Sunday, April 5, 2009


My dictionary of etymology says the word avoirdupois comes from Middle English meaning," in possession of weight." Current usage is "merchandise sold by weight" in the English system-pounds and ounces. There's a connection between the title and this post. In the back of my mind is the admonishment to "avoid cliches like the plague". Another writing faux pas is to use excessive amounts of alliteration. I stifled the urge to use Bears, Blowhards, Blizzards and Blindness as a lead in to this first post in many days. My intention is to give weight to a loosely connected series of events here in Kickapoo Center in the past week.

Dawn and I travel to the city for supplies. I promised to get Titus a 5 pound box of screws for his cabinet works. We needed muriatic acid to clean rust from the various ceramic bathroom fixtures. The stuff is extremely dangerous to use-just breathing the fumes can hospitalize a person. Imagine what it does to your skin if you splash a drop or two carelessly. If you'd seen the condition of the basin's and toilets when we moved into the vacant school house, you'd understand why I take chances with the noxious chemical.

When we left Menard's-the local building supplies and mercantile center- we spent $140 dollars on what began as a two item list. $70 of the total included Frontline for The Pooch. The temperatures lately have climbed to the 50's and 60's. The spring bug hatch will include deer ticks and fleas. The Pooch leaves the warm confines of our bedroom quilt at 6:30 am for a morning patrol of his five acres. At around 8:30 he climbs the deck railing and peers in the kitchen window, looking for breakfast(this morning it was raw catfish nuggets). Afterwards, he stands in front of the deck door doing a pretty good imitation of the feline word for out...Meowwt. The rest of the day he sneaks in and out, sampling his dry food, chasing birds and leaves, waiting by the south fence line for an unsuspecting mouse to scamper out of the weeds and climbing the woodpile for a better vantage point of the corn field behind us.

A trip to the grocery store on the north edge of the city and dinner at our favorite Mexican Cantina on the far south side of Lacrosse completes the journey. The return trip, although only 35 minutes from Lacrosse to Viroqua, seems longer. There's a plateau near the Mississippi River and Lacrosse. About four miles away from the city through a flat glacial bed, a series of steep hills and coulees begins the approach to the ridge tops that make expansive farm fields and the dairy country around Westby. Not far from the Guadalupe Shrine and before the first hill climb, I see cars parked on both sides of the highway. Shorty's Grill has a large parking lot and is 1/4 mile off the highway. I suspect someone is having party in the suburban houses that are sprouting up in the fields adjacent to Highway 14. Getting closer to the line of parked vehicles, I see a woman standing on hay bales stacked on the trailer. Other people, including the SUV in front of us are pulling over. Many of the people are holding their cell phone cameras in the air. "What the hay...?" Dawn says, "There's a bear in that corn field." I look left and at the edge of the woods and 20 yards into the corn stubble a black bear is sitting on its haunches. Now that's newsworthy.

It made the trip worthwhile. All week I've been working my tail off skirting rain and inclement weather. The NWS in Lacrosse forecast a blizzard off the northern plains for today, Sunday. Six to eight inches of snow are expected, but the local blowhard at the town dump Saturday morning predicts snow starting in the evening totaling 12 inches. I've learned that the locals tend to exaggerate. "Run for your lives, there's weather a comin' " is the catch phrase for any such event. It even extends to local politics. When the town chairman knocked the town clerk down in an argument over electioneering, the local paper first reported that the town clerk resigned( it was the town chairman) . Then it was reported that the town clerk suffered broken ribs and lacerations ( his ribs were "bruised"). Then the news said the town chairman was facing felony assault charges. "Run for your lives there's a bogeyman a comin'."

Dawn and I hustle to get the oak and elm my son and I split in an Olympic 7 hour woodfest last week into the woodshed. We haul sand that washed into the cornfield below us in last year's June flood. It will be used as a base for concrete silo blocks were are laying below the kitchen window. We don't need another patio with a deck that runs the full length of the east side of the house, but the north side tends to collect runoff in heavy storms. A previous owner laid a four inch thick slab covered with dirt and gravel in the corner. It inclines toward the foundation making for a perfect rain collector. We put three layers of black plastic and throw three truck loads of wet sand to prepare the area. The Pooch treats it as his very own litter box until we cover our leveled, timbered and prepared block base with old paneling. Work until you drop or can't take anymore. We cancel plans to rake gravel off the lawns from the plows last winter expecting that Sunday, the plowman will set his plow too deep. He'll make two passes that extend three feet on either side of the gravel road.

I've covered the three B's. There is much more I could cover, but the snow has not developed to more than flurries. I've got three vehicles to change oil and filters. That gravel I didn't rake is still hiding in the grass. When the sun shines and the grass comes up, it will be harder to remove from the lawn. The fourth B. Hair blindness. A weekly news magazine the Readstown librarian toots as a good source of digested news has a small paragraph about research covering a new disorder. The cognitive neuroscientist says some men don't notice a spouse or girlfriend's new haircut because they don't see hair as part of the face. Go figure.

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