Archive for June, 2014

“And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air. . .”

What does the Sunday before the 4th of July mean?  The C of O fireworks display, of course.  = )

This year, Scott found the best way so far to get in, see the show, and get out.  We got off at the Hollister exit, turned right, and went slowly along, looking for a place to turn in and park.  The sidewalk was lined with chairs just like at the Veteran’s Day parade, and vehicles were off in the grass, up over the curb everywhere, and all the little pull-off parking places were packed.  Scott went all the way down to the Tractor Supply Company parking lot where we were able to find a spot.

Leaving the Durango there (and seeing Alexis Smith and family there!), we went on up to the sidewalk and walked to a place halfway between TSC and New Life Temple church, plunked our chairs on the sidewalk and sat and waited.

We arrived at 9:00 PM, and the Whittakers, who had been ousted from their parking place down in the campus by some rude and loud-mouthed Democrat who threatened – for not good reason! – to call security on them, soon joined us.  We had a nice visit while we awaited the “really big shew.”

It did not disappoint.  At 9:29 PM all kinds of big, loud, beautiful fireworks began, and the next 15 minutes made my patriotic heart swell with pride.  Although the U.S. of A. faces all kinds of big and little problems at home and abroad, I am still totally thrilled to be a citizen of this (once?) great land, and I am using my prayers to God and my hand on the ballot to do all I can to insure that she returns to her former, very costly glory.

The grand finale was terribly grand, and I was very happy.  We have now officially experienced our Glorious Fourth five days early (and we won’t have to sit in the smoke at Rockaway this year)!

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Want a cat?

We don’t!

This despite the fact that. . . hmmm. . . a cat could probably do what our resident black rat snake probably does. . .

Anyway, a stray cat has shown up at (thankfully outside of) one of our vacation rental homes.  It was there last week when Andrew was helping clean, and unfortunately it was there again today.  Last time, Andrew’s boss (a truly merciful and wonderful lady) gave the cat some water, but it seems that the guests who just checked out today have been feeding it!  We know this because they left “a big bag of cat food” on the porch.  Sigh.

My Hero is vascillating between Animal Control and a BB gun.  My 2 cents’ worth:  if you do own a pet, PLEASE take full responsibility for it!

End of rant.

Add in 3:15 and 2:20, as well

The past few nights I have arisen in the wee hours to go to the bathroom.  One night at 3:15 AM and the next night at 2:20 AM, my mockingbird friend was singing.  He is obviously no longer limiting his nocturnal performances to the half hour.

What would Brandon Beck have said?

The Life Group leaders arrived at 5:30 PM.  Scott had set up a table back near the burn pile with all the paper goods, buns, and condiments for our hot dog-and-brat roast.  The drinks, ice, and cups were on a table near the picnic table, and a number of lawn chairs were out in a semi-circle near the hammock, cuppers, and ladder ball.

In short, all the usual cookout stuff was ready – or as ready as it needed to be.

In addition, Scott wanted each Life Group leader to fill out a survey (front and back) about this session’s group – what was good, what could be improved, and then a ranking on some 10 or 15 various areas of personal and group-related issues.  We scrounged up six clip boards and pens for people to use, with the stated motivation that they had to fill out the survey before they could cook their dog.

So, some people (including Yours Truly) were sitting in the lawn chairs deep in thought, working on their surveys, and two people were playing cuppers, while little kids took turns on the swing – or whined about it not being their turn.

Steve arrived a few minutes late, because Scott had asked him to pick up some marshmallows for roasting, and when he saw everyone else filling out forms, he asked if he had to, too.  I replied that Scott had said we were all supposed to fill them out before we could eat.  I handed him a clipboard and sat back down, thinking suddenly that perhaps I had felt a raindrop or two.

Well, probably not.  It wasn’t even all that cloudy.  It must’ve been my imagination.  Well, maybe not.  Hmmm. . . was that rain?  Sometimes that tree drips sap.  In fact, while I was playing cuppers with Jonny, it had dropped on his shaved head and he had commented that something was dripping on him.  Surely it was sap.

I put my pen back to my paper and immediately sensed (was it my deep spiritual intuition?  NOT!) that it was indeed rain, and I stood up, thinking that we may need to move stuff.  I walked over toward the drink table, some 20 feet away, and I kid you not, by the time I got to it, it was pouring down rain!

