Tuesday, November 29, 2016

We moved the calves

The only bit of decent pasture we have left is a plot behind the house.  Horses are really hard on pasture, and this is the only place they've not been grazing on.  A lot of the grass there is still green, even as we are getting ready to move on into December.

The calves are about five weeks old, maybe six.  It's really funny that these are the first calves I've ever purchased whose arrival date I didn't write down somewhere.  But the first pictures I put on Facebook were taken October 21.  They're growing well, still taking milk replacer and eating probably four or five pounds of calf starter (grain) between them every day.

Yesterday I suggested to Cliff that we move the calves behind our house instead of in the little barn lot in front.  "They are trying to pick at the dry, brown weeds in the little lot," I told him, "and there can't be any food value there.  There is still good grass behind the house."

"How are we going to get two calves through the yard, around the house, to the back?" Cliff asked.  

"Easy.  I'll mix up some milk replacer, and put it in the bottles; they'll follow us anywhere."

He seemed skeptical, but decided to go put electric fence across the plot of grass to keep the calves close to the house at the start and see what happened.  Cliff had put up a small stretch of electric fence in the barn lot when we first got them so they'd be trained and know what it was whenever we turned them out to pasture.   This always works well, although if calves realize they are free from their original pen they sometimes take off running.  In that case, they are liable run right through the electric fence before they even see it the first time; after that, they usually pay attention and stay away from it.  

I half-filled two calf bottles with milk replacer.  Both Cliff and I had a bottle, and everything went as planned.  They each followed us through the gate of the lot, around the house, and through the gate into their new home.  Cliff had already moved the calf hutches back there, side by side.  That area is unprotected from the north wind, so they had to have some place of refuge.

They finished their bottles, saw the feed boxes with grain in it and immediately dived in for a brief bite, and then discovered the green grass at their feet and started grazing.  One of them wandered near the electric fence out of curiosity and got shocked, then went back to grazing.  

I can still look out the north windows and see them nearby, which is almost a necessity these days.  I am just not as vigilant as I once was, and I need every trick in the book to keep me attentive to their needs.  

As I create this entry, Cliff is out doing the rest of the preparation for the calves' winter home.
He's bedding them down with plenty of straw, securing the hutches so they won't blow away, and doing all the other mundane things that are necessary.  From there on, it's my project again.

I made the mistake of telling Cora we were going to eat the calves when they are big.  "You're going to eat my calves?"  (I never told her they were hers, but she figures everything around this place is hers.)

"Yes, when they're big," I answered.  

"I don't want you to do that."

"Oh.  Well, what if we just sell them?"

That, she decided, would be fine with her.  Keep in mind that I did not say we WOULD sell them.  But I will choose my words wisely when the time comes to take them to the butcher shop.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Too much food

I realize there's always too much food on Thanksgiving, but this year for some reason it was extreme.  We had a few last-minute no-shows, but that really doesn't account for such a surplus.  

When the day was over, I brought the turkey-bones back here to make turkey frame soup.  Every year I tell anybody around who will listen to me:  "Don't throw away your turkey bones!"  

There was still a generous amount of meat on the bones of our bird.  With so much meat, I decided to make two one-gallon bags of turkey broth with meat to put in the freezer from the one turkey, instead of one.

Getting all these good fixin's is a messy proposition:  You take all the remains of the cooked bird and boil them for ninety minutes, which means you will have the largest pan in the house to clean up later.  When it's done, you set a colander atop another "biggest pan in the house" and start pouring the contents of the first pan through the colander into the second.  Now you have two more things to wash, and if you're a slob like me, you've splashed quite a bit of broth around the kitchen.

Take the colander filled with drained chicken off that (second) pan and set the pan aside.  Get a container to hold the meat you're going to coax off the bones, and start hunting for meat.  Usually I'll end up with at least two cups for the soup, even on the sparest turkey frame.  Now you will spend at least thirty minutes picking the skin off what you've collected  and picking tiny pieces of meat out of the backbone and neck bone.  If turkey frame soup wasn't so good, I wouldn't put myself through all this.

So, I had already processed two turkey frames this week when son-in-law Kevin came home from his family Thanksgiving dinner at Carthage carrying a couple of Walmart bags with two turkey frames.  My cup runneth over!  As he handed the bagged-up remains to me, he said, "I'm pretty sure there's still a lot of meat on these."

