There are times my alpha male exerts himself, usually times related to threat of loss of; life, limb, respect, wealth, other things petty, and lastly, threat of harm to the gardens. Like a few years ago, I was admiring the row of tulips along the path in the side garden from the upstairs window of Sue’s sewing room when I spied a rabbit’s sly approach. Like a shot, I was off. I grabbed my pump-action BB gun, barrel velocity of 770 fps, from my walkin-closet, where it leaned in the corner, nestled behind my dress-shirts on the lower “short-hang” shelf (technical/closet-lingo term). Insane as I was, filled with anger and indignation for the wild beast threatening my defenseless tulips, I rushed outside, sighted down the long barrel at the center of mass of soft gray fur, and gently squeezed my finger between breaths, just as I was trained at Ft. Leonardwood, Missourie many years ago. The tulip stem in Mr. Rabbit’s padded paw slipped free, unmolested, as the perpretrator slumped gently to the ground. Then Mr. Rabbit raised himself on two wobbly front legs and pulled himself forward, towards the cover of the low brush at the edge of the forest, his useless haunches creating shallow twin furrows in the dry topsoil. As quickly as it came, the insanity was gone, replaced with remorse and regret for the role I played in the termination of one of God’s creatures. I quickly dispatched Mr. Rabbit with a second round, deflated, thinking where’s the honor in this.
The passage of time was such that when my beautiful wife screamed for help, my damsel in distress, the memory of Mr. Rabbit had receeded enough that my alpha maleness reared his rage-filled head once again; yesterday, as I pulled in the driveway, returning from the saltmine still dressed all in blue. Sue ran from the front yard, pointing towards the stone bridge of our front walk. “Help, save me,” I think she said.
“What is it,” I tersely replied, goosebumps rippling across my skin. I was taut, my muscles tumescent, engorged with anticipated action as I leapt from my truck, alighting on the black top in a lithe crouch, or at least as lithe as my recently-healed left trimalleolar ankle fracture would allow.
“I was planting some seedum along the edges of the rain garden, and thought that,” she pointed towards a cavernous opening where the poured concrete of the bridge support met the ground, “would be the perfect place for some Creeping Jenny.” Sue shivered, “I think I saw something nasty.”
I stared towards the ominous blackness, looking for movement, or the glint of beady eyes, but the opaque emptiness lay before us, unbroken, in the overcast light of Labor Day.
“I think we can flood it out with the garden hose,” she said.
“I’ll go get my guns.”
In addition to my BB gun of previous aquaintance, I had acquired a single-pump, pellet gun, muzzle velocity 1200 FPS, sporting a scope with an eyepiece about the size of a silver dollar. By the time I came out with my rifles, cocked and loaded, Sue had stretched the garden hose around the front of he hose, with enough slack for me to position it inside the mouth of the liar of whichever wild beast it was that was violating our garden; especially our water garden, as Sue has counted only eight fish, having started the year with eleven.
It was drizzling slightly. Sue watched from behind the picture window in the dining room. I sat on an overturned, five gallon pail, sighting down my more familiar BB gun. Behind me, the small garage door was open, in the event the beast was a bobcat, or other large, viscious animal, immune to the mere mass of a 2mm BB traveling far less than the speed of sound.
To be continued:
Sixty days ago, on a Saturday, I left the hospital with the plan to ride a well-known 25 mile loop home. As I was on call, I wanted to make sure there was nothing pressing in the ER since I’d be about 30 minutes out of range at the extreme end of my bike ride. I walked through the department, saw that it was quiet, and told the nurse, Jane that I was going to ‘make like Supertramp’ and take the long way home. This was in reference to one of the pop icon’s biggest hits in which the lyrics include, “take the long way home.”
Rather than describe what happened, which I’ve kind of done, ad-nauseum, already, on the blog and verbally to family and friends, I’d just refer you to the previous posts categorized as “Post Trauma Day.”
Which brings us to yesterday, my first time in the pool since my injury. I would have went sooner, but I had this scab, and I wasn’t sure how far away my recently debrided tibia was, or how impervious it would be to more than a few minutes under water. I stopped by Pak ‘N Ship on my way to the Y to mail off a crate of clothes, toys and souvenirs that my grand-daughter had left behind after spending three weeks with us. On my way, while listening to Charlie Sykes, I heard that he was going to play a clip of Paul Ryan from the previous night on Chris Matthews, so I listened to that before I went into Pak ‘N Ship.
When I got to the Y, I walked in, talked to the folks at the front desk, who welcomed me back. I walked into the locker room, picked out my customary locker in the second bay and sat on the stool to remove my ankle-immobilizer boot. As I tore apart the velcro straps, the back ground sound of the overhead music playing penetrated my consciousness.
What do you think was playing?
Supertramp,of course…”take the long way home.”
What are the odds?
Is there a God?
