Saturday, June 25, 2016

Remembering a music teacher

I'm quite a fan of Turner Classic Movies, even though most of the time I forget it exists.  But during an idle moment (I have many of those) I'll occasionally be wandering through the vast wasteland that is television and remember to check TCM.  

I'm not that big on movies, really.  I'm usually not willing to commit two hours of my time to something that forces me to sit and watch a show that probably isn't going to impress me.  If I'm going to see a movie, I prefer to watch an old favorite rather than risk wasting my time on something current I'm pretty sure I won't enjoy.

I like "It's a Wonderful Life", "Little Big Man", "Christine", "It Happened One Night", "The Shining", "Casablanca", "Grapes of Wrath", "Stand By Me", "Easy Rider"... see?  There isn't much to connect any of those except that they're old.  A couple of those date from the thirties, long before I was born.  I am willing to sit down and watch any of them again, at any time, knowing I'm going to enjoy myself.

The other day I was checking Turner Classic's schedule to find something to record for later and saw "Music Man".  I hadn't watched it or thought about it in ages, but decided to record it to watch when Cliff's busy in the shop (he hates musicals, says they don't make any sense).  I first saw the movie in 1963 at one of the big theaters in downtown Kansas City.  I went alone, because I had no social life and nobody to go with.  But I digress.  

I would never have considered watching a musical, ever, had it not been for a music teacher I had in, I believe, the eighth grade.  I was attending the brand new Northgate Junior High School.  I think the class was called "general music".  Oh, that fancy new music room in the new school was something!  

I don't remember the music teacher's name, although I vaguely recall what he looked like.  Occasionally he would put a long-play album on the record player, and our entire time in class that day would be spent listening to a Broadway musical soundtrack.  Some of the songs were familiar... I watched The Carol Burnett Show, after all, and she featured a lot of classic Broadway songs... but they weren't the type of music I would have voluntarily listened to as background music, given the choice.  Forced to listen, I was fascinated by the songwriting skills of Rogers and Hammerstein, and amazed to learn that with the exception of the leading man and lady, not everyone who sings a song in a famous Broadway play is all that talented a singer.  Whoever sang "Everything's Up To Date in Kansas City" wasn't even trying to sound good.  I laughed at the comic songs and fell in love with "Some Enchanted Evening".  I nodded my agreement to "You've Got to be Taught".  

I used my allowance to buy some of these sound track records from the Columbia Record Club.  My country-music-loving parents, used to my usual fare of Elvis, the Everly Brothers, and Rick Nelson, thought I'd taken leave of my senses when they heard the voices of Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin coming from behind the closed door to my room.  

As all things go with teenagers, it was a phase that didn't last too long, but those songs reside in my heart to this day.  Sometimes when I step outside on a lovely morning, I just can't keep from belting out a few lines of "Surrey with the Fringe on Top", or even better, "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning".  

I wish I remembered that music teacher's name.   

  

Friday, June 24, 2016

morning discoveries

I'm still coughing.  At this point, I try to step outside to cough if Cliff's in the house.  It's a deep, rattling cough that goes on and on, and he can't help commenting:  "Oh yeah, you're getting better.  Right."

I point out to him that Cora is still having coughing fits, and she's had this mess ten days longer than I.  

This morning, I can honestly say that I do feel a little energy.  I've been weak as a kitten through this whole thing.  In fact, that's how it began, with two days of barely being able to put one foot in front of the other.  My self-diagnosis was low potassium, because I take water pills for high blood pressure.  I remember my mother having this problem.  Of course I consulted Dr. Google.  However, when the sore throat developed, I realized I had caught Cora's bug, which was probably causing my weariness. 

I have managed to sit on the back deck every morning, which is like a tonic.  We've had very hot temperatures, so the one time it's comfortable to be outside is in the morning hours.  Most times there's been a pleasant breeze.  That keeps the mosquitoes that love to feast in the morning hours from destroying my serenity.

Today after soaking in the perfection around me for a few minutes,  I left the deck and went to the garden, where most things are doing well.  This year I am not fretting about crop failure.  The garden is half the size it used to be, and has straw covering areas between rows.  Actually, it seems to be someone's failed oat crop, because all the grains are still on the straw; I guess it's very dry oat hay that perhaps was ruined by an ill-timed rainstorm.  This has presented a slight problem, because those little oats like to sprout and turn into new oat plants.  I knew this could happen when I spread it, but since it's no big deal what happens with the garden this year, I went ahead with my plans.  As it turns out, those sprouted oat plants pull easily, and there are fewer of them than there would be of the weeds that would come up without my mulch preventing their growth.  Since my garden is small, I've been doing a fairly good job of keeping up with the unwanted oat crop.   

A Facebook gardening friend has been mentioning "JB's" a lot on her status, saying they were a big problem.  I puzzled at what those initials stood for... all I could think of was June Bugs, and I always thought they were harmless.  I finally checked into her status more thoroughly and realized she was addressing her Japanese Beetle problem.  I even saw a picture of them she shared.  Hmmm.  OK.  

Yesterday morning as I strolled along the sidewalk in front of the house, I glanced at the Hibiscus plants, which will soon be blooming, and saw hundreds of those same shiny green bugs I had seen pictured by my friend.  I looked closer and was shocked at the lascivious acts being committed on my plants!  There had obviously been some gluttonous acts, too, since there had been huge holes eaten in the leaves of my prized plants.  Sevin dust to the rescue.  

