Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Caution. Mature Readership Advised. Hope You're Not Eating. You Have Been Warned.

Three dead mice. Three dead mice.
See how they lay. See how they lay.
They all surprised Thevictorian Val.
Who only saw one, our nearsighted old gal.
But was tipped off forthwith by The Pony, her pal.
To THREE dead mice.

I stepped out on the porch tonight to call The Pony and Hick away from Hick's Folly The Sword Shack in progress. I almost stepped on a dead mouse. "Well. Ain't THAT a kick in the head?. Almost. For that little mousie. I guess the cats have left me another gift."

My sweet, sweet Juno, such a lady, would never disturb a present left for her human mom. No sirree, Bob! Despite Hick's aspersions cast her way, Juno is a good egg. Though according to Hick, she has eaten many a good egg. Daily. So this tiny deceased rodent was smack dab in front of my front door. It's not quite a horse's head in the bed, but it is a bit disconcerting. Let the record show that this is not the first dead mouse I have found at the door.

I proceeded down to the end of the porch and started tossing old bread to the chickens. I hope they like Nutty Oat. We have eleven chicks that are perhaps 1/4 grown up. They are quite cute, a variety of colors, some brave and some sticking close to their hatcher. Of course the dogs ran over from Hick's Folly The Sword Shack for their share. Let the record show that they were not full from eating purloined eggs, and they did not even stop to sniff at the rodent appetizer. Perhaps they are going vegan.

Hick and The Pony took off their hardhats and tool belts, loosened their steel-toed boots, and made their way to the house. Not really. Hick only had his hard head, and he couldn't take that off. The Pony was in Adidas slides, no steel toes for him. One of these days OSHA is going to shut down Hick's Construction Company Inc. The Pony trotted over ahead of Hick and his Gator.

"Oh, yeah. The mice."

"It's a mouse."


"Wait! I see the other one under the window!"

"Actually, there are three. There's one down by Genius's room."

"OH! Get me some pictures!"

These are the mice. I'll keep the photos small this time. No need to show a lack of respect for death. Because I could not photograph death, The Pony kindly photographed it for me.

This is the one directly in front of the door. Looks like he had the poop scared out of him, but that was just a gift from one of the chickens that Juno couldn't chase off the porch fast enough.

A bonus mouse was in front of Genius's bedroom window. The flies have befriended this one, and are treating his body like an amusement park a giant buffet.

This one, chilling under the living room window, is quite possibly a baby mole. I didn't turn him over to see his snout, but in an enlargement of this picture, his feet look especially mole-like.

Yes, I could have done without this rodent trifecta today. Thank goodness my men cleared the porch of them...

Who are we kidding? Those mice are still out there on the porch. It would NEVER occur to Hick or The Pony to move them. They just step over them. Or take pictures if I command. Kick them off the porch? Get the broom? Scoop them up with a blue plastic snow shovel that was last used to whack the aggressive banty rooster flying through the air with his talons aimed at Hick's stomach? Nope. They just step over such obstacles until told (more than once) to get rid of them.

Excuse me. I've got some orders to give.

These are the mice
who scared our Val
who called to The Pony
who loves the swords
that will hang in the Folly that Hick built.

Monday, June 29, 2015

It Takes a Village Idiot to Raise a Shack

Hick has not completely finished his Little Barbershop of Horrors. I know that comes as a shock to you, but around here it is the norm. The standard of construction. Par for the course. The status quo. Hick never finishes one building before he starts another.

The latest project is a combined effort between Hick and The Pony. That means Hick is doing the building, but the building is for The Pony. Hick thought it up all by himself, because he was running out of things to build. He still has an old schoolhouse in mind for down by the creek. But that would be down by the creek. Which means he would not be out front getting attention from anybody with a four-wheeler who drives by.

The new building is what The Pony and I call The Sword Shack. It will be a place for The Pony to keep his swords and knives and daggers and knights and Roman and Greek memorabilia. So sayeth Hick, because he does not like The Pony's room to be cluttered with so many collectibles. Nobody out-collects Hick.

Here is the beginning of The Sword Shack:

That's just the floor. The base for the floor. It rests in a place of honor next to the Little Barbershop of Horrors, just this side of the small sinkhole. Notice that turkey on the left? That's not a statue. Not some plastic target for a bow-hunter. That's Hick's turkey. Not the original Tom, the one he was caught lifting up and chanting, "Who's a big fat turkey? Huh? Who's a big fat turkey? HIM'S a big fat turkey!" Not Tom II, the one that "loved" a pretty white paramour to death within 10 minutes of Hick leaving them alone together. No, this is the current turkey, simply called Turkey, the one The Pony and I wattle-blocked one day when we came up the driveway a half-hour earlier, scaring a gray wild hen back into the woods. Much to the dismay of the fanned-out, strutting Turkey. This is the one that follows Hick around like a dog, and talks back to him when he makes turkey noises.

The Sword Shack currently looks like this:

It has two walls so far, and a bunch of boards to be used later, and a frame for the door. The Pony is outside as I type, knocking more boards loose from skids Hick brought home from work at some point. You know, those heavy-duty pallets that forklifts stick their forks under and haul around the plant. I'm not sure how old they are, but Hick's workplace used to let guys bid on scrap lumber. Nothing goes to waste when Hick is around. Except maybe the runny part of the soup.

I think The Pony may be able to pick up some spending money for college if he offers tours of his fine facility to patrons of my proposed handbasket factory.

All I know for sure is that this little project has been keeping Hick out of my poorly-coiffed, chemically-treated hair this summer. And it gets The Pony off the couch.

That's a good thing.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

One of These Days, the World Is Gonna Recognize Val's Brand

Val has been busier than a one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest. Not a woman. A woman practices butt-kicking all day long. Has perfected it, really. And is a multitasker. Nope. Val has been busier than a one-legged MAN in a butt-kicking contest. In fact, she has been a two-armed woman kicking her own butt in a writing-submitting contest. Or something like that.

In the past 30 days, I have sent off 7 submissions. Okay. So they're only to contests. Nothing that's going to gain me fame and fortune. But it's a start. A priming of Val's creative-juices pump. Funny how hard it is to write humor when your heart is breaking. I really haven't been all that into dancing with the one what brung me since February. But I'm making an effort. I've climbed back on the horse. I'm back in the saddle. Trying to round up Old Bossy and get back on the trail, rejoin the drive.

Perhaps one of these days, you will sink your teeth into a juicy, succulent story, and think: "This is so delicious, it must have been part of Val's herd."

Saturday, June 27, 2015

How The Pony Forages Away From the Farm

Here's how The Pony survived a week at Boys State with his limited food preferences.

"I ate whatever they gave us. For breakfast they had pancakes. Or waffles. Sausage patties and sometimes sticks. They had scrambled eggs quite often. I don't remember anything else."

"Lunch was a hamburger one day. Chicken patty the next. I can't remember the lunches. They just weren't memorable."

"For dinner? One night I could tell it was some kind of chicken. But it didn't have any taste. Everyone agreed it was tasteless chicken. Then I we had turkey, I think. Ham. Most often they had some kind of meat. One night they had...I don't know WHAT it was. Meat, maybe."

"Was it in gravy or something."

"Almost all the meat was in gravy."

"What did you have to drink."

"I didn't know we could get water until Wednesday! It was way off to the side of everything. We always had pitchers of DRINK on our table. That's what it was labeled. It was different every night. Strawberry drink. Grape drink. Orange drink. Fruit punch drink! The grape drink was the best. I got to the table first, and when I saw we were having grape drink, I poured myself a full glass and drank it. Then I poured another full glass and drank it. Then I poured my glass and sat down. They never knew I was drinking it all. We only got two pitchers a night for the whole table."

"So I guess somebody went without drink."

"No, not without. But not everybody got more than one."

Always the problem-solver. My little Pony.

Friday, June 26, 2015

An Unfortunate Financial Faux Pas

This summer, Genius has his rent paid by Garmin, his employer. He said he doesn't need his monthly stipend from the Bank of Mom and Pop. Still, it's a routine to give him his allowance, and two extra months of it won't break the bank. So yesterday, I set off to make a deposit.

