Monday, January 25, 2016

Ice Monsters

It had been a wonderful Christmas.  I had asked Santa for snow and he delivered!  We had 11 inches before Christmas and a couple more after.  The temperatures were hiding in the below freezing range.  It was cold.

Nicole had extended her Christmas visit until after New Years.  We headed into town to raid the grocery store.  On the way we passed my Uncle's house.

"Did you see that strange icicle on Uncle's house?" Nicole inquired as we zoomed down the road.

I had not and thought nothing of it.  Nicole was from California.  She had lived the majority of her life in  warm weather climates.  It was time for her to see what real icicles looked like.

We were zipping down the road home when Nicole exclaimed, "Mom!  Look at the huge icicle on Uncle's house."

I glanced the the left.  I gasped.  I hit the brakes-hard.

Did I mention the temperatures were below zero?  One should probably not be zooming and zipping down the roads at that temperature and then slam on the brakes.  Luckily I managed to keep us out of the ditch and away from the mail box.

It was the icicle.  Well, it wasn't really an icicle.  I was correct in saying Nicole did not know what a real icicle was.  I had never seen anything like it in my 55 years of being.  These were ice monsters!

Rising up from the north side of his house were about fifty ice monsters.  They were all shapes and sizes.  Some short.  Some over six feet tall.  Some were slender.  Others were chubby little pigs.  There were even baby ones dripping off the eaves.

Cautiously I pulled into the driveway.  Nicole jumped out and headed up the hill.

"Stop!  Now!"  I screamed.  "They might be related Medusa and turn you into a permanent ice sculpture."

Nicole rolled her eyes and kept going.  At times she can still be a teenager.

What to do?  Watch and see if she is turned into ice art and go for help?  Or scoot along after her and protect her with my powerful biceps?

Motherly instinct kicked in.  I trotted along beside her to conquer the invading ice ogres.

Nearing the top of the hill we began to hear a faint hissing.  "Nicole, they sound like opossums.  Do you think they are large opossums from the Arctic?"

Again I was rewarded with an eye roll.

"Mom.  Look.  There is a mist spraying behind that wall of ice."

Sure enough.  A mist shot eight feet into the air.  It looked like a water mist at the San Diego Zoo trying to cool everyone off.  Except it was 20 degrees outside.

These were not ice monsters after all.  They were harmless bushes and trees that had been frozen into beautiful, intimidating pieces of ice art.

A phone call later and the mist from a garden hose was gone.

A month has now passed.  It's still cold.  The ice monsters are still guarding my Uncle's house.  They are as beautiful now as they were in December.  I am considering making my own ice art.  I could turn the hose on some bushes and trees.  Let them freeze good and hard for several days.  Then I could go out with my chain saw and some picks.  I will not have ice monsters guarding my house.  I will turn my guards into ice cats!


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Lumpy Pumpkins

Most of my growing up years were in Texas.  People love to hunt there.  Their trucks are armed with gun racks positioned and loaded in the rear widow.  Hunters don their camouflage and head to their deer lease.  There they sit in a stilted camouflaged blind for hours waiting for a deer to pass their way.  I moved to Iowa and the hunting was a bit different.

It was hunting season.  My usually quiet gravel road was buzzing with pickups.  They raced up and down the road.  Some stopped by my property.  The excited hunters hopped out and stood peering towards the mile away river.  They stood as still as a cactus in the desert.  Could the deer around the river actually see their movement so far away?  Fifteen or twenty minutes later, the cactus became  men again.  Back in their trucks they rushed to another deer look-out point.

Through out the day I could hear "bam-bam-bam" as gun shots rang around the country side.  I wondered where the hunters were.  I wondered where the deer were hiding?  A trip to town answered one of those questions.

I was tootling around the back roads when a curious sight assaulted my eyes.  A field was filled with what appeared to be lumpy gigantic pumpkins.  It was way past pumpkin harvest.  So what were these alien shapes?

A closer inspection reveled the lumpy sights to be men.  Hunter type of men.*  They were wearing bright orange vests and loud orange beanies perched on their heads.

