Tuesday, September 22, 2009

No White Shoes After Labor Day and The Meaning of Life

It's elk season up here in this corner of the White Mountains and men in camouflage from head to toe are skulking around normally quiet lanes on their ATV's . I know where they buy their outfits - Western Drug in Springerville has everything from undies to aprons in muted drab olive. It also carries ammunition, guns - everything to make a man look and act the part of hunter.

Elk season brings out the yahoos. No other way of putting it. Yahoos who have no respect for private property, who break the cardinal rule of the west by opening and failing to shut gates, who disdain posted signs and give hunters a bad name. Not that I have any particular affection for hunters or hunting but for some it is a legitimate sport and way of filling the freezer.

A few weeks back the leaving open of a gate invited my neighbor's miniature (and that descriptor is a misnomer - these guys are big) Angus trio to wander into my pasture. They are docile animals and I have no objection to them mowing for me - but I was concerned that they might be able to cross the cattle guard and wander down the lane. I played round -up for an hour - shoo cow, shoo bull, move it! I was up that day - had I been down in town there was a real possibility that these animals could have wandered off my property and into harm's way.

Over the weekend one of these so called sportsmen cornered a cow elk up against a neighbors barn and no doubt thrilled at the chase and kill of a trapped animal. Despite it being a crime to shoot a weapon within a quarter mile of a dwelling Game and Fish professed they were helpless because the man claimed he was only "field dressing" at that spot, that he had shot the animal elsewhere.

I spent yesterday posting signs on my property line - walking the fences and attaching legally binding signs every 300 yards or so. Keep Out. Private Property. No Trespassing. No Hunting. No Discharging of Weapons. No Fishing. According to Arizona law, to give would be trespassers a "fair chance" you have to post a minimum of every quarter mile. I did some fence mending along the way too. The elk have taken down sizable stretches of my old style wood post and barbed wire fencing. I'm investigating solar powered electrical strand fencing to replace the original. In areas where we know the elk cross we ran rubber casing over the wire to encourage them to stick to one spot. For the most part they do.

As I hammered nails and twisted wire to secure the signs I was thinking of other prohibition signs seen over the years. One that gave me the giggles many years ago was in a snooty country club in Rhode Island. "Ladies are reminded that white shoes are inappropriate wear after Labor Day. Gentlemen members are encouraged to forgo shorts after the same date". Another was on a fence surrounding a chemical plant in the Baltimore area - "Peering through holes in this fence is prohibited". And a much more pragmatic and to the point sign at a street market in England - "If you don't want the goods, don't muck'em about".

As for the meaning of life - that's where James Taylor came into play last night. The glass doors for the big , double sided rock fireplace here are out for repair. It got a bit nippy after sundown and in my post fence mending haze decided that I could light a fire and use firescreens either side to prevent sparks leaping out. I had ignored the design of this fireplace! Closed doors encourage the draft, without them smoke billowed into the great room and set off the smoke alarms which are conveniently located around 20ft. up on the walls! Doors and windows open fans full blast, it took over an hour to clear the smoke and meanwhile the alarms screeched and no amount of batting at them with an extension pole quietened them - hence James Taylor full volume . I know the words now to The meaning of Life - still a bit hazy about what it means in reality!

Friday, September 18, 2009

A Good News, Bad News Day

Yesterday my youngest grandchild celebrated her second birthday - albeit half way around the world in Sub-Saharan Africa. Thanks to the modern wonders of GMail Chat she and I were able to say "I love you". A dear friend who has already fought and won the cancer battle on two fronts has been nail-chewing waiting for results of a recent biopsy. "All clear" she shouted from the rooftops. Good events, joyful messages, promises of a future.

Some time ago I wrote of a neighbor and his wife who stop by in the evenings to let their dog play with my critter. I've been gone most of the Summer and I recently ran into him at the neighborhood coffee shop."How are you ?" I asked. "Terrible", he said. "I've never felt more lonely and sad in my life as I do now". His wife, who celebrated her ( although I suppose celebration takes some interpretation now) 74th. birthday this week has finally succumbed to a stage of alzheimer' s disease that has necessitated she be placed in a home. They have been married 50 years. His loss is overwhelming. "I don't care about anything now" he told me.

I called him yesterday to come on over and have a glass of wine, don't be alone. We talked as the dogs played. "You never knew her before this happened". He described a vibrant woman, athletic, super mom, community activist. "And now, when I go to visit, she doesn't know me."

What a cruel and brutal disease. It's robbed two lives of joy. There's nothing I could say to him. In many ways losing my husband to cancer was easier to bear. There was an end.