Genius has two accounts. One is an online entity that Val considers to run on black magic and fairy dust. The other is his first account at Thevictorian family bank. Because this bank likes to place a hold on any deposited check (yes, even a cashier's check from another local financial institution, they're that persnickety), I always deposit cash for Genius. That's because of his first-time-away-from-home habit of going down to the penny in his account. Kids these days. He was always the youngster who was shocked that stores charged him tax when he thought he had enough for his purchases.

What with all his fancy online tinkering, Genius puts no stock in deposit slips. "Mom. I don't see why I should pay for them when you can pick them up free off the counter." For his fancy online bank, all he does is take a picture of a check, and it gets deposited, no slip. Sounds fishy to me. I'll take my money in gold doubloons and fill out a deposit slip in blood on parchment paper. I need something more concrete.

Earlier this year, when I offered to order deposit slips for him, Genius sighed heavily and told me he would bring me a whole stack when he came home. He did. When I picked one up later in the month, I saw that they were all blank counter deposit slips. So I had to find an old one from when I was on his minor account, and copy over the account numbers.

Yesterday I grabbed a deposit slip and copied the numbers. I was also writing out some bills, telling The Pony to get ready so we weren't late meeting my sister the ex-mayor's wife at Mom's house, and watching Buying and Selling with the Property Brothers. Sometimes I feel like one of those circus plate-spinners, trying to keep everything going at once.

Sis gave me Hick's check for mowing Mom's lawn as we were leaving after our clean-out session. I quickly forged his name and put it with Genius's deposit. At the bank, I first went through the ATM to get our weekly cash, and switched some floppy bills from it for the crisp ones I prefer, which I had been hoarding for Genius's allowance. The bank could darn well get their own floppy money back in that deposit.

I put the check and deposit slip and money in the canister at the drive-thru. Normally, the teller greets me and asks what she can do for me. I say, "I'd like to cash this check, and make a deposit."

Yesterday, nobody greeted me. A boy teller just said, "How much cash are you depositing?" Well. One would assumed it was all the cash sent in through the tube, wouldn't one? Because why give those bills a ride if they're not being deposited?

"Thismany dollars. That's how much I sent in."

"You forgot to write the amount of cash on your deposit slip."

"Oh, sorry. I meant to deposit thismany dollars, and I want to cash that check." That's what I usually tell the tellers who greet me, you see. "I want to cash that check, and make a deposit." Of course, I normally have the deposit slip filled out completely. But this time, I only had Genius's name written in, and the account number.

The canister shot back out. I removed my receipt, and we took off. Four miles down the road, I gasped. "PONY! The bank didn't give me the money for cashing Dad's lawnmowing check! I know there was no cash in that tube. Just the receipt!" I reached into my purse and looked at it. It was thismany dollars plus the amount of the lawnmowing check. That teller had deposited Hick's check in Genius's account.

Let the record show that while I had neglected to fill in the cash amount on the deposit slip, I had also not filled in a check amount. Because I did not want to deposit the check. That kid could at least have asked me the amount of check I wanted to deposit also, don't you think? What's the world coming to when a minimum wage bank teller can't read Val's mind and correct her mistakes?

I informed Genius of his windfall this morning. He asked how to fix it and give the money back. I told him to keep it. How can a woman who can't fill out a simple deposit slip explain to a Genius how to give back money to a different account from 313.7 miles away? Maybe I should have sent HIM a deposit slip and told him to mail it.

As if this entire episode wasn't torture enough, Hick came traipsing halfway down the basement stairs in his tighty whities to ask where his lawnmowing money was. I derived a certain satisfaction telling him that Genius got it by mistake.

I made Hick sweat it out until morning, when I dug up my backyard sock and counted out some doubloons for him. I wouldn't have blamed him if he re-counted.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Preparing The Pony For Higher Education

Amongst the many treasures unearthed from my childhood closet was this:

Better make that my prior-to-moving-out-of-my-childhood-home closet. The perspective is a little off. It's the same size up top as at the base. It was hanging over the edge of a box in the top of my bedroom closet out at Mom's house. The Pony was taking things down for me to look through.

"Is that a HOOKAH?"

"Um. No. How do you know about a hookah?"

"I watched The Amazing Race!"

"Well, it's certainly not a hookah. You smoke through those. And it's not a bong, either!"


"Like you even know what a bong is."

"And YOU do?"

"Hey! I went to college."

"It's made out of a beer bottle."

"I know that. It's a bud vase. You act like I drank the beer and stretched out that bottle myself. I did not. I probably got it on my senior trip, at Daytona Beach."


"Really. I can't imagine where else I would have gotten it. It's not like they sell them around here."

"Uh huh."

We won't go into my fancy bottle collection, one marked only on the bottom with ".5 liters" and the other labeled "Gin."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Favorite Daughter Suffers From Her Popularity

We've been cleaning out Mom's house room by room. Tuesday was the day for my bedroom. It's going to take more than one. Mom put all of her craft supplies in there. Every drawer is full, the dresser tops are full, the bed is covered, along with a quilt rack in the corner, and we don't want to know what makes a clanging sound under the bed behind the ruffle when a toe accidentally intrudes.

Here is the half-brother of The Elf on the Shelf. I call him The Santa on the Bed. Looks like he needs a little fattening up before Christmas rolls around.

My sister the ex-mayor's wife left The Pony and I there, and started working on her own bedroom. Hmpf. Like that's going to take very long. She has an itty-bitty closet, while mine covers one whole wall, with sliding hollow wooden doors that love to jump off the track. The bottom of my closet is filled with more crafts. The clothes rods are full of my old clothes, my dad's suits, assorted coats, and Sis's wedding dress and bridesmaid's dresses from various weddings of her friends. We had been working four hours when Sis said, "Are you about done with your room? All I have to do in here is go through Mom's recent clothes. The ones she wore all the time. They're in my closet."

The Pony and I looked at each other. We had cleaned out FIVE big black trash bags full of clothes to donate, and still had all the suits left, plus all the crafty items that Sis MIGHT let Hick take to the auction as long as he brings her a receipt to show that he's not cheating on her cut.

"No. We're not done. It's going to take a while."

("Mom. Her room is WAY smaller. That's why she's almost done. She didn't have as much.") The Pony is not so much a good whisperer as Sis is kind of hard-of-hearing.

"I can't help it that Mom liked me better, and I got the best room. So sad, you being thought of as older, yet didn't even get the big corner bedroom!"

"WHAT? I'll have to come in there. Huh. Why did you leave all of your clothes here? You should have taken them a long time ago."

"Well. Let's see. I moved to college. Then my first job. Then my second job. Then my third job. Then I went back to college for a year to get my master's degree. Then I moved to my fourth job. Then I got married. So you might say I didn't want to move all those clothes FIVE TIMES. You lived here. Commuted to college. Got your home-town job. Then only moved out of the house when you got married. So I guess that's why you moved out all of your stuff."

"Well. What are you going to do with all those encyclopedias in the top of your closet?"

"I don't know. They're too thick to burn. I don't have room for them at home. Nobody wants a donation of Compton's Encyclopedia from the 1970s. Maybe they'll go with the house."

"You can't do that."

"I know. But you don't seem to have a solution. Since when did they become MY encyclopedias?"

"They're in your room."

That they are. I stopped short of telling Sis her son could take them on his annual fishing trip. She was going through the hall closet and picking over Dad's leisure suits. "He told me to get the blue one. Do you think it's this? Or this?"

"Oh, it's gotta be that first one! It's a classic!"

"Yeah. They have this tournament every year, where they all wear the wildest suit they can find. They have to fish in it all day. Then they have a banquet that night, and give awards for the best suit, and the biggest fish, and all kinds of stuff."

If only they gave an award for the fisherman most well-versed in standard knowledge from the 1970s, we'd be in business.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Through the Courtesy of Hick's Two Hands

Val has been feeling a bit...um...indisposed...of late. No other complaints. Oh, who are we kidding? Sure, there are complaints. But no symptoms that would go along with indisposedness. No nausea or vomiting or fever or snot or phlegm. I haven't been eating six-week-old bologna from the back of Frig II. I haven't chewed on my sweet, sweet Juno's nose recently. Or sampled those PEEPs that Hick and The Pony brought me from Goodwill in May. So there's no reason for me to keep dashing to use the facilities due to my indisposedness.

