La Luna del Cazador…..

The full, golden moon was balanced on the sharp rim of the eastern High Sierras; a Hallowe’en moon, a witch’s moon, ……. a hunter’s moon. (I wanted to use my little bit of Italian, out of deference to a young friend who spent time in Italy, but the Italian version sounded too much like a chicken casserole: la luna della cacciatore…..”Moon of the chicken casserole;”  Hmmmm. Nope. Just didn’t have the same “cache” as the Spanish version!) Watching it roll up into the inky dark of the still starless sky, one could envision the silhouettes of a platoon of broom riding witches drifting over the huge, golden disc.

I stood motionless on my backyard deck, hot chocolate in hand, and watched as the three “hunters” stealthily emerged from the open door of the master bedroom, their eyes like flat, silver coins, reflections of the  ambient moonlight.  Each was a liquid shadow, moving cautiously toward the hole they had excavated in the dilapidated wall of my house. They watched me, fearlessly, boldly, daring me to make a move to try and take their “kills” from their needle sharp fangs. They disappeared as swiftly and as silently as only three, overweight raccoons possibly could,  squeezing their size 16 butts into a size five hole. I’ve heard quieter jake brakes on 18 wheelers.

What this particular nightly raid into the bedroom had netted them, I could only guess. But I think I know where all of my husband’s socks and Fruits of the Loom have disappeared to,  along with a mitten and scarf or two of mine.  I’m wondering what the three “bandidos” will choose to “hunt” next. For now, at least, all of the furniture remains untouched.

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Never Trust a Raccoon to do the Laundry

“Patience is a virtue;” “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” Evidently, I am NOT a virtuous woman, and the “cleanliness goddess” and I occupy different, parallel universes.

The decor and condition of my house can best be described as somewhere between “early Cro-Magnon trailer-park dweller of the outback,” and the more modern “tossed for evidence several times by a swat team,” decorating scheme.  Housework……..I. HATE. It.  I have been on a quest, for years, to discover the ultimate secret to having a consistently clean house. My friends’ houses are always clean!  These are women who not only have kids and grandkids, but careers, husbands, pets, outside interests like quilting clubs and volunteer jobs. They go out on the weekends, give dinner and holiday parties, they take weeks long ocean cruises and their houses are forever immaculate and wonderful smelling! Any time of year, week or day….. it doesn’t matter….the house is always the same…..spotless, dust free, no hair from several different animal and insect species clinging to the upholstery or every piece of clothing they own.  It isn’t natural, I’m tellin’ ya!  I’ve concluded, therefore, that it can only be the magical visitations by that elusive “Good Housekeeping Fairy.” (Henceforth, referred to as the GHKF.) I have taken to chronically whining,  “Why can’t I have some of that magic bestowed upon me?”

My patience and lack of house cleaning skills are dubious, at best, but I have maintained a thimble full of faith, much like Linus of Peanuts fame. Linus, bless his little heart, has been waiting in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to arise on Hallowe’en  and travel the world, distributing candy to all who believe in the Great Pumpkin’s existence.  I’ve been standing, surrounded by all manner of dirty, waiting for the GHKF to arise from my mop bucket and start scrubbing, polishing, picking up, hammering…….whatever….. just generally kicking butt on this chaos surrounded by four walls (all of which are in severe need of painting, but that is its own blog!)

