Thursday, July 29, 2010

I Realize It's The Month Of July

Abandoned Fountain in a Nearby Town

But must everything blow up, along with the fire-works.

I hooked up my camera to download photos for a post two days ago, and strange things began to happen.   Then the camera shut itself off, and one of those creepy messages from deep inside the mysterious bowels of the computer popped up and said my 'driver' was no longer valid...   huh... 

If my mother had not raised such an avid conspiracy theorist I never would have figured it out.

July was the month when I purchased the little point and shoot camera.  Last July.  Exactly one year to the day I purchased, the darn thing it had been programmed to blow itself up.  I know this because when I went to the NIKON site which informed me I need to download the new driver, it also informed me said new driver would cost me 29.95.  U.S.Dollars.  Just to be able to download directly from the camera...

I'm sort of weary of being held hostage by tech-terrorism designed to pry money out of my tight little fists. So until I figure out which slot in the computer to put the camera's memory card in, and how to download it to the same photo program I have, I leave you with some oldies, but goodies.



At the Graveyard Across the Road

Friday, July 23, 2010


Because I am under the impression the rest of the world is as insanely curious as I...

 Chief Babistinas

A Portion of the Control Panels on the Lightship

Who Ever Said It Was ALL Work?!?

One Of My All-Time Favorites, Lovin' The Divers Feet...

And Just Because...

Portion of the Deck of STONEHORSE

My Dad Loved Ships.

One of the Reasons My Dad made Friends With So Many Pilots....

Dad's First Land-Cruiser.

I've never been quite sure whether its some sort of strange time warp-continuum, or just the fact that there may be a lot more undiagnosed dyslectics out there than we think, but way before my sister's date of death was stated wrong in four newspapers, so was my father's date of birth stated wrong in the article above.  Officially my Dad was born in 1920!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Musical Cat...

T. S. Elliot   (A.K.A. The Worrier )
Sitting atop the Butler's table.

When I was around eight, my sister decided it was time I decided on an instrument to play and land on it, instead of constantly sneaking her guitar out of her room, and to the third floor of the barn to practice on.

Much to my mother and sister's surprise, I chose the trumpet.

A Little Worse For The Wear

My father was the only one who immediately understood.  Being children of older parents, my sister and I had attended more funerals in our young lives than most would before turning forty.  At one in particular, my mother, sister and I sat in varnished pews, under enormous, ornately carved arches, sun casting all hues of the rainbow through the stained glass windows, while the priest finished his sermon. After blessing the draped casket, a soft, clear voice resonated throughout the church with the beginnings of Ave Maria.  I was stunned as a tear dripped from my eye.  I glanced over to find my mother and  sister fishing through their purses for tissues.  My sister answered the confused look on my face by stating, " It's the music." 

Later I attended more than a few military funerals with my father.  He would stand at attention in his uniform during the twenty-one gun salute.  Then slowly, always perfectly off in the distance, Taps would begin to play, and tears would always flow from maintained, respectful expressions. 

I had planned on entering the military.  I wanted to be the one who played Taps. It was such an emotionally fitting send-off and I wanted to be part of it. If one learned the trumpet, the bugle came naturally ( it's true ).  

My mother and sister had been positive I would select the banjo because my grandfather had taught me cords before he left us for that great Bluegrass Band in the sky.  He had learned from his mother.

As a toddler, my grandfather would sit amongst wooden bushel baskets of ironing, while his mother stood at the fabric-covered, wooden ironing board. Nearby, a simple pine table held the electric hot plate that served to heat the cast iron 'laundry press.'

When the iron became too cold, no longer providing the knife-like edges demanded of it, she'd place the iron on the hot plate, and reach behind the dining room door for her banjo.  She would sit on the old braided rug with my grandfather, and it was here the content of her perfectly played notes not only shaped his mind and temperment, but his soul.

Alone, that banjo was a thing of beauty.  When the sun streamed through the windows catching its highly varnished black finish and sterling silver hardware, it was music for the eyes. There would be a flash of silver, as pinks and light blues reflected from the mother-of-pearl insets giving it a heavenly appearance before a single note was played.