I would rather have put these bones into the freezer and worked on them some other day, having already been through the mess the day before.  But neither of the carcasses would have fit into a gallon freezer bag.  I shoved it all in the refrigerator and went to bed.  Awake at four Sunday morning, I drank a cup or two of coffee and realized my best bet was to go ahead and boil these babies, pick the meat off the bones, put the broth and meat in the freezer, and be done with it.  Once more I was up to my elbows in a turkey mess, and I got turkey frame number 3 for the year cooked before church.  By the time we got home, it was cool enough to prepare for the freezer and I got number four cooking.  That last carcass is chilling on the cold back porch waiting for me to separate the meat from bones today.

I found out Kevin's remark about "a lot of meat" was an understatement.  There was so much of it, I actually saved two pints of chopped meat for casseroles.
What you see in the green bowl is the turkey I'll put back in the broth to freeze for soup (Another bowl to wash.)  I suppose we'll be eating a lot of turkey this winter, but I'm armed with a lot of casserole and soup recipes.

Friends on Facebook posted pictures of their lovely table settings and seasonal decorations; I was impressed, believe me.  We spend our holidays in the shop with the big Oliver 1855.  It's green, so I guess that would count as a Christmas decoration.  There's a furnace out there, and sometimes a wood stove, so it's cozy.  We have lots of folding picnic tables and plenty of throwaway plates and plastic utensils.  If there are children, as there were at the Fourth of July gathering, they can run and play and shout.  The worst part of holding a feast in the shop is getting all the food out there after it's prepared.  And the coffeepot, creamer, sugar... stuff like that.  But a lot of the food is brought by guests, and it doesn't matter where they have to carry their offerings.  

I went out to the shop refrigerator this morning to make sure nothing was rotting in there.  All I found was a veggies-and-dip tray.  I ate some today with my turkey frame soup, but I knew we could never eat all those munchies before they ruined.

But wait!  I can cook all those, and there's plenty there to cook.  Those peas would be nice in a stir-fry.  

Thanksgiving is still my favorite holiday, and yet it's always sort of a relief to have it behind me.  


Sunday, November 20, 2016

When God can't get through to us Himself, he often sends a friend to do His work

One of my closest friends is someone I met on the Internet in a Christian chat room.  In 2004, about the same time I started blogging, Joanna opened her home to me for a week and gave me the grand tour of Washington, DC.  It was one of the best vacations I've ever had.  My only regret has been that Cliff didn't get to see all the monuments and famous places with me, because he would have loved it.  I'm seriously thinking about saving my pennies and getting enough cash in reserve for me and Cliff to take one of those chartered bus trips to Washington, DC, next spring.  But I digress.  

In April, I believe, of 2006, Joanna came here for a visit.  Here we are back at the cabin (which has been moved and made into a chicken house now).

It was during that visit I mentioned to her Cliff was having indigestion every time we went for our walk.  Joanna told me her brother-in-law once had such symptoms, and when he finally went to the doctor they had him go straight to the hospital because he was having heart pains, not indigestion.  She urged me to get Cliff to the doctor, so I made an appointment the day after she left for home.

Our family doctor checked him out and made him an appointment with a cardiologist, just to be safe.  A nuclear stress test showed that there was a problem; Dr. Nager insisted Cliff go straight to the hospital from his office (in an ambulance because he said, "I don't think you should be driving").

Keep in mind we had been running here, there, and everywhere on our pretty blue Honda Gold Wing.  What if he'd had a heart attack while we were on the motorcycle?  Just one of many close calls we never know about until after the fact.  

  This is a picture of Cliff at one of the lowest points of his life.  We were waiting for somebody to give us a diagnosis.  

This is the cardiologist explaining the results of the angioplasty:  Stents wouldn't work, he told us.  Cliff needed a quadruple heart bypass.  He is still Cliff's cardiologist, but like us, he has aged a little in ten years.  And gotten nicer.  

Cliff had never been in a hospital in his life, and here he was about to have major surgery.

This is Dr. Gallion, the surgeon, explaining that the surgery was over and Cliff was OK.  

Cliff would have gone home on the third day, but after having a collapsed lung his stay was extended one more day.  

He was so excited to be going home.

Neighbors came to visit in the shop on his first day home, but all visits were pretty short in the beginning.  He tired easily.  

I've blogged about all this before, but it's on my mind today and I am reminded how fortunate it was that Joanna came to visit that April.

