Today is the first day of summer 2019. Spring brought tremendous rain, gorgeous pastures, peach and plum trees sagging from the weight of fruit, and early yesterday morning, widespread thunderstorm damage in our neck of the southeastern Oklahoma woods.
A fortunate collision of timing allowed our good friend Robert to join me in our coverage of the storm damage from a fast-moving line of severe thunderstorms that rolled through about 3 a.m. Damage was widespread and caused damage to numerous trees, and downed power lines across the region.
More than 15,000 residents were without power, including us in Byng. As luck would have it, we did have power at the office, so we got the paper out, but the Pauls Valley paper wasn’t as fortunate, and I don’t know how they eventually got their product together.
Robert lives in the D.C. area, but came to Tulsa to photography his niece Rowan’s wedding, and had some time to come down yesterday, just in time to round up some nice storm cleanup images, which are in today’s Ada News.
After a long day of that, and Abby texting us “Power!!! Power!!!” at 2:04 p.m. (for an outage time of about 12 hours), we went home to shift to phase two of our day of photography, photographing our pets, our patch, and each other.
Readers might recall that Robert photographed Abby and me in November, and those image ended up being some of my all-time favorites of the two of us, and I hoped to recreate the magic, and the session was everything I wanted it to be.
Maximum Speed Boulevard, our male Chihuahua since January 2006, has died. He was about 15 years old.
We originally adopted Max from the Pontotoc Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) on January 7, 2006, one day before he was slated to be euthanized (which PAWS no longer does). One of Abby’s coworkers told us about him, and Abby took her nephew to the shelter and got Max.
Max was a great pet. He was a trash dog and a burglar alarm, and when he was younger, dug out of the front yard several times every spring.
Max travelled with us to numerous locations from the glittering Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, the deserts of the Four Corners region, Christmas in New Orleans, the Great American Eclipse in Park Hills, Missouri, and even to the east coast of Florida.
At one point on one of the Florida trips, we thought we’d lost him, but someone opened the pantry door, and there he stood.
His health was failing in the last couple of years. He couldn’t hear or see, was reliant on two drugs for his heart and his joints, and was no longer able to leap onto couches or laps, which he did like a spider when he was young. His teeth were mostly going or gone. He was prone to yelping at the door when I was outside mowing, and in recent weeks got lost trying to find his food bowl.
After putting it off repeatedly, we decided to put him down. He was a great dog.
Sometimes it feels like I want to do too many things. I want to write, I want to load the dishwasher, I want to mow, I want to play with lights in my studio, I want to take an extra walk with Hawken, I want to clean in the garage, I want to experiment with lenses, I want to shoot my guns, I want to tend my garden, I want, I want, I want…
We all get like this, and sometimes the tendency is to not do anything at all.
I, on the other hand, make myself stop for a second, and remember than I can’t do all these things at once, and I should do just one thing. That’s me today, and my first activity is writing what you are reading.
On another front, two good friends who are my age are having health problems. One of them might be having a heart attack (or may have had one), and is being stubborn about seeking medical care, and the other has a nerve issue combined with hypertension, which you can read about in his blog here (link.)
Yes, it’s disconcerting when my young friends are now old friends with old people problems, but the up side is that Abby and I are both fine at the moment, as are Summer the Chihuahua and Hawken the Irish Wolfhound. To complicate the roller coaster ride is the fact that Max the Chihuahua, who is 15, is still sliding toward the inevitable: he can’t see or hear, and he is unable to move like he once could. He remains a loyal and wonderful dog, even though these are probably his last days or weeks.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Sierra the Chihuahua passed away today. She was 13.
A radiograph at the vet showed Sierra had the usual older Chihuahua heart murmur, and the physical indicated she had an infection.
She grew sicker as the day went by, with defined swelling in her neck.
I buried her by the Walnut tree.