As it happens,  one morning, some weeks ago, I thought my faith had been rewarded! Opening my laundry room door, I was greeted by what is best described as an al-Qaida inspired operation on a down-and-out laundromat. Clothes, clean and dirty, were everywhere…..on the floor, draped over the rim of the cat kibble container and even dragged out the open back door and scattered about on the deck. It appeared, too, as if someone, (hopefully not my fairy!), had peed on a couple of the t-shirts! I looked at my old cat, Beefcake, and asked him if he had been the one to rearrange things in such a haphazard manner. He merely flipped me off , cat fashion, by giving me the “stink eye,” and stalking out, his nearly hairless old tail angrily thrashing the air. OK…so, if it wasn’t the cat, it could only be that, FINALLY…..the GHKF had, at long last, rewarded my thimble full of faith and crash landed at my house!  However, looking at the complete disarray and disorder, I thought, “Just my luck…I got the dyslexic fairy. Or, the one on crack.” I decided to give her the benefit of the doubt and assumed she had her own mad method for rearranging and cleaning.  So, as best as I could, since it is often difficult with actual “ranch worn” clothing to discern clean from dirty, I went about the odious task of re-sorting and re-piling jeans, shirts and underwear.  And, since this particular GHKF was obviously facing a formidable task with my laundry and house, I determined she should have another chance to prove her worthiness. Unfortunately, her Rambo style of sorting clothes went on for several mornings. GHKF was actually employing my approach to laundering….throw it, and if it sticks to something, or if one of the dogs is trying to kill it or hump it, chances are it needs washing. Otherwise, just toss it back on top of the dryer and someone, or something, will eventually wear it back to filthy.

Then, one morning, at o’dark thirty, before earliest light, I went into my kitchen for that first cup of coffee, and  I heard thumping, scraping and……crunching (?)…..noises coming from the laundry room.  Ah-HA!!  Here was a chance to go “mano a mano” with Ms. Fairy about her housekeeping skills…..or lack, thereof.  I quickly opened the door, simultaneously flipping the light switch, and there, for the first time, I came face to face with my “cleaning lady,” or, as it turned out…..“ladies,” (or, possibly “cleaning men,” although I think that might be a bit of an oxymoron!)

I don’t know how anyone else has envisioned the GHKF, but I had always seen her as a cross between Mary Poppins, Mrs. Doubtfire and the fat little Disney fairy godmother. Never once crossed my mind that “she” would be three siblings with fuzzy butts, ringed tails, masked faces and whiskers.  But, there they were…my “Good Housekeeping Fairies.” One was carefully watching me from the depths of the kibble container, where she/he was happily shoveling kibble into its mouth and crunching away with wicked sharp, little teeth.  The other two were sorting, folding, bending, spindling and mutilating various articles of clothing, clean and dirty. One was scrabbling amongst the dirty “tighty whiteys” in the clothes hamper, digging and tossing whatever it could lay its little raccoon hands on. Its sibling was hopping up and down on the dryer, evidently enjoying the hollow, drumming noise it was making…. a steady, tribal beat to accompany the shredding of one of my sweaters. I backed out, closed the door and thought, “Ok…so I have 3 raccoons, not the GHKF I had hoped for, and they suck at doing laundry!  Perhaps I can teach them to do dishes!”  As it turns out, raccoons can only be trusted to do a limited number of things……..

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The Outback in My Bathtub

My house is old. Well, PARTS of it are old…others just LOOK as if they’ve been around since the conception of the Mayan calendar. The outside appears to have already been subjected to any dire, 2012 predictions of the aforementioned civilization. Inside, the possible scenario of post-cataclysmic destruction isn’t QUITE as apparent, unless one needs to use the “guest” bathroom. There, the ravages of age, lack of decorating sense and ability, and, of course, lack of funds,  have all coalesced into a mini-chamber of an interior designer’s worst nightmares.

The sink and toilet flow like Niagara Falls on a hot, summer day.  I have changed washers, nuts, bolts and seals so many times, now, that I’m seriously considering a new career as a plumber. Unfortunately, my only real expertise in permanent repair and restoration of anything is the swing of a sledge hammer. There is an area in the ceiling the size of an olympic swimming pool that once housed a florescent light with a plastic cover over it, whose main function was NOT to diffuse the light, but to hide a ghastly shade of puke green that at one time covered the entire bathroom. It is now like the legendary “Blob,” hovering in place over my toilet, waiting to engulf the unwary as they attempt to maintain a firm seat on the john. But, the hideous color does give the eyes something to focus on while pitching and rolling on the “throne.”

The “potty” is an amusement ride of sorts, grabbing the user’s attention quickly. Core muscles need to be engaged in order to sit securely on it, or else one must be fairly proficient at riding rough rodeo stock.  Every since we had the new commode installed several years ago, it has bucked and yawled like a bareback bronc coming out of the chutes. There is NO multitasking on the damn thing. Just “do it” and dismount before ending up face down on the plywood flooring.