George MacComber Gifford
My Grandfather

His mother would sing bluegrass songs for him, teaching him the words as well as the cords necessary to play them.  Often it was late in the day, and in the midst of a musical interlude they would miss the shuffle of heavy work boots on the sidewalk outside.  They wouldn't hear the soft closure of the pantry door, never feel the presence of my grandfather's father until a pure, clear tenor issued forth from the kitchen, joining in the song of the moment. Work boots left behind in the pantry, he'd pad into the dining room in heavy work socks, and  cuddle up to his wife and son on the braided rug to sing until dinner time.  It would be the music that floated from their home the neighbors would recall most fondly.

The Resonator

It was on that same braided rug my grandfather had begun to teach me to play that gorgeous banjo.
Later in life I took up the banjo again.  I worked an overtime shift to buy my first.  It looked nothing like my grandfather's, but the sounds it made were just as fine.

The Old Kent

Even much later, after arthritis began to cripple my fingers so badly I could no longer push hard enough on the neck of the banjo to maintain a cord, I bought the old Kent.  It had a higher lift on the strings which I thought might help.

Last week while watching the news, I heard a strong, clear note from a banjo string.  Remembering my banjos were in the downstairs hallway, I quickly dismissed a haunting and went down to investigate.  On the way down the stairs another deliberate note followed the first.

What I found was Elliot, sitting directly to the left of the old Kent, staring intently, and while I rounded the banister at the bottom of the stairs, he lifted his paw and strummed another note.  I was too enchanted to run and get the camera.  It wasn't until his claws began breaking strings that were snapping and hitting him in the face did he stop playing music.  You may notice in the above photo there is only one string left.  Strings can be replaced.  A cat's - or a child's for that matter - interest in music cannot be replaced, once discouraged.

I have since learned to play this.

It Is Played With A Bow

It was made by a man who lived across the street from me a few years back. His little factory had specialized in handmade dulcimers, as well as various other similar instruments for years.  When his wife died, he sold his factory.  Huge semi's came and loaded all the machinery onto flatbeds and headed out to some place in Indiana.  What they left behind was sold at a tag sale.  I bought this for five dollars.  It is signed and dated on the inside.

I do recall leaving the case open for one reason or another at one time, only to return and find a string snapped.  I chaulked it up to age, but now, I think it may have had something to do with a certain orange musician who simply cannot resist the lure of musical strings...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Population reduction...

Grandma Is Finally Doing Well

Sweet Pea & Lucy  In Their New Home

This One's New Mom Is A Teacher
Going Home Next Week.

The trick this week is to trap Dead-Beat-Dad and the Hussy that escaped. Dead-Beat-Dad has an appointment on the 26th to have his reproductive facilities halted, as long as I can entice him into the Have-A-Heart cage.   I have failed once already.  With normal cat food.  I am thinking medium rare filet...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tears of Shared Compassion

Yesterday, on the way to the vet.

When I called the vet's office yesterday, at the specified time, to make sure both cats made it out of the surgery and were doing alright, the vet tech, a kind soul detected behind the voice, told me both were coming out of the anesthetic normally.  She then went on to say that the 'older' female  - the one we have been calling Grandma -  has to be six or seven years old, and by the shape of her uterus appeared to have been having kittens since the time she was of that certain age.   This explained why, while she had been inside, she is the only one who has gone from feral, to wanting nothing more than to be spoken to and petted. The vet-tech said, "She is just plain weary."  My heart broke. 

Grandma today.

Today, after arriving home, both crawled from the cages directly into prepared cat carriers with clean cat clothes.   I waited an hour to make sure they were alright to leave for a while, then left to return the borrowed cages.  Incredibly enough I didn't lose my way on the least important trip of them all.  Grandma's daughter had started wandering around their room, while Grandma rested, so I thought it safe to leave.

Unfortunately, later I would have to make an emergency call to the vet hospital.

