Saturday, April 18, 2015

Grumpy Old Woman Complaining

People, I know that with every passing second, an American my age becomes less and less valuable, less marketable in the work place, less important as a consumer, less valued as a citizen. Alright. I am good with that. I had my day in the sun. I am fixin-to-get-ready to retire so I can just fade away and leave the world to the cell phone addicts. Before I go, I have a couple of things to get off my chest.

First of all, goddamn it, a point is MOOT - not MUTE! Mute means silent. Moot means irrelevant or open to debate. It is pronounced moooooot. (If cows could make a point, they would make moot points. Oh, I crack myself up!)

Americans once held the grand idea of educating every child - a marvelous, democratic and noble idea! So how did almost 318.9 million people reach the age of majority without understanding "they're, there, their"?

They're - a contraction of "they are".
Their - a possessive plural pronoun.
There - refers to place, an adverb

Now pay attention: "They're going there with their children."

Not that I myself posses perfect grammar. It is impossible for me to even catch my own mistakes because I was born in Kansas, raised in Kansas, and have lived here my entire life. I am never sure how to properly use was/were. My writing is full of such errors that I wholeheartedly, without shame, blame on the Kansas vernacular in which I have been steeped lo these many years.

I struggle to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition. There is even a prepositional joke:

A PhD, between flights was waiting in a crowded airport. A friendly Kansan sits down next to her and asks, "Where you goin' to?"

The PhD sniffed, "I do not answer people who end their sentences with prepositions."

"Okay. Where you going to, bitch?"

Grammar issues are nothing compared to cell phone etiquette. If we are in a face-to-face conversation, unless you are the President of the United States or an Obstetrician, do NOT check your texts every five minutes - or every ten minutes. Trust me, it can wait. I am dying even as we speak! Have some respect.

Monday, April 13, 2015


The handsome pup

Nothing lasts forever - not the sun, nor the moon. Not a human life and certainly not the life of a dog. I called the old Duke in from the rain one final time early Saturday morning. A thunderstorm was almost on us. He was not doing well at supper and I did not want him out in the rain. I had to look for him with a flashlight. Wherever he had been, he faithfully came when called one last time. When I went toward the garage, he could not go any longer.

Unable to lift him, I got a sheet of cardboard to move him, but realized that he was dying. I stayed with him then until the good dog passed out of his old worn out body, leaving me behind.

He came home in the arms of my son in April of 1999, and took his leave in April 16 years later. He lived a set of four rounds of four, befitting a good and wise spirit such as he.

I do not believe there is a human being on the planet who truly deserves the love and devotion of a dog. I did not deserve such a good companion.

The old graybeard

Inspecting the construction materials

Trying to have a back scratch in the tall grass but what happens?  JAKE!

He asked for so little for what he gave.

Nothing Duke loved more than a cold winter morning!

Just call and then get out of his way!

Now I do not know where his spirit may be.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Whiskey or Bourbon?

I keep a small bottle of Jack Daniels Old No. 7 Sour Mash Whiskey on hand in case of snakebite. I have clearly established that I live in rattlesnake country, chronicling in this very blog the time I discovered a dying rattler in the middle of Snokomo Road, and publishing unmistakable photographic evidence of a rattlesnake crossing Vera Road.  The fact that I have seen two rattlesnakes in Kansas in the entire 62 years I have been alive does not diminish the constant risk. It only proves how damned smart I am in avoiding rattlesnakes.

Speaking of how damned smart I am, I was wondering what the difference is between whiskey and bourbon. I googled the question and came up with this jewel: "The simple answer is that bourbon is always whiskey, but whiskey is not always bourbon." What kind of answer is that?! It is the written equivalent of an Escher drawing. Further investigation reveals the difference has to do with the percentage of corn in the mash and proof (as in 160 proof) and geography and spelling. (The Scots spell it whisky.)  I still do not know the difference and it is safe to say that all of the people publishing information on the internet also do not know the difference. If I am ever snakebit, it will not matter whether it is whiskey or bourbon anyway.

I am only kidding of course about drinking whiskey in case of snakebite. Despite watching hundreds of Westerns at the dawn of television with my Grandpa, whiskey has no medicinal properties against venom. Perhaps a shot from a whiskey bottle to a dying cowboy back in the Old West was simple manly solace before he bit the dust.