Cliff has had some wheezing and chest congestion off and on for over a year.  We went to the family doctor about this last winter; the wheezing got better, but never went away entirely.  He's due for a visit to the cardiologist anyhow, and when I mentioned the congestion to the nurse there, she said he definitely needs to be seen.  So he has an appointment for December 5.  I recall when Dr. Nager released him after surgery, he made the statement, "You'll probably need some repair work eight or ten years from now." 

Well, it's been ten years.  The doctor will no doubt mention his weight gain, but honestly, the man has tried every way to find some form of exercise he can do without pain, and there's nothing.  He tried the exercise bike, which makes his knees hurt.  He recently started going for a daily walk in the pasture again, taking it pretty easy and staying off the hills, but after a few days his knee was popping and hurting so badly he was lucky to be able to walk to the shop for awhile; my husband is not a baby when it comes to pain, so if he says it hurts, believe me it does.  The truth is, he could use a knee replacement AND a hip replacement, but so far he doesn't feel it's worth the risk.  

We'll see how this all turns out.  I'm not worried.  Cliff doesn't seem too worried.  Who knows, the congestion may not have anything to do with his heart:  He may have COPD.  

This all started as a tribute to my friend Joanna but all I've done is go down memory lane about my husband's surgery ten years ago.  Joanna, I love you and am so glad to have you for a friend.  God brought us together in that chat room, then used our friendship to diagnose Cliff's problem and has kept us friends ever since.  I know you don't take a lot of credit for his recovery.  He was taking his life in his hands every day, because when we'd walk up the steepest hill in the pasture, he was having chest pain.  He could have dropped dead from a heart attack at any moment.  God uses friends for things like this all the time, if we just listen to them with our hearts as well as our ears.    

I want to close this entry with a link that explains the various symptoms of congestive heart failure.  This isn't the same list I showed Cliff yesterday: After looking at that list, he said, "I have all but two of those symptoms."  I couldn't find that link again, but this one will do.  

Click HERE.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The REST of the story

Between the years of 1952 and 1955, my parents were the telephone operators in Eagleville, Missouri.  Someone had to be present in the house at all times to answer the switchboard and connect people with whomever they needed to call.  Funny thing, we went to church every Sunday and I don't remember who came to babysit the switchboard... but I'm pretty sure someone did because you just couldn't leave it alone.  It was a whole other member of our family.  I do know that when there was something going on in the evening, or if we wanted to get away for a day or two, a teenaged girl named Velda sometimes took over.  

Across the road from us lived the local school principal, a widower, and his daughter, Sarah Kay, who was a year or two older than I.  Velda helped out over there, too, with meals and cleaning.  She worked for them after school and maybe on weekends, I'm not sure.  Stay with me here.  

My dad's Uncle Bill Cook found a baby pigeon in a barn someplace and gave it to me.  In order to feed a baby pigeon, you have to poke the food clear down his throat to his gullet because he can't swallow, but I was glad to do that.  I loved my pigeon and named him Pidjie.  I would spell it Piggie, but obviously that's a pig.  So.  

I raised the bird until he was pretty much full-grown, but he still didn't fly.  I think he just didn't feel the need to fly.  Back then I assumed he hung out with our chickens so much he didn't think he could fly.  I would walk around with him on my shoulder or perched on my head.  He was that tame.  

All I have ever remembered about the end of the story is that a dog killed him.  No details.

Today at my aunt's funeral, Velda told me the rest of the story.  

Sarah, across the road, had taken charge of a stray dog that wandered into her yard.  It just showed up and she began to feed it.  One day that dog killed my pigeon.  Even after hearing the story today, I have no recollection of the killer dog belonging to anyone.  Velda said Sarah was heartbroken and crying after the incident.  At some point that day I knocked on their door.  Velda said my eyes were all red from crying about my pigeon, but I had two movie tickets in my hand.  I wanted to know if Sarah would like to go to the movies with me that night.  

Velda said it was just such a Christian thing to do, to try and make Sarah feel better.  

Well, I can guarantee you that my mother was behind this; one can hope I learned something from it, even though I have no memory of this.  Maybe my mother sending me over there with movie tickets wiped out any memory of someone to blame.  

Sarah is also the person who taught me to tie my shoes (finally) when I was in the fourth grade.  Hey, I never claimed to be a genius.  

