Blood and Band-Aids

bloody hand cut on floral wire at mailbox 0910

With orange handled Fiskars, I was cutting up little pills, dividing them in half with the scissors, one by one.   You have to put a lot of pressure into each cut when cutting a hard tablet.  Painfully, I missed and cut the palm of my hand wide open.  Bright red blood spurted out of a three stitch hole. I filled up a paper towel or two using direct pressure and held my bloody paw above my heart.

I reached for the Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids to doctor this one up myself.  Stitches are for wussies.  When the bleeding slowed down, I started applying a bandage, and that’s when  I “lost it.”

Grief is a sneaky thing. 

In the 1960′s through the 1980′s my Grandmother worked at Johnson & Johnson in Chicago and was the head of quality control for bandages at J & J (as we called it.)  Grandma Ashbaucher made sure every Band-Aid that left the manufacturing plant was sterile and perfect.  She was so good at her job, that she was twice voted Johnson & Johnson’s National “Employee of the Year” and flown to New York to receive Johnson & Johnson’s National Leichen Award.

 

So there I was, at the kitchen sink, bawling my eyes out, proud to be opening a J & J Band-Aid bandage, remembering my childhood boo-boos and the white tin boxes the Band-Aids came in, and accepting that the torch has been passed on to someone else, maybe another Grandma.  Not only did she have a stellar career there, but that company also paid for my father’s college education at Roosevelt University. He began working at Johnson & Johnson in 1960, at 19 years of age, in the mail room.  It took him 9 years of full time work plus part time night classes to earn his B.A. degree in Finance.  I attended his college graduation in 1969 when “Laugh-In” was on television, so when he came out in his black robe, everyone said, “Here comes the Judge” –like they did on the show.

My dad, James W. Ashbaucher, gave back to J & J for years, moving up through the management ranks, and later in his career, left to be a Vice President of several other international corporations.

Sadly, they, along with the era that brought us Johnson & Johnson’s No More Tangles shampoo, and Legg’s Pantyhose in Eggs, have passed away.  It is bittersweet when I see J & J bandages on store shelves–knowing that they are in my blood.

My favorite picture of Grandma Ashbaucher

So today, I put my Band-Aids on and cried; grateful for the childhood memories of my Grandma bringing home a box of Band-Aids that “flunked” her high standards, but were good enough for my knee as long as she added a couple of kisses to it.

 

Big Bertha

Today October was in her prime. The fiery maple leaves were stunning as they floated down by the hundreds.   Hoards of honkers were flying in formation 30 feet above my canoe as I slipped in one last day of paddling before the snow flies.  My dog was balanced between my knees; risky business for sure!

One of my personal goals this year was to catch and land a fish from a canoe.  Adding a 50 lb. dog to a narrow, low profile, 13′ canoe, along with a couple of spinning reels locked and loaded with hooks, had me questioning my sanity.  But hey, I’m a pretty good swimmer.

I was casting a Mepps Spinner, looking for just anything to hit and figuring I’d get skunked while learning how to maneuver the canoe in the wind while actively casting to targets along the shoreline and trying to control the dog.  My only goal was to not hook me, the dog, or get us all dumped in the drink.

Mepps are my  favorite “go to” lures for the bass on our lake.  If the water is dead calm, I might throw a Luhr Jenson Woodchopper, which is a top water lure,  just to scare the bejesus out of myself when a fish surfaces and strikes.  You don’t catch as many fish using top water, but boy, the ones you do get are worth the wait.

 If people concentrated on the really important things in life,

there would be a shortage of fishing poles. 

All at once, I had a solid strike on the Mepps.  I knew I had a Big Bertha when the fish starting towing my boat like a 15 hp. Evinrude and the drag on my reel was singing.  All hands on deck!

Grateful I had a little trout net with me this time, I reached back for it and got ready.  Remi stayed low in the boat through the bucking, running, and dancing on top of the water that this fighter was doing.  As I reeled and played the fish out, I caught a glimpse of it and my heart skipped a beat.  IT WAS A BIG-BIG BERTHA! She was at least 6 lbs. and closer to 7.  A real fattie.

