Sunday, June 26, 2011

Stepping Cautiously

Lately, going for a walk with the dogs has been problematic. Just a year or so ago, our afternoon walk involved a round trip of 5 to 6 neighborhood blocks. We enjoyed our 20-25 minute strolls about 6-ish.

Then a small pomeranian along the way slipped loose from his owner and attacked us as we passed. It was annoying (how do people stand those little yapping fluff balls?), but I was able to scoop up the kids and carry them away, while the pomeranian's owner ran his dog down and got it back under control.

We began to avoid that block.

Then we became aware that a big black Lab at the far end of our route was generally loose in his yard at the time we made our rounds. He was under very good voice command, but a time or two he almost reached us before his owner noticed and called him back. Mojo started to pull backwards when we would get within a house or two of the Lab's yard.

We began to avoid that block.

We modified our walk to go the length of our street and then turn left instead of right and wander down a seldom traveled dirt road where there are no houses. That worked for awhile and then the folks at the end of the street where we made our turn acquired two dogs who were allowed to run loose in the yard when their owners were outside. And they always seemed to be outside when it came time for our walk. Again, the dogs were under very good voice control, but it made my two very nervous to walk past.

We started turning a block earlier and following our old route, less the block where the Lab lived. We were now covering half the distance we originally traveled, but we were still getting in a decent afternoon walk.

Then came the afternoon we met the German Shepherd. He was visiting a home around the corner from us and had been turned loose in the yard. We didn't see him until after he saw us and he made a beeline for us. "He won't hurt you!" called his owner cheerfully, just before he grabbed Coco and pinned her down to the ground. She began screeching in terror and Mojo pulled out of his collar and ran for home. I was trying to call him back and wrestle Coco out of the jaws of the strange dog, all the while the owner was casually walking over and commenting, "he's never done that before..."

I managed not to choke the living daylights out of her, but only because I had finally lifted Coco out of the way and was racing after Mojo, praying he did not run out in front of a car before he got home.

It took awhile to get them to walk anywhere after that. From that point on, Mojo would begin to fret as soon as we walked out of sight of the house. He never wanted to find himself uncertain of which way lay safety. Our walks were now a fraction of the original length.

Our customary stroll takes us past a neighbor's yard two houses down where two large dogs are in residence. Bear always charges the fence when we pass, threatening to tear us limb from limb if we approach his yard, and Mojo has enjoyed fussing right back at him. Bear is really a sweetheart of a dog and so is his cohort Doobie. They sometimes escape from their yard and I've escorted them back, both of them ambling along at my side begging for head pats, so I have not been overly concerned about them. Bear has even burst through his gate when I was passing by with my dogs, but has always turned around and gone back in his yard without incident.

But, last Friday, the little yapper dog that is normally inside was out in the yard. Just as we passed on our return, the neighbors turned them out to run into the woods that border their property. Bear and Doobie would probably have ignored us, but little Yap Yap was looking for a rumble and ran straight for us. Coco began shrieking her head off, as she has done every time a strange dog approaches us after the German Shepherd encounter, and Mojo was dancing at the end of his leash, trying to pull free. Bear and Doobie, figuring Yap Yap knew something they didn't, joined in the frey. Thank heavens the neighbors were right there pulling them off, or we might have had big trouble. My dogs were shaken, but all right. I was the only one injured, through my own stupidity. In trying to get my dogs under control, I got tangled up in the retractable leashes and sliced my hands to ribbons. I've spent the last week with deep, painful cuts on several fingers, which are healing very, very slowly.

So, for the last week, Mojo and Coco are refusing to go any further than across the street and down to the end of our yard and back. They get their business done and they are ready to go home.

Needless to say, this all has not only wrecked havoc with my nerves, it has caused my stamina to deteriorate because I'm not getting in the good walks I used to enjoy. I don't like walking alone and the dogs don't like me leaving them behind. So, in desperation, I went to the pet store in the outlet mall last week and bought a pet stroller.

We tried it out on Saturday morning and the kids haven't quite decided whether they are happy about this new development. I take them for their very abbreviated leash walk and then pop them inside for a long ride on our original route. It is big enough for both of them to sit inside, and they are surrounded by mesh, so they can see ahead, to either side, and out the back to check on Mom. Mom has company and they aren't left behind.

