Sunday, December 14, 2008

Christmas Past: A Turkey, A Goat, Plus A Prank

My dad has had the same best friend since high school. From the simple to the extreme, they have always played practical jokes on one another. As their children aged, we often were part of their mischievous endeavors.

One year, near Christmas, we received a rather large package delivered by a local courier. We assumed it was from one of our dad’s customers. This beautifully gift wrapped box was about the size of a large television. Although the tag said, “To the family of”, we waited for our dad to return home from his office. As soon as Daddy arrived, we gathered around. He took out his pocket knife and slowly opened the box. Just as he removed the last of the tape and the top from the box, out jumped a live turkey.

This was not a domesticated turkey – it was wild! The turkey began running around the house and entered the den with the vaulted ceiling. Daddy had gone into the garage and retrieved his bass fishing net. Chasing this wild bird became quite the ordeal. We had it cornered and just as Daddy was about to net this beast – it took flight.

The focal point in the den was an antique armoire that stood eight feet high. This beautiful piece of furniture had been in my mom’s family for generations and was shipped from Ireland along with other family heirlooms. The front of the armoire was burled maple – truly a magnificent piece of craftsmanship. Wouldn't you know, the turkey clawed its way up the front of the armoire, finally resting on top. Needless to say, Mother was horrified. Not to cause any further damage, Daddy decided to let it roost there until it fell asleep – then he could capture it. The phone rang and we could hear him talking with “Uncle” Ed. There was laughter and a promise of a return surprise. My sisters and I knew it was game on.

The next morning at 4:00 am Daddy wakes me and tells me to get ready to go out to the farm. Our farm was 12 miles from town where we raised cattle, kept our horses and other assorted farm animals – including goats. As we made the drive, he told me of his plan. I thought he might be taking things a bit too far; but, he was my dad. We pulled through the gate and took one of the goats and placed it securely in the back of his truck. Daddy went into the tack room and returned with a burlap bag. I didn’t ask what was in the bag; I knew better.

On the drive back into town, he gave me my instructions – okay, now I’m an accomplice to his madness. We arrived at Ed’s around 5:30 and Daddy took a spike and drove it into the center of Ed’s freshly planted winter lawn. We then took a dog collar and placed it around the goat’s neck. A 10 foot chain was attached to the spike and, at the other end, a snap hook was then attached to the goat’s collar. Daddy used Ed’s hose to fill a bucket of water for the goat. Then we hopped back into to the truck and sped off. He was like some maniac laughing all the way back to the house.

We waited for the phone call from Ed to come and get the goat; but, a couple of hours had passed and Daddy could not leave well enough alone. He talked me into to driving us by Ed’s in my car. I agreed and waited in the car. After a few minutes, here comes Daddy wearing Mother’s blonde wig and a large pair of sunglasses. I looked at him as if he had lost his damn mind; but, I couldn’t help but laugh. We drove by Ed’s and the goat had eaten a perfect circle on the lawn. I guess this might could have been one of the first crop circles had we removed the goat. Daddy was laughing and feeling pretty proud of himself. Back at the house, Daddy was still wearing his disguise, Mother threw up her hands, “I don’t want to know!” I figured plausible deniability. About a half hour later the expected phone call came, there was laughter and a "gotcha".

Later in the week when both families gathered for some peaceful Christmas cheer, Daddy greeted them at the door wearing none other than his prank’s disguise. Several rounds of laughter went up as the two men recanted the tale of their latest escapade and stories of other pranks. Mother served dinner - smoked ham, Daddy whipped up several batches of egg nog plus we exchanged gifts - real gifts. The warmth of the season embraced us; truly, a memorable Christmas was had by all. Happy Holidays!

Disclaimer: There were no animals hurt during this prank. My dad released the turkey back into the wild no worse for the wear and the goat was returned to the farm a little fatter than when it left.


