Have You Driven a Ford Lately?

Today “the boys” will come over to pick up our old Ford 8-N tractor. Built in 1952, it has served us well since the fateful day in 1979 when we bought it. I say fateful, because it was a day I’ll never forget.
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The owners, back-to-the-land acquaintances not very unlike ourselves, were splitting/divorcing, and the stuff they’d accumulated for working the land had to go. A divorce is divisive in more ways than one, and apparently this divorce was leaving the male half of the sketch – whom I’ll call Exhibit A – with a strong need to show he knew what he was doing.
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It was a chilly March day, and we arrived around 10AM with the F-600 flatbed truck we used in our firewood delivery business, expecting, as we’d been led to expect, to back it
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up to an embankment or ramp of some kind, but Exhibit A waved off this necessity. He said there wasn’t anyplace we could do that, and he had some planks we could use to drive it up and onto the truck bed.  Keep in mind that this bed was a good four feet off the ground.
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He produced the planks: 2x10x12s. (If you can do the math, you find that two planks twelve feet long rising to a height of four feet is… well, pretty damned steep). Exhibit A was very hard to dissuade, but there were three of us telling him it was an extremely bad idea, so he hauled out two more planks and some cement blocks with which to make a longer – and therefore less steep – ramp, and this time there was no dissuading. Finally, anxious to get the thing done and get out of there, we caved, and he mounted the tractor. I tried to get him to wait for us to nail the planks to the truck bed, but he drove on.
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Up the ramp he went – the three of us holding our collective breath – past the cement block support and joint between between planks, and about two feet from his destination atop the truck, and to our amazement, it looked as though he’d been right, that he could just drive the 8-N onto the truck.  He stopped…, calling out, “Am I okay?” Collectively we shouted, “KEEP GOING!!!!!”  He yanked down on the throttle, the burst of speed spun the tractor’s back wheels, sending the planks flying backwards and out from under the tractor, and as it fell, it’s bucket-loader caught on the right side rack on the truck! Ford and driver swung back and forth wildly as he tried to jump off, not sure which way it might fall, as we gasped a terrified breath.  Slowly it stopped swinging and was still. Exhibit A stepped gingerly onto the truck bed and then jumped down to Mother Earth.
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No one spoke. Silently, we all walked to the house. Tea was made in silence as our minds re-ran the near tragedy we had just witnessed.
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Eventually, we returned to the yardand the dangling tractor.  Its rear wheels were nearly three feet off the ground.  We chain-sawed a vertical line down the side rack of the truck, separating the tractor-hanging section from the rest of the rack, and then I took over the engineering. Exhibit A wisely kept his mouth shut.
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The task involved a lot of used tires and a rope, and it’s a bit long to describe, but several hours later my husband was driving an empty Ford F-600 and our two kids the 35 miles back home, and I was learning to drive the other Ford.  It had to be that way because my legs weren’t long enough to reach the pedals in the truck.
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Having a Heart

photo by WizenedEye.com

How do you catch a woodchuck? I catch mice and voles with peanut butter, sunflower seeds can lure chipmunks, the two gray squirrels who terrorized the Accounting Dept. at work were suckers for Doritos, but what would interest a hedgehog?

It turned out I was able to rush him and scare him onto the front porch. Once he was cornered there, I made a lot of noise, banging my hoe on the sidewalk and shouting to keep him scared and in hiding behind a lawn chair while I dashed to the barn for the bigger Havahart trap. He was just considering making a run for it when I returned. More banging and arm waving bought time to get the trap open, set and along the porch wall, then a bit of herding with a broom, and VOILA! – I had captured Punxsutawney Phil! He now has a new home several miles from my garden.

One spring a few years ago I rounded up a large snapping turtle who had chosen my garden as her egg depository. The capture involved a metal garbage can and a shovel – dangerously close to the electric fence, I might add – and I’m here to tell you that Mrs. Terrapin was one fierce, hostile critter. In comparison, this woodchuck was sweet indeed.

But the Pesty Animal Capturer Life-time Achievement Award goes to my friend Dale who, in his 20+ years of service to the local school district, captured and relocated more than sixty skunks. Did he ever have “a problem?” Only once, when, trap full and loaded on the back of his pick-up, a friend came along and asked, “Watcha got under the tarp?” – punctuating the question with a loud thump of his fist on the truck bed…

Note: A “Havahart” is a humane, “catch alive” trap. Once captured, the animal can be taken to a suitable habitat and released.

