Saturday, July 30, 2011

When Things Go To Hell In a Hand Basket...

My Ford Ranger 4 wheel drive truck has faithfully carried me over 238,000 miles since I purchased it new in 2001. That is the average distance from the earth to the moon. The first year, my son and I drove to the Medicine Wheel in Wyoming. We met my adopted sister, my nephew, and another friend in the Big Horn mountains. We camped the night before my sister held a Pipe ceremony in the Wheel. People from all over the world were there on the mountain for the summer solstice. Needing a fourth woman for her ceremony, my sister asked one of the women we met to participate. Afterward, I gave my tobacco bag to the woman. She was leaving for India as soon as she came down the mountain, and I have often thought of my tobacco pouch traveling the world in the company of that extraordinary woman.

My son and I later went to Bear Butte in South Dakota. From high on the Butte, I watched my 15 year old son drive the truck down the steep hill to wait for me. I held my breath as he carefully navigated the winding, narrow road. He also drove it up the hill to pick me up. I think he was as relieved as I was when I got behind the wheel again. He did a fine job, though. I knew he would.

I have driven thousands of miles taking my son to football practice, baseball practice, basketball practice, track practice, and all of his games located across several counties for the seven years he played school sports. Twice he went to State for track and I drove that truck to watch him compete as one of the best of Kansas high school athletes. His basketball team went to State his senior year, and I drove the truck to all three of those State games as his team worked their way through the brackets to the championship game.

I drove the truck to visit my mother. My son and I drove it away from the hospital the day she died. I have driven that truck to many funerals, and spent many hours remembering those who died as I grieved in the privacy of the long miles coming home.

I moved my son to college, his things packed safely in the bed of the truck, then cried all the way home - some tears of relief that he and I made it that far, but mostly for the part of our lives that had come to a close. He had flown the nest and that boy would never be back. A man I would hardly know would visit in the future.

I have picked up and dropped off my daughter at the international airport during her world travels. Her well-traveled cats have often been in my truck, including a 3 am drive to KCI to ship them to her in Hawaii.

We have crammed a lot of people into the cab of that truck, including my son's girlfriend and three of her friends for a tournament my son was competing in. All four teenagers talked at once and nonstop, all the way there and all the way back, while continually texting. I was amazed at their energy and their adroit multitasking brains! We were packed in like sardines but they did not seem to notice and they certainly did not mind. They were such good kids. I enjoyed that trip a lot.

Now the only time we cram into the cab is for garbage runs to the landfill in Pott. County. I drive 40 miles round trip once every six weeks, haul my garbage and my daughter's, and spend $6 at the gate. Compare that to more than $50 apiece for trash pick up once a month! My daughter and her beau and I cram into the cab. We all love taking the trash run. I do not understand why, but it is always fun and no one wants to miss it.

I have put the most miles on the truck driving it to and from work, listening to my favorite music and thinking. Sometimes I worry, but most often I contemplate the meaning of my life as the miles roll away.

It has been a very good truck. The only repairs it has ever needed have been caused directly and indirectly by rodents chewing the wiring. I cannot guess how many tires have been sacrificed in the ten years I have traveled the flint rock county roads - dozens. (That is what Road Hazard Insurance is for, baby!) But, like all things, the little red truck is beginning to fall apart. Stuff has stopped working. Broke. Quit. No emergency brake. The fog lights do not turn on. The tailgate is permanently closed because the handle broke entirely off. The air conditioning gave out this summer just before the Kansas summer turned into the desert hell winds of the Sahara. Friday was the final straw: the driver's outside door handle broke. I have to crawl in from the passenger side, open the door, then walk back to the driver's side to haul my old creaking self behind the wheel.

I have spent over ten years on a trip to the moon without ever leaving the pavement - all of it in climate controlled comfort, and most of that time in the company of Bob Dylan and ghosts. I have hauled hundreds of pounds of animal feed, hay, dog food, groceries, furniture, trash, horse manure - even the gate to Ginger's pasture. Without fail, that truck has started each and every time I have turned the key, and I have gone wherever I needed to go. Often, I have marveled at the sophisticated engineering and world class manufacturing that produced such dependable personal transportation.

Ol' Red will not be traded away. She will remain the trusty farm truck and my sure-fire transportation to work in the winter. Soon, I must buy another car - something with much better gas mileage and ice cold air conditioning. Something brand new from those Ford engineers and highly trained American union auto workers. I cannot say I am looking forward to it. No matter what, there will be no football games, no Medicine Wheel, no sister, no teenagers, no handsome high school boy, no ghosts riding along in the new vehicle. It will have to be filled with unexpected and unknown spirits over the miles and into time.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Experts Agree: It Is HOT

This is not a good time to be fat and out of shape. As soon as the sun is above the horizon, the heat is instantly unbearable. The veterinarian arrived early Saturday morning to give Ginger this year's immunizations. With no exertion on my part, sweat was literally dripping off my face like rain drops falling onto my arms. I looked at Ginger and cackled, "I'm melting, melting! What a world, what a world..."

