Tag Archives: fear

Adventures in Lawn Care

Standard
https://i2.wp.com/bugwoodcloud.org/images/384x256/5430151.jpg

Argiope aurantia, Yellow Garden Spider aka: Daughter of Rodan

Lately, I have been remiss in my duty to the grass. This lackadaisical approach along with some recent showers resulted in a stunning greensward behind our home.  Mama, God rest her precious soul, would have called it “snaky” for fear of encountering Mr. No Shoulders. I realized something had to be done before the situation got completely out of hand, so — having finished the ritual Monday “Home Blessing Hour” — I went to cut grass.

First, I reanimated “Frankie,” short for “The Bride of Frankenstein,” my ancient and trustworthy riding mower. She looks a sight. No cowling; no seat cover, and no wires because I cut every wire I could after I got fed up restarting the engine every time I tripped a kill switch. Frankie now cuts forward, backward, and upside down whether I’m on the seat or not. I know because I’ve rolled her twice and both times, the engine kept on trucking until the gravity feed carburetor ran dry.

With Frankie rolling, I started cutting the back yard. Something nagged at the back of my mind, but try as I might, it just wouldn’t come to the surface so I could remember it. I only knew it was important. Then, I rounded the pool — aka, “The Bane of My Existence” — and the day got interesting.

I don’t know how many of you have ever seen a Yellow Garden Spider. Here, folks call them “Writing Spiders” because they often have crazy designs in their extremely elaborate webs which might be seen as writing. The tale goes if you see your name in a Writing Spider’s web, you’re going to die soon. I’ve never given that particular lore much credence since EVERY wives tale in the South ends with “that means you’ll die soon!”

I’d seen this gal last time I cut grass but, I started cutting the other way round that day and saw her large web with a great deal of warning. I gave her the wide berth she deserved that time. Yellow Garden Spiders are large arachnids, typically about the size of a saucer. She was bigger, about the size of Granny Wham’s turkey platter. Well today, Frankie’s front bumper twanged Daughter of Rodan’s web and things headed downhill.

The contact with the bumper caused her web to oscillate, near to me then far from me. Faster than I could see, she scuttled to the center of her web where the amplitude of the web-wave was greatest. I didn’t know spiders understood physics, so I guessed her devious spider mind a split second too late. Just as the web reached its apogee, she hurled herself towards me. Time stopped; she hung suspended in midflight. For a moment, we were eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball to eyeball. Time restarted. She did NOT land on my face, neck, or chest. Otherwise, why the fat man on the lawnmower had a massive coronary would be a mystery.

She landed on Frankie’s steering wheel and looked right at me.

Now, beloved, I am a gentle man. I don’t kill anything but roaches, mosquitoes and fire ants and only if they bother me. If I see a spider in the house, I trap it and set it outside. If I had to butcher my own meat, I would die of starvation. I’m not a treehugger or anything. I’ve just lived long enough to recognize all God’s creatures are just trying to get by as best they can like the rest of us.

Brethren, in addition to being a gentle man, I am also a generous man.  I would happily give a stranger the shirt off my back. If Budge didn’t watch over me, I’d have given the house away by now. When I stand before the Judgement Seat of Christ, I will have a plethora of thingsto answer for, but neither greed nor lack of charity will be among them. Since charity is in my heart and I possess a giving spirit, I could tell in an instant that spider needed Frankie’s services more than I did. So, I left her with it.

Folks will tell you a 350 lbs 5’10” man can’t possibly do a backflip off a riding lawnmower from a seated position. Folks are wrong; I even stuck the landing. Then, Frankie started backing up towards me. Right then, cutting the kill switch wires seemed a bit premature. Of course, this eight legged refugee from a B-movie probably weighed enough to keep the switch closed. I thought, “She’s coming to finish the job!” Now how’s that for gratitude? Let the spider have the lawnmower and she tries to run me down.

Folks will tell you a 350 lbs 5’10” man can’t possibly vault a six-foot tall chain link fence from a flat-footed position. Folks are wrong. With enough motivation, it is not only possible, it is quite easy and a spider the size of a dinner platter riding backwards on a lawnmower happens to be enough motivation. Unfortunately, I didn’t stick that landing. I landed flat of my back, knocking all the breath out of me. When I recovered — with some helpful face licks from Bozo, the neighbor’s beagle —  I looked between my feet to see Frankie straining to push through the fence I had just jumped. Daughter of Rodan was gone.

