I haven’t personally MET a “large, long-legged and long-necked bird.”

But I’ve stood in its namesake.

Many moons ago, the aux wire in the Durango – the one that lets me listen to my phone through the car’s speakers – developed a short. Although I’ve gotten used to having only the radio, and I am glad to have it, it’s been frustrating to not be able to listen to podcasts, especially on longer drives like my two recent four-hour St. Louis runs. Years ago, as a Christmas gift, Scott had the aux wire put in for me at a place in Springfield, so one time last year when Andrew and I were up there, we went by that place, hoping to get the wire repaired or replaced. It’s a very good thing we went together. I believe the current vernacular to describe the place would be “sketchy.” Well, actually “seedy” might come closer. It was in a rugged, decrepit part of town and the guy at the counter was really cocky. I didn’t like him at all. His price was $45, but he couldn’t do it that day; I’d have to make an appointment and come back. Which I wasn’t about to do because Andrew wouldn’t be available and I wasn’t about to go there alone.

So I lived podcast-less on the road till last month when I started looking online for an auto audio place that would be closer, cheaper, and less sketchy. I found it at Rick’s Car Audio in Crane. Yes, Crane. Like the bird. In particular, the blue crane. The guy I talked to said he’d have to talk with Rick and he’d call me back. Three weeks later I remembered that he had not, so I called back and the guy said that yes, they could do it for $20-$25 at 10:00 AM on Friday. Fine. I made plans for a little road trip. Although google maps said the drive to Crane would take 42 minutes, it’d be through some extremely scenic rural parts of Stone and Taney Counties (the latter having been named for Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, of recently-removed-from-Maryland-State-House statue infamy). One of my great joys in life is exploring country roads, and I will say that this journey did not disappoint.

Now, because I’m “saving” this particular exploratory adventure to share in full with Katie in a few weeks, and I’m pretty sure she’ll read this post, I will now, with great restraint, limit my comments here to focusing primarily on my experience with Rick’s.

The shop is located on at 122 Main Street in Crane, and when I pulled in at 9:55 for my 10:00 appointment, Rick’s Car Audio appeared dark and empty. However, the door was unlocked, so I walked on in and called out my standard Ozarkian greeting, “Howdy,” at which a man appeared from a back room, greeted me, and turned on the lights. I told him who I was, and he was well aware of what I wanted done. I had parked on the street and told him I didn’t know where to put the car; no  problem, he would move it.

Glancing about the room, I asked if there was a place I could wait, and he said, waving his arm toward the front door, that some place over there across the street served breakfast, and there were a number of antique stores around. I said I could just walk around (the repair was expected to take 20-30 minutes), but he then walked me back to a little (very dumpy) room behind the counter and said they did have a couch. Let’s just say that no one’s backside had graced that piece of furniture in a long time. He began shoving all the junk piled on it to one end to make room for me to sit, but I took the stroll-about town option.  = )

I’m pretty sure I could see all of downtown Crane from the doorway of Rick’s Car Audio. A barbershop. A post office. ABC Accounting. A bank. A library. (Ooh, a small town library!) I resisted the library, at least initially, and wandered instead into The Classey Corner Café. I wasn’t hungry, but I did have a lot of fun perusing the several flea market booths within. In one of them, I found a gem of an old book, Missouri’s Hall of Fame: Lives of Eminent Missourians by Floyd Calvin Shoemaker, A.B., A.M., Secretary of The State Historical Society of Missouri and Editor of The Missouri Historical Review, copyright 1918, published 1923 – price $2.00!

At that point, having killed about 30 delightful minutes, I moseyed back to Rick’s, where the guy told me I was all fixed up and it’d be $20.60.

“Do you take credit cards?”

“Well, Rick can, but he’s not here yet.”

It had not occurred to me to bring any cash.

“OK. I can write you a check.”

“Rick has a card reader on his phone. Without that, you have to pay more and then they charge you every time you use it. He can just swipe it, but he’s not here yet.”

Um, you already told me that.

As I wrote the check and handed it to the guy, another man appeared from the back. Rick perhaps? Well, no.

“Do you need to see my driver’s license or something?”

My guy turned to the other man.