Yep…. plywood. One afternoon, tired of the musty, moldy smell of damp carpet, I ripped it out. Now, the floor is bare, but at least one can clearly see the wooden strips for tacking  carpets onto…the ones that are mined with those vicious little nails sticking straight up, looking for a foot to pierce.  They’re relatively easy to maneuver around and avoid,  unless you fall off the toilet.

However, nothing in the bathroom speaks of age and disrepair quite like the old, nearly 6 foot long tub. Comet, Duz, Ajax, Bon Ami,  or even that bald headed genie guy aren’t getting the stains out of this old bathing hole. I’ve tried, even using one of those industrial strength wire brushes for rasping off the lava- like crust on barbeque grills, trying to remove 60 years of  ranch detritus.  All THAT did was leave tiny grooves into which more dirt, cowshit, hay and varmint hair could accumulate, adding to the dead grey color of the porcelain. Over the years, the tub has “settled,”…. sunk, might be more accurate…. into the sub-flooring, which, in turn is slowly rotting away due to constant oversplash from tub and shower.  I am waiting for the screams from my husband when the floor finally does collapse, sending both him and the tub plunging into the deep, dark and dank crawlspace underneath the house.

Due to the decades long settling, the top edge of the tub has separated from the tile walls, leaving a gap around two sides of the tub large enough for small critters to squeeze through. At times, the interior of my bathtub resembles an outback nature shoot for National Geographic. Small rain frogs delight in springing from the gap, or from high up on the walls, into bathers’ unsuspecting laps, or tumbling from the shower head into shampoo suds and across wet toes. It isn’t unusual to find potential bath/shower partners in the spiders and various beetles that drop into the tub and are unable to clamber up the steep and slippery sides.  The cat, (I’m not sure which one, since I have five), finds the tub a handy pantry for stashing lizards. Sometimes, Cat forgets to retrieve these captured prizes, and I am left to deal with “cleanup in aisle one,”……dead or alive.  Once, a small, black, water snake emerged from the gap, hoping to find, I suspect, a tasty morsel in the outback smorgasbord that inhabits my tub. I am eternally grateful that no guest was taking a “tubby” at the time!

And now, the raccoons have arrived……..

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Tears and Rainbows.

“The soul would have no rainbows, if the eyes had no tears.”

With simple, beautiful elegance, an unsung poet of the Apache nation has spoken eloquently of the bittersweet nature of all life.  As profound and poignant as the lovely sentiment evoked by these words may be, their truth and their intent to comfort are of no solace as I once again write a eulogy for a dearly loved, fuzzy faced angel, Spencer; AKA: Spinker, (a combination of “Spencer” and “stinker,” which he COULD be from time to time!), or “Mr. Sprinkles,” a name his “real” mom, Becca, felt was less disparaging of his kind, sweet natured personality.  Of all the Pugs that have shared my life, he was one of the most laid back and accepting members of our pack….never pushy, never an instigator, always funny and lovable, sharing his “puppy prizes” without resentment. The cats were fond of him, as well, as he never gave chase, and was always careful to be gentle and polite when he nudged them aside to partake of their tuna dinners.

Spencer’s original “parents” and “siblings” live and work part of the year in Angola, S. Africa. I was his foster “mom” for about 7 years. He was with me for so long, I have forgotten exactly when it was this darling, waddling, little gargoyle came into my life. Upon meeting him,  I volunteered to take Spencer as a “semi-permanent” member of my little dog pack whenever his “first family’s” obligations took them back to Africa. Spencer became known as our “time share” Pug,  shuttling without complaint from one family to the other. He and Bitzy, a rescue Pug from long ago and far away days,  became fast friends, often squeezing into one bed together for the night, or just a nap.

