Monday, November 17, 2014

Stop the Madness!

There is something fishy going down on my road.  I don't like it.  Help is needed from all of you.

I love cats.  No news there.  Cats of all sorts show up at our house.  Gray cats, black cats, big cats, baby cats.  They all have one thing in common.  Hunger.  I feed them.  Love them.  Give them shelter in our hen house.  (Maybe it's a cat house.  No red lights!)

These are not feral cats.  They do not arch their backs and hiss at me.  They crave human petting and loving.  These are cats that have come from homes.  I have racked my brain wondering where all these sweet cats have come from.  One day it hit me like a cat pouncing on an unsuspecting bug.  I knew how these cats got to my house.

The coyotes.

Yes, we have coyotes hanging around.  They love to dine on fat cats.  I know they have installed a sign at the end of my road with a large red arrow and a caption that reads:  "Drop Cats Off This Way!"

These wise coyotes know the unsuspecting cats will be fattened up at my house.  They are given shelter where they can come and go as they please.  The devious coyotes keep watch through the dense pine trees until the cat has enough meat on it's bones and Bam!  Dinner is served.

This needs to stop!  That is where you come in.

When you pass by my road and spy the coyotes lurking around the sign don't keep on driving muttering, "It's a shame."


Hang your head out the window.  Yell at the coyotes,  "Kittens are poison.  You are going to die!" Show them your lead poisoning rifle.  Don't actually shoot them, we are all God's creatures, just scare the cat out of them.

Stop the car.  Get out.  Make yourself tall, like a wild grizzly bear.  Growl.  Chase the coyotes.  Bring spray paint.  Tag the sign-"Cats Rule.  Coyotes Drool."

Together we can stop the madness.  Cats will stop showing up at my driveway.  Coyotes will go eat at another county.

I have found and kept numerous cats in the two and half years we have lived here.  Three have come inside.  Many have stayed outside and become chow.  I now have a new hungry friend.  He is black with white tips on his paws and a white wide face.  He allows me to hold him and love on him while he looks at me with his twinkly yellow eyes.  His pink nose and snow white whiskers twitch at me.  If anyone has misplaced this lovey fur ball, come and take him home!  If you would like a wonderful cat for, say Thanksgiving, come on out-he's yours!

This could be a battle.  Our cry will be "Remember the Hen House!"  We will win.  The sign will go down!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wonderful Autumn

Autumn is a magical time in Iowa.  Leaves pop with color.  Farm implements appear in the fields reaping the year's toil .  Blistering summer days are replaced with cool sweater weather. Cooler weather also mean some unwanted visitors begin to appear.

One brisk autumn day the truck cried for a road trip.  I rushed through my chores-fed and watered the cats-and backed out of the garage.  I slammed on the brakes at the end of my driveway.  My own yard was awash with shades of yellows, oranges, reds, and greens.  The mums surrounding the house were opening their green buds into oranges flames of color.  I needed to get out of the house more.

Thirty minutes later I found myself at the county park, Prairie Rose.  I strolled around the lake admiring all the foliage glistening onto the water like a mirror.  I have lived in the big city most of my life and am extra cautious when hiking alone.  So when the bushes began to rustle and shake, I wondered what I could hit someone with besides my powerful fists.  A doe bounded out of the brush twenty yards ahead of me.  Tall and graceful she swished her stubby white tail at me.  We stood there for a full five minutes assessing each other's beauty until another doe peered around the bush.  I am certain I heard her tell my new deer friend, "Idiot!  Run!"  They leaped back into the dense trees to find safer places to romp.

Later that afternoon I arrived home looking forward to a quiet relaxing cup of tea.  My first sip of tea scalded my fingers not my tongue.  There was a horrible ruckus outside.  An ear deafening humming, followed by clanging, and roars.  The noise was headed down the road towards my house.  The Trojan army must be attacking!

I sprinted to the window.  My eyes did not find a wooden horse, but a large green combine.  It maneuvered into the field on the north side of our house.  The parade didn't stop with that bumpy implement.  No.  It had loyal followers.  A massive green grain cart being pulled along by an equally bouncy huge green tractor.  Two empty semi trucks braked to a halt waiting to be loaded with yellow gold.

