Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Demons of Frivolity

In the north and east the sky is a quilted gray of puffy cumulus clouds. In the south and west the solid gray cover says rain coming soon. At a leftover breakfast of buns dipped in egg and sour cream and a link of new smoked sausage, I come across a phrase in the book Driftless by David Rhodes. It's a beacon in fine print like the sign on the highway telling you there's a gas station ahead when your tank's on empty.

In the book, Winifred Smith is in town shopping. She contemplates purchasing a lottery ticket as a visual aid for her next sermon at church. "Momentarily possessed by demons of frivolity," she says she changes her mind and purchases a pack of red gum instead.

Too often I feel I fight demons of frivolity when writing in this blog. "Does it really matter?" "Who cares?" Before you rush to post a reply(that's a laugh), know that I'm not fishing for comment here. They'll bury me with pen and paper because I'll want to add a few thoughts about that, too.

A long time ago, I put inspirational posters in my classroom. One said, There is beauty in the simplest things. Most often I wasn't trying to reach my fourth graders but trying to convince myself of some small truth. The Vice Principal walks into my room one morning and questions a new poster slogan I've put on the bulletin board near the windows. "Do you think they'll understand?" he asks. I don't remember my reply. I really didn't care because I got it.

Winifred Smith struggles with spending a dollar on the lottery. I struggle with simple things that I trivialize and dismiss. Case in point:

Daily I struggle with notions about our cat. I called him Pooch and gave him a formal name of Pucci showing how clever I am. I feel foolish calling him in toward dusk because he's a cat not a dog. He comes from around the lawn shed bounding in the grass knowing I've got treats in my pocket. As he gets closer, he slows to a trot, follows me across the deck and waits inside for his surprise. It's always a surprise because he's a cat. A theme in rural America is to ignore cats. They're unkempt, abandoned frequently, poorly fed and kept mostly for mouse predation.

Dawn and I are watching a movie. We watch a lot of movies. I've written a thousand times about the Pooch's night time behavior. Last night, he knocked a glass chimney from a kerosene lamp into the bathtub shattering it into a million minuscule pieces. I close the trap, sweep up the mess and make a mental note to shower upstairs in the morning. The rubber mat in the downstairs tub is still wet. It will take a few days for the tub to dry and get the fine slivers of glass that might shred a bare foot. The Pooch was climbing into an open window in the bathroom when the mishap occurred. After his dinner, he went from window to window in a fanatical chase to keep track of his outside.

The night before I find him in the dark basement. He's sitting in the middle of the floor. When I turn on the light, he doesn't move toward me. Instead he stays still and stares at a spot on the basement wall. The former owners had a hot tub in the basement(oh yes). To vent the heat and humidity they install an exhaust fan in the wall at the ceiling. It blows under the deck. I won't go into the stupidity of the former owners. I remove the fan, patch the opening with hardboard and add the exhaust fan at the peak of the barn. It helps vent heat in hot July and August days. The Pooch knows something is going on under the deck. It set the live trap with fresh pork bones wrapped in plastic so my hands don't get greasy. In the morning the trap is sprung. The plastic is outside the trap. The bones remain inside the wire mesh. The trap is empty.

When The Pooch tires of racing from window to window and begging to be allowed outside, he jumps up on the couch to groom himself. Sometimes Dawn and he will wrassle. Wrassling involves curling in a ball while Dawn tickles his stomach. He kicks at her hands with his hind feet and gnaws her fingers. Sometimes he gets too rough and she'll have to yell, NO in a loud voice. On TV the characters are tunneling into an old tomb. The Pooch is sleeping soundly, or so we think. In an instant, he stands up, looks toward the window. He cranes his neck as far as he can to see out the two large living room windows. Something is in the yard. I get up and look out the window. It's almost nine o'clock. The sun hasn't disappeared and dusk is bright at the northern horizon. Under the pine tree a lone doe bends to nibble at something below the tree.

I'd just replanted the yellow wax beans which another deer had dug up two weeks previous to now. I grab my rifle at the back door. I fire off three warning shots with the twenty two caliber rifle which sound like rocks in a 2 gallon tin popcorn can. The deer bounds away toward another pine tree. I walk inside before someone sees me with a rifle shooting at deer. I'm surprised when Dawn asks," Did ya hit it?" "No way," I reply. "I just fired into the air to scare it off. " She says the deer paused by Jonathon Pine and bounded away into the corn field .I shake my head in disbelief and praise the cat. "Good watchdog." In the morning I tell him again how much I appreciate his skills as a watch cat.

What surprises me is that over the sound of rocks caving in a burial chamber on TV , the Pooch can hear a doe walking in the short grass of the front yard. He's one hell of a cat. Over breakfast, I toss around ides for the next blog, trivializing the cat's skill as a watch dog. Now if I could only train him to bark.

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