On the occasions  Spencer went home on family furloughs, Bitzy would pine for days until he returned. How joyous and jubilant were their earliest, youthful reunions! But, the years too quickly and thoughtlessly passed, and my two old fuzzy faces inevitably slowed,  being 12 and 13 years old, respectively, or maybe even a year or two older.  These past couple of years, the march of time had robbed their playful, affectionate reunions of much of their prior exuberance and bounce,  but there was no less love exhibited in the doggy “caresses” they gave one another…the little nibbles and licks, body bumps, and, of course, those all important sniffs!

Even though Spencer left, and was missed by all, at various times throughout the year, there was always the expectation and assurance of his return. Neither Bitzy, nor any of the other dogs, had time to forget him…… to forget his presence, his scent……his essence.  That has changed, now. Spencer will not be reunited, on this earthly plane, with his old pack mates. He returned a week ago from his last family vacation, and within 3 days, it was evident that something was horribly wrong. He was exhibiting all the signs of the terrible illness that Sammy had succumbed to just three weeks earlier…cancer.  On Monday, August 15, exactly one month to the day that I sent Sammy to the Rainbow Bridge, I was given the dreadful news that Spencer was to follow Sammy’s path in only two or three days.

“How many tears can your heart hold….?”

More profound, sad words from yet another poet. This time penned by, fittingly, a modern day cowboy minstrel, Richard Elloyan. Evidently, one’s heart can hold an ocean’s depth of tears.  I thought I had no more to cry in the days, now weeks, following Sammy’s death, but they continue to well up from some fathomless cavern in my heart.

Thursday, August 18, 2011, Becca had the heartrending task of seeing Spencer off,  gently, quietly, on his eternal journey. The tears keep flowing………….and my soul is still waiting for the rainbows.

Sweet Spencer, take our love with you,  and to Sammy.  R.I.P. you dear, little old pup.

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Nineteenth Century Shaker Poem…..

Most of my life is, in some way, taken up with dogs. As a child, there was always at least one dog in the house. I can still remember my first, “very own” dog, a little brown and white terrier named Cricket. Strangely, I also remember the day she was run over and killed. “Strangely,” because I could not have been more than 3 years old when that tragedy occurred. And, to many people, it will seem strange that I can still shed tears for a dog so long ago gone….about 57 years gone. But then, tears are spilled for dogs I will never know, nor see, nor hear about. However, in the deepest recesses of my heart and psyche, I am aware of the suffering, neglect and abuse they endure daily at the hands of those meant to be their guardians and protectors. It is an agonizing sensation, especially since I know there is absolutely nothing I can do for the thousands who have no recourse but to suffer.

And, I know, too, that it isn’t only dogs that suffer the horrors visited upon them by “humans;” there are the other domesticated animals that are savaged by the hands of “man.” For them, I also cry.

“So,” one may say,”there are humans suffering such miseries, as well! What about them?” To that I respond: the majority of human suffering is, at some point, documented. Perhaps not all, but most. When the trials and tribulations of a person, or groups of people, are exposed, then there is generally a movement to correct those hardships. The success rate in alleviating the problems may be abysmal,   but at least there are a multitude of  “voices” advocating for help and change.  Not so much for animals.

Recently, I read a poem that expressed, much more adequately than my own words, my sentiments regarding the treatment, or mistreatment, of animals by those who are entrusted with their care.  I was told that the author is anonymous, but it is attributed to a member of the Shaker religion. I can’t attest to the authenticity of that statement, but I can say, religious affiliations aside, these are words that every member of the species, “homo sapiens,” should heed. Whatever you believe, universal “karma” is a bitch, and at some point, she is going to demand answers from those who have heaped misery upon those unable to speak for themselves.

~A man of kindness to his beasts is kind.                                                                                          Brutal actions show a brutal mind.                                                                                                ~Remember, He who made the brute, and gave you speech and reason,                                     formed [the animal] mute.                                                                                                              ~He can’t complain, but God’s omniscient eye beholds your cruelty,                                           and He hears the creature’s cry.                                                                                                    ~He was destined to be [your] servant and [your] drudge,                                                             but know this;                                                                                                                                       the animal’s creator is your judge.

