Saturday, November 30, 2019

A Matter of HappenCENTS

MONDAY, November 25, I popped into the Backroads Casey's for some scratchers, and discovered my rightful penny hiding WAY under the gum rack. So far back I could only see it from the door as I entered, and by peering through the products on the rack. I fished it out with the toe of The Pony's cast-off shoe, and posed it in T-Hoe for the picture.

It was a heads-up 1991. The scratcher was a loser, but it has an interesting premise, and is colorful to boot! There are 10 rows of charcters. You scratch your way across, uncovering the Pac-Men. When you find a monster, you're done! You're a loser! I don't win much on this ticket, but the very first one I played was a $50 winner. So I can still hope.

TUESDAY, November 26, I stopped by the Sis-Town Casey's while doing some last-minute errands at the bank before our Thanksgiving trip. Peeping out from under an individual bag of Bugles, next to a bag of Airheads candy, too far back to get a good picture, needing the shoe-toe for extraction, was this charmer:

A 2003 heads-up penny, waiting patiently for me to drop in unexpectedly. I doubt he would have still been there by Friday, my regular day. Sadly, that ticket was a loser. Oh, well. I can't expect to have it all! That would be unfair, getting scratchers winners AND pennies.

THURSDAY, November 28 (that's THANKSGIVING DAY to you) I was cashing out at the end of the night (7:00, too soon, too soon!) and found a little extra joy in the coin tray of the ticket redeemer.

It was a face-down 2006, posed here on the desk in my hotel room. I couldn't exactly take a picture right there at the cash-out machine. Not with all those cameras trained on me, and people waiting behind. I had no desire to spend my Thanksgiving night in a windowless room, being interrogated by security staff. I guess one unlucky gambler went home 1 cent shy of his rightful winnings. I wouldn't deliberately steal from a fellow gambler, but I AM an opportunist...

Three cents this week. I'm gonna have to hustle to meet last year's total on pennies!

2019 Running Total
Penny     # 115, 116, 117.
Dime      still at 19.
Nickel    still at 8.
Quarter    # 5.

Penny  131
Dime  17
Nickel  6
Quarter  1

2017 TOTALS (Started in March, 2017)
Penny  78
Dime   6
Nickel  0
Quarter  0

Friday, November 29, 2019

Even Steven Has Good Timing

The lottery ticket business has not been very profitable for Val lately. Oh, it's been paying enough to keep playing. Last week I made back enough that I didn't have to dip into my weekly allowance for a single dollar, other than for my 44 oz Diet Cokes. But before that, it was a dry spell that made me consider renting a storage unit and selling items from my dark basement lair for a dollar profit.

Fortune and Even Steven smiled upon me Monday, though. With this one:

It's one of my favorite tickets, but it's been out so long that most placed don't carry it, preferring to keep the newer tickets in their limited case space. Orb K still has it, though. That's a $100 winner! I redeemed this one for the cash, and added it to my casino bankroll for our visit with The Pony.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

The Traditional Thanksgiving Snake

No, I don't have any pictures of a delicious feast prepared by Val over three days, to be eaten in ten minutes. Maybe another year. We left the feast to The Pony this year. Which means he led us to a restaurant and let us pay. Works for me.

I do have memories of my childhood Thanksgivings, though. When we all trekked six miles to my grandma's house (Mom's mom) to join Mom's three brothers and their families. We visited Grandma at least once a week, and knew it was getting near Thanksgiving when she cleared the giant jigsaw puzzle off her dining room table. The puzzles changed often, what with Grandma working as a night-shift aide at the nearby state hospital for the mentally ill. Or as people around here called it, "Number Four." I guess it was State Hospital #4. Anyhoo... Grandma could bring home puzzles from the ward, work them, then take them back to exchange for others. Lots of ocean and sky in those puzzles. Very challenging.

Anyhoo... Grandma made every dish, as far as I remember. One of the more unique items was probably the meat loaf. Even as a kid, I was pretty sure most people didn't serve a Thanksgiving meat loaf. Oh, we had a big turkey! But also a meat loaf. That's because Mom's oldest brother would eat neither fish nor fowl.

Of course I was always seated at the Kids' Table. You had to wait until somebody died off, or couldn't make it, and then the married cousins ahead of you filled those slots first. Not a big deal, until around college age, when eating with the kids of the cousins!

After eating, we'd take a ride on the hay wagon pulled by the tractor, down into the Christmas tree fields, to tag our tree. Grandma and one of Mom's brothers ran a Christmas tree farm. Scotch Pine. All relatives got a free tree. That can add up pretty fast, but they did a booming business, letting people cut their own, or choose from those cut on the lot, or by selling in bulk to organizations who would resell them at grocery store lots.

Anyhoo... if you wanted to walk off your big Thanksgiving dinner, you could go early, or trail along behind the wagon on foot. Nobody cut their tree that early. We tied tags on them with red ribbon, with our name. Then came back closer to Christmas to cut them. It was about a half mile down to the fields. So some walked, but rode back. We weren't THAT health-conscious!

You never knew what kind of weather we'd have. Sometimes it was downright hot, in the 70s. And other years below freezing, with a fire in the fireplace. One year we walked in to see an uncle on his way out, balancing a giant black snake on a broom handle! No! It wasn't a party game! What kind of hillbillies do you think we are? Not the snake-handling kind, that's for sure.

The giant black snake had been warming his scales in the long baseboard heater under the living room picture window. The long baseboard heater that was an arm's length from where we kids liked to lie on the floor, next the the Dall Sheepskin rug under the round coffee table on the other arm's length side, to watch TV. Oh, well. Nobody freaked out. It was a black snake, by cracky! A farmer's friend. They just tossed it outside.

After the tree-choosing, people traipsed back in. Men watched football. Women gossiped about the men. Dishes were done. Kids played PIT on the kitchen table. Not a game of which I'm fond. Then gradually folks would wander into the kitchen, and Grandma would ask if they were hungry, and start warming the food again. After another plate, families would pack up some leftovers and hit the road. Eager to do it again at Christmas.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Who's That Thinkin' Scary Thoughts

Do you ever get a song lyric stuck in your head? Uh huh. I thought so. I keep hearing part of Janet Jackson's Nasty Boys. And not for the reason you might imagine. Nope. It has nothing to do with Hick. Wait! That's not what you were assuming? Heh, heh. Sure you weren't.

Anyhoo...The Pony was texting me Tuesday afternoon, concerning our upcoming visit. We were chatting about the forecast, and all at once, a picture popped up:

SHEESH! I could have used a little warning. The Pony apparently managed to scare himself.

"I do not recall putting this guy here and he just scared the crap out of me!"

"He also just frightened my own crap!"

"YOU got him for me!"

"I know. But not to set on a shelf in plain sight. To squeeze the bejeebers out of! Like a stress ball."

Not sure what kind of interior decorating The Pony has been doing with his college apartment. Don't judge him for the SECRETHITLER box under Squeezy Bob. That's a secret identity card game. Not as politically incorrect as Cards Against Humanity, which is more suited to ruthless hipster college kids. Genius used to play it all the time.

Anyhoo...when I look at that picture, my mind starts singing...

Who's that peepin' from the shelf? 
Who's that oozin' spooky vibes?

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

As Usual, Hick Gets a Little Sketchy

Hick always takes a chance on the raffle at his various auctions. The rules are basically the same. Sellers put an item on the raffle table. It's supposed to be worth at least $15. Buyers pay $1 for six chances on the raffle. If a buyer's number is drawn, he gets his choice of the items on the table. The seller who put that item there gets the raffle pot. If a seller's number is drawn, he gets the pot, then another number is drawn. That winner has to take the item the seller had put up. The rest of the items get sold as usual.

Anyhoo...that won't matter to you if you're not going to an auction. It matters to Hick, because he plays several times a week. A few weeks ago, Hick's number was drawn after the seller. Here's the prize he got.

It's a stuffed snowman holding a blanket. Let the record show that Hick is perfectly happy with his prize. He says he can sell it for $15. But it wasn't the only item that seller had put up. He had a combo. The other item, Hick referred to as an Etch-A-Sketch Pillow.

