Goat Wrestling

The day started out very ordinary. Out of bed by 8:00 am, breakfast, read the daily newspaper,  then get dressed.

After the regular morning routine I head to the garage where I planned to install the mowing deck on the garden tractor. Marcia and I finally got all the sticks and broken tree branches cleaned from the field below the house, remnants of the trees that were cut down back during the winter, and now it’s time to mow the field. After a successful installation, and testing the PTO drive for the mowing deck, I went outside where Marcia was doing some painting.

Looking over her to the opposite end of the porch stood our neighbors billy-goat. “Who’s your friend?” I asked.

Marcia had no idea what I was talking about. She looked up at me then turned her head, seeing the goat she exclaimed, “Oh my God! Get the camera!”

I hurried inside the house, retrieved the camera, checking the settings, and turning on the power as I made my way back outside.

Billy, (I later learned this is what he is called) was busy head butting a small garden flag. Why he took offense to the flag is beyond me, but he was determined to show it that he was boss. After a couple of carefully placed head butts he clamped down on the flag with his teeth pulling it off the hanger. I thought he was going to eat it.

Noticing me, standing a few feet away aiming the camera he dropped the flag, locked his gaze on me, and stood up on his hind legs, waving his front hoofs as he stood. (I guessed this to be his most threatening pose.) He then dropped back on all four hoofs, lowered his head and charged toward me.

Within the ten or so feet between us he wasn’t able to gain much momentum, so I reached out and grabbed him by the horns, disrupting his charge. This turned out to be a mistake on my part because now the little bastard, (this is what I called him), became relentless in his attempt to ram into me. Whenever I loosened my grip on his horns, he lunged forward. As he lunged I would re-tighten my grip on his horns, stopping his forward motion. Now it was a contest of strength and will. His only thought was to hit me with his head, while mine was to prevent him from doing it.

At one point he was able to get his head past my leg, and with a quick turn of his head he hooked his horn behind my leg pulling it out from under me. Naturally I fell to the ground, but thought, (’ that was clever’.) While I was on the ground Billy (the bastard) seemed to recognize my vulnerability, and renewed his head butting efforts with vigor. As quickly as I could, (remember a goat is head butting me in the side), I got back on my feet.

Marcia, trying to contain her laughter while acting concerned for my welfare, said she was going to our neighbor’s house, to tell Dan, our neighbor, that his goat was out of the fence, and we had him captured at our house. She got in the van and drove off, still laughing.

The smart thing for me to do at this point would be to turn the goat loose, and go inside the house until Dan arrived. The problem with that was it made sense. (I’m smarter than a goat.) I was determined not to leave him alone outside to chew his way through our flowers. He, on the other hand, was determined to ram into me until hell froze over, because that’s what billy goats do.

Finally, exhausted, I realized, Billy was getting the upper hand. (Maybe I’m not smarter than a goat.) I let go of his horns and hurried into the house. Billy followed me onto the porch. After closing the door I fully expected him to run head first into it. He didn’t. As I watched him through the glass beside the door, he simply looked around, and went about tasting the flowers.

After a few minutes I was able to catch my breath, and wondered if I should just leave him alone outside. I could hear him walking on the porch, and I was worried he might break something. Oxygen was getting back to my brain and I was thinking again. (I’m smarter than a goat.) I went back outside.

Outside, and in Billy’s view once again, his obsession to ram me with his head into oblivion was vigorously renewed. Before he could get close I ran to the driveway because I didn’t want to wrestle with him on the porch. It didn’t take him long to mount a new attack. Again the only way for me to prevent him from slamming his head into me was to grab him by the horns. After a couple of minutes of wrestling with him  I thought, (it would have been smarter than a goat to have grabbed a rope before coming back outside).

Finally Marcia pulled into the drive. She was laughing so hard I wasn’t sure if she could get out of the van. I asked her to go in the garage and bring me a rope. I planned to secure a rope to Billy’s collar, (a spiked dog collar), then lead him to the lower field I originally started out to mow. There I planned to tie him to a tree until his owner arrived. Marcia came back, still laughing of course,  the large bull rope I hoped she would find in hand. This rope was about fifty feet long and had been carelessly coiled, (by me). While holding Billy by the horns with one hand I attempted to untangle the rope with the other. Finally realizing the futility of this effort I looked at Marcia saying, “It would have been nice if you hand unrolled it first.” Any other time Marcia would have followed my sarcasm with “Screw you, do it yourself.”, but realizing my desperation she took the rope,  unwound a few feet from the tangled mess, laughed some more and handed it back. Finally I was able to get the rope tied to Billy’s collar.