And, if there should truly be a “Judgement Day” for the human race as a whole, I would like to be one of the animals’ advocates standing by to mete out justice to those of a “brutal mind.”

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He’s Here……..

Tomorrow, Friday, July 29, 2011, will be the two week mark of making, and carrying out, the heartbreaking decision to have my sweet Sam Pug put to sleep. Not a day goes by that I don’t shed copious tears for him. His partner in play and mischief, Darla Mae, continues her nightly foray through the house before bed, still searching for her missing companion. I said, in my eulogy to this dear, and endearing, bit of my life, that he will return. Well, I believe he has already let me know that “he’s here..”

The Tuesday following my final farewell to Sammy, Darla Mae became extremely ill with pancreatitis, so naturally I rushed her into the vets’ office. (I am beginning to think Carson Valley Vet Hospital operates solely for me!) Darla had to stay until the following Sunday, the 24th of July. She spent her time there in the cage Sammy had always occupied during his treatments. I thought that was very fitting, and wondered if Darla Mae was perceptive enough to pick up on that fact.  Could there be any scent of Sammy remaining, or any kind of “presence” of which she would be aware?  As I was pondering these possibilities, one of the vet assistants, Jennifer, brought me an ornate, little, brown box; Sammy’s earthly remains.  My heart lodged in my throat, but I vowed to remain ‘stoic’ and not turn into a blubbering fool.  All went well, until Jennifer handed me a plastic bag containing a round, clay medallion that was kiln fired. On it was impressed, “Sammy,” surrounded by hearts. In the middle, the imprint of  Sammy’s “one small paw.”

No one in the vets’ office knows about this blog, so no one had read the eulogy about the importance of, nor the love conveyed by, that “one small paw.”  But Sammy did.  Welcome home, my love.

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One Small Paw…

Sammy’s gone. Those two words wrench at my heart, twist my stomach and unleash a new flood of tears from my already grief scalded eyes. I wonder, as I wade through this new onslaught of anguish, how many tears can one person cry?

Sammy’s gone. From our very first meeting, five years ago, at the Petco in Reno where rescuer, Linda Satchwell, introduced us, Sammy was mine, and I was his. All the way back home, where he was to become the newest member of my pack, Sammy sat on the middle console of my Jeep, and rested one small paw on my arm, and at times, laid his head on my shoulder. From then on, whenever we were together…sitting on the sofa, sunning ourselves on the back deck or nestled in bed…. Sammy always made sure to connect with the gentle touch of one small paw…always.

Sammy’s gone. Never again will I see his jaunty little butt trotting down our favorite trails. Never again will I kiss his funny, scrunchy, little face, his soft brown eyes looking at me with unadulterated love and adoration. Never again will he sit on the console, peering intently through the windshield,  on the lookout for rabbits, holding gently to my arm with one small paw, his constant declaration of love.

Sammy’s gone, after a hard fought battle with liver failure, the result of cancer treatment. Several times I had to leave my little guy at the vet’s office in order to have his blood cleansed of the toxins that addled his brain, causing him to wander aimlessly and ceaselessly. He would become lost and confused in his own home. Still, I persisted in treatments, special food, medications and almost weekly trips to the vets, thinking I could affect a cure by force of will and an over powering love for this sweet little Pug. He had to spend several nights away from home, and I now resent that loss of time with him. But, had he NOT stayed to have what amounted to blood dialysis, I would have lost him sooner. However, I knew the battle was over on Friday morning, July 15th, when he was hunched with pain, and couldn’t keep down even his special foods.  At 9:45, in the Carson Valley Veterinary Hospital,where Sammy was well known, and loved, Dr. Cameron Ross administered the shot that quietly and painlessly sent him on his journey to that much talked about Rainbow Bridge. I held Sammy and whispered my love to him, hoping those words will stay with him through eternity. My final farewell was to kiss one small paw.