I must admit, I was intrigued with the thought of an Etch-A-Sketch Pillow. Of course I had an Etch-A-Sketch when I was a kid. I loved to spin those knobs. I was never any good at drawing on it. But I was better than my sister the little future ex-mayor's wife, who always managed to shake hers before her picture was done.

Anyhoo...I quizzed Hick about that Etch-A-Sketch Pillow.

"I don't get it. An Etch-A-Sketch is hard. You wouldn't want it on your pillow. Is it on the BACK of the pillow?"

"No. It's on the top."

"Then how do you lay your head on it?"

"It's not a pillow to lay your head on, Val. It's a pillow on the back of the Etch-A-Sketch."

"Oh. So not for a bed."

"No. You put it on your lap."

"So, just a backing. To hold it comfortably while you use your Etch-A-Sketch."

"Yeah. Well. It's not an actual Etch-A-Sketch. You don't shake it to clear the screen. More like a thing you write on. There's a cup to hold a marker."

"Wait! You mean it's just like a dry-erase board? NOT an Etch-A-Sketch?"

"Kind of. You write on the board with the marker. But you can erase it and use it again."

"Sounds like a marker board to me. Like college kids put on their dorm door."

"Well. Maybe. But everybody up at the Units calls it an Etch-A-Sketch Pillow. It's for kids. I know I can get at least $5 for it. Maybe $10."

"Huh. I'm kind of disappointed. I thought it was an Etch-A-Sketch Pillow."

"It IS, Val!"

Good thing I had a picture of the Snowman Blanket...

Monday, November 25, 2019

A Milestone Passes Without Much Hoopla

Hick and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary yesterday. Okay. We didn't celebrate celebrate. There was no party, no guests, no confetti, no confetti cake. A congratulatory text to each other, and a card, were sufficient. Oh, and Hick put it on his Facebook that he wished me a happy 30th anniversary. Which is kind of cheating, I think, since I'm not on Facebook, and only knew because I questioned why I got a group text from him and The Veteran. At which time Hick said The Veteran had read it on Facebook, and was congratulating both of us. I don't know how all that social media voodoo works. But I accused Hick of just doing that so people would congratulate HIM on his special day.

Anyhoo...we did treat ourselves to a burger lunch at the casino on Saturday. Not the good casino, but the closest one. Hick had no business at his rainy day Storage Unit Store, and called to ask if I wanted to go and have our anniversary dinner at Burger Brothers. Which is not his fault. He wanted to go somewhere nice, earlier in the week, but I did not. So this was his last-minute plan.

I must say that I had a burger, medium, and it was cooked to almost perfection. I only ordered it because the little heavy-accent man was not working the counter. It was a little too done, but still tasty. Just not juicy, which was a good thing, because the place was out of napkins. Hick, my knight in shining blue jeans and long-sleeve T and St. Louis Blues jacket, went to the counter and demanded them, though. I imagine he received the same steely glare as the woman who walked up and whispered, "I just want you to know, your trash cans are piled really high. REALLY high. Tell your manager."

Hick had the chicken strips with ranch dipping sauce. He said they were very good. From what I could see, they had a lot of meat, not just batter.

There are no pictures of my slot wins, because I had very few. Only one good bonus, which was a one-spin thingy where I got a red envelope on the first and last reels. Some days are like that. Most of the games I wanted to play were taken. The place was packed on a Saturday afternoon. Full of OLD PEOPLE! Seriously. When Val is hindered when trying to walk behind somebody slow, you KNOW they're old.

I imagine the crowd was due to the FREE TURKEY giveaway. Oh, please. Don't think they actually hand out live turkeys. Or frozen turkeys. They're VOUCHERS. I didn't even bother to get one. We will be gone to visit The Pony, and I'm not cooking a turkey. I don't know how long the vouchers were good for, or which store would be redeeming them. Hick, who did not have a free turkey offer, said the line was extremely long and blocking the main walkway when he went by. When I passed that area an hour later, I saw no crowd. Maybe they were already out of free turkey vouchers.

Anyhoo...we had a good time. Hick lost less than he was prepared to, even though under interrogation he revealed that he'd lost 60 percent of his casino bankroll. I lost 50 percent of mine, so pardon me for not listening to his advice on how to conserve money. As he pointed out, I did indeed lose more than he. But I also wager more than he, and bring a bigger bankroll. So I think the only fair way to compare is by percentages.

No big deal. I still had my Pony-visit bankroll safe at home, and Hick the arms dealer made some 10-dollar profits Sunday at his Storage Unit Store. So we'll be low- and high-rollin' with The Pony on our visit. Maybe I can get some pictures there. I haven't been threatened about picture-taking in that casino...

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Backroads Plateau Risk-Taker

"Don't you never buy new and pay on time, if you can get a used one for a dime..."

I think I've found Hick's anthem, courtesy of The Ozark Mountain Daredevils. That's a lyric from their song Horse Trader. Have a listen if you dare.

Anyhoo...Hick is all about taking used things and turning them for profit. Or turning them into something he can use to make a profit. Here's one of his latest renovations.

As he described it in the email title, it's a "Shelve." Further indicating, "My new shelve for locker." Hick always was one to clarify things by using the exact same wording again.

I don't recall what he spent on it, but this fixture started as a set of decorative shelves over a hutch or china cabinet thingy. Hick put feet on it, and added three shelves. He had some checkerboard sticky paper that he needed to use up, so he used that as shelf lining.

This structure is now bolted to the wall of his Storage Unit Store, and holds Coca Cola and Pepsi items, along with some fishing equipment. I'm not sure I appreciate the mixing of styles, but it is definitely serviceable, and isn't going to fall over on anybody.

Would it be ironic if somebody wanted Hick to sell them the shelves so they can take off the three bottom ones, and use it with their china cabinet?

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Is PENNY-Picking Val Getting Filthy Rich?

We have a holdover that was too late for press time last SATURDAY, November 16. It came from my regular supplier, Orb K. I guess there's something to be said for slovenly sweeping habits. At least for a Future Pennyillionaire.

It was there in plain sight, free for the up-picking. Sure, it helped that it blends into the floor color in a camouflagy way. And that people might mistake it for common trash. But it's mine now, by cracky! Were you fooled by that metal ring washer-looking thingy, rather than the penny?

A heads-up 1996 Abe Lincoln. I'm sure he appreciates his new life of luxury atop other fellows just like him in my Penny Goblet #2. It has to be better than lolling around in crumbs of unknown origin, getting trod upon.
FRIDAY, November 22, I made a surprising discovery at Orb K. I'd already been over to the scratcher display to choose my tickets, and went back to the far right line to wait. I can't see the numbers of the scratchers from over there.

Anyhoo, I'd been surveying the floor of questionable hygiene for pennies. No luck. As the clerk was tearing off my tickets, I gave the floor one final look, and there it was!

I'm sure you see it, right? You don't? What kind of a penny-finder ARE you, anyway? Okay. I'll excuse you. I, myself, am distracted now by those red snack bags. What ARE they? I'm guessing maybe some kind of holiday pretzel coated with white chocolate and peppermint, perhaps. Oh. Getting back to my coinage...

It's not always a penny you find when you're looking for a penny. Sorry for being tricky like that. But come on! Even if I said I found a quarter, would you have seen this 2000 heads-up specimen, nestled under the Doritos?

Only two coins this week, but 26 cents!

2019 Running Total
Penny     # 114.
Dime      still at 19.
Nickel    still at 8.
Quarter    # 5.

Penny  131
Dime  17
Nickel  6
Quarter  1

2017 TOTALS (Started in March, 2017)
Penny  78
Dime   6
Nickel  0
Quarter  0

Friday, November 22, 2019

The Long Arm of the Maw

Every Thursday night, I write a letter to Genius in Pittsburgh, and The Pony in Norman. Sometimes it's pretty much the same letter, with personalized beginnings and ends. It's not like anything interesting happens around here. Like this week, for instance, when I just filled them in on that dune-buggy-driving child-endangerer I saw on Wednesday.

