Monday, December 15, 2008

The accident

Saturday was very gray, cold, windy. The very kind of weather I try not to participate in. Gray days remind me of dark times, and this past weekend needed no further darkening. Layoffs were to be announced on Monday, I had no reason whatsoever to believe I would be spared. Though no one knew for sure, the atmosphere at work had been quite dark, rumor filled and desperate. The only thing we knew for sure were the fact that 1800 jobs would be lost and that the notification would be on Monday. This was perhaps the darkest, most anxious and depressing weekend I had experienced in many years.
Nonetheless, the dogs still needed to be walked. They get a special pleasure out of being walked, even though they are perfectly free to roam the large fenced back yard. Somehow the option to take care of business out in the woods along the logging trail is far superior to just letting go in the back yard.
I bundled up and took the boys, Myster, Blue and George. Myster has to be leashed as he lacks certain social skills and proper senses of priority and direction. George and Blue have shock collars, I carry the remote. Myster doesn’t seem to mind the inequity, Blue and George jump in and out of the woods freely while he is tethered to a retractable fifteen foot lead. I think Myster actually sees the leash as a status symbol, tsking at the other boys for their inferior plight, they not worthy of being connected directly to me.
We only go about a quarter mile or so, turn around then head back, but to them this is like a full day at an amusement park. The unfamiliar sights, sounds, smells, especially the smells, please and amuse them completely.
The wind had died down a little in the afternoon, and it was less cold than earlier, though certainly not warm. Up the hill towards the road I heard a car pass by. From the sound of the tires on the rough pavement it seemed to be going about forty five on the posted thirty five mph winding, hilly country road. The slight excess speed did not alarm me as the locals quite often go that fast, slowing only for the blind curves and frequent animal crossings.
I would not have thought much about that car at all had it not been for the next noise it made. After passing our driveway a long curved hill declines toward the next county road a mile or so away. Within seconds of passing our driveway the tire hum stopped suddenly and very briefly. No braking sounds just a very brief cessation of the hum. Almost immediately there was a metallic thump, a brief pause, a second or so of severe scraping, then another, more pronounced crunching thump. It took a nanosecond or two before my mind comprehended what had just happened. The droning of a car horn, unwavering and rather loud filled the cold windy air.
I approached the metal outbuilding where I knew Angel was tinkering with a couple of old kerosene heaters that she recently acquired. She stepped out and faced the noise. “What is that?” she asked. “There’s been a wreck” I answered, “Sounds like a nasty one. Didn’t you hear it?”
“No”, she replied “I just heard the horn.”
“I better go down and check it out.” I told her as I handed the leash and the remote to her.
“Better take your cell phone in case no one else is there.” She responded.
I ran into the house grabbing my keys, billfold and phone. I thought about just walking, but changed my mind.
About a quarter mile down the hill and around a curve from our mailbox laid the midsize black SUV. It was off the road and appeared to have tried to climb a steep grade and a wooden fence. It was on its right side, the windshield and windows shattered and falling out.
The SUV was not the first thing I saw though. The first thing I saw to confirm that I had arrived at the scene was a thin teenage girl walking, staggering really, in the middle of the road. Dressed in casual jeans and a hooded sweatshirt I could tell she was shaken and crying, a few streaks of blood ran down her face.
I pulled the car over and ran up to her. “Does anyone have a phone?, does anyone have a phone?” She called out in a quivering voice. I grabbed mine out of my pocket and handed it to her. I looked her over and didn’t see any obvious injuries other than the scrapes on her head. “I can’t unlock the thing!“ she screamed shoving the phone back at me. I took it from her punched in the code and handed it back. Her hands were shaking and she mis-punched and deleted the first few digits, crying and shaking. I took it from her and told her to give me the number. She rattled it off too quickly so I asked her to slow down. I handed it to her once we agreed on a plausible set of digits.
As she waited for a connection I noticed a large white pickup truck. Outside of it a medium sized but strong looking man was talking away on his phone. I assumed it was not just idle chitchat, so I walked toward the battered SUV.
Sitting on the roadside directly behind the SUV was another thin teenage girl similarly dressed. She sat with her legs fully extended in front of her, crying, calling out for her dad. I bent down beside her and looked her over. Her face was covered in blood streaks, though there didn’t seem to be a moving stream. I pulled her hair back. She looked at her hands and called out “Why is my face bleeding!”
I examined her scalp. “It’s okay, it’s just a couple of small cuts, they’ll be fine, these things just bleed really badly” and other calming words. I could not see any actual cuts, but having rolled a vehicle just a year ago, I recognized the type. Glass cuts, even small ones, around the scalp bleed like a son of a gun.
I tied to calm her down. Somewhere in the distance a siren approached. “Are you feeling faint?” I asked “I need to call my dad!” was the answer. “We’ll do that in a minute, right now can you tell me if you feel chills, or nauseous, or faint, I need to know if you feel like you are going to pass out.”
“No!” was the sharp rebuke. “I’ve messed up my leg!” (I’m softening up the actual wording here.)
I looked down at her legs, the right one was indeed ‘messed up’. It was swollen and laying a little too flat on the ground. She was holding her thigh. She shook it a little and I noticed that only the thigh moved. There was a unnatural look about the way the rest of it lay there, limp and lifeless. It appeared to be broken in two different places near and below the knee, though no bone had broken through skin. “Is the car going to explode?” she screamed out. The SUV was still running. I checked for fuel leaks or other dangers and answered: “That only happens in movies” Though I wasn’t really all that sure. I jumped over the ditch, went up to the windshield, peeled it back, reached in and turned off the key. This also finally stopped the howling horn.
I asked her again if she was feeling faint, she insisted she did not. The man with the phone approached. “That leg is pretty ‘messed up’ ” were his first words
The first girl, having given up on my needlessly complicated phone, had taken the man’s simpler one and was making a very excited call to her mom. She still seemed shaken and was crying, but still walking around. I overheard her say “just my lower back, it hurts a little” The man and I looked at each other, went up to her and convinced her to sit down along the roadside.
“So much adrenaline she may not know if she’s really hurt bad or not.” I said to him, he nodded.
A fire truck turned onto the road and approached cautiously. Several geared-up young men sprang from it carrying stretchers and kit bags. The pickup truck man, who I now knew as Dave, and I stepped back and let the professionals do their jobs. The first fireman came towards us. He didn’t say anything but I answered anyhow.
“That one” I pointed to the first girl, “is the driver, she has a couple of small cuts on her head and she said something about a lower back pain.” The fireman nodded. I pointed to the second girl, already being attended to. “She’s got a badly busted leg and some facial cuts.” He nodded again. “The driver has called her mom, the passenger wants to call her dad”. He nodded and ran towards the broken legged girl, pulled out his cell phone and handed it to her. “He’s going to be really angry” she barked at the fireman. He remained calm and assured her. “He may be a little upset, but he’ll actually be very happy to hear you’re alive.”
Dave and I stood back. “Did you see the accident?” I asked him. “No, I was just driving along from the other direction and saw them crawling out the back of the SUV.”
I told him about what I had heard, and we discussed speed, velocity and road conditions. Several state and county police vehicles arrived, and finally an ambulance. One of the paramedics quickly examined the broken leg and approached the ranking state trooper. I heard one word: “Chopper”
The trooper squeezed his microphone and spoke very briefly into it. Within five minutes a helicopter was circling overhead.
The mom arrived, hastily dressed and scared, she jumped out of her car, followed by a plump and nerdy ten year old boy. I pointed her in the right direction. Both the girls were now strapped into stretchers.
Recalling my own accident I decided to hunt for valuables up and down the roadside and in the ditch. I permanently lost some personal effects for not having done this then. The ditch was littered with stuff for about sixty feet in one direction and ten or twenty in the other. Most of it appeared to be trash and the expected CD’s and soda cups. There were also several items of clothing, a laptop, and a girl’s flowery and overstuffed billfold. I gathered up things that looked valuable and took them to the mom. She looked at me, the stuff in my hands and then the ditch. She assigned the boy to follow my lead and gather up the remaining stuff. She took the laptop with a ‘thank-you’ and returned to her daughter’s side.

