Wednesday, February 27, 2013

An ass in the mountains

     They say there’s one in every crowd, and yesterday I guess I confirmed it.
     With Shirle down in Florida visiting friends and family, my daily routine has been turned upside down.  Yes, I still get up early and work late, but with the addition of the household chores normally tended to by my loving (well, sometimes!) wife, plus the demands of two very needy dogs who require walks, food and attention, my work schedule is in constant disruption. 
     My property on the side of this mountain is not fenced in or dog friendly.  Our Betsy is well trained and not in need of a lot of attention when it’s time for her potty breaks, but Sebastian is still learning.  I have chased him up and down these steep grades twice, and I am not interested in a third attempt, so Sebastian must go out on a leash.
     Since I have yet to finish installing the garage door opener, my truck sits outside near the tiny level area that the dogs use.  Sebastian, who has recently learned of the canine version of ecstasy, a car ride, now frequently disregards his metabolism’s calling, opting instead to beg at the backdoor of my Explorer.  Partially to satisfy his insatiable desire, and partially because I don’t want the hassle of catching him and forcing him into his kennel, Sebastian and Betsy have been going on my daily trips down the mountain to the mailbox.
     Yesterday as I forged the tiny creek that crosses the entrance to our private road up the mountain, the dogs started going crazy.  I knew it wasn’t the herd of cows in the adjacent pasture, those bovines are old news; and it didn’t appear as though they were answering the Rottweiler who always greets us from his yard high above the mailbox station; the watchdog was uncharacteristically quiet.  It wasn’t until I got out of the truck that I caught sight of the reason for the seemingly vicious attack dog’s stunned silence as well as the chaotic yammering of my own pseudo ferocious companions.
     Yes, even here in the Bible belt, even in the rural backwoods of the Smoky Mountains, even amongst the friendliest people in the world (not counting the ones from Deliverance), you never know when you’re going to run into a big ass (no, not Ned Beatty).  Now, in case you suspect I misidentified this stranger, I have to say I have lived around these animals all my life.  Believe me; I know the difference between most things and a true jackass.  This was, unquestionably, not a horse or a mule, it was a very, very large donkey.
He (my gender assumption) apparently escaped the farm hidden behind the trees from which I enjoy the relaxed sounds of farm life.  From my aerie’s front deck, I often hear the roosters, turkeys, cows, horses, and yes, the occasional bray of this misbehaving Equus asinus
     Perplexed with how to handle a six-foot tall donkey, without a bridle to lead him, with two noisy dogs in the back seat, and with no idea where exactly he was supposed to be corralled, the long-eared truant took pity on me and began a slow amble up a rutted trail in the direction of the hillside farm.  Moments later to my relief, I saw the green F-150 that is also garaged somewhere up that lane, approach with the distraught owner searching for his missing Jack.
     I love my rural mountain life, even though I still occasionally run into a true jackass.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Double-duty chores