Saturday, December 6, 2008

Foxy Ladies, Pink vs. Blue

It’s been rather uneventful this week here at the ranch. Thanksgiving was extremely lovely; several friends came and went. I do have a new visitor though, Molly the gray fox. She’s been making an appearance for the past week or so and seems very healthy. Her coat is thick and beautiful and her tail is bushy. I did some reading about the fox. When the fox picks a mate, they mate for life. If the female dies, the male remains solo. If the male dies, the female chooses a new mate. Interesting.

Last time I was in town for supplies, I stopped at Marie Calendar’s in Sun City for a bite to eat before making the trek home. Sun City is a community designed for retirees. The majority live there full time while the others are snowbirds taking advantage of the extremely mild winters here. I’ve never seen so many Cadillacs and RVs in one place. Needless to say, driving in Sun City is done at your own risk – look out for those tanks!

I placed my order for the Fish ‘n Chips and my server quickly returned with my Arnold Palmer and dinner bread. I noticed a couple of tables occupied by elderly gentlemen dining solo. One nodded and smiled as I scanned the restaurant. Just as my dinner was brought to the table, two elderly ladies were sat at a table next to my booth. As they looked over the menu, a foursome of ladies was sat at the booth in front of me. I couldn’t help but stare – I’d seen blue-hair, but pink-hair? Wow!

As I munched on my delicious fish, I overheard the ladies at the table as they scoped out the gentlemen dining solo. One said, as she motioned towards the gentleman, “Bert’s available; he’s been widowed for seven years”. “His wife was from Norway, they came here from Minnesota.” “He used to drive a gold Cadillac, blah, blah, blah.” Her companion asked, “Does he date anyone?” Well, I wasn’t the only one eaves-dropping. One of the pink-haireds leaned towards the table and said, “No, not now anyway”. “You remember Myrtle, Myrtle Baker?” “They broke up when she moved to South Carolina to live with her son", then in a whispered tone, "the alcoholic.” Good grief - is no one’s life story sacred?!?

Both tables were rubber-necking to check who else was dining solo. Some conversation went back and forth again between the two tables. They were not at all shy about their motives. They all wore their casual best, painted faces, coiffed hair and, good lord, lots of perfume. I could not believe it when one of the pink-haireds got up from the booth and approached Bert. She had a flyer in her hand. She walked up and boldly asked if she could sit down. He agreed. She went on and on about her bingo as the others would sneak a peek at their friend and would giggle after a comment was made under their breath. After 10 minutes of rambling, the pink-haired lady returned to her seat. I was surprised there wasn’t a round of high-fives the way they were carrying on.

Everyone had been served and was comparing their selections and trying to decide which pie they would order later. Then one of the pink-haireds offered the blue-haireds a flyer, an invitation to their bingo night. The blue-haireds were obviously pissed-off that they had made a move on the gentleman and refused the flyer. Talk about poor losers! They were behaving like junior high girls, "I saw him first." "No, I saw him first." Jeeez!

So, like the fox, I observed the same behavior in humans. It was the unmated females looking to hook-up and the unmated males were solo. Although I wanted to stay and take in more of this competitive nature; however, it was time for me to make my way back to the ranch. Pink Hair – 1, Blue Hair – 0. Share/Save/Bookmark

Monday, December 1, 2008

Neighbor - Bloggers Unite! World AIDS Day

Stephan Jerrome

I walked daily
near the window of the house
which framed the dying man.

Saw his silhouette
sometimes seated,
usually reclined
always thinner
as the sounds of television,
muted talk of visiting friends
made shadows around his bed.
Once I caught the outline
of a nurse hovered over
his extended arm
heard a twisted groaning
as I hurried, late to work...

In the morning, light
from uncurtained windows
on the far side of his house
would shine across the hardwood floor
stopping at the
bed a whisper-reach from where I passed;
I saw highlights
on the blankets,
his young man's sleeping head
cheeks hollow, mouth agape
propped up on pillows --
later, on a rolling bed
with railings high that bound his wrists.

