Unbagging the Cats 1

Unbagging the Cats 1

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Parched and Broiling

The weather.

I have not seen conditions such as these in all my born days. And I am quite long-toothed. No spring chicken. Born way past yesterday. The ground is baking, and somebody did not read the recipe. Nobody is going to want a piece of this.

Genius has been robbed of at least $200 in lawn-mowing money this month. Because there is no lawn mowing when there is no lawn growing. While I have a teeny-tiny bit of sympathy for Genius, I have much more for those people who depend on the sale of fireworks each summer for a significant chunk of their income. Nobody is buying. Fireworks cannot be set off in these conditions. And who wants to browse under a heat-holding tent to spend money on incendiary bombs that cannot be detonated? Those pitiful cash-register tenders have my condolences. Especially those set up on blacktop parking lots. Or the ones working out of semi trailers.

How HOT is it?

*Hotter than a two-dollar pistol, according to George "No Show" Jones

*Hotter than a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout, according to Johnny and June Carter Cash

*Hotter than a hoochie coochie, according to Alan Jackson

*Hotter than Mojave in My Heart, according to Iris DeMent

 How DRY is it?

*Drier than a Survivor contestant's mouth before the tribe gets fire.

*Drier than a counter wiped by Madge, aka Rhoda Morgenstern's mom, with Bounty, the quicker picker-upper.

*Drier than a joke by Steven Wright. Such as: "Anyone who believes in telekinesis...raise my hand."

*Drier than the unmoisturized elbow of a snake crawling across the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Ooh Boys (It's Hot). So singeth the Ozark Mountain Daredevils. And those good ol' Missouri boys should know.

Friday, June 29, 2012

This Off-the-Grid Thing Ain't All It's Cracked Up to Be

And...we're back!

No. That's not Kramer welcoming you back to the Merv Griffin Show set that he used to furnish his apartment. You won't find George with the squirrel he ran over and paid the medical bills for, nor Jerry discussing how he drugged his current date in order to play with her collection of 1960s toys. It's just me. Val. Back from her sojourn in the land of the unelectric.

Whew! I haven't been that put-out since the Great Icepocalypse of Ought Six. Thankfully, my powerlessness this time was limited to less than seven hours. Instead of five days. In case you think I'm needlessly ramping up my outrage over my electrical outage, let me assure you that I am not. We are an all-electric household. So any and all semblance of civilization grinds to a halt. No light, no AC/heat, no fridge, no oven, no microwave, no fan, no laundry, no water, no toilet-flushing, no showers, no cell-phone charging, no regular phone, no garage-door opening without a strapping son to climb onto the side of the large SUV and grab the cord that dangles above. NO COMPUTER! Unless you count my laptop until the battery runs out. And you saw how that turned out, yesterday.

We managed to get the water left in the pipes. But no pumping from the well. What? You think its got a bucket, like a cute little wishing well, or like that one where Nicole Kidman saw the crows flying and Inman walking back to her in Cold Mountain? Nope. It's a pipe down to the water table, with an electric pump. Sucks to be thirsty. Or one our pets. That's the first thing I commanded The Pony to do--fill up the water for the goats, chickens, and dogs, with the water left in the pipes and the hose. The cats were on their own. They prefer to drink from the fish pond or the swimming pool, anyway. And with our three toilets, we had about six flushes to play around with. There was plenty of light for reading if you didn't mind being hot. If you preferred to be cool, the basement was available, though dark.

Lunch was peanut butter and honey on ciabatta bread. Or spongy white bread if your name was Genius. The Pony had just charged his Kindle Fire while overseeing the goat herd as they grazed in the front yard. He had a bit of laptop battery remaining. And a charged phone. So he fared the best. I saved my laptop. Just in case. Because I needed to report the outage to Ameren, and to check on the estimated repair time. Genius said, "I'm using my laptop battery until it's dead!" He was blasting music as well. He's always been one to go all out.

The problem with my laptop is that in order to receive an internet signal, it has to perch precariously in front of the living room window. It has a Sprint connect card dealybobber. Genius has routed it to all the other computers.  That's all we can get. Can't get cable. Can't get Hughesnet. DISH was not feasible for whatever reason Genius determined. It's not like I can unplug that laptop and carry it around the house all willy-nilly, slurping up an internet signal. The boys both have phone plans for unlimited internet. But not me. And they have to wedge their phones on the windowsill at the front of the house to maintain a connection. Yeah. We might as well be pioneers relying on the Pony Express for information.

Hick has taught Genius how to shut off the power, and how to get the generator running, and which breakers he can turn on to keep the refrigerator going, and for lights and TV. However, the generator was not used all winter, and needed jumping from a car battery to get going, and we do not have a gasoline stockpile like we would in the winter...so the generator had to wait for Hick. And it still won't run the air conditioner.

It's time for this buttercup to toughen up. Or buy a bigger generator.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Do Not Forsake Me O My Electricity...

POWER OUTAGE! saving battery power

6:35 p.m. UPDATE
We have had about 10 minites of electricticy today. Ameran Trucks have heen driving by on our gravel road, parking at the end of our drivewya, workmen standing in the road talking to women i AMMUVE wlife out here so that I have to drive thourhg my dying frass to get on the road to go to town to B UY food becuaese HELLO i can't cook and whould not open the fridge because that lets heat in to start spoilage. I wouldn't wish six hours of p[owerlesslness on my worst enemy, or even grammar scoofflaws. Becaue, you see, it forsces me to ype on my upstairs laptop iwth battery power, not my beloved desktop, New Delly, in my dar, formerly cool, basement lair. And Shiba, the laptop, and I are not quite sympatico on the placement of the keys, after using that fraek of a keyboard that Genius hooked up to my New Delly.

Soory the you all must suffer through this. It's knndof like the letters i got from My mom in college, when she decided to type them. Who knew? She never had a lesson. But mine is sheer laziness in going back to correct my mistakes. Sometimes I hit th right keys and get on a roll. Sometimes ont. You should try it somjetime, stiiing on an end table in your fronnt gpictiruyre window. sun blazing through th e blingds, blinding you, sweating at 83 degrees and counint, hoping his most recent connection will hold out and not disappear in a whoof of dust. I'm afraid to fire up New Delly, as other bsemtn comptuers heva bene friend by these off againh on agaonin outages, even thoug ;ullgged into an expensidve surge strip.

My apologies. I have been stopping to drip water on my extremities so they willevaporate with th eceiling fan that is running courtesy of Hick's arrival home and firing up of the generator that is not poerwerful enough to run the AC. But we can have a light, the fridge, and TV, and a couple of computers.

We'll see what develops as the night wears on. This is the proce we pay for living in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of other nobodies. We're not exactly a top proiority when 47 homjes are out. Even though my brother in loaw the former mayolr works fo r Ameren. Fat lot of good that does me!

Ciao for now.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Perfectly Good Waste of James Carville

Guess who's back. Uh huh. You must be psychic. My arch nemesis, Genius. The war of wills is once again in effect. Critical boiling point was narrowly averted this morning as missiles were launched from couch and recliner.

"James Carville said..."

"I can't believe you were in the same room as James Carville! Breathing the same air! Molecules that were in James Carville might now be in you!"

"Yeah, well. I had a really good seat, too. On the second row."

"Did you take a picture? Get an autograph?"

"No. We weren't allowed."

"I can't believe you didn't even get a picture of James Carville!"

"He was actually the best speaker we heard all week. And before he talked, they showed a bunch of clips of him, and most of them were people impersonating him on Saturday Night Live. Did you know he called himself 'Old Snake-Head'?"

"So I've heard."

We chitchatted a bit about his Boys State adventure, then slid back into our regular routine. The one which involves Genius trying to manipulate me into doing things for him that he is perfectly capable of doing for himself. Most of it involving food.

"There's nothing to eat in this house."

"There's LOTS of food in this house."

"I'm going to make a sandwich."

"We're having big sandwiches for supper. There's all kinds of chicken in the freezer."

"I don't want chicken. I saw some french toast sticks. But that's not really lunch food."

"Make some french toast sticks."

"I need some bacon with them, but there's not any."

"There's bacon."

"Will you make some for me?"

"No. You can do it yourself."

"I don't know how to cook bacon!"

"Simple. Use the big skillet, on the big burner, on medium. Lay it in the pan. The fat will turn transparent, then start to lose the oil, then it's time to turn. Don't put the heat higher. It will spatter all over."

"That's too HARD!"

Genius went to rummage around the kitchen some more. Went to his room. Came back and plopped on the couch again. "I have to write a letter to send to one of my Boys State guys. We're all writing him, but he doesn't know. One of the guys got the address from his dad's Facebook."

"Hope he doesn't read his dad's Facebook."

"Eewww! Who would do THAT?"

"Apparently, not you. Are you telling me because you want me to mail it for you?"

"Yes. You're going to town anyway for a soda."