Marcia said she spoke with Dan and that he would be here shortly. With the rope held close limiting Billy’s opportunity for head butting I relaxed a little. (I’m smarter than a goat).  Walking to the lower field, the rope tied to Billy’s collar pulled taut at my side with Billy’s head lifted he continued to attempt head butting me.

It was a hell of a struggle but I finally managed to reach an oak tree large enough to hold Billy. Tossing the rope with my free hand loosely around the tree, close to loosing consciousness from exhaustion  I left the rope looped loosely around the tree. I figured the little bastard would attempt to get at me, which if he came at me from the right direction he would pull the rope secure. Billy made a couple of attempts to lunge at me, which just as I suspected tightened the rope enough to make certain he couldn’t get loose. I  backed away from the tree just far enough so Billy couldn’t reach me and collapsed to the ground.

My chest felt as if it would explode. I gasped repeatedly for air. After what seemed like five minutes, (probably less than a minute, actually), Marcia came with my rescue inhaler asking if she should call 911. With painful effort I was able to tell her I would be alright then sucked a couple of blows into my lungs from the inhaler.

After a couple of minutes Dan made his way across the field. He retrieved his goat and after a bit of chit-chat he apologized for the trouble and led Billy back across the creek. Billy attempted head butting Dan just like he did with me. ‘At least the bastard ain’t selective about who he rammed’ I thought. His attempts to ram his head into his owner led me to conclude it wasn’t personal. Across the creek I could see Dan tying Billy the Bastard to a tree near the creek bank, where he left him alone. I continued to sit where I had collapsed earlier. It was several more minutes until I felt I was breathing well enough to stand and walk back to the house.

Looking across the creek at Billy munching on briars I turned and headed toward the house. (I’m smarter than a goat.)

Goat wrestling is an exhausting sport. I was completely drained. After drinking a bottle of water I went inside and took a nap.

Bastard Billy the Goat.

Maybe I’ll mow later in the week.

originally posted August 2008 but removed due to excessive spam response

Diggin’ Taters

We decided yesterday it was time to find out if the potato plants, growing in the garden box had anything for us. As I started brushing back the dirt the first potato was exposed. A nice one. Digging further, others were found. They seemed to get smaller the deeper I dug, until there was just spidery roots. All in all we got about five pounds of potatoes out of our little garden box. Not bad, I thought, for a couple of rookies who knew nothing about growing potatoes back in the spring.

Now, I still don’t know a lot about growing potatoes, but I did learn a couple of things.

You start with seed potatoes. You can get these at your local feed and seed supply dealer. Sometimes the hardware stores carry them if they sell planting vegetables. As seed potatoes appear to be potatoes with healthy eyes sprouting you can probably just put some potatoes you’ve purchased up in a cool, dark place for a while and make your own. Looking at the seed potato, with its sprouts looking like the beginnings of a root system, one might think you just plunk them in the ground. That’s what I thought, until an old timer told me to cut the potatoes in quarters and plant each quarter. Dig out a little hole, three to four inches deep, drop the cut piece into the hole and cover it up. You can do like I did and plant the potato cuttings every foot, but if you want them to be the most productive they need to be spaced about two feet apart. Imagine a circle with a two-foot radius, beginning right at the center of where you just planted a cutting. Potatoes grow pretty close to the surface, so if other plants are competing for the space the plants root system is forced to go down which makes it harder for the potato to grow. That’s why when I dug mine they got smaller the deeper I dug. I found several marble size spuds, which are pretty tasty but it takes a hell of a lot of them to make a meal. In between the planting and the digging just make sure they get plenty of water, I watered every day, except when it rained, which wasn’t all that often at my place. The other thing I did was sprinkled some slow release nitrogen in the dirt. How do you tell when they’re ready to dig? Well my clue was the plants themselves were beginning to die out, with brown, dry leaves. I figured if the plants were dying the potatoes weren’t going to grow anymore. There may be a more scientific method but this seemed to work. It took about eight weeks of watching and watering before we had taters.