Until now.

I think I know what might have touched off my touchy digestive system. When The Pony and I cruised up the driveway in T-Hoe this afternoon, we [FORESHADOWING] spotted [FORESHADOWING] Hick walking around on the brick sidewalk in front of the homestead, spraying weed-killer in the cracks. We parked and went inside. Hick came running for lunch. I could just as well have been Pavlov missing his clapper, ringing a silenced dinner bell.

Hick made a beeline for the sink. Most likely because I was standing there fixing up my Hi-C Fruit Punch that I got in town. Hick shuffled around to the other side of the kitchen peninsula, on the back side of the sink. You'd think a grown man would know how to make it work, especially now that his orientation made the hot water actually flow when the lever was moved to the left, rather than the oppositeness of how he originally installed it.

"WAIT A MINUTE! You're not done. Look at that!"

The almond-colored sink looked like the south end of a northbound appaloosa. It was dotted with drops of dirty water. I daresay one might have sopped it up with a sponge, and had enough to squeeze out and make a proper New Jersey Dirty-Water Cocktail.

"What? Oh. I couldn't get to the sink with YOU there! Get out of the way." Hick bellied up to the sink and slopped water to and fro to rinse the dirty spots down the drain. "There! Are you happy now?"

Surely that was a rhetorical question! I was NOT happy. Because in the sink drainer, where my CLEAN dishes had resided since last night (let's not forget that Val has no dishwasher save her own two hands) was a white bowl with THREE SPOTS OF DIRTY WATER!

Thank goodness I had tipped that bowl so that the business part of it was facing down, and the dirt and weed-killer from Hick's hands was on the butt-end of it.

How many evenings had Hick washed his hands (and fresh-found eggs) in my sink, even though he has been warned to do that outside at the well-head faucet?

It boggles the mind. And the gut.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Val Seems To Have Fallen Into a Poodle-ish Trap

You know how when it rains, it pours? Like last week here in Backroads. If you live in an arid zone, ask the little Morton Salt girl what that means.

I know other people have it a lot worse off than Thevictorians. But lately one incident after another has cropped up, and Val's coping mechanisms are about to SPROING like the springs of a faulty cartoon timepiece. We won't get into particulars, but suffice to say I wouldn't wish these events on a freeloading trespasser.

The final straw today, the camel-back-breaking dried stalk, was a actually a pile. A pile of excrement.

The Pony went out for a dip in Poolio this afternoon, with the heat index approaching 105, temps in the 90s, high humidity. He changes in the laundry room off the kitchen, exits through the laundry room door, walks along the back portion of the wraparound porch past the dog dishes, and climbs over the rail and down to the deck of Poolio. He's not an infant. He can swim on his own. It's not like he's diving into the Marianas Trench. But even so, he's my baby. After a half hour or so, I go to check on him.

Of course I don't hike up 13 stairs and take his route. No. I leave my dark basement lair, go past Genius's electronic graveyard, between the pool table and my grandma's piano, through the workshop, and out the basement door across the concrete pad, over the mostly-flat creek rocks Hick has used as paving stones, to stand beside the steps up to the deck, where I can see The Pony. But not today.

The Pony must have come inside the house at the same time I was going out the basement door, because I did not see or hear him. Not that I was concentrating on his location so much. I pulled back the springy bar lever thing that locks the basement door, and stepped out. I knew immediately that something was amiss. My left Croc did not so much slap down heel first on the leaf-covered concrete as it gooshed. Gooshed!


Dear me! I knew the minute I started skating that if had to be a turd! The smell wafted slowly up to my nose height in the dank humidity. I didn't want to look. But I couldn't look away. A TURD! From a pile of turds! I hobbled across those paving rocks to the grass, calling weakly for The Pony. Who was nowhere around. I scraped my red Croc heel seven ways to Sunday. Got back on the biggest flat rock. Grabbed the wooden stair rail. Took off that Croc for inspection. Whew! That damp muddy grass was a great turd-remover!

I informed Hick just before supper. You know. So he could fully appreciate the job that lays ahead of him. All he needs is a big flat blue plastic snow shovel, much like the one he used to swing like a bat at the banty rooster that jumped at him every evening with talons aimed for his ample belly. One scoop, and he could haul that pile of turds across the yard to the woods, where he could fling them to fertilize the forest. That will provide more leaves to die and dry out and float up to the basement door for future turd-leaving.

Hick blames my sweet, sweet Juno. I think not. She never goes around there. In fact, when she saw me turd-scraping my left Croc, she stood up on the back porch and barked at me through the rails. Like she does in the mornings when I'm trying to sleep.

I blame that neighbor poodle dog. It has been loose again several times.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

There Are None So Aligned As Those Who Trespass Free

We've had a little excess rain here in Backroads this week. I daresay quite a few prisoners could have escaped shooting through the pipes that leave a giant lake of water between the local prison and the county highway. I suppose they're growing fat and sassy on their correctional grub, complacent with the fact that Missouri only executes one of them per month.

Our gravel road has gone under two or three times. The creek that runs alongside creeps out of its banks and flows willy-nilly down a half-mile stretch of flat non-pavement. The swirling waters, about four inches deep over the roadway, don't so much wash away the gravel as redistribute it. Which leaves interesting ruts for the unsuspecting driver. Which is not Val. Val suspects. Is suspicious. Is sometimes a suspect herself. So she is prepared.

When the uphill neighbors put out a sign, neon green, a little man figure, holding a sign that says SLOW, Val slows. She knows these people have kids the same age as Genius and The Pony. They're not going to be running out in the road. The road so high above the creeks that it would take 40 days and 40 nights to flood it. Nope. Val knows they say SLOW for a reason. Yep. A Great Chasm has formed from waterflow down the upper road. T-Hoe will not be getting his Us out of joint on Val's watch.

These ruts do not run horizontally across the road. No. They're diagonal. I even called Hick and The Pony to warn them when they came home from their weekend trip. You have to take it SLOW. Give each tire a chance to limp over the dip. To do it with haste could quite possibly sever a spinal cord.

Because I had to take an alternate route to avoid overflowing bridges, I had to park at the entrance of our gravel road to retrieve the mail from EmBee on Saturday. Normally, I cruise down the big hill on the county road, and park T-Hoe right there by mailbox row while I get out and fetch it if The Pony isn't with me. But this time, I turned right onto the gravel, and parked as close as I could to those waist-high rocks that were put there to keep people from parking.

Just as I slid out of the newly Armor-Alled leather driver's seat of T-Hoe, with my door wide open, a van turned in. I had not seen this van before. On a tree just in front of T-Hoe was our handmade sign (which really impressed a certain visitor who took the Backroads Gas Station Chicken Tour), clearly proclaiming TRESPASSERS WILL BE PROSECUTED. News flash. That does not keep people from using our network of gravel roads, privately financed and maintained, as a shortcut to knock three miles off their blacktop route. As if that is going to amount to anything, what with having to drive slower. YOU'D THINK!

That van driver gassed it after clearing my open door. I fumed silently as I crossed the blacktop to EmBee. And heard behind me a rattle rattle thunder clatter boom boom boom.

Is it wrong to feel such glee at the possibility of somebody ripping out his undercarriage and knocking his wheels all wonky?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What, Exactly, Is With You Guys?

No, we're not going to discuss shrinkage. Or the true length of an inch. We're here to talk about DIRECTIONS!

Why, in the name of our proposed king, Donald Trump, Andy Rooney's decomposing eyebrows, truth, justice, and the American way...can't you guys stop and ask for directions? Or even bother to punch your Garmin?

Hick is away on a mission to pick up The Pony in central Missouri. This is not an area foreign to him. He has had dealings there in the past, with Genius also being dropped off and picked up from Boys State. For cryin' out loud, Hick WAS JUST THERE last weekend. Is it too much to expect him to be able to get from the Boys State venue to the university where The Pony had an alumni day with HIS PEOPLE? After all, Hick also took The Pony there last summer, and picked him up again three weeks later. It's not like he's navigating the ice road where signs may be obscured, and human settlements few and far between.

