Friday, January 29, 2016


Mishaps, like other forms of bad luck, always come in threes, according to traditional wisdom. I’m living proof that they often comes in fours, fives and sixes.

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I’m hell on wheels when it comes to trucks, tractors and trailers. I especially have problems turning right into my driveway while towing my 22-foot long horse trailer. I just don’t swing wide enough. Twice I’ve knocked stones out of one of my stacked-stone pillars.

This is how my gates are supposed to look.
I thought I was being extra careful a few weeks ago. “I can do this,” I told myself. There was no other traffic on the road, so I moved over into the left lane and made what I thought was a nice, wide turn. I thought I had cleared the pillars when I heard a scraping noise. “Uh-oh, there goes another stone,” I thought. I backed up a little, swung again and got through the gate. When I got out to look, there were no loose stones. “Yay!” I said to myself. I spoke too soon, because I had dented my right rear fender on the trailer. Bummer.

Before I could get it fixed, I ran into a pasture gate with the bucket of my tractor. I had no excuse about right or left turns or not being able to see well. I just wasn’t paying attention. The bucket bent the gate pretty bad, and I couldn’t close it. Bummer No. 2.

One day when my handyman, Floyd Plummer, and his grandson, Scott, were here working on some other projects, I got him to fix the gate. Then I asked him to bend the trailer fender back into place, so it wouldn’t rub the tire. While he was working on that, I headed to the hardware store for some part he needed. I didn’t open my front gates all the way, trying to shave a few seconds off my time. I’ve done it before with no problem. However, going through partially-opened gates in a Prius is quite different than in a one-ton dually, as I discovered much too late. I knocked one of the gates completely off its hinges and into my pond. I also broke the front mount that holds the mechanical gate arm to the gate. Bummer No. 3.

Floyd and Scott wrestled the heavy gate back onto its hinges while I was running my errand. They also hammered out the huge dent I had put in it. But they were unable to unscrew the old front mount, leaving us to believe I would have to invest into a new gate arm. As if that weren’t enough, wrenching the gate off apparently drove the post that holds it down into the grown so much that the bent gate hung a foot lower than the other one. Bummer No. 4.

Floyd and Scott spent several hours yesterday working on that blasted gate. They had to pull the pole out of the ground with tractor and chain, break up the old cement and reset the pole. I couldn’t get out of my driveway while the cement was drying.  Floyd came up this morning and put the new front mount in place and hooked the arms back to the gates. Guess what? They don’t work! The power is still on at the gate and the fuses are good. But even the ever-true doorbells that open the gates from house and driveway aren’t working. I must have fried something in the control board. Bummer No. 5! I called my “gate man,’ who will come up this afternoon and check it out.

One more mishap will make six. Or does accidentally activating the child lock on my washing machine and having to call LG count? Either way, I believe I’ve met my quota for the year.

Friday, January 22, 2016


My horses did fine in the storm of January 2014.

When meteorologists start predicting snow for Central Alabama, the frantic preparations begin. Most folks rush to the grocery stores for milk and bread. Not me. I spend two hours buying gasoline for my generator and hay for my barnyard critters.

What began as a leisurely morning with coffee and sweet roll turned into a snow-prep frenzy.  Al Roker on the Today Show said a major snowstorm was due to swamp 29 states today, including many along the Eastern seaboard. So I checked the SAF-T-Net weather app on my iPhone, and discovered two alerts about snow coming to my neck of the woods about mid-morning. 

Before I could take a second sip of coffee, the phone rang. It was my daughter, Amanda,  making sure I would be on time picking up my oldest grandson from school today because she has a meeting at 3:30. The plan was for me to spend the night at her house, watch Gabe’s basketball game tomorrow morning, then bring  Gabe and Mati home with me for the weekend. Well, the best laid plans of mice and men oft go astray, and all that poetic stuff.

I told her about the weather, so she could put a backup plan in place. “Even if I can get to your house, I can’t leave my critters snowed in,” I said.  “Oh, we probably won’t get any,” she replied. How soon she forgets! Two years ago a blizzard hit us so suddenly it caught our most experienced TV weather prognosticators completely off guard. Everyone in the Birmingham area left work at once, schools all closed at once, and many folks were stranded overnight in their cars. As I hung up the phone, my own backup plan kicked in, and I jumped into action. 

I checked the gasoline can. Yep, just as I thought, empty. I knew there was very little hay left, either, because truck problems had prevented my hay man from delivering a round bale last weekend. I raked what little hay remained closer to the edges of the horses’ hay ring so they could get to it, then put the last square bale in the llama/goat hay ring in their shed. So far so good, but what if I got snowed in at Amanda’s house and couldn’t get back until Sunday? What if my hay man couldn’t deliver this Sunday, either? Feed stores aren’t open on Sundays.

So I drove to the convenience store about three miles south of me, filled up my five-gallon gas can, then brought it home and set it on my back porch next to my generator. Kicking myself for not buying a few square hay bales while at the feed ’n seed yesterday, I drove three miles in the opposite direction to buy some today. When i got home, I added two bales to the horse hay ring and one to the llama/goat ring. I filled up the heated llama water bucket (the horses have automatic water tanks), patted myself on the back, and came inside my house where it was toasty warm.

If I get snowed in here, I’m in good shape. I have two gas fireplaces and plenty of propane to keep the house warm, and a gas stove to cook on. The generator will power everything but the HVAC system and the hot water heater, so other than cold baths—or no baths—I’ll be okay. If I get snowed in at Amanda’s house, I’ll know my outdoor critters will be fine for a couple of days. And the dogs? They have a large water bucket and two multi-quart gravity feeders full of dry  food. They also have a doggy door so they can go outside for their potty breaks.