    It’s been a fun few days here in the Smokies.  I’m acting as sole caregiver and puppy-sitter while Shirle visits with her daughters and grandchildren down in the Sunshine State.
    In the years we’ve been living in the mountains, I’ve grown quite used to these periods of solitude and double-duty chores.  I still wince a little at each hint of a need for her “babies,” but it’s futile to fight the inevitable; I just have to muster the extra time and my seldom used talents to run the household without the all-essential spousal assistance.
Bubba a/k/a Baxter
     Unfortunately, this is my first solo since Baxter, our beloved Cavalier, passed away.  The void he left has been partially filled by a new puppy, Sebastian, and although the little guy is trying real hard, he hasn’t yet replaced my “Bubba.”
    Sebastian is a mixed breed terror (oops, I mean terrier), who was not house-broken when we rescued him.  He did catch on quickly by Shirle and me acting as his biological time clock.  We “broke” him by timed, routine escorts outside and rewarding each success with treats and jubilant atta-boys.  
    These potty excursions are often interrupted with visits from White Dog and Angel, a male shepherd and a female whippet that live in the neighborhood.  Sebastian reacts to these overly friendly dogs with equal parts of excitement, jealous anger and Napoleonic challenges.  Working with gentle leash tugs, verbal commands and the occasional finger spank on the nose, he is learning his social skills and is now anxious (in a good way) for his “friends” to come visit.  (I have to tell you that while I was writing that paragraph, there was a noise at the backdoor; it was Angel wanting to come in and play.)
    Sebastian is experimenting with signals; he's got a bunch of them.  Typical of his breed, he tends to be very vocal and try as we will to understand, he keeps changing which sound means which need.  He has the typical pathetic whine (which originally meant, “I don’t want to get spanked again, so you better take me out”),  but he also uses a whimpering cry, a musical growl, a sassy yap, a snort at the door, and the totally-adorable River Dance, where he kicks his hind feet like an Irish dancer.
    The problem is his needs range from “pee-pee,” to “poo-poo,” to I want to go see if my friends are outside, to I want to sit in the sunshine, to I want to go outside for no apparent reason, to can you play with me daddy, and to “I’m bored watching you work, so I am going to drive you insane.”  He knows how to get our attention, but he has yet to settle on a definitive “this” means “that.”  There’s no way I can risk ignoring him, remember, he is only recently house-broken, so I spend half my day bookmarking my work, putting on a coat, getting him on a leash (I can’t trust him not to run away), and taking him downstairs and outside.  Unfortunately, I never know if it’s for “business” or pleasure. 
    Lately, on his hourly sojourns, he’s been sniffing around the running boards of my truck and standing on his hind feet attempting look inside.  He remembers that his mommy comes and goes in that truck, and he not sure she’s not in there waiting to get out and kiss him.
    To convince him that I really haven’t hidden Mommy’s body under the back seat…                     Sorry, I lost my train of thought. 
    Oh yeah, to satisfy his curiosity, I have been taking him on my daily trip down the mountain to the mailbox and bank.  He’s no dummy, I am sure he’s adding, “Can we go for a ride?” to his rotating list of signals.
19-year-old Hannah

    But life goes on in the mountains, and Sebastian, and Betsy, and Hannah, and me will survive this mommy-less interlude; I just can’t predict how much work will get done.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Snow + Mountains + Floridians = Panic

   Ah, a winter's day in the Smoky Mountains.  Our daughter and her partner are visiting from the Sunshine State.  They still live down there because they refused to come with us the night we scaled the fence and escaped.  Susan's son and our grandson Noah came along for the visit with the exuberant desire to see real snow for the first time.
   The weather graciously complied with Noah's wishes and snow is in the forecast.  The dilemma is that Susan and Lisa want to spend all day and night Saturday in nearby Asheville, leaving us some valuable time with Noah.  That may not sound like a dilemma unless you remember my mention of our five-story driveway and home perched on the side of a mountain.  These flatlanders panicked the first, second, and third time they negotiated the steep grade up to this house, and although they love the view, they just can't understand our preference for this kind of elevation.  
   This coming "storm" is one of those snow events that just does not allow an accurate prediction.  With the terrain here and to our northwest, the precipitation will break and split and then reform again.  Some places will get significant accumulations, while just miles away it will be dry.  It really will depend on the fortuity of your homestead.  Those of us with a few years experience don't fear the 24/7 weather warnings.  It is only snow!
   Well, these Floridians who abide year-round humidity and dodge the yearly tropical storms, are scared to the point of humor over, "Will we be able to get down?" and "How will we ever get back up?"  We who live here know that snowfall is always a short-term event, and if you can't get down or up a mountain you just wait a few hours and it will clear.
    But with jobs and school and their prospering business, Tide the Knot, they can't fathom the idea of slowing their pace and letting a little time elapse.  Waiting is just not an option they wish to consider.
    This winter we have had visits from three different parties still imprisoned on the great retirement peninsula and a couple from Hawaii; this is the first "inclement" weather that threatened our warm weather friends.  Hey, it's February in the mountains!  We really do have a winter, but it's livable, beautiful, relaxed, and fun.  We chose the Waynesville area because we love it.  If you don't like winter, there are three other seasons you can visit.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Are you ready for a good Valentine's Day whipping?