“Do we need anything, uh, on a check?”

The man looked at me, half smiled, and said no.

Now, my request over the phone had been for a cord that was stretchy. I had inquired about a coil cord, like an old timey phone cord. See, I treat my aux cord gently, but I suspect that one of the other people who sometimes drive the Durango had at some point yanked the six-foot cord too hard and shorted it out. I want to reduce the likelihood of similar damage in the future. Whoever I had talked to on the phone – which I suspect was this same guy – had told me he thought there were retractable cords, which sounded great to me, and that he’d check with Rick. So as I was paying, my guy said that Rick had said he could order a different cord and I could come back and they could switch it out. He asked me to write my name and number on the receipt so that he could call me when it came in. The thought of spending another hour and-a-half on the road just to get a stretchy cord seemed excessive, and I didn’t even think to ask if there’d be an additional charge for the replacement, but then again, an hour and-a-half with one of my favorite fellow explorers (I have three and you know who you are!) sounded absolutely delicious, especially considering that our route could potentially involve not one but TWO small town libraries, a very unique and historic bridge, a one-lane country road complete with white lines on both sides and no center line, a town square(!!!), and an as yet completely un-investigated strip of pavement called Swinging Bridge Road!

So I thanked the guy and held out my hand for my receipt.

“You want to take a picture of it?”

Huh? I was confused… ?

“If you take a picture of it then you’ll have it.”

Um… Duh??

“So you’ll have it if you need it.”

This was a new one on me. Evidently he wasn’t going to GIVE me my receipt; I’d have to take a picture of it. Good thing I recently learned how to take pictures with my phone and actually knew where to find my camera app! So I took a picture of it and he put my receipt on top of another one on the counter, and I headed home.

Listening to a podcast as I went!

 

 

 

To the tune of “Three Coins in the Fountain”

The other day, I was resting on our bed when Andrew came into the room and said, “Look outside, Mom.” I twisted around and looked, and there was a raccoon under the smaller plum tree! He was a youngster, grubbing around, I suppose, for any underripe plums that may have fallen. But wait, there’s more! Another young coon was up IN the big plum tree! Oh, Wow. We watched them for a couple minutes, sometimes on the ground, sometimes up the tree, till something startled them and they scampered off. I know our neighbor is trapping them because they (or their kin) have been killing her chickens. In fact, the coons have been so problematic that I think her husband shot one a few mornings ago. But these two in our yard were just so stinkin’ cute!

Sing it with me, boys and girls:

“Two coons in a plum tree

Each one seeking something sweet

Oh, how fun to behold them

Striped tails, masks, and dainty feet.”

Why do we have water?

Because she likes exploring.

Like her mom and sister, Jessica loves to explore remote country roads. Several years ago, on such a trek she found Lone Star Church. She knows I also delight in such finds, and when she took me out there to see the church, we happened to meet Pastor K, who happened to be there doing some grounds work. Jessica wasn’t even dating anyone at the time, but the building is very quaint and unique, and she told me she thought it would be a wonderful place to get married.

Roll the clock forward a couple years… Once Jessica and Matthias were engaged, she asked me to contact Pastor K about possibly using Lone Star Church for the ceremony. He didn’t know me, so when I called, I gave him my name and explained that our daughter, who was a missionary in Hong Kong, had seen the church and fallen in love with it and wanted to know if she could rent it for her upcoming wedding. No, he said, she could not rent it, but she could use it for free. (Amazing!) And by the way, he wanted to know, how did she get her support? Their church was looking for a missionary to support… And that was the beginning of Pastor K and his wife and and Lone Star Church getting to know Jessica (and later Matthias), inviting Jessica to minister at their church, and supporting them monthly. That connection also led to them meeting Scott, inviting him to minister at their church, and supporting him. And in all of that, we got to know a bit about Pastor K and his wife, including the fact that his day job is running a backhoe; he has a one-man, two machine excavating business.

Which is why, when Scott and I learned yesterday that we needed to dig a 190-foot trench diagonally across the back yard to bury the electrical line that we fondly and fervently hoped would power our pump and once again allow us to enjoy the luxury of running water, we wondered aloud together about who we might know who could dig us such a trench at a good price. After all, when one must have one’s entire back yard sliced with a trench on short notice – as in “right NOW” would be just dandy – one doesn’t really want to just “look in the phone book” (does anyone really do that anymore?) and pick a company.

