Monday, January 23, 2017

Oh, the shame of it all.

I was in northern California last week and watched the presidential inauguration in the lobby of a Sacramento hotel. Earlier in the week, storms had uprooted trees and knocked down lines all over that part of the state. The hotel parking lot was crowded with heavy duty trucks, and the lobby with outdoorsy looking men dressed in tight jeans and wide brimmed Western hats. I was reminded of Glen Campbell’s Wichita Lineman.

All in all, it seemed an unremarkable ceremony. It was interesting to study the body language of the former presidents and watching George Bush wrestle with his rain cape was a hoot.  

But hold on there. As Mr. Trump began his address, I spied a familiar face back of the new president’s right shoulder. Horrified, I waited for the camera to swing back in his direction hoping all the while that I was wrong, but I wasn’t.

There was Rick Perry, former governor of the great state of Texas right out there in front of God and most of the world, civilized and otherwise, chewing gum. He isn’t much younger than I and should be familiar with the poem Mother used to recite about gum chewers.

The gum chewing girl and the cud chewing cow
are somewhat alike
yet they differ somehow.
What is that difference?
Oh yes, I see now!
It's the thoughtful expression on the face of the cow.

Doesn’t Texas have enough image problems without that?





Sunday, January 8, 2017

Flowery Name Camouflages the Heart of a Mighty Hunter


One of the regulars at the off-leash dog park found Lily. She’d been abandoned in a park just across the state line in Mississippi and had assumed responsibility for guarding the dumpster there.

A terrier mix, Lily has the same coloring and shaggy fur as Benjie. Her rescuer wanted to give Lily a home, but his Blue Heeler, Ruby Jean, was jealous to the point of making herself sick over the intrusion.

Lily was subsequently adopted by another regular at the park who had recently lost her dog. The two are part of a group who meet most every morning at the park to walk and enjoy the fresh air while their dogs romp and play together.

The park is inhabited by all the wildlife typical of the Mid-South: rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, deer, bobcats, voles and moles.

True to her breed, Lily is an efficient hunter of small vermin. She also has a “soft mouth” which means she can catch and kill a varmint and carry it back and forth across hundreds of acres of park without leaving a mark on the body.

Lily’s mistress is a narrow minded individual when it comes to dead critters and won’t allow her to carry her trophies home in their car which explains the mole cemetery by the park’s back parking lot.

At one point, earlier last fall before the sharp freeze, Lily had caught 8 ½ moles. The walkers explained that the ½ mole was “deceased” (their choice of words, not mine) and half gone when Lily found it, but they decided to give her a half credit in case there was a run-off later in the mole catching season. She’s caught so many since then it’s become routine, and they’ve lost count.

I’ve seen a mole up close thanks to Lily. They’re bigger than the hand of an average-sized adult woman with other-worldly looking front paws. The snout and tail have the appearance of delicate pink porcelain. Despite all the time and money I’ve spent battling moles and voles in my own back yard, it gave me a fresh appreciation for Mr. Mole in Wind in the Willows.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Turtle

Early one morning a month or so ago, I walked through a low wooded spot at the end of a pond in the dog park. A turtle shell lay in the middle of the path.  It was missing large chunks from the edges. The day was overcast making it difficult to see clearly, but it also looked as though there was a jagged hole in the middle of the shell.

I stepped around it and went on my way with the thought that I was leaving the poor thing alone to die in peace, but when I looked back to make sure my dog was following me, he was sniffing the shell, and I thought I saw the turtle’s head stretched out as though trying to ward off the dog’s attention.

I went back that afternoon to check on it, but the turtle was gone. It had found the strength to move on to the nearby body of water to hibernate or perhaps die. There weren't many in the park that day. I doubt it was disturbed by another dog walker. 

While out Christmas shopping a day or so later, I received a call from the woman who grew up on the farm next to ours in the early 1950’s. She had sad news. The man who had been my friend since we were in the three-year-old class in Sunday School had died from a heart attack. Although life had carried us in vastly different directions, and we did not stay in touch, I did hear of him now and again through mutual friends, and we had recently re-connected at my book signing in Bastrop.

The death of this man who learned to play Pin the Tail on the Donkey at my third birthday party left me feeling lost. I'd been robbed of a significant segment of my roots. Hearing about him or from him now and again had helped keep me grounded in the community of my childhood, and now that connection was gone.

A former neighbor died a few days before Christmas. Her youngest two children (of five) had been about the same age as my two oldest and are still close friends. At Easter, we would hold the egg hunt in my back yard and serve refreshments in hers.

She’d been in a nursing home in the throes of Alzheimer’s for years. Her middle-aged sons had taken turns stopping by to feed her dinner on the way home from work while her cousin and others from her church had regularly visited with communion. She received the same loving attention she’d given her community. Now she was dead and at peace.

Although I’m not wise enough to totally understand, I’m sure there was a reason why she was so terribly sick for so long. Part of it may have been to draw her children even closer together. They are such a close family. Perhaps it took that long for them to adjust to the idea of losing her.

Through this most holy season and the experience of losing these loved ones, my thoughts keep returning to that turtle. Although it may not be as visible, the shell around my heart has sustained some terrific blows from the loss of loved ones. There are also great holes in my life where people I love are missing.