Another thing I learned later was that you have to keep covering the potato plants as they grow. In my garden the following spring I planted two long rows, about twenty five feet each, and at least once a week I would use my hoe to pile more dirt on top of the plant. By doing this the potatoes stay close to the surface and are more plentiful. This time we harvested about thirty pounds of potatoes. I planted both red potatoes and a golden variety. Both species produced many spuds.

Sitting at the dock by the bay.

Actually, I’m sitting in the waiting room of a Firestone garage where I’m waiting for the mechanic to finish servicing my car.

While standing at the counter checking in, it suddenly occurred to me that my wallet was still on my dresser. In a panic, thoughts started jumping into my head about how to solve this problem.

I’ll call Marcia and just have her and Zachary drive it over. No that will not work because I have Marcia’s car and she doesn’t have a seat for the baby to put in my car.

I’ll call Jason, and have him drive me home to get the wallet, then drive me back. I called Jason. During the conversation with Jason, I made the suggestion about driving me home or bringing me some money. As we discussed how much money, suddenly I thought, “You dumb ass! Just have the store put the bill on your store credit card.”

I told Jason of my new plan and thanked him for his willingness to come and pick me up.

Funny isn’t it, how panic can fuzz up your thinking. Twenty years ago, every scenario possible would have gone through my mind and the correct solution selected before panic ever had a chance to start circulating through the neuron flashes in my brain.

Today it takes longer for the neuron’s to build enough charge to send a signal through the synapses that an automatic response such as panic has time to process first, ahead of logical thinking. When that happens, some solutions never process all the way to the decision point to translate into a course of action.

Coming here today was supposed to be a quick visit. After all, I called ahead making an appointment for a simple replacement of two tires that wore out prematurely. How long could that take? Maybe an hour if the person in the garage only had one hand, and took a thirty-minute break between each tire.

After being counseled on the importance of maintaining the front-end alignment by the service writer, I explained that the vehicle was covered by their lifetime alignment service, and that by checking their records they could see the vehicle had been aligned by them at all the recommended intervals.

Conceding his mistake the service writer gave me an estimate of the cost for two new tires, explaining the proration rate based on the amount of miles on my old tires. After signing the authorization to do the work, I took a seat in the waiting area.

Two hours later I begin to wonder if the person changing out the two tires has any arms at all. Surely a person with a complete pair of hands and arms would not take two hours to change two tires. I inquire at the desk as to how much longer it could possibly take and was told about another hour.

Returning to the incredibly uncomfortable chair in the waiting area I decided that I have miserably under estimated the amount of work required to change two tires. Ken, and old friend and owner of the Discount Tire Barn on Patton Avenue, has no idea that he has been doing this wrong for so many years. The last time I got tires at his place his service man changed all four tires in just over thirty minutes.

It must be because of the waiting area. At Firestone they provide chairs, uncomfortable as the may be, circled around a coffee table with many ancient copies of the tire industry trade magazine. Surprisingly the copies are all worn and ragged from use. The store even provides a television to watch, in case you’ve read all the magazines about tires and tire dealers. They even have coffee.

The Discount Tire Barn, on the other hand has no waiting area. They do have a well-worn sofa that you can use if you just want to hang out. They also have the typical tire industry trade magazines, though they don’t appear to be as worn as the copies at Firestone. Ken does provide coffee if you happen to be there long enough for him to brew a pot. Ken doesn’t have a television either. I suppose he doesn’t want his customers hanging around, drinking his coffee, and watching television all morning, so he gets you in, changes your tires, and sends you on your way. Hard to imagine how he has been in business for thirty years in the same location by offering such good service. Ken is obviously using a different business model than Firestone.

Horses and Donkeys

Earlier today I was sitting in my car looking across a field where some horses were grazing. One of the horses appeared to be limping and as I continued to watch it was obvious this animal had suffered some type of injury. His left hind leg barely touched the ground as he stood pulling grass with his teeth. When he took a step it was with pain, as he would quickly shift his weight back to the right side.
The other four horses stood around a tree in a semi-circle for near thirty minutes. It wasn’t clear to me from the distance between us why they stood in this place for so long.
In another field nearby a donkey came sauntering up the hill walking near the fence line, and looking across the road to the field with the horses. The donkey stopped and stared at the other animals across the way. He looked lonely. He began pacing back and forth along the fence line closest to the field of horses, looking across the field all the time. Occasionally he would stop and stare, never making a sound before returning to his march, back and forth, hoping to get noticed.

