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.

 

Saguaro Sentinels

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At sundown, they stand in silhouette

Silent in the fading orange light, ultimate icons of the great West

How many parched cowboys, with sweat stained bandanas drooped about their necks, have lead weary, spavined horses through the Sonoran Desert, weaving under and around the massive arms and prickly spines of the Saguaro cactus; all three with their own story of survival?

–No one can look at a Saguaro cactus for the first time and look away.

Saguaros are viewed as much more than a plant.  People see in them what they want to see.  Some loan these desert giants giant John Wayne personalities and loads of Wile E. Coyote animation!  We put Santa outfits on them at Christmas time.  Other seasons find them standing guard in subdivisions, sporting clown-sized sunglasses with a ten gallon hat and a shiny gold star pinned to their chest.  Woodpeckers peck bullet holes in them.  They accept these insults with a wink.  Saguaros steal our hearts because we feel empathy for them, stoic in their thirst against a blinding blue sky.

Saguaro Cactus are part legend, part song, and can be found everywhere–not just growing in portions of southern and central Arizona and northwestern Mexico!   A forth grade classroom in Wisconsin in February has Saguaros pictured and plastered across a cork board in the hall.  These sentinels stand in our living rooms while we watch Clint Eastwood “Hang ‘Em High” all over again.  Saguaros live in everyone who has experienced them (and they are an experience!)  Their arms hold our awe.

I am a changed person after having seen, felt and “knowing” them for the first time at age 54.  They are patient.  They are still.  They are funny. They are real.  They are strange.  They are heroes of the southwest.  They are inspiring and beautiful.  They are survivors.  They are miracles.   They stole my heart.

Facts About Saguaro (pronounced “suh-wha-ro”)

  • Bigger ones are 25-35 feet tall, some reaching 50′
  • The average Saguaro is 125 to 175 years old
  • They don’t grow “arms” until they are at least 50 years old
  • A mature 35′ cactus can weight 7.5 tons or 14,000 lbs.
  • They are 95 percent water
  • Of all U.S. states, only Arizona and California (with only 100 of them) have Saguaros
  • They started to grow in Arizona only 10,000 years ago
  • They produce 40 million seeds in a lifetime and only one seed might survive
  • In full sun, a Saguaro seed will die so they find “nurses”…thriving only under rocks or plants to hide under for protection
  • Cactus spines are finally tough enough at 12″ tall to deter predators such as birds and caterpillars
  • Average annual growth is 8″ to 9″ because they are busy growing a massive root system
  • A mature Saguaro can drink one ton of water after a heavy rain
  • It breathes at night, when air is coolest
  • The spines or spikes can provide as much as 70% shade for the plant
  • Reproduction starts at about 50-60 years of age
  • Their flowers blossom at midnight and die by next day’s noon sun
  • Once pollinated, the flowers become fruit and a source of nutrition for desert animals and insects such as bats, birds, bees, desert tortoises, javelinas, rabbits, squirrels, wood rats coyotes, and foxes.
  • Winged white doves eat the fruit and the seeds are pooped out and spread this way
  • They are reluctant bird houses for gilded flickers and Gila woodpeckers as these long beaked birds dig out cavities to raise their young
  • Saguaros, enjoying celebrity status, bring in the most scientific research dollars to the desert habitat

 A Western Legend about the Saguaro (a tall tale) that is worthy!

Joe Mulhatton was a man living on Arizona’s frontier.  He wears a big hat, boots that go jingle-jangle, and a fringed jacket that’s too clean and well-kept to be anything but decoration.  He is sitting behind a glass of really horrible whiskey in a shack-like saloon telling a story that shouldn’t, by any reasonable standard, attract a single believer.

He lived in Florence, southeast of Phoenix, an area where saguaros grow as thick as the tales, and in 1899 (true story) he told the following tale that was picked up and printed by several newspapers around the Territory.