I glanced at Scott asked him if he thought we should quickly try to move everything inside, and he said no, that it was probably just a passing little shower and would end in a minute.  We stood under the swing tree, and Abi asked if we needed to move things inside.  I started to make some intelligent reply, but just them the sky opened and the rain got significantly heavier.

“Let’s move it all in!” I shouted to Abi, as I gathered up soggy clipboards and a couple of two-liters, and the literal truth is that, moving as quickly as I could, bu the time I got from there into the breezeway, I was drenched.  My hair was as plastered to my head as if I were standing in the shower.  My clothes were dripping, and my underwear was soaked.

There was nothing for it but for all of us to keep running out and back in with armloads of stuff.

I grabbed as many beach towels as we had and had a wet friend hand them out to wet people as they came in.  Everything was dumped onto the dining room table – wet bags of hot dog buns; condiment bottles; the flower pots of plasticware, terra cotta thoroughly saturated; a stack of foam divided plates, all wet; the cup that had he

Realizing that we still had to cook our dogs and brats, I put a pot of water on to boil, but soon saw that they guys had moved the gas grill to porch.  We’d obviously be grilling after all.

With everyone soaked to the skin, we turned off the AC, because we were all cold, and I worked rather feverishly to try to get the kitchen ready to host a mini cafeteria line.

Everybody pitched in, and within 15 minutes, we had our meal (minus the roasted marshmallows).  Although Scott had planned on a relaxing evening of yard games, having punted that, we had a good discussion about the survey items.  While the adults were discussing, Andrew and Jerry took the kids back outside to play.  It had just about stopped raining, but was everything was quite wet and muddy.

I think all in all it came out okay, and at least it our end-of session cookout was memorable.  Later in the evening, I asked Scott if rain had been forecast.  “I don’t have any idea,” was his reply.  “Several times this afternoon, I intended to head to my computer to check the weather, but I’d get side-tracked and it never happened.”  I supposed it doesn’t really matter.  The forecast may well have said, “Locally heavy afternoon and evening showers.”  We just happened to live in Locally Heavy.

 

 

 

Location, location, location

While Jessica was home earlier this month, she, Andrew, and I watched a lovely black rat snake climb up the Life Tree.  That was fun.

Yesterday, when Scott and I finally managed – with great effort – to tumble out of the hammock where we had been most comfortably reclining under the big tree that holds the blue swing, Scott almost stepped on a black rat snake!  He was near the untended flower bed under the cypress tree  – the tree into which our good friend, the pileated woodpecker, has, over the years, drilled such an impressive series of holes.  We watched, intrigued, as the snake crossed the driveway and moved off into the undergrowth along the ditch.

This evening, in about an hour, we are expecting some 20 folks here for a Life Group leaders end-of session cookout.  Scott and Andrew had gone to town on some business errands, and when Scott walked back in, he said, “You need to get a picture of this, and we probably need to get rid of it before our guests arrive.”

He ushered me out the breezeway door to the front, and there, in all its glory, was a black rat snake, climbing up the chimney.  He was about four feet up – part of him still on the ground – climbing in the “crease” along the patch that Jim Ernest put in a couple years ago, where the chimney had parted company with the house.  I’m really glad the patch is there, or we’d have a snake in the house!

Using my massive walking stick, Scott made every effort to get the snake down off the chimney, but the snake was disinclined toward any movement in the downward direction.  No matter what Scott did, the snake went up.  Over and over again.  I told Scott I REALLY thought he should get him off the chimney before he got too high for Scott to reach.  Scott said he might have to kill him, and I couldn’t bear to watch that, so I came in here to blog.

Scott went to set up for the cookout and called the boys (Andrew and his friend, Jerry) to come deal with the snake, but evidently they were unsuccessful.  I just asked Andrew where the snake was, fearing he had met his demise, and Andrew said, “Ummm. . . somewhere near the house.  We think under the porch.”

“Under the porch?!” I exclaimed.  “NO!!!  That goes to the cellar and the cellar goes to the house and I do NOT want that snake in my house!!!”

“Well, we tried to get it but it slithered away.”

“You’ve got toe be kidding!”