I type up the letter on New Delly, and print it on my HP LaserJet, which is probably over 10 years old. But who's counting? The printer is about two arms' lengths away, on my right, on a stepped-up counter from my proper corner desk built by Hick. I wheel my rolly chair over, take out the printed page, and reinsert it, flipped over, to print the second page on the back. I sure don't want to pay a few cents extra on the postage, you know. Genius's two scratcher tickets aren't weightless.

Genius's letter printed out just fine, and I signed it and tucked it into the envelope. When I printed The Pony's letter and flipped it over, I had a hunch that I should smooth it down. This latest pack of paper I bought must be cheaper than the last, because when it prints, the corners want to curl up. When I flip it and slid it into the paper tray for the back side, it humps up a little bit.

Since the paper always looks like that, I usually let it go. Several months ago, one of Genius's letters jammed the printer. So I'd taken to reaching inside the paper tray area, that non-gaping maw, with my telescoping metal backscratcher, to make sure the corners were down. It's like a little five-fingered metal hand on a really, really thin metal arm. Yes. I DO think I'm pretty clever for thinking up this use for my trusty backscratcher.

Anyhoo...The Pony's letter didn't look any more humped-up than usual. But my inner voice was telling me to GET THE ARM and GIVE IT A HAND. Nope. No voice in my head is going to tell ME what to do! I clicked on PRINT, and heard the most horrible grinding noise! Not unlike the horrible grinding noise I'd heard several months ago. Then an alarm or an electronic scream or an appliance's cry for help sounded.

SHEESH! I thought that once I retired, my days of clearing paper jams would be over! I had to remove a stack of crap I'd piled on top, lift the hood, open a compartment, pull out the toner cartridge, and coax the bottom half of The Pony's letter out of HP LaserJet.

Got 'im! When I reprinted (good thing I didn't close out the file when I hit PRINT the second time), you can be certain that I used my long skinny metal arm's five metal fingers to make sure the front corners of the letter were down.

I had a hunch, you know.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

I'm Not One to Judge, But...

Sit down on a comfy couch. Surround yourself with pillows. Have some smelling salts nearby. I have something to tell you. We don't need anybody fainting and cracking their head open.

Val is not perfect.

Being imperfect, she tries not to judge others. People have different backgrounds. They're raised differently. They have different means of supporting themselves. What a boring world it would be if we were all the same. However...

There are some standards of human decency that I think must be observed. One of them being the safety of one's children.

Wednesday, I turned T-Hoe onto the parking lot of the Backroads Casey's. Val is not a speed demon. The tailgaters who follow her at the posted speed limit can VALidate that fact. I'm always cautious when maneuvering T-Hoe through traffic, parked cars, and pedestrians. He's a large beast, with considerable inertia. I make sure T-Hoe is under control, and that I'm able to stop in an instant.

As I steered T-Hoe left, around the gas pumps, preparing to park in front of the store, something caught my eye.  A flash of orange. Like the red hair of my nephew. It was just at the corner of T-Hoe's left front hood area. Then it disappeared. I slammed on the brakes. T-Hoe sits up high. I can't see the ground directly in front of him.


Yes, a curly-haired red-headed toddler was wandering around by the car at the gas pump. I say car, but I mean dune buggy. Not a standard Gator-type vehicle, but a teardrop-shaped vehicle made from bright yellow pipe. With two seats, no doors or sides, and a kind of roll-cage made from those yellow pipes. Fine for riding around in a field, or up at the state park with other off-road vehicles. Not so much for in-town road-driving.

Anyhoo...I'd jammed on the brakes. That's one thing that still works on T-Hoe. The kid wandered back behind the dune buggy. I know my mouth had dropped open. I kept both hands on the wheel, or I might have wiped my brow with relief. I eased T-Hoe around that corner, passed in front of a U.S. Postal Service Jeep that had backed into a space, and parked beside it. As I was gathering my stuff, I saw the mailman looking at me, nodding. He'd seen it, too.

Of course the adult man and the toddler came into the store, and waited in line behind me. So I knew not to talk about the incident to the clerk. However, a second clerk, one who told me about finding pennies all over the basement of a house she bought, did not know of the incident. She stepped up to open the second register. In doing so, she looked out the front window, and said,

"Is that a BABY in that dune buggy?"

The other clerk agreed that it was. They chatted for a minute about how little he was. I was getting really mad, thinking this jerk had left his baby UNATTENDED in a dune buggy while he came in to pay. I imagined a car seat strapped into the framing. Yet he was right there beside me now, so I said nothing.

Dune Buggy Driver overheard their talk, and said, "Yeah, that's my son! He loves it."

Clerk II dummied up then. Before adding, "Oh. Does he raise his hands and squeal?"

Dune Buggy Driver said that he did. While he was paying for his gas, and the toddler was wrestling with a yellow 'Slippery When Wet' sign in front of the door, Clerk II made eyes at me. I mouthed,

"I almost ran over that toddler!"

Nobody was going to say anything about this issue, or about driving a baby around in that dune buggy. The clerks wanted to keep their jobs, I imagine, and not be complained about for criticizing a customer. You know VAL isn't going to stick her neck out. Sad but true. I'll never be that person on the viral video questioning somebody about their child-rearing methods.

Dune Buggy Driver and Toddler went out the door ahead of me. The kid took off running.

"Don't you go running across the parking lot, boy!" Yelled Dune Buggy Driver, making no attempt to grab the kid or quicken his pace.

I glanced at the dune buggy. There was a woman sitting in the passenger seat, holding a baby of about 8-10 months. Not a walker yet. No car seat. I don't even know if she had on a seatbelt. Not that it would keep the baby from flying out of her arms. Although it might have kept her from crushing it in a sudden stop.

The dune buggy left the lot ahead of T-Hoe. It turned up a residential street, and I lost sight of it.

There oughta be a law. Oh, wait. There is. For regular automobiles.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Don't Spare the Rod, Spoil the Hick

Hick bought himself a new gewgaw at the storage units. From one of his buddies. He couldn't wait to tell me about it. Even got up out of the La-Z-Boy, paraded in front of me in his tighty-whities (sorry, no photo), and fetched it from the bedroom.

I could not tell what it was. First of all, it was enclosed in a tiny ziploc bag that I could not get open. Secondly, even with my glasses, I couldn't see the details. Hick demanded that I hand it back to him. How his sausage fingers got that baggie open is a mystery to me. When he gave it back to me, explaining what it was, I was impressed.

Do you recognize it? I'll admit that my picture posed on a couch pillow does it no favors. It's a TIE CLIP! Yes, it's used. And Hick rarely wears a tie. He plans to put it in his keepsake case behind the La-Z-Boy. The one he keeps LOCKED, that I can't get into.

Here are some more pictures of the details. It has a little loose chain as the fishing line.

That's the reel.

That's the fish.

That's the pole.

Hick said he paid his buddy $5 for this tie clip. He went on to say,

"He had another one that was a TRAP! Like you use to trap an animal. Like the jaws that snap. And it really worked! He wanted $6 for that. It was neat."

"So you were too cheap to buy that one?"

"No. He already had sold it to another guy. I'd like to have had it."

At least it won't need its own themed shed. We already have The Fishing Lair over on Shackytown Boulevard, should the locked case be full to the gills.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

It's Like a Beacon, My Ample Rumpus

Never a dull moment routine trip to town for Val. All I had planned for Monday were two stops. The Gas Station Chicken Store to for my 44 oz Diet Coke, and Orb K to trade in some scratchers. It was going on 1:00 when I pulled onto the GSCS parking lot. A dump truck was parked off to the side by the moat separating the GSCS from Hick's pharmacy, CeilingReds. My favorite spot close to the door was taken by the Man Owner's SUV, backed in to unload supplies.

I went around to the side of the building, figuring I'd park by the air hose. While I was at it, I might as well steal a little FREE AIR for T-Hoe's left rear tire that was at 29 lb instead of the recommended 35 lb. Surely you remember. This sign is still there.

Of course I don't think that sign applies to ME! I'm special! I'm a regular customer, spending $1.69 per day on a 44 oz Diet Coke. I'm sure their profit from that exceeds an average gas purchase profit.