Unlike a call I took at work once. An elderly woman was screaming for an ambulance, while being extremely evasive concerning who it was for. She just kept screaming, "I don't know what's wrong with him, he JUST KEELED OVER."  I sent the ambulance right along, along with the info they had an hysterical relative on their hands as well, at which point they requested an engine for extra manpower. Three for the 'patient', three guys for the hysterical relative. When the bus arrived on the scene I heard nothing on the radio for a minute. A really long time considering someone had allegedly keeled over, and shouldn't I be notifying the hospital of a possible code or something?  I requested a status check.  What I got was, "We'll land-line ya."   OK.  Apparently the elderly woman's ancient German Shepherd had died right in front of her eyes. She knew of no other way to get help immediately. She had no car, hadn't driven in decades.  Her husband was twenty years dead, her dog was all she had.  While I was being informed of this by the EMT via land-line, I was listening to the background noises of not only firefighters consoling the poor woman, but a strange combination of things like, "Hold it right there,"   "OK a bit to the left,"  "Hold on I need another hand here." I had to ask ,"Hey what is going on there anyway?"  

This was an important question due to the fact that I was tying up and ambulance and a fire truck with their operators, we only had two full-time ambulances to use before we were forced to call for mutual aid from nearby towns, all of which were volunteer departments.  This may not sound like a big deal, but it is in a city where unrelated incidents seem to happen in quick succession.  If someone breaks their leg, then ten minutes later some poor soul has a heart attack, twenty minutes before an auto-accident, we were up the creek.  Hence the 'dump (at the hospital) and run' routine. 

The EMT went on to inform me that it was the woman's dog that had keeled over, the woman was old and on the verge of a heart attack and they could not simply leave her in the house with the dead dog, who was extremely overweight...  They had loaded the dog on the stretcher and were attempting to maneuver the body down the stairs from the woman's bedroom.  It was taking three  EMTs on the downhill heavy end.
"If you need us we're ready to run."

It was one of the many times that my heart swelled with gratitude for those guys. Despite rules strictly forbidding anything of this nature, their compassion overwhelmed the fear of a supervisor's complaint.

It's not often I turn out to be the recipient of comparable compassion.  I'm the one that gets the call when desperate help is needed, when the one asking is so overwhelmed all they can do is call someone for help.  Like my Dad. The strong silent type.  Only when it was determined my mother had so many strokes in the course of nine or so hours her EEG was a flat line, he called me.  I had never heard him so broken and beaten. He was sobbing. It was hard to make out what he was saying until I heard clearly, "They want me to unplug her."
He just couldn't do it. After over 45 years of a beautiful marriage, he couldn't let go, despite my mother's wishes. I had to tell the doctor to do it.

Its seems, the older I get, the more deeply I am affected by the compassion of others.   Especially strangers.

After dropping off the Have-A-Heart cages, I still had time to swing through Wal-Mart and pick up (what else) cat food and litter.  One can never have enough in this house these days, and it was nearly right on the way home. From home it is eighteen miles.  After loading two 34 pound double boxes into the cart, I noticed the price on the 14 pound boxes. Wait a minute. Two weeks ago it was less expensive to buy the double boxes, now it was actually over ten dollars cheaper to get four of the 14 pound boxes. 

While my brain was on overdrive doing the calculations I sensed a body next to me.  Muttering.  I turned to face an elderly lady who looked directly at me and said, "Ya know, last week these cans were thirty-seven cents each. Today they are fifty cents. I'd like to speak to Raoul from the commercials and let him know he's rolling up, not back.

I explained that was exactly why I was unloading the 34 pound boxes back onto the shelf, and reloading four 14 pound boxes.  At this point he daughter, who was probably in her forties, came rolling around the corner, joining in our discussion of Raoul needing a reality check.  They told me of the four rescues they own.  Naturally, due to the sheer amount of cat stuff in my carriage the conversation turned to my animals, at which point I explained my goal  of having all the feral farm cats fixed to save them from a tortuous life of living and breeding. 