A Yard Sale in May

Marcia, Jason, and Debbie planned a Saturday yard sale for early May. They had discovered a yard sale was a good way to get rid of some of the stuff everyone always accumulates. Trinkets, house wares, used furniture, and just about anything imaginable is fair game in a yard sale. Yard sale items are things you don’t want to throw in the trash, but at the same time it’s things you no longer want or need.

Yard sale, garage sale, moving sale, tag sale, estate sale, whatever these events are normally called in your area they amount to the same thing. Get cash for your junk instead of a tax deduction for donating to a charity.

The last couple of times a sale was held here at the house I was either in a class or working with a client. This most recent event found me without any excuse for leaving. I stayed around helping Marcia get set up, and then took a position on the porch and just hung out all morning.

Marcia, Debbie, and Jason were the proprietors of the sale. They all stayed busy, rearranging the merchandise to attract buyers, talking with people as they stopped to look around. The sale turned out to be a success. They all made some money, and got rid of a bunch of stuff. Some folks walked away with excellent bargains as the goal of the day was to move the merchandise. Any money gained during the process was a bonus.

Near the end of the day Debbie, Jason, and I were sitting on the porch talking while a couple of late customers milled about in the drive. Marcia was inside the house. One of the customers, a gentleman some years older than I, had parked in the drive. This in itself was not a problem, people had been doing it all day. Once he finished browsing he set about to leave. Little did we know at this point the most entertaining part of the day was about to take place.

The guy was driving a small SUV, a newer model. Upon starting his engine I anticipated him to put the transmission in reverse and back slowly out of the drive into the street to depart. So, I was a little shocked when he began pulling forward. “OK, he’s going to do a three point turn.” I thought. This was an exit strategy I would not have thought of but my drive is wide enough for this maneuver.

Those thoughts barely went through my head when the front left wheel of the SUV rolled into and jumped over a rather large rock at the edge of my drive. My drive is lined on one side by landscaping rocks that separate the driveway from a mulched area with flowers and about twenty feet before reaching a retaining wall. The rocks create a substantial barricade, I thought. The rocks aren’t boulder size but many of them require two people to lift so they’re quite big. Luckily he didn’t drive forward very far before stopping.

“Well,” I was thinking again as I watched this show intently, “He hasn’t damaged anything yet, and if he just backs up now he’ll be able to turn the vehicle enough to allow him to go straight out the drive onto the road”.

None of this apparently occurred to the old guy driving the SUV. He backed up until the same left front tire bumped into the same rock. He had been moving slowly so the car just sort of bumped the rock and bounced off. The driver immediately shifted forward and accelerated slightly. The SUV bounced again as the right front tire jumped over a different rock. Now both front wheels were on the wrong side of the rocks. He stopped just as the rear wheels contacted the rocks. The row of rocks were now between his front and rear tires.

Without much hesitation the SUV was shifted to reverse once again as the driver accelerated backwards. He failed to accelerate enough to clear the rocks though. Both front tires slammed into the large rocks bouncing the vehicle roughly before  coming to a stop.

It was at this point that I thought of asking the driver if he needed some help. Maybe if he had turned his head in my direction, and given me a look of helplessness, or stupidity, I would have asked. But he didn’t change his gaze from straight ahead. Thinking back now it was a good thing no one was in the driveway because he never looked to the rear, even though he made a few attempts to go that direction.

He repeated the forward and backward motion a couple of times, each time bouncing the SUV as the front, or rear tires hit the rocks. Reminded me of a pinball bouncing between two pins.

Debbie couldn’t take it any more, as she was near bursting with laughter. She got up and went inside the house. She said later she didn’t want to embarrass the old guy.  I couldn’t believe that to be possible. Jason and I continued watching, mouths open in wonder. Neither of us had seen anyone do anything  near this stupid in a long time.