I hoped my routine footsteps,
the gate lock turning
would not wake him
as I went about my day
a little guilty of my health
my freedom, my mobility
speeding past the sports car
sunken, now and dust-brown
with four flat tires.

I was glad to see a cute new tenant
when Rick moved into the house next door
another artist on the hill
would be a welcome neighbor;
saw his photographs
through an open window
large color prints of high-style women
but he never asked me in.

Recently I saw him at a local bar
he kissed someone, it caught my eye
but he brushed past me
for the door.
Was I mistaken? Did he not see me?
Was there something
I was not supposed to know?

Now I watched while passing by
shadows of an ominous play,
nurses, buddies, twelve hour shifts,
hospital smells in the morning air
Meals on Wheels each afternoon;
sullen, narrow shoulders
of an oxygen tank
beside the high profile of an IV bag
dangling high like a hanged man,
lights ablaze at four a.m.
as I wake up to take a pee;
the rushing, flushing
commotions of a private war.

I said little.
Went to work.
Came home.
Made the motions
of the walking well.

His friend said in the last few days
he clung to a life
which had become unsustainable.
"Why are you holding on?"
he asked his dying friend.
They were all exhausted
aiding, comforting,
at last facilitating
an uncontestable passage;
there were no more breaths
for euphemism;
the buttress of manners
redundant as scaffold
on a finished building
so the dying man was asked
Why do you linger?
"It must have helped," the friend concluded.
"Rick died the next day."

After that the house went dark
possessions carted off and
scattered his friends all thanked me --
but what did I do?
Took out the trash on Tuesday night
swept the path and kept my distance.
They thanked me, hugged me -- why?
I didn't go to say hello
didn't want to say good-bye,
pretending we were friends'
cause we were not.
We were only neighbors.
Copyright 2000 Share/Save/Bookmark

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hunting Near An Active Volcano is Dangerous!

I was out earlier this week checking the progress of the citrus trees. I am excited by the number of fresh, juicy oranges, lemons and grapefruits that will soon be ripe for the pickin’. While taking inventory, a shot rang out. I ducked! Seconds later, more shots. I hit the ground! Holy shit!

Laying on the ground and biting the dust during shotgun fire is a weird experience. All kinds of things run through your mind – like, when is it safe to stand to a crouch and run like hell for cover. After a few minutes, I bravely headed back up to the house. Half way to the security of hiding in my bathroom with the door locked, another shot rang out. And, it was much closer than the previous shots. I hit the ground…again!

If I could just reach my truck, I would honk the horn to let them know there are people in the general vicinity. I began crawling along the ground like Rambo. Man, am I out of shape! Belly-crawling takes a lot of energy, especially when your heart is already pumping 90-to-nothing. Okay, I…can…make…it. Not to mention, this would be an inopportune time to meet up with, yep, a rattlesnake. I had to put that fear behind me and continue crawling.

I finally made it to the truck, but why in this world did I lock the damn thing? I’m out in the middle of nowhere, last check - zero crime. Just a little further and I’d be in the house. (And, speaking of bathrooms…) I finally reached the door, whew, safe and sound. I grabbed the keys and ran back to the truck as if I were Flo Jo and could outrun the spray of speeding bullets. Adrenaline, obviously, gives me a false sense of my true abilities. What a rush!

Looking like some whacked out cartoon character - dirt on my face and clothing, darting from cactus-to-cactus and then fumbling with the keys - just to honk the horn. I decided to play a little tune rather than laying on it, figuring they’d think someone was in trouble and come running to help. So, I played “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap”. I kind of got into it, I was singing along as I beeped. It was a difficult selection to play on the truck-horn, but effective nonetheless.

I did have enough sense about me to know they weren’t shooting at me, I hoped. But, who wants to be in the line of fire? I walked back into the house and checked the Arizona Game and Fish site and discovered it was deer season. (Reminder to self: Print and post hunting schedules to refrigerator.) The landscaping hides the ranch house from all angles, they probably weren’t aware they were so close to anyone’s home. I’m sure they were aware after my tribute to AC/DC.