I'm hopeful that when it gets a little cooler, this will allow me to get back into a regular routine of walking for exercise. It may also allow them to go along on short road trips. (I hear some of the malls are even allowing pet strollers inside, so long as the canopy is kept zipped closed.)

The cats are completely stumped. And the neighbors have not yet witnessed us enroute, so I may be in for some pointing and giggling. They all think I'm a little kooky anyway, so they may not even blink.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. At least I'll get my walk and the kids will get some fresh air.

And the neighbors will get some free entertainment.


Saturday, June 25, 2011

Paying Respects

Today was the first time since Mother's memorial service that I put on a pair of pantyhose. Ironically it was in order to attend the funeral of a lady who I last saw at Mother's memorial service.

Artie McLaurin was one of the first people I met when we moved to Bastrop in the summer of 1972. She served on the pulpit committee who recommended that my father be called to pastor a new congregation that had split off from the larger Baptist Church in Bastrop. I liked her from the beginning. She was the City Secretary for the City of Bastrop and her hand was firmly on the rudder that kept the city chugging along in the right direction.

When my first year of college was completed and I was home for the summer, Artie asked me to do some part time work in the city offices. I performed various tasks for her, mostly involving her duties as the City's tax assessor-collector. I posted tax payments and spent days at the courthouse extracting legal descriptions from recent deed transactions. In those days, the City offices consisted of a utility department on one side of the building and the Mayor and Tax Office were on the other side. The Police department was in the basement. I'm not sure how many people were in the utility department at that time, but the police department consisted of the Chief of Police. The Mayor had an office, but was seldom there. Artie was a one woman show, keeping the City's business running smoothly. She acted as City Secretary, City Tax Assessor-Collector, the City Financial Officer and Police Dispatcher.

After Artie had gotten me somewhat familiar with the daily routine, she dropped the bombshell that she was taking a vacation and needed someone to man the office while she was gone. She was too organized to have much work that needed doing while she was gone, but someone needed to be there to answer the phone, take the odd tax payment, issue a check here and there to various contract maintenance folks, and get hold of the Mayor if someone came in to pay a ticket. Oh, and by the way, if someone called in a police emergency, I needed to find Adell, the Chief of Police. That was the one that scared me silly. I had a police radio in the office, but I was terrified of using it. Thankfully my instructions in the event of a police matter was to call the Sheriff's Department and let them find Adell. Adell spent the entire day moving around the City, checking in and checking out and I just could not keep track of the man.

So I spent a week, or maybe it was two, all by myself in the City offices. The mayor would check in once a day for his mail, Adell would drift in and out, and the rest of the time I answered the phone and took messages. Artie had left me what she thought would be several days of odd jobs that I finished up before the first day was over. I listened to the police radio and worried that something would come up that would require me to call the Sheriff's office. I taught myself how to use the old-fashioned calculator with the rows and rows of numbers that would bounce back and forth as it ran its calculations. I read the ancient books of the City minutes that were stored in the huge walk-in vault. I managed not to screw up anything and I only had to call the Sheriff's office once.

I guess I did okay, because Artie called me back to fill in for her during other summer breaks and I was occasionally called to fill in when the librarian needed to be away. I enjoyed the days at the library very much. In those days there was only the one employee and you might see a half-dozen people through the day. I had long days to explore the contents of the library and hours to read in peace and get paid for doing so.

Artie McLaurin was my first real boss. After I graduated college and began working full time in Austin, I seldom saw her. When my father left the ministry briefly after my parents' divorce, I continued to play piano for the church for awhile but eventually I resigned my position and I only saw her a few times after that. But it was Artie who, after my father's second ex-wife died, helped organize an estate sale and saw to it that some family relics that had remained in the house after that divorce were returned to me.

The last time I saw her was when she and her husband attended the memorial service we held for Mother at the park. She was the same Artie. I enjoyed getting to visit with her again.