"Aren't you the one who refused to pick up a package at the post office for me yesterday?"

"I didn't go anywhere NEAR the post office!"

"The highway is within one mile of the post office! And that one day, you went to your friend's house right by the post office, and then brought your letters back home for me to mail the next day."

"Hey! It was dark. So I didn't mail them. Oh, well. You need to bring me lunch because I've got a live blog starting in a half hour."

"So you want me to cater to you so you can watch your webinar?"

"It's NOT a WEBINAR! Why do you always call it that?"

"I have a mental block with some things. That's one. Another one is that cult that thought God was picking them up on the back side of the comet so they killed themselves by drinking Kool-Aid or something so they would be ready. They all wore Nike shoes. But it wasn't Jim Jones."

"I KNOW who drank the Kool-Aid, and it wasn't them. But I can't think of their name, either. The comet was the Hale-Bopp. I'm looking it up."

"It was some kind of simple name. Two words. But I can never think of it. I can picture those bodies laying in their beds, waiting. Dead. But the news only showed the Nike shoes."

"Heaven's Gate! That's it. Heaven's Gate."

"Yeah. That's the one. What's your webinar about?"


"You are giving me a pain in my angel wing attachment area."

"I can't take this anymore! Help me!" Genius put a couch pillow over his face. Leaving his shirtless stomach and shorts-clad legs visible while he writhed in agony.

"You know you're laughing. Just because you put a pillow over your head doesn't mean I can't see the area-where-your-abs-should-be convulsing."

"Yeah, right. Maybe I'm having a seizure. You don't care!"

"Yes, I do. Cease that seizing!"

"Don't! I can't take this! And stop rubbing your knees! That sound is driving me crazy!"


Genius fled to his room. A half-hour later, I caught him making a sandwich. "I was going to offer to bring you food from town. But now I see you're making a sandwich. Which we will be having for supper, too."

"Go ahead and bring me something. This is only one sandwich." He grabbed a bag of Blazin' Hot Munchies and headed to his room.

It's days like this that make me wonder how he will survive once he finally escapes my apron strings. Can you believe it? Sitting right in front of James Carville and not even sneaking a phone picture? I have obviously failed in my child-rearing endeavor.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Thumping the Shark

Mid-morning, I like to wander out on the front porch and survey the kingdom that Hick built. I grab some stale bread or cereal, supper leftovers, and/or refrigerator refuse, and walk to the side of my wraparound porch that faces the goat pen and the barn. The minute I step out, the chickens flock to me. Some are so bold as to jump up on the porch. Others sway from foot to foot below, demanding a handout. I enjoy leaning over the rail, tossing treats, contemplating the day. Until my thoughts are rudely interrupted.

Cue the Jaws theme.

They always strike without warning. The pointy noses of Juno and Ann. Stabbing. Poking. Jabbing. Thigh, calf, knee. They are not particular. It's like an attack by a couple Great Whites. Only more playful. I imagine them ramming my soon-to-be carcass to-and-fro just under the ocean surface in a spirited game of cartilaginous fish Val-leyball. One moment I'm peacefully drifting in my tractor-tire inner-tube, bobbing in the sun, not a care in the world. And the next, I'm thrashing to escape the pointy snouts that threaten to rip the ample flesh from my osteoporitic old bones.

I suppose it's a herding instinct. Ann is, after all, a german shepherd. We haven't really figured out Juno yet. I'm betting on border collie/black lab. (Or borador, a new word I just learned from The Google when I looked up pictures of dogs that look like my Juno). Those canines like to come up behind me and poke away. Never in inappropriate places. They're true ladies.

When I toss snacks to the chickens, I have to provide for the pups. Especially Juno. She will stand behind me, or more often wedge her way between me and the porch rail, gazing up at me hopefully. NewMommygonnagiveJunosnack? I can see in her clear hazel eyes that's what she's thinking. I toss bits to her, mainly to keep her on the porch. But that's usually futile. She will leave a scrap of pork steak to jump off the porch and glide through the grass to scarf up the chicken treats. Dry white bread. Cinnamon. Toast. Crunch. Slaw. That's right. Juno will scatter the chickens to lap up expired slaw rather than sit on the porch and have meat. Crazy dog. Ann eats what's given her, then goes to another section of the porch to lay down.

If, by a miracle, I can keep Juno on the porch, which is most often accomplished by The Pony stroking her skull constantly, she still stays hyper. Many a time we toss her a scrap, and she whacks her head on the porch rail, or my leg, or the corner of the house. She's overeager, and inattentive to inanimate objects.

And heavens to Betsy, beware the moment we turn to walk back toward the door! Poor Juno thumped her noggin good on a wrought-iron chair the other day. I swear I heard it ring like a bell. She needs a very special helmet to protect her brains from scrambling. You'd think most of the sense has been knocked out of her already.

Maybe that's why she's so happy all the time.

From the internet, and not my dog, but...This is what she looks like, except with clear hazel eyes, longer ears, longer hair, and one tiny patch of white on her chest. But the smile is the same. I need to get a recent photo of my rescued daughter!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Call the Blah-Blah-Blahmbulance!

I have not been officially sworn in, but I like to think of myself as a member in good standing of the Grammar Police force. As such, I find it necessary to write a few citations for folks who have been playing fast and loose with the rules. The current statute which is violated most often is Ordinance Number 12-420: improper use of idioms in blog comments.

Submitted for your perusal, the following violations observed this week. And it's only Monday. 

No. An issue is not cut and dry. It is cut and dried. As in finished. Certain. Black or white. No gray areas. Absolute. No doubt about it. Definite. No room for error or misunderstanding. Done.

Perhaps you would say, "Stick a fork in him, he's done!" Saying something is cut and dry is akin to saying, "Stick a spoon in him, he's done." No. Improper.

What in tarnation is a beckon call? It ain't no booty call. Nor a courtesy call. Nor a second call, like when track and field athletes are being summoned to their participation area.

It should be beck and call. "Beck" being a shortening of "beckon," a gesture meaning to come here.

It is NOT, as suggested by our old friend Wikipedia:

* "Beck is a short term for "Becoming" (summoning someone to you as if by order) and call means to call out or demand."

What? Is the Statue of Liberty on strike? Refusing to hold that confounded torch? Did part of the angry mob decide that pitchforks are enough, and discard the flaming torches? Did Harry Potter drop a flashlight?

It should be not carrying the torch anymore. As in, not promoting a cause or maintaining a love of someone or something.


Um. Is somebody cornering the market on new wells? Making money off the thirst of others? Sucking in all the rain after a drought?

It should be opportunist of the first order. Meaning, coming before all others. Prime.

DO NOT refer to thefreedictionary.com, please. Because it seems to be promoting misinformation. It actually gives a definition of the phrase "of the first water." As in: 

* Fig. of the finest quality. This is a very fine pearl—a pearl of the first water. Tom is of the first water—a true gentleman. 
* (literary)  of the best or most extreme kind He is an artist of the first water. Her husband is a bully of the first water.
What's the deal? Are the youth of today turning into a bunch of Norm Crosbys? Can they not hear well because they've blown out their eardrums listening to loud music with earbuds? Or do they text and use autocorrect too much? Do they read too many texts of others using autocorrect?
I wash my hands of these scofflaws! I cannot do it alone. I need to enlist a multitude to help me in my war against the ungrammatically correct. I will be signing up new recruits in the basement of the Backroads City Hall annex next Tuesday at 6:00 p.m. Refreshments will be served. I need a volunteer to bring the icy on the cake.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

One Tomato, Two Tomato, Three Tomato, Four

Nothing delights me more than finding out somebody has a problem. Not because I'm cruel, and find joy in the misfortune of others. Ahem! What kind of person do you take me for? Besides one who also delights in using propositions to end sentences with.

I use the lemons of others to make my own lemonade! Take, for instance, Tammy's problem. She used her car to decompose some meat. No common compost heap for Tammy! She thinks outside the box. I wouldn't be surprised if she came up with a coffee table book about coffee tables. But I'm sure that's on the back burner while she tries to de-smellify her car. If she's looking for a scent to mask the dead beef odor, I suggest The Beach. Not the East River. The Beach.

Since I am really no help in solving Tammy's problem, I skedaddled to the kitchen for my lemonade juicer. No use letting a crisis go to waste. I can use this incident to enlighten you all on my own brush with an unpleasant odor of my own negligence. Thanks, Tammy, for the virtual piggyback ride upon your coattails.

In my misspent youth, I rented a house in Cuba, Missouri. That in itself is probably the biggest clue as to what is to come. Small towns are not known for their high-end rental property. Because I had just signed a teaching contract to the tune of $11,800 per year, I was in the market for an economical abode. Don't go thinking this was back in the days when gas was twenty cents a gallon and the Texaco man came out and pumped it while squeegeeing your windshield and checking the oil. No, this was smack dab in the middle of the Reagan years. I was not exactly a Rockefeller.