Replaying the events later, I realized I’d probably knocked the mower into reverse in my haste to give over operation to the Daughter of Rodan. I say “probably” because I saw her eyes. She might have decided to take me out and spend the rest of her days bragging about catching “the big one” down at the Spider Club while playing eight handed bridge and munching on candied flies as my stuffed head looked on.

We’ll never know.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

 

 

 

First You Say It, Then You Do It

Standard

wheels-falling-offI almost died Christmas Eve, and I’m told it would have put a damper on the holidays.

Christmas Eve fell on a Tuesday so, like every Tuesday, I went to Clinton to National Health Care to check on Granny Ima and see if she would let me clean and polish her nails. Now Mama and I used to go to Columbia to spend every Christmas Eve with Granny when I was a child so in some ways, I found the whole trip ironic. Granny was happy and she smiled and said a few words, which was the best Christmas present she could give me, but she didn’t want her nails messed with, so I sat and talked to her until her CNA came to get her for lunch. Then, I kissed her goodbye, got in my truck, and headed home to get ready to go to Rob’s for Christmas Eve supper.

I bought my 1994 Ford F-150 with a little of Mama’s insurance money so it’s extremely special to me.  Anyway, as I was leaving Clinton on State 308, I called my great-Aunt Pearl (Ima’s oldest sister) to apprise her of Granny’s condition and state of mind. We were talking as I merged onto I-385 and when I gave the old girl some gas, I felt a pronounced thump. I told Aunt Pearl I’d have to call her back, hung up and concentrated on the sound.

It was an intermittent noise, which is aggravating to diagnose, and I’m not an accomplished mechanic, but I was pretty convinced it was a universal joint needing replacing or maybe an exhaust hanger had popped loose when a woman in a PT Cruiser had tapped me in the rear end in downtown Clinton that morning. I sped up to 85 mph and the noise went away. I gently applied the brakes and the noise didn’t come back. So I turned the radio back up, passed a few slow-moving cars, and continued on my way.

When I went under the State Road 92 bridge, the thump became a clunk. I had tons of ideas running through my head and all of them centered on how I was going to pay to fix whatever u-joint or exhaust hanger needed attention. I also considered the motor might be going and just about cried. I call her “Mama’s Final Gift” and I’ve become seriously attached, but all the gauges read okay so I kept on and the sound stopped eventually.

I exited I-385 and turned left onto State Highway 418 about 23 miles later and when I hit 60 mph, the noise came back. I was almost home though, so I just started the “c’mon, baby, hold together” Han Solo talk. Then, quite literally, the wheels fell off the apple cart. I slowed down to a crawl to turn right onto the road to home and saw a tire and wheel pass me. My brain had just enough time to register the thought of “that’s strange; someone’s wheel is rolling down the road,” before the left front end of the truck slammed into the pavement and the truck jolted up and down with enough force to knock my head smartly on the roof of the cab. Then an awful grinding noise filled the air and I realized the wheel in question was mine. I drove on the brake rotor about ten yards until my brain finally got the message to my foot that it was still pressing the gas instead of the brake and I stopped. Then, it hit me.

My wheel fell off my truck!

I just lost my freaking wheel!

I followed my first instinct when something crazy like that happens to me and started to call Mama, realizing just in time my long distance plan wasn’t quite that good. So I switched gears and called Budge six times and she didn’t answer the phone. It didn’t bother me though; I think I was still in shock because, you know — wheel fell off and all. In fact, some primitive part of my brain still functioning correctly posed a very good question: what was Budge supposed to do if I DID talk to her? Raise the truck with telekinesis? Realizing I had not, in fact, married Carrie White, I called Rob, my stepdad, just as he was pulling into the yard from work. I explained my predicament and he said to sit tight, he’d get Baby Huey (my 6’6″, 375 lbs “baby” stepbrother Travis) and he’d be right on.

By then, Budge had finished her shower and called me back. I think all she heard was “wheel fell off.” Ten minutes later she found me sitting on the lowered tailgate of my truck having spoken to a few friends I’d called just to pass the time. It was while sitting there calmly drinking a bottle of water the reality and gravity of the situation. The noise I’d heard coming out of Clinton was the wheel wobbling as one or more lug nuts decided to take a vacation. The second noise was the exodus of even more of these vital little hunks of metal. The terrible vibration I felt on the off ramp and 418 was the wheel wobbling on the studs devoid of attachments.