Friday, November 18, 2016

Keeper of the litterbox

Little by little, the cats are getting me trained the way they want me.  Mama Kitty has her special feeding spot.  Her son Jake has also discovered it.  Oh yes, he starts out by eating his breakfast with the kittens, but then follows me out to the wing of the barn where his mother eats, waits for me to fill her dish, jumps up and head-butts her out of the way, and eats all he can of her food.  Why?  And why does she allow it?  

This is only the second time in my life I've dealt with a cat litter-box, the previous time being when I was single and lived in an apartment.  Scraping around in the litter every day for those stinky nuggets of poop is not my idea of fun; and how do two kittens make so much poop?  I notice the two of them seem to have some sort of tacit agreement that as soon as I'm done sifting the litter, one of them must immediately use the litter-box, as though they can't stand it to be lump-free for over five minutes.

How often is one supposed to throw the whole mess out and start over with clean litter?  When it starts stinking, I guess?  (Since posting this entry, a couple of my Facebook friends suggested I get the clumping kind of litter.)

We've been experiencing a very warm, dry autumn, the kind motorcycle riders dream about:  Every weekend the bikes roar past our place by the dozens.  Cliff mentioned it would be a good year to have a motorcycle, and I said, "I don't even miss it, these days."

"I really don't either," he responded.  We agreed that at some point it got to be too much effort to suit up and hit the road, dealing with idiots and taking our lives in our hands every time we left the house.  The whole world is on the phone or texting as they drive, paying no attention to what's happening around them.  We always avoided the freeways, but at times that was impossible.  Cliff would try to leave some room between us and the vehicle ahead of us, but when he tried, a car would squeeze into the space and there we would be, like a couple of sardines squeezed into a can with no margin for safety.

No wonder Cliff gets so angry when he has to drive in city traffic.  

Tomorrow we'll be going to a funeral.  My Aunt Mary died, the last of my aunts and uncles.  She lived to be 93, a life well lived.  A hard-working farmer's wife.  I spent lots of summertime hours at Uncle Leo's place as a kid.

BETHANY, MO: Mary E. Stevens, 93 (formerly of Eagleville) passed away Wednesday, November 16, 2016 at her home in Bethany, MO.
She was born November 17, 1922 in Brooklyn, MO the daughter of Thomas Milard and Jessie Lee (Larkin) Wilson.
On June 1, 1942 she married Austin Leo Stevens in Albany, MO and they resided on a farm in Eagleville, MO for many years.
Mary was a homemaker and a member of the Church of Christ in Eagleville, MO. She was a graduate of the Class of 1941 from Ridgeway High School, a Pawnee Peppers 4-H Club Leader, and a member of the Good Neighbors Club.
She was preceded in death by her parents; husband, Leo; and siblings, Sarah Isabell, Charles Wilbur, Max Everett, Doris, William Clayton, Susie Ann, Lewis, Gerald Lee, Fred, Leo, and Earl.
Survivors include children, Carolyn (Neil) Oxley, Omaha, NE, Betty Earnshaw, Oak Grove, MO, Ronnie Royce Stevens, Satanta, KS, Linda Elkins, Omaha, NE; 10 grandchildren, 17 great grandchildren, and 1 great-great grandchild.
Rest in peace, Aunt Mary.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

In which Cliff and Donna go shopping

Because we aren't babysitting this week, and because the new Menard's store in Independence had just opened, I pronounced Tuesday a shopping day.  Cliff was less than overjoyed, but he had some interest in looking around Menard's.  I'm the early bird who hopes to get the worm, so I like to leave pretty early in the day.  Cliff, not so much, and this is one area in which I've lately tried to conform to his style.  "Go ahead and check Craigslist again," I tell him.  "We're retired, so we don't have to run on a schedule."

So we started when the day was well under way.  We use cash for most of our shopping, so our first stop was at Odessa at what used to be B&L Bank to get some cash.  I hate it when banks change hands.  Our bank has a branch at Lexington and one at Odessa, and we use whichever one seems to fit into our route for the day.  First stop, I told Cliff, would be the bank at Odessa.  
We were almost there when I said, "Hey, can we turn right at the next light?  I think I want to subscribe to the Odessan again."

See, some time back I was irritated by the rising price of the local paper, plus the fact that they had divided into two separate papers (one for Odessa, one for Oak Grove) while keeping the same subscription price for each one of them ($40 per year).  So I was getting half as much news, but paying the same price as before.  So I cancelled.  Now I'm done pouting.  I've missed the local items you only get in a small-town newspaper.  I forked over my forty bucks and we went on to the bank, where I was asked for my ID.

