Archive for February, 2012

Clear Conscience

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

John’s grandfather, also named John, was legendary for his ability to fall asleep the instant his head hit the pillow.  On hot summer days, Grandpa John would often take a short nap after lunch so I have heard many anecdotal accounts of his extraordinary ability. When people would ask how he could fall asleep so quickly he would give the simple response, “That’s the sign of a clear conscience.”  Unfortunately, he passed the trait on to his grandson.  I don’t mean that it’s unfortunate because I want John to toss and turn for hours every night before falling asleep, but occasionally it would be nice if he were available to help out after 9:00 p.m. Ultimately, this begs the question, “Can your conscience be too clear?”

For example, about a month ago I agreed to watch all 5 of the grandchildren so when John said he would help out, I was very appreciative.  I was especially thankful that I didn’t have to take 2 six-year-olds, 2 four-year-olds, and 1 twenty-one-month old to the grocery store because I needed to get the ingredients to make pies for a belated family Christmas gathering the next day.  When I got back from the store, he was already on the couch watching television but still awake.  Nonetheless, since he was horizontal, I knew he was on his way to Slumberland despite the fact that it was still early, none of the girls were ready for bed, and I had 5 pies to make for the next day.

Since John typically goes to bed early, this wouldn’t have been a noteworthy evening if not for the fact that 1 of the six-year-olds started vomiting around 9:00 p.m. just as I was in the middle of making my first pie.  I won’t go into graphic detail, but the poor girl was sick at least once every hour until 11:00 the next morning.  Around midnight I helped her make a dash to the bathroom, and I was standing in the doorway ready to offer support when John got up from the couch, wandered down the hallway, and stopped just a couple of steps away.  He listened to the pitiful retching for a moment and said, “Is someone taking a bath?”  A bit stunned by his question I replied, “It’s midnight.  Who do you think would be taking a bath at this hour?  Did you forget that Azbey is sick?”  When he indicated that he also needed the bathroom, I suggested that he try one of the other two in the house because this one was going to be occupied for a while.  In short order he was in bed sound asleep.  I shook my head in disbelief as I knew there was no way I could sleep while any of the grandchildren were sick.  Azbey was incredibly brave through the ordeal proving that she is, indeed, tough like a toad.  Somehow in between caring for her and making pies, I got the other 4 children into bed and took my last pie out of the oven at 1:00 a.m.

Over the course of the next few days, everyone in the house that evening succumbed to the illness so John didn’t escape unscathed.  In his defense, I never asked for any help once I got back from the store.  John is good at many things, but doing anything after 9:00 p.m., especially caring for a sick child, is outside his area of expertise so I guess there was no point in both of us losing sleep.  Upon reflection, I think his ability to sleep through chaos and turmoil has more to do with his hearing deficit and less to do with a mind free from guilt.  Nobody’s conscience is that clear.




It Can Always Get Worse, Part II

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

John has been cutting a lot of wood lately, and I generally help him split the bigger pieces using a hydraulic powered splitter when I am home.  I’ve split enough wood with a sledge hammer and wedges to realize this device is worth its weight in gold.  Since John worked last week getting the skinned steer cut, wrapped, and in the freezer as he promised, I felt motivated to help him split wood Saturday morning when he asked.  I could hear the tractor running as I exited the house so I expected to see it in place beside the splitter.  What I wasn’t prepared to see was the spectacle hanging from the front loader bucket of the tractor, a spectacle that reinforced my belief that things can always get worse.

I vaguely remember John saying something about not having room in the freezer for the two hind quarters of the steer, but if he mentioned his solution to the problem, I either didn’t hear it or failed to comprehend what he said.  I’m pretty sure I didn’t hear him because if I had, I wouldn’t have been so horrified when I walked around the corner of the garage and saw both hind quarters swaying in the breeze held by chains attached to the raised bucket of the tractor.  When John saw my expression he quickly began to do damage control.

John: Sorry about that hanging there.  I didn’t have room in the freezer, and I didn’t know what else to do with it.

Terri: That is really disgusting.

John:  It’s actually pretty handy to be able to walk over and cut off a slice for the dogs.

Terri:  You CAN’T have rotting meat hanging from the tractor.

John:  I know.  I’ll figure something out.

Somehow I didn’t feel reassured.

After splitting the wood, I went back in the house.  Even though the smell wasn’t too bad, a couple of 50 degree days had started the carcass remnants on their malodorous journey so after an hour’s exposure, I’d had enough.  I didn’t see much of John for the next two hours.  When he came in the house, he asked me to go outside to see his latest handiwork.  As is usually the case, his latest rendition of “where’s the beef” didn’t strike me as much of a solution to the problem.  He, on the other hand, seemed to think that slicing the meat and placing it on drying racks was a stroke of genius.

John:  Let me know if that bothers you, and I can try something else.

Terri:  (Internal monologue: Is it too soon to say that it bothers me since you just did it?)  Don’t you think it will smell bad that close to the house?

John:  I think the outside of the meat will dry quickly and seal it up.  It shouldn’t be a problem.

Terri:  I guess we can give it a try.

Fortunately, his dogs came through for me on this one.  By the next morning, they had carried off over half the meat and buried it.  I’m sure it won’t be long before it’s all gone.  That gives me some hope that maybe I’ve seen the worst unless a deliveryman reports a strange odor coming from the woods around our house.  I hope the CSI guys they send are cute!

It Can Always Get Worse

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012

I have learned over they years, at least where John is concerned, to never give ultimatums or speak in absolutes because he will undoubtedly prove me wrong.  For example, I once said we will never have 9 dogs.  A few short months after I made that vow, one of his females gave birth, and we had 11 dogs.  Now technically what I said was true.  We never had 9 dogs, but the meaning of my statement had definitely been subverted.  After many similar experiences, I should know better than to complain about a cow leg bone in the yard because it can always get worse.

John had been calling the local feedlot regularly looking for another bovine fatality to use as a food supplement for the pack.  When he finally got a call last Friday, he didn’t want to pass on the opportunity even though his schedule wouldn’t allow him to process the meat that day.  The weather turned much colder that night, and by the time he got started on Saturday, the steer was frozen solid so he made little progress other than skinning it.  Sunday was just as cold with a brisk south wind so he didn’t even make an attempt at carving the beast.

As with the leg bone, the cold weather made odor and pests a moot point.  However, a more discreet location for the carcass could also have solved the aesthetic issue.  Did the trailer really need to be parked in the driveway right in front of the house the entire weekend?  We have enough mounted heads, antlers, hides, and feathers to give our place a distinct Lord of the Flies atmosphere.  The only thing missing is a sign that says “Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here.”  Leaving the steer any distance from the house undoubtedly would have attracted coyotes and bobcats, but since it weighed 1300 pounds, I think we could share.  He did finally move the trailer over by the garage on Monday which made it about 20 feet further from the house.  Maybe he sensed my displeasure because I didn’t say a word about it.

The good news is that the weather is supposed to warm up over the next few days, and the steer will thaw enough to be cut into dog-sized portions.  I guess he could just leave it on the trailer and let the dogs eat what they want until it’s all gone.  Wait, I can’t believe I just said that.  It can’t get any worse than that, right?

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