In many ways, Sierra was Abby’s best friend, and Abby forms attachments to animals more that anyone I know. It’s difficult when we lose them (I have buried two goats and Abby’s previous Chihuahua, Gabby), but I have to say that it’s as worthwhile an endeavor as any. They give us so much love and genuine affection and ask only that we praise them, keep them warm, and feed them.
As usual, I had a super-fun time covering Independence Day celebrations in Ada’s Wintersmith Park Tuesday. The weather was nice and everyone had a great time.
It rained 3.1 inches Monday, then 1.5 inches early Wednesday morning, then another half inch right on top of us and nowhere else in there state, just as I was about to walk Hawken the Irish Wolfhound two nights ago.
Everything was browning just a bit, but is now turning green again, and growing fast, so I am experiencing a burst of outdoor work.
My wife Abby and I gave Hawken a bath in the front yard yesterday, then took him to the vet, where he weighed 108 pounds, which is typical for his breed at his age, six months. He is a mess, but he loves us both.
As the owners/operators of Chihuahuas, Abby and I are amused by references to these animals in popular culture. Thus, this far side cartoon is particularly poignant…
After shampooing the carpet in the living room, I stepped into the back of the house to see this…
Abby and I are certainly no strangers to this, since both dogs like to chew up stuff. One or the other of us will find a chewed up paper towel or Kleenex and announce, “Snow in the hallway!”
So anyway, on with my rantology…
Part of what aggravates me so much about Facebook is that it almost always takes over for a blog or other social site that was inherently better – more content, better presentation, more writing, more individual expression, more creativity – and stuffs it into Facebook’s mold. When that happens, it results in something else I despise, these blogs being abandoned like the Pripyat amusement park. Seriously. I had friends who were writing great stuff – engaging, thoughtful, insightful, intimate stuff – only to stop the very day they joined Facebook. Think I’m kidding? Look at the last post of a blog you once read and liked, then find the date they joined Facebook. The same day?
While I’m ranting, I want to tell liberals and conspiracy nuts that there was nothing wrong with George W. Bush’s reaction to the first news of a plane crashing into the World Trade Center on 9/11/01. The left side of the internet seems to think that listening to a few more minutes of grade school kids reading a story either proved he was an idiot or proves some kind of conspiracy, and it does neither. I don’t like it when the right says untrue or misleading things about Barack Obama (citizenship, birthplace, removing the flag from his campaign plane, not saluting the flag, etc.), so it’s not fair – never fair – to use something like the goat story against W.
Two years ago our black goat, Coal, died suddenly. Last night his brother Buxton joined him. Buxton was only off his feed for a day or two, so he didn’t suffer at all.
The two were great pets, and Abby and I are already talking about getting a couple more, maybe in a year or two when our grandson is old enough to enjoy baby goats.
Just as an aside, if anyone is interested in disposing of a body, I have found that digging large holes and dragging mammals into them in the south pasture behind the garden at our home doesn’t seem to attract anyone’s attention. I’m just saying.
My wife came into the living room to tell me that Buxton the Goat was hollerin’. I put my headlamp flashlight on and grabbed a pistol to go see what might be upsetting him. In the back yard, the headlamp wasn’t quite enough, so I shined my Streamlight TLR-3 (which is on the rail of the 9mm pistol I was holding) into the pasture, where I discovered about five longhorn steers. I’d never seen cows in our pasture before. It’s not a cow pasture.
“Abby, come quick! We’ve got cows!” I called, and she obliged. The steers seemed happy to graze as we watched, but I was sure someone was missing them. I don’t know the price of a commercial steer, but it’s a lot, and these animal were definitely not where they belonged. I stepped outside the fence and shouted at them, and they moved in the direction of the road, where after a few minutes I noticed someone arrive in a four-wheeler and start rounding them up.
Abby was exhausted when she got home, and fell asleep in her recliner right away, with her bear shoes propped high up on the “green thing,” which my friends in Norman always called an LBUA, or Leaner Backer Upper Againster.