On my garden stroll this morning, I noticed a few tomatoes are really getting some size on them.  Maybe by my birthday I'll be able to have a BLT.  Ah, but wouldn't you know there was trouble in paradise.  Tomato hornworms have started eating leaves of some of the plants.  Again, Sevin dust to the rescue.  There are lots of bugs and pests that aren't bothered by Sevin, but thank goodness it still works on Japanese Beetles and Hornworms.

I only wish it worked on raccoons and opossums.  There's been no sign of a problem with them yet, but I recall last year when the little varmints started pulling tomatoes that had barely started to ripen off the vines, eating a bite or two, then going after another.  As I said, I'm not stressing much over the garden this year, but I do have a problem when I miss out on my earliest home-grown tomatoes due to a useless varmint.    

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I'm back

Yes, I'm back, at least partially.  Not from a vacation, but from some sort of summer cold/scourge/plague given to me by the little girl we babysit.  Don't blame her though.  My grandson picked up what seems to be the same bug where he works; so I could have gotten it anywhere.  Others have told me it's going around in all parts of the country.

Any time I catch a bug from Cora, I can't help wondering how such a small child put up with such pain and discomfort and remained fairly pleasant throughout.  I have NOT been pleasant.  I have announced to the family several times daily that I'm dying.  Because I have a sore throat so seldom, I had forgotten how extreme the pain can be.  I don't go to doctors for these things because they can't do a lot for a cold.  I've taken Mucinex, Tylenol, cough syrup, and even over-the-counter sleeping pills on a couple of nights.  I've gargled salt water.  These are the things a doctor usually tells me to do, with the exception of the sleeping pills, which by the way, were a good idea.

I've continued to babysit the little girl throughout this time for two reasons:  First, she's easy to watch, even if I'm under the weather.  I think small children somehow sense when we don't feel well and act accordingly.  When I'd double over with the racking cough that comes with this mess, she'd say, "You OK, Donna?"  The second reason I kept her through this time is that Cliff can take over watching her to give me a break, and he did that several times.  He also washed dishes once, which I know is one of his least-favorite things to do.  

After a drought that looked like it would never end, we got an inch-and-a-half of rain a couple of nights ago.  The forecast had only given the area a slight chance of significant rain, so it was a pleasant surprise to look at the rain gauge, although in my dying (cough cough) condition I read it as one inch.  Cliff later looked and told me the proper total.  It was very a very spotty rain:  people within a ten-mile radius got totally different amounts.    

Cora and her mom bought a chicken harness recently and presented it to me.  I think the child and I will have fun with it once I'm totally back in the land of the living  (aren't you glad I'm back to complain about my miseries?).  

As soon as I get back on course and actually start doing some things to report I'll be here to do regular entries.  



Sunday, June 19, 2016

Back to Arkansas

Honestly, we only went to Arkansas last weekend because I missed going there; if you do a search, typing "motorcycle arkansas" in the search box in the upper left-hand corner of this blog, you will find several entries about our trips there on the Gold Wing.  Cliff wasn't thrilled about going, but was willing to cater to me.  I found a tractor show to (I hoped) help make the trip worth his time, and away we went.  

Going by car instead of motorcycle takes a lot of the novelty out of the trip:  Those winding roads through the beautiful Arkansas hills were absolutely breathtaking on the Gold Wing.  Somehow in a car you don't get the same effect.  However, there were many bikers at the motel where we stayed Friday night, and I was able to vicariously enjoy the biker experience by just observing them.  

After the tractor show (part 1 HERE, part 2 HERE), we went to Mystic Caverns, very near the biker motel we used to frequent.  There are two caves there; the price for admission to see both is $14.99 apiece.  Because there were many steps, I opted to see just one, the more recently discovered Crystal Dome.  I never know how far I can trust my knees to take me before they start protesting.  In hindsight, no more than we got for the thirty bucks we paid for the two of us, it was sort of a ripoff.  I'm sure if we had never seen the inside of a cave it would have been more impressive, but we toured Marvel Cave back when they gave a three-hour tour (before Silver Dollar City grew up around it), and once you've seen that, other caves fail to impress.  

Here's our tour group going down into the cavern.

And here's a gruesome selfie I took of us in the cavern:

I bought twelve colorful rocks to take home to Cora, since she is fascinated by rocks.  It has been well worth the exorbitant price I paid, because she has spent a lot of time sorting, examining, and losing her rocks.  

I had planned for us to spend another night in Arkansas, but having no motorcycle to ride around the scenic hills, it just wasn't the same.  It was still early in the afternoon, and I told Cliff that if we could just go south on 7 highway to "the Grand Canyon of the Ozarks", I'd be content to go home.  

What a view!


Even with achey knees, I can't pass up climbing these lookout towers when I happen onto one.  I have to say, this one has seen better days.  The wood is rotting in places and it has a rickety feeling.  Notice the walking stick I bought while I was in Arkansas; I've wanted one of those for a long, long time.  

A group of Harley riders pulled in while I was at the top of the tower.

Here's a picture  of Cliff and our Gold Wing, taken from the top of the tower six years ago.

After this little stop we headed back toward home.  We made the required stop at Osceola Cheese and bought some cheese and crunchie-munchies to serve as supper on the way back.  