"This is why I prefer the Lexington location," I grumbled.  "They know me over there."

Truth is, most familiar faces at either location are gone, replaced by aliens.  The lady entering my ID in their system said, "Well, some of us... I worked here before the change."  A brief pause, and then, "Well, I had quit before the change, but I'm back now."    

I see.  Traitor!  As I was getting in the car with Cliff, I gave him my thoughts on banks that change all the time, because ever since Larry Wims left (back in the late 70's) things have gone downhill from where I sit.  Yes folks, this is how our shopping day began.  Still in Odessa, I happened to see the new Dollar Tree store and asked Cliff to stop just for a minute so I could check it out.  I debated whether to take my purse in ("I don't plan on buying anything"), but grabbed my billfold at the last minute.  It's a good thing, because I somehow spent $7 plus tax in there.  Cliff spent the idle time scanning last week's Odessan that I picked up while subscribing.  

On to Menard's!  This is where the chaff was separated from the wheat, because we were in there so long, each of us doing our own thing, that my knees decided they'd had enough and began jolting me with intense pain.  I hobbled around until I found Cliff, thinking he'd be ready to go; but he appeared to be having a great time; he was carrying several genuine bargains and was on the lookout for more.  I didn't say anything about my knees, but forced myself to walk around the store for awhile longer.  I eventually found a seat on one of those rolling step thingies that are everywhere in big box stores, and sat there until Cliff called my cell phone to say he was ready to go.
From there we went to Costco, and then, because we were hungry, I made a huge mistake:  After considering other spots to eat, we landed at Smokehouse Barbecue.  I've never liked the place... if I were rating barbecue spots, it would be way down on my list... but there we were and there it was and I said let's eat here.  Never again.

Why am I wasting my readers' time talking about a day spent shopping, you ask?  Because I'm uneasy about the turmoil going on since the election, and I need to focus on trivial things.  I've never claimed to know much about politics; I pretty much just vote my feelings about the people and issues involved.  I don't care who anybody else votes for.  So it amazes me to see so much hatred on the part of adults.

I keep telling myself how interesting the next months and years will be as we watch how these events play out.  I tell myself, "Just wait until the dust settles.  It'll be all right."

But will it?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

My chores

In the past I've had "chores" that took up large portions of my day:  Milking cows, bottle-feeding calves, feeding pigs, tending chickens.  There were times I'd have three or four cows to milk and a dozen bottle calves to feed.

At present I have two bottle calves:  Every twelve hours I mix up their milk replacer, then go out and give them their bottles.  While I'm out I feed the cats.  In the evening I shut the chickens in to keep them safe from predators, and in the mornings I open the door that lets them out into the chicken pen.  I don't spend a lot of time doing these things, but there is a huge bonus to doing outside chores in winter because it gets me out into the beauty of the night.  

Without chores, I'd get out of bed, head for the computer, and stay there until Cliff wakes up, because you know how a computer can suck you in.  But now I have no choice but to go out IN THE DARK twice a day to chore.  Last night while I was out I admired the beauty of the full moon peeking through a layer of clouds.  I heard a train whistling its way past and smiled when the coyotes started howling at the noise.  I wonder why coyotes howl at trains.  Seems like they howl more during a full moon, too.  

The cats are getting along pretty well.  Jake will actually eat out of the pan with the youngsters now.  As for Mama Kitty, after her disappearance recently I found a spot, sort of a shelf, in one wing of the barn, where I put her dish.  It lets her eat about four feet above the ground where no pesky kittens can bother her, and she loves it.  If she's around when I go outside in the morning, she leads me to the spot, just in case I've forgotten where to feed her.  I think she will never accept the kittens as friends, but now that she knows she is "special" enough to be fed apart from them, she seems satisfied.  

The kittens:  They feel their real home is in Cliff's shop, and Cliff is putting up with them pretty well, although if it weren't for Cora, who isn't here this week, I'd probably find a new home for them just because of the infringement on Cliff's space (he doesn't complain, he'd do anything to make Cora happy).  They are using the litter box when they're in the shop, and I clean up after them.  I remove them from the shop when it's being shut up for the night... Cliff doesn't like to touch cats, so it's my cats and my job.  In the morning when the kittens see anybody going to open the shop, they are right at the door trying to squeeze in, and no force on earth can keep them from running in as soon as the door opens a crack.  Just try pushing them back with a foot; the little brats won't be denied!