I rejoined Dave at the roadside as the firemen scurried about and the five or six state troopers and the two county deputies stood in a group and pointed at things. A lone state trooper, tall, tightly cut hair, crisp uniform and highly shined shoes walked his measuring wheel around pausing occasionally to spritz some bright green paint on the road and make notes on a clip-boarded form.
“It’s things like this that causes parents to find out new things about their teenagers” Dave said, smiling. I acknowledged, he continued. “The mom was asking the girl what happened, the girl was crying and apologizing something fierce, I didn’t hear exactly what she said but the mom’s mood suddenly changed from fear and worry to pure anger. Then the mom yells at her ‘what do you mean you were smoking!’
We laughed. “You’re right, the mom may be in for a few more surprises too.” I answered.
“Oh yeah?” he asked
“Yeah. When I was picking up stuff from the ditch I came across some really frank and naughty underthings.”
“Oops” he replied.
The helicopter left, the ambulance left, mom came by and thanked Dave and me several times. The troopers dwindled and the firemen began sweeping the debris from the road. A tow truck arrived. The driver examined his options and deployed some cables and clamps, and dragged the destroyed SUV onto the road, and with help from the firemen tipped it upright. The flaccid airbags, crumpled and scraped metal, shattered windshields and distorted frame made for a very sad, yet familiar sight.
This time last year I was recovering from a rollover. I escaped serious injury though my shoulder has been a little achy and noisy since the accident. I remember that holiday season for the frustration of having to find a new car, the aches and scars, and the overwhelming realization that I had dodged a major bullet. Like these girls I could have just as easily been killed, losing friends and family forever. This perspective, this cold, dark, violent reminder significantly adjusted my perspective about the possibility of losing my job.
I walked to my car and drove home, feeling just a little better about myself and life in general.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The mechanics and mysteries of dreams revealed

Someone once told me, or I read it somewhere: “your dreams are only interesting to you.” I generally agree. Once in awhile though I get a peculiar dream that I feel compelled to share. As you read about it later, don’t get all grossed out or go all puritanical , it’s not going where you think it is.
Some folks believe dreams can give us a glimpse of the future. I am not in that camp. Some say dreams, properly interpreted can give us insight and understanding into our joys and woes. I don’t really buy that either. If you have such lofty, mystical ideas about dreams, then that’s fine, I don’t think any less of you, I’m just saying that I’ve given the matter considerable thought and study, and have completely discarded all such crackpot notions.
I am no dream expert, and from what I can find the real credentialed experts still use lots of words like ‘might’, ‘maybe’ and ‘we think’. Which is just academic expert-speak for “we really don’t know”. But here’s how I’ve got it figured. Remember, I’m a computer guy and tend to think of things from that perspective.
When you are in that essential state of sleep called R.E.M., deep in the basement of your brain, utility functions start up and the cleaning crew gets deployed to do those things your brain needs to do but is too busy to do during the day, what with all that thinking and moving around and seeing/hearing/smelling stuff. One of the things that happens is that all that stuff you saw/tasted/smelled/heard needs to be sorted and filed away; moved from the short term in/out box in your brain’s front office, to longer term filing cabinets in the attic.
Now the mechanism for this is rather ancient and crude, based on a simpler time when man’s needs were few and solutions were pretty straightforward. This utility was hard coded long before complex things like driving, filing tax returns and ‘sharing your feelings’ were invented. So what we have is a simple crude machine struggling to deal with increasingly more complex tasks. Much like using an abacus to solve algebraic equations; it can be done, but it is terribly inefficient and the results can sometimes be a bit unreliable.
So in the middle of the night, your body turns down alert thresholds on your senses, and you sleep. Your universe is now almost entirely within your own brain. Certain physical laws and rules no longer apply in this universe. In this universe there is sight and sound, but very little smell, taste, or feel. The parts of your brain that manage those missing senses has significantly dimmed them to allow for physical rest.
Now the utility rifles through the in/out box like a tall pile of mail. Sorting, discarding, saving based on whatever rules set you happen to have within you. Some things deemed important and worthy of long term storage are tagged and filed among similar things, with crosslinks to aid retrieval. These links may not seem logical, but remember, the mechanism is very, very primitive, and can result in some odd links. For example, the smell of pot roast may cause you, through this primitive and faulty linking, to think NOT of your mother’s warm kitchen like you might imagine it should, but of a Dean Martin comedy show featuring the Friar’s Club. Which are indeed roasts, but of a completely different kind. Like I said, this system is far from perfect.
In my own memory for example, bad things happen on cloudy, rainy, cold days. I am pretty sure that this is not actually true. But my brain filer tends to put bad things, job loss, divorces, dead cats in or near the file cabinet labeled ‘cloudy days’. Of course those of you that happen to be psychologists know what this eventually leads to. That’s right, if it is cloudy and damp out I am probably depressed and likely flooded with fear and doubt.

What you are experiencing in your dreams is this primitive filing system at work; connections being made from new memories and sensations to old ones. Multiple cross linking threads stretching out to connect seemingly ridiculous and illogical notions. Kind of like that episode of “Gomer Pyle USMC,” where Gomer was put in charge of the supply room. He was baffled by the existing sorting system and went about sorting things in a way he understood. He classified everything by animal, vegetable or mineral. Uniforms, canteens, ammunition, tires, everything sorted only by what it was made of, not it’s actual function. Sure it worked, for him… but if you recall, he was an idiot. Basic, primitive, simple; too simple for the complex task.
So now you know how brains work and why sometimes dreams can be very odd, and in many cases simply ridiculous. Our higher, more evolved brain parts can handle complex, sophisticated things like PIN numbers, microwave defrosting times, and video games. However when shut down for the night, the whole thing is tended to, cleaned and rearranged by the more primitive, less literate, non-English speaking maintenance crew. Your dreams are merely a window into that bizarre process.

Here’s the dream.