“Nope.”

Now, I like snakes, but I like them in their natural habitat – out in the woods where they belong. Not under my porch, and really, not anywhere in close proximity to my house.

I’m pretty sure this must be the same guy.  I do like the idea of having him around, as I know he’s fond of rodents, which I also don’t want in close proximity to my house, but the reality of having him around; well, that’s something else.

Maybe he’ll get tired of hanging around and go back to the woods. . . or maybe I’ll have something else to blog about. . .

 

“Driver, when you’re clear. . . “

The riding lawn mower’s drive belt kept falling off.  The mower didn’t care much about this, but we surely did.  It meant that Scott and Andrew were out there trying to get the belt back on about as many times as they were trying to get water heater lit.  (And BTW, my shower was hot this morning!)

The mower had been serviced at a cost a couple months ago, right before mowing season started, so Scott used our handy-dandy trailer to take it back to the guy who worked on it.  We’re kind of proud of that trailer.  We are the only people in Taney County who live in the country – our neighborhood is probably more accurately described as a “semi-rural area” – without owning a truck.  After eighteen years, we still don’t own a truck (although the Durango can certainly do the work of a truck), and without a truck, one does end up borrowing trailers rather frequently.  Scott got tired of that and so bought a trailer.  It’s very nice and even has its own license plate.

The mower was ready to be picked up in the southern part of the county, and with Scott out of town, it fell to Andrew (the chauffeur) and me (the navigatrix and commentator) to go pick it up.  And since the small engine repair is onlyl a coule miles from the home of our friends who had borrowed one of our kayaks, we decided to save them the trip and go pick it up, as well.

Here are all the things I did NOT do:

Back up the Durango to the trailer, without running over or otherwise damaging anything

Hook the trailer to the Durango and make sure all connections were secure

Check all the lights

Collect ratchet straps and bungee cords

Drive to the repair shop

Secure the mower on the trailer

Drive to the friends’ house, parking along the street

Load the kayak and paddle into the back of the Durango

Back(!!) the trailer into their driveway to turn the Durango around *

Drive home

Unload the mower and put it away

Unload the kayak and paddle and put them away

Disconnect the trailer from the Durango

Park the Durango in the driveway

WHAT A GUY!!!  I told him it’s like having Scott around, this capable and good-natured young man!  Not only does he drive well, he parks, backs up, loads and unloads well, too.  = )

* There’s a little humor here.  Our friends live on a “no outlet” street.  They live in the third (I think) house on the right, and you can’t see the end of the street from there.  We don’t go there very often, and most of the time it’s either to borrow kayaks or return them, sometimes with a camper in tow, and sometimes with a trailer in tow; rarely with just a regular, single vehicle.  We’ve never actually been to the end of their road, so we don’t know if there’s a cul-de-sac there or if if the road just dead-ends.  We go to great lengths (8- points turns and such) to get ourselves turned around and out of there, because if we take a trailer to the end of the road and it dead-ends, how on earth will we ever get out of there?  Someday, I need to either drive down there in a regular car and look, or humble myself and call or text my friend and ask.

 

Too hot to trot

After two more days of the water heater not heating (despite Andrew’s heroic deeds and prayers), I called R&H Plumbing, and Jesse, who has developed a long-term and rather intimate relationship with our water heater, came out.  He’s worked on it often enough that he brought a little rug to lie on on the gravel down there.  = )

Some 80 minutes later we had a diagnosis (super dirty burner) and a prognosis (it will live and not die – yet).  Although it’s nine years old and the average life expectancy for its kin is ten years, with disciplined care we can probably extend that somewhat.

After disassembling and meticulously cleaning the burner/pilot assembly, replacing the thermocouple, re-installing the burner/pilot assembly, re-lighting the pilot, letting the burner come on, turning the thermostat down to turn the burner off, turning it back up, and witnessing the burner re-igniting, Jesse concluded that, “Well, you’ll just have to live with hot water.”

This was welcome news! And we’ve had hot water all afternoon and evening.  But the true test will come with tomorrow morning’s shower.