Pig Street

Up until now, I’ve always been in too much of a hurry, either driving by one end of Pig Street on the way to a friend’s home or passing the other end while taking the “back road” to a local diner.  Once I stopped and photographed the sign, but I went no further.

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There’s an old joke about the City Slicker who was walking down a country road and spotted a farmer standing under an apple tree with a pig in his arms, enabling the animal to eat the ripe apples on the tree.  The City Slicker – eager to prove that the  intellect of City Slickers is not to be sneered at – stopped and called out to the farmer:

“Wouldn’t it save a lot of time if you left that pig on the ground and just shook the tree?”

The Farmer considered the suggestion for a moment and then replied, “Well, I suppose it might… but what’s time to a pig?”

Which brings me back to Pig Street.

On the way to the diner this morning, Raymond noticed the road sign, Pig Street, and it prompted him to recount how that name might have come about.  “I remember somebody telling me the story of how, a long time ago, maybe back in the thirties, a couple of fellows tried to steal a bunch of pigs from one of the local farmers.  In the middle of the night, they drove to this fella’s farm and were trying to herd his pigs onto their truck, except that as soon as they’d get some on, others would jump off.  Realizing they needed some help with the heist, they knocked on the farmer’s door.  He answered it, and they explained that they had this load of pigs to deliver and they had gotten some of them off the truck when they realized they were at the wrong address.  They said they were having a devil of a time getting them all back on the truck, and they asked the farmer if he could give them a hand.  The farmer said, sure, he would, and presently all the pigs were loaded and the truck on its way.  It wasn’t until the next day that the farmer realized his barn was empty of pigs!”

So I drove the length of Pig Street this morning.  It’s a pleasant dirt road, but the farms are gone.  What was once pasture and hay fields has returned to woods and cedar marshes encouraged by the arrival of beavers.   I didn’t see a single pig.

 

Enough of Mickey, Already!

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2006

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Sometimes you might be lucky enough to “get the picture” in the field; sometimes you might have to bring the subject to the studio and work at setting up a shot.

This fall there was a stretch of time when the milkweed pods began to open and the weather favored the transport of their seeds on dry, silky bits of plant-fluff. Rain would end Wind’s opportunity, and so time to photograph these ephemeral fliers was also passing. I carefully gathered up a vase-full of stalks and seed pods – several already open and beginning to spew their contents – and brought it into the house. My plan was to keep them dry and then take them back outside for photographs when I had the time.

Yesterday I glanced at my “bouquet” on the window sill near my desk. The pods are empty! No, the seeds aren’t littering my floor… they were all eaten by the mice.

To Err is Human, but to Arrr is Pirate

June, 2014

Recently I had the good fortune of arriving at the port of Cape Vincent coincidentally with a tall ship, Leona’s Ransom, flying the Jolly Roger. I was invited aboard, the three pirates being of the Nova Scotia sort and quite friendly.

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After having a look around, I took a few photos and then chatted with the young crew.  In their early twenties, none showed any signs of scurvy, one was female, and one wore a black eye patch – which (if he actually needed it) was more likely the result of an encounter with a hockey stick than a cutlass. These were cute and well-dressed pirates.

I experience a type of what Oliver Sacks calls musicophilia, which means that I very often have music playing in my brain.  It can be any kind of music and is usually a song that I like, or rather, part of a song that I like, repeating to the point of being annoying.  It doesn’t take much to strike up the band:  my eyes saw the ship, my brain said, “Hey, let’s sing something from Pirates of Penzance!”  I was instantly in Gilbert & Sullivan mode, hearing the full musical stage production version.

When Frederic was a little lad he proved so brave and daring,
His father thought he’d ‘prentice him to some career seafaring.
I was, alas! his nurserymaid, and so it fell to my lot
To take and bind the promising boy apprentice to a pilot
A life not bad for a hardy lad, though surely not a high lot,
Though I’m a nurse, you might do worse than make your boy a pilot.

“Are you familiar with The Pirates of Penzance?” I asked the pirates.  They had never heard of it!!!  And that is how I came to sing When Frederic Was a Little Lad on board Leona’s Ransom.

I was a stupid nurserymaid, on breakers always steering,
And I did not catch the word aright, through being hard of hearing;
Mistaking my instructions, which within my brain did gyrate,
I took and bound this promising boy apprentice to a pirate.
A sad mistake it was to make and doom him to a vile lot.
I bound him to a pirate you instead of to a pilot.