Anyhoo...two birds with one stone. I was stealing air, and had a parking place while I did my magical elixir business. I unscrewed the cap from the tire valve, and untangled the air hose. I had JUST bent over to jam the hose onto the valve, my ample rumpus waving in the wind, when I heard,

"Do you need some help?"

What in the NOT-HEAVEN? Of course I need help, in reducing the size of my ample rumpus. But as far as putting air in T-Hoe's tire, no. I'm pretty much an expert at that by now, after 30 years with Hick. So I replied, not bothering to look around, because you have to hold that hose RIGHT ON THE VALVE, or the air spews out all willy-nilly into not-tire, probably heating up the atmosphere in doomsday global warming proportions. So I just said,

"No. I'm good."

The would-be Val-savior said something else that I didn't hear, because I was listening to make sure I had the proper in-tire hiss of air, and counting in my head to get 4-5 pounds of pressure injected. When I thought it was sufficient, I removed the air hose, screwed the valve cap back on, and turned around.

It was the Nice Young Man Clerk! Squatting down at his own tire, his black sedan parked across the front of T-Hoe.

"Thanks. I have a slow leaker. I was counting in my head to get five pounds of air in. Here, do you need the hose?"

I was pretty sure he did. He wasn't just doing deep knee bends there between his car and T-Hoe's bumper.

"Yeah. Thanks."

"Am I parked in your way? I can move it."

"No. It's fine."

"Okay. I'll just leave it there while I go in and do my business."

As I came out, Nice Young Man Clerk was driving over to his parking place under the big sign. I'm pretty sure he didn't rat me out for stealing air.

Monday, November 18, 2019

On the First Week of His New Job, Genius Was Contemplating Re-Tirement

You may recall that Genius moved to Pittsburgh last month, for a new job, working with... um...OOBER. Genius found a picture online, and sent it to show his location. Don't be stalking him!

His apartment building is on the far right bank, just above the second bridge. He marked the route he takes to work. He goes up to the third bridge to get on the highway. Genius returns via a different route, through the city, over one-way streets and the second bridge.

Anyhoo, Genius had a little over a week to get settled before he reported to work. On his first morning, a giant sinkhole swallowed the back half of a city bus. Good thing for Genius, he drove his car.

"I learned about the sinkhole as I was milling around waiting for orientation to start. People coming in would say, 'Did you hear about the sinkhole? Did you see the bus?' That area is between my apartment and work, but not on the route I take. Later in the day, I finally figured out what they were talking about.

As the week went on, I noticed that one of my tires was low. I must have picked up a nail during the move. I'd been watching it and putting air in it. At the end of the week, I asked the guys at work if they could recommend a good tire shop. Most of them said if it was just a nail, they'd fix it themselves, with a plug. I figured, 'I'm at least as smart as these guys.' So I got a kit to fix my tire.

Saturday, I went down to the parking garage. I don't know how much you know about tire plugs..."

"Only that when I take T-Hoe for a fix, they plug the tire while I wait. Even the big bolt hole."

"Well, there are assorted sizes of plugs, and you're supposed to use a tool to ream out the tire hole to make the plug fit right. I did that, but I couldn't get the plug to go all the way in. I pushed and pushed and it wasn't working. More air was leaking out of my tire. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to drive it to get it fixed. I called Friend down to the parking garage. He tried and tried, and couldn't get it either.

"While we were standing there looking at it, virtually scratching our heads trying to figure out what to do, a 30-something lady parked her car a few spaces over. She walked by on the way to the elevator, and asked how we were doing. When she saw what we were looking at, she said,

'Oh. I guess not so good. Let's see what a vet can do!'

Before we knew what was happening, she had slammed herself face-first onto the concrete floor of the parking garage! She shimmied under my car and started pushing on that plug. It was in a place you could get to without going under the car, but she gave it every effort. And still couldn't budge it. I don't know if she meant a VET as in a veterinarian, or a VET as in a military veteran. She was really nice, and when she crawled out from under my car, she said,

'How would you guys like to go to a bonfire tonight? My friends are having one right outside the city.'

I really like bonfires in the fall. I thanked her, but we already had plans to meet up with our buddy from college who just got a job up here with a steel company, and his girlfriend. People in my apartment building are really friendly.

Anyhow, by that time I knew I had to do something about my tire, so I called AAA. I told them they'd need a regular truck, because I was in a parking garage, with low clearance. Of course they sent a guy with a big flatbed truck, too high. So we had to walk all the way to the other end of the parking garage, to the lot, to bring in his jack. 

Good thing was, this AAA guy used to work in a tire shop. It took him a while, but he finally got that plug pounded in. I was relieved. If I get another flat tire, I'm taking my car to a tire shop to have it fixed! I spent four hours dealing with it!"

Another good thing for Genius, WE have AAA, and he's an add-on to our membership. It was mainly for The Pony, and for us in our multi-state travels to visit him. But once you pay the membership and two add-ons, you can include more for no charge.

Genius is welcome.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Enabler Has a Secret Motive

Hick and I went to the casino on Wednesday. His original plan was to go on Monday, but the forecast was for ice and snow in the afternoon. I went to the doctor on Tuesday. So Hick waffled until he decreed that we'd go to the casino on Wednesday.

Let the record show that Val did not ask for a casino trip. Hick brought up the idea, because a guy at his Storage Unit Store told him of a great deal on guns at a pawn shop in casino town. He would have gone by himself, but I didn't see a reason to waste a free ride to the casino. Hick dropped me off, and went in search of his bargain. Which he found. Items still in the box, perhaps new. He was happy. And he only lost $40 at the casino later. I lost 1/4 of my casino bankroll, but I was okay with that.

No pictures of the slots this time. Not because I was afraid of being tossed out on my ear, but because I didn't really have any good bonuses. In fact, I got way behind. Then little by little, I began to build my bankroll again. I pocketed my FREE $25 cash comp, and spent it on scratchers on the way home, winning $70! So I came out okay on this trip.

Lunch was a puzzler. Hick ordered the exact same thing for the third time. Let's refresh your memory. It was a special listed on the blackboard out front. The pulled pork with fries.

The first time, it looked like this:

The second time, it looked like this:

 The third time, it looked like this:

They seem to have a quality control problem at this grill. Let the record show that Hick ordered the exact same thing each time, with three different results. He said it tasted good, but there was way too much this time, with too much cheese.'s my casino drama from this trip.

I was playing a Wonder Four Boost slot. Lucky me, I got to lose my money on it, because there were no people sitting by this empty one proclaiming that SOMEBODY was playing it. I was on the right end of four machines. Nobody was on my left. After about five minutes, a dude sat down there.

The minute Dude sat down, he took out a cigarette. Of course I was mentally screaming, "NO, YOU CLOSE-SITTER, DON'T SMOKE NEXT TO ME!" I guess he didn't hear my thoughts. Of course the ventilation system blew that smoke right across my face. Not over my head, not behind my head, not down by my hands, but across my face! It was even visible, the stream, like PePe LePew's odor in a cartoon.

Oh, that's not the worst of it. As I turned my head to the right, trying to inhale an unpolluted breath, Dude said,

"Can you pass me that ashtray?"

It was sitting down on the cabinet the slot machines were perched on. How in the world he saw it there, I'll never know. If he knew it was there, why didn't he pick it up before he sat down at his ashtrayless slot?

I reached down and handed it to him. Not saying anything. I suppose I could have pretended to be deaf. Or flat-out said, "No." But I was raised to be polite, so I passed him the equipment with which to continue torturing me.

Is it wrong that I took sly pleasure in the fact that I might be hastening his demise from a future lung disease?

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Methinks It Must Be a COINspiracy!

Where are all my rightful pennies? I am searching for them as hard as ever, yet the parking lots and convenience store floors are bare! I can only surmise that The Universe is conspiring against me.

Only two scenarios can explain my drought. Either the populace of Backroads has become raving penny-pickers...or the cashiers who'd been tossing out pennies in the hopes of seeing Val's ample rumpus have decided that the view is not worth a red cent.

