Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A Good Old Fashioned Horsewhipping

The last few months I have been fighting cyberwars against fake scanware that has some how found its way onto my personal computer. I am very careful what I download and what websites I visit. I have a plethora of anti-virus, anti-malware, anti-spamware, anti-adware and anti-spybot software on my pc, but yet, something horrible got by the defense systems!

It is immensely aggravating. It makes me mad. I read online about these fake security computer scans that download themselves and make it impossible to use your computer because each time you click on the screen, a half dozen pop up screens appear, warning you of the horrible infections it has found on your computer. They originate in the Ukraine, and some of the people responsible have already been fined millions of dollars. Apparently it did not stop them.

Why not bring back good old fashioned horse whippings as punishment for the people who are least useful to society? These malware developers are the scourge of society and negatively impact more people then murderers and rapist. Save prison for murderers and rapists but publicly horsewhip these evil geniuses who ruin people's computers. I volunteer, me and my horsewhip. I have never whipped a horse in my life, but I would gladly whip one of these evil computer dudes! I would even charge admission.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

How It All Works Out...

I can still clearly remember the days when my mind was in peak condition. I never forgot a face, (though I have never been good with names). I could learn a new task or a new responsibility in a snap. Often I would immediately see a better way. I could remember a joke forever, which was not a good thing because, as we all know, a joke never dies. I do believe I had heard every joke known to mankind at one point. No one could tell me one I had not heard. Now, they are all new to me. Sad, really.

As I sail effortlessly toward senility, with those memories of how well my mind once worked, I am sad and a little afraid. Now I have to work hard to learn something new. Forcing my mind to pay attention is exhausting. I am unable to keep track of the million details in my life. Luckily, most of them do not matter, but sometimes a detail becomes an issue - like my brand new lawn tractor.

I have greatly desired a riding lawn mower since I moved to Spirit Creek. Even with the self-propelled walk-behind mower, it normally takes three evenings to mow, not because it is such a vast area, but because it is just such hard work. If the weather did not coincide with my schedule, or if it was too hot for me to mow, the grass could get knee deep. I could still mow, but it would take even longer because I could only mow a swath a few inches wide if I wanted to keep the mower running. It was very difficult, hot work. I did not mind the work so much as I hated worrying over the lawn - can I mow tonight? When will it stop raining? Is it going to be too wet to mow again? Can I get the mower started? Will it still be over 90 degrees by the time I get home from work?

For several seasons, I hired a guy who owns an industrial-sized riding mower but I never knew when he would be here. Sometimes, late in the summer, the lawn was left to grow because it was just too tall - too much work for anyone to do. Every year I hoped anew that I would be able to purchase a lawn tractor so I would not be at the mercy of another person's schedule in addition to all the other variables. It was a burden on several levels.

It was in the banner year of our Lord 2009 when I at last bought a lawn tractor from Sears! It revolutionized my lawn care efforts. Not only can I easily mow grass that is too high because of extended periods of rain and/or laziness, but it is fun to whip around on that miniature yellow and green tractor, singing to myself as I effortlessly mow down the weeds and grass and many of the perennial flowers planted by former tenants. While it hardly constitutes difficult work, it remains hot and sweaty, and I am always covered in dust and flecks of poison ivy and probably chicken poop. Do not get the idea that mowing while sitting on your can is entirely effortless. But riding around while you mow is a lot of fun, even for an old Harley rider like myself.

Now, what was the point I was making? Oh yeah - I have misplaced both sets of keys to my brand new lawn tractor. I have no idea where to even look for them now after tearing through every place I thought I would have put them last fall. Another casualty of my diminishing mental acuity. I am only one step away from not even giving a good goddamn about my brain decline because at this rate, the next step is not even recalling that I own a riding lawn tractor in the first place. That is how it all works out.

Thursday, April 22, 2010


The Lyrids meteor shower peaked tonight between 1 and 3 am. I parked my truck on the hill in the dark and settled in. Within a few moments I was rewarded with a brilliant streak trailing a long showy tail of white sparks. An hour later, I had seen two tiny threads of light zip by. I am certain however, that right this moment as I sit at the computer, the entire sky if full of streaking meteors...

The half moon was high in the west, and the local sky still full of smoke and haze from the burning pastures, and thin clouds covered most of the sky, so visibility was not the best. A solid bank of thunderheads advancing from the west, close enough to fire the sky with lightning occasionally, was also pushing darker clouds into the mix.