I started to shake a little. As slow as I was going as I turned onto the road, the wheel leaving still caused a bad jolt. Now, imagine for a moment: What would have happened if that same wheel had flown off while I was on I-385? wheel

I KNOW what would have happened because I’ve seen it happen during NASCAR races. The rotor would have dug into the asphalt, Newton’s First Law of Motion would have taken over and I’d have started either flipping end over end or doing some sweet barrel rolls down the highway. Since I wasn’t wearing my seat belt (they are under the seat cover) I’d have been ejected through the shattered windshield or the shattered side window, the truck would have hit me or the care behind would have run me over, I would have died on Christmas Eve 2013 and that would have sucked.

I don’t know why the wheel stayed on until I was going slow enough to survive the results. I know a lot of people would call it a neat coincidence. I don’t. See, as I was putting the wheel back on the truck, I asked myself why the lug holes in the rim were threaded while the studs were smooth. That’s when I realized the rim had ridden on the studs long enough to smooth them out while cutting threads into the rim. That’s not all; when I borrowed a lug nut from the other wheels, I discovered every lug nut was loose. Y’all skeptics think what you want and call me whatever you please, but I think Jesus and Mama were watching out for me one more time and I’m certainly thankful they were.

Love y’all and hope the new year is off to a great start! Keep those feet clean!

They Say It Never Rains In Upstate South Carolina

Standard

Actually, what “they” say is, “Seems it never rains in Southern California.” Still, I think it’s apropos, especially considering the rest of the chorus of that Albert Hammond one-hit wonder goes

Seems I’ve often heard that kind of talk before
It never rains in California
But girl, don’t they warn ya
It pours man it pours

Well the last three weeks, it has POURED. Literally and metaphorically. I’m talking frog-strangling, log-floating, fish-choking deluges of biblical proportions and at the moment, Father Noah is awol and they’s nary an Ark in sight. I mean, I’ve been through some rough patches in my life. It happens to us all. I understand that. The Bible says the Lord makes it rain on the just and the unjust alike. We all take our turn in the barrel as the old crude joke punchline says. Here lately though, I think I’m getting my rain and someone else’s monsoon to boot.

Let me give you, my beloved readers, a quick rundown on the last three weeks around Chez Wham.

  1. I lost or misplaced or had my iPod stolen. It was old, but it was mine and it had all my iUni podcasts on it.
  2. Budge’s pool, or as I like to call it “that godforsaken swamp in my backyard,” has eaten chemicals like I eat wintergreen Lifesavers. I hate that pool.
  3. Daddy had to go to Charleston to have a heart cath because his last nuclear stress test wasn’t what it should have been. Turns out he has a touch of heart damage at the bottom of his heart so he’s going to have to add some heart medicine to his daily regime.
  4. My nephew, Mason, had a horrendous allergic reaction to an antibiotic he was taking and for three days, Nick and Sissy though they were going to have to hospitalize him. He was head to toe red welts. He’s better now, but it was terrifying.
  5. Mama’s home healthcare nurse sat her down and explained that her C.O.P.D. has reached the terminal stages. She’s not going down without a fight, but I’m afraid most of the fight has gone out of her. I’m looking at life without my Mama sooner instead of later.
  6. Budge has been gone for two weeks this summer in the midst of all this mess going on and anyone who knows me KNOWS how well I do when I don’t have my Budge around to moderate my moods for me.
  7. Our DSL and phone lines had to be replaced because they were slowly giving up the ghost. Some people might say home internet is frivolous; those people are not teachers.
  8. The pastor on staff at church whom I was always closest to and would have turned to in the midst of all this mess was dismissed from the staff for good cause. To quote Forrest, “and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.”
  9.  I got a surprise from the IRS in the form of a tax bill to cover a mistake I made two years ago. Uncle Sam wants about $3000 of “his” money back. People in Hell want ice water, too. One more payment a month.
  10. Three of four tires on my beloved Honda Element have picked up nails or screws in the shoulders beyond the range of the tire company’s ability to safely patch them. The fourth tire was already patched. I don’t have road hazard protection on them. Lately, I’ve been riding around with an air compressor in the back.
  11. The back porch at the Ancestral Manse (Mama’s house) caught on fire and burned 1/4 of the structure. It’s now unsafe to walk on, much less get Mama’s wheelchair up or down. Estimated cost to replace? Somewhere in the $1K to $3.5K range depending on lumber costs.
  12. JUST LAST NIGHT, I was washing clothes and the sink and both tubs started gurgling like a demon had possessed them. I went in our bathroom to see what was wrong and met an inch of water standing in the floor with more coming from the porcelain throne. It was all thick with lint and suds. Septic tank’s full after 16 years. Cost to get it pumped? At LEAST $350. Might as well be three million.