Joe claimed that giant saguaros around Florence exerted an extraordinary magnetic force, probably , he theorized, from vast beds of copper running beneath the earth.  Because of this great power, each plant could attract or repel any object that drew close.  In his story, Mulhatton told of two unsuspecting tramps who took refuge underneath some of these monsters and of the grisly disaster that ensued.  He swore:

“One of the men was at once drawn up to and impaled on the sharp blades of the cactus, while the octopus-like arms folded around him crushing him through and into the cactus, where his blood, flesh and bones turned into a pulp very much like ordinary mucilage, which trickled out slowly from the aperture made by the passing in of the man’s body.

He went on to tell how the cactus loses its magnetic power while it is digesting its victim.  “So we were enabled to look at this wonderful yet gruesome sight and report about these particulars.”  A negative cactus repelled the second tramp and heaved his body about 100 feet against a positive one, whereupon he met the same fate.

Mulhatton’s story originally ran in the Florence Tribune, and it so impressed the editors of the Tombstone Epitaph that they printed a subsequent version with added details. 

It seems Mulhatton himself approached to within 100 feet of one of the man-eating cacti, but it was “all he could do to resist its influence to draw him in.”  He then returned to the town to fetch a rope, planning to tie it around his waist while four of his friends wrapped their arms around him and held on.  Mulhatton wanted to “approach near enough to minutely examine the wonder without danger.”

A traveling salesman in his work life, brave Joe, we can assume, was accustomed to approaching thorny customers.  In telling his story, however, there is something more going on than a prankster creating nonsense for kerosene-lamp entertainment. At the bottom of the Tribune version, Mulhatton concluded:  “There is very little travel through this wild section of Arizona, or this species of cactus would have been written about sooner.”  (Note the implicit danger in that statement, the romance and the mystery.  What’s out there?   Will I survive it?  Am I tough enough?)

Everyone who ever braved the Western frontier has asked those questions.  The man-eating cactus was less a story than an invitation–a dare to test ourselves against “wild Arizona,” using the saguaro as the lure.  Joe Mulhatton was an early practitioner of the art of promotion, a pioneer in more ways than one, and his legend lives on.

 

Trump Card

This little five year old boy did not “fight a battle with cancer” –  he trumped it with a full house thanks to Marvel Comics.  Nobody who is so brave and fights so hard loses a battle with cancer.  They win because they don’t give up.

 

At first glance one may think these men

In their colorful suits

Did something special for the boy

–But quite the opposite is true.

Five year old Brayden Denton belongs to all of us.  Our little Super Hero brought out the best in humanity and the gift is real.  He held on to faith in the good guys.  He inspired us to aspire.

He accomplished something in five years that takes many of us a lifetime–he transformed us into something bigger than ourselves.  He mattered.

Today, Brayden is skimming stones across blue water ponds and collecting lightning bugs in a jar.  He is righting wrongs and playing cards with the biggest SUPERHERO of all time.  Through HIS Superpowers, Brayden is sitting on his Mom and Dad’s shoulders–an innocent angel, living life in full color.

 

~Dedicated to Rick Carmichael who lives two lives.  One for himself, and one for his little boy angel.

 

You Don’t Know Nothin’ About Machinery

Colloquialisms or expressions/slang that our parents abused used on us while we were busy growing up on the south side of Chicago in the 1960′s and 1970′s have scarred us for life.   These sayings were meant to show us how little we knew of life.

No matter the project or the explanation, Uncle Ted Laszczewski would come back with, “Ahhh, youse guys don’t know nothin’ about machinery.”   But, on the outside chance we did know a little something about nothing, he would remark, “Chihauhua,”  –his one size fits all acknowledgement.

Bad words were only used by kids who wanted to end up at St. Charles or “CharlieTown”,  the juvenile detention center.  We were always being sent there.  Parents posted the phone number to the North Pole next to the rotary phone and threatened to call the Abominable Snowman on us if Santa was busy.  Yeah, Richie Cunningham never experienced “The Chicago Way.”

