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Friday, August 18, 2017

"Mail"

My great grandfather, Thomas Lafayette Lee, was a mail carrier in the days before cars, and a genealogist before libraries, almost in the days of pounding papyrus on the river bank -- well maybe not that far back.  He was born shortly after the American Civil War on June 9, 1870.  His name tells you something about him; Lafayette for the French aristocrat and military officer who aided the US in the Revolutionary War, and Lee... well, that side of the family has been getting some news in the press lately.

"Cousin" Robert E. Lee was intelligent and heroic, Lincoln's first choice to lead the US military when the Civil War started.  Lee inherited slaves from his wife's father, with instructions to free them within five years.  Lee wrote his son, " He has left me an unpleasant legacy".  Lee had runaways chased and whipped, but he did free them. He was a mixed bag of good and not.  I could say similar about my living relatives.  Maybe they should display the statues of him somewhere to explain the Civil War and how prejudice can end up killing millions of people?  That seems current.

The ultimate choice about the statues belongs to the people who still suffer from the legacy of slavery.  I understand there are Southerners who feel they're still suffering too.  My family lost status and money from being on the wrong side of history, and the South remains comparatively poor with lesser schools and health care.  I get it that there are people who hang their regional pride on the valiant fight Lee led when faced with fewer soldiers and less ammunition.  Hanging onto that isn't getting you anywhere.  Even Lee saw that and surrendered at Appomattox.

When my great grandpa was living in post-Civil War poverty, he got a job.  He wrote a family history, and included a description of his days as a mail carrier, earning $702 per year in 1905.  I'd like to share his story.  This is longer than I usually post, but I thought you might find it interesting too.  Imagine it in a heavy Tennessee accent...

I have had many experiences on my route.  Some were pleasant and some were not so good.  I had a fine bunch of patrons... although some were tough characters...  especially... in the mountain section.  However, some... were as fine a bunch of people as could be found anywhere... I liked them all...

I have been in some hard storms.  One time I had to run my horse to get out from under a falling tree.  One day the lightning struck eighteen times near my route.  I came very near being in one of the worst hail storms this country has ever known.  I just did get into a barn before it struck.  Much of the hail was as large as hen and goose eggs.  These sank into the ground as they fell.  Some went crashing through iron roofing.  There was one cyclone that passed over my route...  I was in the edge of another which did lots of damage to property, but no one was hurt.  I have been caught in rising streams of water, as the rocks were rolling under my horse's feet, and almost knocking them down.  I had to stay in one stream of water for almost half a mile in order to ford it...

One day I heard the sound of a run-away team approaching over a hill, while I was going up the grade on the other side in my buggy.  On they came in their mad rush to get away... and the only thing for me to do was to jump from my buggy without delay.  As they neared me my horse became frightened, and turned back.  Down the road he went, ahead of the run-away team, carrying all my mail, stamps, money and everything, with only myself left behind, and truly glad to be there.  My buggy was torn to pieces.  Most of the harness was torn from the horse.  My mail, money and everything was scattered, a piece here and a piece there.  With the assistance of some of my good patrons, we managed to collect all together... Another loaned me a saddle to ride back on, while others recovered the pieces of my buggy and brought it back...

My buggy was struck twice by cars... but fortunately with no serious results.  I have been thrown from my horse by his falling on me.  One time I was thrown clear over his head, landing in front of him.  Such was life on a rural route in the early days... At first our roads were bad... I rode horseback a big part of eighteen years... I have walked many miles with my mail satchel thrown over my shoulder through mud, sleet, snow and ice, over fields, and just any way to get there...

I loved my patrons and I miss the pleasant association with them.  Scarcely a day passes that my mind doesn't go back to the fond memories of meeting with them at the mail boxes, and our having a few pleasant words together.  Especially is this true of the children, all of whom I loved dearly.

I'm glad Great Grandpa got through his hard times with love in his heart.  You can't move forward when you're clutching the memory of mythological glory days and hate to your chest.

BTW, I've given up my rants about wildlife.  The deer ate all the pears.  They're gone.  That's it.  I'm done screaming like a crazy woman (this year), or at least I thought so until I saw they ate my tomato plants too.