It does not matter if I see a thousand meteors or none - any excuse to be out beneath the night sky will do. It is cool enough to need a coat. The air is sweet with the emerald green emerging prairie, and no insects. Close enough to perfect for me.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chainsaws and the Will to Live

At the advice of a real farmer, I purchased a different brand of chainsaw, but it is still in the box. I am giving my psyche time to recover from the two days of utter failure with the first one. I am also allowing time for my swollen hands to heal. I struggled with that first chainsaw for so many hours over two days that my hands became swollen and blistered. Sometimes dogged determination is a huge liability. The blisters are healing but I still can not wear my rings. Maybe by tomorrow.

Sunday my son came to help war against the trees, too. We pruned and hand sawed and chopped down about two dozen trees - from stunted saplings to a fifteen foot honey locust tree with an eight inch trunk. My son seemed to enjoy chopping the trees down with my new ax. We took turns using the ax. What he lacked in precise control, he made up for with brute strength. My contribution was being able to control the area of cuts. We worked together pretty well although at one point he told me I was sucking his will to live and sapping his energy to work. Translated that means I was being too bossy. He wanted to just start flailing away with the ax at that big honey locust tree and I wanted to carefully prune the lower limbs first. He soon realized my idea was sound. Every limb on those trees have thorns that are two or three inches long, and some even longer. Wicked thorns.

Duke the good dog, newly shorn of his thick fur coat and looking pretty darned goofy, greatly enjoyed the adventure. He found an unknown animal den and put in a lot of time and effort digging into it. Both horses stood right over him, observing his efforts. I am not sure what would have happened if something dangerous had emerged from that den. It would have been a mad panic of humans and horses and an old naked dog running for their lives. I think the only remotely dangerous animal in this area of Kansas would be a badger. Duke might have come out the worse if that is what lives in that hole, and maybe me. I doubt if I could run fast enough to get away from a mad badger, especially in light of the fact that I can not run at all. But nothing that exciting happened.

The horses were worse than monkeys. The windows have to remain closed in the truck because otherwise the horses reach in to nose and bite at everything in the cab. If there is something they can pick up, they love pulling it out and dropping it on the ground. If I leave the windows partway down, they both test the glass with their teeth - too dangerous! They knocked both mirrors out of whack, and messed around with all the tools and stuff in the bed of the truck. There are big swaths of horse slobber over all the windows and mirrors. Annie kept pulling the saplings out of the bed when she was eating the leaves. And of course, one little tree by itself would not come off the truck but a whole intertwined pile of trees would come off. Those horses were not helping.

Annie was so happy for all the excitement in her pasture that she was chasing Duke around, playing, but it was frightening. She would gallop up on him and then buck and kick and cavort around. She was not really wanting to kick him or hurt him. It was just horse play, but those flying hooves are dangerous for old women and old dogs.

Even though we did not have the advantage of a chainsaw, so it was very slow going, it was a pretty good day's work and everyone involved, except the trees, had a good time.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Fighting Trees

Friday, the cool and cloudy weather made it a perfect day for outside work, especially for making war on invasive trees, namely the eastern red cedar tree. Prairie fires once kept this tree in check over the vast miles of grasslands. Now farming, roads, and human settlement provide ample habitat for it to grow. All the unburned land has allowed this species to become an invasion. Where there is still sufficient prairie to sustain a burn, the trees are kept in check.

The red cedar alters the PH of the soil around it, discouraging growth of any competing plant. It also produces substances poisonous to prairie grasses. In a short time, entire fields or pastures can become nothing but cedar trees. It is a huge problem.

The state of Oklahoma loses 700 acres a day to juniperus virginiana. Oklahoma authorities claim ten million acres are covered with the red cedar now. The tree is useful in many ways: furniture, lumber, veneer, fence posts, aromatic oil, mulch, shavings, even caskets. But, with only an infinitesimal amount of true prairie left, the red cedar is as grave a danger as the plow, mining, and urbanization to native habitat.

The good news is that it is not a difficult tree to kill. Aside from its lack of defense against fire, simply cutting it down kills it. Small trees can be dispatched with a good pair of limb loppers. So, I was lopping down cedars yesterday, along my driveway and in my yard. I was using a bow saw to take down the larger ones. I also cleared many lower branches on the other trees so that I can more easily mow. I should not have to lop off any cedars along the driveway again. But I paid dearly for all of that physical exertion.

