Monday, April 22, 2013

#152. or, A Happy Meal

 I had stopped for a quick lunch by myself the other day, and she caught my eye right off the bat.

 You couldn't help but be drawn to her, with her blonde hair and the arms of her glasses, the same bright shade of pink as the outfit she was wearing. She was sitting 2 booths ahead of me and I was watching her between the couple that had come in and sat down between us.

  The couple, who sat with their backs to me, were young. I could tell they were newly in love by the way they chose to squeeze themselves into the same side of their narrow booth to be together, when it was obvious, one on each side would have been the better choice. At least, that would have been my choice, as I've always thought it was nicer to be able to look up into each others eyes to talk, rather than be squished together, with both of you staring off in the same direction. Squished is nice if you're watching a movie, cuddled up on the couch under a blanket. Not for lunch.

  But the couple didn't really interest me. I was watching the girl, who was so full of life and energy that it was contagious. When without any warning, she suddenly got up onto her knees, turned around on the seat, put her chin in her hands, and her elbows on the top of the backrest and perched there, smiling at the young couple. I had to smile too.

  That's something that's hard to get away with. Staring at complete strangers while they eat. But when that person, grinning at you over the back of the seat is 3 years old at best, how can you help but smile back?

  I'm sure she wasn't over 3 years old, but it's been a long time since any of my kids were that small, so my judgement may be off a bit. When her blue, whatever-it-was toy, from her Happy Meal, went flying out of her hand onto the floor and she scurried after it, I noticed her shoes matched her pink outfit and glasses.

  I recognized her parents. Not as in, I knew who they were, but rather as, I saw my wife and myself in them.  Unlike the 3 little boys we took to McDonald's though, they had 3 girls. I remember you had to do everything in shifts back then. One stayed with the kids and found booster seats and high chairs, while the other went to order the food. You had to rotate, taking one at a time to the bathroom, while the other stayed and watched the rest. One would gather up the garbage and take it away, while the other packed up the kids. The little girl's parents looked weary.

  I remember being weary.

  But once in awhile, when a little girl gets up on her knees and smiles in your direction, over the back of her booth, while her parents try to get one of her little sisters to eat her apple slices, you forget about the weary, and think about the wonderful.

  ...........and wish it wasn't so long ago.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

#151. or, Up all Night

  When I go out to check the calving cows in the middle of the night, it's getting to be that there are fewer times that the mud of the day has frozen hard again, while I make my rounds.

  That should be a good thing. It's warmer now and hopefully, with any sort of luck, we just may yet see the end of winter. But still, when you're out trudging about in the dark, and the mud, and the slop, there's something to be said for frozen.

  Frozen doesn't make the mud stick to my boots, making them heavier than they already are, or send my leg skidding off crazily in some odd direction when I step wrongly, on the edge of the bedding pack.

   I like the summer. Quite a bit, in fact. I believe that we're in our seventh month of snow now and I am more than ready to change my view from white to something else. That something else, which is going to be the brown of mud for a while, but I'll take that. I don't, after all, have much say in the matter.  It wasn't a week ago, that the only spots free of snow in the field, were the areas that I plowed open for the feeders and the trail to that and to the bedding pack. It made checking for calves at 3:00 A.M. pretty easy. Now, I have to wander about a bit more to shine my light on all of the bare spots to look for calves.

  But the winter's not ready to let us go, just yet. It's snowing again this weekend. My cows let me know it was coming the other night as I made my rounds to look for new baby calves, huddled on the ground beside their mothers on random patches of the pasture where the snow had melted away. Whenever a weather change is coming, it usually brings on a mess of new calves. It's not such a bad thing though, because by the time the bad weather arrives, anything close to calving has, and we get a day or 2 of slower activity as we go into the poorer weather.

  Because of the mud, I've had to abandon my insulated coveralls. I can't wrap them tight enough to fit comfortably into my rubber boots. They're warmer, and have better pockets, but by the time I've gotten around to check on everything, having them wrapped tight around my legs and jammed in my boots has driven me crazy. So, it's the lighter ones now that are stinking up our porch. I'm pretty sure that our house smells like the barnyard, but for some reason, every time that I wash them, I end up the next day with my arm up the backside of a cow and my freshly cleaned coveralls covered with inside of cow things.