This is a distance of one hour and thirty minutes, as told by Hick. My BFF Google concurs. The journey turned out to be a poorly-worked word problem from a mathematically-challenged student. If Hick and The Pony left BS Town at 11:00, what time should they reach Alumni Town? One would calculate that to be 12:30. Or perhaps 1:30 if a stop was made for lunch. But one would be wrong. As wrong as mistaking the Celsius temperature scale for Fahrenheit while trying to travel the ice road in springtime. "Oh, we'll be fine. the high is only going to be *25 degrees today. We won't fall through the ice."

The Pony needed to be at the alumni registration to meet with HIS PEOPLE between 2:00 and 3:00. Still plenty of time to stop for lunch. But not plenty of time to take the wrong exit and notice a highway sign that you should not be seeing, because it means that you have driven 20 miles in the wrong direction! Note to self: If Hick and The Pony are ever contestants on The Amazing Race, do not bet on their team to win.

According to Hick, he turned around and told The Pony that he needed to figure out where they were. You know. The Pony. Who doesn't even have a driver's license. So does not pay particular attention to road signs, or maps. As one might expect from a youngster who's been away from home for a week, his routine of laying on the basement couch playing video games thrown out the window, looking forward to a visit with HIS PEOPLE that he met one year ago and has only been in contact with by text...The Pony was quite upset. In fact, once Hick entered the campus, and was telling The Pony what street to look for, The Pony was heard to say, "Stop and let me out here! I know where I'm going." Said it with such emotion that Hick pulled over and dropped him off. At 2:50 p.m.

Something tells me that the minute Hick was out of sight, The Pony took off like American Pharoah out of the starting gate at the Belmont Stakes. He did, indeed, reach the proper building in time for alumni registration.

"I can't believe you! You said you'd have plenty of time. You know how important this is for him!"

"I just took a wrong exit, Val. And by the time I saw that sign and knew I took a wrong exit, I was 20 miles out of my way. All I could do was turn around and try to make it back."

"Don't you have a GPS?"

"Yes. But I didn't punch in the address, because I knew where I was going."

Really? REALLY? Is it not ironic that our oldest son is working for GARMIN this summer, with access to deep discounts on their products, and that Hick already has a GPS in his car...but HE DROVE 20 MILES OUT OF HIS WAY ON A MAJOR HIGHWAY?
*Let the record show that when my old science teacher referred to room temperature in Celsius, he meant 25 degrees. Which is 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Colder Than a Valedictorian's Knuckle

Take a gander at this.

No, it's not an inappropriate appendage, nor an elephant's trunk laying on the the desktop of my dark basement lair, nor mummified remains unearthed by my sweet, sweet Juno. Here's another view.

You might think there's nothing unusual going on in those photos. But you'd be wrong. One last chance to figure it out.

This afternoon, I went to fill my Bubba cup with ice. Actually, I was filling TWO Bubba cups with ice, from Frig II. Not because I'm an ice glutton, but because I did not make a trip to town for a 44 oz Diet Coke (much to the delight of all you lottery-haters, I'm sure), and I planned to have a big Bubba cup of ice water to sip, and a spare Bubba cup of ice to refill it without hiking back up 13 steps. I really miss The Pony.

So...I filled both of my Bubba cups, and decided to take inventory of the ice bin. Sometimes, Frig II has a mind of his own, and decides to ration those frosty semicircles of H2O. Frig II, unlike the Original Frig, has a flap door that can let you peer inside the ice bin. Just as I suspected, the ice bin was full (thanks to no Genius filling a red Solo cup on the hour, only to let it sit around and melt). The metal bar was out, which means Frig II is NOT in an ice-makin' mood. Also, there were about 10 cubes laying on the back partition that the bin slides up against. I always pry them loose and shovel them into the bin. As I did so, Frig II's metal bar began slowly turning to its original location, which meant that Frig II would start making ice again. I dipped my hand down under the ice-making part so I could reach back and pry that last cube off the partition.


I had sliced my ring finger knuckle on some mechanical component of Frig II's ice maker! That's what I thought, anyway. But I was wrong. I pulled that throbbing digit (heh, heh, I said throbbing digit) out of the freezer, expecting it to be dripping blood all over the good ice. Or at least have a gaping gash (heh, heh, no, I won't go there) that might need me to drive myself to the local hospital five miles away for stitches. But my finger looked perfectly normal! For an old-lady hand, as Genius would clarify.

Yet the pain persisted! How could this be? I felt my finger. Not even a scratch! Why was it hurting SO much? It hurt to bend, it hurt to straighten, it just downright hurt. Being a high-pain-threshold kind of gal, I grabbed my two Bubbas and descended to my lair. I put the light on. It was still daytime, you know. I settled down and fired up my New Delly. Took another look at my non-debilitating injury.


It still hurt like the dickens. Like a burn. The phone rang, Hick having taken a day off work to be on the road again. No, he is not touring with The Redheaded Stranger. Don't expect Hick to make the news because his gasohol-powered tour bus got pulled over for weed. Hick reported that he was halfway to his destination, like that was of interest to me while I was home with a burning finger sporting a white blister. "How could that be, when all I did was reach up under that ice maker?"

"You could have touched the part that freezes the ice."

Oh, dear. This man is in charge of big dangerous machines in a factory that takes giant rolls of steel that arrive two-to-a-semi-truck and make them into saw blades. I can put a plastic ice tray into Frig II, and freeze water into ice, but it's not going to give me a burning blister if I touch it for a nanosecond. I don't know what's in a freezer? Do they use freon? Or has that been outlawed? Hick should know. He probably DOES know. But what comes out his mouth is usually not what he's thinking. At least that's the story he's stuck to since early in our marriage when he told me I was like an elephant, and my skirt reminded him of a circus tent, only later to explain that he meant I had a good memory and a colorful skirt. Uh huh. Let the record show that Hick had only one outbuilding at the time, and could ill afford to be sent packing.

I guess my hand hit a metal tube that carries the coolant to the ice maker, and it was so cold that my knuckle got freezer burn. All I know for sure is that it still hurts like a motherf, still hurts like a son-of-a-b, still hurts like...A LOT!

For the record...do you know how hard it is to take a picture of your right hand with a not-very-smart phone wielded by your left hand, with which you must find a way to focus on the offending knuckle, and push the button to take the picture, while wearing bifocals to see the phone controls, which become useless for focusing once you lean over to push the picture-taker with your nose?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hear Ye! Hear Ye! New Product Slated For Release at Proposed Handbasket Factory Opening!

Yes, Hick, my sweet baboo, has given me yet another idea for a product to hawk from the counter of my proposed handbasket factory.

Throw blankets made of dryer lint!

Come on! You know you'd buy one. I haven't worked out my pricing schedule yet. Some will be worth more, of course. The throw blanket made of one continuous lint trap segment. Like a complete apple peel or potato peel, this blanket is a rare bird. It may even have the feathers of a rare bird in it! You never know. I could be as versatile as Bubba Gump's shrimp menu. Baby lint throws, back-of-couch-draping lint throws, snuggling-in-front-of-the-fireplace (NOT TOO CLOSE!) lint throws, grandma's-feather-bed lint throws, patchwork lint throws, holiday lint throws, college mascot lint throws...the possibilities are endless.

You may be wondering how I came upon such a scathingly brilliant idea. Wonder no more! Hick did not actually approach me with this concept. He's a subtle sort. More secretive. You might recall that Hick does his own laundry because he hard-headedly refuses to put his clothes in a hamper. No wife of Hick's is going to tell him what to do with his dirty clothing! So he washes the pile himself, when he's good and ready. Which is generally when he runs out of clothing. Because he's a giving kind of guy, Hick always, always, always leaves the lint trap full for me to clean out. My lint trap runneth over with the raw materials for my new product.