Angel is sitting in her favorite chair in the living room. I approach her from another room. She is talking, I can hear her pleasant voice, but I can not make out the individual words. I look into her face for clues, but still the words have no meaning. Syllables, consonants, sentences all seem the same, yet in her face I seem to see no stress or fear, just slight joy. Whatever she is saying is not out of anger, she seems to be happy.
I step closer to see if her mood changes, it does not. In fact she seems a little happier. She is looking directly at me, so I know she is trying to convey something to me, I just can’t figure out exactly what it is. I step cautiously even closer. As I do I am no longer looking down at her from a standing position. Every step I take I am lower and lower as if descending a stairway or hill. Her eyes stay focused on mine, she continues to talk, pleasant sounds, but I still cannot comprehend the message. Soon I am at and level with her bare feet. She continues to talk, continues to make that facial expression that conveys love and trust. This warms me. It doesn’t matter what she is saying, I can see the message in her face and body language, and I like it. I try to say something, to make noises with my mouth, but there is nothing but a spit and a whimper, it makes no sense even to me, so I just continue to listen and look into her eyes, yearning to know what it is she wants from me, though she does not seem to demand anything.
Then I decide to kiss her foot. (This is the part I warned you about earlier)
She makes a pleasant noise, she approves, so I kiss her foot again… actually I’m not kissing it, I am now licking it. Much to my delight, she reaches down and pats my head approvingly.
I relish the attention, the approval, I myself am now confident, happy and warm with the pureness of simple love.

Quite simply, In my dream I had become my dog.

What does this mean? Nothing. It means nothing at all. I have a dog, I love my dog, my dog loves me. He’s not complicated, sophisticated or even a charming conversationalist. I love Angel, that’s not complicated either, I love her and seek her approval, and I sense that she loves me.
See there? It’s not rocket science. The night crew simply took warm fuzzy feelings and bunched them together. No premonitions , no omens, no cosmic messages from beyond our physical universe.
Of course other dreams I have don’t interpret so neatly, like this one:
Driving around a steep cliff, I struggle to stay on the road, fearful of the sheer granite wall on one side, the long jagged drop to the raging river on the other. Around another tight curve, the terrain suddenly opens up wide. I straighten the wheel and relax, only to be immediately terrified by the appearance of an angry, fifty foot tall chicken. . .
I’ve been trying to figure out that one for about fifteen years. Ideas?

Monday, August 25, 2008

The Poor Farm

Anna Toy aged 30, a native of Jefferson County is an idiot, has been in the poor house a long time and bids fair to spend many more years there.”-Jefferson Democrat Hillsboro, Jefferson, Missouri, November 14, 1873-

I came across this item on the WWW a while back. Everything about it was quite haunting.
I don’t recall what I was originally looking for, but somehow I became fascinated.
I started reading an article about the Jefferson County Missouri Poor Farm. The article was not especially long and like many articles, left this curious reader with more questions than answers.
This I did learn; The county poor farm, which was active from around 1860 until sometime in the 1940’s is /was a mere seven or so miles from my own compound.
For eighty years, paupers, the insane, idiots and lunatics (official U.S. census terms) were housed on this one hundred-sixty acre spread.
This in itself was not rare or unusual. Throughout the country these farms could be found in nearly every rural county in the U.S. The interesting thing about this one though, aside from the fact that it is close to my house, is that many of the buildings are still intact. Things in this county do not change
very fast, so as I read the article I soon decided a road trip was in my near future.
Not knowing exactly where the poor farm was, I contacted the Jefferson County Historical Society via email. Two of the members contacted me the next day telling me exactly how to find the farm and where to find more info of the analog, non-internet kind. Betty, from that society, also happens to be a librarian in the nearby town of DeSoto and has devoted quite a bit of floor space in the library to local historical records and documents.
The second member of the society, Dave, gave me directions on how to access the cemetery. The difficult part was that the farm’s land had been split up and sold off. The cemetery remains on a small island of non-maintained, county-owned land, completely surrounded by private property. I would have to get permission from one of the land owners to cross their land if I wanted to get to it. This was a huge personal barrier. I don’t like talking to strangers when I need / want something from them. I greatly respect people’s time and property and do not like to intrude. However for this, my curiosity was stronger than my timidity.
Saturday morning I awoke early, around seven and went through my morning ritual of wheezing, sneezing, complaining, etc., though anxious to get started. I was out of the house by eight-thirty. It was fairly warm and incredibly humid, but this could not wait.
I arrived at the address and was greeted by a small, but very well fed pack of Australian cattle dogs. They proved to be more curious than angry or frightened and let me pass unharmed, to the front door. I knocked, rehearsing my introduction in my mind. The door was answered immediately by an average looking drowsy guy holding a half cup of coffee.
“I’m sorry to bother you sir, but I’ve been in contact with the County Historical Society and have been told that the old Poor Farm cemetery is accessible only through your property. Is that information correct?”
He sighed and took a sip. “Yeah, up that fence line till the woods narrow and hit another fence line, about a half mile” he said pointing non-specifically and unenthusiastically.
“Sir, would you mind if I were to grab my camera and take a hike up there, I don’t want to bother anything, especially you, so if it’s any trouble at all. . .”  I had started whining, which caused him to want to be rid of me.. (this always works well, doesn’t it ladies?)
“Nah, go on ahead. It’s pretty rough, no one goes back there and no one tends to the place, besides there’s nothing to see but a couple of rocks sticking up, there’s no real markers or anything.” He added that his name was ‘Mike’ and that sure enough, these were some pretty fine dogs. I left him my name and asked if my car was blocking his, he said no, much the way someone says something, anything, just to get back to what they were doing.
I wasted no time. I went to the car, grabbed my camera and my hiking pack. (Angel calls it a fanny pack, but I know better) The pack, which I’ve been building up and adding to for the last few weeks includes lens cleaning stuff, an extra camera battery, a notepad and a couple of pens, a small flashlight, some snack crackers, some paper towels, a buck knife, a compass and an emergency poncho. It has accommodations for all that, plus two water bottles and room enough on the belt to strap on my extra lens. All in all I pack about ten extra pounds on these hikes, as if I need to be packing around ten extra pounds.
Fully prepared, and by that I mean that I completely forgot the insect repellant (again) and my cap, I marched into the woods. One of the Aussies tagged along the whole way, the others stayed behind in their cooler, tick-free yard.
The fence was merely a strand or two of rusted barb wire, the woods were nearly impenetrable. Mike had been right, no one had ventured into this area in quite a while It was completely overgrown, thick with spider webs, broken trees and branches and many, many years worth of fallen leaves. The fence line finally split, the line I was following went to the left and around a small wooded area and ended at a hay field, which had its own fence.
I crossed into the dark, wooded area that was a section unto itself. The Aussie was still at my heels, though now busy chasing and being chased by an enormous horsefly. There was no path at all in there. I stopped and just stood for a moment, wiping the ample sweat out of my eyes and gulping back the remainder of my first water bottle, now lukewarm. Cleaning my glasses I scouted around for anything that looked like a cemetery.
I found some evidence; depressions in the ground here and there roughly six to seven feet long and about three feet wide. These depressions were not pronounced, but they were definitely there. Several, perhaps a dozen or more that I could make out, most with trees growing directly from the middle. Frankly, if I had not been looking for six by three depressions in the ground, I probably would not have seen them at all. When I did find the stones that Mike had mentioned, it was clear to me that these too could easily go unnoticed by someone not actively seeking a cemetery. The four or five stones I found were common field stones, not carved, shaped or even etched. They were in a rough row but of different natural shapes and sizes. They were all half buried in the forest floor and covered with moss. It is unlikely anything was ever scribed into them, or if it was it was it was very shallow and long ago worn off. I had seen grave-sites like this before, back in Kentucky, those were the graves of slaves. Cast off, untended, unmarked, unprotected.
The Aussie and I stood among the stones and depressions discussing things natural and
anthropological. I of course did most of the talking, since I had studied up a bit more than the dog. I took several pictures, and even though it was nearly ten in the morning on a bright summer day, in the thick of these woods I had to use the flash to get enough light.
I did not speak to the buried residents there as they do in the movies. I am not at all superstitious that way. Somewhere beneath my feet lay a score or two of cheap (low bid) pine boxes filled with the physical remains of once desperate and now completely forgotten, people. Not that I didn’t feel anything, I was merely  under no delusion that they could hear me or that they could answer.
I knew from the research I had done that there was never anything more here than crude wooden crosses, now long, long gone. No record I know of lays out who is there or where or when they were laid there.
To be buried in this place indicates a complete absence of support from any anyone, personal, family, church, friends. These were the most pitiful and forgotten of the county’s residents. Some were committed to the farm by the court, others simply had no other earthly place to go. More recent pauper burials take place in town, so not only are those buried here abandoned, the entire cemetery is as well.
I have several times sat and stared at the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington Cemetery in D.C. The heaviness I felt in these woods was very much like that. They lived lives, perhaps miserable, painful and damaged lives, but human lives nonetheless. Now they are gone and likely forever unknown.