Now I didn’t tell you all that to get pity and I don’t want anything from anyone. I just had to get all this off my chest or I was going to explode. I’m a talker and sometimes I just feel better getting everything out. Kind of like squeezing a boil.  It has LITERALLY been from one thing to another this entire summer. Like I said before, poop happens. I know everybody’s got troubles. I also know that misery loves company and, sweet brothers and sisters, I could use some company right along now.

Still love y’all and try to keep those feet clean!

100 Years Since “A Night to Remember”

Standard

The last known picture of the "unsinkable" RMS Titanic as she left harbour for her rendezvous with fate.

At 2:20 AM, 100 years ago this morning, the RMS Titanic‘s keel broke in two just before she dove 2.3 miles down to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean carrying nearly 1,000 people to the Stygian depths with her. Around 500 more unfortunate souls were swept from her swiftly tilting decks into the sub-freezing waters of the North Atlantic to drown or die of hypothermia or shock within minutes of entering the water.

The disastrous sinking of the Titanic is the subject of thousands of articles, hundreds of websites, a multitude of full length books, and at least eight full length feature films . . . and that’s just in English. The individual triumphs and tragedies of surrounding the voyage are the stuff of legends and people like the ebullient buoyant “Unsinkable” Molly Brown, the craven coward J. Bruce Ismay, or tragically shortsighted Captain Edward J. Smith live on in our memories to this day — one century later.

Nothing I could write about the disaster hasn’t already been written and by much better writers than I. Still, this disaster is one which resonates with something deep inside my mind and fills me with dread and foreboding even here in my warm, dry, and safe office. In my mind’s eye, I can see, with little trouble, the chaotic terror washing over the decks of the doomed ship like the water which would carry her to her grave. Imagine what it had to be like in the lower decks where the Second Class and lower passengers were trapped and trampled in the mad rush toward the top of the ship. Think of the brave, doomed men of the boiler rooms who stayed at their posts shoveling coal into the boilers to keep the spark of the wireless dancing as long as possible.

Photo of the iceberg that sank Titanic taken by a crewman of RMS Carpathia as she collected survivors and bodies following the disaster.

Should this world stand long enough and the Almighty tarry in His return, we shall all die. That is a certainty which comforts some and terrorizes others, but it is a certainty nonetheless. Still it is one thing to be felled by a lightening strike, a car accident, or some dreadful disease, but how many of us are fated to watch helplessly — as the people aboard the doomed liner were — Death’s slow, inexorable approach? Could you stand to watch the water slowly, then not so slowly, rise up the deck as you held your child upon your shoulders in a vain effort to keep him from the water a second longer? Would you jump into the frigid, salty blackness and clutch Death to your bosom like a lover just to make an end?

The wreck of the Titanic is something which haunts my nightmares even though it occurred long before even my grandparents were born because nearly every race and social strata participated on the Titanic’s maiden voyage so it is a picture of the death of the world in miniature. The people aboard the liner were happy and looking ahead to a bright future one moment then marking the steady approach of Death the next. What if instead of an iceberg plowing into a ship it is an asteroid plowing into the Earth? Those on the ship had two hours to ponder . . . how long would we have?

It makes me think of the people trapped above the crash levels in the Twin Towers. That was another microcosm of total destruction. People who are going about their everyday lives all morning then without warning they are off to meet the One whom Bertrand Russell and Richard Dawkins bet their lives and souls is not there. Can you feel the bitter cold of the water? Can you feel the rush of the air sweeping by as you plunge from 110 stories up?

The bow of RMS Titanic as she sits at the bottom of the North Atlantic, slowly turning into powder like the dreams of those who perished aboard her.

The water isn’t the most terrifying aspect of that horrible night for me, however. The worst scenario my mind can imagine is to be one of those who likely made it alive 2.3 miles down. Of course people scoff at that idea. No one could have survived that descent could they? I remember when NASA went public with the revelation that the crew of the space shuttle Challenger actually survived the initial explosion and were alive for the seven minute plunge to the ocean where the force of impact killed them. What if someone or several someones were happily sealed inside one of the many watertight rooms aboard the ship? What if they made it to the bottom? How did they die in the inky blackness at the bottom of the ocean? Suffocation or starvation? It’s a horrible thought, but not impossible. The interior of the wreck has never been even halfway fully explored. When you are as claustrophobic and fearful of the dark as I am, such a possibility is too terrible to imagine, but not too awful to be ruled out.