Also, in case I wasn't clear enough about what I think about the KKK and Neo-Nazis, I'll let Trae Crowder express his point of view.  Caution, very coarse language.

Friday, August 11, 2017

"Pizza"

A crazy woman was in my back yard yesterday, sputtering incoherent obscenities while chucking wood at a majestic stag placidly chewing on a pear tree -- not just the precious fruit, he was literally eating the tree, leaves, branches, and all.  Since that crazy woman never got to play on an organized baseball team, the serene majesty of the buck was barely disturbed by flying firewood, but he eventually looked up with a puzzled expression.

The crazy woman did some frantic arm waving, her obscenities became somewhat more defined.  The buck did a deer equivalent of a shoulder shrug and moved over a couple of feet.  It took quite a few more threats and wood to get the deer to daintily hop over the fence where he clearly waited for the crazy woman to go away so he could resume his feast.  Wood got chucked into the neighbor's yard, and the aim started to get somewhat more accurate, by which I mean that the logs passed at least within 10' of the blasted animal's aura before he gave up and went away.  "Take your damned ticks with you!"

My dog stood at the edge of the deck with a look of concern.  I mean really, who wants a crazy woman in their yard?  It's a good thing she doesn't have opposable thumbs to call 911 for the people with straightjackets.

I smashed a carpenter ant with my fist and glared at the groundhog.  At least the groundhog had the grace to scamper when I threw a rock in his general vicinity.  Unlike the insane woman chucking firewood, I can throw rocks.  Anybody who has lived by a river can throw a rock.  However, the groundhog didn't run away, it ran under my back porch where he's created a den for himself.  I'm pretty sure it has an entertainment center with surround sound leaching off my electricity.

Then, the neighbor dogs set off the skunk.  The crazy woman burst into new profanity as she ran around the house slamming windows shut.  It took a while to get the crazy woman out of the house.  She futilely slapped at miniature flies in the kitchen.

The wildlife is winning.  I need to import a pack of wolves or maybe a mountain lion.

That was yesterday.  Today was a new day, and I decided to walk to the library.  The weather was iffy, but I felt like taking the 1+ mile walk.  I left my puppy at home because she maxes out at 1 mile lately.  I wore my hat because even though it was 85% overcast, my pasty white sensitive complexion can get sunburned even at night.

Sure enough, the sun broke out on my way to the library.  It was hot and muggy, really, a terrible day for a midday walk.  I got my book, then noticed the sky was very dark.  My hat felt really stupid about then.  The rain started in fat blobs, and then it got serious.  Cascading sheets of needle-sharp drops came down in a 45° torrent, water sloshed over the tops of my shoes, my heavy jeans got sopping wet.  I felt glad for the hat since I wasn't getting pelted in the face.

I started smiling.  I did the obligatory head bob as I passed a miserable, hatless man sloshing in the opposite direction, his leather business notebook soaked with water.  I started laughing.  I smiled and laughed the rest of the way home.  It isn't just the wildlife that's against me, it's all of nature, but it felt great.  Absolutely fantastic.

I actually had to pour the water out of my shoes when I got home.  Money that had been in my pocket is hung up to dry.  Maybe I'll use it to buy a pizza?  Preferably a pizza with venison sausage and groundhog pepperoni on top.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Hair"

I went out for drinks with two friends.  One has fluffy hair like Rhea Perlman on Cheers, but she has regular chemical appointments to straighten it.  The other friend has bouncy curls like Shirley Temple.  She straightens her hair with electrical appliances.  My hair is straight.  I often curl it even though the curls fall out in no time.  Nobody else cares very much about our efforts despite the considerable time we've devoted to washing, drying, fluffing, curling, straightening, spritzing, gelling...

I'd pretty much neglected to get a haircut for the last few years and decided it was time for a change and cut it short.  I got into my closet of chemicals and played with colors.  I wasn't making a fashion statement.  I was just playing.  The joy is that it now my hair takes absolutely no effort whatsoever.

I met a group of people at a casual restaurant.  A woman came in, and even before seating herself, loudly asked, "Is that a menopausal haircut or just a summer cut?!"  I resisted asking in return, "WTF is wrong with you??"  I feel like I should point out that my group is mostly men, but it doesn't matter.  A slam between just us girls is still a slam.  Later, she commented we're near the same age.  We aren't.  She's much older, but she often says that even though she's been corrected many times.  I realize her actions are that of an 8th grade bully, but part of me feels like laughing because her effort to make me feel bad is a sign she thinks the haircut looks good.