It was hard work. It grieves me when I remember the time when I was in good physical shape. Fifteen years ago, I could have done three times the amount of work in half the time. As I was plodding along in the battle against the tree invasion, I was thinking all that work would be a lot more fun, much easier, and I would look so much better doing it if I had not gained so much weight. Brutal.

So.... I bought a chain saw. I could not wait to start mowing down invasive species at will. I got the saw started for the first time yesterday after I read the manual and mixed and poured gas and oil into all the correct ports. I was ready to enter the battle with superior technology in my frail human hands.... except.... I could never get that bleeping saw started again. After at least a half hour and over 100 pulls on the starter rope... and a fit of cussing and rage the likes of which I have not indulged in since I was in my twenties... and after I successfully resisted the very real temptation to throw the damn thing onto the rocks of the culvert and set it on fire... I GAVE UP!

When you are in the mind set of becoming a mighty terminator for a couple of hours, slaying menacing trees, and you are thwarted, all that battle energy has to go somewhere! Oh yeah. If that damn thing does not start today, I am going to torch it.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

News of the Wierd and Wonderful

Sometimes I consider the hundreds of small things I enjoy in life, the ordinary things that make me happy. After all, life is a billion mundane seconds punctuated by several high and low points and then we are gone. The secret to happiness is surely in the details.

Every day I love reading the headlines for the weird and wonderful news. Drunken human behavior generates the overwhelming majority of those headlines. Here is a good one: "Drunk Horseman rides into crowd on Mule Day." Hints of some dark jealousy - his best horse excluded from the parade? No horses allowed on Mule Day?

As it turns out, Cowboy rides into the crowd to ask for more beer, falls off the horse, which spooks and careens into two people, one of whom was injured. Fines, tickets, court costs, public embarrassment and humiliation ensues.

Here is a twist on drunk driving a riding lawnmower: "Man on Mower Charged with DUI, Fishing Pole Theft." I did not read this article but let me guess - fines, tickets, court costs, and humiliation ensues.

Last week I read about a poor drunk who tried to revive a dead opossum with mouth to mouth. The article said the opossum had been dead for some time. Ewwwwwwwww!

A coworker and I maintained a file of funny newspaper stories for many years. "Here's one for the file!" we would say to each other whenever we found a good one. Over time we became connoisseurs of the truly funny. It could not be just any drunken behavior, there had to be a twist. One year we hit the jack pot. Two friends had an ongoing public feud after one pulled into the drive way and drunkenly ran over the other as he sat in a lawn chair drunkenly waving hello. Sometimes friendship is a challenge.

A lot of the weird and wonderful never makes it to the newspapers. For instance, it is weird that two middle aged single women who own horses bought property within two miles of one another in the middle of farm country. That would be me, and my neighbor Kathyrne. We were able to ride to work together for several years. It was wonderful that we have similar politics, instantly understand living with a ton of animals, and solemnly help one another when we lapse into moments of crazy-old-ladyness.

Sometimes I go to work and leave the water running to the horse tank. Even though I walk within three feet of the faucet, step over the damned garden hose to get in my truck and still forget, Kathyrne cheerfully agrees to drive over to turn off the water. She never makes fun of me just like I never make fun of her for letting her three Salukis into the car for the 30 second drive through the front gate.

Kathyrne also owns three cats and five horses. There is Camella, the old mare and her son, Little Bit, a huge gelding. There are the three Morgan "girls": Katie and her daughter Janie, and Topsy. Kathyrne rides dressage on the Morgans. Sometimes she rides Little Bit, but he is a willful guy when it comes to riding, though well behaved otherwise. I have looked after her animals when Kathyrne has been away. She said if Little Bit intimidated me I should just pick up a stick to show him. He is a very large horse and he did intimidate me at first. He met me at the gate when I first came through with the buckets of feed and would not back up. I picked up a little stick, about ten inches long, and showed it to him over the fence. He snorted and threw his head up, galloping away as if I had threatened him with a buggy whip! He made me laugh, which was his point. He has a grand sense of humor.

Kathyrne lives with generally higher life forms than I do, (no chickens) but that is because she is a PhD.