As I thought more about the hunters, I decided putting signs up along the property line might be a good thing. I wondered what would capture their attention. You know, so they’d be more careful. I went back to the computer and began designing warnings to hunters. Here’s a few I have placed in clear plastic sleeves and posted along the fence:

If You Want To Keep Your Privates

Hunting Near An Active Volcano
Is Dangerous!

Armed Wildlife
On The Premises

And, my personal favorite…

I Don’t Hunt in Your Front Yard
Don’t You Dare Hunt In Mine!

I can only assume these signs are working, no shots have been fired anywhere near the ranch since their placement. And, if I do here shots again, I already have my next truck-horn song prepared – “Janie’s Got A Gun”. I did hear a truck stop down on the road late this afternoon. It was really quiet and out of the silence came laughter from a couple of guys - the truck then pulled away. I high-fived myself and went about gathering wood for my evening fire. Ahhhh, life here at the ranch is good.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Makin' Lemonade From Lemons!

My lemon tree is full of luscious fruit...
just ripe for the pickin'!

It's humbling when your time and effort by blogging actually inspires others. This morning I was nominated for the "Lemonade Award" by Red, SassynSappy. I am thrilled and also touched that someone recognized my struggle and my triumph in my post, Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch...

I am inspired by the many who share their story by writing or through their art within this community. They are givers. I'm constantly amazed. I am passing this award nomination along to those who have touched me, made me laugh and/or "wowed" me. Thank you!


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Western Daze

Things here at the ranch are becoming somewhat routine. Like the herd of 30-some-odd javelina that come through daily, the skunk that comes to the door nightly and the occasional sighting of wild burros. However, last night and early this morning were definitely out of the ordinary.

Around 2 AM I awoke to the sounds of howling, squealing and barking. I grabbed a flashlight to investigate, opened my window and no more than thirty feet away was a pack of 12 or so coyote. Okay, its nothing more than a pack of coyotes having a feeding frenzy. A couple of them actually paused for a few seconds and stared into the light then returned to their feeding. This went on for about 20 minutes before they left my front yard to find other prey.

I went back to bed and, just as I was returning to my dream-state, I heard the yelping of a young pup, he had been left behind. Oh, boy. This pup carried on for, what seemed like, forever. I figured, with the pack just down the canyon, they would return to rescue the little fella. But, no! It was 6 AM when quietness finally returned to the canyon.

As soon as the sun was up, I went out to the front yard looking for whatever. Interestingly enough, the coyotes left no trace. No carcass, not a bone, nothing. Okay, at least they left the place clean. I went up to the porch swing to finish my coffee. I was watching a hawk hunt when I heard, "Hello to the house". Huh? Now, wait a minute, what in the hell is someone doing out here at this time of the morning? And, on foot?

I walked down the front steps and looked across the orchard towards the gate. I could see a young man dressed in cammies standing at the gate. So, I hollered back, "How can I help you?" He proceeded to tell me that he had high-centered his truck yesterday up in Walker's Gulch and had no cell signal to call for help. Well, no shit you don't have a cell signal; you are at least 45 minutes from the closest highway and you're surrounded by mountains. "Come on up", I invited him. As he approached the house, I knew he was harmless.

He was a clean cut guy in his mid-twenties; newly married, I figured, still wearing his wedding band. He told me it got dark on him fast and he had slept in his truck. I invited him in to use the phone to call his wife plus I gave him a cup of coffee. I offered to take him to his truck to give him the nudge he needed to start his way back home. He grabbed his backpack and, as he swung it over his shoulder, I noticed the .45 on his belt. Great, I thought! "I'll grab my gun and meet you outside." Once inside the truck he asked, "Seen many rattlesnakes?" Jeeeeeez!