Sammy’s gone.  He has now become a member of the pack of my long departed, beloved, canine children that at times “ghost” me on the valley trails. I have no doubt, that at some point, Sammy will walk with me again, hopefully sooner than later. Perhaps I’ll be blessed enough to catch a glimpse of his sturdy little body bounding through the high grass and sage, chasing after the big dogs. Maybe his shadow will briefly drift along in my footsteps, or I may just “sense” that he is with me. Then, I will call his name through my tears, and wish that I could tug on those velvety ears and whisper, “I love you, Sammy, I always have loved you, and forever will I  love you.”  In whatever manner he chooses to make his presence known, whenever he comes to briefly ease my heartache, he is welcome with love. But…I will, for the rest of my given days, long for the gentle touch of that one small paw.

Sammy’s gone. Rest in peace, my sweet, heart’s treasure.

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“Windsong”

“Wooooo, ooo,oo,oo,oooo…..Wooooo, ooo, oo,oo,oooo…,The wind is the whisper of our mother, the Earth…The wind is the hand of our father, the sky…….”

This  song came to mind as my friend and I were struggling to walk our dogs this morning in Little Antelope Valley.  I am an unapologetic fan of  the late John Denver. I have always loved his music and the melodious way in which he melded words and musical notes into poetry that will forever speak to the wild places in my heart.

HOWEVER…….I don’t think Mr. Denver had ever been properly introduced to a Sierra mountain zephyr before he penned the words to the lovely ballad that is the title of this particular posting. “Whisper” describes the wind today about as accurately as “sleeping kitten” describes “mountain lion disemboweling deer.”

If our dogs had been any more lightweight than two, solidly built, chunks of Pugs (25 lb. bowling balls with hair),  a 90 lb. Chow cross, and an aerodynamic Doberman that cleaved the wind with her nose, we would have been looking for them around Topaz Lake after the first onslaught of “whispering.”  Smaller dogs would’ve been toast, or at the very least, furry little kites at the end of leashes, had they been lucky enough to have been tethered to something at all.  Small children, too, would have needed a couple of bricks around their ankles to prevent wind driven “toddler tumblings.”

“The Wind is the hand of our father the sky……” And that hand slapped the snot out of everything with which it came into contact this morning, including our intrepid little group,  peppering us with pellets of sand and rock. And, it  continues to do so, adding a few nasty kicks and punches for good measure.  No melody to this beating we’re currently experiencing,  unless the sound of crashing branches, tumbling roof shakes and wind flung sand, garbage cans and small cars is considered a musical montage. We are getting soundly spanked by father sky’s hand, at the moment.

“The Wind is the goddess who first learned to fly….” and she is flying forty gate over the ridges, down the canyons, and across the flats like a bullet train.  No gentle, meandering breeze, this goddess. She is the proverbial “screamin’ banshee,” on a mission.  Another friend was going skiing today because, “the devil made [her] buy new ski boots….!” She isn’t very big. I hope she’s wearing bright colors so she can be easily tracked as she windmills across Tahoe on the “wind goddess” express.  Maybe I should have mentioned the “bricks around the ankles” to her earlier. Be sure and let someone know when you make landfall, Jeanne.

“In your heart and your spirit, let the breezes surround you, lift up your voice then, and sing with the wind……”  Keep your mouth shut;  you open it, it’ll be snatched so dry, you won’t be able to spit for a week. Lord knows what’ll happen with your tongue.

“…….the wind brings the smell of freshly mown hay…” Thank God there is no “mown hay.”  It would be arriving in Saskatchewan first thing tomorrow morning.  As it is, I’m worried about flying bales of hay, maybe with an animal or two attached. I have seen this particular “goddess” lift a stack of 24 count drywall straight up, and deposit most of it on a roof, 18 feet off the ground. So, truly, watch for those bales of hay.   And, perhaps my friend. She may, or may not, still be attached to her skis.

If John Denver was still living, he may have gotten around to writing something about “canyon gales,” or “cats in the breeze,” (two of mine haven’t shown up today, which is why I mention them now; check out any hay bales that land in your vicinity, please. One is an intact, male tabby; the other, a fluffy, little, grey female), or maybe he could have arranged a song about “Heavenly skiers,” or those heading in that general direction on the flanks of his “Windsong.”   Better still, I would have loved for him to compose a song about our Coleville  “scout” buzzards, who, I’ll just bet, are wishing right now that they had that Capistrano gig goin’ on!