I have arrived at the following numerically-coded descriptions of the water with which one can conceivably shower:

1 – Ice cold

2 – Cold

3 – Cool

4 – Luke cool

5 – Luke warm

6 – Warm

7 – Hot

8 – Scalding Hot

Yesterday, my shower was a (5).  This morning, the burner of the water heater having been off for some 20 hours, with the shower control turned all the way to full hot, I did one of those speed showers.  You may know the kind.  It’s where, in order to conserve the 17 molecules of hot water possibly remaining in the tank, you turn the shower on only in very brief, 8-second increments.  The first lets you splash enough (2) water on you to facilitate lathering.  You then shut off the frigid stream while you shave and scrub, while psyching yourself up for what must come next.  With a deep breath and firm determination, you turn the water back on for a few seconds of rinsing, during which you remind yourself that it’s not really any colder than the creek was the last time you swam in it – so if it were hot and sunny in your bathroom, the (2) water would actually feel good.  Then, in an act of supreme courage, you tip your head straight back into it to get your hair wet.  At least it’s not technically a (1), but it probably will be by tomorrow morning.  You turn off the water while you shampoo your hair very quickly; then you flip it back on and try to squelch a gasp as you again force your head under the “cool mountain stream” to rinse off, after which you slam the shower control off and leap briskly toward your dry towel.

I vastly prefer my shower to be a (7), and I have both faith and hope that tomorrow it will be!

Jesse also explained the various mistakes we were making in draining the beast.  (He had asked if anything had precipitated this round of lighting failures, and I told him it had been drained about ten days ago and hadn’t been the same since.)

For one thing, draining and filling (for the purpose of removing at least a subset of the limescale buildup) is much less effective than flushing.  I didn’t even know there was a difference – ignorant me!  You want to flush it because the force of the water pushing through the tank does a better job of forcing sediment out than merely draining it.

However, this flushing MUST be done religiously AT LEAST every six months.  If you miss a flush, you are basically hosed forever, because if the little calcium particles aren’t flushed out, they – much like women at intermission – congregate all in one place, and this causes them to stick together, forming larger “rocks” that are too big to fit through the drain, and which will therefore reside in the tank forever.

To flush the water heater, you DO NOT turn it all the way off!  You also DO NOT shut off the water to the house.  Instead, you set it to “pilot,” attach a hose, open the valve, and let it flow for at least five minutes.

Now we know, and I’m sure time will tell how religious we really are.

Decidedly out of place

Yesterday morning, as I approached the bridge for the first lap, I saw a turtle, a very large, dinner plate-sized, relatively flat turtle, the kind that always excite me when I see them swimming near the bridge, walking. Maybe more accurately it was lumbering. . . or waddling. . . but in any case, it was moving fairly rapidly for a turtle on terra firma, up the gravel path where we pull our kayaks out!  Yes, that water turtle was on land and NOT in the water!  How very strange.

It made time along the path to a point about halfway between the water’s edge and the enormous boulders that force people to park their vehicles in the tiny parking area instead of driving down into the water, and then it turned off into the undergrowth between the path and the creek.

As usual, inquiring minds want to know why, and the only thing this particular mind can figure out is that it was a female looking for a good place to lay eggs.  Unfortunately, how to test this hypothesis remains a mystery.

To Kill a Mockingbird

I never would because Atticus told us it’s a sin.

Even aside from that, mockingbirds are really special to me.  I love that they sing so creatively and beautifully, going seamlessly from on song to another.  I also like that they tend to perch in the same place every morning, usually on the very highest point in the area.  And then while they are singing, they do that wild jumping and flapping thing that so like a prima dona screams, “Look at me!!!”  Mockingbirds clearly have no self esteem issues.  They (generally speaking) make me smile.

For a variety of reasons, in the past couple of weeks, I have found myself staying up late.  This is a trend I am now working to reverse, but I confess that it’s been 10:30, 11:30, and a couple times even after midnight when I have finally turned out the light.  And yes, sometimes I stay up late so I can blog.  = )

One night not long ago, I went to bed at 11:30 PM, and as I lay there, with the noise maker on, I thought I heard something else.  It sounded kind of like a bird, but what on earth bird would be chirping in the middle of the night?  I tried to ignore it, but I could clearly hear a bird over the noise maker, and the bird was making it hard to fall asleep.

