Bush Hogging, Baby

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I love old men. I love them. They aren’t dramatic. They are typically mellow, retired, experienced in fixing anything that could possibly break, and generous with their time and resources. Old ladies are nice, too, but usually they are off getting their hair done or taking a really long time to get ready to go anywhere. For my general purposes, I’ll take an old man over an old lady any day.

The other day  I was scouring around to find someone with a tractor who could tame my very, very large yard. I decided to try the Facebook channels to see who might know the cheapest, fastest tractor owning fella. My pig-owning friend, I think we called her Fribby, suggested I get in touch with her step grandfather in law. Draw up that family tree if you get bored.

I was uncomfortable with this arrangement. (1) I roped Fribby into the whole pig kissing incident and still haven’t lived down what happened in that media center last Christmas. (2) Fribby has helped me out with far more than I have helped her. (3) This guy wasn’t really in it for pay so much and the favor seemed too large to ask. She assured me that he liked to drive tractors, was super nice, and would accept some gas money.

So Mr. B showed up on Monday with a little tractor dog named Sparky. He brought his tractor mowing rig with him and his walk-behind bush hog. That was my job. Walk behind it and hog the bushes.

Or something like that.

All of this would be much, MUCH more interesting if I had taken a photo of where I was mowing or a video of it happening. It was like an action adventure movie without a plot or any interesting actors. The brush was 7 feet tall. It was like walking into a jungle. Worst.job.ever.

My observations can be summed up in a few short paragraphs:

(1) There is a reason God chose frogs as one of the plagues. Frogs are horrifying and slimy and terrible in every way. They can jump any direction, utterly randomly, and spring up to 15 feet. I saw it. It’s true. They can be the size of a human head and spotted or small and slimy and the color of bones. Really. Truly. Awful.

(2) Fire ant beds are quite plentiful in overgrown jungles in Florida. The beauty of that is, you can’t see them until you’ve already mowed over them and made them super, DUPER irate. I learned to spring like a pole vaulter while ripping off my shoes in mid-air and frantically swiping ants away before I ever hit the ground again. Pretty sure I looked like a drunk monkey with a lawn mower. Surprisingly, I only sustained about 5 real bites (as opposed to the fake kind, you know). Amazing, considering that I planted my foot in at least eight very angry ant colonies.

(3) I wrote a sequel to Children of the Corn in my head as I mowed. The main antagonists were mutant ants wielding lawn equipment. Very exciting stuff. There was a little sidebar romance, too, but I don’t want to spoil it for you in case you decide to buy the book someday.

Some old guys have bush hogs. Some old guys have a flimsy fly swatter and a heap of determination.

Whatever you have, swing it with all you got and never, EVER stop moving.


Last Tuesday was my youngest baby’s first day of Kindergarten. Several times in the last couple of weeks I have grown misty-eyed over this fact, but I have not and will not cry. I decided it would do me no good and likely do me all kinds of harm. I was born, rather unfortunately, an ugly crier. When I tell people this, many of them say, “Hey! Me too!” I’ve heard that before. You may THINK you are an ugly crier, but the world is a relative place and compared to my ugly cry, you are radiant. Trust me.

We are in a new place, at a new school, trying to make new friends. I can’t afford that kind of ugly.

So I didn’t cry.

Instead, I cleaned. I scheduled myself to clean for my older friend, Mr. J., which last Tuesday was both necessary and very helpful. Upon arriving, I unloaded my stuff and chatted with him for a few minutes about life and the joys of nursing calves and hard water. Then I settled into my normal routine, which always begins in the hall bathroom. The fist thing I always do is open the shower door to survey the hard water damage of the last two weeks. From first sight, I know what I’m up against. This day was different. This day had a pink striped towel hanging over the shower door. When the door swung open, I could see through the frosted glass–lurking under the cover of this damp towel–the largest, most evil spider my eyes have ever seen in a non-Discovery Channel setting. This was a real spider…up in my real grill.

It was horrifying.