In any event, the loss of 1,514 people in the black icy water of the North Atlantic 100 years ago is a tragedy almost too great to imagine, if for no other reason it was so completely avoidable at so many points, but none of that matters anymore. To this day, it is the 8th greatest loss of life in a non-military maritime disaster in recorded history. So when you think of the Titanic or, God forbid, go see the hideous 3-D adaptation of the already hideous 1997 James Cameron movie, remember the words to an old hymn and say a prayer for those await the day when the sea shall give up her dead.

Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Love y’all and keep those feet clean.

A rare postscript

I feel this particular picture did not fit with the tone of the rest of this post, but I must include it in any discussion where that abominable 1997 movie might come up . . .

This highlighted frame capture shows the piece of flotsam CLEARLY has enough room for Rose AND Jack if only the selfish cow had possessed the common decency to SIT UP or SKOOCH OVER!

Being Unemployed Isn’t for the Fainthearted

Standard

It’s just twenty minutes until tomorrow so I’ll start calling Monday yesterday, as in — yesterday, I spent a little over four HOURS at the unemployment office. I filed my paperwork for the final extended benefits plan. If I get approved, I’ll have fourteen more weeks of unemployment insurance checks then I’ll become a “Ninety-niner” that some people are talking about. Ninety-nine weeks unemployed.

It’s hard to believe just how clueless some people are about being unemployed. I was reading the comment section of an article in the local newspaper on the stagnant job market and some of the commentators were HORRIBLE. I didn’t know I was such a lazy, useless bum who is attempting to be a parasite on the backsides of hardworking people.

I’ll tell them what they can do as far as backsides are concerned.

The unemployment office was packed today and I saw all shapes and kinds of misery AND con-artists. I know out of the room of about 500 people, more than one really has no intention of ever finding a job for longer than it takes to accrue more unemployment. Any system is going to have people who take advantage of it. Mostly what I saw today though was people hurting. One lady broke my heart. Her company abruptly shut down last week and when I say abrupt I’m talking “note on the door” style. She was about my age and she was just in tears because she had no idea what came next.

I’ve seen that several times when I’ve gone to file this or that paperwork. Mixed in with the lip ring wearing, saggy pants, hats on backwards crowd who’ve never worked an honest day in their lives are seriously decent folks who have ALWAYS worked and now they find themselves in their fifties and, in too many cases, sixties with no job, no insurance, and — increasingly — no hope.

You get to talk A LOT to a great many people in four hours of sitting and standing in line. I heard several common refrains like “overqualified,” “no experience in X field,” and the ubiquitous “it just looks like no jobs are out there.” In the comments I mentioned earlier, one self-righteous gentleman said with great pride that he’d “NEVER been out of work and if he ever found himself unemployed he DAMN SURE wouldn’t take 99 weeks to find another job.”

Oh really? My mama taught me a long time ago, NEVER say what you’ll NEVER do. You just might be surprised.

People not in the situation LOVE to say things like, “Go get a job at McDonalds or WalMart — they are always hiring.” Um, no, their not. It is an employer’s market right now. Businesses can pick and chose because they know how desperate people have become. The worst thing is, education used to be a bulwark against unemployment, but now, it’s a hindrance to finding another job. For example, I have a Masters Degreee AND all my recent work experience is in education. Someone takes one look at my resume’ and realizes I’m a teacher. Well, they aren’t stupid; they know that I’ll be looking for another teaching job and as soon as I find one — hasta la vista, Baby.

I’ve actually had an HR interviewer tell me that I’m almost unemployable outside of my field because no one wants to invest time or effort training someone who has an established career. I could LIE and say I have no intention of looking for another job in the schools, but I’ve found lying is a pretty low percentage game most of the time. The fact is, yes, if I’m a sales clerk at Target and a principal calls me and says, “come be our librarian,” I am GONE. As Lynyrd Skynyrd put it so eloquently, “Call me the breeze.”\

Unfortunately, the longer I’m out of the library, the rustier and rustier my skills get. I’d love to still be able to look through VOYA and SLJ, but my budget didn’t have room for $120 subscriptions. I sat down the other day and pulled up some the YA section on Amazon. I didn’t recognize much. When you aren’t talking with other librarians and students and teachers about books and computers and research and stuff . . . well, the edge starts to go.

