Life in Kickapoo Center at the Turn of the Century
From the window of my office I look at the bird feeders hanging in the silver maple. There is an empty Droll Yankee clear plastic tube feeder, and a pecked away suet grate hanging adjacent to the dark brown squirrel proof feeder. I haven't filled the Droll Yankee because the birds can empty it in less than two days-most of the cardinal mix at $33/50 lb bag ends up on the ground. Sparrows, like many fowl, scatter seed with a sideways motion of their beaks. The instinctual movement allows them to get at the good stuff on the bottom. Perhaps, they're just looking for bugs.
Scattered seed under the squirrel proof feeder draws a crowd. Six blue jays, two cardinals and a junco compete for the remnants. No, there isn't a partridge in a pear tree. When I went out to clear the snow off Dawn's car, it was snowing ever so slightly. Like God was throwing powdered sugar around. Now, looking at the jays and cardinals, God is dumping a fifty pound bag of flour with the help of an industrial six foot diameter barn fan. Gosh ! I exclaim. Then I call up George Carlin to finish the rest of the expletive. Cheeseus H.Keerist, enough is enough already. I'd hoped to do some last minute shopping, elbow my way through a throng of people, complain loudly on the slowness of the clerks, blow my horn angrily at donkey drivers, get last minute bargains and hum along with the Christmas music on the loudspeakers. Sheet!
Crows by the Fence is Dawn's painting of our east fence line. In 2006 I was lucky enough to get three deer during hunting season. I dumped venison refuse over the fence and down the hill. Crows had a feast that winter. The painting is exceptional for the fact that it was painted on an old cabinet door I turned into a classic retablo-painting on flat board. At the bottom of the painting , if you look closely, you can see the line of the tongue-in-groove boards that make up the old door.
It seems like it was just yesterday that I went to Wal-Mart to do some shopping. Oh, senior moment-it was yesterday. The parking lot is full. Randy the cart collector can't keep up with people filling his cart corrals. They've closed the entry doors so the clerks don't have to wear coats, scarves, mittens and hats while checking people out. One has to walk in the out door avoiding exiting patrons. Phyllis, a customer service manager is standing near the clothes racks waiting for a problem at the registers. "Just couldn't stay away? she says. I smile and mumble. I avoid the grocery side because I know too many of the employees there. I'll never get my shopping done. To limit my shopping experience, I took a basket instead of a cart. As I survey the front registers, hoping to find a short line, I notice several assistant managers working the registers. One is a new manager I saw at Woodmans in Lacrosse on Saturday. Good for her. The other is the manager who gave me the twenty minute lecture about conserving box cutter razor blades . I briefly consider taking her line to harass her now that I am a customer. But time is of the essence here. I jump in the line of the woman who works the garden center . I remember her telling me how good she was at plowing when she and her husband owned a farm. "I never took out a fence line, " she says. As a cashier she would be mowing down fence lines and getting stuck in the mud. She's slow and methodical. The customer has a pair of jeans with no UPC. Phyllis runs to get another with the code intact. The woman in front of me is rolling her eyes, slumped over her cart, sighing heavily every three seconds. When I get to the front of the line, Carol asks if she needs to see my ID. ID? I'm buying fuel line antifreeze. Carol reminds me that you have to be 18 to purchase HEET. "What d'they do?" I ask; "drink that stuff?" As Carol is bagging my $37 worth of cookies, candy and fuel line anti-freeze, the cute manager of the sporting goods department passes by. She gives my arm a squeeze, wishing me a Merry Christmas. Yes, there is a real Santa Claus.
There are more cars in the parking than when when I arrived. My car is further away than I remember. My biggest fear is forgetting where I parked my car, like the time I couldn't find the Prism. I'd forgotten that I'd taken the truck to the store. My next stop is the Village Market and then to the meat locker in the next town. I'm doing well on my quest to make it home before dark. I'd left at noon. The meat locker isn't as busy as Wal-Mart, thank God. The two old lady clerks are over a hundred years old. I have to ask for items I don't see in the freezers. Several of my purchases have to be vacuum packed & shrink wrapped. The guy behind me falls asleep leaning on a counter. When I get to my car, the trunk lid is frozen. Attempting to get it open, I bend the ignition key. Inserted into the ignition, the key won't turn. Dawn left me her keys when she left for work that morning. My keys were buried under a pile of rubble on the kitchen table. I can't call Dawn. The car won't start, the clerk at the video store can't bring up our account on the computer, the cashier at the Village Market scans a coupon for the customer in front of me. It adds $1.25 to the bill. "What the hay !" Then I forget to stop at the florist to pick up the bouquet for Dawn's birthday. Cheesus H. Keerist.
There's no ending here. Talking to the santero in Arizona, he says, "Get a moving van and come back."
post script addenda: I had to come back to this episode 1. To see if I was in a pissy mood when I wrote it. Often it takes more than 45 minutes for the morning cup of coffee to absorb into my veins. 2. To add the part about the cute sporting goods manager. Of all the events of the season thus far, her simple gesture was heartfelt. And 3. To add afternoon memorabilia.
The Pooch catches another bird. I'm hauling the wood sled to the back door. When I see he has a mouthful of gray Junco feathers, I say,"I can see you there!" He's waiting to sneak up on me with a Christmas present. "That's naughty." I tell him. (Actually I use more colorful language) I think of ways to get him to stop killing birds. This one isn't dead. When he drops it at the back door it flutters away. I pick it up and offer the bird a few words of commiseration. "At least you could kill the poor thing quickly,"I scold the cat. He takes my words to heart later on. I see him finsihing off the head and crunching the body. At least it wasn't wasted.
Now he's feeling frisky. He follows the sled to the woodshed. Climbing a pine tree, he misses a branch and falls in a snow drift. Next, he's climbing the wood pile in the shed peering out the gap between the sidewalls and the roof. It's a truly Kodak moment. I'm trying to make a path for the sled in the deep snow in preparation for hauling heavy loads of maple, black locust and oak. The Pooch follows. I'm going too slow for him and he crawls under the runners of the sled. Then he hops on board. A minute later he jumps off, bored with the ride. At all times I scan the area to locate the fur ball since he sneaks up on me often. When I'm splitting wood this could be disastrous. Clunk . I hit him on the head when he runs under the snow shovel while I'm clearing a path. " You dumbbell. Are you all right? I ask. Lunch is leftover turkey salad on a tostada. I bring the bone to him on the deck. His next action mimics his name. He grabs the turkey thigh bone and takes it to the sidewalk where he can gnaw off the meat. What a kid. Really. It's like having a five year old boy.
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