I didn’t scream or slam the door.
Too dangerous.
But I did bolt, sort of cat burglarlike.
I was going to get Mr. J.
But wait–he’s 90. And he has a couple of broken vertebrae in his back right now. I can’t ask him for help on this.

But I have to, I thought to myself.

I had to.

The next few minutes were a bit like a medicinally induced weird dream. There I was, cowering in a 70-year-old bathroom while a 90-year-old man danced around in his shower doing a smack-smackety-smackdown with a hairy spider. He was armed with only a flimsy fly swatter and his courage.

At the end of it all, I said a sheepish thank you and went back to cleaning.

As I wiped down the shower, I thought to myself that I could do it if I had to. Next time.

To test my courage, I volunteered to use a walk behind bush hogger on a fenced in horse paddock that had grown wilder than the Montana back country. The plants and small trees were 7 feet tall.

That was yesterday.

When I get off the meds and can use my arms again, I’ll write about that one.

I’m not on meds. That part was a joke.

The rest of it wasn’t so amusing.

Catching up and a Lil Ditty about The Gateway to the Ocean

i always feel a bit strange just talking about what’s been going on. I don’t really do things that way. There are sort of two ways to follow my life: (1) Just tag along and experience it, or (2) Accept the retelling of it in stories. I’m not so great at the bullet points. I think in stories. It has to shape up with a beginning, middle, and end for me to tell it.

That said, I’ll try to bullet point a few things before I talk about the gate.

*I’m currently working on getting a patent for my new torture device for racoons. It involves wiring ordinary outdoor trashcans with explosives. Working title is The Coonflagrator. I’m not married to the title, but I’ve already married and started a family with the invention.

*Chickens like water. If you own chickens, make sure you give them water.

*On our annual pilgrimage to Texas, it became apparent that i will never road-trip again without some sort of horrific health issue with the kids. This is a disturbing discovery that I pretty much have to solve. I can’t stop road-tripping. I wonder what would happen if I didn’t tell them. If I just stuck them in the car and pretended I was going to the grocery store. At 4 a.m. In another state. 

*You would think the horrific health incidents might have occurred in Louisiana. This was strangely not the case. That doesn’t mean there was any love gained, though.

*Just recently, I spent some time at the beach with the local cousins and my kids. It was perfection in almost every way.


And that leads me to the Gate. The Beach Gate. The Gateway to the Ocean. The gate that should never, ever have been erected.

Years ago, the family beach condo sat nestled in some sea oats and looked out toward unspoiled sand and sea. As you walk out toward the ocean, to the right there is a pool, fenced in as pools should be. To the left there were two tiki hut cabanas with picnic tables. And in front of you, there was nothing.

Then one year we showed up to frolic in the sun and came face-to-face with a large, white, pvc fence that ran the width of the condo’s property. Some grumpy old bag had decided that too many people were wandering off the street and using their beach access and WE CAN’T HAVE THAT. So they put up a white, plastic prison to keep out the riffraff. Most of the time, though, it traps the wrong people.

It never fails to trap me on the opposite side of where I desperately need to be.

One year they had the gate rigged with a combination that never worked. You could punch those numbers in all day long with the force of a lumberjack and the precision of an accountant and still be standing there with your pooping baby, locked far, far away from diapers, or ambulances, or valium.

When that combo code thing utterly failed, they went to the standard lock and key method. I know it SOUNDS simple enough. You keep the key on you. Use it. Viola! But if you have one key and 8 people in your party, you are bound to end up in an awkward situation on the wrong side of that gate at some point.

Not that I would know.

It was a Monday afternoon and we had decided to order pizza to be delivered to the beach. We would eat it at the tiki cabana, so as not to interrupt our frolicking too much.  I had my very smart phone with me outside, so I looked up the number for the pizza place and dialed it without a lot of forethought. I knew what I would be ordering. But I was grossly underprepared for the anything else.

I was sitting in a beach chair enjoying life and placing my order when the woman on the other end asked the most natural question in the world: What’s your address?

Um. I don’t know. I think, um, there’s a 9 in it. Hold up. I’ll go look real quick.