The price of my new rental cottage escapes me. But I know that it had four rooms. The kitchen was as big as the living room. I had a bedroom where I could hear the squirrels in the attic. And the bathroom was made from a little porch off the back of the house that slanted at a thirty-degree angle. But I was independent, baby! I had a front yard and a back yard. A driveway. I was the queen of my castle.

Every couple of weekends, I made it back to Backroads. My mother and my grandma made sure I returned with a bounty of foodstuffs to tide me over. Other weekends, I hit the road to visit friends in Springfield or Kansas City. My job kept me hoppin', because I was also a coach. So I didn't actually spend much time in my party palace, other than to lay my head at night.

Soon after I moved in, just as the school year and the volleyball season had gotten underway, which is mid-August in rural Missouri, my grandma gifted me with a cardboard flat of tomatoes from her garden. I love fresh tomatoes! Sliced with a sprinkling of salt, stuffed with some tuna fresh from the can, as a side for a fried pork chop, or on a hamburger with a slice of pickle...I was not about to let my tomato stash go to waste.

I did not have a kitchen table, because up to this point, I had been renting apartments, and the last one I lived in was furnished. So I saw no problem with eating my meals with plate perched on the arm of the couch while watching TV. My little kitchen had an old gas stove, a really old refrigerator with a pull-down latch kind of door handle, and an itty bitty countertop beside the sink that overlooked the grassless back yard. My flat of tomatoes had no place to call their own. You can't put fresh tomatoes in the fridge. Then they taste like storebought tomatoes. The counter was previously occupied by my dish drainer. Surely you didn't think I had a two-compartment sink! It was an old, old sink, probably old enough to be called a zinc. And even I knew better than to put my cardboard flat on top of the gas-burnered stove. Those things have pilot lights, you know.

My tomatoes had to reside on the floor of the kitchen. A floor that was carpeted in an unbecoming brown and tan pattern, with a splash of burnt orange. I would never have chosen carpeting for a kitchen floor, but then again, I would never have built a bathroom at a thirty-degree angle. Renters can't be choosers.

Off I went for the weekend, leaving my tomatoes to hold down the fort. Did you know that when tomatoes spoil, they liquify? And that the liquid seeps through cardboard, and through carpet, and insinuates itself into carpet padding and ancient wood? It does! And it has an odor all its own. Which takes many weeks to dissipate, no matter how often you wash your kitchen carpet with dishwashing liquid.

But it's not as bad as rotted meat.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I Can't Get No Roadway Traction

Anarchy has once again reared its disrespectful head in Backroads.

The structures beside our infrastructure are not safe. I might have mentioned how our big bridge has been under construction off and on since May. The MODOT grinders have been out in full force, but little else has been accomplished. The old pavement has been scraped away, but a new surface has yet to make an appearance. That means our lengthy bridge is groovy. And not in the psychedelic sixties sense.

The problem with grooves on the bridge deck is that traction is diminished. Traction results from friction. Friction is sorely lacking when surface area is decreased. So instead of my tires gripping the pavement, my tires grip alternating ridges in the pavement. Which is fine right now. But when the current drought ends, and I find myself dodging oncoming traffic on a rain-soaked roadway, there could be trouble. And we won't even worry yet about frost forming in the morning on this bridge.

MODOT marked both ends with large, diamond-shaped, glowing-orange, nylon signs after the last bridge-scraping. Not so important to me, because I drive over it every day, and know the situation. But imagine some poor sap just passing through, caught unawares by this groovy bridge, and the havoc that might ensue, should such a poor sap apply brakes while passing over the span.

My official road-trip photographer was a bit off his game today, but here is what he captured:

You will notice that the basic structure, and the flags waving to draw attention to the sign, are still there. It's the message part that's missing. The GROOVED PAVEMENT sign. Seriously. Are there people out there named GROOVED PAVEMENT? Why would anybody want that sign? Two of such signs? Because the one on the other end is missing, as well.

Pictures are not available, but across the road at the left of this photo was a car parked on the thin shoulder. And just behind where the photo was taken was a pickup truck in the ditch. The plot thickens. Were the perpetrators apprehended while in the act? If so, why were the signs not replaced? Did two vehicles spin out on the grooved pavement, funneled off the bridge by the guard rails? For sure, the perpetrators were lucky that the stop sign shooter was not target-practicing during the heist. Either the stop sign itself is also missing, or it's just out of the picture to the right. I was so discombobulated by the GROOVED PAVEMENT disappearance that I did not notice the stop sign.

Scofflaws are afoot in the heartland.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Val Has Been De-Boned

I feel unwitty, so unwitty...I feel unwitty, unpretty, ungaaaaay. I also feel unqualified to sing a selection from West Side Story.

My funny bone up and left me today. Packed up all his troubles in an old kit bag, unsmilingly, then dumped them out, gathered them into a red bandana, tied it to a hobo stick, and strode off down the driveway faster than that fiery little stomach toted his suitcase out of the Heartburn Hotel.

I don't know who he thinks he is, my funny bone. I've tried to humor him. But he refuses to pull his own weight. Who ever heard of Rowan's Laugh-In? The Smothers Brother? The One Stooge? The Kid in the Hall? The Not-Ready-For-Primetime Player? I can't shoulder the full responsibility of entertaining the masses day in and day out. I need my partner.

Now I sit here, stewing in my own juice, plotting revenge on F. Bone. I've a good mind to pinch him between two lawn chair arms. That oughta get him tingling. Twang him like a banjo string. We belong together. We do our best work when he's under my skin. He's nothing on his own.

Oh, he'll be back.

Without me, he's just another ulnar nerve.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Thinkin' of Them's Workin' Up My Appetite, Lookin' Forward to Four More Visual Delights.

My day has been filled with visual delights. I bemoan the fact that I am not a photographer.

Nine Mowers Mowing
On the way to town, I pass by one of the local prisons. This correctional facility has a procedure for mowing the grounds that I think of as gang mowing. They were out in full force this afternoon. The guard, in his brown uniform, on his green John Deere riding mower with the hand controls rather than a steering wheel, was out in front. Behind him, staggered like fighter jets in V formation, came eight inmates on their red generic mowers of the same type. They, however, were clad in prison gray and white, with white face masks like protective cups strapped over their nose/mouth area. We wouldn't want them to inhale dust while toiling in the fresh air, I suppose. Those mowers were flying! The colorful crew in motion looked like a Mario Kart video game.

Rooftop Surfing
I witnessed an older-model, dark-blue car with a black vinyl roof pull out of a Burger King parking lot. Perched over the driver's head, on the outside of the car, mind you, was a cup of soda. With a straw. The car rolled downhill on the lot, braked briefly, and made a right onto the road. The cup did not move. As the car accelerated to the thirty mile-per-hour speed limit, the cup fell backward. That's all. It did not roll. It did not leave the car roof. It lay at rest as the car continued. I lost sight of them before my light turned. Even though I followed that route myself, I never found the cup. Did the driver hear it topple, and reach up to reclaim his beverage? The pavement told no tales.

Turkey (sort of) in the Straw
Rounding the S-curve on my blacktop road home, I saw that a local cattle farmer had baled his hay field. The red tractor and pronged hay-comber (that's what I call it, anyway) had been in the bovine-vacated field yesterday. They were still present today, with the addition of many giant round hay bales. Perched on one was a regal black bird. It was bigger than a crow. Fuller. A turkey! Sitting right on top of the big bale. I hit the straight section of the road and stole another look at that magnificent specimen. It was a turkey buzzard. The rubbery red head gave him away.

Two Cats a-Snoozing
We have two male cats of the orange-striped variety. One is more orange, one is more tan. It's a subtle difference, unless you recognize them like your own family. They were nodding in the gray wrought-iron porch chair, intertwined with each other, eyelids mostly closed. They made a fluffy geometric pattern of light and dark stripes. Two heads, six legs, and one tail were on display.

I miss Genius and his fancy-schmancy camera.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Hick's Bright Idea

Hick has seen the light. And now I am forced to see it, too. Be careful what you specifically ask for.

Last night, Hick announced that after supper, he was making a trip to Lowe's to pick up a light bulb. Of course I asked him what he was talking about. Because he's not known for his intuitiveness. And I had only mentioned the darkness of my kitchen once. How the light fixture had three sockets, and only one bulb was burning.

Hick said he was going to pick up a light for outside, next to the pool. That's because it's necessary to have a light burning by the pool all night, illuminating the french doors that lead from our master sleeping chamber out onto the back porch, which overlooks the pool. Not that he would know. He of the quilt pulled over his face every night. A pool light, you see, is much more needed than a kitchen light, where the short-temper cook endeavors to keep all of her digits intact.