I met a couple of friends for dinner, and one of them didn't even notice my haircut.  I guess she's seen it short before, but I'm choosing to think she's focused more on my interior than my exterior.  She's a keeper.

The thing is, nobody really cares that much about what you look like.  Although quite a few people have told me that they really like my hair short, I'm absolutely certain that none of them are spending a whole lot of time thinking about it.  Well, maybe people stuck in the 8th grade mentality, but I didn't even care about those opinions when I was in 8th grade.

I'm not so sure I'll keep my hair short, and I'm not so sure about the color either, but I love how easy it is.  I didn't even comb it to take a picture, just running my fingers through it.  That feels great.  I added some blue and feel like a mallard duck with a streak of teal in my feathers (even if it didn't show up very well in the photo).  I'm torn between adding more colors or just dying it all dark the way it grows naturally -- except white seems to be coming in naturally too, and I'm not ready for that yet.  Maybe it is a menopausal haircut?

The thing is, make your own style.  Express yourself in every medium, whether that's hair, work, hobbies...  Whatever floats your boat, bring it into your life and share it with others.  Don't let the criticism or peer pressure of 8th graders steal your happiness.

Fuchsia.  Yeah, I think I'm feeling fuchsia... I'll be a duck on a flower, or maybe a butterfly :)

Friday, July 28, 2017

"Neighbor"

Let me tell you a ghost story.  Well, sort of a ghost story?  I don't really know what to call it.  One of those what-the-hell-I-don't-understand events.

Let me back up.  I had the nosiest neighbor.  She was friendly.  Too damned friendly.  Before you judge me, you have to understand that she sat in her lawn chair, feet from my back door, waiting to pounce on me while blasting country music.  Not the better kinds of CW.  I had to listen to endless twangy repetitions of how the wife left and took the truck and dog but left the kids.  God, I hate country music.

I put up a 12' long privacy fence, just enough to block her direct view of my back door.  She moved her chair 12'.  I added more fence.  She moved her chair back a bit more -- but the "music" originated from the same place.  She just turned up the volume.  I blasted some rock in return.  One time, I was scantily clad while painting the inside of a bedroom window, and she literally shoved half her body through the open window to talk to me.  Do you understand wet paint, bedroom, get out of my house???

It didn't help that she had a large, vicious dog.  She was a hoarder.  She didn't clean.  She wasn't a beauty, and her horribly rotten teeth didn't help.  Sometimes I felt drunk from the wafting beer fumes coming over the property line.  I hate the smell of beer too.

For all of that, sometimes I fell for her friendliness.  Her nosiness was universal, so she told me the dirt on everyone on the street.  She told me all the dirt on herself for that matter, so I doubt she'd care about me talking about her now.  She had a brain tumor removed when she was younger.  Maybe they took out the part that dictates boundaries?  Whatever.  For the most part, we got along well enough.  I just kept adding fence.

One night, the paramedics came and I saw them wheel her out on a gurney.  She sat up and argued with the paramedics before they put her in the ambulance and took her away.  I didn't see her again.  I wondered what happened, but I didn't want to go over to the filthy house to find out.  I might've felt obligated to sit in that house and make nice, and I have bad history of being forced to sit in a different filthy house.  Back then, it was with a certifiably crazy old woman.  I couldn't make myself do the neighborly thing again.

The mailman was often lackadaisical about getting the mail to the right houses, and I got something that looked important for the next-door neighbor's husband.  I handed it over the fence and asked about his wife.  He said she'd died.  I expressed my sympathies, adding, "I didn't think it looked good when they took her away, but since she was arguing with the paramedics I thought maybe she was going to pull through."

He looked at me very oddly and said, "She was already dead when they got here.  I'd been out for the day, and found her dead on the floor when I got home."

