Archive for January, 2011

Barney, We Hardly Knew Ye

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

We had a sad day a couple of weeks ago when one of the coon dogs, Barney, passed away.  We aren’t sure what happened because his condition deteriorated so quickly.  He acted sick one day, started on antibiotics the next day, and died the third day.  He was a sweet dog but not one I was particularly attached to partly because he was usually in a pen and partly because he’d been with us just a little over a year.  Quite honestly with 10 other dogs available for companionship, I don’t think he would have been missed, but I will never know for sure because John had replaced him with Hatchet in less than 48 hours.

Hatchet is with us on a trial basis, and from what I’ve seen so far, he doesn’t have much of a chance of making the cut.  To carve out a niche in our pack, you have to have longevity (Champ and Sis), be very good at what you do (Jack, Susie, and Tuffy), possess enormous, undeveloped potential (Razor and Nicki), or be incredibly cute (3 puppies).  Hatchet possesses none of these qualities.  Besides, with names like Razor and Hatchet in the mix, I’m afraid John will feel compelled to name the puppies Machete, Slingblade, and Swiss Army Knife.

Hatchet’s month with us will be up soon so he will go back home, and at that point Nicki will be able to hunt again, the puppies (at least 2 of them) will be at their new homes, and we will be back to 8 dogs.  At least that’s the plan.  We just have to decide which puppy we want to keep.  I hope it’s Slingblade!

Totally Worth the Effort

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Most women don’t have their first child at age 12, but I must have because she is 36 today and I’m only 48.  Okay, my math may be a little fuzzy, but my recollection of the day is crystal clear.  I won’t bore anyone with the details of my 72 hours of labor and delivery.  Women who also had difficult deliveries aren’t really interested in anyone’s ordeal but their own, and women who had easy deliveries don’t believe you.  As a first time mom, I had heard childbirth was painful so I just thought what I was going through was the way it was for everyone.  Suffice it to say that I don’t think the experience would have been any worse if I’d delivered her myself in a remote African village, but she arrived healthy and beautiful, so I shouldn’t second guess the doctor too much.

John was just as clueless about the whole process as I was, and he tried his best to be supportive.  Given the ancillary role men play in childbirth (Lamaze coaches notwithstanding), it is understandable that he spent a lot of time wandering the halls and sitting by my bed with a look of complete bewilderment on his face.  I think it was his confusion and inability to offer any real comfort to me that caused him to utter what has to be one of his top ten things that would have been better left unsaid.  During one particularly painful contraction, he leaned over my bed and said tenderly, “I don’t think those contractions would hurt as much if you didn’t scream so loudly.”  For an instant I thought he must be speaking a foreign language that sounded like English but meant something completely different.  Sadly, that was what he actually said to me.  Through gritted teeth I said, “If that’s the best you can do to help, you need to stay in the lobby.”  Of course he apologized and stayed by my side, and together we delivered an 8lb. 11oz. baby girl.

Thirty-six years later she is a successful doctor with two beautiful daughters of her own, and her dad is still as communicatively challenged as he was on the day she was born.  Do I wish the process had been easier–absolutely.  Was it worth the effort–totally!

Retirement Blues

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

The opinion on retirement is definitely mixed among the retirees I have talked to over the last few months.  Some viewed it as one of life’s greatest events; others saw it as a great disappointment caused by boredom and a loss of identity.  Even though John was on vacation all last week, this is actually his first week of official retirement so he is still navigating unfamiliar waters.  He had a retirement party on Tuesday with an impromptu roast by some of his co-workers.  I think for all his bluster about not missing the job, he was genuinely touched by the ones who said they would miss him and had enjoyed working with him.  There may be a period of adjustment, but I believe he will end up in the group touting it as a wonderful experience.  I am not so sure I will love his retirement quite that much.

So far he has been pretty helpful around the house, but his previous contributions had the bar set so low there was no room for anything but improvement.  However, cooking is probably the area where he is struggling the most, so when he apologized last night for not cooking supper, I assured him that I could find something to eat and that I didn’t expect him to cook something every night.  That’s probably where he should have left things, but he somehow felt compelled to give me the details of his day as an explanation for his lack of culinary activity.

He told me he had gone to a local feedlot to see if he could pick up a recently deceased cow to butcher for his dogs.  Since he had successfully done this in the past and significantly reduced the amount of dog food he had to purchase for his 11 dogs, that sounded like a fairly productive activity.  Again, this would have been a great time to end the story, but he continued by telling me he really had overdone the cutting and heavy lifting because his back was aching, and that’s why he didn’t feel like cooking supper.  I was somewhat sympathetic and even found him some pain pills left over from his last bout with kidney stones, but my concern waned a bit when he shared the fact that 3 ibuprofen, 2 beers, and a 2 hour nap hadn’t helped at all.  Really?  He didn’t feel like cooking even after a 2 hour nap?  That must have been quite a back ache.  However, the coup de grace came just a few minutes later when he said he really hoped the pain pills helped because he was going coon hunting with a friend in about an hour.

I did a quick mental summary of all the information he’d shared in the short time I’d been home just to make sure I wasn’t missing something.

1.  Spent the morning picking up and butchering a dead cow.

2.  Spent the afternoon drinking beer and napping.

3.  Didn’t cook supper because back hurt.

4.  Spent the evening coon hunting because that activity must use different back muscles than cooking.

Yes, retirement is going to be awesome for him.  Me, not so much.

Paul Bunyon Lives

Monday, January 3rd, 2011

Cutting down trees is a hazardous activity.  Simply operating a chainsaw carries some inherent risk.  Using one to cut down large trees compounds the danger.  I’m not going to look up any statistics because John frequently uses a chainsaw to cut down trees so I don’t want to know exactly how dangerous the activity is.  In spite of his quirks, I’m pretty fond of the guy, and I would like all his parts to stay intact!  I’m not sure whether I would characterize John as accident-prone or whether his lack of patience causes accidents to happen.  For example, he almost cut his thumb off once changing the razor blade in a carpet knife simply because he didn’t take the time to see exactly how the blade detached from the handle.  Instead he took a pair of pliers and pulled on the blade thinking he was being safe.  Unfortunately, when the blade came out, the “safety” side of the razor stayed in the handle rendering it quite dangerous when pulled across his hand.

Yesterday he asked me if I would help him cut down some dead trees so I agreed since it was close by the house, and the recent cold snap had really made a dent in the wood pile.  The two trees he wanted to cut down were in close proximity to each other, and it seemed to me that the best way to proceed would have been to cut down the small tree first and then the big one.  He has a lot more experience felling trees so I didn’t offer my suggestion when he started notching the bigger of the two in preparation for the final cut.

I had moved quite a distance away from the action (38 years of experience in these situations) so I’m not sure how close he came to serious injury, but as the tree dropped, it hit the smaller tree causing the base of the trunk to kick backwards.  As it swung toward John’s head, he jumped back, and it appeared to miss him by inches.  He tried to downplay the incident, but I think he realized how close he came to taking his nourishment through a straw with his jaw wired shut.

Our son, John, got a new chainsaw for Christmas, so he called his dad last night to tell him about the first tree he cut down with his new toy.  Apparently he misjudged the direction the tree would fall and dropped it on his fence.  I was hoping that accident-prone gene skipped a generation!  As they compared mishaps it suddenly occurred to me that not only is Paul Bunyon alive and well, his son is carrying on the legacy.

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