Life in Kickapoo Center at the Turn of the Century
The day of New Year's Eve. New Year's Eve Day? Let's try December 31st. I'm severely maimed. The Pooch jumps on my lap while I'm writing. Then, he jumps on the computer tower, sniffs at my Mother's picture on the wall behind the computer, looks at Gertie's picture above my Mother( Mom-there's no hierarchy here) and jumps from the tower to my shoulder. Then he goes from my shoulder to my lap. Each movement is actioned ( I made this word up) with claws extended for maximum traction. All of the above has to be accompanied by loud purring. He's been outside since Dawn left for work. I look at the garage thermometer while I'm scooting through the breezeway between house and garage grabbing a breakfast potato. The gauge reads below zero. I don't stop to check how far below zero. The Pooch has breakfast and climbs to my lap to warm up before another extended trip outside. I don't tell the Pooch that the carpenter installing new windows in our kitchen refers to him as a she repeatedly, irregardless of my he references. The Pooch would be miffed, but he holds no grudge.
On the return trip from the Amish up on the ridge top, I spot the Pooch slowly winding his way through snowdrifts on Loeser's corn field. I try to remind myself that this is probably the same cat I saw in a rainstorm a few weeks ago. It's fur was scraggly and matted from the rain. Now, I'm not sure because the striped tabby looks fatter and well groomed. When I get home, there's no Pooch to greet me. My last words when I left were, Go home. I yelled because he was sitting behind the car. Usually, when a vehicle starts he runs like a bat out of hell for safety. So, I start backing up toward the Pooch. Being smarter than the average cat, he gets the message and runs toward the garage. But did he take my words to heart and actually return home-his first home-the one before the neighbors took him in? There's no way he could have made it across the river. The good guy on my right shoulder says. The river's frozen, says the devil on my left. My last words to the carpenter should be cast in stone and mounted on a pedestal in the front yard. Oh well, it's his hide.
I have repeated these words often in the past. Most often they are connected with one of our four children. I have to disassociate myself from worry , anxiety and grief that follows some of their actions. When I intervene, invariably I'm on the losing end. The image: Curly of the Three Stooges with a soot blackened face and an tattered, exploding cigar in my mouth.
After a brief stint at the library in town consoling the 82 year old head librarian who's suffering from a miserable cold, I head down US highway 14 toward the Amish. I avoid the back roads which are icy from recent rains. The place looks deserted. In warmer months there are geese wandering in the gardens, young chickens grouped outside a low roofed shelter next to the driveway, turkeys strutting and gobbling, perhaps a horse and buggy tied to a railing and various cows, horses and people ambling about. No one is in the workshop. Now that their driveway is officially a town road, I see where the plows have pushed back the snow and ice, leaving wide open spaces for parking. The farm is a central hub of the Amish community. Someone has strewn ashes on icy parts of the walk to the house. It's a practice I avoid since it tracks soot into the house. There are three dogs on the porch. The black and white mutt barks at me. He slowly rises. He doesn't look happy that I'm approaching the house. His demeanor is that of an animal ready to lurch out and bite your leg. I'm familiar with the tactic and start talking to him in a calm voice. Hey, how'ye doin' pooch? There's the new rust colored, fuzzy puppy who is excited to see me. He's grown in the two weeks since I last visited. Curled next to him is a tiny spaniel puppy. I knock and enter.
The exchange is brief. I give the Mrs. a few egg cartons and ask about eggs. We only got five this morning, she says. Yesterday it was six. This is significant when you are raising- I'm guessing- 600 laying hens. I'm offered non-organic eggs they sell for other providers. I tell the Mrs., I can wait. She repeats a similar tale, to mine. We had to buy eggs these past two weeks. One of the daughters is decorating a large rectangular cake. She turns around to listen when I boast of the amount of goose both I recovered from the carcass. The Mr. is off installing kitchen cabinets. I drive off down the back roads to our place. I notice the Village has heavily sanded the road. I still drive slowly. That's when I spot what I think is the Pooch hunting for a meal.
To fill the void created when the last of the visiting kids leaves for the city, I marinate some finely chopped pork loin. The Joy of Cooking has an interesting "beer marinade". I sizzle five blue corn tortillas in olive oil and stack them between layers of paper towels before dinner. The final task will be to shred lettuce, chop tomatoes and mix some feta and Gorgonzola cheese for a topping. The task today will be to duplicate another festive meal for what will largely be a non-event. We don't have TV, so we won't staying up to watch Dick Clark in New York. Dawn has to work New Year's Day.
I fantasize about getting away from the cold and snow. Mexico comes to mind. I'd love to visit Puebla in the interior. I'll write of the trip. The devil on my left shoulder reminds me about terminal diarrhea on a trip to Isla Mujeres, crippling myself on a hidden concrete step on a beach in Cozumel, stranded in an airport is an isolated area listening to fractured explanations of the reasons why there was no connecting flight-Manana, manana- greedy cab drivers fleecing unsuspecting gringos, the squalor of Tijuana, donkeys painted like Zebras, prices cheaper than K-Mart, a taxi festival in the middle of the day paralyzing traffic and transportation. The good guy on the other shoulder stands mute. With good reason. Hey, how about a little help here, guy! I moan.
The Working Dog Center at Penn Vet
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