So. What’s the answer? No clue. I’ve got a final fourteen weeks to figure it out before I become one of those people who help artificially inflate the “unemployment recovery rate” by falling off the job seeking roles. If you aren’t getting money anymore, you aren’t counted as unemployed. Go figure.

In any event, keep me in your thoughts and prayers. I’m not panicking because that won’t do anyone any good — especially me. Sorry about the short rambling post — it’s been a trying day and I wanted to vent a bit.

Love y’all and keep those feet clean!

A Layman’s Observations of Applied Herpetology

Standard

 

Image is to scale and quite accurate I might add.

 

I just wanted all of you to know Budge has a final goodbye post from me in the event of my unforeseen and untimely demise. I thought y’all should know that because she almost had to upload that document Monday morning.

I dropped Budge off at school and returned home before 8:00 AM. It was quite cool Monday morning so I thought it would be the perfect time to tear down the pool pump and filter for its long winter’s nap. It’s usually a dirty, unpleasant job and, given my large man propensity for sweating, not something I like to do in direct sunlight.

So, beginning the task, I went to my ManCave workshop for the tools I would need for the job minus — of course — the obligatory “wrench-that-I-knew-I’d-need-but-swore-I-wouldn’t”. I walked to the pump, sat the tools down, used the screwdriver to remove the intake and outlet hoses, tried to take the filter seal loose with a wrench that was close, but not the right one because I didn’t want to walk back to the workshop, let that wrench smash my hand between the filter housing and seal, cursed loudly, went back to the workshop to get the aforementioned forgotten correct wrench, returned, and removed the filter from the mounts. I took the filter around to the hose to wash it and went back to get the pump. I unplugged said pump, reached down, grabbed the pump, heaved it up, glanced down, and nearly soiled my undergarments.

Right where my hand had JUST been engaged in lifting the pump,  lay coiled the unholy hybrid offspring of an anaconda and a king cobra. I’m quite certain he also had some western diamondback rattlesnake somewhere in his family tree because I’m positive I heard a buzzing rattle as he coiled to strike me down where I stood. He was no less than 25 feet long, big around as my sizable thigh with six-inch sabertooth fangs dripping with neurohemocytotoxins heretofore unknown to man.

How such a huge serpent managed to squeeze under a filter platform barely 2′ x 2′ square, I’ll never know. He must have had some sort of extradimensional space-time altering mind powers.

Confronted with this massive specimen of reptilian death machinery, I did what any red-blooded American male would do in such a circumstance — I screamed like a little girl at a Justin Bieber concert. Afterwords, I turned to run, forgetting that I still had the pool pump — all thirty pounds of it — in my hands with the cord still dangling between my feet. As I turned, I managed to step solidly on this particular cord. This action, true to Newtonian physics, caused the pump to jerk out of my hands and land — all forty pounds of it — directly on the top of my Croc-clad left foot. That would be the one with the badly ingrown toenail. Twenty five pounds of the filter crushed my instep while the other twenty-five pounds found that very toe.

However, at the time I was dropping the sixty pound pump onto my Croc-clad foot and severely ingrown toenail, I was in the process of turning AND accelerating to Warp Factor 9 like the Starship Enterprise running from an Imperial Star Destroyer. All this pain, acceleration, and torque had the effect of causing the thought-producing portions of my brain to say, “The hell with this, I’m going to Florida” at which point my lower limbs, now leaderless, tripped over the seventy pound pool pump and came crashing to the dew-soaked grass in a heap of agony completely at the mercy of Kaa the Python.

Luckily, no one was around to witness this debacle except Jack, my beloved dog, who had watched the whole scene with typical canine stoicism. Seeing me in distress, he promptly did what he always does when I nearly break my neck and end up on the ground, like the two times I flipped the riding lawn mower over on top of myself. He sauntered over and licked me on the cheek that wasn’t plastered to the ground.

The faithful dog saliva had the effect of breaking the mind control spell force field cast on my by the 18″ long, thumb thick Eastern Dusty Pine Snake still curled up in the depression where the eighty pound pump had been seconds ago. As I climbed unsteadily and extremely painfully to my feet, the little fellow began to very slowly try to make an escape. He was sluggish with morning cold and probably terrified at the surreality playing out before his bright, beady little serpentine eyes.