So I said, “You know, Pastor K has an excavation company. Maybe he could dig us a trench.”

Scott said that was a brilliant idea, called him, and left a message. That was yesterday afternoon.

Scott didn’t hear back, so this morning, knowing Pastor K to be an early riser (he and Scott once met for breakfast at 6:30 AM), Scott called him again at 7:00 and explained the situation. Pastor K recommended his friend J, who also attends Lone Star Church, lives in Bradleyville, and also owns a piece of machinery that would be appropriate for such a job. And it turns out, J is also a monthly supporter of Take the Challenge. Small world.  = ) Scott called at J at 9:30 AM, and he arrived at our house at 12:15 with a nifty Case machine (a bulldozer? a tractor? an excavator? I don’t know, but it has all these nifty attachments to do all kinds of different things, and it even bends in the middle!) on a big trailer, a bucket of tools, a great attitude, a strong body, a creative mind, and a readiness to do whatever it took to get us up and running again.

Meanwhile, I had planned to be at the church working on the bulletin this morning, but when I realized (standing in my birthday suit in our tub with the faucet on and nothing coming out) that I couldn’t shower after my sweaty walk, I put my nasty, smelly clothes back on, loaded my backpack with clean clothes and other necessities, and went on up to the church, where I was grateful to be able to take a shower before doing the bulletin, a fact for which I’m sure Cheryl was thankful.

And back at our house, J worked steadily and cheerfully in the 90 degree, 90% relative humidity weather from 12:15 PM till 6:55 PM:

~ surveying the situation and making a plan

~ digging the trench

~ ordering the materials (initially electrical cable and PVC conduit and connectors; later junction boxes and few other odds and ends)

~ disconnecting the existing power line at both ends

~ dismantling the decrepit electrical fixtures on the smokehouse (this required extreme physical strength and mental resourcefulness; no repair or remodel related to our 105-year-old house is ever easy or simple)

~ laying the electrical cable alongside the trench

~ threading some 22 eight-foot sections of conduit onto the cable and gluing them together

~ completely changing the way power was routed into and out of the shop building (this required removing a section of our “Chuck-resistant” underpinning at the base of the shop) and bringing it all up to code (it may well be that there was no code when the pump was initially wired!)

~ moving the conduit into the trench

~ mounting new junction boxes at each end (including replacing the one inside the well house that was “well, pretty dicey”)

~ re-connecting the power, confirming that the pump was running, and rejoicing that we did indeed have water (YAY!!!!)

~ using the Case machine to put the dirt back in the trench and pack it down (so many hand controls so deftly maneuvered)

~ cleaning everything up, gathering his tools, and re-loading the Case machine (watching him get it up onto the trailer without a ramp was worth selling tickets)

We paid something like $320 for the materials, but as far as paying J personally, he said he was donating his time(?!?), that it cost $25/hour to run the machine, and a check for $50 would be just right. (!!!!!!!) I could NOT believe it. I was so overwhelmed it made me cry. I told him how VERY much we appreciated his expertise, his equipment, and his quality work. He said, “It’s an offering. You guys are doing something that’s making an eternal difference, and I get to be a part and help. God helps me and I like to be able to help someone who’s doing his work.” And with that and a grin, he threaded that big old trailer back down our driveway and drove 23 miles home.

Now all things electrical between the house and the well house are fixed and fixed right; much better than they’ve ever been in the 21 years we’ve lived here.

And today we have water because Jessica loves to explore remote country roads.  = )

 

Everything but the kitchen sink

I was relaxing in my favorite green chair in the living room while Scott was taking his shower this morning. Our bathroom is directly over that chair, and partway through his shower I heard from above – in addition to the WORLD News podcast he often listens to when showering – a very loud and somewhat rhythmic thumping. I couldn’t figure out what he could possibly be doing up there other than maybe… dancing?!?

Oh, well.