After a while, the Aussie and I emerged from the woods. I was covered with sweat and enough spider webs to knit a kimono. I was starting to itch from the various bugs and tiny mites (chiggers) that I now carried around in vast quantity.
Mike was outside, wandering around his well-maintained yard. He looked at me and laughed. “Kinda humid out eh?” I sucked back a half bottle of warm water, smacked the quick release buckle on my hiking pack (not a fanny pack). And let it and my camera rest on the front of my car. Mike and I chatted for a bit, I asked him if he knew much more about the farm, no, he didn’t, he’d only lived there for a few years.
I said so-long to the Aussie which had now blended back in with the others, though I could still pick him out easily by all the burrs in his fur. The others seemed a little jealous over his adventure.
I drove straight home with the AC cranked up to ‘11’. I jumped in the shower, had a quick sandwich, said howdy to the family then headed out to the DeSoto library.
I spent three hours poring through the Local History section. There I found a printed copy of the article I had originally read, some census reports, and… well, that’s all there was. Disappointed, I called it a day.
My lovely wife Angel and I have discussed the farm at length. I told her all I had learned and how it haunted me for no good reason. She of course said I should write about it, I told her that of course I would blog of the experience. She replied, “No, I mean you should write a story or even a book.”
“I don’t know anything about the farm that I haven’t already told you” I responded.
“Are you saying there aren’t any story ideas there?”
I thought about this for a bit and we talked about it that evening. “Of course there are stories there, lots of them, I just don’t know what they are”
“Well” she replied “It doesn’t sound like anyone else does either, so who’s to tell you you’re story is wrong?”
Okay, she had me…

Monday, June 2, 2008

Pit Bull Tick Pluck. SNAP! Nip-Tuck.