What’s my special purpose?
This will be my August contribution to NWTC’s “What’s Cooking.” Not that it has anything to do with ‘cooking,’ but I feel there is an oblique relationship, at least from the standpoint of ‘edibility.”
Although Irish, or perhaps because I am so, potatoes didn’t much appeal to me growing up; but, I surely liked digging them out of the ground. At that time of the year, moving on towards late summer, grandma would say after breakfast, on one of those days, “Potatoes should be ready.”
“Can I dig, grandma? Can I?”
“Yah, Grab the shovel from the garatch then… Go on,” she’d say, waving her hand.
Grandpa and Grandma lived on S. 10th St. in Bismarck, ND. My grandfather was an immigrant from what he called “White Russia.” He came over in 1917 during the Bolshevik Revolution. He never talked about it; and because he’s long since passed away, all the questions I wished I’d have asked have turned to a melancholy regret over the loss of a unique snapshot of history.
South tenth street is residential, with homes (half of which my grandfather built) on either side of the block, but the sole purpose of the hundred foot lot on which they built their house was production. On the far south side was a small neighborhood grocery store, the kind that ceased to exist fifty years ago. Grandpa built the grocery store, and all the other homes on the block with wood framing and stucco exterior. My mother and her siblings worked in the grocery as they grew up. During the depression, many families ran up large tabs, and around the time of the Second World War, one day, grandpa took the stacks of credit slips that had accumulated over the years and threw them away. “We don’t need this,” he told his kids.
Other than the house, grocery, detached “garatch”, a single lane driveway to the back yard, and a postage stamp boulevard that Grandpa would mow weekly with a rotary push mower, there was nothing but garden. And to grandma, gardens were meant to produce. There was no attempt at aesthetics, other than potted flowering plants in the bay window of the living room, next to Dickey, the caged parakeet—perhaps for Dickey’s benefit more than any other’s. Anything outside, growing from out of the ground was either edible, or a weed. I could walk outside at any hour of any day and find Grandma or Grandpa, or Uncle Don in the gardens, working. Occasionally, I’d find Uncle Leo, a retired pharmacist, holding a garden hose with an air of distaste, pinky finger elevated slightly from the lever, trying not to let water splatter on his shoes.
I don’t remember liking too much about gardening, sympathizing more with Uncle Leo than anyone else—it seemed to me as though there was too much time spent standing in one place. But, I did like digging. One afternoon Grandma gave me a shovel and pointed to a rare bare spot between the apple tree and shuttered up grocery, “Go dig all you want…git it out’er yer system,” she said. I started digging, enlisting the aid of my cousin, Heidi. We dug for about a week, what, at the end, amounted to a grave; but without anything to bury. We found some coins and a silver spoon. So when grandma asked me to get the shovel to go dig up potatoes, I was off like a shot.
Sweet peas, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, ground cherries, radishes, kohlrabi, squash, corn are the things I remember. After I grew up, my trips to south Bismarck became infrequent. The grocery store had long since disappeared, but the space where it stood was filled in with edible green plants of one type or another. Everything looked small. Grandpa and Grandma are gone. Don and Leo have cut back on the gardening. Standing in the back yard a few years ago, I looked for the spot where I’d buried a small wooden box of silver coins, but could never find again, and I wondered what grandma would think of my garden.
I didn’t think she’d approve. I had no doubt that Sue and I worked as hard as Grandma and Grandpa, and Uncle Don in our gardens; however, the similarity ended there. Our garden is like the inverse of grandma’s—an opposite garden. The entire focus of our garden is aesthetic, and in fact a number of our plants will kill ya’ if you eat them. We have a few potted herbs in the garden window and on the deck—but that’s the extent of our productivity. We do have a few tough-skinned Concord grape vines, and two cherry trees. Yesterday, I stood next to one of the cherry trees, balanced on a crutch and managed to reach a blackish cherry from the top. It was firm and sweet. I thought of grandma, and smiled—she’d approve of this.
The God Necklace
Yesterday, in Target, Evie asked me if she could have a “God Necklace.” She had been wearing a cross pendant around the house of Sue’s, but she thought it was too big for her. She alternatively referred to it as a “Jesus Necklace.” I prefer “God Necklace” more. Well, what could I say to that? I couldn’t possibly say to her that no, she could not have a “God Necklace,” so we found one–a nice, pink, sterling silver, small-girl sized one. She is wearing it in the above picture.
Evie tells me that God is “Someone special.” “He lives up in Heaven,” she says. When I asked her what he looks like, she said that she didn’t want to tell me. I asked, “but, you know what he looks like?” She smiled and nodded.
Since I’m still non-weight-bearing, I used the motorized scooter in Target. About half-way through our vist Evie asked Sue, “I wonder how I might help Grandpa,” while looking pointedly at the scooter. This was the result.
She drove just fine.