   Well, this is a bit late (as usual), but this time you can blame my sister.  She is apparently testing me to see how much work she can pile on without it becoming fatal.  Little does she know, when she overloads me with work, I just forego all those other non-essential tasks in my day, like writing posts, doing my invoicing, eating and sleeping.  Ha!  The joke’s on her.
   I’m sure everyone realizes that Thursday is Valentine’s Day (far more important than the birthday of President Lincoln on Tuesday or Washington next Friday).  Yes, it’s Valentine’s Day, time for naked men to run through the streets whipping women with lashes cut from freshly killed goats.  What?  You don’t celebrate it Roman style?  Come on, flogging your sweetheart has got to be better, certainly more satisfying, than buying her chocolates and roses.
   Seriously, that was the way Romans celebrated well into the fifth century.  It was a rite of purification and fertility.  Had something to do with Lupa, the female wolf that suckled Romulus and Remus, the orphan brothers who founded Rome.  I’m still a little lost how flagellating young women and boys suckling on a wolf’s teat has anything to fertility; it just doesn’t sound like it could end up with intimate romance.
   But the holiday has evolved into an iconic celebration of love, sex and sappy greeting cards.  You might wonder just who is at fault for those inane poems that cost five bucks and end up in the trash three days later.  Well, there is some uncertainty over just who was Saint Valentine.  The three leading candidates are all holy men named Valentine from the second century and all were beheaded, so don’t lose your head over love.  The most cited “Saint” was a priest who performed secret nuptials for lovers prohibited from marriage.  He was supposedly imprisoned where he fell in love with the warden’s daughter.  On the day of his execution, he wrote her a letter and signed it, “From your Valentine.”
   Most historians, however, credit Bonne d’Armagnac, the would-be founder of Hallmark, with penning the first true Valentine poem.  He was a French nobleman, Duke Charles of Orleans, and was captured by those fun-loving Brits and tossed into the Tower of London where he languished for twenty-five years.  In his isolation and forced celibacy, he wrote his wife a long rambling, (and rhyming) love poem and used that word, it started: "Je suis déjà d'amour tanné. Ma très douce Valentinée." (I am already sick with love, My very gentle Valentine).  By-the-way, that poetry crap must have worked; she waited for him.  Well, she tried to wait for him; she passed away before Bonne was released and made his way back to France, no word on just how chaste she remained in his absence.
   So don’t forget to buy a poetic card (I found out the hard way not to use that email kind), and enjoy the flogging whichever end you’re on.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl Monday

   Happy Super Bowl Monday!  
   There’s a movement to make this day a national holiday. I guess too many worker ants are either not showing up at their jobs, or they’re trying to perform their tasks hung over.
   Super Bowl Monday would be an all-American holiday, wouldn’t it?  I mean no other country plays “American” football.  Sure, there’s a Canadian League, but aren’t they actually just Americans who tip poorly?  This time of year about half the population of Florida hails from those unofficial northern states.
   This holiday thing isn't a novel idea.  We've had a national hangover recovery day for years on January 1st.  Think about it, there is no other reason to celebrate New Year’s Day.  If it weren't for the hoards of normally sober, sane, mature, intelligent people acting like, well you've seen them (heck, you're probably one of them).  If it weren't for them, we would all start the business year one day earlier.
   All in all, I’m not sure a new holiday is such a good idea.  Obviously, I have to work today, and I would have to work even if it was a “day off,” but we have plenty of sanctioned lazy days already.  Plus, look how long and hard it was to get Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. his holiday (so what if he wasn't a Hall of Fame running back), if he isn't an MVP, then who is?
   Super Bowl Monday?  We took away Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays and lumped them together with Chester A. Arthur and James K. Polk and call it President's Day.  We crossed out Armistice Day, Armed Forces Day, Patriots Day, Pearl Harbor Day, American Indian Day and even Confederate Memorial Day; and let’s not even discuss The Bill of Rights Day (remember the day we all got to shoot off our mouths AND shoot off our guns).  We used to celebrate Aviation Day, Maritime Day, Pioneer Day, Citizenship Day, and who could forget the original women’s liberation movement on Sadie Hawkin's Day.  There was even a holiday called United Nations Day; okay, so maybe that one deserves to be omitted.  Really we've had a bunch of very prominent American celebrations downsized and outsourced: Flag Day, Arbor Day, Valentine's Day, do we get off?  No! 
   So I say, swallow some aspirin with a glass of tomato juice, bitters and Tobasco Sauce, and get to work America.  Beyonce and the Budweiser ads (and that weird Go Daddy thing) did their thing.  Twenty-two men adorned their faces with war paint and spent a couple of hours trying carry or prevent the carry of a poorly taxidermied pig 300 feet to break an imaginary plane while billions of chicken wings were washed down with gallons of beer.  It's over; somebody won, somebody lost, and it's Monday morning.  Think of it this way, you only have about two-and-a-half months to save up your contribution to our national debt.  
   April 15th, now THAT should be a holiday!