Friday evening, I was doing little more than looking forward to a warm weekend of chopping down trees. Myster (Mystery, the pit bull, my favorite dog) had been out for his first evening walk, and was looking to play a little. I got down on the floor and wrestled with him for a bit, till he flopped to his side and waited, waited, for me to rub his belly. I complied, and of course told him repeatedly, in the same silly voice that a new parent would talk to a baby, what a good boy he was. As I rubbed I spotted a fresh tick starting to burrow into his front armpit. This is not unusual, as we live in the woods, and even though we do treat the dogs; ‘Frontline’ takes care of only most of the ticks. Occasionally we will find one like this that didn’t quite get the memo that this dog was protected. I rubbed Myster’s belly a little more, sending him to a near comatose state of utopian glee. I focused in on the tick, formed my fingers into pinschers, reached in and yanked.
This was a colossal, monumental mistake. Apparently I pinched more dog than bug, and Myster curled upright, yelped and snapped, all in about a half-nanosecond. Before either of us realized exactly what had happened, I felt a sudden tearing pain, and blood started flowing freely from my lower lip. His reflexive snap had torn through my lip from the pink top, down an inch or so leaving a clean, yet gaping slash, nearly all the way through to the inside.
I leapt up, grabbed the blood as it fell, trying to put it back. I cried out for mommy. Actually, I called for Angel, which is almost as good. She was outside on the deck ignoring me, or as she calls it ‘reading a book’.
“I need your help!” I called, but with my lip split open and being firmly held by my hand, she only possibly heard “I meeb ur helm!
“What? She asked without looking up. “Ibe ga wa pwoblumm!” I shouted incoherently.
She finally looked up. “What did you do?” (This was not the time or place to analyze the accusatory nature of that question, but I have not forgotten it.)
She looked me over, I mumbled what had happened, and re-mumbled painfully as required. “Ewww, gross!” was her diagnosis.
I washed it out and slapped a clean rag over it. She caged up the dogs, left a note for the boy on the family whiteboard and she drove us to the trauma center in Fenton, about twenty five minutes away.
The pain was surprisingly not all that bad. There was pain, but I had always imagined having one’s face bitten in half would be a LOT more painful.
There was a short wait after sign-in at the center. We sat and watched less injured people, mostly softball players get tended to, till finally they called my name.
Angel tagged along fortunately, because between the gash and the direct pressure, I still sounded like that one kid on Bill Cosby’s Fat Albert cartoon.
We told the nurse/receptionist the story, she had me uncover the wound. “Ewww!” she replied professionally, scooting back. She wrote something down, then looked up at Angel. “Is the dog okay?” Angel reassured her that Myster was just fine, and hopefully would not suffer long term trauma. The lady then began describing her dogs to Angel, I stopped the insanity before they could pull out any pictures. “Excuse me, I’m the one bleeding from a torn face here!” Is what I said, but once again I do not know exactly what they heard. They both sighed and changed the subject, insurance stuff, phone numbers.
They sent us back into waiting, but only for a few minutes, Angel grumbled about not bringing her book with her, I selfishly grumbled about having a bloody gash in my face. I was eventually called and sent to a clean room with all kinds of gadgets and gloves and lights and other medical looking stuff. A tech came in and took my blood pressure and pulse. “Hmm, seems to be a little high” she said. “Really ? I answered, though not at all sarcastically, “Could that be because I just had my face bitten in half?,” The tech did not have a sense of humor, and pumped up the cuff again. I forced myself to relax a little, reciting my personal mantra (I have no mantra, I have no mantra. . . .). She seemed less concerned with the second reading.
She then asked me to remove the rag, and offered up some moist gauze to replace it. As I did she looked at the damage. Her immediate medical assessment was “Eww!” though she added “That’s going to be a problem, we can’t stitch that here, you’re going to need a plastic surgeon.”
The ‘problem’ was, medically speaking, that the tear transcended the vermillion line. In English that means that not only was the full pink part of my lip torn, but the gash passed over the border into the perfectly tanned regular skin towards my statuesque chin. Standard stitching or gluing would likely not heal straight enough and would leave me with a smile that went slightly different directions, and that could cause me to be unattractive.
“Oh”, I replied. “So now what?”
“Well, the doctor will have to look at it, but probably will tell you the same thing, and you’ll need to go to the emergency room. We can call ahead and get that all lined up so it won’t take so long.”
She left, instructing me to wait there till the actual doctor checked on me.
A few moments later, the door opened and in walked a large and physically alarming woman, who quickly introduced herself. She asked me to show her the wound, which I did. Though she did not utter the sound her face certainly broadcast ‘Ewww!’. Come to think of it, she never did actually enter the room, she stood holding the door open, looked quickly and pronounced “You’re going to need plastic surgery” which was remarkable in that I was thinking exactly the same about her.
She let the door close on her way out. The tech returned shortly with an envelope and directions to the nearest full-service hospital. I will not mention the name of the hospital since I will be saying less than flattering things about it later.
It was now about nine thirty, nearly two hours into the saga. I mumbled to Angel, using hand signals and grunts that we need to go to the emergency room, but that was okay since the trauma center had called ahead to get them to warm up the plastic surgeon.
Storms were threatening to the north and west, a fast moving front coming in. We beat it to the hospital though, and entered the busy place high and dry. We charged up to the triage nurse and dropped the envelope on her counter. She opened it, looked up at me, and said “Oh yes, you’re our dog bite!” I was, of course, a bit miffed. “There’s much more to me than my injury ma’am!” I declared. Angel elbowed me, which is what she does when I say hilarious things.
“I’m sorry sir, I’m sure that there is, but that’s just how we classify you.”
At this point, most timid men would have just chuckled and let it go. I was not at this point feeling timid. Instead, I looked her up and down slowly and countered: “Would you like to know how I classify you?” Angel must have REALLY thought that was hilarious, she almost broke my rib.
The triage nurse had an evil sense of humor as well, as we did not speak to anyone else for at least an hour. I spent the time reevaluating my people skill strategies. Angel spent the time ignoring me I think, I was too wrapped up in my own problems to really notice.
They finally called me back, asking the exact same questions as they had in the trauma center, taking my blood pressure again, twice, not liking the first numbers.
The tech was a young guy, very professional and courteous. I felt no need to put him in his rightful place with my rapier wit. Soon a real, live LPN came by and took my temperature and blood pressure again, and I, for the third or fourth time had to make up an interesting story about how my injury came to be, and for the third or fourth time answered the same predictable question with “Yes the dog is just fine.”
“Hmm, said the LPN staring into the tissue ravine in my face, “you’re probably going to need plastic surgery for that.” (she definitely had ‘eww’ in her eyes as well.) She sent me back to the waiting area, where Angel I and waited and the storm came, and went.
Finally at around one or one thirty we were called up and sent in to an exam room, and asked to wait. We were given the TV remote, so we flipped through the seven available channels, all but one were showing infomercials. HGTV to the rescue fixing up and presenting houses for fast sale. A Dr. type came in, but immediately apologized “I’m sorry, I just need to use your sink” She stepped on the foot controls and started slathering foamy soap. “I’m running around with blood on my hands” She said, apparently feeling the need to explain herself.
I thought about the greater meaning of what she had said “I’m running around with blood on my hands” so I replied philosophically “Aren’t we all in one way or another?”
Angel thought that was hilarious as well. The Dr. type just smiled and left, not the philosophical sort, I supposed.
Eventually, a man-doctor walked in. Not young, not fresh, more oldish and haggard really, but he had an air of confidence about him. He looked at the five or six hour old injury and made the official declaration: “You’re going to need a plastic surgeon.”
We discussed options and decided there weren’t any. He checked the availability of the on-call guy and announced the good news: “He’s already up and finishing up with a call at another hospital, and can be here in an hour and a half!” Angel and I looked at the clock; one thirty.
We watched TV, uncomfortably. There was a bed, slightly less comfortable than an old sofa sleeper, and there were two chairs constructed entirely of rigid steel at precise right angles. By three, we were on our third or forth second rate home-fix show, and both moaning and whining uncontrollably. Both of us had made a few excursions down the hallway past the small ‘cafĂ©’ by the gift shop, and to and from the restrooms. By three thirty our patience was starting to wear thin. By four thirty we were plotting mutiny, growling at everyone that walked by.
Sometime before five, the door opened and a sober and serious professional man entered. He made very little small talk, checked my eight hour old injury laid me down and wasted no time. He did offer one sort of apology. “I would have been here sooner, but I fell asleep in my car in the parking lot.” Yes, I was a bit startled, alarmed, so I asked “But you’re okay now I hope?” He didn’t smile, he just assured us, after thinking for too long of a moment; “Oh yes, I’m fine now, it’s been a terribly long day.” By this time of course, Angel and I were beyond cranky tired, but knew this man was our only hope, so we did not respond: “Oh did your face get eaten by a dog too?”
During this entire ordeal, there was little pain. On a scale of one to ten, I was asked to rate it, with zero indicating no pain at all, and ten being the greatest pain imaginable. I rated it two, and it never really varied from that. What the Dr. did next though blew the lid off the ten point scale. He said as he held the hypodermic over my face, “This is going to hurt, a poke and a burn.” He poked, I definitely felt it. I was tolerating the poke just barely, and then he said “It’s not the poke that will hurt, it’s the. . . ” At which point I grabbed the rails of the bed and screamed at the top of my lungs…. Trust me folks, I’ve been burned before, soldering irons, hot coals, stove tops, mufflers, the scorn of a crazy and vindictive ex wife (and her lawyers), I know ‘burn’. This was different; this was, in my lips, not once, but four times, the most excruciating experience of my rich and ample life. I screamed in unmitigated agony as my lips were injected with angry and aggressive, acid laced lava. In my mind I was crying out at the deities; some worshipped, some forgotten, and some entirely new ones I made up on the spot.
In a few moments, the pain subsided, and the tugging and pulling began. The stitching, small and precise went smoothly, it felt no more uncomfortable than having someone tug at my sleeve, that is, if my lip had a sleeve. I could sense the tugging, but only indirectly.
During the stitching, my face was covered, I listened to the TV, concentrating on the news channel to reports I had heard a dozen times already.
The Dr. only spoke once, to Angel I assumed, since I had no ability or motivation to speak. I didn’t hear the question, his voice seemed quiet and remote, but I did hear Angel’s answer: “Yes, the dog is just fine, he’ll be just fine.”