We headed up the canyon and I played tour guide. "Yep, this ranch over here is 2460 acres and this one over here is 16,640 acres - largest operating ranch in Arizona." The road is single lane and winds through the main wash of the canyon. It's rocky and, in places, you hold your breath. We met up with a few cows along the way that were headed to the watering tanks. About a half hour later we arrived where his truck sat. I checked my odometer, good grief, this guy had walked 6.2 miles. We hooked a strap between our bumpers and jacked his truck up a bit to allow for clearance over the rocks. And, in a matter of minutes, he backed right out of the mess he was in. We then made our way back to the ranch without incident.

As I entered my drive, I honked and waved and he stopped to thank me once again. I came back up to the house, still a little dazed from the lack of sleep from the night before and this morning's adventure, I decided to rest. All-in-all, it was another beautiful, peaceful day.


Monday, November 10, 2008

O' Brothers and Sisters - Bloggers Unite, Refugees Reunited!

This poem is dedicated to the tens of thousands war-weary citizens that have been displaced amid the surging violence behind the Congo's refugee crisis. I hope the powerful message this poem delivers will serve as an inspiration to those fleeing fighting rebel forces and raise awareness for the basic rights and freedom to which all people are entitled.

O'Brothers and Sisters
by Bhuwan Thapaliya

Your eyes, your face, and your grace
they look like museum specimens,
so lifeless and antiquated they are.

Your behaviors and modes of life,
makes me feel that you are
a mere replica of the living corpse.

Your arms, your legs, and your fists
they look like hollow straw
beaten by the frost of time.

O’ Brothers and sisters!
Listen, listen to me please!

“Stand up for what you believe in
and then fight for your rights.
Speak up for what you believe in
and then shout for your rights.

Then those who are weak
will get inspiration from you,
and in the future
they shall rise from their slumber too.

There are millions of unfortunate ones,
who are left behind by the human rights.
Think about these people, and act.”

Brothers and sisters!
Listen, listen to me please!

There is an eternal joy
and a real power for standing up
for what you believe in.

There is a silken pleasure
in doing the thing
that you think is right
for the betterment of us all.

Let the humanity’s will be done.

Let there be freedom amongst the earthly stars.
Let the blazing humanity burn the suppressor’s core.

Let the sons and daughters of this earth
dwell under the perpetual light of the liberation.

Brothers and sisters!
Listen, listen to me please!

Don’t cry, sob, and break out.
Don’t act as a half-starved limping snail
and let your life pass away
in a succession of listless restrains.

Gather strength from within you
Don’t let anybody suppress you.

Believe in yourself, my friend!

Empower yourself
to fight for your rights.
Copyright 2008

Bhuwan Thapaliya
Born in Nepal in the 1970’s, Bhuwan Thapaliya was
raised and educated in Kathmandu. He studied economics and finance before
turning to poetry in his mid twenties. His writing is imbued with the art and
culture of Nepal that he grew up with but he is eminently qualified as an
Oriental and as an Occidental poet, for his poetry truly represents a marriage
between the traditions of East and West, and in a way that is immediately
appealing and cohesive. Bhuwan is not just a poet; he is a man with a mission,
seeking world peace. He is a prolific poet and is writing his own Everest, but
his writing is not only about statistics. It is about spreading the message of
global peace, universal solidarity and love.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Call Me Ellie Mae

Critters, I've got critters! Here at the ranch there are all kinds of critters. And, being in the desert southwest, most are unique to this part of the country. Since I have to co-exist with these animals, needless to say, I’m cautious, give them respect and plenty of distance.

There are javelina, which can be quite nasty. Reports of people being seriously injured and killed by large groups of javelina run through my mind as my little herd moves through the ranch in the early morning. I sit on the porch swing and watch them graze on cacti and fruit that has fallen from the trees. They "clack" their tusks when danger approaches. I'm not sure what danger lurks, but the "clacking" always precedes a hurried exit into the nearby thickets.

