Tuesday, September 29, 2009


I only follow a few blogs. I started with a single minded purpose to expand my writing skills. Sharing what I'd written wasn't important. Then, I found a few interesting blogs and decided to keep up with their lives. You get hooked. One blogger was conspicuously absent for a week. I hoped there wasn't something wrong. I decided that the business of life (read that as busy-ness ) was probably the reason for the absence. Many of my posts are self critiqued. I don't write about a lot of the garbage floating around in this brain. You never know when that certain person or group would drive down this country road looking for the guy who called them a bunch of worthless cretins , idiots or (ohmigosh) rednecks. When the blogger I follow added a new post, I went to the comment form to write a short note telling her I'm glad she's back. Blogger shut down the word verification portion before the comment was posted and added a confusing other auditory verification. Oh well. sAm , I'm glad you're back.

Much of Seven Roads To Home is a rehash of what I think others might find interesting about life in the Driftless region. My love for animals, organic farming and down home country goodness constitute the bulk of my musings. I try to keep the other crap to myself. Occasionally I'll add something disguised as a story to keep the identity or situation anonymous. The story of the Ootenstiles is an example. It was inspired by watching a spoiled granddaughter's antics. Since my daughter used to read this blog, I didn't want to add emotional fuel to an already hot fire of antagonism by mentioning the background or symbolism of the story. Dawn threatend me with bodily harm if I taunted my yuppie daughter and her boorish husband.

I say "used to" because I'm hoping that she will entirely tune me out of her life for now. After a weekend visit, the long and short of it is that we got in an argument. Having a slow fuse-hot temper, I lost my cool and threw the bunch of them out. I'd had enough with the whining, patronising and just plain self inflated, precocious behavior at the expense of everyone else, which significantly included two of my favorite animals, Mandy and The Pooch.

The cat and dog have a pattern to their lives. Raising four children and teaching hundreds of others over a long teaching career, I see the value of structure in their lives. Raising a puppy in itself is a difficult task. The Pooch retreats to the basement over the weekend. We've had visitors before. He's been comfortable enough with them to hang out in a few of his favorite haunts while we gab and stay up late. This past weekend it's as if Dracula came to visit. The last straw was seeing him run for cover as an argument ensued over leaving the first floor lights on all night .

Saturday night, the Pooch comes upstairs at three am. His internal alarm clock sometimes goes haywire, but this is different. I wake up, see the blazing lights downstairs and walk downstairs to turn them off. When it's dark, he jumps up on my lap and then on the back of the couch to snooze. I catch an hour of sleep. I'd gotten to bed late two nights in a row. I wake up before first light and take the dog and cat outside to begin their morning rituals.

I try to explain that that Mandy and The Pooch are not just a farm cat and dog. We treat them as members of the family. My son tells me that he had a roommate who got a puppy and caged the dog during the day while he was at work. To me that's inexcusable and cruel treatment. The daughter makes fun of my statement, telling her kid that the dog is her aunt. Both parents dislike dogs and have by example transferred that dislike to the granddaughter. The granddaughter spends the weekend crying whenever the puppy comes near. Mandy was raised in a household that included a five year old girl. The young Amish girl slathered Mandy with affection

On Saturday morning Dawn sits at the kitchen table and mumbles that she's had enough of the whining. "Up to here." she motions with her hands. The kid complains when her mother cuts up the slice of smoked pork shoulder on her plate. She will only eat certain foods. Eggs have to be boiled and the mother tosses out the yolk. On a previous visit mother gets a fork from the utensil drawer ( Ootensile ). "I don't want that fork," the kid complains in a high pitched whine.
To quote Kurt Vonnegut,"And so it goes."

We've all seen precocious, spoiled children. When one is part of your family it's disturbing. Dinner becomes a difficult scene. Food is squandered because of picky tastes. After dinner, the Mom feeds the hungry kid crackers while we watch a movie. When I grew up in the late 1700's you ate all the food on your plate or you couldn't leave the table. "Eat yer liver ya brat, there are kids in China who are starving." I am jesting of course. Today's enlightened parents will offer a variety of healthy foods. Allowing for individual preferences, like I do with my dog and cat who sometimes turn up their noses at certain prepared animal feed, one takes the food away. I don't offer the cat or dog another plate of food 20, 30 or 60 minutes later. To be economical, I'll refrigerate the dish of dog or cat food and you know what? They'll probably eat it the next time.

Sunday morning the granddaughter, who usually sleeps late at home, is up at first light. I feed the dog and cat after I take them outside for a short run. The kid complains and whines about the dog. "If you're afraid of the puppy , then go back upstairs to bed." I tell her. I see no reason why the kid would want to be downstairs. Dad and Mom are still upstairs in bed, leaving me to deal with a cranky kid and two hungry animals-one who thinks the little girl's antics are a form of play.

Enough is enough.

Today, the Pooch decides to fore go breakfast and hunt for mice outside. Mandy scarfs down two bowlfuls of food and plays with her toys. I give her an old running shoe without laces which keeps her occupied. This morning it's chilly and cloudy. I add more insulation to Mandy's doghouse yesterday afternoon and toss in another blanket for her to make a warm nest. I'm trying to figure out a way to cover the entrance way, so cold drafts don't blow in on her. A highly insulated doghouse will cause some moisture condensation, so for the moment I add a rubber door that hangs part way in front of the opening. Mandy decides that the side chair next to the phone is a perfect place to nap. Like all parents, we'd thought that keeping her off the furniture was a good rule. We still enforce that rule with other furniture, but both dog and cat are allowed on this twenty five year old chair. Mandy still looks up at me when ever I walk by, with those pleading brown eyes that say, "Please, let me stay. I like this chair."

The daughter makes a snide comment about the cat not having any manners. I retort with,"We never taught him any." It's true. We used to chase him off the kitchen table. The cat is exceptionally well groomed and I don't worry if he chooses to sit on a place mat while we eat a sandwich from the Cheese Corner. He just likes to be near us. Too much of modern America is over concerned and paranoid about being germ free, orange cleaners that contain bleach and disinfectant. As a friend once said, "I'm part of a test group." If you've traveled in any foreign country, you'll consider your own sanitary considerations 300% better than those.

I'll be better tomorrow, I promise. Today, I have a bushel of green peppers to dice and dehydrate and over a bushel of organic apples to freeze and dehydrate. The first frost is a reality now. I need to get at the last of the tomatoes. My son and I do yard work. He's eager to help and appreciative of the things I do for him. We cancel a run to the cheese factory and mulch leaves. The Cheese Corner has a new sandwich-The Alamo- a delicious combination of vegetables and sliced beef, toasted on the bread of your choice. I spend almost $20 on lunch. It's well spent as we work on the grounds and slice jalapenos for dehydration. He leaves in the early afternoon with an Amish apple pie, apples from the orchards in Gays Mills and jars of canned goods. Dawn reminds him to take some of her hand made soap. He calls in the evening to let me know he made it through rush hour in the state capitol and safely home. He's a good kid ( at 30 years old). I look forward to his return in mid October.

1 comment:

sAm said...

Awww...thanks for the shoutout!! I'm glad to hear somebody missed me - I just honestly had nothing to say worth saying, y'know?
I'm sorry to hear about your family issues. I'm going through some stuff with my brother right now and I know how difficult it can be when you really love somebody but their actions just drive you crazy! And poor Pooch and Mandy - I can just picture Mandy in my mind wanting to play and just not understanding what the problem is.
Keep up with your ramblings - you have no idea how often I think of you when I'm out in my garden and realize that my little patch is nothing compared to the amount of produce you are harvesting...that reminds me...frost is coming - I need to get out there and get things finished up!