Only one penny revealed itself to me this week. On SUNDAY, November 10, I accidentally found a penny on my way out of Orb K. I'd scored my favorite parking space next to the yellow-striped handicap walkway with the gentle ramp up the sidewalk. As I shuffled along, careful not to dislocate a kneecap on the slight slope, my eyes were glued to the ground, lest any irregularities send me sprawling.

I almost missed it! Lucky for my Future Pennyillionaire Fortune, my eyes were drawn to the discarded cigarette butts. Would YOU have spotted this week's lone penny?

There's no shame if you missed this face-down 2016. Val IS a professional penny-finder, you know. That's why The Universe pays her the big bucks cents.

THE END IS NEAR! The end of the Penny Year. I'm concerned that I won't reach last year's total. At least I'm already killing it with dimes, nickels, and quarters!

2019 Running Total
Penny     # 113.
Dime      still at 19.
Nickel    still at 8.
Quarter   still at 4.

Penny  131
Dime  17
Nickel  6
Quarter  1

2017 TOTALS (Started in March, 2017)
Penny  78
Dime   6
Nickel  0
Quarter  0

Friday, November 15, 2019

Hick Is Not the Only Freak in Backroads

Lest you think Hick is an anomaly in these parts, I assure you that he is not. His cronies are all cut from the same cloth. Hickcloth! It's not so much a tangible thing, like a flannel houndstooth or silky paisley or a sturdy canvas duck. It's more of an attitude.

Last night, Hick sat in the La-Z-Boy, laughing at his phone. He's a simple fellow, yet so complex.

"What's so funny now? Are you watching YouTube videos again?"

"No. It's This Guy." [You might remember This Guy, and This Guy's Wife, who sold us the $5000 house. Hick has been friends with them since high school.] This Guy's Wife put a picture on Facebook. Heh, heh! There's This Guy, holding a possum by the tail!"

"Wait! Let me get my glasses! That's a BIG possum!"

"Yeah. It comes up on their back porch, and eats the cat food. Every time it does that, This Guy grabs it by the tail, and throws it in the front yard."

"Doesn't it just come back?"

"Yeah. And he does it again!"

"That doesn't seem very efficient. But at least a bite can't give him leprosy, like an armadillo."

"I told him I have a trap. We should catch it, and bring it out here."

"NO! Why would you do THAT? We have our own possums. Like the one you threw down the sinkhole, and the one you threw over the fence in Copper Jack's field next door."

"I didn't mean HERE, Val! I meant we'll let it out down by the low water bridge. By the guy who has all the poop trucks dumping on his land."

"Well. I'm pretty sure one of you is going to get bit."

I think there's good money to be made if somebody wants to open up a daycare for retired men. Kind of like a doggie daycare. They could meet up with their friends every day. Have some activities so they don't get bored. Snacks. A recliner to take a nap. Then their wives pick them up at the end of the day, when they're all tuckered out and can't get into trouble.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

The Third Cut Is the Deepest

Hick has been driving me crazy (so uncharacteristic of him, I know, but try to suspend your disbelief momentarily). Every time I say something or have an opinion, it's WRONG!

Tuesday, we took T-Hoe to the doctor. Not Mick the Mechanic, Car Doctor (DON'T GET ME STARTED), but my people-doctor. The roads had a glaze of ice, and I was actually glad that Hick would be sweaving me. Ice skids must counteract his sweaving, because I don't notice it in inclement weather.

Anyhoo...I wanted to take T-Hoe, for the actual 4WD, rather than A-Cad, with the AWD. You know, so all four wheels could be pulling consistently on our hilly terrain, rather than grabbing hold in a spin. I've never had a problem with T-Hoe in ice and snow.

We pulled out of the gravel road down by the mailboxes, and started up that big hill where Hick is so proud of the SCHOOL BUS STOP AHEAD sign he asked the county to erect. (Heh, heh, you know what I said!) The road was a solid sheet of ice. T-Hoe worked like a champ. It was slow going, but we didn't spin.

"Whew! I'm so glad we have the four-wheel-drive!"

"It's not in four-wheel-drive."

"WHAT? I TOLD you to put it in four-wheel-drive as we were going out of the driveway!"

"It's fine, Val."

"Do you at least have it in AUTO, so it will switch to four-wheel-drive in a skid?"

"No. It's just in two-wheel."

"WHY do we have a four-wheel-drive vehicle if we don't even use it when we need it? It's one of the last things that works on T-Hoe!"

"I don't know why you get so worked up. It was fine."

"Yeah. Until it isn't."


Leaving home on Wednesday morning, heading to the casino, we passed the neighbor's house at the top of Hick and Buddy's Badly Blacktopped Hill.

"Oh, look. Jim got a new Gator-thing. That red one. I saw it fly by the house the other day."

"What makes you think it's his?"

"Um. It's parked under his carport?"

"That doesn't mean it's his."

"Why would somebody else park a new Gator-thing under Jim's carport?"

"Do you see his truck?"

"No. He probably drove it to work."

"He has the work van for that."

"You are so hard-headed! If you see someone riding a new Gator-thing, and it's parked under his carport, I'm pretty sure it's his."

"I don't know. Maybe somebody else drove it down here and left it. Maybe he borrowed Jim's truck."

"Maybe Jim didn't drive the van home in the ice storm, because it's not good on ice. Maybe he watched the forecast, and took his truck to work yesterday and today, to pick up the van in town. But let's think up all the far-fetched ideas that would prove my logical assumption wrong."

On the interstate highway, headed down south to the casino, we saw several sections of the safety cables mowed down, and several cars off the side of the road.

"Huh. I guess it must have been pretty slick along here, even though there's not much accumulation in the fields."

"Yeah. Hey! I wish you'd get away from this truck. He'll need over here. He's gonna ride right up on that car in front of him."

"That's HIS problem."

"No, YOU are the problem. You and that stupid cruise control. I don't know what kind of game you play. It can't be that hard to break it and start it again. YOU are the reason people have road rage. Quit driving beside him in the fast lane. Back off and get behind, or go around him already."

"Val. You have NO IDEA how I drive!"

"Uh. I'm pretty sure that I do."

A few miles post-truck, I could see the side of the road again. Hick commented on a white subcompact car sitting at an angle on the grassy swath past the shoulder.

"Looks like that one spun out on the ice."

"Well. I don't think so. I think a guy just decided to park his crappy dented car there when it ran out of gas."

Two can play Hick's game, you know.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

I See a Whole 'Nother Barn in Hick's Future

Hick is approaching the point where he can't go out alone. I need to hire someone to be his personal shopper. Not do the shopping FOR him, but to accompany him on his shopping trips, and say, "NO!" Someone who will mean it. Who will put their foot down. Who will answer only to me. Oh, who am I kidding? Hick would soon have such an accompanyist turned into an accomplice.

Look what Hick bought on Tuesday, in the 45 minutes he was unattended when he dropped me off for my doctor appointment.

Let the record show that we do not have a horse.

According to Hick: "Bought saddle stand and blanket for $50 should all be worth $125"

Hick sent the picture to two of his auction buddies before he bought it. They agreed that it was a good price, and he should get at least $125 for the saddle/stand/blanket combo.

Funny thing is, while waiting to leave for the doctor, I put the TV on one of the cowboy channels, about a guy taking people on a trail ride. Hick commented that he hadn't ridden a horse in 30 years, and that one of the women on the show needed a bigger saddle. Who knew Hick knew anything about saddles?

I guess I'm at fault, for that channel, and because I asked Hick to drive me to my appointment. He never does that, but we had an ice storm the night before. Roads were treacherous. The temp was 11 degrees when we left home, and 14 when we got to the doctor 45 minutes later.

I told Hick that he should come in and wait. He could sit down in the main lobby. The gift shop opened at 10:00, so he could have snuck himself a snack, or had a soda while talking to the volunteer old lady who runs it. Hick said he would just wait in the car. I said he could go over to Walmart and get the butter that I forgot on my shopping trip the day before. For some reason, Hick did not seem interested.

"I think I might just run over to Goodwill. I'll be back in time."

He was. With a saddle loaded in T-Hoe's rear.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Does She Have An Account Here?