Whether it be an inch or a foot, bring on the snow. I’m prepared this time.

Llamas are well-suited for snowy days.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Throw-Away Dogs

Dear Sir:

I use that term loosely, because I don’t really know you. But I know what you did, and that dastardly deed means you really don’t deserve the designation, “Sir.”

I happened to be passing by two weeks ago when you dumped that little dog alongside U.S 411 in the Odenville area. No, I didn’t actually see you put him out of your pickup. But I saw you parked there, saw the dog running around the truck, watched you pull away. It didn’t take Sherlock Holmes to figure out what you had done.

What kind of person are you to abandon a helpless animal like that? Why would you leave him to fend for himself, to find his own food and shelter, maybe get hit by a car? If you didn’t want him, why didn’t you take him to an animal shelter? Was the $15 surrender fee more than you could afford? Guess you don’t mind taxpayers picking up the bill for your thoughtlessness, huh? I’d like to take you out in the woods somewhere and dump you, see how long it takes you to find food and water and your way home.

If you had had his mother spayed, as any responsible dog owner should do, you wouldn’t have had him and who knows how many other puppies to take care of. Or did you not have the $35 for that, either? That’s what a spay/neuter certificate costs when you buy from the Animal Control Center of Pell City. Or maybe you wanted your bitch to have the experience of having babies, as if she had human female emotions. Or did you want your kids to experience the miracle of birth? Rent them a video, for crying out loud. My guess is, you just didn’t give a damn one way or the other.

Unfortunately, there are millions of folks like you roaming our roadways. That’s why there are an estimated 13,600 animal shelters in the U.S., and 7.6 million companion animals entering those shelters every year. Did you know that approximately 31 percent of the 3.9 million dogs who enter shelters are euthanized? That rate is even higher in Alabama. But what do you care? You have one less mouth to feed.

When I picked up that little fellow, I spent a fruitless hour and a half knocking on doors, trying to find his owner. I had a vain hope that I was mistaken about what you did, that he had escaped from a house close by, and pictured a teary-eyed little girl wondering what had happened to her beloved pet. I even took him by the Branchville vet’s office to have him scanned for a microchip, but of course, there wasn’t one.

I would have kept him myself, but I already have two and three-fourths dogs: An American Mastiff, a mid-sized rescue and a lab mix that technically belongs to a neighbor but who stays at my house at least 75 percent of the time. They almost killed this little guy when he slipped by me at the gate to the outdoor pen where I put him during the warm days. I brought him in at night when it got cold. I posted his likeness on several community Facebook sites. Finally, I did what you should have done in the first place: I took him to Animal Control in Pell City. I paid his surrender fee, and I pre-paid the $70 adoption fee in the hopes that this would make him more adoptable. Management there assured me it would.

Meanwhile, I’m watching for your truck. My grandsons were with me, and one has a memory like the proverbial elephant. If we see it again, we’ll get your tag number. We’ll report you. Or maybe we’ll just send Freddy Krueger after you. Stay alert, and don’t walk down any dark alleys.

Friday, January 8, 2016

The Gift of Time

My porch swing before restoration
        Nothing says, “I love you,” better than the gift of time. All the baubles and bangles in the world won’t replace hours spent with friends and loved ones.

That’s why my 2015 Christmas gifts from my daughters and their husbands were so special. There was nothing I needed that I couldn’t buy for myself. I have plenty of clothes and accessories, do-dads to dust and electronic gadgets to play with. So I asked them to do projects for me that either I couldn’t do alone or didn’t want to tackle. One involved organization, the other, manual labor.

Everyone was at my house for Thanksgiving, and my oldest daughter, Heather, and her husband, John, spent the night with me. Next morning, we headed for my storage shed and began pulling out stuff. I had asked the pair to help me organize the shed so I could get to what was in it. I actually started the process earlier that week, and had quite a pile to throw away by the time Heather and John pitched in. Most of it went down by my road, where I knew somebody would spy it and take it home. And somebody did. 

My shed was so disorganized that I didn’t really know what all I had in it. Once I went to my local hardware store to buy a hacksaw, only to have the owner tell me he had sold me one a few months before!

I had accumulated a lot of tools, including some that had belonged to my late husband, and I had no idea what some of his were or what their purpose was. John, an engineer whose hobby is working on old cars, was able to tell me what was worth keeping and what to toss. There were several usable items I just didn’t need, and he took them off my hands.

My youngest daughter, Amanda, and her husband, Daniel, chose to refinish my front porch swing. This is the swing I spent many hours in at my Paw-Paw’s house in East Lake. Then mom had it on her front porch. It has been on mine for 13-plus years, in bad need of
 new paint. It was green when Paw-Paw had it, then mom painted it brown, as she did everything else she painted. 

It took several sessions to complete the job. The weather was damp and each layer of paint and polyurethane had to dry thoroughly before the next one could be applied. They chose to do the job at my house, thinking they couldn’t get the swing in Amanda’s car to haul it to theirs. They realized later they could, but that’s okay. I enjoyed the repeated visits. They used the same red paint a friend used on my doors, and I’ll paint a table on each porch the same color. My house was rather bland from the outside, but these doses of red really make the place pop. I plan to add some colorful cushions once all my porch furniture has been refinished.

       So, next gift-giving occasion, if you can’t think of anything to give that special someone who seems to have everything, try the gift of time. Both giver and receiver will be blessed.
My swing after restoration