I understand there are not deer leases in Iowa.  Hunters must prowl around different fields.  They need to be readily seen.  Not to be mistaken for prey.  I see the need to wear neon blinding orange.  What I do not understand is the camouflage clothing under the bright orange.

Picture this in your mind:  A sunrise wake-up call.  The hunter jumps out of his warm bed.  He quickly pulls on his camo pants and shirt.  Dirt brown boots are tied over the feet.  This hunter is ready to be disguised in the unsuspecting deer's habitat.  Then the hunter snaps on his vest of luminous orange and tops it off with a carrot colored beanie.  He can then be spotted for miles by any one or any thing.

So, why wear the camouflage?

Why not put on comfy jeans and a flannel shirt?  Why not work pants and a sweat shirt?  Heck even your Sunday best.  What does it matter what you wear under your pumpkin suit?

Then I began to wonder.  Are deer color blind?  Perhaps they can not see the orange vests as humans do.

I little research and the answer was "yes".  Deer are color blind.  So once again I asked myself-if deer can't see color-Why the camouflage?!

Still meandering around the country roads, my mind was busy speculating.  When I drive past these bright orange hunters scattered around the field and stream waiting for deer, I could help the situation.  I could lay on my horn and holler through my megaphone-"Hide Deer-Hide!  It's an invasion of lumpy pumpkins!"

I did not say who I was going to help.

Buck Posing

* I do not mean to be sexist, but I have never seen a female hunter in my part of Iowa.  Even though I know my Texas nieces can take down a prey with one shot.  Eat your heart out boys!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Santa's on the Naughty List

It's the most wonderful time of the year.  It's the time of the year when children flock to see Santa. Their heartfelt wishes are whispered into the jolly man's ear hoping Christmas morning brings life to these wishes.  I wanted something from Santa.  I thought only he could make this wish come true.  I sought out good ole St. Nicholas at a neighboring town's library one chilly December morning.

I marched into the library on my mission to find Santa Claus.  The children's section of the library had been turned into a homey North Pole.  There were books of course.  Comfy chairs, couches, and pillows dotted the room.  A Christmas tree glowed in the corner with presents scattered under it's green branches.  Sitting under the Christmas tree was the cutest, smallest Santa I had ever seen.  He was surrounded by larger elfs.

"If I have to sit on this Santa's lap he's going to end up being the first flat Santa," I thought.

As I turned I spied a grand red chair filled with the adult Santa.  A man was climbing onto his lap.  Perhaps this was the oldest man to ever sit on Santa's lap.  He was 98 and had a wish for the jolly red clad man.  This 98 year old was also my uncle.

I heard my uncle  quietly and politely ask Santa for a new car.  He went on to explain that his daughter was driving his old car.  A huge deer, not one of your reindeer my uncle clarified, darted across the road.  His daughter slammed into the unfortunate deer.  Luckily no human was injured, but but the old car was a total loss.

"So you see, Santa, I really need a new car,"  my uncle concluded.

"Ho, Ho, Ho!" Santa exclaimed.  "You can't have a car.  You don't even drive.  You get a trike!"

What kind of Santa was this?  He would deprive a  spry 98 year old man of his Christmas wish?

It was my turn to plunk myself in Santa's lap.

"Santa, I only want one thing for Christmas.  Snow!"

I held my breath while Santa contemplated this.

"Ho, Ho, Ho!  I can't do that.  Merry Christmas!"

Merry Christmas?  No snow?  This Santa needed to be on someone's naughty list.

I stumbled over to the couch where my uncle and cousin sat.  Near tears, I told my cousin that red guy over there wouldn't give me snow.  Or give her dad a new car.

My cousin, always sticking up for people, whipped her head towards Santa and hollered, "Norris!"

Norris?  This was not the real Santa.  This was my cousin's husband.  He was a Santa fake!

Santa, I mean Norris, looked at us.  "Ho, Ho, Ho."

I have since written a letter to the real Santa at the North Pole.  I see snow is a possibility for the day before Christmas.  I will take what ever white he sends.  Then I will call Norris to say that the genuine Santa really does listen. 