This woman and her daughter were stunned and I noticed the daughter was welling up.  She swallowed hard and said, "You are doing good work, so few care about animals these days, as a tear rolled down her cheek, while next to me her mother was sniffling and trying to fish  Kleenex out of her purse.  Well that did it. I felt my throat constrict. I was welling up too.  The woman's mother frantically passed out tissues.  Each in our own minds thinking of the abused and abandoned animals we can't help. We stood and talked  for a while longer, they asked what vet hospital was doing such good work (Thank you H.O.P.E Clinic for caring), in case they needed the information for themselves or others, and we parted.

It seems like such a little thing, but it's not. It was a really big thing, not because someone had acknowledged what I am doing, but because I have received confirmation there are others out there who care just as much, if not more, about animals as I do.  One doesn't run into these types often, but you know when you do because the conversation always focuses on animals.  I continued to well up on the way home.  Just plain thanking the powers that be, the woman and her daughter, and the vet hospital that charges forty-five dollars for feral cats, all shots and flea treatment included, with a tattoo and and ear notch for ID purposes. 

My mother had done the same thing near the end of her life.  My parents were living behind a woman who had un-neutered cats that kept breeding.  My mother would make an appointment with her vet, sneak out early in the morning, nab a cat, and whisk it off to the vets to be fixed.  She would keep each one in the house until they were safely over their surgery, at which point she would release and catch another one.  She did this with thirty-six cats.  That belonged to someone else.  Just because. 

When I arrived home I checked on my victims of surgery, and went out to the pond to see if I could get a picture of Fred, the enormous bull frog (as usual, bull frog Olympics, perfect swan dive into the water before I am ready).

When I came back in I discovered Grandma had vomited.  It's a bit hot in the entryway so I moved her into the spare bedroom with her food, water and private bath (A.K.A. litter box), turned on the A/C, and raced to call the vet.  Though now friendly, she isn't having any of me checking her gums to make sure they are pink (indication of no internal bleeding). The vet informed me the only alternative is to race her back to the city,  put her "under" again, and she is too old for this.

I'll be spending the rest of the evening trying to look down Grandma's throat.  Wish me luck.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If Ya Don't Like The Way I Drive...

Stay off the sidewalk, or the highway, better yet just stay home.

My wheels were clean when I left this morning. This is one of my front wheels covered in black brake dust. I needed to get these...

To transport the ferals tomorrow, on loan from HOPE.ORG.

I had to drive to the city to get them. I am not a driver, nor was my mother. This apple fell directly under the tree. I get in the car, aim it, and make a serious attempt to get where I am going without inflicting injury on myself or others. These days its hard. One has to watch the rear-view constantly to avoid being hit by vehicles speeding up to the rear of my car while they nonchalantly chat on the phone at their ear, failing to notice my brake lights, which I am frantically tapping trying to trigger their brain into figuring out something different is happening before they drive over me. 

Not to mention the fact that I can navigate a mountain and never get lost. Oh alright, never deal in absolutes, I have not gotten lost to this day.  Yet put a car under my butt and somehow I am able to become completely disoriented three miles from my home. So yup, what was supposed to be a forty minute road trip, or thereabouts, turned into an 85 mile journey. Three postman and a kind gentleman later,on the phone, I interrupted his call with my frantic screams at a five way intersection (yes FIVE way , obviously the designer of said intersection never intended to navigate it), I landed at the place I needed to be, twenty minutes early.  I failed to mention if I am headed to unfamiliar territory I give myself a two hour head start.....

Yet this is not the reason I am here today...

This is... looming on the horizon while I was finding my way out of the maze of the city.

I an directly descended from a line of human lightening rods.  My grandmother had grown up with the fear, as only one who has witnessed the wrath of a killer lightening strike can manage.  Official accounts of the incidents were passed down to each generation in order to forestall yet another death by dangerous electricity. She had grown up hearing the story of her mother's uncle, a peculiar character who managed to make a living carving things out of local wood. He made beautifully detailed figurines of wildlife, frames for pictures, even jewelry.