So I went to mow, but first I wanted to cut at least some of the dead branches off of the old apple tree in Dorothy’s yard, since I saw her today (to get her column, which she has decided to start writing again – yay!), and she gave me her blessing. We think last summer’s heat and drought are the cause of so many trees being dead now.
While I was cutting off these huge branches, I noticed Buxton the Goat had joined me. Odd, I thought. He doesn’t have opposable thumbs, so he couldn’t have opened the gate. I must have left it open, but that had to have been yesterday, so he only came out of the back yard when he saw me. I walked over to him as he ate leaves off of one of Abby’s Rose-of-Sharon and said, “Come on.” He followed completely, and surprisingly, obediently, through the gate into the back yard. What a good boy.
The whole time I was chain sawing and mowing and dragging branches, I had the Third Eye Blind song Non-Dairy Creamer playing in my head. In particular, I kept hearing, “They call it KFC ’cause it’s not really chicken.” I get it, Stephan, but hey, both of those statements are wrong. They call it “KFC” because Americans are lazy and don’t like to say whole words. KFC was just easier. And while it’s not a paradigm of well-prepared chicken, it is actually chicken.
I finished my night by showering to get the sawdust out of my hair.
I didn’t have any late afternoon or evening assignments at work so I was home by about three. It is cloudy and warm out, so by five I decided to get some yard work done. I pondered digging the garden. When I told Abby that I was planning a garden this year, her face lit up, so I know she is looking forward to having it. (Last year I just seemed to know not to plant, and the summer was one of the worst drought seasons we have ever experienced.) As I started to work, I discovered I had other priorities, like removing the elm saplings from the Rose-of-Sharon bushes, and pruning some of Dorothy’s peach trees. I took most of the branches
and gave them to Buxton the Goat, who seemed so excited by my presence that he couldn’t quite make himself eat them, and instead ran around and chattered at me.
I discovered that my suspicions that one of my plum trees had died were true, so I dug it up and threw it on the burn pile. I grabbed a camera to illustrate it, but found better things to photograph, like some of the flowers down at Dorothy’s. If I get the chance in the next day or two, I should cut some and take them to her.
I noted that all the trees and pastures and flowers and clover patches and everything else doesn’t grow larger in any predictable fashion. This late winter season has been much wetter than the last few years, and there is a thick, straight grass that I’ve never seen before growing thickly in all the pastures and our back yard . We are also seeing an amazing number of crane flies everywhere, like we have never seen before.
Like life itself, the only consistent thing I have observed about the life on our little patch of green is change.
Michael called me the other day to complain that I sort of left everyone hanging about Abby’s condition in my last entry. So let me say that Abby is much better, and may be returning to work tomorrow.
Over the past year or two our marriage has gotten even stronger than before, and one thing I am enjoying very much is the intimacy of Sundays. We piddle, we get little chores done, I sometimes work outside, we sometimes shoot our guns down at the pond. If we can’t avoid it, we make a Wal Mart run, which is always easier together.
Today Abby is printing out dozens of recipe cards for a big book of recipes she is assembling, many of them dating back to her grandmother’s era. “You can see our German lineage,” she told me, “since nearly half of the recipes are desserts.”
Last night and this morning, rain. For the first time since June, there is water in the pond. It’s too late to green up the pasture much, but it will help everything overwinter better.
The big news in Oklahoma over the last few days has been a spate of earthquakes. Abby and I slept through the first, but we both definitely felt the second, a magnitude 5.6 quake centered near Prague, Oklahoma, about 70 miles north of here, Saturday night. Abby was more alarmed about it than I was, but we both thought it was kind of neat. It seemed to shake the house for about 15 seconds, but it felt like longer to Abby. It has since been verified as the largest earthquake in the state’s history.
Last night as we watched a movie in the living room, we felt another. I paused the movie and said, “Can you feel that?” It was roughly like a big truck passing close to the house (which doesn’t actually happen since we live 100 yards off the road.) We assume it was an aftershock from Saturday’s event.