Speaking of manly men, when my future stepfather first met my paternal male relatives, Grandpa and my uncle took him aside to offer a male bonding shot of whiskey straight from the communal bottle. The fact that my stepfather did not suffocate or strangle on the whiskey - or bourbon - or moonshine remains a shining pinpoint of triumph in his life. He tells the story, laughing over the stoic calm of my uncle and grandfather after a man-sized gulp of firewater in comparison to his entirely unprepared throat-searing shot of torture. Men do things differently than women. I am not saying one way is superior to the other - just different. To tell you the truth, I wish women could establish pecking order and seal their hunting and gathering bonds with a simple shot of whiskey. My God, life would be so much easier.

The real reason I have whiskey on hand is because about once every couple of years or so, a shot of Jack and Coke seems good to me. I have to drive to the truck stop to buy a small bottle of Coke before I can imbibe. Buying a Coke happens only after I have been thinking for two or three weeks that a Jack and Coke would be nice. I had the last bottle of whiskey for so many years that it turned milky and I poured it down the drain.  Stocking up prior to the last big blizzard forecast for my part of Kansas, I bought a new bottle - in case of snakebite.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas Day

My adult children will be here about 10 am, so I have a few things to get accomplished this morning - light housework, put the ham in the oven, feed the critters, and give Wally a pear for his Christmas treat. He gets pears on other days, and sometimes apples, but I think pears are his heart's desire. Of course nothing can be given to Wally unless Ginger is served first. If she catches me sneaking something to Wally, poor Wally pays the price. There is nothing I can do about Ginger's horrible behavior toward Wally in these matters, though I certainly wish I could. It is horse etiquette and the equine social order. I must respect it.

Wally is not a white horse, but he glows in the twilight sometimes, like a ghost or maybe a unicorn, if unicorns were real. Whenever he sees or hears me heading toward the barn, he comes thundering across the pasture. He always gets there before I do, and he always arrives long before Ginger. Hoof beats against the ground tell me he is on the way long before I see him. He is fleet of foot, carrying his head and tail high, as all Arabians do. He is a beautiful sight galloping effortlessly through the tall grass, his mane and tail flying. He loves running right to the fence, slamming to a sudden halt, tossing his head, snorting, side stepping and dancing a bit. He is such a beautiful horse when he is in motion! Sometimes I wish with all of my heart I could ride him but most of the time I am utterly content to just tend to him and love him.

Ginger has none of the flair and heat of Wally's Arabian genes, but she is beautiful in motion, as well. I have an indelible memory of her fat, sleek copper body galloping from the far corner of her lonely pasture the day Wally was brought in. She could hardly believe another horse was in her pasture. Linda, Wally's former owner, was stunned at the first sight of Ginger running across the pasture. "Oh, she is beautiful!" That was truly a compliment, coming from a horsewoman such as Linda, who owns many beautiful horses. "She's so fat - but beautiful! If you ever want to sell her, I would buy her!"

I have no intention of ever selling my horses. Among serious horse people, there is the opinion that my horses' lives are being wasted. Some consider horses not worked or ridden as a waste of money. There may be a tiny sliver of truth in both opinions, but the only regret I have is that my horses are confined to only twenty acres. Sometimes I daydream that I lease a huge pasture from a cattle-raising neighbor for a month in the summer. Wally and Ginger could have a new experience, more room to run, new places to explore and see. What a treat that would be for them. It is only an assumption that it would be a treat because horses seem to be happiest when they have a routine schedule.

My horses do not have a bad life. They are well taken care of in a minimal sort of way. Their hooves are trimmed but never painted or polished. Their manes may be combed out, but never braided or tied with ribbons. Their tails do not grow long and luxurious because they are in the pasture year round. Their hides are often brushed and curry combed until they shine. My coworkers save peppermints from Sonic lunches to routinely send home with me for those two horses. Wally and Ginger appear to love each other. Over time, Ginger has come to the point of allowing Wally to drink with her, and once in a great while, he is allowed to eat from the same scattering of hay. One of the most endearing things I have seen is both of them on the ground, sunning themselves, resting on the southern slope before the barn, two long time companions taking a break. I ran for my camera but it was too late.