In addition, Hick leaves behind the fabric softener sheet. Sometimes in the dryer, sometimes smoothed out on top of the dryer, where The Pony's clothes are often stacked. Not one to let raw materials go to waste, Val has been cooking (or at least warming and heating) up a new product idea: Fabric Softener Freshen-Ups.

Just think. Everybody can use a Freshen-Up. Ladies can carry them like dainty kerchiefs, to dab at a glowing brow during the Missouri summer. Or fold them up into a sachet to tie about their neck to drape between their...um...bosoms, and catch those rivulets of...um...glow. Fellas can stuff them in sneakers overnight to absorb their foot drippings. Or put them in their slacks pockets to counteract their manly musk. Or take one out of their European carryall or fanny pack to blot their armpits in times of undue stress.

Please keep this information on the down-low, because I'm telling it to you on the up-and-up, so for the love of all that is VAL-ly, please keep it under your hat. I have not yet patented my new products.

Can't have street vendors stealing my thunder.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

A Sigh Mean Enough To Make the Devil Hot

I don't know about you, but I always assumed the goal of a retail establishment was to sell merchandise to their customers. Well. It looks like I have been making an A S S out of U and M E! And at my advanced age. What a shock to make this discovery. It's like last year, when I found out England is an ISLAND!

Today I made a trip to town. Not so much because I needed that 44 oz. Diet Coke and lottery tickets, but to see how high the water got last night. Uh huh. It was for scientific purposes, because I am supposed to meet my sister the ex-mayor's wife tomorrow at Mom's house to remove some more items. And I want to make sure I can make it, or let her know.

The forecast calls for 4-7 inches more rain by Friday night. That's a lot of rain, with the creeks and rivers already out of their banks. Luckily our creek goes down in several hours. So far. But with the river it runs into already out of its banks, that could change. Don't you go worrying about Val Thevictorian. Her homestead sits high and dry over several sinkholes. No water is coming in her house. But...she may be stranded for a while in her own home. Hick will be away picking up The Pony from his week at Missouri Boys State. I'm hoping he can make it there without swimming his mule team across a raging river.

So anyhoo...as long as I was in town, I stopped by for a soda at the gas station chicken store. No chicken for me today, thanks. I was planning on some super nachos when I got back home. And let me tell you, they were super, and they were nachos. Which is neither here nor there. I grabbed a 44 oz. cup from the soda fountain, because the gas station chicken store no longer allows refills. Can you believe that? They even have a snotty little sign taped on the Pepsi fountain machine that says, "No Refills. Refills Spread Germs." A likely story. And profitable for them.

You'd think a store so concerned with making a profit off the backs of caffeine-addicted clientele would be pleased to sell lottery tickets to the customers. Wouldn't you? I cashed in some previous winners, and made my selections, careful to come out almost even with the price of my soda included. I even got a handful of change back.

Here's the deal. When I was picking out my tickets, the cranky old lady clerk, who was not even at the register, but at the counter doing paperwork, let out a hateful sigh that could have singed the eyebrows off of Andy Rooney. IF he was still alive, and buying scratch-off tickets in the gas station chicken store. Well, EXCUUUUUSE ME! As that wild and crazy Steve Martin might have said. Because I did not know it was such a chore for the other clerk to take lottery tickets out from under the glass-topped counter and sell them to me.

Apparently, Cranky Old Clerk was doing inventory. On a Wednesday afternoon at 1:30, on the 17th day of June, a time one might reasonably expect customers might be present, doing what customers do, which is purchase items from the establishment. I kind of snorted and rolled my eyes for the benefit of the lady behind me buying a corn dog for her preschool son.

If I had more of a backbone, and was less addicted to caffeine and lottery tickets, I would have said, "You know what? Never mind. I don't really need these. I don't want to mess up your inventory." But they frown on that. Another sign on the Coke fountain says, "If you pull a cup, you must pay for the soda, whether you take it or not." And since I was already paying for a soda, which I assure you I WAS taking with me, then I might as well take the tickets, too. Because they also frown on tearing tickets off and people not wanting them after all. Which I assure you I have never done.

Darn that Cranky Old Clerk and her doom! Every ticket was a loser. That's 7 tickets, no winner. The odds are such that I should have had at least one winner, maybe two.

At least I know that Even Steven is now in my corner, and Cranky Old Clerk will be smited in some manner. Perhaps I was her smiter today, for a previous wrong. Who knows?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Three Days Late and Two Longhorns Short

Hick stops at nothing to ensure the safety of his precious life-mate, Val. Yeah. You didn't think I was talking about someone else, did you? I don't know if it's so much a function of his undying love, or his view of me as his personal property. Anyhoo...Hick stops at nothing to ensure my safety. Except when it comes to the condition of T-Hoe, who is now plodding along on 4% remaining oil life.

As I type this, it is Tuesday evening. Tuesday. Today at noon, I got a text from my sweet baboo. "I just wanted to let you know to be careful if you go to town, because Sunday night when I went to Goodwill, there were two longhorn cattle in the middle of the road on the curve by the Best compound."

Such a loving, caring husband, concerned about my safety on Tuesday after encountering road blockage on Sunday. Better late than never, I suppose. Let the record show that there are numerous Best families who live on the county road. One has a mansion that hotels built, another is a house-flipper who sold us our long-ago rental duplex, and the others are of unknown career paths. So this longhorn crossing could have been in any of three turn-offs along the blacktop road.

Also let the record show that no known longhorns are being grazed in this area. There are sheep. And Hereford and Angus and Charolais and mutts, and there used to be those Belted Galloways that people call Oreo cows. But I have seen nary a longhorn.

It is quite possible that Hick does not know what he saw. It could have been cows, it could have been deer, it could have been the Grinch dog with antlers tied on top of his head. One time Hick and The Pony went to town, and were shocked to see a dinosaur down by the creek. Then they determined it was some kind of giant prehistoric bird. Or, as I suggested, an emu escaped from the emu farm on the other side of our gravel-road community.

And further let the fat record show that I was not even going to town by that route today, because the rain had poured since 1:00 a.m., and flooded bridges were the norm, and I knew better that to try that section notorious for overflowing creeks.

But at least my sweet baboo was looking out for me three days late and in the wrong direction with his questionable road hazards.

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Journey of an Entire Encyclopedia Begins With a Single Entry

Do you ever get that spark of inspiration, get all fired up, only to have something happen that thwarts your flame, snuffs out your blazing ambition before it can take hold in the tinder of your fertile imagination? Yeah. Me too. My little spark is still gasping for oxygen after today's thwarting.

Adding oppression to this suffocation is the weather forecast. Looks like Backroads is in for 2 inches of rain tonight, 1 tomorrow, and .78 on Wednesday. You know what that means. The creeks will be over the bridges. AND my internet will probably be intermittent. It has been off and on this evening. So I'm making my blog hay while the sun ain't shinin'. While I'm in the middle of the rainy regions. Right now my local weather map shows me in the eye of a not-hurricane. In an open circle surrounded by green and yellow precipitation bands.

So...I started to get all writery with an idea about stuff I have "learned" from students over the years. I was trying to think of a synonym for "common" without use of my BFF Google, who is unavailable when the cloud cover is too thick. Of course I couldn't come up with anything. But when my BFF returned, I decided on "everyday." I'm thinking of something like The Encyclopedia of Everyday Knowledge. Or The Encyclopedia of Everyday Information. Or The Encyclopedia of Accepted Information. It will need a subtitle, of course, because I don't want people to actually believe they can look to it as a reference. Here's a little sample of the kind of entry you might find:

Scars Are Not Permanent. Neosporin removes them. That's
stupid to think that scars are permanent. Dude. It doesn't matter
that ranchers brand cattle. People aren't freakin' cattle. All you
have to do if you brand yourself with a hot metal thing like they
use on cows is put Neosporin on it and it will disappear. Duh.
And anyway, you can go to the hospital and they will burn off
the scar with lasers.

Yeah. That kind of stuff. Of course it's still a long way from being an encyclopedia. But I was just thinkin'...