Upon being informed of my lack of kitchen foot-candles, Hick said, "Huh." Pretty much his standard response to anything I bring up. He went and got the step stool and took the cover off the kitchen light. "You have TWO bulbs burning." Indeed, I did. Two of those tiny twisty pig-tail lights, two of which are as bright as one regular bulb. They would be fine if I had six of them in my kitchen light fixture.

This morning, I noticed that I could see better in the kitchen. But barely. Because my retinas were blown out by the other good deed performed by Hick last night. Which was installing two big round bulbs over the bathroom mirror, where their predecessors had long been dead. The other six in that light strip were real dim bulbs compared to the new pair. I felt like I was on the surface of the sun. It was all I could do not to scream, "Bright light! Bright light!" like little Gizmo the Mogwai when Billy had to bandage a boo-boo on his noggin.

A kitchen counter is an area where bright light is welcomed. A strip above the bathroom sink that now makes Broadway, 42nd Street, and Times Square look like McDougal's cave after Tom and Becky ran out of candles is not. I don't need to see my morning face in the light of ten thousand suns.

I can see it all night long in the mirror beside the bed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Maureen O'Hara, James Carville, and Emily Litella

Genius is away at Missouri Boys State for eight whole days. So I am sorely lacking in material. However, in absentia, he supplied me with today's virtual stick to use in the poking of Hick. It's not so good as the stick proffered by the harpy in The Quiet Man, for John Wayne to use to beat the lovely lady, Maureen O'Hara. But it's serviceable.

I have been keeping up with Genius's exploits through the Boys State website. He has called twice, after 11:00 p.m., when lights out is supposed to be 10:30. I hope he is not arrested by his city law enforcement officials. Participants are banned from email and cell phone usage, except for miniscule time allotments. At least that's what the informational material said. But before he left, Genius told me about the scheduled guest speakers.

The only name I retained was James Carville. That's because I loooves me some James Carville! I find him particularly hilarious. And quite shrewd. So pardon me if I've forgotten all the other famous political speakers. Office-holders, perhaps, from our own fair state. Genius might as well have been telling our hyperactive pup, Juno, how to fly a 747. It didn't register.

When Hick returned to the house for supper, after his daily reunion with his goat and chicken brigade, I told him that last night, Genius saw James Carville. And my dear husband, who may or may not be challenged in the auditory department, replied, "Where, over by the chickens?"

SCREEEEEECH! That's the sound of a needle on an LP record, for those of you who have achieved a certain maturity. And the sound of squealing brakes on an out-of-contol Chevy Volt for those who have not. It ranks right up there with my all-time favorite non sequiturs. Like the following exchange from my college days, when the coach teaching the soccer class was late by about ten minutes. COACH: "Oh, I'm sorry. I was sweeping in my office." STUDENT: "Well, we're tired, too. But we were here on time." And that was WAY before Jerry Seinfeld even thought of having Marlee Matlin on his show to spy on George's ex-girlfriend.

Why in the world would Hick think that James Carville was over by our chicken pen? I'm sure James has much more important things to do. Like speaking at Missouri Boys State, for example. But it might explain those strange tiny eggs we found last week.

I had to get to the bottom of Hick's assumption. It's best to get right to the point with him. No pussy-footing around. No beating around the bush. No coming at it from an angle. No putting the cart before the horse. No hem-hawing around. A feat which I find quite difficult. So I simply said, "Why in the world would James Carville be over by our chicken pen?"

And Hick replied, "Oh. I thought you said you saw a big cardinal."

So for Mr. Emily "Hick" Litella, I politely say, "Never mind."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Again With the Conspiracies

I will be the first to admit that I am a suspicious person by nature. The world, after all, conspires against me. My life is teeming with conspiracies. Conspiracies swarm around me like fingerling fish at a hatchery swarm around a food pellet flicked into their watery pen. So of course I question the exchange that occurred today as I purchased my 44 oz. Diet Coke.

I think I purchased my daily dose of caffeinated colored water. I handed over cold, hard cash. And I left with my tasty elixir. But the transaction was fraught with inconsistency.

As I entered the convenience store, foam cup in hand, I detoured to walk by the counter. Waved my cup. "Just getting a refill." The old lady nodded. She was not the usual clerk, but was wearing their red shirt uniform. The regular gals are more rotund. Younger. I moved around the immense Natural Light structure to the soda fountain. I suppose they did not sell as much beer as anticipated over Father's Day weekend. That display was as high as an elephant's eye. Or at least as high as this elephant's shoulders. I clunked the minimal amount of ice into my recycled cup. Added the Diet Coke. Popped on a lid, And went to the counter to pay.

Old Lady and a younger clerk were having a conversation. Old Lady stepped over to the register. I waited for her to ring up my refill. She did not touch the register. She held out her hand, palm up. "It's a refill," I said. She nodded. And kept her hand out. I dumped my three quarters and five pennies into her palm. She closed her fingers. Didn't say thanks, Didn't ring it up. Didn't nod. Only turned to resume her conversation. "Okay. Thanks." I turned and headed out.

For all I know, Old Lady pocketed my money. I did my part. And made a mental note never to cash in lottery tickets in this establishment.

Let the surveillance cameras sort it out.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Backroads Ms. Manners Tells the Village to Lay Off

Dear Backroads Ms. Manners,

What is wrong with people? How can the species continue with so many individuals missing the common sense gene? 

Today I was behind a car in the McDonald's drive-thru line that had no back windshield. And in the back seat was a little girl at least four years old sucking on a pacifier like a real-life Maggie Simpson all hopped up on methamphetamines. She turned to stare at me suck-suck-suck over and over, nothing between us but the safety glass of my own Tahoe's windshield. You would think that family could save up their fast-food dollars to get a back windshield put into that car. And it don't cost nothin' to pry the pacifier out of your nearly-adult daughter's soon-to-be misshapen mouth.

Oh, but that was not the extent of my mind-blowing observations today, Ms. Manners! For the second time this week, I encountered a slim girl-child driving a John Deere Gator on a busy convenience store parking lot. WTF, Ms. Manners? Those vehicles are illegal on the roadways, even with adult drivers. So what kind of dad lets a six-year-old drive one across a mini mall, down through a commuter parking lot, across a road leading to an interstate-side motel, and onto a convenience store lot with a 12-pump gasoline bay?

My head is spinning. Please advise.

Sniffing Smelling Salts as I Type

Dear Sniffy,
What is wrong with people is a bad case of the ME-ME-MEs. The current crop of Homo sapiens are too busy living for their own pleasure to care for their young. The herd will be thinned as nature intends, eventually eliminating the line that is without the common sense gene.

Don't worry your sniffing little sniffer. Is it any skin off of your sniffer if a hayseed family carts its offspring around with no barrier between the young 'uns and any debris that might be kicked up from automobile tires at 75 mph? I think not. What would you suggest, that they strap helmets on their progeny to prevent brain damage? That would sorely cut into the food budget. The food budget that goes farther at McDonalds than at grocery stores that sell fresh fruits, vegetables, smelly cheeses, and lean meats. Have you not heard? Classic sandwiches are now two for five dollars.

Put yourself in the noggin of that pacified child, Sniffy. Would you not need continual comfort once you realized that you have no chance to raise yourself above the level of your parental units? Times are tough in this day and age. And they ain't a-changin'. So lay off the binky hate. At least this child was not on the cover of the New York Times suckling at her mama's bosom, without the means to purchase intensive therapy as this image follows her throughout her natural life.

A father allows his six-year-old daughter to drive a motorized vehicle in areas of heavy traffic for one of several reasons. Perhaps he had partaken of too much celebratory Father's Day adult beverages, and did not want to risk a DUI that would leave him unable to provide for his family, such as buying brand-name off-road vehicles costing upwards of $8,000. Perhaps he was saving money on gas so he could afford convenience store treats for the child, and let her drive so he could do mental math while not being a distracted driver. Perhaps he was looking for a lawsuit and sympathy. Again, this is not really your business, Sniffy, unless you ram into that sweet child o' his in order to teach them both a lesson. And I fear that you would be the one to earn a failing grade in such an interaction.

Lighten up. Child-rearing techniques are best left to the actual parents of said children, and not regulated by the government and/or corncob-butted busybodies such as you, Sniffy. Even common-senseless folks have a right to procreate, and raise up their young 'uns in the manner they see fit.

Backroads Ms. Manners

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Sometimes, the Freak Leaks Out

Sometimes, I get vibes from people.

Let's be clear. I'm no Johnny Smith from The Dead Zone, reading minds of people I touch. I just get a hunch sometimes. Probably a product of my active imagination. But I get a sense of emotion. A scenario might pop into my head. It doesn't happen often. And I never know when it will or won't.

Thursday, for example. I had picked up The Pony from his last day of summer school PE. We turned onto our gravel road. There had been a truck in front of us that also turned in. The truck pulled off the side of the road by the creek. I looked in the window as we drove by. You can't be too careful. When folks who don't live out here park on our road, it's sometimes good to get a look at them. Just in case. You never know when another portable meth lab might be dumped. Or a load of kittens. Or a refrigerator.