Of course, my dream was to always have a horse to ride. It did not work out that way. Instead of one to ride, I have two horses to love. What could be better?

As always:

Peace on earth and good will toward (some) men!
from the critters and crazy woman of Spiritcreek

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Few Holiday Notes

I have been intending to write since Thanksgiving, when I made a logistics error that required going to the grocery the night before Thanksgiving. It was as chaotic and crazy there as I expected.

The adventure of shopping always starts with a good effort to get a parking space as close as possible to the front door. Walking is always painful these days so it is worth the investment in gasoline and time to circle the lot a few times. It was a frenzy of people and cars, and the only available spaces were at the extreme edges. I eventually found a space fairly close, but in making a couple of laps I noticed that someone far more desperate than I, driving a full sized white SUV, had parked in a shopping cart return stall. It meant no one could return baskets to that corral. It also meant that the huge 4WD vehicle was sticking out in the traffic lane by almost a half-car length. Wow. That took more chutzpah than I would have ever dared in such a stressed out crowd! I did not take it personally, thinking that person may have bad knees like me, or was in far more of a hurry than the rest of us. I also considered that the driver was simply the biggest asshole in the parking lot that night.

Later, as I was exiting the parking lot, I had to drive past the white SUV. In desperation or retaliation, people had parked their empty carts all around the back of the vehicle. I could only hope that the store employees did not get to those carts before the driver returned.

Now it is almost Christmas. I completed all of my shopping yesterday, December 23. It was as crazy in Topeka as you would guess. However, I discovered one wonderful perk of shopping so closely to Christmas: men. Yes. Young and old men Christmas shopping in their natural gender-based timing, as God intended! I daresay there were a considerable number of attractive men everywhere I looked.

(I wish to make something perfectly clear: I am NOT a lecherous old woman lurking around public places with impure thoughts toward any unsuspecting member of the masculine persuasion! It is simply pleasant to see handsome men.)

Speaking of handsome men... It snowed quite a bit last week, close to five or six inches in my area of Wabaunsee County. I had to drive the old truck in order to get to work. Amazingly, the old girl still fires right up, and the four wheel drive works - in both speeds. The heater, cruise control, and electric locks and windows continue to function. The truck is almost 14 years old. It is why I am a loyal Ford fan. I do complain where Ford engineers take short cuts, like using plastic that degrades on all outside handles, and the deterioration of the covering of the steering wheel and cruise control buttons. (Good thing I have those buttons memorized from the 250,000 miles I spent driving that vehicle.) But back to men...

I stopped at an auto parts store after work to buy Stabil. I intended to fill up with gas and it would be a perfect time to add that miracle concoction into the gas tank. Stabil keeps gas fresh in vehicles that sit for long periods of time. I also needed windshield fluid. I thought I should get at least a gallon of antifreeze, too. I had the idea I could add antifreeze into the overflow reservoir and not have to worry about opening the radiator itself. I was quizzing the 13 year old kid behind the counter, but it stumped him. He ventured a tentative guess that I could, but neither he nor I knew if that would actually mix the antifreeze into the coolant system.

Luckily, men were in that store behind me in line - manly men who knew about such matters. A masculine voice spoke, declaring that I could add the antifreeze into the reservoir, depending on the year of the vehicle. I turned to face a man about my age. He had an attractive trimmed silver beard, white hair and very cheerful blue eyes. (Santa?) He gestured to the tall young man behind him, "He works with cars." That was an acceptable credential for me. I said it was a '01 Ford Ranger, and in their opinion, antifreeze could be added into the reservoir.

I thanked them for their help and left the store. I immediately put the Stabil into the gas tank and opened the hood to add the wiper fluid because it was entirely dark and I had to drive home on a slushy I-70 where the passing big trucks cover the windshield with blinding ice and salt and dirt. Once again the two men came to my aid, and in a very gallant way. "Santa Claus" came over and asked if I would like some help.

Okay, I admit, back in the day, I would have politely told him I did not need help. I was never going to be a stupid damsel in distress! In these present days, I welcome a little help. I lied and said "I never turn down a helping hand!"