To completely change the topic, let me continue my seasonal rant about wildlife.  My dog set off the skunk twice, but thankfully wasn't sprayed.  My pear trees are dripping with fruit, and the damned squirrels are picking them, nibbling a bit, then knocking more pears off the trees to nibble some more.  They do the same thing to the tomatoes.  Why can't they just take one and finish it??  I wish the groundhog would kill the squirrels, then commit suicide.  I made giant balls out of grapevines, and they seem to be working against the deer because they don't like to get their legs tangled up.  I think I'll make more deer balls.  The first of the garden's bounty is starting to come in and I've gotten the canning stuff out again.  Enjoy some summer pics...


Plums, cherry/plum/rhubarb, bread and butter pickles

Squirrel damage

Hoping that I'll get to eat at least some of the pears?

Turnips

Ripe tomatoes which are kind of a green pink brown.  No idea of the variety.
I kept seeds from a salad I enjoyed a couple of years ago.

Jane, this pic's for you :)

My 17-year-old puppy refused to pose by the deer balls to let me show you their size.



Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Sailor"

I've always thought that if I had to serve in the military, I'd choose the Coast Guard.  I could sail around on Lake Erie, pick up drunks who fall out of their boats, and party with Canadians.  I found out they could send you to some other part of the US coastline, and I thought, that's fine.  I could go as far as Chicago or Buffalo.  I abandoned all thoughts of the Coast Guard when I found out they could send you to the Gulf of Mexico or something.  No hablo Espanol, so I doubt I'd enjoy their parties.

There were times when I was a kid that I spent quite a bit of time fantasizing myself to Canada.  As the crow flies, I was only about 5 miles from the lake.  As a fish swims, it's considerably farther down the river, but I could get there eventually.  I sent the Canadians messages in bottles, but the Canadians never called.  I stole the bottles.  The summer people next door had a storage area of such useless junk, and I didn't think they'd miss the bottles.  Maybe the Canadians could sense my theft and their silence is a just karma?

As I pause to consider whether to talk about message bottles or theft, I remember the vividness of a memory that popped into my mind earlier this week.  Jackie, Sis2's friend, stepped on broken glass in the river.  Her foot was sliced very badly, and she did it on the wrong side of the river, downstream of civilization.  My dad picked her up and carried her across the algae-slippery shale riverbed through the rapids, and then all the way home with Jackie weeping blood the entire time.

After they left, I studied the broken glass in the water.  The clear glass blended with the clear water.  Dancing reflections of current camouflaged the shining reflections of the glass.  It was beautiful and dangerous.  I picked it up and threw it into the woods in a place where no one would step on it again.  My parents made a new rule that we had to wear shoes in the river after that, a rule I greatly resented, seldom followed, and probably explains why I lost so many shoes.

Why do I remember this so clearly?  And why did this moment pop into my mind so vividly this week?

I tracked my associated memories for a connection.  Older boys drank beer and threw their bottles across the river, laughing at the shattering sound, never considering a child's sliced foot.  Perhaps their thoughtless, selfish, stupid behavior was stirred in my memory as I see the same kind of behavior in politicians or some people I know?  Maybe I feel guilt at all those messages to Canadians sent in stolen glass bottles?  Maybe there's a danger I can't see through glittering reflections?

Six years ago, I wrote another post about sending negative thoughts down the river in paper boats.  You can see it here.  Creating that post seems as clear in my mind as Jackie's bleeding foot.  I think everything we've experienced is still in our heads somewhere, and sometimes I wonder why.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

"Ice Cream"

It was a beautiful summer day -- deep blue sky, tall forest looming overhead, screaming, laughing Girl Scouts running in circles, and the "Shooush!" of rock salt getting thrown off the back end of a pick up truck.  I was standing at the wrong place at the wrong time, and had to help lug the rock salt to the designated area.  Rock salt is heavy.  More things had to be moved.  I didn't understand what any of it was.  I just cooperated while the other girls continued to happily run around in circles.

Wooden buckets were packed with rock salt and ice.  Cream and sugar were poured into a metal cylinder.  Vanilla in one cylinder, chocolate in another.  A metal collar (wo)manhandled across the top of the contraption, and a handle banged onto one side.  "We're going to make ice cream!" the troop leader exclaimed.  Great!  I love ice cream!

Girl were called from play to sit on top of the buckets, and more girls were assigned to turn the handles.  Excellent.  Girl Scouts are great at teamwork.  I turned the handle for a few minutes.  "Is it ready now?"  No, it was not.  It became a relay effort of handle turning; I'm pretty sure we turned the handles for at least 4 hours.  Maybe 5?  Time is different when you're a child.  What I know is that it took forever.