The hungry combine set to work eating corn and making dust.  It ate, then spit the corn into the grain cart.  The grain cart lumbered over to an idling semi and spewed corn into the trailer.  The semi tore down the hill with dust swirling in its wake.  The yellow gold was deposited into the shiny grain bin.  Then the entire process was repeated hundreds of times.

Now that the corn was gone, I again have a view of the area.  What a beautiful view it is!  But, being a realist, I know that the vegetarian combine has scared critters out of hiding.

That night I was sleeping peacefully with a cat by my back, a cat by my feet, a cat between my legs and a cat by my neck.  I was cozy and warm and happy.  Until the scratching started in the wall.  Scratch, scratch, scratch.  Up and down the wall all night! Darn that combine.  He had scared the mice out of their habitat.

Blurry eyed the next morning, I tramped down the basement stairs in search of my treadmill.  That's when I spotted it.  A mouse!  It looked like a scene from "I Love Lucy."  I hopped on the treadmill and opened my mouth to scream.

Wait!  Who will hear me?  The cats.  Last time we had a mouse in the house the cats were terrified.  They would be no help.

I spied an empty orange juice container within reaching distance.  (Please don't ask why there was an empty orange juice container in my basement.)  I gingerly stepped off the treadmill, snatched up the jug and hurled it at the offending mouse.

No movement.  Was it dead or playing opossum?  Hiking up my big girl panties, I tiptoed toward the mouse.  Still no movement.  Yup, it was dead.

Poor mouse!  It really was kind-a cute.

Yes, autumn is a wonderful time in Iowa.  I give thanks for all the colors and cool weather.  And I give thanks to my wonderful husband for planting mouse poison in the attic.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Ode to My Computer

I had a computer I liked.
Not loved.  But liked.
It was sick and needed an operation.
Surgery did not go well.
Poor computer ended up in hell.

A sleek new computer arrived on the scene.
For me it was the fanciest I have seen.
It is in it's terrible twos stage.
Slow and digging in it's heels.
It has made me make devil deals.

"Computer please work. I'll give you a treat."
Mechanical thing thought, "Halloween, Trick or Treat!"
Trick was to take a break every nine minutes.
Gurgle and churn and rattle.
If I could find my husband, I'd tattle!

There's apps on your new baby.  They're great.
These apps on my nerves they grate.
They have weird pictures and names that change.
One day all in Spanish it was all there.
I can't learn another language.  I'd pull out my hair!

These new-fangled computers are good for your heart.
Yes.  If exploding in your chest brings peace to the heart.
I think my smart new computer is the dumbest thing ever.
Then I look west.
At my husband's desk.

He has a computer he loves.
Not likes.  But loves.
It is so intelligent and gives him no trouble.
Why then are there two screens?
And two typie-things.  Keyboards, I mean.

I guess this naughty thing will do.
I won't chuck it out into the morning dew.
I will learn to handle it with kid gloves.
Cause for me it would be a sin,
to be like my husband and have twins!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tractor Tug-of-War

Where can you find ear-deafening roars, spurts of black pollution, cheering crowds, and Hooters girls?  A rural tractor pull, of course!

The sun was on fire over the corn fields in the west, the railroad tracks to the east were silent, excited mummers of the crowd could be heard in the north, and the south held antsy drivers awaiting the call to climb in their tractors for a 8 second ride vying  for first place.  This was my first tractor pull.  I wasn't sure what it was all about.  I sat in the bleachers with my cousins and 96 year old uncle.  Three thousand people surrounded us.  The excitement of the crowd had my palms sweaty.

Hooters girls from far away Council Bluffs roamed the grounds in a John Deere mule.  They were selling Bud Lights and Busch Lights by the case load.  Worn green bills protruded from their low cut tee shirts.  They were making a fortune!  I made a mental note for next year.  I will snip off my favorite blue jeans into short shorts, slip on a size too small push up bra, cover it with a revealing low-cut shirt, and bottle my toilet water.  Watch out Hooters Girls, you got some competition coming.

I anxiously awaited the first two tractors.  I could see it in my head.  Two tractors back to back with a chain connecting them.  The gun would sound.  The tractors would step on the gas to see who would pull the other over the line first.  A tractor tug-of-war.