Sunday, June 14, 2015

I Really Think I Should Be Allowed To Do Absolutely Nothing Over the Summer

Don't you hate it when you're kind of dozing in the recliner, watching Inside Daisy Clover on TCM, and you hear a 4-wheeler, and open your eyes to see it coming up your driveway, and then it comes right across your yard to your front steps, and a guy gets off and clomps up on the porch, and you assume he rang the doorbell that doesn't work, so you scramble up and pull on your old blue sweatshirt to cover your comfy purple-pin-striped camp shirt that may or may not have a spot of salsa on the front, and open the door to see what he wants, and he tells you he has two thousand dollars cash over at his house, but he's really looking for Hick to talk about the tractor, and you tell him Hick is on his way home from driving a lawnmower (on a trailer, of course, not riding it) to college town for Genius's roommates, but you will give him the message?

Yeah. Me too.

If Hick is going to run a used-tractor lot off our front yard, he needs to be available for customers. According to Hick, who may or may not have gone over to see that devil-dog neighbor after getting the message, he's not going to GIVE his tractor away, and that's way less than the price he quoted the guy, and besides, our next-door neighbor had asked about it, but stopped by last night to say that his wife said he didn't need our tractor, but he's working on her, and a relative of Hick's oldest boy also stopped by to proclaim interest.

I'm surprised Hick hasn't decreed that I should pace back and forth across the front edge of the property all summer wearing a sandwich board with the asking price. Of the tractor, of course.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

I Saw the Light, I Saw the Light. Still, There Was Darkness and the Rest of the Night.

It was December of 1998 when I saw the blazing orb fall to Earth.

No. I wasn't dreaming about flaming globes of Sigmund. I didn't make a note and leave it on my nightstand. I was wide awake, driving down the two-lane highway behind my parents' house. But I'm getting ahead of myself. It's not like Val to start a story with the action. I'm out of my comfort zone. Let's back this non-beeping vehicle up.

December of 1998 was our first Christmas without my dad, who passed away in April. I had gone out to help Mom wrap gifts. Genius was just turning four, and The Pony was a tiny splay-legged colt, not even galloping around the paddock yet. I left Genius home with Hick, but The Pony tagged along because...well...who would leave a nine-month-old baby in the care of Hick? Even BEFORE they knew he would later drive a toddling Pony around the grounds in a milk crate zip-tied to the handlebars of a 4-wheeler.

We finished up around 10:30 p.m. I put The Pony in his car seat in the back of our Suburban, and headed up Mom's road to get on the stretch of highway that had divided our family estate since I was in high school. Eminent domain, people. Progress marches on. Mom always stood at the kitchen window and waved, even though she couldn't really see inside my car in the dark. I could see her, though, so I always waved back.

Just as I was pulling out onto that highway, a shooting star shot across the sky. Only it was CLOSE. It caught my eye coming over my uncle's house, which was across the highway. Right above his house, moving to my left, sinking lower and lower. By that time I was on the highway, and that bright orange softball-sized blazing orb curved down over the roof of Mom's house, where it would have landed in the side yard under my old bedroom window.

This was in the day when normal people didn't carry cell phones. At least around these parts. There were car phones that you carried in a zippered pouch and got out and plugged into your cigarette lighter, if your dad had worked for Southwestern Bell all his life. And cordless phones for the home were as big as shoe boxes. So when I saw this fireball cross over Mom's house, where the trajectory meant that it could only have landed in her side yard, I wanted to let her know. It might start a fire, you know. The weather was kind of misty and foggy that night, not freezing, but you never know how a fireball in a dead grass yard is going to act. I knew Mom would be waiting for me to call her when I got home. I would tell her then. It didn't occur to me to turn around and double back. Hick had already called looking for me, because I was out so late. Besides, The Pony needed his beauty sleep.

I was rushing a little more than normal. Perhaps going more than the speed limit once I got on the interstate highway. Before eminent domain ate up more citizen land, we used to take a short cut to connect to our county highway from the interstate. It was a little blacktop road by a boat shop. The access on the highway was not yet limited. In order to not interfere so much with traffic flow, we would signal our right turn, and pull onto the shoulder, using it as a kind of exit ramp until we came to our turn. That way the two lanes of northbound traffic didn't jam up while we slowed to almost a stop to make our treacherous turn that dropped off about 10 feet on either side, with no lines or side markers.

The fog had settled in. My left hand dropped to hit the right turn signal so I could ease onto the shoulder for my turn. No. My mind told me not to do it. I looked in my rearview mirror. No traffic. I guess it wouldn't matter. But we always used the shoulder. Still. I didn't do it that night. And when I got to the turn-off, there was a black car parked on the shoulder, just before my turn. No lights. No driver. I would have plowed right into it if I was on the shoulder. Funny thing about hunches. Sometimes they're nothing. Sometimes they're something.

As soon as I got home and carted The Pony inside, I called Mom. "Hey! Check outside, through your sliding doors. Is there a fire or anything out there?"

"Oh, just a minute. I've already pulled the curtains." Let the record show that, because my dad had worked for Southwestern Bell his whole life, we had no shortage of telephones in that house. Mom was on the avocado wall model with the extra long cord that reached every nook and cranny in her family room. "No. I don't see anything out there."

"Well, right after I pulled out onto the road, I saw a flaming ball of fire come over Gene's house and it headed right for yours, and went down over the roof into your yard."

"Oh, my. I don't see anything. I'll go out there and look tomorrow. But you're all right? And Little Pony? I've been worried about you."

"We're fine, Mom. We're in for the night."

"Me too. I love you all. Have a good night."

I don't know what that blazing orb was, but I have not seen another one. Mom never found any rock or charred area in her yard. I know I didn't imagine it. Too bad The Pony was too young to be my witness!

Yeah. That's my story of seeing strange lights in the sky, Catalyst. Not the UFO kind of lights. That's just top secret government operations, you know. Like the four-foot chickens and seven-foot cows at some research facility around Overland Park, Kansas, back in the late 70s/early 80s, according to my college buddies. They even drove me out there to see some late at night. It was kind of like those ne'er-do-wells in Carrie going out to gather pig blood. Creepy. Let the record show that I did not see any four-foot chickens or seven-foot cows, which was explained away by: "Oh, they must put them inside at night so people don't bother them."

Friday, June 12, 2015

We Are the Kind of People Who Make Watches Stop When We Wear Them

For as long as I can remember, my sister the ex-mayor's wife has never had the shine. Has not seemed to be aware of unexplained phenomena, hearing, seeing, or smelling things that are not physically there, or had electronic gewgaws go all haywire on her. I sometimes notice such occurrences, The Pony a little more than I, Genius not much at all, and Hick once in a year of blue moons.

Last Tuesday, I met Sis for breakfast so we could discuss a plan to de-content Mom's house, have it appraised, and notify buyers who have asked about it. No need to rush willy-nilly into the web of realtor commissions when we may be able to weave our own deal. Sis declared that the first order of business would be cleaning out the kitchen, pantry, and closets, to be followed by the bedrooms. I agreed, because I am an agreeable sort of older (though everybody thinks I'm younger) sister.

We spent about three hours taking up a table in Hardee's, next to some retired teachers who take up three tables every day. For longer. I can hardly wait to retire, if this is what Shangri-La lays ahead of me! Sorry, my best old ex-teaching buddy Mabel...I let Sis sit in YOUR seat! So anyway, we went back to T-Hoe, since I had picked up Sis on the way, and I started him up and buckled my seatbelt. "Oh, here. I almost forgot. I just saw it there by my cupholder." I handed Sis a check for a part of Mom's teacher retirement beneficiary money. They'll only cut a check to an individual, you know. No sharing. One person, one check. We had been looking for alternative methods of compensation, since I will be bearing the brunt of the tax hit on that money. But it's so darn hard to deal with stocks and CDs that Sis finally said, "Give me half of what you actually got, and we'll call it even.

Sis was stuffing that check into her purse as I backed out of the parking space. T-Hoe's radio cut out. Like, it went silent. No lights. No sound. It has done this before, so I assume there's a short somewhere. There's no rhyme nor reason to when this happens. It's not from hitting a bump, or turning up the air conditioner, or switching stations. It just goes off. After driving around for five or ten minutes, it automatically comes back on.