Economics dictated a lot of what we got in trouble for.  “Turn off the lights!  We don’t have stock in Edison.”

  • Get off the phone–it’s long distance!
  • Close the front door, you’re letting out the heat.
  • Close the refrigerator, you’re letting out the cold.

Then there was the ‘ol collect call trick used when we reached our final destination.  Our parents would tell us, “When you get there, call home collect and then hang up when I don’t accept the call.”

Things told to a ten year old:

Quit your dilly-dallying.   I don’t care if everybody is doing it, you’re not everybody.  I’m not going to tell you twice.  When you are big enough and tough enough, we’ll talk.   What was that?  It sounded like a bomb went off.   I thought I told you not to do that.   Go disappear.    Yeah, well people in Hell want ice water.  Don’t make me take off my shoe.  I’ve seen better heads on lettuce.   You have two legs, walk!    That’s enough from the peanut gallery.  I have eyes in the back of my head.  Stop it or I will give you something to cry about.   Keep your hat on so your head won’t fall off.  Wipe that smile off of your face!  If you had brains, you would be dangerous. You’ve got more excuses than Carter’s has pills. I don’t want to hear a peep out of you.   Use your noggin.  Don’t make me come up there.  I wouldn’t bet the farm on it.    Stop it or you’ll poke your eye out.  Because I said so. Do that and you’re headed to Hell in a hand basket.  Get out of my hair. If your friend jumped off of a cliff, would you?  Don’t call your Mother a “she”.  Oh for cry-eye!  Close the door; you weren’t born in a barn.  Mind your P’s and Q’s.

Things told to a seventeen year old:

“E” does not stand for Enough…if you run out of gas, don’t call home.  Aint isn’t a word.    They’ll never buy the cow if they get the milk for free.  I asked for a reason, you gave me an excuse.   This is not a popularity contest.  You don’t know your ass from a hole in the ground.   Money doesn’t grow on trees.  “Hey” is for horses, grass is cheaper.  Keep your knees together if you don’t want to get pregnant.  Who do you think you are…The Queen of Sheba? or King Farouk?  Make sure your underwear is clean.  See, there’s the problem…you were thinking again.  Don’t let that change burn a hole in your pocket.  Guess what…the world doesn’t revolve around you.  If bullshit was music, you’d be a brass band.  You’re going to break that mirror if you keep looking in it.  This is not a flop house.  That outfit leaves nothing to the imagination. You don’t know shit from apple butter.  Here’s a nickel, go call someone who cares.  This job needs a bigger hammer;  or, get me a left-handed screwdriver.   “You smell like a French whore”  (if we wore too much perfume).  If you think I’m going to say yes, you have another thing coming. “I don’t know” is not an answer!

The Theory of Relativity:

  • Lose a game?  We could count on being cheered up with, “Well, when it rains, it pours” or “Cry me a river” or my favorite, “Go play in traffic.”
  • Confused?  Then you don’t know whether to shit or go blind.
  • Want your dad to get moving?  He says,   “I can’t.  I have a bone in my leg.”
  • Want a dog?  “Go pet your brother, Pete.”
  • Need stitches?  “Time to get the chainsaw out.”
  • Blocking the view of the only TV?  “Your dad wasn’t a glass maker, Move!”
  • Bullied?  Go kick ‘em where it counts.
  • Making faces?  “Cut it out or your face is going to stay like that.”
  • Need to use the restroom?  Go bomb Tokyo or go see a man about a horse.

Moms had their own mafia.  One mom would catch you up to no good and cuff you for it.  Then, when you got home, your own mom would double down.  After that, you’d have to explain it to your father when he gets home.  We went to bed without supper.  We were made to fix what we broke and return what we stole.  By the time our parents got done with us, we knew just enough about machinery to not be dangerous.

 

 

 

 

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