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Forget Capistrano, WE Got Buzzards!

Spring is busily arriving here in the eastern high Sierras. It’s comin’ in on winds gusting over the ridges at Katrina force velocity. Trees are goin’ down, and branches, some a foot thick, are sailin’ by like twigs. A couple have zipped by my living room window, with bird feeders still attached, and in one case, finches still attached to the feeders! I don’t know if the little devils were just too hungry, or too afraid, to let go! I expect they’re somewhere near Reno, by now.

Here in this high desert clime,  it’s sometimes difficult to distinguish one season from the next.  I’ve been on a tractor, baling hay in August, when a cold front moved through the valley, dropping upwards of an inch of fresh snow on new cut hay.  January can serve up 75 degree days, teasing us with endless, blue sky and dreams of suntan oil, flip-flops, summer vacation and gardens. Newbies and old timers alike begin shuckin’ off all manner of clothing, and start testing the depth of the permafrost with shovels and hoes.  Come Memorial Day,  Ma Nature might decide to play jinky games with our psyches and unleash another snowstorm of Biblical proportions, leaving withered, and dead, hundreds of dollars worth of freshly planted flowers and vegetables. Home Depot owns our souls at this time of year.

Regardless of the temperature and atmospheric conditions, there are some undeniable signposts of spring. One would be all the new calves popping up in the fields, many of whom become overnight guests, rearranging things in my laundry room, pooping in my kitchen or soakin’ in the bathtub. And, of course, there are the birds that are the true harbingers of our mountain spring.

Following closely on the birthing of new babies come the eagles, “baldies” and goldens, magnificent birds that awaken the poet in all of our hearts, as we search for lofty and beautiful phrases to describe, what are, basically, “glorified buzzards!”  (I believe those were Teddy Roosevelt’s exact words used to describe our national symbol…he wanted the turkey, a “smart bird,” inscribed on our silver dollars!) Eagles ARE awesome, however, even when scarfing down fresh afterbirth, or some other dead treasure in the field.

Equally representative of spring’s arrival is the Meadowlark, warbling and twittering away in the sage and chaparral, regardless of the temperature and snow depth. If it’s supposed to be spring, by golly, those little birds are gonna sing!!  Mountain Bluebirds, looking like confetti  tossed from a deep blue, Nevada sky, skim the ground.  One day there will be two, maybe a few more, and the following day hundreds will be flashing brilliant, cerulean blue amongst the still sombre grey of the wild peach and bitterbrush.

And finally, to put paid to the fact that spring has TRULY arrived…………we got BUZZARDS!!  One can almost set a watch by their appearance in the valley.  There is no fanfare for these guys;  no tours and photo ops like those given for the “rockstar” eagles; no anticipation of Meadowlark birdsong, nor dazzling displays of sparkling blue against a brown and grey winter’s backdrop. Nope. No glory. No welcome of any degree. Yet they come, at almost precisely the same hour every year, on the very first day of spring.

Recently, “scouts” have been sighted, hovering high overhead.  In a few short days,  in the early hours of morning, someone will drive down Highway 395 and glance to the trees to see dark, hulking shapes roosting there. At first appearance, one might be deceived into believing they’re seeing the celebrities of the bird world, eagles. Upon closer inspection, it becomes apparent that these dark wraiths eyeballing the kindergartners on the elementary school playground could not POSSIBLY be eagles!  Their skinned heads are lowered between hunched wings, or swinging slowly side to side, looking for a flattened rabbit or chipmunk that wasn’t quite quick enough in crossing the busy highway last night. There is no vivid, tell-tale white crest of  a “baldie,” nor the shimmer of a golden’s bronze wings; just feathers of a uniform, funereal black.  Size wise, they are nearly as impressive as a mature eagle. I imagine, too, that they emit their own, special “eau de boo-ZARD” fragrance.  I can’t really speak to that, never having been in as close quarters to a buzzard as I have been to an eagle, but the eagle wasn’t particularly “flowery,” himself!  Neither bird is a “picky” eater, the buzzard less so, searching fields, mountains and desert for a well done, tasty morsel of overripe, dead thing.

