Friday, December 19, 2008

Count Your Blessings

Life in Kickapoo Center at the Turn of the Century

On the highway that borders the north section of our property, a stainless steel milk tank truck crawls along at 5 mph. In times of heavy snow, the rural carrier holds our mail. We'll get a note later saying that it couldn't be delivered because our drive( the one that is a town road) was not plowed. Whatever happened to the mail must get through.

The few vehicles on the road are trucks passing by in a swirl of snow. Like the milk trucker, they must get to work. As soon as it gets light, I dress in blaze orange, new work gloves and a ski mask. I shovel paths around the house and the garage. The Pooch must get through. There's a drift in front of the back door. I left the heater on in the garage so I can finish the art easel for my granddaughter. I'm at the painting stage. The front portion is an easel and the rear is a blackboard. The plans for this easel are from one of those Sunset books. It wasn't until I clamped the pad of art paper to the top of the art easel I realized a few flaws.

My granddaughter just turned three. She'll have to stand on a chair to paint with the easel as pictured. I call in the expert. My wife. Together we confer that I'll have to add a feature to allow the cardboard back of the pad of paper to slip behind a slot I'll create lower in the front of the easel. We planned to drive to the city and deliver the easel as a Christmas present. Southeastern Wisconsin , according to my daughter has between eight and twelve inches of snow on the ground and more to come. The route involves driving on the Beltline in Madison and taking the interstate to Milwaukee. A friend recently drove a daughter back to Green Bay in a snowstorm. When she told me how long it took, I was mildly disturbed. The description of cars in the ditch took me back to the time we visited Flagstaff, Arizona in a snowstorm. You think Wisconsin's weather is bad, try this.

Our hotel is at the intersection of I-17 and I-40. I 40 comes from Gallup and ends in Los Angeles. A forty five minute drive south on I-17 takes you to Sedona. We take the on-ramp south and in less than a mile traffic is stopped dead. There's a long line of trucks and cars in both lanes of the highway. So, we wait in the car, engine running. A car pulls up behind us. They're impatient to get to their destination. The driver of the car decides to cross the median and turn around. Yes, you guessed it. The ground is soft and they get stuck. When the occupants get out of the car to push the convertible out of the mud, they're wearing shorts. They were on the road from LA, hoping for sunny, warm weather in Sedona. Flagstaff at 7000 feet is higher than Denver. In some years the city is buried under two hundred inches of snow. There's a major Naval astronomical observatory outside of town. Flagstaff also has a ski area known as the Snowbowl.

I remember telling my wife to get out of the car. Just a minute, I am not Simon Legree. I ask her to speak to the trucker behind us. If he can move we can turn around and drive back down the on-ramp. She does and he does and we get back to the place we originated three hours later. There's an ongoing debate on who is smarter-the Pooch or me. On one hand, we have Pucci who is smart enough to walk close to the house avoiding snowdrifts above his ears. When he reaches the deck, he slips quietly under it hoping to catch an unsuspecting bird. His master on the other hand shovels paths for El Gatto to follow. I put the camera on the kitchen table, hoping to catch a shot of him covered with snow. The above photo is all I get. But, then I'm in a warm house and he's sitting in the dirt under the deck hoping for a mouhtful of feathers.

Pffwwwt, he spits out the feathers. No matter how often I yell at him, he insists on catching birds. To him,it's a live cat toy-something he'll wait for hours in a crouched down position, tail straight out, ready to spring. He doesn't eat them. Dumb animal. Dumb owner.

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