We finally got home at seven A.M. I drove, since Angel, not being an IT system administrator herself, was not accustomed to staying up for twenty four straight hours. I on the other hand was not only good for the drive, but knowing that I would not be able to relax and sleep for another couple of hours, offered to tend to the dogs once we got home. I immediately took Myster out for a walk. We didn’t talk much, we’re guys, and we’ve known each other for several years, so not much really needed saying. There was an unspoken understanding, no need to dwell on it.
I have since been eating bite size portions of food, remembering my antibiotic horse pills, drinking through a straw. (not recommended for coffee, think ‘liquid oral blowtorch’) and generally keeping my lip clean and adequately coated with smelly ointment. The swelling has gone down quite a bit. The stitches are tiny, but there is more than a dozen of them traversing a sideways V starting in the top middle of my lower lip about a half inch downward then doglegging to my left another half inch or so. I will visit the surgeon sometime this week, so he can admire his handiwork.
By the way, I know what you’re wondering; Mystery is doing just fine.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I have never buried a human body in the woods. Rest assured, I have not.

Tuesday was typical. Work stuff was normal, the drive home uneventful. Angel was still in Wisconsin. There was a bit of stress relaying messages to her about the owner of one of the dogs we adopted out now having second thoughts… But other than that, the weather was nice and my biggest concern other than the dog owner in question was whether to have leftover spaghetti or a sandwich for supper.
I opted for the pasta and made a salad. After I finished and cleaned up the mess, I took Myster (Mystery, the pit bull) for his first evening walk. He only did half of his expected business, he’s a bit poop-shy. I made a mental note to myself to take him to one of his more favored spots on his second evening walk.
I sat back in my recliner, and flipped through the channels looking for something stupid to dull my brain. Myster laid down on the floor on my right expecting to have his head stroked. I called Angel and told her the latest on the dog owner, she said she’d take care of it. Problem solved!
Movement outside the sliding glass door caught our attention. Myster loves visitors but has trouble communicating that glee. It is usually misinterpreted by those that don’t know him. He growls, barks wildly and runs directly towards them, massive jaws wide open and thick muscles taut and active. To the unfortunate uninitiated this looks a lot like they are being attacked by a wild and angry Pit Bull.
I got up and thumped his ear, he retreated like the big baby he actually is. Outside the door was a very alarmed and wide eyed County Deputy. I slid open the door and stepped out, the deputy’s eyes never left the dog. “Does he attack?” the deputy asked… This presented a quandary for me. After all I did not know why the deputy was there, so I shrugged my shoulders and replied: “He’s in training.” Leaving the deputy to conclude for himself what that actually meant.
“Do you own this property?” he asked. “Some of it, five acres.” I replied very quickly.
Our property used to be a part of a ninety four acre spread, mostly wooded, some of it could have been pasture at one time, though not very good pasture. Very hilly, wooded over, swampy in many spots. The owner of the ninety four acres inherited the acreage and the house and tried to sell it all. No one was willing to lay out the money to take it all, so he split the house and surrounding five acres and sold that, to us. The remaining eighty nine remains unoccupied and unused, the ‘Acreage For Sale’ sign is fading.
I explained this all and pointed to the orange sticks and paint marks that separate the properties. “Well sir I’m sorry to bother you, but we need to take a walk around the entire area” He paused, I let him continue. “We found some partial remains up by the road.”
I know, you’re thinking “So what? This sort of thing happens every day!” Well believe it or not, I can’t recall ever having had this come up before in my short, yet handsome life.
“We don’t know if the remains are human or not.” (ughhh) “We’ve sent them to a lab but we won’t hear back for some time, and we’d like to look around if you don’t mind.” He said rather professionally.
“By all means!” I sounded too excited, I’m sure. Bailey and Blue were outside in the fenced back yard, barking wildly at the uniformed and armed intruders. “Do your dogs or other dogs run free?” he asked. I stared at him trying desperately to look as innocent as possible, which is very difficult for me especially when I am actually innocent. He continued:” It looks like the remains were drug to the roadside out of the woods.” I sighed with relief, even though there was no reason to feel relieved about anything. “No, we keep them fenced in or on leashes, and they would let us know if there was another dog about, much like they are alerting now to your being in the yard. So no, I haven’t seen any strays.” He seemed to believe me, or he was very good at hiding his suspicion. “My wife’s a dog trainer and is outside with the dogs a lot every day. “ I added for no apparent reason.
“Are any of your dogs trained to track cadavers?” He asked. It took me a moment since I never kept up with Angel’s complete curriculum. “No, but we have one, George, that went through a week of training with the DEA in Maryland a couple of years back. I don’t think they covered cadavers though, drugs, mostly drugs, and we certainly don’t have anything like that here of course, no drugs, never did, never would.” Wow, I really over-answered that!
“We lost our tracking dog.” He said flatly, once again not showing any suspicion at all. “Is your wife here?” he asked. “No, she’s been out of town for a few weeks. ” I answered sounding exactly like a nervous confronted husband on ‘Law and Order’. “And that dog, George?” He quickly fired back. I stuttered a bit: “She took George (the only trained drug/cadaver tracking dog in the county apparently. How convenient, too convenient?) with her, to Wisconsin, quite a ways away. Her cell phone doesn’t work where she’s at most of the time.” Sweat was forming on my brow. Did he see it? Sheesh, there’s sweat on his brow as well! What does that mean? Oh yeah, it’s eighty degrees out with very high humidity, get a grip!
“That’s too bad.” Was all he said. Man this guy is good! “Well, if you don’t mind, could I get your name?” He whipped out a cheap, generic pocket pad and touched he tip of his golf pencil to his tongue. I answered, spelling it three times for him until I finally got it right.
“Alright Dennis, we’ll just look around a bit, sorry to bother you with all this.” he said, obviously baiting me for a sophisticated mind-game trap.
“Sure, no problem.” I retreated back into the safety of my home, called Myster over to my side and stood there at the door with my arms confidently folded. Myster leaned forward, bared his enormous teeth, growled and barked at the departing intruder. This is what he does when he wants someone to scratch his belly.