Last Friday, I took four savings bonds to the bank to redeem them. Oh, I have more than four that I need to unload, but I have to ration them to make sure the bank doesn't turn me away. It seems to be a major production at my facility. In fact, I got a 3-part episode out of it a couple years ago, on the quest for the elusive MEDALLION needed to verify the transaction:

Medallion, Medallion, Who's Got the Medallion?

What the Puck Does This Have to Do With a MEDALLION?

And Now, For the BONDage Faux Pas

I haven't really had a problem with taking a few bonds at a time. Sure, I should have taken these in January, February, March, and April. But now is better than later. I still have time to get the rest of 2019's in before the end of the year. Gosh! Bonds mature so fast! Seems like only yesterday they were earning interest.

These are Series EE U.S. Savings Bonds. They're like a triceratops, or a coelacanth in the animal/fish world. You can't even get them in paper form any more. They've been electronic since 2012. Val kicks it old-style, though. They were given to me in paper, and I had no desire to convert 169 of them to electronic. Technology is not Val's friend.

Anyhoo...I waltzed into my bank branch (refraining from pirouetting so as not to show off) with my four matured EEs and my death certificate. Well, not MY actual death certificate, but my mom's, which belongs to me. A customer had just left, and I was the only one in the lobby! Even rarer, TWO tellers were at the counter.

I could have gone to either one, but they were both playing the Public Employee Standoff Game. Head down, ignoring me. Oh, I don't think so! Val is well-versed in the Public Employee Standoff Game, after five years working for the state unemployment division. Neither teller was fiddling with any paperwork or computer screen. So I strode purposefully to the right. The time for waltzing had ended.

I chose to go right, because I thought the teller on the left was the one who'd intimated that I'd brought her a counterfeit cashier's check from my credit union after SHE had called the wrong institution to verify it. Back when Hick and I were buying the $5000 house.

Anyhoo...Blondie, the early-20s teller I dared to expect to help me, looked up when I set my folder on the counter. She was nice to me. Fake nice. She really needs to up her Fake-Nice game. I'm also well-versed in Fake-Nice, having made it through 28 years of teaching with one of the lowest parent-complaint rates among my colleagues. I attribute that to having a super-secret blog on which to vent.

Anyhoo...I told Blondie

"I have three things to do. I'd like to buy a roll of nickels, make a withdrawal from my account, and redeem four savings bonds."

I'd have worked from the simplest to the most complex, but Blondie pushed aside my two dollars for the nickels, my counter withdrawal slip, and went straight for the bonds.

"Do you have your driver's license?"

"I do." 

I pushed it across the counter, along with Mom's death certificate with the official seal, since the bonds were in her name, with mine as TOD. And THAT'S when it got interesting.

"Does she have an account here?"

"Um. No. She's deceased."

"I know that."

"Since 2015."

Blondie called over the other teller, who thankfully was NOT the counterfeit-crier.

"SHE [gestured to the bonds] doesn't have an account here. Can we cash these?"

SERI-OUS-LY!!! They're 30-year bonds! I'm so sure people take them back to the exact place they got them! And why would having an account there be a condition for redeeming them? I think they're a little bit different than a personal check drawn on another bank.

Anyhoo...the other teller gave the go-ahead.

"Should I keep this?" Blondie held up the death certificate.

"No. But it wouldn't hurt to keep a copy, just in case, for your transaction."

Good thing! Because those certificates cost $13 to get with an official seal! I'm not doing that two more times to cash in my other 8 bonds for 2019! I think SHOWING verification is plenty. They don't have to KEEP it!

Anyhoo...Blondie hacked away at her keyboard. I said I wanted the money deposited in my account, not cash. She seemed a bit slow, like maybe she needed to ask more questions. I pulled out a form from my folder.

"I usually get one of these forms. For taxes."

"It's going to take a minute!"

Well. I was only trying to help. She went and copied the death certificate, and came back with such a printout for my tax records. She counted out the cash for my withdrawal. She forked over a roll of nickels for my two dollars.

Blondie got nicer the closer she got to getting rid of me. I don't know why she cared. As a former Public Employee Standoff insider, I know that whether she served ME the rest of the day, or a hundred other customers...she was getting paid the same.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Something Weirdish, This Way, Mums

Val Thevictorian is no stranger to strange dreams. Thursday night I had a doozy, wherein I was touring a special museum, run by my ex-colleague, the Home Ec (heh, heh, she hated that) teacher down at the end of my hall. Homie's museum was in a large VICTORIAN (how fitting, my dream brain has a sense of humor) three-story house.

I can't really describe the collection her museum was devoted to. You know how dreams are. Things may make sense there, but no word exists for it in the waking world. Homie's treasures were some kind of dollies. Not play babies, thought that might also be a dream joke, since Homie gave out the battery-operated crying babies to her parenting classes. But in my dream, the dollies were of the hand truck variety. Used for carting things around.

The most special dolly of all was on the top floor. It was the only one. Made in sections, like a pull-out step-stool thingy. Three sections. It was designed to move PEOPLE like Hannibal Lecter!

I was on the second floor, on my way back down, having completed my tour. I encountered my MOM on the way up.

"Oh, Mom. You've gotta see the one on the top floor. It's the best."

"Okay. I'm on my way."

Homie was running around, directing people and being a font of information for her dolly museum. Mom turned to look over her shoulder as she was headed for the steps. She told Homie,

"I hear you have a really special one on the top floor."

And Homie IGNORED MOM! Didn't answer! Acted like she wasn't even there!

That didn't bother Mom. She went on up anyway. She was never one to take offense.

ANYHOO... that was a weird dream, though not unpleasant. I hadn't dreamed about Mom in a while. Nor thought about Homie, who retired a couple years before I did.

I went on about my Friday. Stopped by the cemetery for about five minutes on my way to the bank to redeem some matured savings bonds Mom left me. The year gets away from me. I mean to do them each month, but I've got a backlog of 11 right now. I've got to take a few at a time, lest the bank tellers get all discombobulated about too many. I also got gas and mailed the boys' letters. Picked up my 44 oz Diet Coke and scratchers.

By Saturday, I'd kinda forgotten about the dream. When I came home from town, the dogs came running, including our new (since July) adoptee Marley, who we've let out of the pen for two weeks. I thought he was adapting well, staying in the yard, near the other dogs, though not interacting so much. Yet this time, a vicious fight ensued between Jack and Marley. I won't go into it here, but it wasn't just a run-of-the-mill test of dominance. It was like a Michael Vick kind of event.

There were two stages to the fight, and I could not get those dogs apart. Again, I'm not delving into it, but by the time it simmered down, and I got up on the porch, headed for the kitchen door, I had blood on my arm. Not mine.

This really shook me up, such violence between my fleabags, and me powerless to control them. Shook me up. As in shaking, as I tried to fit the key in the lock.

Do you see what I see? I'm not talking about the rough, weathered hardware of my kitchen door lock. I mean


I haven't seen a ladybug in a LOOOOONG time. And now that we're having temperatures at night in the 20s, I sure didn't expect to see this one. Yes, I know that it's technically a beetle, not a bright red ladybug. These orange ones are what we have around here, and we've always called them ladybugs.

I agree that the extreme closeup does this one no favors. Close enough to see its undercarriage in the reflection is, perhaps, too close. Anyhoo, I was so happy to see that ladybug that I calmed right down from my dogfight fright. I set my stuff inside, and took a picture to document my ladybug visit.

Regular readers know that I consider a ladybug a sign from MOM, due to our joke about a horde of them in her house that she refused to exterminate, merely vacuuming them up with her Dustbuster, and letting them go outside. And the fact that I saw one every week, in assorted venues (including crawling on a baby's ear during an Open House visit at school one evening), after Mom died in February 2015.

I'm not a big believer in coincidences.

OMG! I just clicked to set this for automatic posting, and noticed it will publish on 11/11. Kind of like the 11:11 I've been seeing on the clock over the past few days. I'm not all New-Age-y, or particularly spiritual, or a numerologist...but 11:11 makes me think of Mom, too.
Lots of theories on that 11:11.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

I'm Pretty Sure Hick Is Trying to Kill Me, Now With Auction Cookies

First there was Auction Meat.