The beginning of the track held a long orange machine.  A man sat high in it.  I asked my cousin if we could sit there too for a better view.  I was informed that was the Ironman Sled.  The tractors back up to it, get hooked in, and pull it.  The weights get heavier as they go along. 

Oh!  No he-man tug-of-war.  Bummer.  It's an interesting idea though.  Anyone interested?

The first tractor roared to life and puttered out to the sled.  The first lesson a tractor pull driver has to learn is backing up to the sled.  I could see some of these drivers had not attended that course. The tractors all have manly names:  "Fear the Fawn," "Naughty Intentions," "Rugrat Rampage." 

 Once hooked up the driver reeves up the RPM's, (I understand why concerned parents shove ear plugs in young ears.) and throws it into drive.  (I'm also told these are automatics.  I can drive one!)  Black smoke billows out the smoke stack turning the sunset to night.  The tractor pops a wheelie and continues pulling the sled while on the back two monstrous tires.  Eight seconds later the tractor is on all fours 200-300 feet down the track.  Finished.

Then out speeds two green tractors each pulling a cart.  One cart waters the track.  While the other is piled with sod.  Are they expecting sowing for after the tractor pull?

My cousin leans over and announces, "Hey, you know some of these tractors cost up to $300,000."  Wow!  That's three and a half houses around here.  "And most have an annual budget of $500,000."  Double Wow!  That's three and a half houses, a massive American made truck, a horse, and  gallon of milk.

The night skies were starting to brighten up.  Lightening was flashing all around us.  But, my uncle wanted to see the last tractor pull.  It was an Allis Chalmers.  His favorite.  This one had another manly name "Allis in Wonderland."  The announcer blasted the name of the driver.  I knew this guy!  He was my first nine year old kiss!

He had been to the Tractor Pull Backing up Class and hooked up without all the hoopla of pulling forward, rebacking, men waving arms like a scarecrow.  But when it was time to drag Ironman down the track, there was an explosion of exhaust and a dead tractor.  However, one more try and he was chugging down the track like he was on four wheels instead of two.  He tugged Ironman to the top of his class.

It was time to run (ok the 96 year old was on his scooter) to the truck before the skies opened up.  As I drove home in the blinding rain, I reflected on the evening.  There were family, friends, and good old fashion fun.  The tractor pull was a benefit for the local volunteer fire department.  It was for a good cause.  Where do you find these good times but rural Iowa?  And there were the Hooters girls.  I'm going to start bottling  my toilet water tomorrow so I will have a good supply for next year.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Spring or Winter?

Spring has sprung in south west Iowa.

The first inkling of spring is the return of the robins.  They have amassed around my house like a starving army.  The friendly robins brought various friends with them-woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, sparrows, and cute little birds that have no name.  They demand food. 

Every morning I yank open my blinds and am greeted by glaring birds.  They swarm the bird feeders.  Upon finding them empty they turn their beady eyes to my window and squawk.  No chirping here.  They are hungry.  Buy stock in bird seed companies-you will profit!

Other signs of spring are popping up.  The tulips are peeking through the ground.  The lilac bushes are going
from dusty brown to pale green.  Rhubarb is pushing green and purple heads through the hard, cracked
earth.  Mmm-pie soon!

Time for spring chores.  There are apple trees to be pruned, evergreen bushes to be lopped off, a garden to be tilled, and a mountain full of leaves to be raked out of garden beds.  I thought I would start with the easiest and rake leaves.  That's when my heart almost gave out as I drug my rake through the asparagus garden. 


How is it weeds grow when nothing else can?  They were blanketed all winter by oodles of leaves, giving them no sunlight.  We are in a drought, they have had hardly a drink all winter.  Yet, here they are green and healthy. 

The farmers say the ground is too cold to plant.  There is still frost in the ground, they claim.  How do they know this?  Do they dig a hole?  Do they stick a thermometer in the earth?  (I actually jammed my meat thermometer in my garden.  The red dial didn't budge.)  Do the farmers congregate in fields at night and have soil seances?  

Spring seems to bring out more critters.  Field mice are in abundance.  Snuggles thinks it is her duty to stalk, capture with her razor-sharp claws, and carry these varmints in the garage.  She throws them around like they are one of her toy mice.  I keep telling her they are called field mice for a reason.