The old man inside the truck glared at me. An evil glare. Like he had nothing left to lose. He had gray, longish hair. And a pointy gray beard. The feeling I got was that he'd served time, he wasn't going back, and heaven help anybody who got in his way. It was creepy. A chill went down my spine. Of course I kept driving.

He could have been a loving grandpa, a foster father of fifty kids, a seasoned veteran who raised money for amputees. But that's not the vibe I got from him. I wasn't going just by looks. There was a time I backed into a dude with a crazy meth beard at the bank drive-thru, but I didn't get that sense of evil from him. Not even with his big dog on a chain, and him yelling, "Stay in the car!" Which I later gathered he was saying to his woman in the passenger seat. Nope. So it wasn't just looks.

Conversely, yesterday I pulled into the Save-A-Lot mini-mall as an old van was pulling out. A large, dark-haired woman was in the driver's seat. And the vibe I got from her was elation. She was over-the-moon happy about something. I didn't get a sense of what. But she was ecstatic. She was alone in the van. It's not like she was laughing and talking with someone. But she had that joyful look about her. And it was not the jolly fat woman stereotype I was picking up. She was definitely anticipating something pleasant.

Yeah. I'm sure it's just my overactive imagination. But why does it come and go? Why don't I make these snap judgments all the time? I am one odd duck. But not a Johnny Smith.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Icky and Scratchy Show

I don't mean to brag, but at the present time, I am sporting one big ol' honkin' fingernail.

Not for Val are French manicures. Nor the soaking of her digits in Palmolive at the behest of Madge. No fancy geometric patterns, no bedazzling, no color-coordination with clothing. No cuticle scissors or sticks, no metal files or emery boards. No polish. Oh, my nails are not raggedy. Not chewed to the quick. But they are nothing to brag about, unless you count that one big ol' honkin' fingernail. Not that I'm braggin'.

It doesn't signify anything special, my MegaNail. It was not planned. My nail-trimming routine is somewhat similar to my haircutting routine. Not the process of trusting my tresses to a true professional, of course. You should remember that does not happen. I have the Butcher of Seville, after all. But in those in-between times when I feel a need to trim, I just do it. Sometimes, even in the light, and with a mirror. It's somewhat the same for my fingernails. Only I don't have a Butcher of the Nails. I am always carving away at them as the need arises. Which means that sometimes, all ten are not on the same page.

Perhaps one fingernail has been injured in a threading accident. Or sliced inadvertently in a sink full of dishes. Or bent backwards in a rush to open the refrigerator for a feeding frenzy. Which would necessitate immediate trimming. So when the other nine are ready, this one is not. Maybe I want to let it grow so it can once again become part of the regular trimming routine. Maybe I revel in the existence of one good scratcher. But I draw the line at referring to him as Ol' Scratch.

All people are not so enamored of my enormous nail as I. Just a few minutes ago, Genius commanded, "Eew! Do something about that nail!" Funny how he waited until after I had folded his mayoral-campaign dress shirt suitable for packing for his upcoming eight-day trip to Missouri Boys' State.

Hopefully, nobody notices MegaNail when I am out in public. I don't want to be mistaken for a cocaine snorter. Imagine my surprise when those savvy city co-workers of mine at the South St. Louis unemployment office explained the long pinky-nail phenomenon. Who knew it was for scooping coke? Not me. Surely they weren't just snipe-hunting with me. I bought their explanation for claimants in leather jackets on hot days, too. That they were packing. Not for a trip. And not in the manner of oversize reproductive equipment. Nope. Those dudes had a gun in the armpit. That's why they preferred to sweat rather than remove the jacket.

MegaNail is never going to be featured in the Guinness Book of World Records. I'm not planning for him to spiral like a pig's tail until I have to hang him out the passenger window while driving. He's fast approaching the limit of his usefulness. Once he starts affecting my keyboard performance, he's gone.

It's hard to say goodbye.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Which Came Intermediately, the Chicken or the Egg?

We're having a bit of a debate here at the ol' Backroads homestead.

The Pony gathers eggs from our free-range chickens every evening. They are not so much free-range chickens as chickens who fly out of the pen because Hick built it out of two dog run fences hooked together, with no ceiling. And since he didn't clip their wings and they come and go at will, he leaves the door open. Most of the hens will lay in the laying boxes inside the chicken coop. But a few of them squat and let one fly wherever the mood strikes them. I suppose we are fortunate that they don't roam the contiguous twenty acres, but confine their movements to the front and back yard.

Since school was out, we have hatched twenty-one chicks. Okay, a couple of broody hens get the credit. Hick catches one sitting, and stuffs a couple of days worth of eggs under her. Sixteen of these chicks have survived. Now they are growing up. To me, the oldest group appears about half grown. They have that awkward, gangly, teenage look about them. Another four are kindergarten size.

Here's the issue. For the last two weeks, The Pony has twice picked up a tiny egg from the nest where most of the hens lay. Here's a photo taken by Genius the family photographer.

To be fair, this terrible picture was taken by my phone, and not his exorbitantly expensive camera. But that does not justify the poor composition. I expect the eggs in my blog-worthy photos to be...AHEM...egg shaped. So I asked Hick to snap a more flattering picture of his hen fruit. Which resulted in this image from his BBQing triangle on the back porch rail.

You will notice the regular aqua chicken egg from our Ameraucana hens on the left. And a whitish egg from one of our banty hens in the middle. It's the tiny brown egg on the right that mystifies us. Or perhaps I should say mystifies ME. Because Hick says it's a regular egg from one of our young hens. I beg to differ.

According to Hick, the egg is small because the chicken is small. And as the little hen gets older, the eggs will get bigger. PUH LEASE! I have never heard such nonsense in my life! I don't profess to be a fowl maven. But if this is the case, why have we never seen this phenomenon even once over the past three years of harvesting our chicken eggs? Were the previous hens saving themselves until full maturity to lay their eggs? I think not. We've had leghorns laying white eggs, and silky-footed black hens laying brown eggs, and a banty here and there laying the small eggs. But never any tiny eggs. Unless you count those two times that Hick tried to pass off a leathery round reptile egg as belonging to his chicken harem.

Hick wanted to give the tiny egg to my mom when she dropped off The Pony yesterday afternoon. He said, "Tell your mom we've got something to help her cholesterol. Never mind that Mom's cholesterol is just fine, and Hick takes medication for his. Or that, perhaps, she would crack open this abomination and out would slither a snake. I voiced my opinion of this proposal.

"You are NOT giving that thing to my mom! You don't even know if it's a chicken egg!"

"It's a chicken egg. Stop being so dramatic."

"How do you know? Did you eat the other one?"

"No. But I cracked it open on the porch, and it looked like an egg."

Oh. Very well, then. Let's send it home with Mom to eat it. I don't think so. How many of you are well-versed in eggology? Do adolescent chickens lay little eggs that get bigger as the hen gets bigger? And if so, why is this the first time we've ever seen such a thing?

My inquiring mind needs to know. So I can push the point with Hick, or shut up and forget about it if he's right.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Very Bad Sign

We are having an issue here in Backroads. None of those face-eating, lung-on-the-street, vampire-biting problems of the urban areas. And by the way, mainstream media, stop trying to make the zombie thing happen. You are as sad as Bad Girl Gretchen Wieners trying to make "fetch" happen. It ain't gonna.

No, the issue here in Backroads is not bloody body parts. It is a matter of road signs.

The first problem on my radar was the stop sign at the end of our blacktop county road, right where it abuts the lettered county highway. For many months, there has been daylight showing through our sign. Bullet holes. That in itself is not significant. Firearms are common in this neck of the woods. The part that concerns me is the direction of that bent metal blown out by the bullets. The shooter has to be situated in a straight line, shooting across a little curve, towards that lettered highway. Trees and a rock bluff block the shooter's view. He could be firing right into a moving vehicle. Not smart, state property vandalizer!

We were up to six bullet holes in our stop sign. But this morning, it was completely gone. Vanished! A metal pole holding nothing. A stick without its lollipop. I, myself, have the common sense to stop and look before pulling out into traffic. But you can bet there's an idiot missing from some village who will not stop just so he can say in the event of an accident, "But there was no stop sign. I didn't break any laws. In fact, I think the state should pay me for the rest of my life because my pinky toe was ripped off in that fiery crash I caused with a school bus."

The second problem was an orange flexible BUMP sign placed before our long bridge over a river twenty feet below. Work was started on that bridge when school let out. The whole surface was scraped. Now it's groovy. Slippery when wet. Little traction. Still waiting for a re-surfacing. The BUMP sign warns folks that they are going to be jarred as they drive onto the bridge. Or not. Because some wacky prankster put that sign on the other side of the road Sunday night. So Monday morning, I was warned that on my way into town, I was going to feel a BUMP. But I knew better. The BUMP had been returned to its rightful place this morning.