So, for the next five minutes the two gentlemen filled the wiper fluid reservoir, and removed the rodent nest (and the store of food) discovered beneath the hood. The young man also took the radiator cap off! I pleaded with him to not take that chance because I was afraid he would be sprayed with boiling water. He solemnly assured me he knew what he was doing. In his opinion, no antifreeze was needed. I was sincerely thankful to the men who volunteered their knowledge and their assistance. It was very kind of them, especially considering how I looked. My winter coat is perpetually covered in mud and horse slobber. I had changed into insulated, steel toed, Pro Series lace-up work boots in case I had trouble on the way home. I was wearing those boots with a work skirt and black stockings. I looked like an overweight Granny Clampett. Damn.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Canine Cuisine, the Fine Art Thereof

The Good Dog Duke, almost 16 years old, is on the downhill slope of his years. The protector and guardian of Spiritcreek is in his dotage. He can see but not very well. He does not have cataracts but there is a strange blue cast in his eyes. He is effectively deaf. He has lost a significant amount of weight. Afraid to hear what Dr. J might tell me, I waited too long to take Duke in for a check up. Finally, I gathered the courage I needed on behalf of the good old dog, and we went to see Dr. J this week.

The good news is that, based on a routine check up, there is nothing sinister - at least nothing obvious. I have to give Duke a Prilosec for stomach acid 15 minutes before his first meal, and then I serve the good old dog home-cooked human food: hamburger and rice mixed with eggs and cottage cheese, with yogurt and pumpkin thrown in, too. It smells delicious! So far, Duke has been able to keep all of his food down and seems to have already picked up a couple of pounds on this diet.

I keep Duke and Jake separated for most of the day. Jake is a bad, bad dog. He is absolutely willing to fight poor old Duke away from his own bowl! He really whipped old Duke's butt the other day before I could get to them to put a stop to it. Jake has no idea how close he is to being shipped out for good. He is worthless! He hides under the porch whenever anyone comes on the property. The old braveheart still puts himself between the "threat" and me. Duke cannot even flop over in the tallgrass for a delicious, if far less vigorous than former days, backscratching session without Jake bullying him and bulldozing him.

I do not know how much longer the old Duke has. I can hardly bear to think how it will be here without Duke. I will not be nearly as brave going out at night without his constant companionship and his keen senses that have always kept me from being surprised by anything unpleasant (except snakes and spiders). I have already learned to keep a better look out for myself because Duke no longer hears the crunch of gravel at the top of the driveway. Jake hears but he has no interest in barking to let me know we are being invaded.

Dr. J spent a long time discussing the foreseeable future regarding the inevitable. Bottom line, I see that Duke is still enjoying life even though he is losing strength in his hind quarters and he cannot see or hear. He still goes to the barn with me and enjoys running downhill when we come back. He still enjoys a backscratch in the tall grass. He can still get up and down the steps. He does not appear to be in acute pain. Now that he can eat and hold down his food, maybe there are several more years left, even if I have to cook a big pot of food for him every week.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Winter Across the Counties

Bulletproof by necessity, though no guns allowed.
A sycamore, the tallest tree species in Kansas.
The old bridge preserved beside the new bridge.
Back toward the bluff.
It rattled as I walked - scary!
Good for another 100 hundred years!
A tiny bit of color caught my eye in the winter landscape.
The most color I found all day.
I thought they were turkeys, but they were buzzards recycling some unfortunate creature. 

I spent the afternoon driving through Wabaunsee, Lyon and Morris counties. I took my camera in case I happened upon something amazing. I started at Echo Cliff. It is a small park beside the Mission Creek, where a sizable bluff makes a picturesque and unusual setting. Unfortunately, all facilities placed in the park are routinely destroyed by teenagers. The current park installments are made of incredibly heavy welded metal. It will surely slow the vandals down, but it will not stop them.

Follow this link for more information about Echo Park - and better photos!

I found an intriguing road somewhere south of Echo Cliff and thought I would explore it for new landscapes. A small hand-lettered sign warned there were surveillance cameras in the area. I prefer to not get shot by a militant landowner, though as far as I could tell it was a public road. I backed all the way out to the township road, where I noticed old clothing lying along both sides of the road - no visible blood stains. I came across the vultures soon after. I tried to prevent my imagination from jumping to conclusions...