I wonder what kind of car my uncle will find outside his door on Christmas?

Merry Christmas to all my readers.  Love those around you, eat lots, and throw a snow ball! 

P.S.  My letter to the "real" Santa worked!  We had a beautiful white Christmas with snow men and everything!  I suppose I should have put my uncle's request for a new car in also.  That will be next years' letter.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thanks for the Memories

Death is a funny thing.  By funny, I mean memories.  Death seems to dig around and find amusing experiences that have been closeted in our brain.  The loss of Doug and my parents in such a short span have opened some doors in my mind.  The memories that have flooded out have made me smile and laugh.

My father was known by most as a prankster.  My mother had to endure years of rubber snakes tucked under her sheets waiting for the moment as she flipped back the covers.  Dad was rewarded with a shout and a curse of "Bob Shannon!"  Neighbors were not immune to the snake either.  The next door neighbor, Paul, and Dad tried to startle each other for years with that darn snake.  In fact the neighbor was often a brunt of my father's jokes.

My thoughtful sister had given our father a combination radio, flash light and siren in case of a hurricane.  Dad found other uses for this.  Paul had just purchased a shiny new car with the latest and greatest car alarm.  Poised behind his fence Dad waited for Paul to arrive home with his new vehicle.  Just as Paul opened the door to his house Dad sounded the siren.  Thinking it was his car alarm, Paul raced back to his car only to have the alarm cease it's blaring.  This happened three more times before Paul caught on, "Bob Shannon!  Where are you?"

My parents had problems with opossums in their yard.  They would trap them and release them in the country.  My young children thought these opossums in the cage were fascinating.  What do you do with visiting grandchildren that like your opossums?  Why take them opossum hunting of course!

The children were each given something to swat the opossum when they found one.  One had a bat.  One had a broom.  And the other one was given the privilege of using my long forgotten baton.  They trudged off to the back yard with my father in the lead.  My mother and I stood by the back door.  Giggles were erupting in our throats.  Slowly around the shed they crept with weapons cocked and ready.  All at once the trio of children raced screaming back to the safety of the house yelling, "I heard it!  I heard it!"  My son even professed to have seen the opossum and it was a big one.

This sent my mother into fits of laughter.  Her face contorted and belly laughter spilled out until tears ran down her legs!  You see opossums do not go "EEK."  Unbeknownst to my children, my sister had hidden in the shed.  She banged the inside of the shed and screeched "opossum" noises.

Growing up my mother had a special set of silverware only she used.  I never inquired where she got her treasured utensils.  I wish I had.  Occasionally one of my sisters or I would accidentally grab her fork or spoon for a quick taste of something.  Once the food was rolling around our mouths and our eyes spotted mother's silverware, we made a quick beeline to the trash can.  Eating with her fork or spoon made the food taste like dirt.  My mother would stand by with a knowing look in her eye.  This was the one thing she did not have to share with anyone.  To this day I wonder how she managed to make us believe food tasted rotten with her prized fork and spoon.

My parents played cards.  They had card parties with several couples and card tables scattered around the house.  When Doug became part of the family he was initiated into playing cards. He did not grow up playing games.  My father took him under his wing to teach him the finer points of a card game called Pitch.

You must make a bid in a suit hoping your partner has cards in their hands to help you out. My mother and I were partners leaving Dad and Doug together.  Mistake.  What my Dad taught Doug was how to cheat!  Dad would throw his hand over his heart and proclaim, "My heart hurts." or "I need to get a club for that opossum in the yard."  This would get Doug energized, "Gee Dad, your diamond ring is sparkling tonight."

Doug and Dad had many conversations out on the patio.  I believe Dad was passing on his love of lawn mowing.  Doug did love to mow the lawn! He mowed in the heat of the summer. He mowed leaves all during the fall.  Spring came and he mowed as soon as the snow melted.  Doug did not mow in the winter.  I locked the mower up.  Can't have the neighbors talking too much about the obsessive lawn guy down the road.