And the third problem was, again, a stop sign. This one was on a little blacktop island between a McDonald's, a Walmart drive, and a road in front of a mini mall. Somebody rammed that one good. Because this morning, the metal pole was down, still imbedded in the blacktop triangle, which looked like a mass of turned-up tree roots. And the stop sign itself was completely gone. Vanished! I'm sensing a pattern here with the stop signs.

Is somebody tired of shooting at Styrofoam deer? Not enough gas money to drive to where the stop signs are? Some kind of freaky hayseed gang initiation? Years ago, there was a problem with flags. They kept disappearing. Then police made a connection to young men stealing them for some manner of advertising their sexual prowess. Old Glory!

Climb into your handbaskets, people. But be sure to look both ways before proceeding to not-heaven.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

It's a Hot Heat

I am lucky to be here today, sharing my tale of woe. I almost expired from fried brain syndrome on Sunday. And I'm not talking about global warming.

You'd have thought I was a prospector, setting out across the Arizona desert with my pack mule to lay in supplies, braving the 120-degree heat in order to obtain food. But no. I was a modern-day housewife, merely grocery shopping at an establishment that I refer to elsewhere as the idle-hands workshop of the kingpin of the blazing underworld. Even now, the thought of the ill-fated trip brings perspiration to my pores.

You would think, would you not, that upon entering the whooshing automatic doors of a large retail outlet on a sunny day in June, you would notice a difference between the 87-degree outside temperature, and the climate-controlled inner atmosphere? Au contraire. There was no such distinction. That, alone, should have signaled me to abort the mission until a more opportune time. But time was of the essence. I needed my trusty assistant, who would not be available on weekdays. And our earlier decision to cool our heels in the movie theater had delayed our sortie until 4:00. It was now or never. Or at least until next weekend.

It didn't take long before this lady was glowing all over the place. Truth be told, I was sweating like a pig. If pigs sweated. Because I assume they would do so in copious amounts. My tresses were soon dripping wet. I could have sold Gatorade by the keg, had I been cast on the spot in a commercial. Buckets of underboob sweat poured down my torso and legs. I'm surprised nobody needed rescue from those salty rapids flowing off my feet. Bass Pro Shop in Springfield, Missouri, could take a lesson on indoor in-floor streams just by observing my emissions.

I had a thought of stripping down to a thong in an effort to diffuse my body heat. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I wasn't wearing a thong. Too bad. Because I was going to take my be-thonged body straight to one of those free-standing freezers and hop in to cool down. To avoid a fever seizure. The Blazin' Chunks bin would have been good. I like chicken. And while regulating my body temperature, I was planning to remedy my near-disastrous dehydration situation with a Capri Sun IV. So simple, really. To impale the blue vein of my front-elbow with the pointy end of that hard plastic straw, and jab the blunt end into the foil pouch.

Dang! I was HOT! A lady of the evening, a master craftswoman of the world's oldest profession, visiting a house of worship, could not have held a candle to the amount of perspiration exuded from me. That place really needs a cooling station. Short of piercing some two-liter soda bottles on the top shelf, and dancing in the multicolored spray, I'm not sure what other emergency measures I could have employed. Heat stroke was imminent. But fortune smiled upon me. Even Steven and I are on good terms. Only one person was ahead of me in line.

What a relief it was to finally exit, and feel the cool 87-degree breeze on my brow.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Uncalled For and Inappropriate

If you dropped in to read about the most scathingly brilliant idea I had yesterday, you will be sorely disappointed. This one might be better termed an everyday fairly average thought. Because, you see, I was saddled with Genius all day. Genius no longer in pain. Genius no longer on meds. An intractable version of medicated Genius. Which means I was his personal activities director, like Julie McCoy on the Love Boat.

Of course, the activities cannot start until Genius decides he has garnered the maximum hourage of beauty sleep. So at 9:00 a.m., my unofficial shift began. I had taken The Pony to summer school, turned in Genius's hours of tutoring for the A+ program to his counselor, raided my classroom cabinet for Hick's Father's Day gift, stopped to pick up my fake check stubs for the summer, gassed up my large SUV, shopped for soft foods for the delicate palate of Genius, popped in for a much-needed refill of 44 oz. Diet Coke, put away all of my purchases that Genius turned up his non-Nasonexed nose at, and called his oral surgeon to ask WHEN his stitches would dissolve. Yeah. I'm a one-woman U.S. Army. I do more before 9:00 a.m. than most people do all day.

Then the real Genius came out. He shoved a sheaf of papers from Missouri Boys' State under my nose. "Look! Look at my schedule! I'm going to be busy."

"Yes, you are. That's nice. I can't really read that fine print without my glasses."

"Where are they? I'll get them for you."

"Right here on the table."

"Well. Put them on, then! So you can read it."

"That's a lot of effort to pretend I'm interested."

"C'mon! Read it!"

"Okay. Uh huh. They've got you scheduled up to 10:30 at night. And you get up at 6:00."

"I don't know when I'll have time to shower."

"Yeah. That's not listed. Probably during the morning forty-five minute clean-up time. Do you know what city you're in yet?"

"No. Let's look it up on your laptop."

"Let's not." I raced him to my laptop. Possession and all that.

"Oh, c'mon. Hey! It's really hard to type from the side."

"Too bad. I'm not moving."

"Boone. I'm in Boone. Let's see where other people I know are. Hey! After looking up all those schools, I didn't see one other person in Boone. I'll run for Mayor. And win!

"Don't be so sure. You can't vote for yourself, because that's not ethical. So you will be defeated by NOBODY. Loser."

"Stop doing that!"

"What? This? Rubbing my knee? It makes that knee feel better."

"I can't stand that noise. I'm done." Genius plopped himself down on the short couch. "Can I take two regular ibuprofens? My jaw hurts, but not too bad."

"Why don't I cut one of those 800 milligram ones in half. It's the same amount as two regulars. But it might work faster without that hard candy coating."

"Okay. Get it now."

"But I'm not finished rubbing my knee!" I stood up and walked away from the front window where the laptop sits. There are a couple of boards over there that could moonlight as creakers in a haunted house. "Hear that? I TOLD you my knee was hurt!"

"You'd think living in a house full of crazy people would be fun. But it's actually kind of annoying."

"Deal with it. Here. Here's your half pill."

"That was much harder to swallow than a whole one."

"Well, it didn't have that beveled edge all around."

"I could feel it clawing at my throat on the way down."

"I should have given you the Lorcet. it makes you easier to manage. It's already ten o'clock. I'm going downstairs to my computer. Don't bother me."

"Don't worry. I'm watching the Apple liveblog at noon. But I still have two hours to kill."

I escaped to my dark basement lair. Fired up my desktop. Opened my blog. Guess who appeared behind me and flipped on the light, in full Mayor-campaigning regalia.

"How does this look?"

"It's fine."

"Does this tie go with it?"

"Yes. It's fine. Goodbye."

"But doesn't it look good?"

"Yes! Leave me alone. You're sure not The Pony. I get NOTHING done when you're home with me."

"Stuff happens."

"YOU happen!"

"That was uncalled for and inappropriate."

"Yes. But so true!"

"Hey! Are you writing about me? Let me read it!"

"No. I have something else in mind for today."

"That's not happenin'. Do ME. I love the ones about me!"

"You're like a peacock. Always wanting to be admired. And hard to ignore because you're loud and screechy."

"Just hurry up and get that one done."

"I seem to have a problem getting ANYTHING done."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Nothing to Read Here. Move Along.

I have been rushed for time. It's a good thing I put in a submission this morning, or it would not have been done today.

I frittered away my time with laundry. Took a shower. Hauled The Pony to see Prometheus, which was an hour there and back, two hours plus for the show, and thirty minutes for previews. We did our weekly shopping to the tune of another hour. Took thirty minutes to carry in and put stuff away. I made one meal for newly-toothless Genius, another for The Pony, warmed up some leftover BBQ (NOT a hot dog) for me, and tossed a big salad and a couple of eggrolls at Hick.

Then I sat down here at my computer with the most scathingly brilliant idea for a post. But I don't have time to see it through. Tomorrow, perhaps. When I only have to take care of Genius and his gaping gum-holes 24/7, and take The Pony to summer school and then go pick him up, and throw together a couple of meals.

Yeah. I'll think about it tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day. Or so I've heard.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Don't Bite Into Leann Rimes

Hick is spending the weekend as head BBQer at an ongoing fundraiser for Genius's Project Graduation. Don't gasp. He's not BBQing heads. He's in charge. But to hear him tell it, BBQed heads would sell better than the BBQed hot dogs.