I sat down once again in my comfy recliner and explained to Adam what was going on. “Interesting” was his entire contribution to the conversation. In the telling, it occurred to me that when the deputy was asking about dogs running loose, that he was trying to figure out what dragged the remains out of the woods and up to the roadside. “I forgot to tell them about the coyotes!” I shrieked. (I didn’t actually shriek I just ran out of unique verbs to use here instead of ‘said’) I put on some shoes and glided out the door. (sorry, I left my thesaurus open)
I crunched my way down to the bottom of the hill where I found not only the deputy from earlier, but two others as well. I joined up and explained that there had been a lot of coyote activity the past few weeks, and if anything was going to scavenge, shred and drag, it was probably them.
They were walking side by side about twenty feet apart. “Can we get to that lake from here?” the chubbier of the men asked. “Sure, it’s right around this ravine.” I pointed. It occurred to me then that I knew the area better than they, and without asking, decided to stay with them as they stumbled through the thick, tick laden saplings, oak leaves and brush. The ‘lake is what the neighbors call it. To me it looks like a large pond, no more than an acre in size. As we trudged we chatted and one of the deputies asked me if I shot deer or anything else because they had found several animal bones and skulls. “No, I don’t hunt, and the neighbors told me when I first moved here that there was a deer with an orange collar that was kind of a free-roaming pet, and asked me to please not kill it. I assured them as well that I don’t hunt.”
“Yeah we heard about that deer, saw it a couple minutes ago.” Another one replied. “You heard about it?” I asked, wondering if this was some sort of larger local legend. “Well your neighbor that told you about it is our dispatcher, we’ve been talking to her on the radio.”
As if this whole affair had been scripted by Kafka himself, a surreal and dreamlike sensation came over me. The collared doe, which I had seen several times, but only from a distance, at that very moment stepped out of the woods and walked directly up to us. She followed us as we searched the ground for the remainder of the remains.
“How many teeth do people have?” One of the deputies asked me. “Thirty something isn’t it?” I replied. “Yeah I thought so, so you think this probably isn’t human then?” he asked, pointing to a spot in front of him. I looked at the bleached jawbone half buried in swampy muck and sized it up pretty quickly. “Well it’s a bit pointy, disproportionately so for a human, and if it is human we’re talking about a serious vegetarian.” They looked at me baffled, as if I were Noah explaining all the construction noise to his neighbors. “The teeth, no incisors, those are the teeth of a grass eater, not a carnivore. It’s probably deer.” It could have been a zebra or a kangaroo as well, but I was betting on logical probability, not possibility. “You know anatomy stuff?” One asked. “Only basic stuff, I did take a college course in anthropology ten (twenty) years ago and spent time on a dig site, so yeah we learned some basics” (Like how to tell a deer skull from a human skull) “Wow, that’s handy” the largest one said.
It was getting dark, and we were a good half mile from the house. I suggested that we take an alternate route back to the house, a cleared logging trail after a rather significant incline. The deer stopped following us at the bottom of the hill; I had patted her neck and she quickly scampered away.
We reached the top, and I noticed that I was in the lead. Odd, three of Jefferson County’s finest were huffing and puffing, red faced and sweaty. To be fair, I was red faced and sweaty and breathing hard myself, but I’ve been holed up in cubicles most of my adult life. I used to be forty-something, these guys were all in their twenties or early thirties. They have a job that requires them to do much, much more than push a mouse around a spongy pad and tap it occasionally. They were huffing and puffing and asking for a break. I laughed, I finally realized I could out-run them if I needed to.
A cell phone rang, which surprised me since I can hardly snag a single bar out of the sky from my house. The small deputy answered and started laughing. “Yes we did find it!” (Had I missed something?) “I’ll send you a picture!” He started laughing and fiddling with the buttons on the phone. “It’s Nancy, wanted to know if we saw her deer.” They chuckled, I stood in awe, wondering what cell service provider the county used. “Tell her that her deer is covered with ticks” I jealously told him.
We approached the house, and shook hands. “Well if we find out the remains are human, and from what you’ve told us, they probably aren’t, but if they are human we’ll be back to bug you for a while longer.”
I smiled and replied “Cool, I can make sandwiches.” They didn’t get the joke, neither did I, for that matter.
It was getting late and time to cycle the dogs. Bailey was tired from barking at us the entire $%$$!! Time we were in the woods, Blue was hungry, because Blue is always hungry, and Myster was anxious. Myster had stayed in the house the whole time, because he’s my dog and Angel’s not here, so I get to make the rules.
I cinched up his choke-chain and long lead and headed up the driveway for his late evening sabbatical. I recalled that I need to take him to his favorite spots. One of those is at the top of the driveway where I can conveniently step in it on trash day.
He did nothing. There was the sound of a car coming down the road and that is all he could think of. Myster tends to obsess over cars going by at night. By obsess, of course I mean ‘go berserk’. I pulled the slack out of the fifteen foot lead and prepared for the imminent fifty pound thrust of raw and singularly purposed muscle launching toward the road. He tensed, waiting, waiting. I dug in. The headlights soon broke the darkness, Myster didn’t flinch, he’s just a dog and hasn’t associated headlights with cars, just the noise. The headlights seemed bright, and high. Then it occurred to me that it was actually a car mounted spotlight, like those on the sheriff’s cruisers. “That makes sense, they’re still looking around. Must be a slow crime day” I told Myster, who wasn’t listening at all. The stocky black dog tightened up as the car drew nearer. I could feel his vibrating tension through the lead. Just as he was prepared to leap (and suddenly rediscover that he was on a leash) it turned all surreal again, suddenly and loudly. At the very point that Myster would normally lunge; just as the car, a mere twenty feet away became visible from his low vantage point, the Deputy, for reasons unknown, activated his blue flashers and ridiculously loud siren.
Myster froze, absolutely froze, he didn’t leap, he didn’t blink, he didn’t breathe. It was as if he had been hit by cosmic, Old Testament lightening, completely frozen in place. The car was well gone when he finally moved. He sighed, turned around, squatted on his favorite spot and fully relaxed the required muscles. He’d been holding on to that for a while.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Angel is out of town, for three full weeks. She is attending advanced training classes to obtain certification and become a listed trainer on a national registry. Though it costs a lot more than a classified ad in a newspaper, the hope is that folks looking for dog training will be able to quickly and directly link up with her. She took Georgio (George) with her as he is the most stubborn of our trained dogs. Where the others snap to position on command, George slides slowly and reluctantly as if his limbs were operated by heavy hydraulics.
The classes are being held in Hazel Green Wisconsin. A small spot at the Iowa/Illinois/Wisconsin corner. Hazel Green is the location of that state’s first permanent settlement (1825), and is the geographical ‘point of beginning’ for all the state’s property deeds. That may sound important and significant, however that does not quite equate to stately grandeur; the town is only one and a half square miles in size and home to only eleven hundred people.
A week or so prior to leaving, Angel ran across a craigslist plea for assistance. A lady from a Chicago Suburb had adopted a puppy, site unseen, from someone in Desoto (a town very near our home) and needed help to get the pup from here to there. Angel, being the person she is, contacted both parties and arranged to take the puppy as far as Peoria, about as close a point to the lady’s suburb as her trip would take her. Of course my lovely wife did not ask for a dime. “It’s on the way and no trouble at all.” She said. I of course explained to her that “if you keep giving away your services like that, nobody will ever buy the cow!” Followed immediately by about an hour’s worth of apologies backlit by my son’s laughter.
Saturday, She took the two dogs we have been fostering, Max and Katy Sue, back to ‘the farm’ (the rescue group’s facility) for the duration. Fosters have to be managed separately from our own dogs, they don’t always get along so great, and without Angel about to ramrod the mixed herd, it was decided they could suffer kennel life for a while. She was taking George with her and that left only Blue, Bailey and Mystery at our house. Even lazy amateurs such as Adam and I can handle those three. The boys sleep a lot, and Bailey is quite content to spend the entire day in the back, using her commanding baritone bark to ward off all offending squirrels and motorcycles.
Later, Angel drove down to Desoto to pick up the puppy, an eight week old St. Bernard. This was the last of the litter that the owner had been blessed with; she had rescued the mom from a bad home situation and was not aware that the massive, but loveable dog was already in a family way. The blessings appeared out of nowhere, without warning. Fortunately they were the most cutest, fluffy faced, precious, cuddly things imaginable. Once posted on, they went fast, the last of which to the lady in Chicago. Seriously, this little fuzz ball was beyond adorable. So adorable that you might easily forget that she would eventually weigh a hundred twenty pounds or so.
Sunday morning Angel packed her bags and dogs into her SUV, and left the boy and I alone in the driveway, sobbing. (not really, the boy wasn’t even out of bed at the time, and I don’t sob.)