I figure his cold-induced torpor was what made it so easy for Jack’s doggie kiss to break the formidable illusion the poor thing had obviously cast as his first line of defense.

I’m not the reincarnation of Steve Irwin by any stretch, but I refuse to kill anything that is not actively attempting to harm me or someone (human, feline, or canine) under my care. If I had to kill my own meat instead of buying it from the insulating safety of the supermarket, I would be a vegan or, more likely, starve to death. If I accidentally run over a frog hopping across the road after a downpour, the rest of my day and a good chunk of the next one is ruined.

With that in mind, I went BACK to the workshop and got my six foot long rod with the crook on the end I keep for just such an occasion. Returning to the narrow fellow in the grass’ burrow, I gently lifted him up with the crook and carefully deposited him over the back fence near a large brush pile that he will likely find much quieter and safer than a burrow under a ninety pound pool pump.

Love y’all and don’t forget to check the tub for Mr. No Shoulders before you wash those feet!

Seriously Embarrassing Moments I

Standard

Really shouldn't be playing FreeCell in church!

A great many people are surprised to learn that I am an ordained minister.  Strange as it may seem to those who know me, I, in fact, possess not one, but two ordinations.

In one of the churches Budge and I attended while courting, and for a long time after our marriage, I was an unpaid associate pastor and technical support. I knew more about computers and A/V technology than anyone else in the 200 member congregation so when tech issues came up, I was in charge of fixing them.

When I first started attending, we sang off the wall songs — literally. We had the lyrics printed on transparencies. During service, a praise team member would place a transparency on an overhead that projected the words onto a side wall of the choir loft. On a good day, the transparency would be the correct song AND in the correct orientation (i.e. not upside down or flipped so the words were mirror written.) In the name of progress, however, the church council decided to ditch the overhead and jump the digital divide by installing a first class media projector on the 50′ ceiling of the sanctuary and connecting this marvel to a computer in the back balcony.

Here my troubles began.

One of the duties of my ministry to the church was to run the PowerPoint presentation of songs that replaced the overhead sheets. I would flip back and forth between songs or between verse and chorus. I don’t know how many of you have ever attended a true Pentecostal service, but  if you go to a service and don’t know the words to the song, hymn, etc . . . don’t fret, you’ll know it just fine by the 17th time you sing it — while standing . . . and clapping.

The new system worked great during regular services. My conundrum came about the initial “First Sunday Night Singing” we used the new projector. Sunday Night Singing, for those who aren’t baptized in the Holy Ghost and Fire, is a once a month Sunday night service devoted to singing. We’d have solos, duets, the Ladies’ Ensemble and the Senior Men’s Quartet. You get the idea. I fixed up a set of slides in the order of the singers with the singer or group’s name. If I found out what they were singing, I’d put that underneath their names.

Because of that design trait, I almost got a double barrel blast of embarrassment because Dee and Kristie Gail were singing that first night. They are sisters from Harlan County Kentucky and universally known as “The Kentucky Sisters;” however, “The Kentucky Sisters” wouldn’t fit on the slide in the 125 point font I preferred so I decided to abbreviate it. As a result, I very nearly shot a slide onto the 15′ x 15′ screen in 8″ high letters that said, “The KY Sisters and ‘He Touched Me'”. It might have given Sister Molly Spell, the eldest member of the church, a heart attack . . . provided she knew what KY stood for besides Kentucky. At 92, I doubt it, but you never know. Anyway, I digress.

The singing was in full swing and I was changing slides every five to fifteen minutes depending on how much “the Spirit fell” during each song. During one of the longer stretches, I discovered the “FREEZE SCREEN” button on the projector remote control. To test it, I shot the projector and cued up the next slide and, sure enough, the monitor changed, but the screen didn’t! I thought I was in Fat City because, to be honest, it gets right boring alone in the balcony just pushing a button every now and again.

So, without another moment’s thought, I froze the screen and pulled up FreeCell — the King of Time Killer Card Games! I was on a roll that night. I’d won seven straight games and was immersed in game number 8 when I learned something about our particular model of Hitachi LCD projector — the “FREEZE SCREEN” function only lasts for 15 minutes at a time. After that, it releases and goes back to showing whatever is on the computer at the time. You haven’t lived until your FreeCell game suddenly appears behind the music pastor and his wife like Moses parting the Red Sea in DeMille’s “Ten Commandments”.