It is wonderful when my neighbors blade the snow out of my driveway without me ever asking. When my mailbox fell off the post and laid on the ground for a couple of days before I could get it fixed, the postman left my mail in the box anyway.

Weird or wonderful, "it's all good" as my son always says.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Annie's Dark Side

Poor Annie Horseperson. She has to put up with Ginger's royal bossiness all the time. Not only does Annie get kicked, chased off, bitten on the butt, and not allowed to shelter in the barn sometimes, she has to give up her own food if she is not finished before Ginger the Horrible comes over to claim her Supreme Bitch rights to the best of everything. It makes me mad at Ginger. I know it is simply horse society, but it is so unfair to Annie.

Annie is not a downtrodden spirit, though. She gets her licks in wherever she can and against whomever she can. She chases ol' Duke around, and he is getting to be an old grandpa dog. She has knocked me over with her shoulder several times when I have been leaning over filling her feed bucket. It always seems like a bit of an accident - just a tiny little bump against my hip. If she could speak, she would sweetly smile and say, "Oh I say, did 1000 pound me just knock over little ol' human you?"

I can never be mad at her. She has not had it so good in life. She was sick and skinny and no one cared about her fate when she was sent to the sale barn. If it had not been for Frank or Careen, Annie would have been on the truck to the Texas slaughter house. When she came to Spirit Creek she was still so weak that I could drag her around by the halter. Just for the record, I can not budge that horse now if she does not want to move.

I have been picking up her front hooves in an effort to get her more trustworthy and cooperative with the farrier. Yesterday morning she easily let me pick up her front left hoof. When she tried to set her foot down, I held it and she allowed it. I gently let her hoof down and patted her neck. When I turned to walk away, she followed after me and somehow stepped on the toes of my left foot, even though my back was to her. I still do not know how she managed it. Very sneaky, Little Orphan Annie! It hurt a lot - not on the twelve-letter obscenity scale but right at four-letter obscenity intensity, with one or two son-of-a-B's tossed in for good measure. I had to hold on to the gate for a minute. Annie just looked innocent. Yeah, right!

The only damage is a couple of black and blue toes. It could have been much worse. My uncle's horse, Patches, never missed an opportunity to step on my feet when I was a kid. It happened so often that it could not have been an accident every time. She would not move, preferring to ignore all the pounding on her shoulder and the screaming and the crying and the flailing about, sometimes even grinding my foot into the ground more. My beloved Lady, on the other hand, only stepped on my foot one time and as soon as she realized it, she moved. Patches was somewhat evil. Well, actually, she was a lot evil. I hope this does not mean Annie comes from the same dark sisterhood as Patches.

I will just have to work harder at winning Annie away from the Dark Side. I would hate to think she might turn out to be the Darth Vader of my two horses - except - just once - I wish Annie would use The Force to kick Ginger's ass.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Redbud Trees on the Prairie

The hidden clear streams of the Kansas Flint Hills

Before long, this will be hidden in shade.

Smokey atmosphere, blackened hillside and the beautiful redbuds in bloom.

The magic color of spring: green!

A spotted horse enjoying the warm weather and the green grass.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Junior the New King

Now that Junior is grown, and apparently the new king, he should get a new name. The trouble is, "Junior" has stuck. Here he is in all his kingly glory. You can clearly see that his comb made it through this brutal winter intact. His basic shape is that of his father, the Evil Roo. But he has the coloring of his mother's breed, the partridge cochins. Mrs. Peckins is in the photo, resting in the soft leaf litter after a long day of scratching through vast areas of leaves and dirt. Mother and son.

Junior also behaves like his mother's side of the family. While Mrs. Peckins is the sweetest little hen, her flock mates Big Man and Sweetie Peep, cochin roosters, were rapists and cowards. They were so mean to the little hens they were sent to another farm, over in Shawnee county. Junior is pretty mean, too. But now that he is apparently the Big Boss, the hens do not squawk and protest nearly as much when he assaults them. When everyone comes in to eat the scratch I throw, Junior stays on the outskirts watching for predators the way Evil used to do, so that means for sure Junior is the new boss. Evil Roo still has a few hens who love him best, so it all works out.

Junior strikes out with one of the little hens, then strikes a pose.