Three full weeks of figuring out the least possible time and effort meals, cleaning techniques, and chores. Three full weeks driving a pathetic, tiny rental car so the boy can use my car to get to school and work. (he has a job at ‘Subway’ in Hillsboro).
Angel left a comprehensive checklist for us: 1. Feed the dogs. 2. Feed the fish. 3. Don’t burn the house down. So far so good.
The boy (Adam) is a pretty good housemate. He stays in his room or plugged in to the Wii downstairs most of the time, I can go weeks at a time without actually seeing him. He does things he is asked to do and doesn’t generally leave a big mess behind, not one that I have noticed anyhow. I saw him for a bit on Monday, I was watching T.V. contemplating snack and beverage options, he passed through to do… something, I don’t recall what. He sat for a moment and finally spoke: “It’s weird without mom here” I sighed heavily and paused the TV show (I love my DVR!) and replied “In what way?”
“I dunno” he replied, “nobody to talk to I guess.”
I thought about it for a moment: “You’re right.” I finally added. He wandered off, I pressed ‘play’. It was indeed a warm and touching moment of father-son bonding. I hope we can do it again sometime.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The previous post was about getting my truck registered.... well guess what..

My lovely sister has been bugging me for updates, news and essays… Frankly, there’s really not much going on that comes to mind as being very different or interesting…. Plus I’ve talked to a few of you independently and can’t recall who knows what.

I’ll reach back a bit just in case.

Early December I flipped my truck, totaled it. Long story short, ICE FORMS ON BRIDGES BEFORE ROADWAYS. I had already driven five or seven of the thirty miles of my commute, no problems, even on the small bridges that I had already crossed… The one that gave me trouble was on a wide, four lane stretch of fast, smooth highway. Posted speed limit 65, my actual speed, about 50. A long curve leads to the bridge, and the bridge itself continues the curve, not a sharp one. In fact I did not notice that it curved at all until I revisited the site. Add to the gentle curve a rough patch of asphalt/concrete where the bridge connects to the highway. Worn by traffic, I did know about this, one of the many routine bumps in the road you notice after driving the same route for a year and a half.

So here’s what happened… My small truck, rear-wheel drive, taking the gentle curve bounced a little on the bad spot, and settled onto the bridge, which for whatever macro-climatic reasons was covered in a significant sheet of smooth ice. So the truck’s wheels are light from the bounce, and pointing in a slightly less than straight direction. This combination caused the back of the truck to continue in the direction of travel, while the front wheels where continuing to negotiate the turn. This put the front and back of my truck at dramatically opposing intentions. The back wheels decided to outrun the front. I tried to correct the situation, but with all four wheels now on ice I was pretty much riding a non-responsive runaway sled.
The truck made it across the bridge, caught the unfrozen shoulder and flipped. The truck and it’s resigned and frustrated occupant rolled into the center median, a several foot , sloping drop. The truck flipped at least once, maybe twice (I was preoccupied with ‘hanging on’ and ‘panicking ’ so I forgot to count the actual rotations.) Anyway it ended up upside down, still running, lights still on. Once motion stopped I was immediately aware that I was pretty much okay. My glasses were missing, the airbag did NOT deploy (thank goodness), I could think, hear, see, smell and move my limbs. I assessed my situation, turned off the engine and the lights, took a deep breath and popped open the seatbelt…. Of COURSE I had it on, I’ve ALWAYS worn a seatbelt. I rolled to the roof, which was now the floor, and due to some significant crushing (see picture) not very far away. I located my glasses and cell phone, grabbed my keys and crawled out.
I suffered some minor cuts to my right hand, and a small gash in my forehead, but otherwise I could tell that there was not much else gone foul. I didn’t count on the blood though.. it was everywhere, my hands, arms, glasses, and apparently my face. By the time I crawled out three guys had already stopped and were approaching. They had shock in their faces, since my face, unbeknownst to me, was covered with and dripping blood.
Like I said, I knew I was okay, and that I had just dodged an enormous bullet. I assured them that I was fine, joked with them a bit, or tried to. They seemed as shaken up as I, just not as bloody. A County patrol stopped, looked at me and the truck, then the bridge. He called in for extra units to set up at both ends of it to caution others. An ambulance arrived, they sat me down, poked and prodded, asked me questions to see if I was all there, wiped me down and called Angel… Or rather they tried to, twice, maybe three times during the process. I knew why she wasn’t answering, she gets up around seven, then spends the next twenty to thirty minutes outside with the dogs, since they just can’t pee unless someone is watching. The ambulance crew finished up, figuring there was nothing more than they should do, I released them to go on to their next call, which not coincidentally was at the very next bridge down the road.
The fire chief offered to give me a lift back to the Gas station in Goldman, I accepted. It was cold outside and I needed some warm.

The tow truck stopped, flipped the truck right side up and then dragged it up to the shoulder. The truck’s left wheels were front and back, folded under and broken off respectively. The windows were all busted out, mirrors gone, pieces of plastic and glass littered the puddle where it stopped.
In the fire chief’s truck I called Angel, still no answer. I got to the gas stations and bought a bottle of water and asked permission to hang around until I could get a ride home. What I didn’t know is that the ambulance crew did not bandage my forehead. I was still bleeding a little down my face. They were very polite at the store.
Angel, by this time was in nearly a panic. She had heard the phone ring the first time but let it go to ‘the machine’. When she finally got done with the dogs, she first checked the caller ID. “JEFF CO AMBULANC” is what it said. Then it was repeated, a couple of times. So by the time I called her and got through (not much of a signal at the gas station) she was beside herself.
I assured her that I was bumped up, but fine, which she did not immediately believe.

I healed up fine, though it turned out I had also bruised my left shoulder, that hurt for a couple of weeks.
The truck was toast though, no question about it.

It took a few days to get it all settled, which let me with an unwanted and unexpected holiday task of buying a replacement vehicle.
I couldn’t think of a reason to get another truck. I haven’t actually used it very much to haul large things, mostly I commute, sixty miles per day. So I decided to just get a car. What kind ? No idea, I hadn’t even thought about buying a car in years. I looked, and looked and looked… and finally decided on a nice clean little Olds Alero, 2 door coup. It’s major advantage? It cost almost exactly the amount of the insurance settlement, essentially free.

Okay, I’ve writ SOMETHING….. so leave me alone for a bit…