We left Friday morning around 8:30 and we were back home Saturday evening by 7 PM or so.  Nice little getaway, and we were gone less than thirty-six hours.





Thursday, June 16, 2016

Oh how I love mornings

Lately I've taken to sitting on the back deck in the morning, watching and listening to the world wake up.  I pay a lot more attention to the process than I used to.

This morning I went out early, so the only light at first was from the moon.  I could only see the outline of the trees that surround our pasture in the distance and thought, "That could be a mountain range out there from the looks of it, if I didn't know better."

I gave a little thought to the wonder of mountains.  Soon the sky to the northeast began turning a light pink, signaling some sort of bird in the meadow to begin chirping a non-melodic tune.  As light gradually came to the day, I saw pairs of birds flying about.  A few coyotes yipped out a chorus briefly, and a lone turkey gobbled out of season.  The sound of a train floated to me from across the river.  We have trains running by regularly at the back of our place, but this was farther away.  I thought about how my dad, after he and my mom moved to our place when he had cancer, hated the sound of trains.  This baffled me, because I love hearing a train.  Perhaps he was just having problems sleeping because of the discomfort cancer brings, or was troubled knowing what was probably in his future. 

Next the birds with more of a talent for tuneful songs were waking up, and in the distance I heard a crow cawing.  The crows on our place are very cautious, so they are often heard but seldom seen.  I wish they'd come out and let me see them sometimes.

You can always tell when the sunrise is going to be spectacular; it promised to be a beauty today, turning from light pink to a brighter shade and brightening up the sky.  It takes clouds to make a pretty sunrise, and it seems as though most mornings there are a few clouds in the east, even on days that turn out to be cloudless later on.  I like to think the Creator arranges that for those of us who are early risers.  

I used to take pictures of sunrises, but I finally came to realize that the pictures only trivialize a huge thing by making it small.  I've often thought that if a sunrise (or yes, a sunset too) were something you had to travel thousands of miles to see, we'd all be booking a once-in-a-lifetime trip to see such a spectacle.  I've probably mentioned that before on my blog.  

When Cliff gets up, there are times I just can't keep to myself my enthusiasm at how wonderful the morning was, and what a lovely sunrise I beheld.  His stock answer is, "I can see the same thing in the evening when the sun is setting; it looks the same."  

Well yes, the appearance is very similar, but you miss out on the sounds of nature waking up with the day.

When I'm out there in the early morning watching and listening, all is right with the world.  I don't think about the election or politics in any form, nor aches and pains in my body; all the negative stories from the news are forgotten.  There's just a rightness about it all.  I think the practice of meditating has helped me learn to be "in the moment" for that space of time... no past, no future, only each minute as it ticks by.  I thank God for that experience.  

Lamentations 3:22-24New King James Version (NKJV)

22 Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“Therefore I hope in Him!”



Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Killing time in Arkansas

We left home Friday morning, stopped at Lambert's (Home of the Throwed Rolls) and arrived in Harrison shortly before 3 PM.  They roll up the sidewalks at 4, so we needed something to do quickly.  
Well, the Boone County Heritage Museum stays open until 4, so that would give us something to do for an hour.  Honestly, it was just a mix of this and that, some old things, some ancient, mostly unrelated objects.  Cliff and I like looking at old things, so it suited us fine and got us out of an hour of sitting in the motel watching reruns.  The three-story building used to be the local high school.

There was a switchboard somewhat similar to the one I grew up with.

Bull blinders.  I assume if you had a mean bull, he was less likely to kill you if he couldn't see you.

At one time, the largest manufacturer of parking meters in the world was located in Harrison.  The place is long-gone now.

An old gasoline pump (I'd love to have one) and a reminder of the state's most famous native son.

Ah yes, don't we all remember these from the 60's?

An embalming table that belonged to the town undertaker many years ago.  There's a casket in the background.

And hair dryers and contraptions from the past.  

You get the idea.  Anyhow, it kept us busy for an hour.  The next day we got up and went to the tractor show, but there was a little more after that, which I'll get to in my next blog entry. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Arkansas tractor show, part 2

Click HERE for part 1.

After learning that it was better to take my time and pay attention to things going on around me, I slowed down and stopped thinking about how small the show was.  Having seen the big engine started up and running, I wandered over to see the Parade of Power with Cliff.  We talked to a couple of grandparents there with their son and two-year-old grandson.  The grandmother confided that they only had the one son, and his wife was due to have a little girl any day, so they were excited.  

The Parade of Power at a tractor show consists of the tractors filing by the audience slowly, one by one, while an announcer tells folks the year, make, and model of the tractor, as well as any interesting stories about it:  for instance, someone might be driving a tractor that was owned by his dad or grandfather, or there might be a story about how the person discovered a tractor they had been seeking for many years.    

As I said in the previous entries, there weren't a lot of tractors on display.  Well, there weren't many in the parade, either.


 The Farmall M and H were big favorites back in the 40's and 50's, so you always see some of those at the shows.

You don't often see a tractor this rusty that runs.


This lady's husband was the announcer for the parade.  He was telling the date of an upcoming auction to bring in some funds for the club and said it was in June; in this shot, she is turning her head back toward him saying, "July!  July!"  It's really hard for us ladies to keep our men straightened out.