Finally the SUV accelerated in reverse enough for the right front wheel to bounce over the rocks, but before the opposite wheel bounced over the vehicle stopped. The driver shifted into forward and really accelerated this time turning the steering wheel right. The SUV lunged forward, the left front wheel climbed the first rock, the steering wheel straightened, and the car was in motion, the left front wheel bouncing on the rocks. Suddenly one of these large rocks became dislodged and bounced up between the left front wheel and the fender well. This locked up the left front wheel, but the other three wheels kept the vehicle in motion. Friction finally pulled the rock loose from where it was stuck in between the left front wheel and the wheel well and the SUV sped out of my driveway with the driver turning right and disappearing quickly out of sight. Unfortunately for the driver the right turn was a dead end. In a few minutes he drove back by the house on his way to the main road, never looking back.

Jason, Debbie, and I laughed about this the rest of the afternoon. We had to reset a few of the rocks along the edge of the driveway but it was worth it. Who knew that a yard sale could be this entertaining? The bigger question is, should this guy be driving?

Always Is a Long Time

Always is a long time

Hot days of August with hints in the air of September,

We stood near the waters edge arm in arm watching

The sun, glistening, pale red, falling behind tall

Forests of pine trees circling the lake banks, silence closed

Around us like a veil pulled loosely over a

Bride’s face, you whispered that you would love me always.

Always is a long time.

Strangers walked past us in the field. Over by the house sounds

Of laughter filled the space between the music like

Waves crashing on a beach. Feeling the sounds, we walked

Through an open door, searching the faces for your brother.

The smell of alcohol, sweat, and barbecue. We

Taste moonshine from a mason jar. My lust became

Intense emotion. You

Danced. Others in the room became bewitched. Your sensual

Display unleashed wanton jealousy. Wanting you

More than ever. The heat, the alcohol drove me

Mad. I turned outside the door. You called my name, begging please

Stop. We kissed, forever together, lost in time,

Thoughts of love always, memories, a younger time

Always is a long time.

Turkey in the Straw

Standing at the glass doors looking out over the backyard, I see the rabbit that hangs around our place was out having his, (or her, it’s hard to tell about rabbits), morning nibble. While watching the rabbit a humming bird flew into view, hovering at the feeder Marcia has hanging from a post on the porch. The morning sun was obscured by the slowly lifting fog. Mornings are beginning to look and feel like fall. It is the end of August, so this change in the way the morning presents itself is not a surprise. I love the way morning feels this time of year in the mountains.

As I watched the events taking place outside movement near the edge of the woods drew my attention. “What is that?” I thought. “That’s too big for a squirrel.” Slow and deliberately a wild turkey eased itself out of the shelter of trees and into the grass. A large gobbler, it stood silent and still for several seconds. Soon the vigilant bird began to walk carefully toward the bed of wildflowers in the center of the yard. As if on cue, six hens emerged from the woods to follow their leader. It was interesting watching how this group of hens seemed to be following the silent orders of the “man” in charge. If he stopped, they stopped, and remained frozen in place until the gobbler started moving again. They stayed in the open grass for a few minutes, pecking the ground as they walked along. After a couple of minutes, the entire group disappeared into another part of the woods. Their risky walk out in the open ended for now.

As I was leaving the house a bit later the gobbler was checking the area once again. This time about thirty yards up the hill from my driveway he was trying to determine if it was safe to lead his flock across the road into another segment of woods. Later in the day as Marcia was returning from a brief shopping trip she reported the entire flock had made their way once again into the open. As she pulled into the driveway, they were making their way across the field below our house heading toward the creek.

All in all the turkeys made their way in a huge circle around our house, taking the better part of a day, moving from patches of forest to open areas, always vigilant to the signals of the gobbler in case they needed to pick up the pace. Like the days before automobiles, this was just another family out for a walk in the country, visiting the neighbors.

Fat Boys Don’t Roll

In the spring of 2007 tree planting was on our minds. Since moving into our new house two years ago, not much has been accomplished in the way of landscaping. This year Marcia and I were determined to shape up the grounds a little.

Part of this plan included planting some new trees in the barren space below the house. Wanting to add evergreens to the landscape, we chose a healthy Frasier Fir and two Nelly Holly trees. The Frasier Fir and the Holly trees will add color during the winter months and are species that elicit fond memories for both of us, so we thought them to be good choices.