Let the record show that Hick did not actually buy the Auction Meat. He came home blathering excitedly about it. "I should have bid on it, but I wasn't sure you'd want it." Yeah. I would not. Especially since further details revealed that Hick didn't even know what kind of meat it was, the box only marked MEAT on the side.

Friday night, at 7:58, I got an email from Hick. A picture.
With Hick saying "I bought you some cookies"


"You have to bake them I didn't know that but they look good"


"But there is a reward at the end"

"Maybe The Pony will want them."

"Maybe they have marshmallows in them you might like them. Im home"

"Okay. I was pretty sure I heard you walking. But sometimes it's not."

So here's the deal. I got to looking at the picture, and I saw that this package of  "cookies" is supposed to be refrigerated. Yet I see it laying there on a chair at the auction. Hmm...I wonder how long this package of "cookies" has gone UNrefrigerated.

Hick said that it was in the refrigerator at the auction. "She does that. Keeps cold foods in the refrigerator or freezer."

"Sure. And where is the  cherry pie under the cookies in that picture?"

"Cherry pie? There ain't no cherry pie."

"Uh huh. The picture doesn't lie."

"Oh. Uh. It was on the shelf. When I took the cookie picture."

"No. It's sitting on the CHAIR where you took the cookie picture."

"Oh. Uh. That belonged to a lady. Not a lady. My buddy's wife. She bought some stuff. So I laid my cookies on her stuff and took the picture."

"Sure. You've come up with TWO different stories in less than a minute."

"Okay Val. Sure. I bought a box of cherry pies and ate them all today."

"Who said anything about a box...?"

I'm not so sure if Hick is trying to kill me with food-poisoned cookies, or with curiosity.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Ample-Rumpus-ing Along, You're Welcome No Thong, CENT by CENT

Thank your lucky stars that you don't frequent the convenience stores of Backroads. Val has been out and about this week, scooping up filler for her Future Pennyillionaire Fortune. It's not a pretty sight to behold, but it has to be done. Unless you want to start Val a come-gift-her account for a space-age grabber thingy that can pick up pennies, then the public is going to be exposed to Val's ample rumpus. Out of consideration for those left behind her in line, Val has lived her life without getting a tramp stamp, and sticking to granny panties instead of a thong.

SUNDAY, November 3, was off to a good start with a surprise find at Orb K. I wasn't expecting to find a penny so early in the week, and I'd left my phone in T-Hoe while I dashed in. That'll learn me.

It was a 1978 face-down Lincoln, laying out in front of the multitude of energy supplements. The Close-Waiter behind me might have even escaped my ample rumpus view as I leaned sideways to nab old Abe. She got a shot of hip-fat instead, so it still doesn't pay to be a Close-Waiter. BACK OFF, people! I'm harvesting my fortune here! Oh, and the scratcher it's posed on in T-Hoe was a loser.

TUESDAY, November 5, Hick and I had that meeting at the Financial Store. HO HUM! Just remembering that makes me exhausted. I clambered out of SilverRedO, sliding past that pipe-type running board so as not to bend my SilverRedO disliking knees, I said to Hick over my shoulder: "I'll just be a minute. I'm not even going to bother with my phone. Watch. I'll find a penny without it."

You know what happened, right? I found TWO pennies. Unfortutely, I could only pick up one. Not because they're too heavy, or because I only had one bend-over left in my ample rumpus. Nope. It was because the second penny was at the register on my left, surrounded by a plainclotheswoman and two Casey's employees, who were chatting up a storm with the duty-shunning employee behind that register. The whole line was behind ME. They're welcome for the ample rumpus sighting.

Anyhoo...I posed my lone penny on SilverRedO's dash for the pic whence I returned.

It was a 2007 heads-up penny. That scratcher behind it was a loser. C'mon. I can't find pennies for my Future Pennyillionaire Fortune AND win at scratchers! Case in point, today (Friday, November 8), I found ZERO pennies, but had a $50 scratcher winner on the Missouri Wines ticket that I rarely buy except to send Genius. Sorry, Genius. Yours was mailed before I bought mine.

Not a great week, but not a bad week for the penny harvest. Another two cents tallied.

2019 Running Total
Penny     # 111, 112.
Dime      still at 19.
Nickel    still at 8.
Quarter   still at 4.

Penny  131
Dime  17
Nickel  6
Quarter  1

2017 TOTALS (Started in March, 2017)
Penny  78
Dime   6
Nickel  0
Quarter  0

Friday, November 8, 2019

Nearly Comatose, Val Absorbs Enough Details to Bore You, Too. Because She's a Giver Like That.

I had been dreading Tuesday's financial appointment since the previous Friday, when the office manager called to demand request our appearance. Seems there's some formality of an annual review, to see if we want to change anything about our investments. We do not. Yet still, we're held hostage for an hour. Exactly.

The appointment was for 1:30, which cut into my prime Diet-Coke-drinking time. Hick insisted that we leave home at 12:30, because we had to drop off T-Hoe (don't get me started, I tell you!) at Mick the Mechanic's shop. I questioned the early departure, since it's only about 20 minutes from home to the Financial Shop.

"Well, it will take you ten extra minutes before you're ready to go out the door. And then I'll have to go in and give Mick the key. We don't want to be late."

"I don't want to be early, either! I hate going there. We've been early before, and have to sit out front until our appointment time."

"It's fine, Val. I don't see why you get all worked up over these things."

"I hate a change in my routine! I hate sitting there for an hour, when we could be done in ten minutes. It's like they have to make us sit there to bill us for that hour. I want to say, 'Bill all you want, but let's get this done so I can get out of here!'"

"It doesn't hurt you to sit and talk."

"I don't want to talk! All you do is talk about your collector junk. That's not why we're there! We look at the printout, sign to take out my money, escape! Conversation isn't necessary."

Of course Hick disagreed, because Hick is a talker. Mick must have been occupied, because Hick came right back out after dropping off the key. I was barely seated in SilverRedO when he returned. Off we went, way early.

"I was planning on you taking me by Casey's for some scratchers afterward, but you can do it before, since we're so early."

Little did we know that we were about to encounter tree-trimmers blocking one road with STOP and SLOW sign-holders. Then a WRECK being cleaned up at the four-way stop over by the furniture store where we bought The Pony's gaming couch.

"Great! How do people even have a wreck here? They're all STOPPED!"

"I guess somebody DIDN'T stop, Val. It's almost clear. See? They're sweeping up the glass. The car is already on the truck."

I accomplished my scratcher mission, and we were STILL ten minutes early for our appointment.

"Let's sit out here. SilverRedO isn't all that comfortable, but it's better than sitting inside. Look! There goes our guy now. Where did HE come from? There's nothing across the street for him to go to."

"Well, that's his truck over there. So I guess maybe he's coming back from lunch. We might as well go in."

"Why? He won't call us back for another ten minutes. He'll have to go to the bathroom. Check his phone calls. Are we even going to talk to him? I thought his daughter was taking over his business."

"I don't know who we'll talk to. Let's go."

"Let's wait."

Hick would not. We went inside, and sat down in the outer office. Hick grabbed the first chair, and got to face the office manager during her small talk. I had to turn my head sideways. Of course we didn't get sent right back. At 1:27 we were ushered in.

Hick and Finny the Financial Guy started talking about GUNS. Seriously. Why is this allowed? Finny's Girl joined us, and sat across from me. She shoved the printouts across the table, and I looked them over. Hick and Finny droned on. I acted like a spoiled elderly brat. I had nothing to contribute. I was about to lose consciousness from boredom. If I'd brought a pen in with me, I'd have jabbed it into my thigh to stay alert.

Oh. My. Gosh. We had to chat about cruises and booze in Scope bottles and France trips and European bathrooms and airport TSA searches and tractors and lawnmowers severing sewer vent pipes...

