Monday, July 22, 2013

The View Through the Front Window

Wild Turkey Visiting
I never know what I might see through the front windows of my home. This turkey hen spent quite a while leisurely checking out the premises. I recently posted a picture of four young bucks investigating the smouldering ruin of the old house. In both cases, neither of my stalwart and ferocious "hounds" bothered to bark or chase the wildlife away. I guess that is good. If I hear their warning bark, it means there is something I probably need to be genuinely concerned about.

One hot summer day, my neighbor (who is a very nice man) delivered a load of hay but I did not know he was on the place.  I did not even hear his tractor!  I did hear Duke barking a serious warning. When I stepped to the door to investigate, I got a serious shock!

Striding down the driveway was a dark haired man with a tremendous scowl on his dark face. Wearing short leather chaps, like a butcher's apron, he was bare chested. His sinewy arms were covered with sweat and hay dust, and in each gloved hand he was swinging a hay hook. He was walking fast, coming right for me.   I did not recognize him and for just a few terrifying moments I thought I was about to become the victim of a bloody and horrible farm crime. Then I recognized my neighbor and began to breathe. Of course he was scowling - it was hot as hell and he had just stacked about one hundred bales of hay into my barn. He was coming down to my house to get his money. I felt a huge pang of guilt for not recognizing him and for thinking the worst of such a nice neighbor!  But I must say, should Hollywood ever run out of frightening "hack and sack" psycho movies, I have a g-r-e-a-t idea for a new character...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Rain Returns

West, into the rain.
At this time last year the ponds were all dry or almost dry. Being prairie, there was a hay crop but it was considered poor. Rainfall changed everything. The ponds are filling and the grass is extravagant, beautiful and green. I like seeng the geometry of the large bales across the landscape. 

And when the rains clear, there is always the jeweled Kansas sky.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Bargain Dogs

Jake, just before the hand-off from the Humane Society Volunteer
Significant-Pain-in-Various-Areas-of-My-Anatomy Dog

Because I was buying the old house and six acres from the former owners, my name was not in the public record as the owner. I paid all the taxes and insurance and was wholly responsible for anything that broke, quit, went up in smoke, or fell down on and in the property. The deed simply had not been signed over to me yet but I was most definitely the "responsible party".

I went to the Topeka Helping Hands Humane Society shelter to adopt Jake because it was the same place I had adopted the good dog Duke. I thought the fact that I had the same dog I had adopted from them 13 years earlier would speak well on my behalf as potential adopter. Everything went swimmingly until they wanted to call my "landlord" to get permission for me to have Jake - in my own house, on my own property. I explained I did not have a landlord and that I did not need permission to do anything on my own property. But, because my name was not on the deed, they would not give Jake to me without the "landlord's permission".

We all come to points in life where we simply cannot compromise. Sometimes it is a large moral issue and sometimes it is small, insignificant thing - like a worthless puppy no one else wanted. The HHHS insistence on getting permission from a non-existent landlord was such a point for me

In the first place, they knew I had an old dog adopted as a puppy from them. They could verify that much in their records. They had already checked with Dr. J who confirmed Duke was alive and well, a very friendly, happy dog who received regular medical care. Dr. J could have and would have told them I would give Jake a great home. None of that mattered to them. If I did not give permission for them to contact the "landlord" to get permission from him to have a pup on my own property, I could not adopt Jake. On principle alone I could not and would not give permission for them to call the former owners.

I am not proud of the fact, but the insanity of their slavish insistence to their rules enraged me. They had no qualms to put to death tens of thousands of animals yet were willing to deny a puppy a verified safe and loving home over one of their arbitrary rules - one that required needless permission from someone whom I had spoken to twice in 13 years! Even after I patiently explained that I did not have a landlord and did not need to get permission from anyone to do anything on my own property, they refused. I asked if they required permission from other homeowners' mortgage companies and they admitted they did not. Because my name was not on record in Wabaunsee County as the owner, they refused to approve the adoption. My impatience with such insanity exploded. I hate to admit that I was a total and asinine jerk, even telling those selfless volunteers to "shove it" complete with graphic anatomical direction and location. I stormed out there so angry and upset that I was in tears.

I was in such a state that I called my daughter and then called a friend after that, just to try to calm down. I had embarrassed myself for one thing. I had shamed myself for another. Those people worked there as volunteers and everyone, including me, only wanted what was in Jake's best interest. Of any group of nice people, they were the least deserving of some yahoo like me telling them to shove the whole place up their backsides. I understood my frustration but I honestly do not know why this particular incident triggered such a horrible and crass reaction in me. I was actually crying when I left there!

I had given up on Jake, but I knew I had to apologize for my behavior - sincerely apologize. I gathered my flagging courage and called the number, admitting immediately I was the horrible jerk who had made a scene in their lobby earlier that afternoon. I asked to speak to the manager. When she was on the line I apologized, insisting that I normally did not behave so abominably. I thanked her for her service to the animals and the community and asked that she pass on my apologies to everyone else. I explained why I was so incredibly frustrated with their rules, and their willingness to deny a pup a great home over such a needless rule in this instance.  And I admitted that there were other things going on in my life right then that accounted for my terrible behavior. I must say the young woman was most gracious and forgiving. She told me to come in and she would see to it that I adopted Jake. I certainly did not deserve any kindness - or Jake - at that point.