The trees, spaced about thirty feet apart, planted, we were admiring the choice, imagining what they would look like after a few years growth, when we spotted a small holly tree growing next to a large oak farther down in the field. Having decided this small tree would look much better along the same plane we just finished planting, we proceeded to dig it up and move it.

This wild holly was growing only a few inches from the base of the oak so the digging was not as easy as I first imagined, considering we wanted to save the tree. We debated how best to accomplish the job before getting started. This was mostly good-humored banter, nothing serious. Since this was only a small tree, maybe eighteen inches tall, one would expect the removal from the ground to take place rather quickly.

Well because its proximity to the oak, our not wanting to harm the holly tree, and the fact that we were working on a slight hill, not to mention we had already dug three other holes in the ground to plant the trees we bought, causing me to be getting a little tired of this exercise, I started getting a little impatient.

“Stand back” I said, “let me show you how to get this thing out.” Standing on the downhill side, I bent over and grasped the holly tree as close to the ground as I could and started to pull.

“Stop it, you idiot. You’re going to break off the roots.” Marcia clearly did not think much of my idea.

“It’ll be ok. We’ve loosened it enough.” I replied, increasing the level of exertion into pulling the tree. To be such a small tree this thing was really stuck in the ground. At this point, there was no way I was going to admit I could not pull it out so I pulled harder and harder until I was almost to the end of my strength.

If you have ever pulled anything out of the ground, a weed, flower, or a small tree, you know to expect feeling whatever you are pulling on to begin moving slowly up from the dirt. As this feeling is experienced, you know to start reducing the amount of force you are applying so that when it comes out of the dirt the entire root system remains attached to the plant. This is innate knowledge we are all endowed with. Plants always gradually release their hold on the dirt as they are pulled. It’s not an exact science, or something that we’re taught, we men just know it.

At the limit of my strength, standing on a hill, pulling on a small tree, the tree suddenly lets go. Nothing gradual, it let go of the earth entirely in one split second. Apparently, this tree did not have the slow release of the dirt coded in its DNA. Everything suddenly looked as if I were moving at light speed. My body was still visibly normal but all of my surroundings seemed blurred because of how fast I was moving. Then with a teeth-vibrating thud, I hit the ground flat on my back, head downhill from my feet. “Man that hurt” was the first thought that hit my mind, and in the same instant, “Shit, I’m still moving.” With my head pointing downhill, stopped, flat on my back, my legs and lower body are continuing to move down the hill.

“Should I try to stop? Maybe I can force myself to turn to one side to change the momentum?” Random thoughts ran through my head. “How long has it been since I actually did any tumbling? Will my body survive?”

My feet continued their momentum until I was conscious they were above my head, and then in less than two seconds from the time the tree let go I have fallen backwards on my back, continued into a reverse roll, and landed on my knees, the tree in my hand. I started laughing. Marcia, laughing so hard she could hardly speak asked, “You fool, are you alright?” She continued laughing. “I was worried for a minute you were going to roll all the way to the creek.” She said, wiping the tears from her eyes.

“Fat boys won’t roll that far, but they will roll a little.” I told her as we walked laughing, back up the hill to plant the last tree for the day.

What a day for a day dream (Lovin Spoonful)

A quite day with nothing much going on. Days like this are good for the soul. They let your mind wander into seldom visited memories, or allow you to simply explore new thoughts without interruptions. We all need these types of days occasionally. It helps us clear out the stuff we have no use for that gets stuck in our heads. Things such as the price of a gallon of gas, or the distance between here and there. Those are things that affect life but not the things about life. The jumble of thoughts and communications that flow through our minds on a given day are mostly just stuff that adds no value to who we are.

Monday, Monday (The Mamas and Papas)

I love that song. It’s a good description of today. Dark and dreary outside with lots of rain coming down. A few flash floods in the area were reported on the weather reports I listened to this morning. `Been raining now for 3 days and folks are getting a little tired of it. We’re a fickle bunch, we humans. 4 days ago we were complaining about how dry it was. Now, 3 days later we’re complaining about how wet it is. I suppose we just have a low tolerance for things staying the same for too long.