I worked the pole to guide the fish as close to the edge of the canoe as possible and then using the net as a spatula, scooped real quick to flop it up over the side and into my lap because there was no way the little trout net could hold this pig.  I had to pin it down against my thigh with my left elbow so I could work with pliers on the treble hook as that stupid fish kept thrashing around, seriously rocking the boat.  Remi earned her Master Angler patch today!  She laid down on the bottom of the canoe and let that fish slap her silly.  We took some pictures and released her.  Thank you Big Bertha you big, beautiful girl.  Here’s the link to my Hornbeck Canoe…so you can see what a challenge this day was!  http://www.hornbeckboats.com/boats_nt_13.php

 

A Horse Called Music

!!alalala

It’s one of those melancholy moons tonight where memories bend and reflect.  The wine helps.

Earlier today I was listening to the 30th annual Farm Aid radio show, featuring Willie Nelson (and many other bands)  live from Chicago, my home sweet home.

His song, “A Horse Called Music” is so beautifully written that I get lost in it until the tears that trickle down bring me back to the here and now.  The song fillets my heart and lays it wide open…especially at the end.

Click the link and let the words and tender tune soak into your body.  My gift to you tonight.  Elevated cowboy art, featuring Merle Haggard.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R_Hc8cEplSQ

Three Strike Rule

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My 19 lb. kevlar canoe had been enjoying a 3,500 mile ride through both the Black Hills of South Dakota and the Badlands/Big Horn Mountain Range perched on top of my Chevrolet Tahoe and it was paddled, finally, on String Lake in the Grand Tetons near Jackson Hole, WY.

After more than three weeks of watching wild sunflowers roll by, I caught a deafening tailwind in Nebraska with gusts of up to 40 mph on top of steady blowing prairie wind.   I was rolling 68 mph on a desolate highway in the middle of the great plains when a great gust caught the canoe, she flexed, and the straps blew out.  All I could do was look in my driver’s side mirror and watch her sail skyward, up and over the opposing lane.  I pulled my whole rig to an emergency stop, one quarter of a mile up the road.  (My biggest fear was that the canoe had dented the Airstream on its way to greener pastures)

Highway flashers were on, and I was out, running back to see if the canoe was in one piece.  She was laying there provocatively, splayed out among the wildflowers, on her side, and not a care in the world.  I cussed her out and hoisted her up on my shoulder to start the trek back to the truck on “The Walk of Shame” in the 97 degree Nebraska sun, counting my lucky stars.  This time I strapped her down extremely tight and added another line in a criss-cross for “insurance.”  Several cars went by, but not one car stopped to offer any help.  If I were 30 years younger and wearing a pair of daisy dukes and a wet tee shirt, I guarandamntee ya I would have had help.

Un-freaking-believeable…after merging back onto the highway, it was only ten miles before the Bitch blew off again in the God forsaken Nebraska wind.   I knew I had cinched her down tight and right.  So, in disbelief, I set the flashers again and headed back out into the scorching heat and rattlesnake grass to see if my luck held out.   There she lay, tickled pink,  three football fields back, laughing at me in the tall prairie grass.  The Whore.

I was hot and I was pissed.  I said to no one there, “Why you green Bitch…one more time, and I don’t care if you are broken or not, you are staying in the ditch.”  Because Eff-U.  It was a scorcher in the sun, I was sweaty as Hell,  and my trucker mouth was going 100 mph.

That’s when I heard a little whinny.  A horse.  It was a chestnut brown gelding with a strong Roman nose and a triple 7 brand on his left hip.  His mane was rich cocoa colored and tattered.

There was a flash of a lone star belt buckle as a cowboy I had just passed on a cattle drive dismounted.  He had a greying mustache and deep lines around his steely blue eyes.  I caught the scent of sweaty leather and rolled tobacco with each wind shift.  Without a word (cowboys don’t talk much) he picked up my canoe and started back toward the flashing lights.  I drooled along after him–and his horse!

Together, we put the boat back up top and after looking at my set up, his hands went to work on a knot that he said, “Would do the trick.”  (I think that is all he ever said)   When it was done, I walked around the truck, inspecting.  Before I could thank him proper, he had vanished.  My eyes followed a galloping dust trail in time to watch him stop, look back, and  reach up to tip the sweat stained brim on his Stetson.  That’s when it dawned on me that I had met the Marlboro Man.