It was quite a jolt when I heard this past week that she had died. Somehow I always pictured her as she was when at the helm of the City. Quietly competent, generous, patient, caring and timeless. She was a good woman who made a considerable contribution to the City of Bastrop.

She will be missed.


Monday, June 13, 2011

Before and After

Oh, the joy of getting a working washing machine back on the premises! Not a minute too soon, either. The bathtub was about to overflow with dirty clothes. I just could not face another trip to the laundromat, so when the hamper began to bulge at the seams, it all began to pile up in the tub.

I was given a delivery window of 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. today. I was just about to break into a nervous sweat when the truck finally rolled into the driveway at 5:05. One skinny little guy with a power lift and a dolly had the new appliances unloaded and installed and the old appliances loaded for removal inside of an hour.

The utility room before:

and after:

I've already done 3 loads of laundry and I'm delighted with how quietly these new units run and how quickly the dryer turns out fluffy, soft towels.

The first load had barely started when Boo discovered that the lids are clear and he can see the clothes swishing back and forth. I have to admit that I stood and watched the first load run, too. This new machine has flashing LED lights and the spin cycle is fast and vigorous. There is no agitator and it seems like it holds a ton of clothes without that obstacle in the middle. The show was much better than anything on television tonight.

Also new on the scene is a high-falutin' electric range. I failed to get a picture of the old one on the way out. When the electricians came to put in the new plug (the old stove was direct wired into the house and you're not supposed to do that anymore), one of the guys asked if he could have the old stove and I grabbed the chance to get it out of my sight. So, I lived with a gaping hole in the kitchen for the last week:

The new stove is big and black and CLEAN. It may be awhile before I can bring myself to cook in it, although I did boil some water and heat some buns tonight, just to prove everything works. It has a small oven and a larger convection oven. It also has lots of flashing lights and beeps. I would not be surprised if it talks.

No more ugly gap:

I guess I am going to have to make a batch of cookies or a coffee cake this weekend and see what kind of a job that convection oven will do. First, though, I have to read the enormous manual that came with it. High tech has come to my kitchen and I may have to learn to cook all over again. It took the delivery guy and me several minutes to puzzle out how to turn on a burner. Heaven only know what kind of hoops I will have to jump through to get those ovens to cooperate.

I can't wait to dive in.


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sand, Surf and Seagulls

Quite a number of years ago, we spent a weekend visiting our Ging relatives, staying in their beach house just up the road from the beach in Matagorda. I remember playing in the surf, eating well, and discovering on the last day that I had been sharing my bed with a three-pronged fishing hook.

This past weekend, I traveled to Matagorda Beach to spend a long weekend in the current Ging beach house - a comfortable Rockwood RV. The last time there were a lot of boys involved. This time it was just us girls - myself, my aunt Linda and long time friend Marianna.

Matagorda Beach is one of Texas' few remaining primitive beaches, unspoiled by commercial development. Where the old beach house once sat is now an RV park run by the LCRA and we were sleeping just a few yards away from where I slept on that infamous fish hook so many years ago. This time I shared my bed with my two terriers, a much more comfortable experience.

The beach was covered in seaweed, but the water was beautiful and the sky was a brilliant blue.

We walked along the beach....

We admired Mother Nature's sand art along the jetty...

We listened to the pounding surf....

We enjoyed watching the seagulls busily exploring the seaweed,
looking for tasty tidbits...

...and floating in the sea breeze.

I never could get those pelicans to come close enough for me to get a good picture, but they were fun to watch flying by, playing Follow the Leader.

As before, we ate very well. We napped. We visited. We slapped mosquitoes that were almost as big as those pelicans. We visited an old cemetery and practiced grave dowsing. We explored downtown Matagorda and soared high above the Intercoastal waterway on the new bridge that replaced the old swing bridge we crossed on that previous trip. We watched a tugboat push a barge down the Intercoastal. We visited the Nature Center adjacent to the RV park. We walked down to the spot where the Colorado River empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

A lot has changed over the years. For one thing, those boys got really, really big and I got a lot older.

What hasn't changed is the calming effect of the waves and the sea breeze and the soothing chatter of the seagulls. I think I will hold onto that mental picture for awhile.