My lower back is still acting up a bit, although it is better than just two weeks ago, thanks in part to changing chiropractors. One thing that gives me relief is walking, so most evenings when the mowing is done and the light starts to mature, I walk in big circles around our patch of bucolia with a camera on my shoulder.
Sometimes I throw weeds to Buxton the goat, other times I see how close I can get to the rabbits that prowl the pastures. I calculated tonight that it takes about eight laps around the house or about four laps around the entire mowed portion of the property to make a mile.
The flora of springtime is giving way to the flora of summer. Gone are the peach blossoms and iris and henbit, replaced by the wildflowers of Oklahoma like Indian Paintbrush and Black Eyed Susan and, just tonight, the first of Abby’s Rose of Sharon. Soon the driveway will be lined with the huge fuchsia blooms, teeming with bumble bees. Summer is almost here.
Despite a nation-crippling winter storm roaring through overnight, Abby and I both went to work this morning. I shot some images for the daily, plus a bit of video for the paper’s web site. I spent the rest of the morning helping put out the paper on a skeleton crew, and shot a few more images, then came home at midday.
Abby called the toll-free number at her work at five this morning to see if they were closed down for the day, and the message said it was business as usual. However, by 8:15 this morning almost no one could even make it into her office, so they sent everyone home, much to Abby’s annoyance.
Very fortunately for us Abby has her four-wheel-drive pickup and I have my all-wheel-drive SUV, so neither of us had much trouble getting around.
It appears that we in southern Oklahoma are on the less severe end of this enormous winter storm. While it is crazy cold and windy, we didn’t get much ice, and the snow is ending here. We have power, as well as cable TV for Abby and internet for me. I’m considering a nap.
I am saddened to report tonight that Coal, the black goat who lived in our back yard with his half-brother Buxton, died today. He’d been off his feed for a few days, but I had no idea he was that sick. Our goat-owning friend Melissa Rollins says that her large animal doctor told her that six or seven years is about how long one might expect a goat to live, and Coal was about to turn seven, so maybe he was just old. Regardless, he was well-cared-for and enjoyed what a goat might consider a luxurious life. He was a great pet, and we will miss him very much.
Anyone who has ever lived in the country knows that it can be a little wild at times, and by wild I mean that the wildness of nature is always close.
When Matthew and Michelle were on their way to visit this weekend, I warned them that a handsome green frog had appeared in my toilet, and while I was photographing him, he hopped out of site, and that they shouldn’t be too startled by the appearance of said reptile. They did not happen to see the frog, but this morning they urgently summoned me into the guest room to deal with, “Something. It’s really big.” It was an impressively large wolf spider, which I captured using a mixing bowl.
Matthew, as I mentioned in my last entry, took a liking to our goats, who are, by any measure, very likable. This morning he asked me to take a picture of him with them, and while he didn’t say exactly why, I imagine it’s the same way my sister wanted a picture of herself in the pasture down by the pear tree because her friends in New Orleans just “didn’t get” what the country life was like.
I thought of all this tonight after seeing our little green frog in the bathtub. He hadn’t gone anywhere; he had just hidden while the house was abuzz with visitors, and came out tonight to keep us company and eat a few bugs. I’m thinking we should name him.
Tonight I worked at a chore that I routinely put off because it is so unpleasant, and unpleasant on several levels. The chore was the removal of about 20 volunteer trees that had grown up in the middle of Abby’s Rose-of-Sharon bushes that line our driveway. I find this unpleasant because I have to kill perfectly healthy trees, mostly elms, and because the foliage of the Rose-of-Sharon puts up quite a fight while I try to do this.
There are a couple of positive notes. The goats love elm, so I throw it over the back yard fence to them. Also, it’s a damn challenging workout, and it really gets my heart pumping.
After I was done, I walked around the patch with a camera, seeing what I could see. I ran into a huge, perfect argiope spider in its web on the walnut tree, but I had the wrong lens with me, so I scampered into the house and grabbed my 100mm, then scampered outside in time to catch the very last light on it.