In spite of their lack of beauty, and possible assortment of “unique” odors, they are certainly useful.  They’re especially helpful to CalTrans, doing a lot of preliminary “soft”cleanup before the road crews arrive to scrape hide and bone out of traffic lanes. They are definitely unappreciated by those looking for “American Idols” of the bird kingdom.

Not to take anything away from the good folks of Capistrano, and their showy little swallows, but the Buzzards of Coleville are just as impressive as our undisputed heralds of spring here in the mountains…. AND they can strip a deer carcass  bare in a couple of hours. I’d like to see a whole herd of swallows try THAT!!!

If anyone happens upon some finches with a bird feeder still attached to a severed cottonwood branch, I’d like the feeder back. I have enough finches.

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Freeze……sucker.

Because I have seven dogs, three of whom are old, dodder-y and generally incontinent, as well as one who is still fighting the effects of a chemo treatment, I may discover, usually with my bare feet, strategically deposited piles of poop, or puddles of  gak-up throughout my house. Therefore, I am always on the look out for the latest, greatest and most efficient way to clean up these “surprises,” after I’ve soaked them from out between my toes, typically around 4 0’clock in the morning.

Imagine my excitement, then,  in finding “Poop Freeze” in one of the ten thousand dog products magazines I receive on a daily basis. (This is NOT a product endorsement…yet… but my own experience with this marvel of modern science.) Sure enough, I had cause to use “Poop Freeze” almost immediately. Pathetically enough, I was actually looking forward  to testing it. Not much rockin’ my world, except my dog’s regurgitated supper.

As its name suggests, “Poop Freeze” immobilizes the subject matter by “freezing” it with a temperature of  -165 degrees.  Spray it directly on the mess, and it becomes as hard as  cement.  The instructions say to spray on one side, then flip it, and spray the other side, and “simply” pick it up. Because I was just so delighted at having a product that would eliminate scraping, spraying, deodorizing and hauling out my  dump truck size rug shampooer every other day,  I missed that last part about “flipping,” “spray the other side,” and  “simply.”  Instead, I let it sit several minutes for added effectiveness, while I went in search of something with which to “simply” scoop up the now solidified lake of dog vomit.

When I returned, this once liquid mass was as firmly frozen to my rug as three miles of Siberian permafrost. It was NOT comin’ up, “simply” or otherwise.  The edges of the mess had grown roots that wrapped themselves around the individual carpet fibers like little hands, and they were not going to let go without a major fight.  After briefly contemplating the use of a box cutter to “simply” remove the entire section of rug, I decided that, “Ah-HAH! I’ ll “simply”crack it with a hammer!”

It took several minutes to locate the hammer, and by the time I got back to the spot, the appearance of the goop had altered slightly, but I didn’t waste time thinking about the implications of  why it no longer had that shiny, frostbitten aspect.  “Take that, you sucker,” I thought, as I gave it a solid smack with the hammer.  Caution: Freeze effects wear off after several minutes. Seems I overlooked that small bit of information, as well.  I’ll be cleaning dog barf off my curtains, bookshelf , books and a couple of cats, for days to come.

Standing with dripping hammer, slimed cats, books and eyebrows, my only recourse was to RE-freeze the splatter, and “simply” monitor its metamorphosis from lake to glacier.  I hovered over it with a paint scraper and utility knife at hand to quickly cut and scratch it up. In seconds, I had the majority of everything chopped into at least a million little vomit balls all over the rug.  Before they liquified again, I vacuumed them up.  I’m just hoping they didn’t thaw out in my vacuum cleaner bag. I’m afraid to look.

I will definitely use this product again.  Its only fault seems to be in “pilot error.” However, I will be sure to have both a blowtorch and a wetvac handy, just in case my timing is off. Now, if only I can find a miracle in a can that removes freezer burns, “simply,” from carpets.

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