It was the best ice cream of my life.  Specks of vanilla were peppered throughout.  It was so sweet, so creamy, so hard-won, but with a troop of girls, it was quickly gone.

We packed the buckets up again, churned the buckets again, ate strawberry ice cream with super red, super sweet berries plastered throughout.  I don't know what was in the other bucket.  Who would eat another flavor when you can have strawberries?  Forget what I said about the vanilla being the best ice cream I've ever had.  That strawberry ice cream was the best.

Of course, we did it again.  I was starting to suspect that the troop leader's plan was to work us all to exhaustion.  I think she succeeded.  I quit eating ice cream when the choice became pineapple.

Night fell in the forest.  Mosquitoes came out.  We built the essential bonfire and sang campfire songs.  It was a wonderfully perfect day.

By coincidence, I was thinking about ice cream when I went to the grocery store.  I wanted to buy Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.  Full test -- don't insult ice cream with low fat, or try to pull one over on me with yogurt disguised as ice cream.  $5.79?!!!  You're kidding me, right?!!!  I am not going to pay that much for a tiny tub of ice cream.

But now, the word for the week is "ice cream", and I don't have any.  It just feels so wrong.  I may have to go to the store again.  Well, I know I have to go back.  This was my shopping list:  dog food, soap.  Can you guess which 2 items I neglected to get when I spent $120+ at the store today?  I think my revised shopping list is now dog food, soap, and ice cream.

BTW, I fussed around with this art more than you'd know by looking at it because in the end, I deleted most of what I'd done.  Sometimes that has to happen.  I decided I just felt like having a happy bookmark :)

Saturday, July 8, 2017

"Portrait"

I gave my first presidential vote to Jimmy Carter in 1980.  I also nullified my first vote by guilting my boyfriend to the polls where he voted for Reagan.  Bf didn't know much about either candidate, or any of the issues, he just thought Reagan seemed friendlier.  I learned a lot about how some people vote.

I know, I know, lots of people still lionize Reagan.  I fundamentally disagreed with him about environment concerns and the "Trickle Down Theory", but I can accept that people are allowed to disagree with me.  (Though, of course, the world will run better once everyone starts coming around to my point of view!)  We can reasonably criticize any of the US presidents.  They've all had flaws.

I recently had a conversation with a friend who lives in the DC political bubble, a guy who voted for Reagan twice.  He intelligently pointed out a slew of Carter's presidential flaws.  Okay, that's fair.  Carter made political mistakes.  He was also intelligent and far-sighted.  He put solar panels on the White House.  Think about how much farther we'd be along if he could've been better able to win people to addressing climate issues back then.

Years later, when Jimmy Carter was discovered to be quietly working on Habitat for Humanity homes, some started rethinking their opinions of him.  They see he's motivated to help people.  He's thoughtful and intelligent.

I think the political errors Carter made while in office came from a fundamental misunderstanding of the motivations of influential movers and shakers.  He is a decent human being who wants the best for the people in his country.  That doesn't motivate everybody.  I've had a terrible time trying to get my mind around this.  Not the part of Carter's motivations, the part about how there are others, many others, who don't give a damn about their country or about anybody but themselves.

I used to take drives with a pal of mine.  We drove through the parks and past pretty mansions.  We enjoyed each other's company and the beauty around us.  I didn't consider that someone else could take exactly the same drive and bemoan wasted land in the park, feel anger about maintenance taxes, and envy at the pretty houses.  A person like that can be judgmental towards my impractical aesthetics while I can be just as judgmental about their callous disregard for nature and craftsmanship... and never the twain shall meet.

Park levies pass easily in Greater Cleveland.  It isn't that everyone appreciates trees.  It's that some people appreciate trees, and the other people appreciate the fact that Cleveland's parks increase their property values.  Win/win... except some people still look at parks and fantasize about turning those trees into saleable lumber and an apartment complex.

I'm never going to agree with those people.  I'm never going to agree with someone like Paul Ryan who fantasized about getting rid of others' health care while he was still a student.  What's wrong with someone like that?

I wish our current president was more like Jimmy Carter.