When you get your news from wild birds you must expect delay. The chickens
arrived at my office door in a delegation and tapped on the glass. I expected
some protest about the weather, which has been awful, or (more likely) a demand
that I replace their food. Because squirrels have been raiding and because the
weather has been so wet, I’ve been taking the food in from time to time. I
can’t provide any reasoning to explain what I think I’m doing; it just seemed
something worth trying.
Mimo led off, “Does this right to bare arms apply to wings with feathers on?”
Rocky, “We were worried that if we lost the right to bare arms, it might mean
violence... to our persons.”
Peccorino, “If ‘persons’ is the right word. Cheddar seems to think we’re
‘beings with infinite capacity for wisdom,’ or some such thing.”
Cheddar, “That’s not exactly what I said.”
Appenzeller, “Well what did you say?”
Cheddar, “I’m figuring out the meaning of ‘malheur.’ The word the birds said.”
I offered, “Sadness or woe. It’s French. There’s a lot of it about."
I put my boots on, gathered up the food and marched out to stow this beneath
the garden table. Said table has a hole in the middle through which I put, in
the summer, our washing line roundy-roundy thing. At present that hole lets
water through, so the positioning of a chicken food bucket is critical. The
downside of the best solution is that when everyone wants to eat at once,
someone has to stand in the rain. What happens is a motion not unlike a rugby
scrum, with one chicken running round the back of all the others, barging in on
the dry side and moving another into the downpour. Repeat ad infinitum.
Between bouts of writing, it’s amusing to watch.
Re-charging a car’s battery in the rain is not the safest or easiest thing, but
I managed this when the floods eased somewhat. Fortunately I can get the
re-charging device into the engine compartment and pretty much close the lid.
Otherwise there’d be a constant blowing of fuses. The white SAAB has been hard
on batteries since we got it; ten days is too long to leave that vehicle to its
own devices. Once I could move the car, I made an annoying discovery--backing
out of our side driveway, I glanced downhill and found that someone had
off-loaded a brown ex-Christmas tree onto our property. “I can’t figure out
what to do with this leftover tree…hey…why not throw it into the back of my
truuuuuuck and go dump it somewhere? Not my problem.” Apparently the Spirit
of Christmas flies off at the season’s close. Malheureusement.
I can go through weeks of tennis without joining a substantial conversation.
Women regard tennis as a social thing; men go to play, watch “the game” on a
big screen t.v., say, “How’y’doin’?” and take no interest in the answer. This
week, however, I got into two substantial conversations. One was about
relationships between Hmong and Lao peoples, from the point of view of someone
who came from Laos to America in 1976. We were discursive, stopping only when
a woman dropped a bag-load of empty bottles. We helped her pick them up. She
asked, “Were you discussing politics?”
I said, “Not exactly. I was explaining voting patterns in America immediately
following the Civil War.”
She said, “Vote for Trump.”
The guy who told the next story is an ex-Marine. Served an artillery piece.
In doubles I always take the side which is open to his good ear. He had been
days and days on maneuvers at Twenty-Nine Palms when he heard that some high-up
was coming to inspect. “Your face was raw, but you had to shave. I put my
helmet on a rock with a tiny mirror on top, and I had my feet planted in a wide
stance and I was leaning in when the guy one rock over said, ‘Don’t move.’ I
looked down. There was this huge rattler’s head, plumb between my boots. The
guy said, ‘Hold still, I’ll shoot it.’ Well these guys have an M4 carbine
which shoots a single shot, semi-automatic and automatic. I could imagine both
my feet getting stitched, so I said, ‘No, don’t.’ (Not in exactly those words)
I had combat boots on and my pants were tucked into the boots, so I thought,
‘Let’s try…’ and I moved my foot like lightning onto the snake’s head; pinned
him to the sand. Well then the back end came out from under the rock and it
was about six foot and it was thrashing around like crazy. We have a Ka-Bar, a
combat knife, we carry but I’d left that with my shirt, so all I had
was…remember those old razors that you unscrew and there’s the blade? I took
it between my finger and thumb and cut behind the head and you know…it worked!
The body went thrashing away and some guy came running over, picked it up and
headed straight for the cook tent. So I’m standing there with a razor blade in
my hand…and wet pants…and I eventually decide it’s safe to take my foot off the
head. It was so big. When the guy came back he said there were thirteen
rattles. I believe that’s a way of gauging how old one of those things is?”
My friend, a science writer, said there were better ways. He doesn’t approve
of killing snakes.
On Monday I'll visit puppies. Our house-sitters, friends of E from back East,
came to town for a wedding. Before we left they showed me a photo of their
dog, a breed I’d not encountered, "English Shepherd." Since the photo looked a
little like Mac, I checked the web for background. The story is essentially
that British people brought collies with them to America and over time there
has been a divergence. Like French toast in France and English muffins in
England, the English Shepherd is practically unknown in England. It’s also
rare in the west of America; all the dogs I found were in the east and the
south. Until I came across a puppy announcement from a woman who has a chicken
farm about a half an hour south of here. She has a litter which she proposes
to raise with the chickens so that they’re habituated to looking after fowl. An
ideal solution, I thought… until E. suggested she’ll be moving out soon and
proposed “re-housing” the chickens.
In Hawaii I met an archeologist who was taking a break from his Ph.D. studies.
He wants to write a thesis about what fossils of rodents and other small
mammals reveal about climate change in the Rift Valley. Meanwhile he’s
employed on a road-widening project near Kona. His job is to intervene if they
find anything of archeological significance which, he said, was very unlikely
now that the road bed is in. Still they give him room and board and pay
because it’s a gummint project and messing with Hawaiian artifacts and Hawaiian
history are not on the gummint’s agenda. I thought, “Now there’s a job I could
have been trained for all those years ago,” but then I realized how boring and
lonely it would be to turn up at a work site and do nothing all day. Everyone
else gets a big diggy machine to play with; you stand there dreaming of rat
To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html