Spring in Iowa comes with rain.  Not San Diego type rain where you say it's pouring cats and dogs.  But in reality you can do a hundred yard dash and only get one strand of hair wet.  No, Iowa storms are violent.  Gusty winds that could sweep you off your feet if you haven't eaten a large amount.  Driving rain that can soak you to the skin in two point five seconds flat.  Booming thunder and crooked lightening that make night appear as day.

Actually after a bitterly cold winter all these spring things are welcome with open arms.  We rejoice the passing of winter and on to the growing season.

But, this is Iowa.  I am told you can never count on the weather in April.  I woke up this morning, pulled open the blinds and was not greeted with starving birds.  I was blinded by the white ground.  This was an eerily familiar sight.

Yes, it had snowed over night.  The temperatures had fallen back to below freezing.  (I have no doubt now the ground is still frozen.)  Shivering birds were huddled together in trees.  My garden tools were deserted and lonely in the garage. 

It was time to get the popcorn popper out of its' short hibernation.  The DVR still has movies for an audience with popcorn.  I will endure the cold for a few more days.  Then old lady winter with her icy hands must be on her way.  She is no longer welcome!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Hen House or Cat House?

It happened again.  I didn't mean to.  It wasn't my fault.

We found another cat.

Doug and I were on an innocent walk.  We stopped to chat with our neighbors who live a mile away.  A pretty white and brown squatty cat came running over.  What was I supposed to do but pick it up and love on it.

"You want that cat?"  they inquired.  "She's about the nicest cat I've ever met.  Showed up here about a week ago.  We'd keep her, but she purrs in and out of our feet.  We're afraid with these new knees she will trip us."

I actually spoke before Doug could open his mouth.  "No!  Three are enough." 

Wouldn't you know we started for home and the cat was trailing us. 

"Don't look, don't turn around, don't make eye contact.  Keep walking."  I urged Doug. 

A half mile later he looked behind us.

"Don't look!" I ordered.  " But since you did, is she still there?"

"Trotting along a hundred feet behind us."  Doug didn't seem all that concerned there was a stray cat tagging along. 

We were charging up hill almost to our house when I had to turn around and look.  Kitty was lagging behind.  She was getting tired.  I worried where she would go if she was too tired to turn back.  I did the only thing there was to do.  I shuffled back and carried her home.

Doug had a smug look in his eye.  He knew we were going to have another addition to our family.

We decided she could be an outside cat and sleep in the barn.  The only trouble was we didn't have a barn.  Maybe she could sleep in the hen house.  But the hen house needed some repairs.  It was drafty.

Doug had some spare wood.  We worked past dark ripping off deteriorating wood and replacing it with smooth new siding.  A small opening just right for a cat, yet not big enough for coyote, was installed.  The broken windows needed replacing and some sort of cat bed need to be in place before it was inhabitable even for a cat.  She could sleep in the garage for the night.

The next morning found us zipping down the road to the vet.  "Snuggles" needed shots.  Doug made a pit stop on the way back at the local hardware store.  I stayed warm in the truck snuggling with Snuggles. 

Doug arrived at the truck with an arm load.  He wouldn't tell me what was in his loot.  "Wait and see,"  he patiently told me.

And I did see!  He had lived with me for 25 years and came to the quick realization this was not going to be a hen house cat.  Installed on the garage counter was a large box with a warm kitty heating pad.  Pointing at the box from across the sink was a heat lamp.   Snuggles had a warm, safe bed in the garage.  And Doug didn't have to share his bed with another cat!

Snuggles enjoys the fresh air.  She tags after us when we are outside.  She runs and jumps on tree trunks just to hang there.  I occasionally spy her up a tree meowing for help down.  She hasn't fallen yet.  I keep telling her she can't come down head first like a squirrel.  No one, not even the cat, listens to me.

My cousin came up to see the new fur ball.  She brought my uncle's dog, Benellie.  I had watched Benellie last winter.  She was comfortable in my garage and ran right in.

Snuggles wasn't thrilled to have a four legged canine invade her space.  Her back arched to the ceiling, her fur stood on end and endless hissing spewed from her mouth.  That was my cue to take her in the house.