There was going to be a tractor pull for kiddies at some point.


Over in the shaded area where we went to see about getting a burger or hot dog, we happened on this guy, caning the seat of a chair.  I truly wish I had picked up one of his cards so I could give you his name.  He and his wife were friendly, and we conversed with them awhile about times past.


He said he spends a lot of time at this craft.  While we were there, a little bird perched right above us and sang the most beautiful song.  I didn't even stop to try and identify the breed until the man at the booth in the background wandered over and asked if I knew what sort of bird it was.  When I paid attention, I recognized it as a red house finch.  Turns out the bird and his girl friend had a nest right over their display.  While we were eating our burgers, I saw the strangest-looking bird ever.  I called Cliff's attention to it, and it was new to him also.  I just now did some googling and found out it was a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher.      

In another area of the grounds there were blacksmiths showing off their skills.   The wife of one of them came over and talked to us for quite a while.  I didn't get a picture of her.  I need to wake up, I'm missing a lot of good shots!


These guys were bragging about their four-leaf clovers.  The young guy on the right had a whole handful of them, and gave me one for luck.  I burst into "I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover", and the blacksmith's wife joined me for a few lines.

The older fellow had several four-leafs and a five-leaf clover to show off.  I asked the two of them if they were good at finding mushrooms.  I figured anybody who can find a four-leaf clover in a sea of green can surely do well finding morel mushrooms.  

There was a tractor pull scheduled at 1 P.M., and as much as I dislike tractor pulls, I almost wanted to stay.  There were a lot of pulling tractors being hauled onto the the grounds as we were leaving.  It was obvious that in that area, tractor-pulling is a lot more popular than tractor-showing.  

We have shows to attend the next two weekends:  one at Lathrop and one at Adrian.  I hope I can remember to take my time and see them with different eyes, paying attention to the individuals and their passion for rusty iron.  These shows really aren't about the tractors, they're about people.  I'll be taking my mobility scooter, so I will have a comfortable seat from which to watch the action.

Arkansas tractor show

I knew going in that the tractor show we were attending several miles south of Harrison, Arkansas, would be a small one.  I think we may have visited it back in the 90's, or else we attended a similar show.  The thing is, I wanted a road trip to Arkansas, so I used the tractor show as bait to lure Cliff into my scheme.  He was aware of this, of course.

We've been to some big shows, most notably the ones at  Rollag, Minnesota (I really want to see that one again) and Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.  We also have some pretty decent shows within a hundred miles of home.  So when I checked out the website of the Rusty Wheels Old Engine Club, I knew I was dealing with a lightweight group.


 This pretty much shows you all the tractors that were on display when we arrived.  There were others around the grounds, and several arrived as the day progressed, although they weren't put on display.  One thing different about the tractors in this show was that nobody was worried about making them look new, and some of them were solid rust.  Now, I'm used to seeing guys who want to keep a great old tractor that's always been stored in a shed just as it is, with the original paint and decals.  But some of these looked as though they were just dragged out of a fencerow.

For the opening ceremony, right after the flag was raised, the Pledge of Allegiance said, and a prayer was given, the president of the tractor club sponsoring this show was called to the microphone.  I was amazed to hear a woman's voice.
 Later I ran into the lady who was, indeed, the president of the club, running the general store on the grounds.  "I was sort of drafted," she told me when I asked if she was the president.  When I remarked that she and Hillary had something in common, she said, "Everybody mentions Hillary."  She almost said it with a sigh.

The club only has seventeen members, so every member needs to be a jack-of-all-trades during the show.  Judy had to close up the store when she left to do something else:  One time she had to run to town after fuel for the engines.

At the larger tractor shows I'm used to, when Cliff stops to watch an activity that seems to me about as exciting as watching paint dry, I'll go on to another location to find something of more interest.  This being a smaller show, there wasn't that much else to see.  So when Cliff stopped by a huge diesel engine some guys were attempting to start, I got comfortable on my cane-chair and watched alongside him.  


Cliff could tell you exactly what they were doing step-by-step, but it would probably bore most of my readers.  Once the men began trying to start it, a guy kept spraying ether on it, but that engine didn't even turn over.  Cliff tells me the problem was that the machine wasn't getting enough air.  He thought of things he'd try if it were him, but kept his mouth shut because, after all, these folks didn't know him.  He might be one of those know-it-alls who are always giving unwanted advice for all they'd know.


They walked around this thing and discussed the problem at length.  It was a warm day, and getting warmer, so they took it slow and easy.


Finally they went over to the huge air compressor that shot air underground to the engine and discovered that the old, rotten hoses which led to the tubes taking the air to the engine were leaking.  This led to a new confab or two.




Cliff tells me they had to destroy the metal fitting to which the hose was fastened, cut off the rotten end of the hose, and attach the relatively fresh end of the hose back where it had been connected before.  Unfortunately, they had destroyed that fitting and didn't have another, so they settled on attaching the hose with a hose clamp.  The original fitting had grooves that, when the hose was properly attached, prevented it from slipping off.  We are talking about a tremendous amount of compressed air here.  The guys put on a second hose clamp, had more discussion, and one said, "Well, we'll just keep everybody out of here until we get 'er started."

In other words, if that hose were to let go and somebody was standing nearby, he could be injured or killed.  This wasn't the safest option, but it was their only one if they wanted to get on with things; after all, the big engine was one of the stars of their show.