And then – for the most obvious reason – I visited the first floor bathroom, and when I flushed, the toilet commenced a most disturbing mighty roaring and thumping sound that made me jump. I hollered up to My Hero who concurred that there was “something wrong with the water.” Indeed. Back in the kitchen, I turned on that faucet and it just sputtered. Hmm… A bit of investigative research on Scott’s part revealed that yes, the holding tank in the well house was empty, and no, the pump wasn’t running, but it turns out that wasn’t because the pump had died. It was because the power line that runs diagonally across the back yard from the clothesline pole (where power comes onto our property) to the well house was severed. Evidently some heavy overhanging limb had blown against it and snapped it. This was not good, but a lack of power is better than a dead pump, especially since we had plenty of power in the house.

There were no limbs down in the yard, but one end of the power line from the clothesline pole was just lying in the yard. Probably still live. And it looked like it was about to rain.

The inconveniences caused by having faucets that produce no water became obvious pretty quickly. I was thirsty and my water bottle was empty… but I couldn’t fill it. It was time to make lunch… but I couldn’t wash my hands. I had just spent 75 minutes putting away a massive grocery run, and because that had involved a lot of food prep (dividing, organizing, chopping, etc.) and because some of last night’s dishes and cooking pots were still on the counter, I had a LOT of dishes to wash before I could even create counter space to make our lunch salads… but I couldn’t wash the dishes – or even wet a cloth to wipe off the very small bit of counter space I could clear. I usually use hot soapy water to wipe the counters, but I figured that in a pinch I could just squirt a little cool water onto a dish cloth from my water bottle… but wait; my water bottle was empty. Etc.

We do use water for many tasks. Drinking, washing dishes, washing clothes, showering, flushing, you name it. So I contacted a couple neighbors to ask permission to use their outside faucets to fill some jugs and other assorted containers, after which, much like the woman in 2 Kings 4, Scott took a great number of empty vessels, “not a few,” loaded them in the Durango, and went to get water. Unfortunately, it poured down rain for about five minutes in the midst of his journey, but Scott is never easily deterred. He made a successful trek and returned home with our small yellow water cooler, our large red water cooler, our soup kettle, our massive canner, and our new blue ice chest all totally full of water. The back carpet of the Durango was also soaked, but wet Durango carpet is not newsworthy. The driver’s seat carpet was already wet because we’ve had a couple days of rain.

We now had plenty of containers of water, so we set some to heat for later dish washing and then enjoyed our salads while I soundly beat Scott at Minus Five.

Meanwhile, he contacted a workman who had done the wiring for the hot tub at the Alpine to see if he could come and advise us on how to deal with the live wire out back and how to restore power to the pump.

I will say that doing that massive lunch clean up was significantly less than recreational, but by pretending I was camping in the kitchen I was able to keep a good attitude. Of course I did have hot water and dish soap to wash the items, but I had no way to rinse the greasy ones before washing, so the water got pretty nasty pretty quickly. And then there was the matter of rinsing the soap off afterwards, but I figured out that by balancing the yellow jug on the edge of the sink and squeezing the spigot valve, I was able to fill the watering can, which it proved ideal for rinsing off soap suds.

Shortly after I finished the dishes – and be it noted that the tower in the dish drainer is impressive – only 90 minutes after Scott called, Tim arrived, and Scott went out with him to survey the situation. They decided that a ditch would need to be dug diagonally across the yard from the clothesline pole to the well house, but until we could arrange that little excavation project, Tim had rigged us up a temporary power-to-the-pump fix. I looked out back and saw what appeared to be an orange extension cord strung through the trees. While that did give me pause, I certainly knew better than to complain, so I just rejoiced with Scott that we could once again have running water. He confirmed that the pump was working, and I suggested the name of a friend who might give us a good deal on ditch digging.

We walked back into the kitchen and turned on the faucet, but (read it and weep) no water came out. Well, that kind of made sense; the line had gone completely dry, so it would probably take a few minutes for the holding tank to fill and water to run back into the house. Meanwhile, Scott walked through the house turning on other faucets, all of which worked just fine. It’s now been an hour or so, and without exception, every single faucet, tub, shower, toilet, and washing machine in the entire house is working perfectly, except for the faucet in the kitchen, which we use all day every day, and out of which comes absolutely nothing, no matter what.

