The highway makes a broad sweep to left at the base of the hill in the background. The mist in this May picture makes it difficult to see the white strip of pavement arching behind the trees lining the river. The river takes a twisted path east, then south and finally due west, all in 25 acres or less. It is the crookedest river in the state. To reach the next town 6 miles away, a canoeist would spend the greater part of the day. Driving is a five minute jaunt. On Sundays the highway is quiet. A stainless steel bulk tank turns off Count G & I and heads for Viola. Our neighbor-not the closest one-tends a 400 head dairy farm. He and his helper have spent the winter spreading manure in the fields around us. The lazy former owner of the dairy farm, when we first meet he tells us that he was in the navy on a submarine-would pile the caca into a large slurry vat. Passing by the farm, the casual visitor would notice what looks like a really huge open silo about six feet high and fifty feet across filled with liquid waste. Then, there is the smell.
In the first few episodes of musings of a resident of the driftless area of southwest Wisconsin, I would add the separate title of Life in Kickapoo Center at the Turn of the Century. I am a clever hack. The "turn of the century". The year 2000. "Kickapoo Center" a town that ceased to exist at the turn of the 20th century. Then I got smart. What's the phrase: Too old too soon, too late schmart. I add the schmart in tribute to the German ancestors who preceded me. I consider myself a mixed breed. Part French, part German, Polish by association, part Mexican, Scottish and Native American if you believe in the Hindu philosophy of reincarnation. I add the moniker to the masthead. So, this is my mental wandering around the territory.
On any given day I am at a loss for clever words. Again another phrase comes to mind: Clever words bring forth no buttered turnips. It is also the title of one of my written onslaughts to friends and anyone who'd care to open the mail in pre-blogging days. So, I have no clever words.
At 6:30 am precisely El Gato awakes me with a single meow. He climbs on top of me and licks my face. I lick his face back. Although my tongue isn't as rough as his, he gets the idea. Not wanting more wet fur, he stops scouring my nose, my forehead and my eyes. Finally he settles on Dawn's pillow, curling himself around the top of her head, feet propped on the bridge of her nose. When we get up to begin our day, he's comfortable and lazy. For awhile, I hear him snore. Or was that Dawn?
Dawn and I spend the greater portion of Sunday afternoon sanding plaster over the joints in the drywall. It's a dusty, dirty business. This will repeat itself four times. Each time it is over, I walk outside, remove my shirt and shake off dust. Dawn takes a shower upstairs. To avoid adding more dust in the air, we sweep up larges piles of gypsum, squirt Orange cleaner in the traffic areas and mop the floor with white, small terry-cloth towels. The dust at the edges will remain until we mount a final cleaning offensive . This will be a total home cleaning experience. Just imagine the Incredible Hulk taking the house by the foundation and shaking out the crap. Two air purifiers run at the "Turbo" setting to remove fine particles of dust. A box fan is propped in the new kitchen window to exhaust more dusty air. It's February. The propane furnace is the only source of heat since a wood fire turns the place into a sauna. Outside temps are in the 40's.
We could have hired someone to perform the nasty business. In fact we had someone scheduled to begin today, but changed our minds when we met Aaron, the Amish carpenter. The money we'd save could buy us a new wood furnace, a new portable drill or perhaps even a new downstairs bathroom. The carpenter we'd relieved of duty wouldn't have been as careful. He wouldn't have covered all sensitive electronic equipment with sheets of thin plastic.
On Wednesday, Dawn begins vacation. Originally, she was slotted to travel across the state to care for her 85 year old father while her sister takes a vacation. Sisty Ugler is in a snit. Her father-in-law passes away. When Dawn suggests her brother as caretaker for Dad in the 24 hours needed to travel to southern Illinois for the funeral, sister throws a fit. In a classic version of Family Feud aka Jerry Springer, Sisty Ugler doesn't trust the brother. She will not allow him in her house. The reasons are too complex. Brother lives an hour away. Dawn is four hours away. In a twenty four hour period, Dawn would travel 8 hours to care for Dad. Dad is alert and semi-responsible. He needs monitoring so that a pot isn't left on the stove for hours and help remembering to take his medication.
At first, Dawn a certified and experienced Elder Care person, suggest Dad's in-home care will take a toll on Sisty Ugler. Ugler doesn't listen. She's like her Mother-opinionated and aggressively blunt. In a restaurant she will tell you what to order. She is a sickly, semi-vegetarian and will not allow her husband to cook any meat related product in the house. She's into expensive faux Japanese art, purely for the braggadocio factor. There's no room for the husband's frog collection. If you suggest a favorite bistro, she'll call it crappy and tell you of a better one. Because of a prolonged period of silence, Dawn calls Sisty Ugler to confirm the vacation and subsequent care of the octagenarian. Oh, no need to bother, I have 24 hour in-home care scheduled. Dawn cancels part of the vacation and reschedules the rest. A visit to take Dad out on Valentine's Day must now be approved in advance with Sisty Ugler. The final insult to Sisty Ugler. Outcast brother will join us for dinner with Dad. I look at the encounters which obviously negatively affects my wife with amusement and disdain. We'll see how karma takes care of the problem.
Meanwhile, I wring my hands like Simon Legree. No, I'm not being devilsih. I'll rephrase that. I bounce up and down in delight-if you can imagine me bouncing. There's wood to be split and hauled. A trip to the Lacrosse for more drywall and the special-order counter-top. A trip to see the kids. Help with this. Work on that. We''ll be using Dawn's handmade soap studio as a kitchen when the final portion of the kitchen renovation begins. The studio needs tweaking for cooking activities. No, we're not going to be doing that in there or anywhere. On any given day, the mounting tasks and chores of life in the country threaten my writing avocation. Writing is a way of keeping the wolf from the door. A metaphor for loneliness that sometimes sneaks its way under the thresh hold and lurks in dark corners.