I know why. Hick brought home a few leftovers last night. Have I mentioned what a good BBQer he is? That's his best quality, I think. His claim to fame. The reason we starry-eyed kids have maintained our union for so long. That, and his talent for cleaning up vomit and killing bugs. That seems somehow wrong. Talking about vomit and bugs in the same paragraph as Hick's BBQ. I have a penchant for digression.

Let's try that again. I know why the hot dogs were not selling. I saw them. They were smaller than Slim Jims. I don't know where one could find hot dogs so small. Not Vienna Sausages small. Vienna Sausages have way more girth than Hick's hot dogs. They're like those pitiful sheep that Rene Zellwegger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain traded Nicole Kidman's piano for. She got ten sheep, because put together, they weren't no bigger than six proper sheep.

Well, if you were to lay down your hard-earned cash on the barrelhead for one of these BBQed hot dogs, you would return after eating it to initiate the great Hot Dog Eaters vs Hicks feud. Because it would take three of Hick's hot dogs to make one proper hot dog. If Hick used his mad BBQ skillz as a platform to run for political office, his opponent would call him all bun and no hot dog. Clara Peller herself would call from beyond the grave to ask, "Where's the DOG?"

That's how small Hick's BBQed hot dogs were. I don't know who was in charge of procuring the wieners, but they are of a different ilk than our family. We BBQ big honkin' hot dogs here at our house. Fat hot dogs. They need that no-nonsense Jillian Michaels as their personal trainer, to put them through a rigorous workout.

But the hot dogs that Hick BBQed looked like they were all worked out. Kind of like Leann Rimes. Nobody wants to bite into a BBQed hot dog and find Leann Rimes. You could cut your lip on her hip bones.

Don't bite into Leann Rimes. Avoid Hick's BBQed hot dogs like a customer who subscribes to Direct TV because he doesn't want to end up in a roadside ditch. Or attend his own funeral as a guy named Phil Shifley.

I don't subscribe to Direct TV. But I could write a commercial for them.

When your cable goes out, you get bored.
When you get bored, you look for something to do.
When you look for something to do, you find a rock swap where Hick is BBQing.
When you find a rock swap where Hick is BBQing, you eat a hot dog.
When you eat a hot dog, you cut your lip.
And when you cut your lip, you see that it was caused by a bite into Leann Rimes.
Don't bite into Leann Rimes.
Get rid of cable, and upgrade to Direct TV

See how simple that was? And to think, I'm giving it away for free.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ooh, Ooh, Ooh, I'm on Fire

No, that's not Springsteen you hear. It's me. Val. And I'm not engulfed in trouser flames from being a liar, liar. The fact that I finished the second Hunger Games book, Catching Fire, on Wednesday night has nothing to do with it.

I'm on fire.

I'm in the groove. I've got the itch, and it's not something that needs scratching with a neighbor's spatula after the long-fingernailed coffee shop waitress breaks up with me.

I sat down to write a submission yesterday, and it was like a long-awaited spark in the dry tinder of a Survivor contestant's fire-making challenge. One idea led to another. Even a six-hour chair nap last night did not extinguish the flame. I went to actual bed at 4:00 a.m., and could not sleep. Perhaps it wasn't so much the ideas bouncing around in my noggin as the fact that I'd already had a full (for me) night's sleep in the recliner.

This morning I arose at 5:30, all fired up. I have another submission ready to go. It's all over but the proofreadin'. Now three more stories are licking at the straw stuffing of my brain. An out-of-control gambling bus, a crazed chipmunk, and a doorstop scandal are shoving the severed skeleton and the devil with no dress on to the back burner.

Is it hot in here, or is it just me?

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Some Might Call Me "Breathtaking"

Have you ever heard the expression that something is so ugly, it's cute? I'm sure you have. Hopefully, not in reference to yourself, or your offspring. But to be more gentle, let's simply refer to the following fellow as breathtaking.

I'd like to say it's a matter of the picture, taken by the phone and hand of Hick, not being very flattering. But it's better to use a soft focus with this guy. He's half turken, which is a chicken that has a neck like a turkey, and half regular chicken. That flapping wattle is hiding his bare neck.

To add ear insult to our eye injury, he does not so much crow as he groans. It's a curious sound. Like a growl and a moan. Perhaps that's what groan means. I never put two and two together until now. This little misfit struts around the grounds, getting plenty of action from the hens. We've had a spate of turken-looking chicks hatched this spring.

Sometimes I think my writing is like this feathered phenom. It ain't pretty. But it gets the job done.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Fourteen Faces of Val

If you are seeking a picture of the ever-elusive Val, you need go no further than the next edition of Merriam-Webster. I'm sure my photo will be under the definition of altruist.

I stopped to put gas in my Tahoe this afternoon. A tad less than half a tank, just to top it off for the trip to take Genius to have his wisdom teeth removed on Thursday. The total came to $39.40. I went inside to pay. I don't trust those scammable card-sliders on the pumps. The clerk greeted me cheerfully. Probably because it's not a gas station that I frequent. She didn't know any better.

"That'll be thirty-four ninety, Hon."

"Uh...I'm pretty sure it was thirty-nine forty."

"Oh. Well. That's right. Thirty-nine forty. Here's your sixty cents."

"Thank you."

"You have a nice day."

"You, too."

See that? I saved the poor girl from eating $4.50 when her register didn't balance. Because I was honest. That's how I roll. Sometimes. When people are polite.

You might also look for my photo under conspiracy theorist, megalomaniac, Rubenesque, boorish, short-temper cook, gas-station-chicken-eater, Seinfeld enthusiast, procrastinator, braggart, snooze-inducer, quipster doofus, recliner whiner, and nerd.

My face, it seems, is a coat of many colors, wearing a lot of hats. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I Could Sell Sunlight to the Tanning Mom

I spent the day cleaning a plastic container that was stained by years of barbecue sauce.

That sounds so wrong. In several different ways.

I did not stand over that plastic tub all day. I set it out on the corner triangle where the rails join on my back deck. The little platform Hick built in to set his barbecuing supplies on. The guy who started this whole problem, barbecuing too much food so that it has to be hermetically sealed and stored in the refrigerator for later consumption. Okay, that refrigerator part is against Hick's wishes, apparently, ever since he shouted that I am the one who thinks food must be refrigerated or it spoils.

The container is rectangular, with rounded corners. Clear, with a country-blue lid. It's not Tupperware. That would imply that I had spent good money on it. Or attended a wild and crazy party. No. I'm pretty sure my plastic container is Walmartware. It doesn't even burp. I would hate to put a liquid in it and turn it over. But for barbecued pork steaks and hot dogs and hamburgers, it does the job.

Somewhere, probably the reliable internet, every source above reproach, filling the noggins of the masses with infinite knowledge to apply to any situation, I read that you can make stains on plastic containers go away if you place them in direct sunlight. So I tried it. Of course, I had to be careful that the cats didn't hop up there and lay in the container. "Oh, new cat bed! That woman rocks, I tell you!" Not that I'm so germophobic that a cat laying in my plastic container will send me into conniptions. I simply did not want them to knock it into the green water of the fake fish pond that is directly below that corner. Because it might hit one of the two large frogs who never move, yet croak threats at each other all the livelong day. One from the spray of a broad-leafed grassy plant, and the other from below the surface at the other end, with only his bulbous eyes above water.

This container has been with me a long time. Don't go thinkin' that I never wash it. I do. Every time I toss the leftover meat to the dogs after several days. But you know how plastic is. It wants to hold onto red sauces. Even soaking did not bring my plastic container back to its pre-barbecue days. So I left it outside from ten-thirty until five-thirty.

The Pony found it when we arrived home after a bout of after-school shoe-shopping. "Hey, what's this?" He picked it up and carried it in the house.

"Oh, I put that outside to see if the sun would take the stain out of it."

"I think the answer would be 'Yes,' because there's no stain!" The Pony was impressed with my mad stain-scrubbing skillz.

A seven-hour dose of ultraviolet light is better than a Brillo for cleaning barbecue stains out of plastic.

Now all I need is my own infomercial, to sell sunlight to naive plastic-stainers.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Backroads Survivor: Life is Not a Beach

As a connoisseur of reality television, I am eagerly awaiting the premier of Redneck Island. It will begin Saturday, June 9, on CMT. Yeah. It looks like a Survivor rip-off. But you know, there are only 36 basic plots in literature. Or 20. Or 7. Or 3. Or 1. Depends on which reference you use. So it would stand to reason that all reality television is just one big ol' rip-off of the original reality concept.

Because I can vary that original concept without ripping off the ripper-offers, I am going to pitch my own reality game show: Backroads Survivor. Thanks to Sioux for the idea and title. She will get nary a penny for her inspiration. Not even a credit. But she IS welcome to apply as a contestant. Just submit a video showing me why you would appeal to my show's demographic, Sioux. Maybe we can even get it on a network that you can watch without pay channels. See? I treat the people I rip off right.