Since I couldn’t seem to tune him out, I tuned in to try to figure out what kind of bird he was.  The main bird that I’ve heard at night (usually when camping) has been the whippoorwill.  They are clearly some of the MOST obnoxious birds known to man!  They keep their calling up all night, and, even worse, they do it at weird intervals, so that just as you are finally about to doze off, the silly thing calls again.  Ugh.

This was not a whippoorwill.

In fact, I couldn’t figure out exactly what this bird was singing.  He didn’t seem to have a standard repetitive call like most birds do.  While attempting the analysis, I did mercifully fall asleep.

The next night, I went to bed at 11:15 PM, and once again, just as I slid between the sheets, a bird started singing.  He sang for over 20 minutes straight.  Sweet Georgia Peaches!  I got up and turned the noise maker louder.  It did not drown him out.  Eventually, sheer fatigue overwhelmed his song and sent me to sleep.  But where WAS the guy, and what KIND of (insane) bird was he?

The following morning, I went out to walk and noticed the cheerful mockingbird habitually singing his fool heart out from his perch atop the Casa de Luz gas station sign.  For more than 20 minutes, the guy belted out lyrical melodies from his chosen post, and I began to wonder about my nighttime nemesis.

For the past week, I have been carefully studying the situation, and here’s what I’ve concluded.

There’s a deranged mockingbird in our neighborhood.  The guy is a confirmed, card-carrying insomniac, and he’s a more active proselytizer than the Jehovah’s Witnesses!  I’ve got to give it to him; if keeping people awake is his goal, he’s definitely succeeding.

I also figured out why it sounds like he’s singing right outside my window; he is!  During the morning, he has been observed alternating between his two favorite command posts:  the Casa de Luz gas station sign and the telephone pole directly across the highway from Coffee Road.  Those who know the area well will note that not only are those the two highest points in the neighborhood; they are also the two bird-perching positions in closest proximity to our bedroom.  No matter which one he picks for his overnight serenade, he is guaranteed to be singing lustily straight into our room.

And the fellow is nothing, if not consistent.  Regardless of what time he starts his soliloquy, like a cuckoo clock, he ALWAYS sings on the half hour.  He hasn’t missed a 10:30 PM, 11:30 PM, or 12:30 AM concert in over a week!

The thing I can’t figure out is why the guy hasn’t sung himself to death.  He’s always going great guns in the morning (including all those spastic, adolescent-looking jumping jacks), I’ve heard him throughout the day, and he’s clearly a “night owl,” as well, so why hasn’t sleep deprivation done him in?  Really now, for exactly how many weeks can any bird continue to sing literally day and night without ceasing?  Is he on meth or something?!?

I surely don’t want him dead, and I actually love to hear him sing.  In the daytime.  I understand that he may not need to sleep, but truly I do.

O, Mr. Mockingbird, I beseech you by the mercies of God, feel free to sing me a song or twenty-seven. . . tomorrow.

Pilotless

Two hours after Andrew’s grand lighting success, the pilot was out again.  Sigh.  While I was thankful that I had gotten a hot shower, I was displeased, to say the least, that that silly thing wouldn’t stay on.

Throughout the day, at my request, Andrew descended into the depths to spend five or ten minutes trying to light the feisty thing.  No go.

This evening, we had decided we’d go to Kohl’s and let him spend his birthday gift cards.  The guy is in desperate need of clothes, since he’s growing like crazy (5’10” and climbing) and hasn’t bought clothes in a while.  He owns one pair of shorts that fits and is in good enough shape to wear in public.  His T-shirts are holey and too short.  You get the idea.

After I agreed that I’d take him to Kohl’s, he mentioned that he still had some money on a Wendy’s gift card, so he would like to buy us supper out.  I was great with that idea.

I had been down at the creek this afternoon and was all sweaty, but with the pilot light on the water heater out, I knew it was going to be invigorating.  I asked Andrew to PLEASE try one more time while I was showering.  He sighed (a justifiable response, for sure!), and I told him that if he could get the burner to run, I would pay for supper.  The guy trotted exuberantly down, and as I finished my shower – which was plenty warm, I guess because we had used very little hot water all day – he hollered through the vent, “I DID IT!!!”  When I asked him how, he said, “I prayed, and it lit!!!”  Very cool indeed.  Or, preferably, very hot.  Amen.


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