The calves are growing nicely, eating some grain now.  Milk replacer is expensive:  $34 for a bag that lasts about 10 days for one calf, and there are two of them here.  The grandson is paying for his calf's milk, though.  Still, to feed one calf to the age of eight weeks is over $200.  If they seem to be ready to wean at that age, they'll be eating calf starter and hay, and that's a cheaper diet.  Next spring they can live on a diet of pasture grass, at little expense to us.  I'm enjoying them, looking forward to having plenty of beef next fall.  AND appreciating the fact that they get me out and about and off the computer.  

I found out yesterday that Arlo Guthrie is coming to Kansas City.  You may recall I recently did a blog entry about him.  I'm going to see him if I have to crawl!  Maybe I'll tell Cliff to consider it my Christmas present, even though we don't do Christmas gifts much.  Let's face it, if I want something, I get it for myself.  However, he will have to escort me.   

You know, I've loved folk music since the folk renaissance of the sixties.  It's almost the only kind of music I listen to these days.  It makes me wonder if I'm really a liberal left-winger at heart, because I don't know of a single folk singer who isn't left-wing and very vocal about it.  In the old days, some of them were even communist, or accused of such.  Pete Seeger, for one.  Shouldn't I be uncomfortable listening to Utah Phillps' anti-war song "Enola Gay", when I truly believe Harry Truman had no choice but to drop that bomb?  But I love the song!  Even Burl Ives was blacklisted for his communist leanings in the 50's... you know, the guy that sings "Holly Jolly Christmas" in Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.  

Well, I'm done probing my psyche for now.  I have hungry calves to feed.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

In which Donna actually leaves the house without her husband

Not unusual for most folks, but I don't drive, remember.  So when you see me away from home, you usually find Cliff not far away; this is probably the first time I've been away from home without Cliff for five hours since my granddaughter and I went to see "A Night With Janis Joplin".  

There's a church in Odessa that has an annual ladies' day:  They usually have some kind of themed program, and it's something I've always enjoyed.  I called a neighbor who usually invites me, begged a ride, and away I went.  

When we arrived there was coffee and many kinds of home-made breads available.  During a break in the program later we had sandwiches, chips, and cookies and visited while we ate.  I only knew the people I rode in with, but I did have a nice visit with them.  One sweet lady, widow of the man who owned our town hardware store for many years, said something to me that totally confused me:  "I think about what you wrote about Buddy all the time," she said.  "That just nailed him; that was exactly how he was."

I never wrote any song or poem specifically for Buddy, so for about half a minute I was at a loss.  Then it hit me; she was referring to four lines in the song "Wellington" I wrote that did, as a matter of fact, talk about him.  "Buddy's good old hardware store Had what you need, but even more, He could tell you how to use that hardware once you got it home."

What a small thing to mean so much to her!  I was humbled.  

Cliff and I hardly ever had two nickels to rub together when we moved to Wellington, but we did have good credit and were proud of the way we paid our bills on time.  Sometimes we'd need something to help in the course of home upkeep but would lack the money.  That was never a problem, because at that time you could charge stuff at two places in town:  Buddy's Wellington Hardware and Dale's station at the edge of town.  No credit card needed at either place, just tell them "charge it" and you were done.  

The thing with Buddy, though, was that he didn't send out bills.  So maybe six months or a year would go by and I'd say, "Hey Cliff, did we ever pay Buddy for those widgets/thingamajig/tools we charged?"  

If we were in doubt, we'd go down and ask.  He'd look it up and sure enough, we hadn't payed.  I don't know if he would ever have asked for the money we owed him, so eventually we were careful to try and pay for things at the time we bought them.  

I sang that song once at some gathering in town.  Afterward our insurance man approached me and said, "You forgot to mention your insurance man."

So the next time I sang the song I had added this:  "If you need a good insurance plan, Karl Potter is your man."  

That song grew like Topsy for the next couple of years.  Now it's in mothballs, and that's just as well, since most of the people in the song are dead and the businesses are closed.

I'm just meandering here, so let me digress from my meandering and explain that when I typed the phrase "grew like Topsy", I knew it was a quote from somewhere, but I had no idea what it was referring to, so I looked it up and am now sharing it with you.  Because I know you are as curious as I am (just nod your head in agreement).  

Grow'd like Topsy

Occasionally one hears the expression that something 'grow'd like Topsy'. I thought readers might be interested to know its origins.