Farm City by Novella Carpenter

Li'l Ned recently recommended a book, "Farm City" by Novella Carpenter. Novella is the daughter of hippies who went back to the country, along with 999,998 others in the 70's. In recent times, Novella started out with a few chickens and a hive of bees on the back deck of her second story apartment in a ghetto of Oakland, California, and became an urban farmer. I am about two-thirds of the way through the book now, right at the point when she and her boy friend purchased two little red pigs. That's right - raising pigs in the ghetto. They are hauling them home in the back of their station wagon.

It is one of the funniest books I have read in such a long time. Novella is well-educated, self sufficient, and truly making a difference. All of us old hippies are so proud of her!

Visit Novella here and see what she is up to at Ghosttown Farm: ghosttownfarm

I also ordered the full length documentary "Mad City Chickens", chronicling the success of urban hipsters in Madison, Wisconsin in changing the laws to allow people to maintain a few hens in their back yards within city limits. It is a resource of great information for raising a few chickens. Two people from Kansas are featured in the documentary, one being Cheryl Long, editor in chief of Mother Earth News, based in Topeka. She is filmed driving her electric car that costs 25 cents to recharge!

The book and the film were just so much fun. Thanks, Li'l Ned!!

The Turning of the Season

The beautiful red bud trees in bloom.

For a couple of weeks the air has been filled with the burning of the Flint Hills. The ranchers burn the prairie to control weeds and cedar trees, and to provide their livestock with an ocean of tender new grass. The fires glow deep orange and red against the smoke filling the sky, and even with the incessant Kansas winds, there is a smoky haze hanging like incense in the air. It is my favorite time of the year.

The lilac colored red bud trees are in bloom. The delicate sprays of lavender are beautiful splashes of color against the vibrant green of new growth. The air is warm but feels cool against my skin. It is Kansas weather at her best.

All the animals are out and about now. A red tailed hawk perched in a tree directly east of my house was studying the chickens last Sunday, still as a stone. Sometimes a red tailed hawk will take a chicken, but mostly they eat prairie voles, snakes, and rabbits. My chickens are so small a hawk could easily kill one but I only had to step outside where the hawk could see me and it flew away. As long as the chickens stay close to the house, I think the hawk will leave them alone.

Red winged black birds, the males handsomely dressed in black plumage with the red and yellow shoulder decorations, are here. These poor birds are considered pests and in some places poisoned in large numbers. Whatever plant or animal is tough enough to survive, even thrive, amid the carnage human beings wreak on the planet, is universally despised by people.

There are many coyotes, flushed from their homes by the fires and probably hunting the other animals temporarily displaced by the flames. I like coyotes, even though I know they can and probably will eat my chickens. They are handsome and smart. They are the last Kansas predator, nature's last courageous stand against the Kansans who have taken everything as their own. Try as the farmers and hunters might, they can not eradicate coyotes. Whenever I hear the strange yipping howls as they move unseen through the pastures and timber around my home, I am happy. We have not destroyed every thing - yet.

The other day as I arrived home from work as a covey of quail was crossing the drive way. There have always been a few of them on my property, but I was happy to see about fifteen in this group. I came to a stop so they would not fly away and could cross the gravel in peace. They are so tiny and cute. I am not sure how human beings manage to kill them with guns. I guess they use some sort of shotguns. You would have to kill a lot of these jaunty little birds to make hunting them worthwhile. During hunting season, I hope these little guys know to stay safely in the timber next to the horse pasture and around my yard. No one can hunt on my land. It is not much of an oasis, only 26 + acres. When I win the lottery, there will be some serious Kansas acreage taken out of hunting territory.

My chickens are waiting to be let out of their pen and Ginger will be in a snit for having to wait past the royal breakfast time. Ol' Duke is content to lay in front of the screen door until I decide to exit. Dr. J, my kind-hearted vet admonishes me about Duke's weight all the time. Duke is not obese, only five pounds overweight, 85 pounds instead of 80, but Dr. J thinks that is too much. I know I need to look after the Dukenator. He tends to everything important about Spirit Creek, even though no one ever told him. One evening I was outside when he tore out at a dead run up the drive. I could not imagine what he was after. It was a hawk that most likely had caught a mouse in the grass at the edge of the gravel. Duke did not want that hawk anywhere in his territory. He knows a scoundrel when he sees one.

