Tag Archives: Brother

Th-th-there’s Nothing Out Here That Can Hurt Us, Right?

When we last left our heroine, the mayor of Crazie Town, she was enjoying the bucolic surroundings at a remote farm in eastern Kansas. [Click here  to get caught up.]

Nothing but peace and quiet for miles

Nothing but peace and quiet for miles

I sat dozing in the sun, enjoying the peace and quiet when I was startled awake by the roar of a heavy-duty pickup truck pulling up beside me. My brother, Rick, jumped out and, without a word, fired up a weed-wacker.

HolsteinHeiferChewallTractorA few minutes later, I heard the “putt-putt” of Dad’s ancient tractor and watched  my nephew, Jordan, appear on the horizon behind the wheel.  The rusted red monster limped it’s way toward us with one nearly-flat tire.  Jordan made short work of carving out a grass free zone for us with the attached dilapidated mower, that banged an out-of-balance tune with every turn of the blade.

While they worked, Mary and I opened the box containing the privacy tent I purchased to cover the deluxe port-a-potty I’d purchased. I laid the items out on the ground and dug around in the “it can’t be empty” box looking for directions. Fortunately, Mary had put together her fair share of tents, so I handed her the foreign objects and she assembled them into a….well, not a tent exactly.

“Uh-oh,” Mary said. “There aren’t enough poles and two stakes are missing.”

“No problem,” I said, looking at the short, sagging, expensive privacy tent. “We’ll just pee in that stand of trees over there.”

Jordan and Rick disappeared as quickly as they’d arrived.

Eventually, I got around to opening the box with the grill I’d purchased and ripped open the package of hardwood charcoal I’d purchased for a premium price at the organic grocery store.

Somehow, I managed to cook up a delicious dinner of sautéed salmon with shallots and butter. I decided this camping thing wasn’t so bad after all.

Mary produced a bottle of champagne she’d purchased to celebrate my first camping trip.  Neither one of us had ever opened a bottle of champagne but we’d seen it done on TV enough to know there would be a loud POP! followed by the flow of bubbly alcohol. She pointed the bottle toward the setting sun and wiggled the cork.  We cringed, waiting for the explosion.

“Thump.”

The cork fell to the ground between our feet.

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“Uh-oh,” Mary said “Isn’t it supposed to have bubbles in it?”

“No problem,”I said and added ice to our glasses. We then christened the camper. Well, not exactly christened. I didn’t want to hit The Ugly Duckling with the bottle of champagne for fear she would collapse.

We relaxed into our camp chairs and watched as nature provided a perfect opera. A triplet of deer pranced by. They paused to gaze curiously at us, and then leapt gracefully off stage, toward the creek. A turkey wandered into camp and, surprised to see us, gobble cursed us as he hurried away, stage left. A meadowlark arrived on the table in front of us and sang the closing aria.

There we were, sitting there, minding our own business, wiping melted marshmallows from our chins, when I heard a loud “HUFF” coming from the tall grass behind us. It  sent the hairs on the back of my neck to stiff attention.

“Uh-oh,” Mary said. “That sounded big.”

“N-n-n-no problem,” I said, quaking in my boots. “Th-th-there’s nothing out here that can hurt us.”

To bolster our courage, we broke out a quart of melted chocolate ice cream and gulped it down.

“HUFF.”

“Uh-oh,” Mary said, jumping into the fire ring next to the coals. “It’s still there.”

“No prob–”

“HUFF!”

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“Problem! Problem!” I shrieked. “Run for the camper!

The next day I looked up the sound on the internet.

It was a MOUNTAIN LION!

Click on the huff and then on “Cougar – Montana” to hear the sound. HUFF!

Then again, it could have been – according to the Parks and Wildlife Game Warden – The long call of a roe deer.  HUFF?

The Man with the Neon Green Wig and a Half a Mannequin

Everyone Needs a Half a Mannequin

Aunt Kathleen would be sorry she missed this garage sale

I parked across the street from a church garage sale and watched as this man worked to arrange his purchase – a half a mannequin – into his bike cart. He reminded me of my Aunt Kathleen. Last week, I wrote about the great time I had as a child, visiting her fun-filled home [Click Here] and, a half-mannequin would have been a great addition to her play room.

Somewhere along the line though, as I progressed into adulthood, the tons of items in her home went from amusing to annoying.

When Grandpa died and she had to move to town, I helped her pack up all the junk treasures stacked in the rambling two story farm house so we could cram them into a tiny cottage she’d bought.

Every article had to be examined and evaluated for its worth and, as it turned out, everything was worth keeping. The only place we made progress was in the pantry where, with significant wheedling by my brother, Rick, and I, she agreed to part with the dusty jars of green beans that her mother had canned twenty years ago.

We also managed to toss out several things during the time Aunt Kathleen ran screaming from the house when we discovered at six-foot long black snake living in the pantry.  Rick picked up the rusty shovel that was in the kitchen (you keep a shovel in your kitchen, right?”) and killed the snake, tossing it through the back door where Aunt Kathleen had stood moments before. I froze, a scream ready to erupt when Rick punched my shoulder. “Quick,” he whispered. “Start shoving stuff into these trash bags.”  We managed to fill six bags before she returned.

Aunt Kathleen eyed them suspiciously. “Did I really agree to throw all that away?”

I ducked into the pantry while Rick dragged the bags out to the trash pile.

“Wait!” she cried and took a step to follow Rick out the door.

I held up a broom with a broken handle and said, “This can go in the trash, right?”

She gasped and snatched it from my hand. “Of course not. Mama used to use that to sweep off the front porch.”

That’s what I’ve learned about hoarders – each item has a strong emotional attachment, and to throw it away is akin to having one of their limbs cut off.

The fork with only three tines?

“Mama used to eat her pie with that fork.”

The moth-eaten military uniform?

“Your dad was wearing that when he came home from the war.”

And so it’s gone for the last thirty years. A broken television, kept because she’d bought it with her first paycheck, the new one placed on top of the old one. As she grew in girth, new clothes were hung on top of the smaller ones, which must be kept because she remembered where she’d gone in the outfit. The five hundred decorating magazines blocking the front door — filled with  projects she planned to create with the broken dishes she’d been collecting for years.

And now she’s gone and I’m tasked with going through it all again. The family and I spent a weekend shoveling out and sorting through the first layer. A hundred plastic bags from the dollar store with her purchases still inside. Another hundred bags stuffed with only empty plastic bags. And a dozen stacks, from floor to ceiling, of puzzles.

As I worked through the pile of thousands of empty envelopes and junk mail I could hear my brothers and sister mumbling. “What the? Why would she keep…the plastic tabs removed from her insulin medicine/the empty containers of hand lotion/the expired food?

Our next clean out will be in the basement. I wandered through it the other day and without the layer of trash, I found myself reappraising what’s left.

“Why, here’s a perfectly good wooden clothes-drying rack.” That doesn’t count as hoarding because I’ve been wanting one of those.

“Here’s a cast iron skillet.” That doesn’t count because I can use it in my camper.

“Well, what do you know. There’s her old treadle sewing machine where she taught me to sew.” That’s not hoarding – that’s keeping a memory, right?