O Wolfhound, Where Art Thou?

A cruel turn of nature is that my peach trees try to get an early start, only to be smited by a few nights well below freezing, which is the next few nights.
A cruel turn of nature is that my peach trees try to get an early start, only to be smited by a few nights well below freezing, which is the next few nights.

Let you had forgotten, Hawken the Irish Wolfhound remains the talk of the town. I still walk him every day, usually on our “winter route,” which includes an extra mile way back in the woods.

A friend of mine called February a “hard month,” and I can’t dispute it. Many around me have struggled with one thing and another, and there is a climate of discouragement about.

Eisenhower High School cheerleaders yell for their Eagles at the game last night. I haven't been and Eagle in 38 years, and feel far more a part of the local schools we cover here in the Ada Area.
Eisenhower High School cheerleaders yell for their Eagles at the game last night. I haven’t been and Eagle in 38 years, and feel far more a part of the local schools we cover here in the Ada Area.
I lit Hawken's propane heater tonight. It's bone cold out, but he'll be warm in his space under the back deck.
I lit Hawken’s propane heater tonight. It’s bone cold out, but he’ll be warm in his space under the back deck.

I’m shooting well, both for news and sports. Last night I covered the Class 5A area consolation basketball game between the Ada Cougars and my alma mater, the Eisenhower Eagles. It was oddly comforting to see the Ike cheerleaders dressed almost exactly the same as they did in 1981. Aside from that, read Lines on a Map to divine my feelings about loyalty to schools and their teams.

The forecast low tonight is 12ºF, so I bought a tank of propane for the heater I place in Hawken’s area under the back deck to keep him warm. I got under there with him, and it is actually decently comfortable. Sleep well, my giant companion.

Hawken the Irish Wolfhound braces against the cold. Despite the arrival of very cold temperatures, he seems more comfortable in the cold than in the heat of summer.
Hawken the Irish Wolfhound braces against the cold. Despite the arrival of very cold temperatures, he seems more comfortable in the cold than in the heat of summer.

Ghostly in the Smoke

The largest of my four peach trees produced blossoms this week, but we expect a hard freeze tomorrow night, so it won't be making peaches.
The largest of my four peach trees produced blossoms this week, but we expect a hard freeze tomorrow night, so it won’t be making peaches.

One of my peach trees has responded to a recent warm-up, producing blossoms. Blooming this early means I won’t get any peaches from this tree, since a hard freeze is forecast for tomorrow night. But the blossoms are beautiful, and are my favorite thing about having these trees.

Walking Hawken yesterday afternoon was a different experience. The second I opened the back door, I smelled the strong odor of grass fire smoke. The wind had shifted and was coming from the north, and someone, or probably many people, were burning the pastures in preparation for the spring growing season.

Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, got to visit his girlfriend Elly on yesterday's walk.
Hawken, our Irish Wolfhound, got to visit his girlfriend Elly on yesterday’s walk.

After Christmas

We started this tradition when our grandson, Paul, was just five months old; posing on Chele's back with a boost from Tom. We expect this will get funnier as Paul grows.
We started this tradition when our grandson, Paul, was just five months old; posing on Chele’s back with a boost from Tom. We expect this will get funnier as Paul grows.
Chele and Abby look over Christmas gifts.
Chele and Abby look over Christmas gifts.

I have been off of social media radar for a few days to entertain the family visiting from Baltimore, Abby’s daughter, Chele, her husband Tom, and their son, our grandson, Paul.

I also did my usual work at the annual Bertha Frank Teague Mid-America Classic basketball tournament, for which, for the first time ever, we hosted their web site. One night the crowd was so large we ran out of tickets.

Christmas is always stressful, but by the time it rolled around, I was very glad we were able to have it with the family. This year they arrived on December 26 and departed on New Year’s Day.

Paul and Tom follow me as I walk Hawken through to woods north of our house.
Paul and Tom follow me as I walk Hawken through to woods north of our house.
Paul shares a moment with our older Chihuahua, Max.
Paul shares a moment with our older Chihuahua, Max.
Paul drives his tractor on New Year's Eve.
Paul drives his tractor on New Year’s Eve.

We had a gift exchange as soon as they arrived. We watched movies and played outside. We walked Hawken the Irish Wolfhound, which Paul, who is seven, regarded as an accomplishment, trekking deep into the woods. Paul rode his tractor, which he is likely to have outgrown by the next time they visit.

Chele, Paul, Tom and I built a fire in the orchard. The only casualty was one of Tom's pants legs.
Chele, Paul, Tom and I built a fire in the orchard. The only casualty was one of Tom’s pants legs.
Chele smiles for my camera in beautiful evening sun on New Year's Eve.
Chele smiles for my camera in beautiful evening sun on New Year’s Eve.

We toasted in the new year with the cheapest possible sparkling wine (technically not champagne,) hours before it actually turned midnight, and we all got a good night’s sleep before the kids flew back to Baltimore.

I thought a county new year deserved a country toast, so we had cheap sparkling wine (not technically champagne) and miniature red plastic cups.
I thought a county new year deserved a country toast, so we had cheap sparkling wine (not technically champagne) and miniature red plastic cups.

Finally, mindful of the weather forecast for snow and ice, and that my days off are limited, I de-decorated the entire house yesterday. Tonight I’ll let the wolfhound in the garage and the two of us will put all that stuff in the rafters. Another year ends, and begins.

Christmas lights cling to the fence in our front yard at sunset a few days before Christmas. The lights are now packed away in their plastic bins.
Christmas lights cling to the fence in our front yard at sunset a few days before Christmas. The lights are now packed away in their plastic bins.

This Is Christmas Eve

The fat Santa ornament hangs on our Christmas tree this week. The star effect is from a filter I've owned since about 1977, a cross-screen.
The fat Santa ornament hangs on our Christmas tree this week. The star effect is from a filter I’ve owned since about 1977, a cross-screen.
Christmas lights shine in a box as I test them before I decorated with them.
Christmas lights shine in a box as I test them before I decorated with them.

Abby and I are preparing to host Christmas this week. The kids (Abby’s daughter Chele, husband Tom, and our grandson Paul) are coming on the 26th and staying through New Year’s Day.

I have decorated and shopped and cleaned and prepped. Now, more. No, really. This kind of thing seems perpetual, and is never finished. And you can’t do it a month before: the dogs will chew up a poo where you shampooed the carpet. The bathroom mirrors get splashed. The sink gets full of dishes. You know what it’s like.

Readers familiar with my cadre of work will recall that I don’t love Christmas. Not only is it a bone of religious contention (the pretend “War on Christmas”), it’s also a bitter reminder of how much we trivialize ourselves with commercialism. I talked about this in my column this week.

Summer Time Lane chews her tiny rawhide candy cane.
Summer Time Lane chews her tiny rawhide candy cane.
Hawken Rifle Trail eyes his giant rawhide candy stick.
Hawken Rifle Trail eyes his giant rawhide candy stick.

What do I like about Christmas? I love the photography most of all. I love that my wife loves it so tenderly. I love that we usually get to see the kids.

I will let you know how this Christmas stacks up. In the mean time, have a peaceful one.

My Amazon.com lensball knockoff was a huge hit in class last week, so I photographed our tree with it.
My Amazon.com lensball knockoff was a huge hit in class last week, so I photographed our tree with it.