For years, Patti, as if she were seeing them, would ask if wild violets grew around my house each time we were together talking about healing herbs and plants. I always had to say no until I moved to Spirit Creek. Here the ground is covered in wild violets and every spring they remind me of Patti.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Chicken Impersonators?

Evil Roo with his flat top 'do, thanks to frostbite. Poor guy - he was once so handsome!

Sometimes one of the chickens does not get penned safely with the other chickens at night. Most often it is Tenzing Norgay who chooses to roost on the back porch in the open door of the cage where she spent her peephood.

Evil Roo' was unknowingly locked out of the pen during the coldest 24 hours of this past winter, losing almost his entire comb to frost bite. Once in a while, one of the other little hens does not get back to the pen before night falls. I do not know what delays them, or where they choose to roost, but so far, they have all made it safely through the night, except for Evil's comb.

The three Silver Sebrights, The Weird Sisters, are never apart. They seem to be the smartest of all my chickens and they always seem to be in the correct place at the correct time.

Saturday morning I was a bit slow in getting dressed and outside to do my chores. It was close to 8 o'clock when I heard one of my roosters crowing in a strangled way. At first I did not pay much attention because I knew the chickens were still in their pen. I thought either Junior or Evil Roo' was crowing inside the coop and that is why it sounded so strange. As I focused on it, I realized the crowing was coming from the front of the house rather than from the direction of the pen. I listened more intently and could not imagine what had happened to cause a rooster to crow in such a weak and pathetic way. Naturally, I thought one of them had missed the pen deadline, spent the night without protection and a predator had injured him. I did not even want to look outside. I was certain I would find Evil or Junior with a bloody and damaged neck.

The pathetic crowing was too much and of course I had to look. One of the Weird Sisters was at the foot of the front porch steps. She had missed lock down the night before. She would attempt to crow like a rooster, and then watch the front door. I spent a minute or two watching and it was amazing. Of course, I can not be 100% certain of what she thought she was doing, but it looked exactly like she was attempting to call me to the front door - so I would feed her breakfast.

Apparently, when the roosters crow in the morning and I think it is simply because that is what roosters do, this little hen equates their boy noise with me coming through the front door and scattering feed.

How smart is that?

One of the smart Weird Sisters, strutting her stuff.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Deal Breakers

In a conversation with my daughter some days ago, I was reminded of something almost lost to the fog of faulty memory and the passage of time. When I was still dating, in the Dark Ages, some men did things that were absolute "deal breakers". Poor guys. They never had a clue.

The worst dating deal breaker, ever, was committed by one of my Harley riding beaus. We were going to spend the day in Kansas City. I was eagerly looking forward to it and had dressed carefully in my best jeans. I had shined my Harley boots, braided my hair, and donned my newest Harley t-shirt. It was the first year Harley sold gray t-shirts, and they were so cool that I bought two - a sleeveless one and a regular t-shirt.

When my dashing suitor showed up and saw that I was wearing one of the new gray T's, he wanted for us to wear matching gray t-shirts. Ouch. It was a deal breaker. But, I really liked the guy and did not want to hurt his feelings.

He went to retrieve his matching sleeveless gray shirt from his saddle bags. I simply could not be seen in public wearing matching t-shirts. It is perfectly fine for other couples to wear matching clothing, but it is not fine for any couple of which I am one half. It is just too embarrassing.

I compromised and changed into my other gray shirt. (Surely he had no more spare t-shirts in the saddle bags?) We would be similar but not identical. I was hoping in my heart he would read this critical situation and be happy with similar. But, no. He changed his shirt again to match mine. So. I had to go, then. In matching shirts. 5'1" me and 6'5" him.

In matching shirts.

To Kansas City for the entire day.

In matching shirts.

Deal breaker. All that he could possibly hope for after that day was "friends" status and nothing could change it.

Do not think for a moment I am unaware of the irony that we both had the two new gray T's in our respective sizes, or that my shallowness, even to this day, does not concern me. But, you can not choose what constitutes a deal breaker in dating. It is hardwired.

Another man had his own inexplicable deal breaker behavior. I met him while riding to my local watering hole for a few games of pool one sunny afternoon. Two guys riding a Kawasaki, or a Yamaha, or some such foolish machine, were broken down on the side of the road. The first commandment of motorcycling is to never ride past another stranded biker. In the days before cell phones, the least you could do was offer to call someone for them.