At that point, the pirates made me walk the plant, but luckily it wasn’t far to shore and I lived to tell the tale.   As I dripped away, I heard one of them exclaim, “Drink up me hearties, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me!”  No matter how sweet they might seem, apparently pirates will have no truck with sopranos.

“Now and then we had a hope that if we lived and were good, God would permit us to be pirates.”  ~ Mark Twain,  Life on the Mississippi
“The average man will bristle if you say his father was dishonest, but he will brag a little if he discovers that his great-grandfather was a pirate.”  ~ Unknown
“It’s more fun to be a pirate than to join the navy.”  ~ Steve Jobs

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Outhouse Lady


Photograph courtesy of D. W. Andrus

Just when you think something is over and done with, just when you’re beginning to relax in the belief that you have fixed the problem, stemmed the tide, mended the fence, changed the subject, finalized the divorce, ended the occupation, switched the gears or slain the dragon… your cousin Don surprises you. Well, what ever did I expect, anyway? Don is a wizard too, and – as you must know – wizards never tire of having fun, so why was I surprised to receive a book of poetry entitled, “Muddled Meanderings in an Outhouse?”

You see, my mother was known by many as “The Outhouse Lady.” She was an artist, and her gimmick (the thing that caught the eye of potential buyers of her more serious work) was her display of small outhouse paintings accompanied by a sign which read: Hang an outhouse in your bathroom and count your blessings! $5 She would paint the stand of hollyhocks next to each privy to match the colors of the buyer’s powder room. People loved them, and my mother’s newfound notoriety solved the birthday and Christmas gift-giving problem for all the relatives: They gave my mother’s outhouses to their friends; they gave my mother everything ever produced that immortalized the outhouse.

I thought that part of my life was behind me…

Outhouse Lady (for Don)

She went out back in younger days
The Sears and Roebuck book to read,
Passed some time (if nothing else)
Seated by hollyhocks grown up from seed.

In later years she’d paint that place,
(Not the interior walls as you might assume),
But tiny pictures for five bucks apiece
To hang in modern indoor rooms.

She was dubbed “The Outhouse Lady”
And was known both far and wide;
Her children suffered embarrassment,
As from her fame they tried to hide.

Gifts would come at Christmas
From the painter’s nephews and cousins:
Calendars, puzzles, books of rhyme;
Outhouse pictures by the dozens.

The family bathroom became the repository
For this mounting pile of privy lore,
Until it became so full it was impossible
To use the place for what it was intended for…

What to do? And where to go?
Asked her desperate kids and spouse –
The solution (thanks to Port-a-potty)
Was a modern out-back house!

Through wind and snow we then took the path
To the new bathroom way out back,
(At least there was Scott tissue
Replacing that damned old almanac).

Years later we lost our privy painter,
And her “collection” was garage-saled away,
The bathroom was clear and clean once more –
‘Till your gift arrived today!

How important the inheritance
Of family lore and memories,
But I must scratch my head and wonder
How this mantle has passed to me?!?!

Having a Heart

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photo by WizenedEye.com

How do you catch a woodchuck? I catch mice and voles with peanut butter, sunflower seeds can lure chipmunks, the two gray squirrels who terrorized the Accounting Dept. at work were suckers for Doritos, but what would interest a hedgehog?

It turned out I was able to rush him and scare him onto the front porch. Once he was cornered there, I made a lot of noise, banging my hoe on the sidewalk and shouting to keep him scared and in hiding behind a lawn chair while I dashed to the barn for the bigger Havahart trap. He was just considering making a run for it when I returned. More banging and arm waving bought time to get the trap open, set and along the porch wall, then a bit of herding with a broom, and VOILA! – I had captured Punxsutawney Phil! He now has a new home several miles from my garden.

One spring a few years ago I rounded up a large snapping turtle who had chosen my garden as her egg depository. The capture involved a metal garbage can and a shovel – dangerously close to the electric fence, I might add – and I’m here to tell you that Mrs. Terrapin was one fierce, hostile critter. In comparison, this woodchuck was sweet indeed.

But the Pesty Animal Capturer Life-time Achievement Award goes to my friend Dale who, in his 20+ years of service to the local school district, captured and relocated more than sixty skunks. Did he ever have “a problem?” Only once, when, trap full and loaded on the back of his pick-up, a friend came along and asked, “Watcha got under the tarp?” – punctuating the question with a loud thump of his fist on the truck bed…

Note: A “Havahart” is a humane, “catch alive” trap. Once captured, the animal can be taken to a suitable habitat and released.