"What's going on! Are we going to burn up? Not only is your car dirty, but it's going to set me on fire with its faulty electrical system! And right after I finally got that check out of you, too!"

"It does this all the time. Well. Not all the time. About every three or four months, maybe. There's no pattern. But it comes back on." And it did, several miles down the road. I didn't think anything about it, but Sis was flabbergasted by this turn of events. I guess the power never goes off at her house. Come to think of it, the ex-mayor DOES work for an electric company!

That night, about 3:30 a.m., I woke up in the middle of a dream. Mom was texting me. As you can imagine, Mom never sent a text. Ever. She could barely understand her tiny phone enough to answer it, or to make a call. In fact, she was so behind-the-times on gadgets that her phone was before the age of flip phones. Uh huh. It was a little brick, as Genius used to refer to it. Mom had bypassed the age of flip phones, and the non-flippers were back in style again. But not Mom's kind. Anyhoo...dreams are often very different from real life, and in mine, Mom was texting me.

[I have been trying and trying to reach you. I am cleaning out your bedroom. Do you want this? Or this? What do you want me to do with this?]

And somehow, in my dream, I could see what she was holding up from my childhood bedroom. It was just a dream, no doubt spurred by that meeting with Sis to talk about what a chore it was going to be to clean out the house.

I told Sis about the dream yesterday, when were taking a break, her sitting on Mom's living room couch. The Pony told her his story of a bottle of soap flying off the side of the big triangle bathtub in my bathroom a few weeks ago, one night when he was running water for a bath. Which was the first I'd heard of it. Sis laughed and said it's all the animals Hick kills and buries on our property. She was kind of frowning, like she does, when she is joking, but has something serious to say.

"You know, last night, I fell asleep in the TV room." Let the record show that Sis has a room just devoted to the TV, with a cluster of furniture, and then another room, with its own furniture and a piano, through french doors, that must be her parlor sitting room living room.

"Me too. Then I couldn't get back to sleep in bed, because I was dreading coming out here to work on the house."

"Well, my TV was off. It does that if you don't change channels for a while. But there's always this logo or writing on it. I can't describe it. But it's not completely off. This time, it was black. Not a thing on the screen. No lights on it. I thought that was strange, but I wasn't worried. I got up to go to bed. On the way, I went through the kitchen and looked out into the garage. I never do that! But the garage door was open on the ex-mayor's side. I just figured he forgot to close it when he got home. So I closed it. Then I went back through the kitchen to go upstairs to bed, but I saw light in the TV room. THAT TV HAD COME BACK ON! It was playing. I don't know what's going on. That's really strange. These things don't happen to me."

Welcome to the club, Sis!

I'm sure it's nothing. Just coincidences and overactive imaginations. But kind of unusual.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

A Five-Dollar Daughter, an Ex-Mayor's Wife, and a Pony Walk Into a 2400-Square-Foot Brick Split-Level House

What? You were expecting a punchline? Patience, my friends, patience.

I met my sister the ex-mayor's wife at Mom's house this morning, with The Pony along to do some heavy lifting. The plan for today was to empty out the nonperishable foodstuffs from the kitchen and pantry, and to sort out Mom's closet. The dispensation of the safe contents took us a month of Tuesdays. I was not anticipating a swift completion of this task.

VAL: "I only have a couple of good hours in me. Let's get crackin'. Does it have to be so HOT in here?"

SIS: "When I came in, the thermostat was set for heat. Look. It's 80 degrees. I hit that button, trying to get the air conditioning menu, but the screen went blank. Do you know how to set it?"

VAL: "Ha ha ha! It's ELECTRONIC! How would I know how it works?"

SIS: "Pony? Can you do it? Did you see how Grandma used to set it?"

PONY: "Maybe. If the screen wasn't BLANK!"

SIS: "Look! It's doing this countdown from 30. It's either going to come back on screen, or it's going to explode."

PONY: "There it is. All you do is push that arrow there until you get to the temperature you want."

SIS: "I'm pushing it, but it's not doing anything! It stays on 80."

PONY: "Yes it is! 80 is the TEMPERATURE right now. See? It's going down. What do you want it on?

SIS: "I don't know. What do you think? 71? 70?"

VAL: "YES! I have to put mine on 73 at home. This will be great!"

I knew that if I worked anywhere near Sis, we would have to reminisce about each item. So I suggested that Sis and The Pony clean out the cupboards, and I would go to Mom's closet and go through the pockets of the clothing, just in case, and lay items out for donation to a local ministerial thrift store. Sis agreed. She volunteered to work on the pantry down in the family room, The Pony took the main level kitchen cabinets, and I headed upstairs to the bedroom.

SIS: "It is SO hot in here! I just took a shower, and now I'm sweating! This is terrible!"

PONY: "I know. I'm sweating, too. The temperature has dropped two degrees, though. It's down to 78."

SIS: "Your mom must be really hot up there in the bedroom!"

VAL: "YES I AM! It is REALLY hot up here!"

SIS: "What did she say? WHAT? We can't hear you down here. The air conditioner is blowing!"

I tried to pretend she was just stating a fact, not reveling in her air-conditionedness. We soldiered on. Every now and then, I heard Sis and The Pony consulting on whether to throw something away. I had no trouble hearing THEM, you see, because I did not have the air conditioner blowing on me. I imagine the vents were closed upstairs. I had already told Sis that I had no interest in any of the food, and as far as I was concerned, we could trash it all and not debate on whether we wanted each item, or if a food pantry might want it. Let the record show that Mom had not been shopping since her original seizure the day before Thanksgiving, and she passed away the first week of February. Sis and I had been picking up things as she needed them, and they were consumed. So anything left had been there a while.

After cleaning out a whole half of a double closet, I had stacked up 5 blazers, 8 skorts, 15 skirts, 38 blouses, 18 dresses, 12 pairs of pants, and 28 pairs of shoes. I didn't get to Mom's church clothes yet, in the closet in Sis's old bedroom across the hall. For all my trouble searching through the pockets, I found five pennies, and a scrap of paper with assorted kids' names written in red ink.

Sis and The Pony gathered 7 large bags of trash, 10 Walmart bags of paper products suitable for Sis's camper, a case of green beans, a tub of canned goods, 9 bags of pecans, 3 large boxes of cereal suitable for Chex Mix-ing, 4 bottles of vegetable oil, a round red-glass bottle labeled Pure Cooking Vanilla From Mexico (complete with a piece of Saran Wrap [I'm sure it was Saran, because it was SO old] held in by a cork). The oldest items were a toss-up between a jar of indeterminate spice labeled 1977, and a 4-gallon jar of dill pickles home-canned by my grandma. She made really good pickles! They looked okay...but I don't plan to try them. Hick will want the jar.

Still looking for that punch line? We're getting closer.

After settling the division of the spoils, and agreeing that Hick and The Pony would come back tomorrow morning to load up the stuff and dispose of it...Sis related this detail.

"The Pony and I cleaned out everything in the basement deep-freeze. That's where we got the pecans. We were throwing out freezer-burned ice cream and old boxes of frozen food, and we came to a loaf of bread. It was wrapped in SIX plastic Walmart bags. 'Oh!' we thought. 'This must be something special.' You know, how people hide their money and valuables in the freezer? Especially after the house was broken into that time, and Dad lost his guns and coins? So we carefully unwrapped each of those six bags. Then we opened up the loaf of bread and took out each slice and looked between them. Every single slice. And do you know what was in there? NOTHING BUT BREAD! Mom must have really been worried about freezer burn! I can't believe we spent all that time on a loaf of bread."

There you have it.

A Five-Dollar Daughter, an Ex-Mayor's Wife, and a Pony Walk Into a 2400-Square-Foot Brick Split-Level House...and their Mom/Grandma has the last laugh over a loaf of bread.

Yeah, Mom. You got us good!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Legend of Hicky Monkeywrench

You may have noticed that my sweet baboo has fallen out of favor recently. It may or may not have something to do with that tractor purchase on Saturday. Like he needed to add fuel to the fire.