Real, Quick.

I went running, while on the line with the Pizza Lady, muttering things like, I’m really sorry. Hang on while I just get to the parking lot and look up at the building. Almost there. So sorry.

All of my ludicrous muttering came to a screeching halt when I got to the gate and realized my nephew had the key and was swimming like a drunken octopus in the pool. Have you ever tried to make a 12 year old boy hear you when they are under water and you are on the phone with a pizza lady? Yeah. It doesn’t work. Most 12 year old boys don’t hear you even if you manage to pipe your voice directly into their hear aids.

So instead of just muttering stupid apologies, now I was yelling for my nephew to come bring me the key. That’s much better.

This did not work. I was then faced with the decision to find another way into that parking lot to get the silly address or hang up and change the evening menu to grits and fruit snacks. As I was trying to rather immediately decide on my next course of action, a shirtless man walked up. I didn’t look at him immediately, because at that point it was hard to even see around my own thoughts. I was about to pass out from the pressure. When I finally did look at him, because it suddenly occurred to me that he might have a gate key, I had to take a slight step back. He was covered in blood, holding his arms like he had just been scrubbed into surgery, and was holding a large knife in his left hand.

It seems like I shouldn’t ask this guy for a gate key. Or anything. But the pizza lady.

“You don’t have a gate key, do you?” I asked him. Please don’t kill me right here in the open.

“I do, actually,” he paused. “But I can’t get to it.” This wasn’t going to work. I yelled for my nephew again. He made some sort of explanation about cleaning a fish. Then he concluded with, ‘This is a bit awkward, but you can open my pouch and get my key if you want to.”

Hmm. This is definitely the strangest Gate Fiasco I have encountered yet. Fishing Dude needed to be where I was standing in order to hose off. I needed to be where he was standing to get my own address. Only a gate and a fanny pack stood between our two destinies.

I opened that fanny pack with the pizza lady still on the line. There were like 800,000 things inside that pouch. It was like his last 8 tax returns folded up and tucked away for his fish murder. Who needs THAT MUCH STUFF while fishing? There was no finding that key.

By this time, which seemed like the next morning, my nephew had come to my rescue with the key and I was free to run like a gazelle toward my address. FINALLY. I gave the woman my address and then asked about how long it would be. 40 minutes. No big deal. OK. Thank you. See you then.

Wait! She says. What do you want to order?

I’ll bet she told a slightly different version of this story to whomever was standing next to her when she hung up the phone.

The pizza was good.

The address is 19418.

I will never EVER forget those numbers again.

The Pizza Lady gave me her personal cell number, because she found me so charming, and now we chat twice a week.
Wouldn’t that be something?

The fence in question is in the background. There is a break in the fence where we tied the gate open.

I am Mama’s Boy

Sometimes it helps just to call a spade a spade.

I can’t blame the boy for his struggles. He is me. I am him. Except when he is his father. There’s some of that, too. He’s either going to set us up in the nicest nursing home EVER someday or wind up in a prison where we can’t even visit him. At this point, I must admit I’m hoping for the former.

I feel like a mess with nothing but the calendar to attribute it to. At midnight on August 1, as the calendar fluttered to the new month and the clock changed, I think I felt my eyes shoot open in sudden and overwhelming stress.
This was not the case last year? What is my problem? In fact, it’s been several years since I felt like this.

There are a lot of changes this year. Our oldest goes to middle school, though truthfully the worry here is minimal, as he is not having to go to a humongous, hormone-infused public middle school. Thank you, Lord, for that one. The younger three, however, are starting over this year at our sweet little neighborhood school. This will be great, I feel sure. But we know no one. NO.ONE. Not them. Not me. We will walk in cold and start from the ground up.

To top it all off, SquishyKnickers is a kindergartner. Noooooooooooooooo. In about 2 weeks, you may hear a wail ascend and wonder if it is just the crickets or the wind. It will probably be me.

If you hear something strange and disturbing today, that might also be me. Back to school shopping.