I watched a movie trying to understand more the impact of alzheimer's on the survivor - Away From Her - hard to take but I'm glad I sat through it.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

A Committed Relationship

I'm in a committed relationship again with the pack rat guy. We broke off for several months , me thinking I could live without him, he encouraging me to set my own trap, do the independent woman thing. Coming back from Africa and seeing the damage done by these Rattus Packus types as they attempted to move back into my house I realized I needed Chris in my life and begged him to return. He was/is more than gracious and I've come to look forward to our morning chats as he empties the traps.

Maybe it's not the big romance I dreamed of but I ask you, what's romance when compared to a man with genuine practical skills - plus he loves animals and listens to NPR.

Chris is the packrat expert with Animal Experts here in Tucson and he's back in my life because those pesky rats are back. I see it as a committed relationship. I have his number on speed dial and he knows my voice as soon as he picks up the phone. OK, so I pay him $35 every time he visits; this week he's caught 7 pack rats and to me he's worth every penny.

This morning I got a lecture on my "problem". No, nothing to do with me being clingy and shrieking when I found one of these rodents in the strawberry pot. My problem, according to Chris stems from my location. "Look where you are" he urges, waving his arm to the wash that borders my property. "And they love washes" he says. "Not only that but you've got a garden, you're growing fresh veggies and herbs for them" - he sighs, a long, deep sigh, I know I'm a lost cause. "You make things hard on yourself" he says. "that fountain you've got, well, all I can say is that you've created a resort, a spa for the pack rats." I hang my head. "The only thing you don't do wrong is feed the birds". I moved quickly, blocking his line of sight so he couldn't see the two feeders currently mingling with an out of control bougainvillea.

I can't stand his reproach. He's all that stands between me and a total take over by pack rats. I'll do anything to keep him.

I play the helpless woman card. Beg him to understand that I accepted his advice of earlier this year and stuffed wire wool into the rubber that seals the garage door (and if you don't think that a labor of love, you should have seen the nails I sacrificed). Nope, seems that nothing will convince Chris I'm serious about ridding my life of pack rats short of packing and moving to a high rise.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Manners Maketh the Man and Woman

Maybe it is being a 'certain age' - all policemen have looked way too young to be carrying guns to me for some time now. Maybe it's the please and thank you gene that was implanted in me at a very early age or maybe I'm just a grouch! Whatever the reason I am more often struck by a lack of courtesy , absence of just plain good manners than ever before.

At my local Starbucks this morning (and I admit to being more judgmental before a double espresso) two women , I'd say they were early fifties, held up the line one of them taking a phone call in the midst of giving her order, barking at her friend to "call J right now" and then the two of them carried on loud conversations while the young barista stood by waiting to complete the order. Coffee in hand they moved from the counter, not one please or thank you for the service, and continued with the phone calls. As I left, I held the door for two young women - neither of them expressed gratitude, not even a simple nod of the head in acknowledgment of a small courtesy offered them.

The recent town hall meetings that have seen mobs (no other word for it) screaming at one another across a room; the congressman who "acted spontaneously" during the President's address last night. The folded arms and closed minded opposition to another parties proposals, not on rational, well thought out grounds but in the name of "ideology - it's all part of this not dumbing down of America but "rudening", making crude our society.

What's wrong with an acknowledgment of someone's existence; of a slowing down in the lane to let someone else move in; of a nod of the head or quick smile to show you've seen someone as a person, not an object. I don't know about you all but I was raised to leave the last cookie or candy for someone else; to offer my seat on public transportation to someone older (and I still find myself doing that!) ; to say please and thank you. I'm not big on artificial etiquette, rules that no longer make sense; I'm not offended by an e mail invitation and a quick e mail to say "thank you for dinner" is fine by me. I'm not arguing for going back to the laborious note writing days but I have to say that when a year goes by without a thank you after you give a wedding gift to a young couple and the mother of the bride sends out notes because "Patsy is too busy" - mother is encouraging bad manners. I find it equally offensive to receive a wedding invitation that reads "cash preferred, you don't know our taste" ...that was one wedding invitation I declined.

It is so much less stressful to be civil to one another, to smile rather than scowl, to hold a door rather than let it slam, to listen rather than talk over. And in business too, what's wrong with treating the plumber, carpenter, handyman, cleaning crew as human beings - people providing a service that you need. I was on the fringe of a conversation recently where a couple who had just closed on a foreclosed house were loudly extolling the virtues of "making a killing". The subject moved onto necessary work at the house and the male tossed back his drink and announced that he was going to talk to a well known landscaper. He speculated this professional to be so "hungry for work" that he could "screw him to the wall and then some". I left. Where's the milk of human kindness, respect for one another? Maybe I am getting old!