Somewhere out there, under a Stevie Wonder sky, pierced by all the stars in the Milky Way, is a man who just doused his evening campfire, confident that this little lady made it home just fine.

 

 

“This dog don’t hunt.”

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He listened and a great sadness came. 

For ten years Zeke had given his all.  He burst through thickets and many times cut himself on brambles and thorns to reach downed birds for his god.  He took his job seriously.  There were times when the fur between his toes was covered in painful ice balls, and still he cut to the whistle, ran and retrieved.  Now, he was a little slower and a lot stiffer when coming out of the field. He was crippled up for a few days after a hunt, but always ready to go again.   The twinkle in his eye was hidden under a greying brow, but it was still there!  His 12 o’clock tail rocked furiously between 10 and 2 whenever he heard the word “birdies.”

Lately, though, he had been left behind.  Every. Time.

Heartbroken, he stood and stoically accepted his sentencing, “This dog don’t hunt.”  as his man handed him over to a shelter and drove away.  Zeke had played with the man’s children and watched them arrive one by one.  He will miss them.  He will miss the man, too.  As dogs do, he settled into homelessness.  People came everyday but no one looked past his grey face and egg beater gait.  They saw what was used up in him, not what was left to give.

On the last day the shelter could keep him, Zeke was rescued.  A woman arrived who had read Zeke’s story online.  She offered to foster him in her home, with her children and pets, until she found a Forever Home for him.  The shelter lovingly packed up his things (AKC Certificate, his vet records, leftover heart worm medication and a big tub of Vita-Pet Senior Glucosamine chews.)  He still wore a personalized collar with the name Zeke on it and a phone number that used to mean home.

His foster mother cleaned him up and took lots of adoption pictures of him to post on facebook (a site where Miracles can happen!)  Days passed and Zeke continued to soldier on. 

Then a woman 300 miles away read Zeke’s story and she wanted him.  She loved him in his old age and understood his young heart.  She, too, was a little stiff in the joints and grey.  She rescued a 12 year old girl, Dot, last year and wanted a companion for both of them to round out her family.  Her husband had passed away a few years ago and so she no longer made long drives by herself.  BUT SHE WANTED ZEKE.

Zeke needed a second miracle:  Transport.

People say that facebook isn’t real.  Well, it is real to Zeke and to me.  This writer read Zeke’s story and called his foster mother.  We women pulled together to make a second miracle for Zeke, the “Dog that don’t hunt.”   The pick up time was set for 11 a.m. in Muskegon, MI, two hours away from my start point.  When I met Zeke, I could see that he was a real gentleman.  His carriage was strong.  His eyes were warm and alert.  He held his head proudly.  He didn’t jump up or go wild.  He was a mature boy who had nice manners.  This was no throw-away dog!   Zeke called “shotgun” and we were off!

Dot and Zeke Meet

One cheeseburger (okay, two cheeseburgers) and four hours later, Zeke arrived up north, at his FOREVER HOME, near the beaches on Lake Huron.  His new Mom hugged him and he met Dot.   He rolled around, marked his favorite tree, and played fetch with Dot in their one acre fenced yard, which was filled with shady trees and a nice woodlot.  They became a family.  Today, the world is a better place because Zeke is home.  He is loved.  Zeke curls up in a new bed–where he chirps in his sleep while his four paws are up in the air, pumping and running.

Zeke is hunting birdies again.


 

Casseroles Need to Die

!!!!lalalalalalal

When compared to traditional dinners featuring a roasted meat, potato, and a vegetable, casseroles don’t stand a chance. Have you had a pork roast slathered in tuscan oil and topped with fresh herbs complimented by a roasted sweet potato and green beans baked with Lipton brown gravy and onion soup mix sprinkeld on top?  OMG

Invented at the same time as TV tray tables in the 70′s (another mistake) –casseroles have worn out their welcome.  They all involve cheese as a flavor cover-up and  feature five ingredients or less.  Kill me now.

Break out two chicken breasts on the George Foreman grill and sautee some mushrooms in butter on the stove top to pour over the them.  Done.  What could be easier?  Add Idahoan instant mashed potatoes and nuke a package of  frozen niblets corn.   Beat that Mr. Casserole.  The gauntlet is thrown.

The casserole is grossly over rated.

For the love of God, stop.

 

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