One step into the house and Snuggles got more spooked.  I found out first hand how she hangs on tree trunks-her claws.  She jumped to my head and embedded those needle sharp claws into my scalp. 

I swung my head side to side in a desperate attempt to dislodge her from my head.  Not thinking it was possible, but the claws went deeper.  Crumbling to the floor I pried her off my head.  She took off for the shelter under the bed.

Doug moved my now wet, sticky hair aside to survey the damage.  "I don't think you will need stitches.  Look on the bright side.  The blood matches your hair color."

Snuggles is still a garage cat.  She does come in to visit.  Tree trunks are still her favorite things to hang on, because I keep my head away from those deadly claws. 

The hen house is still partially finished.  Doug and I need to get out there to complete it.  I have seen a black cat living there.  I will call him Larry.  Really, you can never have too many cats. 

My question is this:  Is it a hen house or cat house?  For those of you who know me well, you already know the answer.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Long Live Lola

February 20, 2012 we became residents of Iowa.  Two years I waited in anticipation of a  wet snow.  Not this light fluffy stuff that doesn't ball up or stick to anything.  February 20, 2014, I was granted my wish.

The 10 p.m. weather man predicted 3-6 inches of wet snow the following day.  I was ecstatic.  How could I think of sleeping?

I needed to be prepared.  I positioned my warmest parka and snow pants by the garage door.  A snow shovel, water proof gloves and hand warmers were ready by the outside garage door.  Oh yeah!  How could  I forget the virgin snowball gun.  I was going to break that baby in.  Doug was home to be my target!

My eyes popped open at 7:00 a.m.  I hopped out of bed and danced over to the window.  Danced, not because I was excited.  The floor was freezing.  I yanked open the shades to reveal glistening wet snow.  It was calling my name.  "Angie!  Angie!  Come out and play."

I scurried to find Doug.  "I'm going to make us a warm bowl of cereal.  You have snow to scoop."  Doug hasn't been around much for snow scooping.  He is still in the newbie stage where it's fun.  He doesn't realize that snow scooping is code for "I am going to throw snowballs at you."

Doug whistled while he shoveled snow.  I snuck out the back door and prepared my arsenal.  Twenty-one round balls of snow were ready to be launched.  Peering around the garage Doug was still happily scooping.  I rammed the first ball into the gun and pulled the trigger.  Thud!  It propelled two inches.  Not what I had in mind.  Another ball.  I stretched the trigger as far back as my short arm would allow. That yielded me three feet of flying distance.  Doug looked up to the sky to see what was landing a full six feet from him.  Another ball and another ball.  I couldn't make them go any farther than three feet if chocolate was dependent on it.

I could always use my arm.  I played enough catch with Robby.  I was sure I would ace this.  By this time Doug was on to me.  He stood on the driveway while snowball after snowball went right and left of him.  He was a lousy target.  Maybe I need to fatten him up.  Then I remembered why Robby was such a good outfielder diving for balls.  He played catch with me and I couldn't throw straight any day of the week. 

Abandoning my target practice, I decided to make a snowman.  I had not made a snowman in over forty years.  I bunched up some snow and began to roll.  My mistake was rolling uphill.  Wet snow is heavy!  Seventeen minutes and screaming muscles later I had a true to life snowman.

Now I needed accessories.  There were still walnuts on the ground under the walnut tree.  I went rooting through the snow to dig up a handful.  They made a beautiful mouth and eyes.  Hat!  Every snowman needs a hat.  I dug around in our donation  box for a ball cap or stocking hat, something to keep this snowman's head warm.  Nothing.  Then out of the corner of my eye I spied a lampshade.  Perfect. 

A three foot, lamp shaded snow man.  Something was wrong.  It didn't look like a snowman.  It looked like a snow woman.  Lola.  I will name her Lola.

Ten days later and Lola is still standing guard.  Her lamp shade ran off to the corn field.  Her teeth fell out.  She has been wind blown into a slumped wrinkled old lady.  But she is still proof that I have made a snow lady.  And very proud of it!

Then Robby who lives in Virginia and grew up in warm climates, made a snow man of his own.  He sent me a text of the picture just to let me know he showed me up.  I have only one thing to say.  His snow man has been reduced to a puddle.  Long live Lola!