Then they went back to the engine.



Success is sweet!  

I learned a lot from this episode.  From now on, I'm going to stay with Cliff and watch the action, even though the "action" goes by pretty slowly.  I'm going to pay more attention to the human element of these places.

When Cliff comes in and reads this entry, he will probably find some errors.  He was very helpful in explaining how all this stuff works, right down to showing me what kind of fitting was needed for attaching the hose (TMI).  Because I know most of my readers are ladies who probably don't really want to know the details (like me), I have tried to keep things simple.  But don't be surprised if I end up having to change some details, because I MUST have Cliff's seal of approval.  He is my main proofreader.    

More about this tractor show in the next entry.


Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Credit where credit is due

This morning Cliff managed to bust a great big hole in the hood of the little John Deere compact tractor that does all the real work around here.  As tractors go, it isn't that old... OK, maybe fifteen years or so, but compared to our OTHER tractors, it's like new.  It's the closest to a new tractor Cliff ever owned.  He hates anything happening that messes with the appearance of his machinery or his vehicles.  

He called the John Deere dealer to see how much a new hood would cost.  The hood alone was over $400 and the decals and foam stuff inside the hood brought the price up to around $500.  Knowing him well, I told him we could forgo our trip to Arkansas this weekend and we'd have the cash in hand for a new hood.  

He thought about it, said he hated to cheat me out of a trip, and decided to see if he could repair it to his satisfaction.

This afternoon, after spending quite a bit of time in his shop, he came to the house with the type of problem that is very familiar to both of us in these last few years, and getting more common all the time.  He told me he had made a trip to O'Reilly in Odessa and bought a couple of tubes of J-B Weld quick-setting epoxy to use for his repair job; he had used one, but couldn't find the second one.  He said he had looked in every place it could possibly be.  Nobody had been in the shop except him.  How do you lose just one of a pair of identical items you've purchased two hours ago? 

Cora wanted to go to the shop anyhow, so we went and I started looking.  Many times a new set of eyes catches something that other eyes missed.  I opened drawers ("I looked in drawers" he said.  I dug in trash cans ("I dumped that trash can out and went through it," he informed me.) 

You get the picture.  I did finally mention one place he hadn't thought of, but it wasn't there.  He and Cora began playing a game where she hooked a tie-down strap to the hammer loop on his overalls and said he was a dog named Skye and then led him around, so while they played, I hunted.  "Did you check in the car?" I asked him.  Yes, he had, even though he was positive that he had brought both packages of the stuff to the shop anyhow.  

I decided to go look out to our garage and look in the car myself, to no avail.  

Now here's where I'll lose some of you.  

I don't pray for a lot of things.  I seldom even ask for healing for my friends and family except for them to receive strength and peace.  I have a very strong sense that God's gonna do what God's gonna do.  Don't get me wrong, I know He cares about us.  I just don't feel he needs us to spur him on to activity.    

Most of my prayers are to thank Him, and I have plenty of stuff to keep me praying that way.  But today I stopped in front of the garage and said, "God, I know that You know where that stuff is, and if You'll help me find it, I promise I'll give you credit."

I went back to the shop and looked around even though I'd already looked everywhere.  My eyes landed on the trash can that I had started to dig through before Cliff stopped me.  What could it hurt to dig through it anyhow?  I moved about three items and there it was, the J-B Weld, just as big as you please.  Because I had promised God I'd give him credit, I told Cliff the story as I handed him the stuff.

Cliff, of course, is a skeptic.  "I don't think God is worried about me finding my J-B Weld," he said.  

Whatever.  

So, I'm telling the story here.  You don't see me "get religious" very often on my blog, and I really wouldn't say that's what I'm doing now.  But a promise is a promise, and I said I'd give Him credit if we found it.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

A step-by-step story of our lost luggage

It seems as though half the people who have seen my story of the lost-and-now-found luggage want to blame somebody for the whole mess.  Many people were surprised the luggage was found.  Although there was a time or two that I had my doubts if we would see it again, honestly it was just one of those things that happens.  Something went wrong, but it turned out OK.

First of all, people who buy the Grand Railway package are normally all booked in one hotel at the Grand Canyon, the Maswik Lodge.  So when employees gather up the luggage to take back to the Grand Railway Hotel in Williams, everything is under one roof.  Because my travel agent had her heart set on us sleeping in a motel on the rim of the canyon with a view of the canyon from our room, we weren't at the Maswik.  Somebody was going to have to make a special trip to pick up our suitcases when we checked out of our room.  

Checkout time at the Thunderbird Lodge was 11 A.M., and we waited until after 10 to check out.  We had to do our checking out at a different location, though, the Bright Angel Lodge.  We went to the desk and when Cliff placed the key-card in front of a man, the guy said, "You must be the Woods.  There's only you and one other family to be accounted for, and they have three suitcases.  Since there are two of you, I assume you're the ones with two."

I'm pretty sure our dawdling had something to do with the whole mixup, too.  At this point Cliff and I talked about how amazing it was that the Grand Railway folks could coordinate the suitcase transportation between hotels for so many people.  