My father was not the only one to pull pranks.  Naval aviators have formal dinners called Dining Outs.  These functions were in full Navy dress uniforms and wives in fancy formal dresses.  It also came a Master of Ceremony who made up rules and dished out fines. Before these functions Doug plotted his antics.

He was known to sneak into the banquet hall hours before the event began and sew some poor unsuspecting pilot's silverware to the the table cloth.  The pizza man would be hired by Doug to deliver a pizza to someone other than Doug during the expansive meal.  These jokes caused poor unsuspecting souls a fine.  The fines were normally contributed to a charity.  Or to the bar at the end of the night.  Same thing-sort of.

All these silly memories and more creep into my mind at unexpected moments.  I am blessed to live in a house and community that these three special people loved.  My parents still referred to Iowa as home.  The first day Doug and I arrived for our new life in Iowa, he knew it was his forever home.  I will continue to live and love here.  So when the rumor comes around that I am going to California for the winter or Texas to live-shoot it down.  I am here to stay!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

False Advertising

I have been away from our peaceful gravel road home for a few weeks now.  I have noticed some strange phenomenons while cruising around northeastern Florida.

Every day, every non-rainy day, a couple down the street walk their dog.  While this may sound normal to you, the manner in which this dog is being walked is a bit odd.

I first spied this couple as I drove down the street.  They were an elderly couple out for a stroll pushing a walker with a seat.  "Awww," I thought.  "They are out enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  If they get winded they can take a rest in the walker.  Smart people."

It was only as I passed the couple I realized this was not what they were doing at all.  Yes, they were out for a stroll.  But the walker was not intended for a rest.  It was for pushing their tail wagging, tongue lolling dog!

"Maybe this is a one day thing for the dog," I considered.  Yet every day before supper time they push that happy dog down the street.  He sits proudly on his seat grinning from dog ear to dog ear.

Another day Doug and I were driving to the hospital when a cow passed us.

"Doug!  Did you see that cow driving down the road?" I exclaimed.

"No, I did not."  He reached over to feel my forehead.

A few miles later we caught up with the imaginary car.  It was really a van painted brown and white like a cow that might be found in the field by our house.  However protruding on the roof was a set of large Texas Longhorns.

I wondered, "Why?"  Did this person want to be a cow in another life?  I do not understand this.  Now becoming a cat in another life would make good sense.

Water is everywhere here in northeastern Florida-the ocean, lakes, rivers.  People here love their boats.  Boats are a common sight in and out of the water.  They can be spotted zooming down rivers, towed down the road, and abandoned in front yards.  When I spotted a lone boat motor I was confused.

"Doug, look!  There is a motor on a stick in front of that house."

We pulled over and examined the lollipop motor.  It was actually the home's mail box. Someone had taken the time to gut the interior of the motor.  They cut a door.  Installed a flag and called it their mail box.

I have come to the conclusion that Florida has false advertising.  The bottom of a Florida license plate reads; "Sunshine State."  I have yet to see that yellow ball of fire.  It sprinkles.  It pours.  Thunder rolls around like a ping-pong ball batted during an intense game.  Just today we were having a peaceful lunch out with Doug's mother when the skies opened up and rain spilled out at an alarming rate.  Our truck was blocks away.  We dashed from store front to store front keeping as dry as possible.  However there was no way to keep our toes, feet, and shins dry when crossing the street.  Water was standing as high as car doors in the street.

These unusual sights have kept me amused.  I wonder what other things I will find in the days to come.  One thing is for sure.  It reminds me I live in a "normal" part of the world.  However, normal is just a cycle on the washing machine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Red, White, and Boom!

It was the Fourth of July and time for a parade and a shindig with my extended family.

The day started just after noon as I picked up my 97 year old uncle.  We headed to meet my cousins and go to the annual small town parade.  I'm getting used to these celebrations.  The flying candy, tractors of every color (This year there was a pink International tractor!), and local fire departments hosing down the parched children make for a homey parade.  I felt cheated this year.  There were no squeaky clean manure spreaders proudly rolling down main street.