FINALLY, at 1:50, we started the actual financial talk. Nothing new. Hick and I are satisfied with our plan. He takes monthly money from his account. I do not take it from mine, drawing a teacher retirement instead. But here's the thing. Every year, I have to take a certain amount of money out of one account, because it was my mom's that was an IRA, perhaps. I know nothing about this stuff. I'm a technology simpleton and a financial idiot.'s not like I can pick up the check there at the office. It has to be mailed after the transactions are made. No choice. I guess it's a corporate thing. Anyhoo...every year I stress about whether that check will make it to my hands without some mailbox thief grabbing it first. But THIS time, Finny's Girl said they could deposit it directly in our account. All she needed was a voided check to set it up.

Of course I'd left my purse in SilverRedO, because I never need it here at the Financial Shop. Hick went out to get it for me. While I was signing the paperwork, Finny said that one of my accounts had some cash on hand. Did I want to reinvest that, or have him cut a check. SHEESH! I didn't know there were going to be questions!

I asked Hick's opinion, and he said, "Might as well take it, with Christmas coming up." Even though I put money back every week for Christmas, and I'm pretty sure what he meant was "With my need for a new utility trailer to replace the one that we lost." DON'T GET ME STARTED!

Anyhoo...that withdrawal was also set up to be direct-deposited. So we have some extra money coming in that we don't really need, although I'm sure Hick will find a use for it. As we got up to leave, I checked the clock. It was 2:27. Exactly one hour. Funny how that worked out, huh?

If you thought this was boring to read...YOU SHOULD HAVE BEEN THERE!

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Hick Gets a Charge Out of Mick, and Bizarro News Off "The Facebook"

For those of you losing sleep over Hick's stolen tractor battery...sweet slumber awaits. The sheep are already lining up at the fence to be counted. Hick got a battery Tuesday, and has already used John Deere to blade the road. Gravel, of course. The bad blacktop cannot be helped.

Tuesday, we had some financial business to attend (don't get me started!), and stopped by Mick the Mechanic's shop to pick up T-Hoe (don't, DON'T get me started!) on the way home. Hick had mentioned how he might go get a tractor battery after dropping me off. He'd measured the size of the battery compartment so he'd know what size battery to get. Then he said,

"I bet Mick has a battery that will fit my tractor."

"You mean he has some there in the shop? Or that he'll order it from his parts guy and have it tomorrow?"

"Both. He keeps some there. Mick has to make a living, too. I like to buy from the little guy when I can."

"It will save you a 20-mile drive [sweave], and be less hassle."

We pulled onto Mick's lot, and saw one of his minions prying the door panel off T-Hoe (DON'T GET ME STARTED!), a sight so disturbing to me that I had to avert my eyes. Hick went in the big garage door, and came out about 60 seconds later with a battery.

"Did you pay him for that?"

"No. He said to take it. I'll pay him when I settle up."

Hick apparently runs a tab with Mick. He will gladly pay him Wednesday for a battery today.

Events took a strange turn about an hour later, when Hick returned to the house to tell me what he'd learned from the Facebook page of our informal homeowners' association.

"The guy up the road came home yesterday, and found THIS on his front porch!"

Hick showed me a picture of some Rubbermaid tubs and a pet carrier and some clothes and boxes. Piled in disarray on The Guy's porch.

"He wants to know if anybody saw any suspicious vehicles out here. He'd like footage from anybody who has a surveillance camera. I guess he thinks those dummies I put up are real."

"You can't tell him that! Then real thieves will know they're fake."

"I'm not going to say anything about the cameras. He said it was a gray van."

"Hey! I've seen a gray van out here. Last week! It was down by the mailboxes. I didn't recognize it, but I thought maybe it might be that guy who asked you to blade his driveway for free, with the kids that you fixed the bus-waiting shed for. Because that's a lot of kids, and they probably have a van."

"You know, they might have something to do with it. I don't know if they have a van. But the girl was up at my Storage Unit Store this weekend, with another family. I figured maybe they had her for the weekend. Maybe those people brought some stuff out for her, and thought that was her house."

"I don't know. But people who drive that van probably don't have a Garmin in it. And most addresses out here aren't marked."

"Yeah. It could have been them. I didn't see what they were driving, and I don't know of any van out here."

Wednesday afternoon, Hick was lounging in the La-Z-Boy, due to rain and no tractor-fiddling, waiting for auction time. Then I heard him stumping down the basement steps.

"Hey, a gray van just went up the road!"

"I KNEW I'd seen one!"

"I don't know where it's going, but The Guy put more information on The Facebook. He said it was HIS stuff on his porch! That he broke up with his girlfriend, and has a restraining order against her, and that her and her new boyfriend came out and dumped his stuff on the porch."

"Well, at least he got his stuff."

"Yeah, but he wants footage of them because he has the restraining order."

I don't know if one incident is related to the other. Nobody else has had anything STOLEN, but The Guy has had things GIVEN. These van people are the new variable in the equation. Nothing stolen in the past 20 years, until now...

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Halt and Battery

Hick's do-goody road grading has come to a halt. His favorite tractor, the blue New Holland, has something wrong with it. He thinks a wire fell off or something, the last time he parked it. We won't go into the last time he used it at this juncture. Maybe another day.

Anyhoo...he's been waiting for The Veteran to come out and help him get at the parts he wants to inspect. He's been troubleshooting some easier stuff. It's like a fire was lit under him Monday, diving right into that chore, after letting the mechanical beast cool its tires over by the BARn for at least a month now. I'm pretty sure this spur to action has something to do with the fact that a mere 12 hours earlier, I had ordered him an operator's manual. Which don't come cheap, and sometimes don't come at all, being mostly an online thing these days for a tractor from 1998-2003.

Anyhoo...with The Veteran unable to assist, and Hick having run out of things he could do while elbow-deep in the New Holland's mechanical entrails, he decided to work on the roads a little. He still has the John Deere, you know, despite promising to sell it ten years ago if I gave him permission to buy the New Holland. Sheesh! It's not like we make a living harvesting corn. We could get by without even ONE tractor if we had to.

Anyhoo...Hick last used the John Deere a month or six weeks ago, he says. It's been parked over by the BARn as well, near the New Holland. Hick tried to start up John Deere, and he got nothing.

"I thought that was weird. It always turns over. But it was completely dead. So I figured I needed to jump it. That battery is 8 or 9 years old. I opened up the battery compartment, and


Somebody stole the battery out of the John Deere!"

As you might imagine, Hick is not at all happy with this discovery. Never mind that the battery WAS 8 or 9 years old, and not that great anyway. It's the principle of the matter.

"I got on our Facebook page to tell everyone what happened. How I went to drive my tractor, thought I needed to jump the battery, and found out I didn't have a battery any more. Then I said, 'I guess we've got a thief around here.' Oh, they'll all see it. Everybody out here is on that Facebook page. You'd think if someone's been robbing, other people would have been complaining of stuff missing, too. 

I doubt anyone come up in here just to rob US. So it's probably somebody who lives out here and knows I've got the tractor, or a friend they've brought up in here. Like when we have the trash throwed out in the yard. Nobody who lives here would do that. But their visitors would. And I did think I saw tire tracks in the field a while back. And 4-wheeler tracks back behind the Freight Container Garage. I didn't think nothin' of that, because my buddy up the road sometimes drives down here, looking for me. But he usually tells me he was here."

"Heh, heh. At least whoever stole it got an 8 or 9 year old battery. I'm pretty sure they would have driven down in the field. Nobody's going to park on the road, walk down, and carry a battery around when they can just load it."

"Yeah. I'm gonna put up that surveillance system that Back Creek Neighbor Bev's husband gave me when I put in his new one. Then we can see who comes in there."

"Would that battery work in a car? Why would they want it?"

"It would only work in an OLD car. Or an old truck. The posts are on top of the battery. They'd have to get a part to make it work in a newer car. The new batteries have a side post."

"There's a couple of crappy old trucks I've seen down on the lower road. Why wouldn't they just steal a car battery out of a car, though?"

"Who knows why they do what they do."

"Why didn't they take the battery out of the New Holland? It's newer, and was sitting right there. You checked it, didn't you?"

"Yeah. The New Holland still has its battery. But they'd have to know how to get the battery case open. That one's tricky."

Poor Hick. It's a pity he doesn't have something like a $17,000 Freight Container Garage to park his tractors in...