When we arrived back at the Grand Hotel that evening expecting to be united with our luggage, it wasn't there.  We ate our evening meal, returned, and it was still missing.  At this point the lady at the desk was showing a little panic and making calls to everyone who might have had contact with our luggage... most of whom, of course, had gone home for the night.  After a couple of hours she called our room to let me know they were doing everything possible, but hadn't had any luck so far.  This was when I went into panic mode, and caught myself raising my voice at her, at which point I apologized, telling her I realized she had nothing to do with our missing suitcases.  We were about ready to go to bed (we were leaving, after all, at 2:30 the next morning to catch the Amtrak home).  There was a knock on the door of our room, and it was a man who wanted to get a report of our loss, a description of our suitcases, and so forth.  The lady at the desk sent up some toothbrushes, toothpaste, combs and brushes, deodorant, and other essentials.

Notice everyone was doing the best they could do, and they were touching bases with us often.  

At 2:30 A.M. we went to the lobby to wait for the bus that would take us to Williams Junction to meet the train.  Our luggage had not yet been found.  I had my iPad with me, but the charging cord was in the lost luggage, along with our cell phone charger.  The batteries were low on both devices, so I wouldn't have any access to the Internet when they died.  

Once I was on the train I resolved to enjoy the trip home; every time I'd think about our luggage, I'd repeat to myself, "It's just stuff."  

Because I ended up with no iPad (Internet) and no cell phone, nobody could contact me.  The minute we got to our car back in Kansas City, I plugged in the iPad so it could start charging and checked my email.  There was an email from someone at Bright Angel Lodge telling me to call, that they had found my luggage.  

I got home and called her (this is about 48 hours after we checked out at Bright Angel).  First of all she told me our luggage had been sent back to the Grand Hotel.  Then she explained how the luggage was lost:  She was in charge of going to everybody's rooms to pick up their luggage after checkout, and ours was added to the luggage from the Maswik after our rather tardy checkout from Thunderbird (special trip for her, not in her usual routine... she didn't say that, but I figured it out).  At some point a car that should have stopped to let her pass sped in her path and she had to apply the brakes really hard.  There was some sort of barrier normally in place so that no luggage could slide under a seat, but her screeching stop somehow knocked the barrier down.  Under the seat went our suitcases.  I told her we were now at home in Missouri, so the lady told me to call the Grand Railway Hotel and talk to them.

If Cliff and I had been staying another day in Williams, we would have have been reunited with our luggage in good time.  I wish we had booked another day, because the town is on old Route 66, and I'd like to have checked out a few local places and taken some pictures.  However, we booked what I felt we could afford and pay cash for.  So now I knew how our luggage got misplaced and I knew it was found.

I called Grand Hotel.  That woman referred me to the lost and found, and that person referred me to the shipping department.  I had to leave a message for shipping, but I promptly got a return call.  This pleasant-sounding fellow made sure he had the proper address, then asked just how our luggage came to be lost, so I told him the story.  He chuckled and said, "OK, I'll get these in boxes and send them off.  They should go out before 11 a.m.  Give me your email address and I'll send you the routing number."

I never received the routing numbers.  In hindsight, I wonder if perhaps he got one letter or number of my email address wrong.  I could have, should have called him back, but I'd waited this long, so why bother?  It's my own fault I didn't call back.  

One reason I wasn't too worried at this point is that the hotel had turned this case in to their insurance, and on the day we returned home, we got a call from an insurance adjuster wanting us to let him know when the luggage showed up.  He also wanted us to look through it and see if everything was there, if and when it showed.  

Now, after reading this, can you see that nobody was at fault?  The hotel staff did everything in their power to make this right.  I wish they had an email address on their website so that I could send them a link to this entry.  All the people I spoke with were great, even the lady at the desk that I yelled at briefly; and communication between hotel and myself was great except for the twenty-four hours when my devices died.  

Don't hesitate to purchase one of the Grand Canyon packages.  The restaurants included in the package aren't that great, but everything else is wonderful. 





Saturday, June 04, 2016

You nailed it, Chuck Brodsky



Well, he came to our town
For maybe an hour.
The streets, they got swept
And they planted some flowers.
Babies were kissed,
To the people he waved,
And he stopped
At a Civil War general’s grave.
And he struck just the right pose
And he hit just the right chord.
He spoke of the family
And then of the Lord.
He addressed the concerns
Of the common man.
He spoke of the glory
Of this mighty land.
And he was just the right color,
And his smile was fixed,
And his wardrobe was assembled
From a bag full of tricks.
And he had gobs of make up
That were caked on his face,
Starch in his collar,
Every hair was in place.
And his wife stood beside him
And his daughter did too,
Behind them the flag
With the red, white and blue.
Balloons from the rafters
They fell to the floor.
Oh Happy Day’s were
Gonna be here once more.
He said all the right words,
He quoted Bob Dylan songs.
He sounded hip, even though
He quoted them wrong.
And his closets were cleaned
And his history revised,
So his record would be spotless
In most people’s eyes.
And he could sell you a war,
He could revoke your rights,
And still come off as your friend
In the camera lights.
And he’ll run negative ads
If he has to to win,
He’ll go back on his word
And he will shed his own skin.
Well, I was not touched
By this guy in the least.
He was no savior,
I think he was the Beast.
Well, I have to admit
They staged a good show
It was all reminiscent
Of four years ago,
When he came to our town
For maybe an hour.
The streets, they got swept
And they planted some flowers.
Babies were kissed,
To the people he waved,
And he stopped
At a Civil War general’s grave
After an hour
They whisked him away.
Things went back to normal,
But it took two or three days.
The homeless returned
To living outside,
And the flowers
That they planted,
They all wilted and died.
Yes, he came to our town
For maybe an hour
The streets, they got swept
And they planted some flowers.