  There was a time that I enjoyed the night checking. It's quiet, and in the heart of the clear, cold night, there's more stars out than you have ever seen in your life. I try to notice those type of things, because being up all night looking after calves loses it's appeal  a lot quicker than it did, even 5 years ago. Each trip is a mystery as to what you'll find. Whenever you think that one last quick look around, then you'll be able to pop into bed, there's sure to be a cow that needs help, or a heifer is calving too close to the muck hole. Which means that you're up for another hour making sure everything is alright.

  And even on the off chance that you get all dressed up, and head out into the dark with your big-assed flashlight in the middle of the night, and find that nothing needs your help, you can't just come back into the house and jump right into your warm bed.

  Because if you do that, and try to cuddle up to your wife's warm backside to share a little of her heat, she's probably going to let you know how much she DOESN'T appreciate that. And most likely, neither of you are going to end up getting any sleep.


Monday, April 08, 2013

#150. or, My Smoker isn't an Outhouse

  Last Thursday, I smoked hams and bacons. It had to be on Thursday because on Friday, the weather was going all to hell again, and my smoker, while functional and more than adequate, is a pain in the ass to hold at a constant temperature when the wind is howling and heavy wet snow is falling.

  So, last Thursday, I smoked hams and bacons.  And as I was standing there, on one of my many trips to check on the fire and whether I needed to add more wood chips or not, it occurred to me that my smoker, more than slightly, resembles an outhouse.

  Mostly in dimension. I built it to about 4 foot square, and aside from being not quite as tall as your standard, one hole outhouse, length and width are pretty much bang on. There's no half moon cut into the door, or bench seat inside, but it wouldn't take too much of a stretch in one's imagination, to see your father headed across the lawn,  on a path worn down to the dirt, paper tucked under his arm on his way to take care of a little business.

  When I was little, we had an outhouse.

  No wait, I need to clarify that.

  When I was little, we USED an outhouse. I was one of the last kids in grade 2 to get running water in our house, which also brought along with it, a flush toilet. And even after that, I can still remember my dad making his trips outside to that little wooden shed, with the hole worn smooth from countless asses,  in favour of the porcelain wizardry he had installed inside the house for us.

  Most of our neighbors had outhouses as well. I can remember that somebody had one that had side by side seats in the front row, and a second row with side by side seating, a step up and  directly behind the the first. I suspect, they were a very close family. I mean, why else would you subject yourself to communal dumps?

  The thing about outhouses is that in the winter, you have to be pretty hard core or have incredible pubococcygeal muscle tone. Because pinching a quick loaf in the middle of the night meant 4 layers of clothing, winter boots, and a flashlight, to make the trip. A lot of people got around this by having slop pail.

  Basically, a slop pail was a 5 gallon bucket you could shit in, when you didn't really want to go outside to relieve yourself. Sometimes these 5 gallon pails were disguised as modern plumbing by being able to slip your bucket into an outer bucket, that had a toilet seat fastened to it. I can remember friends of my parents had this slop pail disguise affair and having to use it on occasion while visiting them. It freaked me out, having to use the thing, as it was usually kept it hidden way down in their basement tucked in behind the furnace. Which is creepy as hell for a kid when you're 6 or 7 years old. least it was warm.

  The bad thing about using a slop pail is that they filled rather quickly and would have to be emptied on a regular basis. Fortunately, I was too little to do this job in our house before we got indoor plumbing. But not so little, that sometimes even now, when I pack a full pail of water to a cow in a pen or something, and it splashes out against my leg when I step wrongly, I'm glad it isn't a bucket of fermenting shit stew.

  Eventually, my dad stopped using our outhouse. I think it's pretty hard to ignore modern conveniences. Especially when you can eliminate cold late night trips and slop pail duty in one fell swoop. Sometimes when we're camping I'll still use the outhouse in the campground out of nostalgia, even though we have a crapper in our trailer. Or maybe, if we still had that outhouse on the farm, I might visit it now and then, but it's long since gone.  In fact, it didn't even finish out it's life as an outhouse. After sitting vacant for a number of years, it got a new lease on life,

      ...............when my dad made a few renovations and it became his outhouse that only slightly resembled a  smoker.

because, mmmmm...........bacon!

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