Backroads Survivor will pit husband against wife. City slicker against country mouse. Tailgaters against slow drivers. Shoppers against clerks. Cat people against dog people. Missourians against Missourahans. Toilet paper over the rollians against toilet paper under the rollians. Vegans against face-eaters. The publisheds against the non-publisheds. Killjoys against knee-slappers. Bigfoot Truck drivers against Chevy Volt drivers. Introverts against extroverts. Dry-rubbies against sauceys. Moonlanders against Area 51ers. Good Snippers against long-haired Vals.

I think you get my drift. Contestants may be divided into categories at my whim, to suit viewer ratings. Now let's all lift our half-full or half-empty glasses to toast Backroads Survivor: An Exercise in Countrified Self-Sufficiency.

Here is the basic premise. Twenty-four contestants (twelve from each of the above subgroups) will vie for the title of Sole Backroads Survivor. The prize will be announced after the competition, depending on how well Val likes the winner.

Don't expect a beach. In fact, I'm going to use that as the title of the first episode: Life's Not a Beach. Contestants may procure water and bathe in the creek at the back of the property. Here's a hint on how to find it: go downhill. No need to waste resources on tree-mail.

Two camps have been set up. And for the first challenge, teams will be divided into Arachnophobes and Herpetophobes. The Arachnophobe team will sleep here:

Team Herpetophobe will sleep on just across the gravel path in this facility:

It's a sinkhole with the side eroded that Hick made into a clubhouse for the boys. Yes, I know that's all kinds of messed up. He put limbs over the top as a roof, and expected me to let them play in a sinkhole. Do you get that? A sinkhole! Which may not have done all of its collapsing yet. But that is neither here nor there, as it will make a dandy shelter for Team Herpetophobe.

The winner of the first challenge will be the team that accumulates the largest number of ticks, spiders, reptiles, and amphibians by sunrise.

Good luck. May the best team win, and the worst team face an elimination campfire.

Anybody wishing to apply for Backroads Survivor can leave a comment describing their audition video.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

At Least it Wasn't Chucky

I am sorely lacking in blog fodder this evening. So I am gifting my readers with a random photo from my whirlwind Backroads lifestyle. The item in this picture was posed by my rosebush for camera purposes. But it was not my item. I found it on the porch one morning, much to my chagrin. A dog was involved.

Some people might think finding a random devil on their porch is a good omen. I am not one of those people. It creeped me the not-heaven out.

I have other photos with the subject and the canine culprit. There's a story there somewhere. I am considering submitting it to Not Your Mother's Book...On Dogs. And since I am a firm believer in Even Steven, I could also throw in a story on my rescued pup, Juno. The sweet to balance the sour. Like those Sour Patch Kids in literary canine form.

Feel free to leave me a comment about what, in your opinion, this little devil could be thinking.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Backroads Surveillance System

Did you ever have a feeling someone was watching you? Just a hunch? No reason for it, really, just an inkling that made you turn your head and assess the situation? Yeah. Me too. Today, in fact. The Pony and I were returning home from town. We were a mere quarter-mile from our house, going up the lumpy bumpy gravel hill by our nearest toward-town neighbor. A hill so bone-jarring that I have a habit of driving on the wrong side of the road.

We often see squirrels darting around here. One time, we saw a deer looking back at us from the treeline. And today, as I eased my Tahoe (with its hillbilly hood ornament made of a cat hairball still intact) up and over an exposed boulder in the middle of the road, I had the urge to turn my head. To see what nature might provide for my entertainment. I was not disappointed.

Looking back at me, a scant two feet away, with only a thin pane of tinted auto safety glass between us, was this fellow:

We gazed at each other. I resisted the urge to squeal like the slugs in Flushed Away. I don't have a snake phobia. He simply startled me. I am, however, happy that our road is so dusty. Because I always keep my windows up. That said, I immediately put The Pony's window down. And passed him my phone. "Look at that snake! Get a picture of it for me, while I watch for traffic." I was, you know, on the wrong side of the road.

The Pony eagerly took the phone-camera. He enjoys wildlife. But he usually has his nose in his laptop unless I tip him off like a safari tour guide. "Okay. Where is it?"

"Right there! In the tree."

"I'm looking. But I don't see it."

"THERE! In front of you!"


"How can you not see that? Right by my window. I could reach out an touch him."

"Oh! There!"

I pulled the car forward a bit.


"I'm not driving. I'm getting your window even with him for the picture. And anyway, you didn't even see him. If he was...a...snake...he would have bit you!"

"He IS a snake!"

"Yeah. I thought of that in the middle of my saying. Get me a couple of pictures. Wow! Look how long he is! Make sure you get his whole length. I bet he's four feet."

The Pony took my photos while shiny, muscle-rippling Mr. Snake posed. He turned his head a bit to follow my gaze when I drove forward.

The Pony took one of the magnificent specimen stretched out on his limb.

And a final one as we bid a fond farewell to our herpetological friend. Unfortunately, The Pony cut off Mr. Snake's head. Photographically. Not physically. But you can see that he stretches from one side of the picture to the other, from cut-off head to tiny tail tip. Oh, yeah. He's a black snake.

I would have loved to see Mr. Snake climbing the trunk of that tree. I don't normally think to look overhead when I'm in the woods. Who knows how many times I've been watched from above. I wonder what Mr. Snake was up to today. Was he merely finding a safe place for sunning? Eating a nest full of eggs? Swallowing baby birds? He had a little lump in his belly, about halfway down.

Dang! This is the outskirts of Backroads. Not the Amazon Rain Forest. Not a primeval swamp. It's almost civilization!

Welcome to my world.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Not Exactly a Ram's Head, or a Galloping Mustang

I don't mean to brag. I'm sure you know how selfless and unassuming I am. So modest. Never wanting to put the spotlight on myself. But I have a new gewgaw for my Tahoe. Don't be hatin'. But I'm pretty sure it's one-of-a-kind. Sorry for the lack of a photo. But we don't need the green-eyed monster rearing its ugly head once y'all get a gander at my very special automobile accoutrement.

Okay, so at the moment, it's not brand spanking new. But it was new two weeks ago. I've actually been trying to get rid of it. I'm tired of those looks people give me. Pure envy, I'm sure. But my classic hood ornament does help The Pony spot me in the school parking lot.

This little trinket came as a complete surprise. One afternoon I parked my Tahoe in the garage, and the next morning I had this unique gift. It's quite breathtaking, if I do say so myself. I can't thank Hick, or either of my boys. Are you kidding me? They would never think to give me a present on a day that's not a Hallmark holiday. No, the credit for this gift lies entirely with my feline friends.

At first, I assumed the tan lump on the hood of my rig was another pile of regurgitated Diamond cat food. That stuff has been unofficially recalled, I think, due to harboring (allegedly!) salmonella. But such a situation has never caused Hick to vary from his pet-food-buying routine. Oh, he KNOWS about the recall, because I told him. If I remember correctly, his response was, "Huh."

The first inkling that the lump might not be dried vomit was the fact that, upon the second day, it was still there. All of you cat people know that any self-respecting cat will eat its own upchuck. But there it was. Off-center, on the passenger side of the hood, about halfway between bumper and windshield. A disturbing thought entered my mind. What if it's poop?

It's not nearly so bohemian to be driving around Backroads with a pile of poop on your car hood as it is to be displaying a colorful, recycled, cat-food haystack. So I instructed The Pony to remove it. Over a week ago. But The Pony, his father's son, kept forgetting. And I certainly was not going to go after it myself. That's what men are for. But apparently not for putting wedges of a delicious sliced cantaloupe into a container and refrigerating it after they've eaten their fill.

Two days ago, I commanded The Pony, "Go out to the garage and knock that cat poop or vomit off the car. I don't care what you use, as long as it's not one of those fishing poles hanging on the wall. They have hooks."

The Pony returned shortly. "Um. It's not poop. And it's not vomit. It's a giant hairball."

"Oh. At least it's gone now."

"Not really. I started to knock it off, and it came apart."

"But you got rid of it."

"No. I just told you."

"I told YOU to go get rid of it."

"Well, you said to get rid of the poop or vomit. And it was a hairball. So I left it."

Sometimes I think The Pony has a touch of Asperger's. This was one of those times. And since he meant well, and followed my directions to the letter, and was not being all adolescently angsty like his brother would have been, I let it go.

I still have my hillbilly hood ornament. Yesterday's rain washed the cat footprints off my black Tahoe's hood. And it soaked that hairball like a salon shampoo. But it's still there.

I wonder if cat saliva has some special component, some high-demand enzyme that might make it a delicacy, like the cave swift nests used for soup. Perhaps I could get my own cooking show on the Food Network. Or market a line of feline fluid products through the frozen food section of Walmart.

Nah. I doubt that the beeper-cart people would buy Cat Spit Soup.