Friday, June 03, 2016

mindreaders

I don't know when Cliff and I first realized we could read one another's minds.  When it began, it only happened occasionally.  We figured it was some sort of coincidence if one of us would starting talking about something and it would turn out to be the same thing the other was thinking.  

These days it's a common occurrence that we've learned to accept as normal.  

It often has to do with food:  I get up two or three hours before Cliff in the morning.  Most often we have cereal and fruit for breakfast, not because it's our preference, but it seems the easiest way to control our calorie intake.  And yes, because the cleanup is easy.  Once in awhile, though, while Cliff is still in bed, I'll take a notion to treat him with bacon and eggs or, more rarely, biscuits and gravy.  Sometimes I'll make muffins; we'll each eat two and then I freeze the rest for another day.

At least three-fourths of the time, when I tell Cliff what we're having for breakfast, he'll say, "You ain't gonna believe this..." and tell me that was exactly what he was wishing for as he was lying in bed.  

Sometimes I'll be craving something that can only be gotten if we eat out.  Many, many times he "feels the vibes" and asks if I'm wanting to go someplace to eat.  

After breakfast this morning Cliff went to the shop and stayed there, messing with his latest tractor project.  Now, I should first tell you that our vacation has ruined me:  I have had very little desire to cook anything lately.  I guess I got used to having everything done for me, as well as having new, interesting things to do all the time.  However, I have plugged along, and we've had regular meals.  

Soon after my husband left the house, I began to wonder what Bates City Cafe was going to be serving for lunch.  I tried to shoo the thought away, but it just didn't work.  Finally I went to the cafe's Facebook page and, in a comment to something the proprietor had said earlier, asked, "What's for lunch?"

Usually they answer Facebook inquiries within the hour, but not this time.  We eat at noon every day, because that way when Cliff is outside, he knows when to come in for dinner (that's lunch, for you city folks).  Having received no answer from the cafe by 10:30, I decided I may as well get on the ball and fix something easy.  I opened a couple cans of green beans, cut up a smallish onion into them, added 1/2 of the kielbasa in a package, sliced into bite-size pieces, and slipped in a teaspoon of bacon grease for good measure.  Because there's nothing easier than a potato baked in the microwave, I chose that as a side.  Seemed like a pretty lame dinner.  However, I had been moving a quart of frozen peaches aside every time I went digging around in the freezer lately, and I decided to put them to good use in a peach cobbler.  Now THAT made it appear (and smell) as though I had been slaving away all morning, and a cobbler is pretty simple to make.  

That was dinner, and a mighty tasty one it was.  When Cliff came in, he saw the meal I had prepared and said, "Huh, that's funny.  I had the strangest feeling you were going to be coming out to the shop telling me you wanted to go someplace to eat.  I guess I was wrong."

I smiled and told him he was right on target, that I had been thinking about Bates City Cafe.  However, since they never answered my query, I just went ahead and cooked.

"That's exactly the place I was thinking about!" he said.  

"Oh well, it's their loss," I replied.

Besides, on Friday nights they have a fried catfish special. 


The mockingbird

For several years we had a mockingbird who would perch at the top of the utility pole holding the wires that bring electricity to our home and sing his heart out.  Not only did he sing, but he did a certain dance and a few acrobatics while he was at it.  In 2010 I shot a video of him.  It's at quite a distance, but you can see and hear him pretty well.  Ignore the smudge on the camera... back when I took a camera horseback riding with me in the early mornings, moisture tended to gather inside my cameras and ruin them after a couple of years.  Anyhow, meet Mr. Mockingbird: 



For at least the last two years, Mr. Mockingbird has failed to show up.  I've missed him sorely.  

A couple of evenings ago I was getting eggs at the chicken house, stepped out to go to the house, and heard the familiar sound of a mockingbird singing without, seemingly, stopping to take a breath.  I had heard him a couple of times lately, but this time I was in the mood to track him down.  I looked in the direction from which the sound was coming.
It seemed to be coming from the vicinity of that big barrel.



I walked about halfway down that line of trees before I spotted him at the tip-top of the furthest Norway Spruce, a tree about ten feet tall.  He was singing his heart out.  

I have no idea whether this is the same bird, but I know I've heard his songs coming from that direction twice, so maybe that's his chosen location.  I am thankful for his return, because he makes me smile.

Now if only I'd hear a whippoorwill.  One of my fondest childhood memories is one of lying at Grandma's house on a featherbed, on an early summer evening near an open window, listening to the whippoorwills across the road singing their unique song.  We've lived here 41 years now, I've only heard a whippoorwill once on our property, back when I had my cabin in the woods and spent a night there.  I wonder if I could google up a 10-minute recording of whippoorwills singing.  I could listen to it sometimes as I'm going to sleep.  I've lamented their demise before on this blog.  

Is it a sign of old age when you spend time thinking about things (and people) you can no longer see and hear? 