I stopped to see if there was anything I could do to help. The bike's owner was a very handsome guy my age. He introduced himself and introduced his cousin. The cousin was a total loser. He was wearing polyester pants (in a deal breaker category all their own). The cousin had been wearing a white sweater around his waist but it had become caught in the rear chain causing the chain to roll off the back sprocket. I could clearly see it could be remedied right there, and then perhaps Mr. Handsome Dreamboat and his dorky cousin would want to ride to the bar with me.

I pulled the rest of the sweater out of the chain while Handsome Dreamboat and his cousin manhandled the bike. I placed as much of the chain back on the sprocket as I could and had them roll the bike forward. That chain slipped right back on the sprocket. And yes, they did come to the bar with me. Because they were not riding a Harley, and because it was two guys on one bike, they were convinced they were riding to a certain beating at the "biker bar". I assured them there would be no beatings, but those two guys made me laugh.

Mr. Handsome Dreamboat could have been a true contender, even though he did not ride a Harley, and even though he was only a few inches taller than me. For one thing, he was so darned handsome. Really handsome. He was wearing nice jeans and good leather boots, too.

I admire a man so secure in his masculinity that he is not afraid to haul his full grown, dumb ass, sweater-wearing male cousin around on the back of his motorcycle. Even though he was convinced he was heading into a brutal beating at the biker bar, Handsome Dreamboat came anyway. (Maybe he thought the cousin could help him in the fight, but those polyester pants would have been a huge liability had a smack down actually occurred.)

We played a few games of pool and had a nice time talking. I learned that Handsome Dreamboat owned his own business and that he was divorced.  It was evident that the divorce had deeply hurt him.  They did not stay long but before he left, Handsome Dreamboat asked if I would like go out with him sometime. He quickly added "I know you would never go out with me." At first I thought he was joking but he looked surprised when I said "Sure, I will go out with you." I gave him my number but I did not think he would ever call. Who wants to date a woman who rides her own Harley and hangs out in biker bars? But he did call me, and we set a date for the following weekend. He sent a dozen red roses to me that week. I had found my soul mate I was certain.

The night of our date, I dressed carefully and paid special attention to my makeup. I did not want to look anything like a "biker chick" when he knocked on my door that night. I was nervously waiting for him. When he pulled up in a brand new truck, I practically swooned.  Here was a man of means. (So, he could afford those roses!) When I opened the door for the man of my dreams, he just stood there. He never took a single step into my house. He was on time, smelling of soap and aftershave, in expensive leather boots and a nice western shirt, and his black hair had been carefully combed. He just shook his head and said, very sadly, "There is no way you would date a guy like me." He turned around and left me standing in the doorway. It was the shortest romance, date, and break up in the history of the world. He took himself out of the game before he ever committed a deal breaker!

What a guy.

The very first deal breaker I ever encountered was at church camp. And it is true, the first cut is the deepest. The boy I genuinely liked only had eyes for my tent mate. We were all twelve years old so this potential problem was easily resolved by his tent mate and me becoming a "couple". Everyone was happy and no one was left out. (Too bad romance can not remain that simple throughout life!)

The big event was the bonfire at the end of the week. Somehow, EVERYONE knew that the night of the bonfire, boys and girls would get the chance to hold hands! I was not certain how much I liked Heath the second-stringer but I was sure I liked him enough to hold hands after the bonfire. It was all my tent mate and I talked about after the lights were out at night.

The big day finally arrived and all the campers were excited about the grand finale to the week of camping, canoeing and bible study. Holding hands in the dark as we walked away from the light of the bonfire back to our tents was The Reason to go to church camp in the first place.

We hurriedly ate supper in the big mess hall, finished up all the boring details, and finally, at long last, everyone gathered around the bonfire for singing and stories. Afterward, my tentmate and my first choice of all the boys at church camp were ahead of us on path, and I could see they were already holding hands. There was not a lot of time for this activity and for some reason Heath was not taking my hand even though I kept "accidentally" bumping his hand with mine. Time was getting short and we were not that far from the girl's tents where we would have to part. I decided to go for it and boldly took his hand in mine. He was reluctant to even open his fingers but I would not be denied my first chance to hold hands with a boy.  It only took a second to discover why Heath did not want to hold hands. He had picked his nose and the snot was still in his hand. It was the very first Deal Breaker, and it was a whopper.  Epic fail, in fact!