As one, the congregation turned towards the balcony. The shot only lasted MAYBE five seconds, but one can die a lifetime in five seconds. What’s worse, I could hear Sister Molly asking her granddaughter what was going on. Unfortunately, Sister Molly didn’t think her granddaughter had understood the aforementioned question and, being somewhat hard of hearing, she figured everyone else in the world shared her infirmity as well. So, with the church still silently stunned at the intrusion of the Devil’s handiwork into a worship service, and at the hands of the associate pastor no less, what did I hear loudly and clearly, along with most of the town of Fountain Inn a good twelve miles away?

“I SAID, ‘WAS THE YOUNG FELLER WINNIN’ OR NOT?!

The next Sunday, I noticed FreeCell had been deleted.

Love y’all!

Keep those feet clean 🙂

Manny and the Possum

Standard

My! What big teeth you have!

Manny and I attended the same church for several years and one Sunday between Sunday School and preaching service, he asked me about replacing a door in an oven. Now that was a bit of an unusual requests and he could tell I thought as much by the look on my face. Before I could ask why he needed to replace ONLY the door, he added, “All I really need is the glass.”

Apparently, Manny had engaged in some sort of mayhem and when I pointed this out, he turned beet red and spilled the beans.

The previous Friday night, in the wee hours of the morning sometime after dark o’clock, Manny’s new lovely wife Vicky had shaken him from a sound sleep with the news that an intruder of some stripe had invaded their home. Wide awake now, Manny lay still listening and, from the kitchen of the double-wide, came the sound of someone knocking over items.

Manny is not an especially brave man and he’s not an especially big man, but his wife was looking at him with big doe eyes that begged him for protection and, it WAS his house so, after a bit of deliberation, Manny reached under the bed where he kept his Ruger Single-Six .22 pistol. He cringed a bit when he remembered it only had the Long Rifle cylinder installed instead of the much more powerful .22 Magnum cylinder. He felt a bit cold as he realized that he was going to be facing down a possibly crazed and hardened, albeit toothless meth-head with little more than a pop gun. Still, he WAS the man of the house and this was one of those times he could shine in his new wife’s eyes.

He eased down the hall with his 6 D-cell Maglite in one had and his Ruger cocked and ready in his other. He could feel sweat sliding down his back and puddling atop the waistband of the ridiculous silk boxers Vicky had given him on their honeymoon. Then he entered the great room and cursed the open floor plan he had insisted on buying. Dropping to his stomach, he did a reasonable imitation of a commando crawl around the perimeter of the room until he reached the entrance to the kitchen. Then, adrenaline coursing through his veins; his heart pounding in his ears and throat, he leapt to his feet and brought the pistol up and switched the Maglite on, aiming both at the spot it sounded like the noise was coming from. At the same time, he bellowed out in his best NYPD Blues voice, “Freeze, you scumbag!!” He later told me “scumbag” hadn’t been his exact word, but he was relating this story in front of two deacons when he told it to me. The tremendous beam of the Maglite struck the intruder squarely in the face and lit up two alien green glowing eyes.

It was a possum. A really, really big possum. It had apparently entered through the doggie door, knocked over the trash can, and now was sitting on the kitchen table eating potato chips and the leftover crusts from their Little Caesar’s take out pizza.

Folks, at this time I need to bring two things to your attention. One, “playing dead” is NOT the possum’s first line of defense. Her first line of defense is to suck in a lot of air and puff her body up then let out an unearthly hissing while baring some pretty impressive teeth. Two, she often won’t do that immediately, preferring to see what YOU are going to do first. Manny’s first reaction was panic. He didn’t grow up in the country and pretty much thought possums were born dead in the middle of the road. He took a step forward and gave a strangled squeak that was intended as an intimidating war cry designed to send the mangy looking marsupial back out the doggie door.

Apparently, the possum felt this was a threatening posture and so she did the suck-in-the-air deal and the open mouthed hiss. Oh, and she added a little twist of her own — she leaped off the table in Manny’s general direction.  Fearing for his life at the onslaught of this ravenous possum, Manny swung the Ruger up to shoot but in his panicked state, his fire discipline was lacking and his shot flew low . . . into the oven door glass.

The possum, being no great fool, took the moment to ease on out the doggie door and leave Manny, silk boxers, now wet on the back AND the front, to sweep up the glass of the shattered oven door.

Take care, y’all.

Love you and remember to keep those feet clean. 🙂