My first night here was spent lying in bed with my eyes wide open and the sheet pulled tight up under my chin. I wandered what in the hell it was that kept running along the upper deck - all night long! I finally got a glimpse of "it" the next evening. This creature had a long black and white tail and, of all things, very large purple eyes. What kind of hell-cat monster is this? Google reassured me though. It's a ringtail cat, not to be confused with the cotamundi, a member of the raccoon family. They eat fruits, berries, lizards and mice. Apparently, they are easily tamed, make affectionate pets and are great mousers. Okay, he can stay.

And, speaking of cats, there's the cougar or mountain lion. I haven't seen one here - yet. So, I've brushed up on my cougar safety. One expert said "playing dead" is not recommended. Another stated, "don't run". "They" tell you to face the cougar, keep direct eye contact and retreat slowly, backwards. You should also try to appear larger than life by waving your arms and make a lot of noise by yelling at the lion. To me, this says, "Here I am, come and get me". Then, to top it all off, not to mention really pissing the big cat off, "they" tell you to throw rocks at the lion. Uh, huh.

Reptiles! I discussed my loathing for rattlesnakes in my previous post. But, the gila monster is a deadly lizard. Their venom is as toxic as the rattler. Yes, I've seen one and it was beautiful. The good news is, I could probably out run it - even with my bad knees. And, I won't have to yell or throw rocks at it. They feed primarily on bird and reptile eggs and only feed 5-10 times a year. Guess I'll need to gila-monster-proof the chicken coop.

It's a wildlife paradise out here at the ranch. Lots of deer, rabbits, birds of prey, badgers and even a occasional bear sighting. All only add to the wonderment of this desert oasis. I have a great pair of binoculars and hope most of my encounters are only from the front porch swing. Move over Ellie Mae!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch...

For the past several months, my mind has been racing. How can I persevere during these tenuous economic times? I truly believe it's time we all take a closer look at our situations and decide what is important to us.

I remember wanting to "live off the land" as early as my teens. To find a remote piece of ground far from the maddening crowd. To build a modest shelter, grow my own food and live a peaceful life. During my college days, I subscribed to Mother Earth News and bought the Firefox collection to prepare myself for a life of self-sufficiency, but those dreams quickly faded as I joined the status quo and began a life of accumulation and bad choices.

I worked for coporate America, raised my children and then worked some more. However, after a merger, or, dare I say, a hostile take over, my company stock was devalued. I watched my retirement vaporize. This was going to make the difference for me in my elder years, the difference between eating real food instead of cat food. It's been seven years since I walked out on my mortgage banking career.

I dabbled in creating art pieces, I looked to friends for odd jobs until I was taken under the wing and mentored by a local tradesman (whom I later married and divorced, but that's another story) in the art of construction for five years. Then, lo and behold, the bottom of the housing market began to rear its ugly head. What the fuck? I can frame up a house, put it in the dry, install drywall and do the finish work. My skills are useless in this market. The past several months have been chaotic. I've been paralyzed by my circumstances.

One night, however, I was able to see through the fog enough to develop a plan. To live that simple life I had once dreamed of. I was excited. I placed ads and emailed friends seeking a care taking position and in less than two months I had a solid offer. A long-time friend needed a caretaker for his 93 acre ranch 50 miles north of Phoenix. This beautiful oasis sits deep in a canyon surrounded by saguaros and wildlife, plus a 40-ft waterfall when, and if, it ever rains.

There's a huge rose garden with blossoms as big as my fist. An orchard with every fruit tree imaginable including the largest fig tree I've ever seen. Just next to the large garden spot is the grape arbor. All I have to do is move the water hose around and keep a vigil over the large 2-story adobe house. The chicken coop needs some repair before I fill it with layers. And, I think I'll get a couple of sheep to help maintain the landscaping. Sounds perfect doesn't it? Well, it is, except for the god damn rattlesnakes. Jeez, I hate a fuckin' snake. I'm just waiting for the cold snap that will send them all deep into their dens until April. This will give me the time I need to walk around, make some improvements and prepare the garden for its bounty without having to worry about something slithering between my feet or rattling from a nearby bush.

Yea, me! My dreams and skills are now in place. I am comfortable and at peace.

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