) so I value her opinion much more so than other, less literate and less accomplished readers….


Respectfully submitted for your enjoyment, but not your scorn, nor petty rebuffs. So if you have nothing nice or flattering to say, then just keep to your seats and whisper quietly amongst yourselves….…