In "Uncle Tom's cabin, or Life among the lowly", published in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe describes the character Topsy - a wild and uncivilized slave girl who Miss Ophelia tries to reform. In Chapter 20 the novel recounts a conversation between Ophelia and Topsy:

"Tell me where were you born, and who your father and mother were." 
"Never was born," re-iterated the creature more emphatically. "Never had no father, nor mother nor nothin'"
"...Have you ever heard anything about God, Topsy?" The child looked bewildered, but grinned as usual.
"Do you know who made you?" 
"Nobody, as I knows on," said the child, with a short laugh. The idea appeared to amuse her considerably; for her eyes twinkled, and she added, "I spect I grow'd. Don't think nobody never made me." 


Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Are you tired of cat stories yet?

I intended for the new kittens to make their home in the barn.  That's always been home base for our cats, and it's where I keep food and water handy for them.  I even locked Grady and Buttons in a cage in there the first two nights, so they wouldn't run off.

These cats love people, so if they hear voices, they go running toward them.  Grady has strayed twice to different neighbors' yards lured by the sound of their conversation, but was soon found.  But ever since they first arrived, the place that draws them most frequently is Cliff's shop; there's always a human stirring around out there, and a bowl of water sitting out for Titan where they can quench their thirst.  Cliff has never had a lot of use for cats:  He likes them if they're in the barn catching mice, but he doesn't want to touch them, and the less he sees of them, the happier he is.  

Within the kittens' first week here, when Cliff unlocked the shop in the morning they were beating him to the door, running in before he could set foot inside.  I apologized profusely; he didn't have much to say about the situation except, "I just hope they don't poop in here."  (He didn't say "poop" exactly, but you get the idea.)  

I glanced toward his big Oliver 1855 tractor and saw the tins of oil-dry beneath it, put there to catch the drips that are inevitable with any older machine... even one that's been restored.  "If they start pooping in the shop, I have a feeling those Oil-Dri pans is where they'll do it."

Did you know that Oil-Dri is the same material as cat litter?    

Since they were spending the better part of each day out there, I took a small dish of cat food out for them, which furthered their opinion that Cliff's shop is their castle.  Grady is the more playful of the two, and you'll often see him batting dry leaves around the floor.  Visitors are fascinated by his antics, and hunt around for things he will play with.  He's become quite a star, almost a main attraction.  

There are several cast-off office chairs like this one sitting around the shop, but guess which one the kittens chose as their own?  Cliff's favorite... the one at his desk.  

They spend leisurely hours in Cliff's chair, taking naps and grooming themselves.  "I'm so sorry, Cliff," I said.  "Ah well," he answered, "I guess it doesn't matter."

And yes, the oil-dry was soon full of kitty-tracks and dark lumps.  I couldn't believe it!  Cliff's shop, his "man-cave", had been taken over by his least-favorite domesticated animal.  He said as long as they were using the oil dry, he had no problem with it.  I didn't believe him, because he's always hated the smell of a litter-box... not that we ever had one in use.  Neither of us want a cat in our house.  I assured my husband that I would try to empty those big trays regularly, but when I attempted it, I found they're so big and flexible and hard to handle, it isn't a job I can do alone.  The grandson helped me that time.  

What if we got some cat litter and a regular litter box and put it next to those trays?  I really doubted that would work, since they were already used to using the trays, but they must have tried it and liked the deeper litter in box, because somebody is using it.  I hope they both learn to prefer it, because that's a container I can handle.  Besides, real cat litter has deodorizer in it; believe me, these boys need deodorizer in their box! 

I'd like to tell you that Cliff has been won over by the cuteness of the kittens, but he's silent on the subject.  He doesn't grumble, and remarks sometimes that he enjoys watching them play.  Of course, the oldest grandson is the true owner of the shop these days, and he has little to say about the cats either.  His wife thinks they're cute, but she's allergic.  Boy, did these cats come to the wrong place!

Nevertheless, Cora loves them and plays with them all the time.  Yesterday Cliff saw her run over Grady with her Barbie jeep, not deliberately, but because he's always underfoot and in the way.  There went one of his nine lives, but he was playing with his buddy ten minutes later as though nothing had happened.  I notice he doesn't get underfoot so much now.  

Last night I tried to explain to Cliff why the kittens prefer his chair:  "It's what cats do," I told him.  "They think they own everything.  I'm sorry they've taken over your man-cave."

Meanwhile, I've set the DVR to record "The Story of Cats" on PBS.