Hence the title of this blog.  = )

 

[Update four hours later: After church, Scott called Mr. Bill, who in less than 30 seconds diagnosed the problem as a clogged aerator filter on the end of the faucet. Mr. Bill is rarely wrong and this case was no exception. The filter was totally full of what appeared to be mud, which offending sediment has been removed, and as a bonus for the past year of generally uninterrupted service, our friendly filter is now enjoying a relaxing overnight vinegar soak.]

“I feel the earth. move. under my feet…”

If you’re trying to decide what dessert to bring to that upcoming potluck, and if you’ve been thinking along the lines of super moist, sinfully rich, and deliciously chocolatey, look no further. Earthquake Cake is the ultimate answer to your baking conundrum.

Here’s the recipe Andrew adapted from delish.com. (WARNING: Diabetics and heart patients should probably skip this one.)

Earthquake Cake

1 cup coconut

1 German chocolate cake mix

3 eggs

1 ½ cups water

½ cup oil

8 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 stick butter, melted   (I told you it was rich.)

2 ½ cups powdered sugar   (And decidedly NOT low-carb.)

1 tsp vanilla

pinch of salt

2 cups chocolate chips (We use semi-sweet, but milk chocolate would be fine too.)

 

Preheat oven to 350° and spray a 9″ x 13” baking pan. Spread coconut on bottom of pan.

In large mixing bowl, combine cake mix, eggs, oil, and water. Beat 2 ½ minutes on medium speed. Pour batter over coconut.

In large mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, melted butter, powdered sugar, vanilla, and salt. Beat until light and fluffy. Pour cream mixture over chocolate batter.

Sprinkle chocolate chips on top.

Bake 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

The final line of the actual recipe says, “serve warm with ice cream,” but it stands alone just fine, either warm or at room temp or even (don’t ask me how I know) by the spoonful straight out of the fridge at bedtime. In any case, I suggest a small serving size indulged in slowly, so as to maximally savor the full richness of Earthquake Cake.  = )

And he owns a car!

Today Andrew handed Scott his final car payment! His 2003 Honda Accord is still titled in Scott’s name for the sake of insurance, but Andrew now has unlimited use of the car and full responsibility for all maintenance and repairs. A few weeks ago, sadly mere just days after he turned 18 (that birthday being the pre-agreed-upon termination date of our commitment to pay half his car maintenance and repairs), one of his wheel bearings went out, his brakes needed full replacement, and he needed new tires. Thankfully, Kim Hughes’ mechanic husband, Carlos, agreed to do ALL that work for only a very small amount above the cost of parts and tires. They live 50 miles away, so we did make several trips back and forth, and Andrew did have to hand over a significant wad of cash, but the car is now in great shape, and it is for all intents and purposes his.

Hats off to a great accomplishment for our youngest man!

We’ve got an ATL!

What exactly, you may ask, does ATL stand for? And is it something we want to have? The short answers would be, respectively, “I don’t know,” and “Yes, absolutely.”

Andrew, who started last year as a Life Guard One (LG1) at White Water and has since been raised to Life Guard Two (LG2), recently applied to be an ATL. It’s a step above LG2 and a step below Lead, and it involves some level of oversight of other guards, several more responsibilities, and a pay raise. All good things. Details I don’t yet know include:

  • the particulars of other guard oversight (although I know ATL’s help train guards, make sure guards are doing their jobs properly, and confront/correct/instruct them when they’re not)
  • an ATL’s specific additional responsibilities (although I know they clear the pools when needed – like in a rescue situation or when there’s lightning, and they are the ones who clean up “spills” – like when a guest poops or pukes in a pool)
  • pay rates for LG1’s, LG2’s, or ATL’s

I do know that ATL’s serve as assistant managers to the “Leads,” so I’m guessing that ATL might stand for something like “Assistant to Lead” or “Always Too Lucid” or “Able To Laugh.” I also know that Andrew felt that his interview went “pretty well,” and he was quite pleased to have gotten the job. Today was his first shift as an ATL,and he was scheduled to work 10:20 AM to 10:30 PM. I suspect he will sleep pretty well tonight.