The next stop was my cousin Pat's house out in the county.  This is the hub of activity for the Fourth of July.  A freshly washed John Deere mower with an American flag waving in the wind greeted us at the end of the driveway.  The day was cloudless with a hint of warmth.  It was perfect for sitting outside munching on grilled hamburgers.

"Hey!" I exclaimed.  "This hamburger is great.  Maybe the best I've had."

Everyone peered at me and rolled their eyes.  "It's not a hamburger.  It's a pork burger.  This is Iowa."

O.K.  I've been here only three short years.  I'm still learning.  Besides I've never cooked a hamburger much less a pork burger in my life.

Pat's son and grandson were there with tons of fireworks.  Fireworks are illegal to buy in Iowa.  But we are so close to Nebraska and Missouri where one can purchase them every rural Iowan sets off some kind of boom and sparkle in celebration.  I'm not sure, however, that everyone has a trunk full with enough celebration to last all day.

Pat's ten year old grandson spent the day setting off everything from poppers to magnificent light displays in the sky.  The loud boomers were a favorite during the day.  They could be heard for miles echoing in the hills.  He then pulled out poppers.  This was a new experience for me.  I soon learned my uncle kept a large stash in his pockets.  He handed me a pack and provided guidance on the correct way to pop poppers.

It is all in the wrist.  Pull one off.  Flick it with your wrist to the ground.  You will be rewarded with a cap-gun like pop and a tiny bit of gunpowder smell.  While the grandson set fireworks off all day, the uncle popped poppers.  None of his were duds.  His technique was picture perfect.  I guess I need about forty more years to improve my technique.  I had lots of duds lying on the ground.

A hot-air balloon-like firework was lit.  Fire burned at the bottom lifting it up in the air and over the corn fields.  We were having a Forth of July celebration.  This balloon had jumped out of line.  It was a giant jack-o-lantern laughing all the way to...I really don't know where it ended up.  It didn't take but a few minutes for it to soar out of our vision.

There was something else quite peculiar going on.  Most people I know ignite their fireworks with a strike of a match.  Pat's grandson had larger ideas.  He used a blow torch.  A blow torch!  My face turned a pretty shade of blue many times that day waiting for him to stop, drop, and roll.  As that never happened, I'm guessing he was properly instructed in the safety of the fiery torch.  Next year perhaps I should be properly instructed on how not to watch the lighting of the pretty things in the sky.

As odd as a blow torch was, it was not the oddest thing that summer day.  Pat's daughter pulled in the driveway in a clown car.  Actually it was a clown van.  The vehicle was stuffed with her daughter and friends and all the things they thought they needed for an evening of sitting and watching fireworks.  The clown van's back hatch wouldn't even close.  She had driven ten miles down a pot-holed road with the back hatch fully open.  Amazingly nothing bumped out of the van and into following traffic.  We soon noticed the hood was properly secured either.  This had to be a clown van.  They came not only with unlatched car parts but loads of laughter.

Dusk arrived.  We pushed our chairs together as the grandson set the stage at the end of the driveway for the big finally of the evening.  We were not disappointed.  There were glittery fireworks, multicolored ones, heart shaped ones.  Our ears were treated to sizzles and booms.  Fifteen minutes of wonderful sensory overload.

The food was consumed, the trunk of the car was void of fireworks, it was time to head home.  Everyone and everything was crammed back in the clown van.  The back hatched was tied shut and the hood monkeyed with and slammed.  The uncle and I cruised past the town's fireworks display.  It did not compete with the show we had just witnessed.  And I know the company we were in was the finest around.  Thus ending another spectacular Fourth of July in the Iowa countryside. 

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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Aliens on Our Road!

Doug and I moved to Iowa and our children thought we had lost our minds.  "What are you going to do for excitement in the middle of nowhere?" they inquired.  There are fun things to keep one entertained here in the country.  But yesterday there was excitement right down our road.

I had headed out early for my morning walk.  I could hear the whop-whopp of a helicopter in the distance.  As I came over the hill I spotted it.  The crop dusting helicopter was flying low over a soybean field.   He pulled up and soared towards the sky like an eagle only to quickly dip down again like a famished sea gull after a piece of bread.