While searching for the perfect piece of fallen cedar one summer afternoon, he failed to notice an ominous cloud approaching from the north. When that cloud let go, probably just over his head, it loosed a bolt of lightening into a nearby tree. The unleashed power traveled through the tree and it's root system upon which he had been standing.  They knew this because someone finally went out to get him when he failed to answer the dinner bell. What they found was his boot melted to a large, sooty, exposed root, while he lie twenty feet away, dead as a doornail.

If his death had been the only one there would be no legacy concerning my family's 'human lightening rod' status.  The next would be my grandmother's father.  During an attempt to dispel the curse theory that had been rolling around since the first confirmed kill, he became the second.

While the women stood on the porch nearby as instructed, a black thunder cloud rolled over the top of Mt. Belknap.

As shadows  the cloud created crept over the lawn, inching nearer each minute to the barn, he stepped up the ramp, slid both barn doors open on their, ah, metal runners, and placed his rocking chair in the doorway, just under the eaves to avoid the incoming rain.   Still on the runners.  Lightening began to streak across the darkening sky, and as the tension in the women watching caused them to wring their cotton aprons and fidget with their jewelry, a lightening bolt struck the old, copper rooster weather vane on the peak of the barn roof.  The rooster spun with wild abandon as electricity raced unchecked, sensing the barn's runners nearby, and latched on.  It was all over in a matter of seconds that would seem an eternity for the women on the porch.

Their eyes widened when the bolt struck the rooster, knuckles turned white as it began it's stationary whirl. My grandmother's father sat in the rocker with his smug grin, his eyes said, "See, I told you so." The bolt shot through the runners, permanently affixing his boots to them in the form of melted blobs. While the women's jaws dropped, no sounds issuing forth, the electricity continued through him, cementing the smug grin on his face forever in the women's minds, and with a poof of gray smoke from the top of his John Deere hat, it was over.

The second confirmed kill, as well as justification for my mother instructing my sister and me to never say, "I told you so."  My grandmother did her part in passing on the 'healthy fear' (yes, they had the audacity to call it that), by refusing to be alone if a storm was  was approaching. The neighbors would see her scooting down the street, every so often hyper-extending her neck to peer at the sky, violet hair floofed straight behind her due to her sheer speed, on her way to our house. 

The Victims.



Last but most importantly, having lightening rods installed after the second incident.

So you see, it's a darn good thing I wrote down directions before leaving after I had picked up the cages, because I really needed to get home before the absolutely wicked electrical  storm that passed over two hours ago found me.

I turned on the weather channel upon arriving home to hear...

"Always remember, if you can hear thunder, you can be struck."

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mending Fences

Resisting the urge to add Literally. Used far too often these days...

When we moved to this farm the building, as well as the surrounding area, was in a sorry state. In fact, I met a woman at the library last week who happens to be the great-granddaughter of the second owner of this place that was built in the 1700's.  She confessed she and her family have not driven by the place in fifteen years due to the steady decline. "It broke our hearts," she said.  I promply advised her to have the whole family take a Sunday Drive, drive in, in fact.

Since moving in last July, my son has not only landscaped the entire front and back of the house lot (lot of New England rocks lying around he had fun with),  but taken care of drainage problems around the foundation by hauling sixty-seven thousand pounds (OK, I exaggerate, but that stuff is heavy) of chopped railroad  bed gravel we found two piles of near the farm shed.   I told her the pond was my assignment (not to mention the farm cat population control), which of course is taking a bit longer.    She was delighted, thrilled even, though surprised that we are doing all this as simply 'tenants.'  

The Son has a foot of gravel surrounding the entire,enormous foundation of the house. This is one of his front porch gardens.

A lot of people exhibit surprise and confusion. The first summer the farmers trapsing back and forth with their equipment in the course of their work, would stop and ask my son if he bought the place.

Discarded metal fence rails the son turned into a trellis for his cow-bean seeds.
They attract hummingbirds.

He also turned a huge brush pile in the front yard into yet another rock garden.
And left the tree the brush pile killed for me. Reminds me of the desert.

