|A fistful of catnip|
A trip to the Amish farm to round up help will cure Mandy of her winter blues.She can nuzzle her Mom's snout and look for a chicken head to gnaw. It'll also give me perspective. The ridge top farm is busy with trucks pulling in the yard, corn shelling and horse trailers parked next to the workshop. I stop in the main house to ask for the "boss". "In the barn," is the Matriarch's reply. I cut through a portion of fence in the barn yard with a makeshift gate-a short piece of hog panel-and follow a worn path to the barn. A crumbling wall on the east side of the barn has been nicely repaired. The horses are standing at attention hitched to a manure wagon.
"Mandy, get otta there," I tell my dog. The Patriarch confuses the pup with the Mom. "Oh she's all right," he says.
The hooves of these workhorses are like small anvils. A blundering dog could quickly be dead and maimed with a swift quick. Happens all the time to farmers with a much smaller cow hoof. The Patriarch is shoveling manure in his shirtsleeves. "If you keep moving, you don't get cold," he says in response to my amazement. I keep a close eye on the dog because the other trick she pulls is to roll in fresh manure. It hides her scent, predator animal that she is, but makes for a long ride home.
Besides spreading manure, my friend has corn to shell and cobs to spread on the strawberry patch. I agree to come back in the afternoon. He says he'll screw the chimney cap back on. By way of trade which I insist, I'll drive him to another farm for horse shoe nails. As I'm standing there and the Patriarch is shooting two kinds of shit, the warm stuff and the other,verbal baloney, I remember I 'm supposed to take my car in for a tune-up. Cripes.
When Mandy was a pup, she was fantastic about walking on leash. We make the eight block run from my mechanic in town to the retirement home without incident. A few households had large, menacing dogs behind wooden fences missing boards. An occasional squirrel was part of the scenery. Grown up Mandy has to check each and every telephone pole, fence post, every scent marker left by a dog in the last century. "Come, come on, cripes, let's go, jeez, Mandy," I repeat block by block until we reach Dawn's car in the parking lot.
The actual cap attachment takes three minutes excluding preparation- hauling two ladders from the shed, getting the right socket tool, hauling the cap up to the peak. On the way back to the Amish farm, we take the county road over to Jimtown Road and stop by another Amish place. The house looks like a double wide dropped in place in a big hurry. Next to the house is a shed/carriage house/garage under construction. Three small Amish children stand in the picture window looking at me and Mandy in my truck. The Patriarch stands at the back door. A young Amish wife comes out coat-less and walks to the shed. The Patriarch comes back to the truck with a cardboard box in hand. "How much do you think these cost?" he asks me.
The box, which is the size of an 8 oz. cardboard milk carton would cost no more than $5.00, even at the expensive agri-center in town. "$17.95," he says. He pulls out a shiny nail. I assume it's stainless steel which accounts for part of the cost. It also appears to be a cut nail made from sheets of steel, rolled and flattened and cut into wedge shaped nails. Other than the color, they are the same shape as the nails I pulled out of the 100 year old church pew, I recently refurbished.
I pay my mechanic for the tune-up and give him a nine pound bag of Kennebec potatoes. He puts the potatoes under the counter as if someone might try and walk away with them.