That's what the Wicked Witch of the West said when Dorothy killed her with a bucket of water in the Wizard of Oz. Ginger rubbed her head on my shoulder, clearly not fully appreciating my performance.

So far the effects of the extreme heat are not noticeable on the prairie except for the water levels in the farm ponds visibly dropping each day. Everything remains green and beautiful yet, giving the illusion that nothing is amiss with our weather patterns or that the whole world is experiencing climate change.

Without air conditioning available in the truck, I drive fast with the windows down. Much to my daughter's amusement, I now wear a baseball cap in order to keep my hair from blowing around in my face and becoming hopelessly tangled whenever I have to drive somewhere.

It is good the young me could not look into the future to see the old me. I would have never survived the hard times for such a future.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Bitching About Summer

I simply cannot think of a better title for this post. It is July - in Kansas - and it is so hot and humid that doing anything outdoors is cruel and unusual punishment. The air conditioner in my truck stopped functioning. I have to drive everywhere with the windows down. I do not arrive anywhere looking good nor do I arrive in a good mood. In fact, I look eccentric, crazy. I suspect I look like a fat homeless woman off her medication. My hair sifts full of gravel dust, so you know, wherever I go I look absolutely fabulous.

Then there is the chiggers. Those evil bastards get through the best defense. It only takes two or three to make you scratch yourself in public. You can imagine how it looks to be old, hot, sweaty, wild haired and scratching yourself. I simply cannot imagine why no one has asked me for a date.

There is some good news. The barn is full of newly baled hay for Ms. Ginger the Wonder Horse to eat this winter when it is blowing ice and snow out of Nebraska - when it is 15 degrees and I am happy again.

The Flint Hills are verdant and fragrant beneath the blazing sun ripening the summer's bounty of tall grasses, wild flowers, fattening calves, and crops. I measure the passing summer days in the rising corn stalks in the neighbor's fields. Lightning bugs drift magically through the hot black nights. I would love to take midnight walks but the fear of rattlesnakes keeps me in. I save night wandering for the winter.

Thunder in the long night is comforting as a heart beat from the west. Lightning spectacularly adorns the sky in blasting ephemeral patterns and blesses these summer months with living beauty.

Whenever my new house is built - if ever - I will spend the summer nights sleeping in a screened porch on all but the most unbearably hot and humid nights. I expect that will improve my disposition considerably but it will not stop me from bitching. It is the one area I qualify as an expert.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Vampire Addicts

Last Sunday the fourth season of True Blood premiered on HBO. Last year the story line was greatly enhanced by the most villainous and campy vampire of all: Russel Edgington, Vampire King of Mississippi. The character (and Denis O'Hare's A-game acting) greatly improved the whole season for me.

As from the first season, the best quotes of the night are soon posted on fan sites online immediately following the program Sunday night. Our best quote of the season premier was the 2800 year old Russel's bravado and sneering as Bill Compton and Eric Northman were burying him wrapped in silver beneath tons of concrete: "A hundred years? That's nothing to me. That's a nap!"

It is on again tonight at 8 pm local time and we can hardly wait for our next fix.

Watch Facebook light up afterward with everyone's favorite quote!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Bicycle Seats

Yesterday I went with my daughter to the acupuncturist located in the town where my son lives. We were able to meet him after the appointment to enjoy a few hours of quality family time, just the three of us.

My son has an expensive sport bike he rides hell-bent for leather on the rugged trails at the local reservoir. All this modern technology but no one has developed a bicycle tire that does not go flat at the slightest strain. On the trip to the local bicycle shop we discovered a serious bicycle event taking place downtown during the 101 degree weather. Many physically fit people of all ages were coming into the shop needing bike parts, adjustments, tweaks. I enviously admired their fit bodies as I waited for my kids to wander through the large store. I had one thing in common with all of those physically fit biker types: sweating! Everyone in the great state of Kansas was sweating yesterday.

My people-watching was rewarded when a young woman wheeled her bicycle in. She was dressed in a stretchy white athletic leotard-type outfit. She had a dirty scuff on her left shoulder that I thought meant a wreck or skid on the pavement. The girl was young and attractive and in any other clothing I am sure she was a knock-out. In the flimsy sweaty white leotard, her ample derriere was most certainly the inspiration for the lyrics "fat bottomed girls you make the rockin' world go 'round." She inadvertently gave me another reason to not bicycle for fitness because, clearly, some rear-ends are immune to the healthy effects of cycling. My own rear end would courageously and heroically resist - even should I find a bicycle seat large enough.

Then... her companion walked in... wearing the same stretchy white athletic leotard-type outfit with matching lettering and sponsorship symbols. Time slowed as he wheeled his bike past, oblivious to the old fat woman sitting off to the side. Lord, thank you for the stretchy white athletic leotard-type outfits young men wear when riding expensive bicycles.

All eyes in the place swiveled from the young lady's hypnotic jiggling to the young man. I looked around the room and every eye was upon him. The men were clearly wishing they could wear a white leotard as well and therefore be in the company of a bicycling partner as attractive as the young lady. The women (and likely a guy or two) were just wishing. My kids came around the corner right then and we left the shop. That place certainly had a variety of bicycle seats.