I guess what seriously offends me is the fact that so many people don't care anymore. Whether its a lack of pride in their surroundings, laziness, or just not being willing to help others for the sake of it. I just don't know.   What I do know is that so many here before us left so much junk in overgrown areas of the farm it someday will cost a fortune to have it all hauled away.  We took care of the house lot junk last year.

Anyhoo, Due to the sorry state of my hands, as well as my entire life being somewhat akin to a constantly running episode of I Love Lucy (or Rosanne, depending on what my kids are up to), I try to stay away from power tools.  (And uncontrolled burns, don't even ask why I never fry chicken...).   And about that fence...

The state of the cute, weathered fence in the back separating the yard from the pond that has been falling apart since we moved in, has been awaiting my attention.  The split rail surrounding the rest of the pond has endured at least 75 years.

Lovin' that old piece of sewer pipe I turned into a planter!

 I decided the best way to deal with replacing the missing slats was to use the ball of shrinking twine I have had in my sewing box for longer than I care to remember.  I also cannot remember for the life of me why I bought it in the first place. Nevertheless, it has come to the rescue.  So before the raging thunderstorms that are due to hit this state later this afternoon arrive, I spent the morning mending the fence. 

And hope that my son doesn't come home and make a remark about Daryl, Daryl and his brother Daryl fixing the fence...

The cat-tail problem is an ongoing project for me. Aside from a total kill chemical (which Fred, the HUGE bullfrog would not appreciate) my only alternative is grass and weed killer.  Pruning around the pond has halted until the massive amounts of wasps I am severly allergic to go away in the fall.

My drainage pipe (also abandoned years ago on the property) is working great, but...

Did I mention the anticipated rain storm is sorely needed?

And just because....

Tara Farm has produced a Leopard.

Who did not in the least appreciate being forced to display his spots.

Now if we can only convince the owners to buy some exterior paint for us...

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Einstein's Aether

Regardless of the fact that modern physics decries Einstein's Aether theory,  I have simply always adored the thought of it.  That electromagnetic waves (or any other matter such as protons, or my blog...) need a transmitting medium, such as air to arrive at their appointed destination.

I've had a few weeks to think about this.  I was waiting for my new router to arrive. When it finally did, and after jumping through the necessary hoops ( "No biggie," the AT & T salesperson said.), to get the darn thing hooked up, not to mention reconfiguring the three computers in the house (sadly two of which are embedded with Windows VISTA, boo), I really just wanted the aether to be there to magically transmit my words.  Unfortunately this is not the case. 

After calling tech-support to inform them there was no green data cable in the box they sent, the brutally honest support person informed me they have "color issues" and to use the grey wire. Huh, OK.  Naturally after the many cords were draped and plugged, and assuming Internet service would magically commence, nothing would work without the yellow cord physically plugged into the computer being used to set the whole mess up.  At which point the discovery was made the phone would not ring while this process was ongoing.  Shut the whole thing down and recall tech-support ( Thank You AT & T for having all English as a first language employees that I can understand ).

By this time I was on serious tech overload feeling as if I had used the last wrinkle available to store data in my brain.  When the nice kid finally was on the line after a six or seven minute hold, I advised him I was in the next to the last age bracket one is asked to check off on questionnaires, that I have a slight heart condition and was on the verge of a stroke.   He genuinely guffawed.  Normally this would bring my shattered nerves and overheating brain down a few notches, alas my Internet withdrawal was far too progressed.   He said he understood, his mother had been the same way two months ago when she was changing services.  He said he could simply hop into my computer and just do it if I gave him permission.  Now we're talkin'.

It was a strange Big Brother Is Watching experience.  As I sat amazed, not touching my computer, the mouse whizzed around clicking on this and that, and after less than ten minutes everything was in working order.

While I was in Internet Withdrawal I had a lot of time to think about a lot of other things aside from the aether, such as...

IS there a cure for empathy?

Edgar and his charges, waiting for good homes.

I really need to finish this lap quilt for the CAT-FARM-AID yard sale.
(We are going through two 14 lb. bags of food a week)

A Granny should know how to crochet Granny Octagons.
Luckily the library had an instruction book I could borrow.

And how I really don't need to find a cure...