I swear. Hick could be a secret weapon for the government. Not some intelligence agent, mind you. But a valuable asset all the same. Someone to tromp polonium into the homes of targeted individuals. You wouldn't even have to tell Hick his assignment. Just give him some clomping boots, put up a sign that said, "Stay out of the polonium," and let him go. In no time those boots would be caked with it, and off he'd go on his mission with just an address, a GPS, and a $1000 Dodge Caravan with the passenger window held up by duct tape.

It couldn't be any harder than tromping in all that mud every evening in his boots, leaving chunks throughout the kitchen and living room unawares. Arguing, even, that HE was not the one to bespoil the abode with mud. Like The Pony and I are romping through the goat pen every evening, tossing feed to the chickens, caressing our new tractor, and admiring our not-yet-completed barbershop.

If there's anything to be messed up, Hick's your man. He's like a heat-seeking missile, like a magnet, then Velcro, where trouble is concerned. AND he always excuses himself by saying, "I was only trying to HELP you." Uh huh. To help me get off my butt and be a proper housewife, I assume, and sweep up the mud that he did not track in.

Good thing Hick doesn't like peanuts, and that our home is not a Texas Roadhouse, because I can imagine how many peanut shells I'd have to dispose of every day.

Yes, Hick has a natural knack for tossing a monkeywrench into any plan, celebration, or ceremony. He might as well be Hicky* Monkeywrench, traversing the countryside with a quiver filled with monkeywrenches slung over his shoulder, ready to throw them to unsuspecting, unrequesting citizens, with a cry of, "Here, let me help you with that."

I'm surprised Hick doesn't stroll through the house, dropping his excrement from between his buttocks like a horse, to help me learn how to be a stable-Val for the Budweiser Clydesdales.

Sorry for that image. It's for your own good. If you see Hicky** Monkeywrench in your neck of the woods, you won't make eye contact. I saved you from his good intentions.

*Heh, heh, I said HICKY!

**Oops! I did it again!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Apparently, Backroadsians Go About In Unclean, Ill-Fitting, Unpressed Clothing...Unless They Can Find a Septuagenarian Seamstress

Woe is me. WHOA is The Pony.

As you might recall, The Pony got a suit a couple of weeks ago. A suit off the rack, because it's not like he plans to have tea and crumpets with the Queen. He has never possessed a suit, and we figured it was time, but he still has some growing to do, so his suit was purchased off the rack at J.C. Penney. Not that he cares.

Because we were at the mercy of the menswear stocker, we found a fit in the waist and chest, but not The Pony's preferred length. His personal shopper, Genius, declared that this was the best-fitting suit for The Pony, even though the pants are 34 instead of 32, and the jacket sleeves are too long to show that colorful shirt cuff like Genius intended. He said to get the suit, and that we could have it altered. Then he skipped town without telling us where. J.C. Penney does not have a tailor to perform alterations. Shocking, I know.

Everyone I asked since the purchase had an idea about where to get alterations around here. Since I am the soon to be Princess of Procrastination once I leg-wrestle the title away from Sioux, I put off scheduling the alterations until today. And I only responded to those flames licking at my butt because The Pony needs all of his Boys State clothing packed on Friday.

Let the record show that Backroads has no tailors, no dry cleaners, no clothing alterers. We're an island entire of ourselves, it seems. So I had to get creative in my quest.

First, I called J.C. Penney. A polite young man informed me that, sorry, they do not have anyone to do alterations, but that SOMEBODY there in town, he can't remember the name, used to do them, and I might look in the yellow pages. Apparently, he does not know that my BFF Google and I are likethis.

My BFF Google had several suggestions. Several of them being one and the same, the name of a laundromat, same name, in three different towns. I remembered that Hick told me he always has his Goodwill jeans hemmed at the laundry between Subway and Save A Lot. And who better to trust with brand new suit pants than the people who hack fabric off of Goodwill jeans? I gave them a call. Huh. Eight rings and an answering machine. No thanks.

I saw that the place where The Pony rented his prom tux does alterations. Their website says they only do outside alterations between July and December. I figured it was worth a shot, so I gave them a call. Very politely, a lady explained that they have two weddings this week, but they might be able to do the suit alterations in about a week and a half. Which won't be feasible, because the suit will be in Warrensburg with The Pony.

Aha! I found a listing for a business called Sally's Alterations. Okay, that's not her real name. But the word "alterations" was actually in the title of her enterprise. It was in bill-paying town, about 40 minutes from our house, but plausible. Then I got to looking at the website. This lady does alterations out of her home. She has FIFTY YEARS OF EXPERIENCE! Oh, dear. The last testimonial was from late 2014. "I wonder if she's still alive?" Val asked herself. With curiosity, not snark.

I read more. A gal was happy that her prom dress had been taken in up top, without being ridiculed. A dude was ecstatic that a button had been sewn on his shorts, because he had a wine tour that very day. A lady was thrilled to have two pairs of jeans hemmed for twenty dollars. And another gal had asked if a leather vest could be altered, she was in no hurry (guess she didn't put two-and-two together about the age), and later returned to comment that she had found her ring. But the kicker was the directions to the house. "Google has the wrong directions. Call me and I will tell you how to get here. Any time after 9:00 a.m., you can make an appointment. I am open 24 hours a day." Oh, and I might have forgotten to mention that this lady ran a business selling (and altering) drapes.

Then I found a shop right here in Backroads proper. The only catch was about 29 negative comments on Facebook. Not that I have Facebook. But the BBB said this business was not a member, and that they had concluded their investigation, and the business owner comped the customer, but the customer had not responded to say if she was satisfied. Hmm...maybe not.

So there I was, leaning towards driving to bill-paying town to see if I could find this place (Google Street View let me down), and then call tomorrow for an appointment (after 9:00 a.m. of course) if it looked reputable. Because on the website, it said rush orders were possible for an additional fee, the fastest being SAME DAY for the sum of thirteen extra dollars. That's better than next-day shipping!

I gave one last call to the Subway/Save A Lot laundry. The phone was answered by a customer perhaps, a fluff-and-folder maybe, someone in a supervisory capacity who told me that she could give me the phone number of a person who does alterations, right uptown in Backroads. I thanked her and took the number and called and found out that I could take The Pony and his suit there this afternoon, and she could have the pants ready by Friday, possibly even by tomorrow. I did not ask the price. You'd think Hick and The Good Feet Store Faux Pas would have taught me a lesson. But I figured it couldn't be all that much. I asked for the address just before hanging up. "Oh, you can't miss us. We're right across the street from the Criss Cross Restaurant. We have dresses in the window!" And then she gave me the name.

It was the store with the BBB complaint.

Oh, well. In for a penny, in for a pound, in for a J.C. Penney suit. I broke the news to The Pony that he was going into a dress shop for alterations on his pants. He didn't seem to mind. The ladies, a mother and daughter, were very kind. The daughter led The Pony to a purple-and-white checked shower curtain that was the door to a changing room. He put on his pants and dress shoes. Not shoes for a DRESS, mind you! Dress-up shoes! Out he walked, into the circle where I was sitting with another mother and a grown-up girl who was gesturing at a wedding dress she brought in on consignment, I think.

The Pony trod lightly, pivoting to look at his hooves in the mirror. The shop daughter walked over and looked at his hooves. "You want the pants let down, right?"

"NO! Those pants are too long! His brother told us! Had quite a fit, actually, over the fit."

"Well, they look just fine to me. I definitely wouldn't make them any shorter."

"Oh. Well. His brother..."

"Let me ask you, hon, is your brother really picky and wants everything JUST SO?"


"I can turn them up about a half inch, I guess, if that's what you want."

"No. I think we'll just leave them. His brother might not even see him in the suit anyway. And I think he's got more growing to do. Thank you so much. I hate to waste your time. Can I pay you something for--"

"Oh, you're not wasting my time! If you ever need anything, come on back!"

So there you have it. A day spent getting absolutely nothing done. A suit that Genius will swear is ill-fitting. A Pony who doesn't give a rip.

And Hick, who came home from work, sat down on the long couch to talk to me for twenty minutes, and leaned back against the suit pants that had not yet been hung up, putting an awkward crease near the waist.