I swallowed my ego entirely for the sake of Jake and went back to the shelter. It gave me an opportunity to apologize to some of the other women there in person. Amazingly, NONE of them seemed happy to see me or care about my apology!  It took another two weeks before I brought Jake home. He was sick from being in the shelter. It took a couple of hundred dollars for Dr. J to get Jake back to good health.

So now I am the regretful owner of a worthless mutt who does not know the first thing about being a good watch dog or a good farm dog. (He stands outside the fence and barks at the horses. Good job, Jake. They are supposed to be there!) Yesterday I received the news that Jake has somehow developed an ACL tear in his left rear knee. It will cost $1500 for Dr. J to do the repair surgery. There is more good news: Dr J warned me the other knee will likely go out at some point in time, too. So, if any of the Topeka Helping Hands Humane Shelter volunteers happen upon my blog, you can take satisfaction in the fact that Jake turned out to be far from a bargain dog. Instant karma.

Incidentally, I am now the owner of record for my home and all of the acreage. And I love Jake despite the fact he is not a good dog.

Post Script: Let me take this opportunity to vent my irritation at people who assume I like to be called Duke or Jake's "mom". Hey, I will be the first to admit I can be a bitch, but I am not the mother of either of these canines, nor of any feline, nor of any horse of any gender or size! I have two human being children and I am their mother since their conception until the end of my life and quite likely beyond the grave. I am not the mother of my animals but their mere servant. Got that?

Sunday, July 14, 2013

American TV Accidentally Delivers

Another sleepless night in the hotel caused me to channel surf the horrible wasteland that is American television. Even amid the insurance commercials, malpractice lawyers, and the erectile dysfunction advertisements, there is sometimes a jewel.  I won the lottery last week when I accidentally tuned into Joe Bonamassa playing "Midnight Blues" on his vintage gold Les Paul guitar. Every note was clear and precise - a laser that burned right to the heart. I was stunned. Where has this guy been since rap and hip hop and Justin Beiber consumed the available musical air for old hippies like me?

Thanks to the amazing access of the Internet, I was able to find a YouTube video of the exact performance I had watched on television. It took me two days to figure out how to purchase and download AND burn to a CD Bonamassa's Beacon Theater performance. I have been immersed in the best blues guitar I have ever heard. The next step is to put the CD into my finely engineered Ford automobile with its excellent musical system and play it loud!

I am not being unfaithful to Bob Dylan, you understand. Bob is for the mind. Joe is for the SOUL.

Joe Bonamassa Performing Midnight Blues

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Two Turtle Day

Living in the relative abundance of the Flint Hills, it is common to see wildlife. Within a mile radius, and often on my property, I have seen swans, hawks, kestrels, night jars, eagles, fox, bob cat, coyote, a collard lizard, several species of snakes including a dying rattlesnake, a variety of wild plants and unusual insects. And ornate box turtles. I see turtles in the roads mostly, but after my hay "barn" was in place and filled with hay, I found a poor little turtle trying to find her way through the tightly stacked hay. I had to pick her up and reroute her to the side of the barn. The barn must have been built across her route. I do not know her destination but she was determined to find a way through an impossible obstacle for which I was wholly responsible. I felt a significant pang of guilt. And I wonder if the little land turtles are like the sea turtles and must return to their birthplace to lay their eggs. That would explain why they risk their gentle, silent lives crossing the thousands of miles of American roads where countless of them die.

Friday was a red letter day: two turtles rescued crossing the road on my way to work. The first one was a male. He had red eyes and handsome red markings on his legs. The only defense the poor little guy had was to pee. I have been picking up turtles my entire life so I know to watch out for turtle urine! I try to make relocation as quick and gentle as possible, but it has to be a frightening experience for such a defenseless creature. He was stunned and would not move even after I set him carefully in the grass at the edge of the road. Hopefully, soon after my car drove away he continued his trek.

About 2 miles later I skidded to a halt so I could move a very small female. She was just starting the dangerous crossing and I almost missed her amid the gravel. She saw me coming and shifted into high turtle speed and continued to "run" even as I carefully lifted her to the other side of the road, safely off the shoulder. I feel badly that they are terrified by the move, but it is better than being crushed. It is far better to have the pee scared out of you than being mortally wounded to die a slow death after glancing off the tires of a vehicle.

Saturday, July 6, 2013


The drought broke early this year and the Flint Hills are lush, green and oh so beautiful! The ponds and creeks have been replenished and the tall grass, as if to make up for two years of intolerable heat and drought, have robust inflorescenses... if I used that term correctly. In addition to this abundance, a large mass of Canadian air has arrived and is in no hurry to depart. Low humidity, low temperatures, no wind - perfect firefly weather. The last two nights I have slept on the porch.

At my tender age of six decades, there are not many soaring highs left in life. The peaks of excitement and pleasure have been replaced with a steady, subtle and easy appreciation of what is simply good and wonderful. Sleeping in the fresh night air next to the little creek is good. Fireflies are a natural product of Spiritcreek Farm and they are in mighty abundance. In the absence of moonlight their luminous signals silently brighten and dim in a slow rhythm that leads this old woman into a healing sleep. In that deep sleep, I find the dream where I am young again, and life stretches away into the limitless future.