Thursday, June 02, 2016

The Lost-Luggage saga has a happy ending

Cora, who is finally back from Iowa, came to visit this afternoon.  We played silly games all afternoon, ending with a ride on the four-wheeler in the pasture.  When we returned from that ride, here's what I found on our front porch:
Each of those boxes held a suitcase.  

Everything was in the suitcases exactly as we had placed them.  Nothing was missing.  

This will fit nicely into an 8X10 frame and make a perfect souvenir of our 50th anniversary trip.  I'll also include one of the tags that was on our lost luggage.  

As I said before, all's well that ends well.  

Leaving the Grand Canyon (home again home again, jiggety jig)

One of our last views of the Grand Canyon from near the Hopi House.   
At 3 P.M. on Monday afternoon, we boarded the Grand Canyon train to head back to Williams for one more night.  Everyone was pretty quiet on the ride back.  Some folks had only been there since 9 A.M. that morning, some two days like us, and some probably had been there longer.  You can get different packages.  Anyhow, after strolling around the canyon all day, getting on and off the shuttles, we were pretty tired.  


One of the robbers
At one point the "marshall" boarded the train and warned that train robbers were in the area.  A few minutes later we noticed some shady characters outside our window, galloping their horses alongside the train.  Before you know it, we were being robbed.  We had been told that if we wanted to be robbed (ha!) to put money on our person where the robbers could grab it easily; the money goes to the upkeep and preservation of the Grand Canyon.  After it was all over, the lady in charge of keeping us entertained on our coach asked us if we enjoyed our robbery.  "I've had better," I told her.  

At the big hotel in Williams, we went to our room to find our two suitcases weren't there, as they were supposed to be.  The lady at the front desk told us to go ahead and eat dinner, and when we returned it probably would be there.  She figured the crew just hadn't had time to unload it.  Those of you who have followed this whole saga know that we haven't seen our luggage since.    

I really expected the luggage to arrive yesterday by UPS, but no luck.  The hotel's insurance guy had already been in contact with us, so I called him.  He said we should give it until Friday afternoon (tomorrow, as I write this entry), then contact him again and we'd get the ball rolling.  I'll start working on a list of stuff that was in the suitcases.

We had to be up at 2:30 the next morning to wait for the van that would take us to meet the train at Williams Junction.  I hadn't slept a lot due to concern about our loss, and although I had told the lady at the desk we'd need a wakeup call, it wasn't necessary.  I was awake already when the call came.  There was a family of three waiting in the lobby with us.  None of us had much to say at that time of morning.  

At first I thought the idea of no clean clothes to wear and our lost luggage in general would ruin our Amtrak trip back to Kansas City, but sitting on the train waiting for the sun to come up, I made a decision to let it go:  Nothing in those suitcases was worth ruining my only train trip over.

We felt like seasoned travelers on our way home.  We knew the ropes!  We know how to flush the stool in the sleeper car, how to find the dining car (very easy, this trip, because it was the next car).

We met more people in the dining car:  

A man and his wife from the south of France, Harley riders who had rented a motorcycle for much of their tour of the U.S.  She had lots of tattoos and was very quiet, but he was quite talkative.  He was originally from England.  When they went home, their plane would land in Spain.  When I got back home, I looked up France on the map.  

A man from Malaysia with a heavy accent.  Cliff is hearing impaired anyhow, and any accent handicaps him further, but I try to "run interference" for him.  This guy was very friendly.  He said he works for Exxon.  I asked him if there were troubled times in his country and he said no, it's peaceful there.  There's a temperate climate (t-shirt year around, he said) and they get a lot of rain.  He was on his way to see a niece graduate college in Milwaukee.  When I got back home, I looked up Malaysia on the map. 

At one point Cliff and I were seated at a table in the observation car on the way from Kansas City to Williams and a couple of Amish fellows, father and son, joined us.  We had a great conversation with them, the father doing most of the talking.  I mentioned to them I had just sold my last heifers and missed milking a cow.  He made squeezing motions with both hands (as if milking) and said, "We milk cows this way."  I answered, "So do I."  

One lady across from us at a meal had spent two years in New England living with her dad because he had asked her to.  He recently died, and she was going to live in another state now.  People just weren't friendly up there in New England, she said.  

I had written down notes about some of these folks so I could write about them, but the notes are in the lost luggage.  We sure did meet some people!  Most of them seemed to be seasoned Amtrak travelers:  Some would even shake hands and introduce themselves as soon as we were seated at the table with them.  It was quite an experience for this introvert.  I'm always saying the wrong thing, which is why I often avoid conversations with strangers, but there was no avoiding talking to the folks we ate with.  I don't think I accidentally insulted anyone too badly.  I have a way of doing that, you know.  

I loved traveling by train!  On the way home Cliff and I slept like babies in our bunks, and napped several times throughout the day.  We agree that although the Grand Canyon is something to behold, and it was a big deal to see it (again, for Cliff... first time for me), the train travel was the highlight of our vacation, unforgettable in every way.  Everybody says, "Would you do it again?"

I would do it in a heartbeat, lost luggage and all!  (Amtrak didn't lose it anyhow, it was the hotel people.)  We won't be traveling by train again, because we really don't have that kind of funds, but it was worth every penny for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.  What a great 50th anniversary gift to ourselves.

And I have my Kansas City Russian Jewish friend to thank for it, because he's the one who originally suggested traveling by train.