I whipped out my cell phone to call my trusty helicopter flying husband knowing he would want to jump in the truck and take pictures.  I figured he could pick me up and I would ride along.  Some air conditioning sounded really good.

We followed the aircraft across the river.  Of course by then the helicopter decided to spray the other side of the river.  Doug turned the truck around and hit the gas.  By the time we were back where we started the helicopter was a spot in the horizon and the support truck was kicking up dust on the gravel road.

Defeated we headed for home.  That's when we found the real excitement.  There on our gravel road was the support truck and trailer in the ditch.  The truck was wedged flush against the ditch with the trailer sitting cock-eyed to the road.  Crawling out of the passenger side window was a young man.

Doug, the fireman, rushed to the accident.  After assessing the situation, Doug hollered to me, "You do not need to call 911.  There is no blood."  Which was code for the guy was OK and I could get out of the truck.

The young man was visibly shaken up, but unharmed.  He was more concerned about the brand new Ford duelly with only 4000 miles on it and the support trailer.  The trailer was duel purposed.  The landing pad for the helicopter was a small platform attached to the top of the trailer.  Under it held insecticide and gas and goodness knows what other kinds of toxic and flammable materials.  He was also worried about how the owner of the company would take the news.  Oh, the owner was his dad.

The young man was not bleeding but shaking like a dancing panda.  "Are you sure you're OK?" Doug asked.

The next words out of this man's mouth made me take two and half steps back.  I think he was an alien.  The young man replied, "Yes Sir."

The standard Iowa reply would be "Yup."  I tiptoed to the back of the truck to steal a look at the license plate.  It confirmed my suspicions.  This guy was an alien!  His license plate was from Texas.

We continued to assess his health as my cousin came by on his small tractor.  "Everyone OK?  Man he must have been going fast."

"Yup."  Doug and I answered.  (We have been Iowan's for three years now.  We knew the lingo.)

A few minutes later the mailman stopped by.  "Everyone OK?  He must have been going too fast."

Then a lady I had not meet yet came walking down from her house up the road.  I knew I would like this lady.  There were several kittens that scurried around her house.  She was smart enough not to mention the young man was obviously going too fast.

Soon the accident scene was a hubbub of farmers.  All of which said to this shaken up young man, "You were going too fast."

I think by this time he had probably figured that out.

Four farmers came and had the situation assessed in minutes.  They then sped off in their respective trucks and a John Deere gator only to return with massive chains, a large green tractor and a pay-loader.  (So I called the pay-loader a scoopie thing.  I was corrected.)

The tractor chained itself to the trailer while the pay-loader lifted.  Within minutes the trailer was loose.  It disappeared down the road to the neighbors farm.  The farmer was kind enough to get it off the road.

The pay-loader was not finished with his job.  Chains were secured to the truck and little by creaking little the truck was pulled from the ditch.  The young man was confident he would be able to drive this new dented up truck back to Texas.  I had my doubts when I saw black gold running out of his engine.  Then I heard something about a tire rod going clean through the engine.  I think "totaled" is the word everyone was whispering.

About that time the helicopter pilot showed up in his truck.  I spied his license plate.  It also said Texas.  However his truck was not a duelly.  When you cross the border into Texas I think it is the law all trucks must be duellies and you must have a Texas flag.  Duelly or no duelly he was an alien also.  I stayed four feet away.

We heard clank, clank, clank in the distance from the farm where the trailer was towed.  It sounded like dwarfs working in a Disney movie.  The clanking was actually the farmers working to try and repair the trailer.

And the guy with the scoopie thing, I mean pay-loader, must have a cape in his closet.  He rescued me last winter from being snowed in for half a year.

This is Iowa.  Things happen that we don't expect.  Iowan's step up to the plate and help where ever and whenever they can.  Even if they do not know you and will never see your alien face again.  Doug and I are proud to call ourselves Iowans.  Maybe one day we'll have a tractor and return some favors and rescue someone.