Sunday, October 27, 2013

Fire Ants in the Pants

There are no shortages of flora and fauna in southern Florida that are going to bite you, scratch you, sting you, stick you or eat you. Next to mosquitoes, fire ants are the most likely of potentially unpleasant encounters for people. Luckily, fire ant mounds are fairly easy to notice, avoid and keep under control in areas that people frequent.

We get them from time-to-time in the yard. Usually, we spot the mound while it’s still small and treat to get rid of them. Left unchecked the mounds can get to several square feet of ground surface with entrances to the colony throughout the mound. Stepping into a fire ant mound of any size is not likely to be pleasant. The little buggers are going to come after you.

Whether it is a squad of these six-legged soldiers that make your flesh a battlefield or a whole regiment, they are going to make you suffer. Fire ants move up a person’s body until they find bare flesh. Then the fire ant lieutenant sends out the command to open fire.

If you’re wearing sandals then you will feel the sting of battle very soon. If not, then they will continue to move up your legs until they clear the tops of your socks. You will start to feel stings simultaneously around your knees. When fire ants first sting they are not as painful as their name implies.

The bad part, though, is that the stings might not be noticed until many of the ants have already stung you once or twice. Fire ants take hold of your skin with their mandibles and sting from their abdomen like their wasp cousins. That is why it is common to find two or three sting welts close together. They hang on and just keep jabbing.

On one recent occasion, I took the dogs outside after dark wearing only flip-flops. This type of footwear is not advisable near known colonies of fire ants. However, I was going to stay on the driveway and did not expect to disturb any fire ants. If there is an active mound on the yard then we usually know about where it might be.

On this particular day I must have got in the way of a foraging party that was making its way across the driveway. A squad of the little soldiers wounded my right foot multiple times before I sensed their attack. I had about twelve stings on my toes and on the top of my foot near my toes.

Fire ant stings itch more than they burn. The worse thing that you can do is to scratch them. Breaking the skin by scratching could result in an infection. Scratching also intensifies the itching exponentially.

The initial welt formed by the fire ant sting will form into a pustule that looks much like a white-head pimple. It itches horribly. If you have ever suffered a mosquito bite on one of your knuckles then you have vague idea of what a fire ant sting on the toe is like. Just multiply the agony times ten or more.

In my opinion, the best treatment for the profuse itching is an over-the-counter topical analgesic. However, if the pustule gets broken open, rubbing alcohol will help to ward off infection and dry the pustule before applying the analgesic.

Though, most of us don’t readily admit it, we all have more than enough stupid on hand to get us into trouble from time-to-time. A few days after the fire ant attack to my toes, I took the dogs out, again, wearing only flip flops. To make the situation even worse, I had succumbed to the itching of the stings and scratched to the point of causing some infection just above my toes.

I was pretty confident that the infection was going heal without a visit to the doctor. However, I was outside again with only flip flops on my feet. The rest of this story might seem obvious at this point but I was oozing with stupid on that day.

I had found a small fire ant mound near the air conditioner the other day and treated it. A common practice to determine if a fire any mound is live is to drag your foot across the top of it, scraping the loose dirt off of it. If it’s live then the soldiers are going to come to the surface madder than honey bees protecting their hive. All you need to do is step away quickly to avoid being attacked.

Remember now, I was wearing flip flops. Oh, and yes, I scraped the mound with my foot that had been ravaged a few days before by fire ants. I was spilling stupid all over the place.

I hit the mound with the sole me flip flop and, seeing that it was still live, I moved away quickly. Thinking that I had out-maneuvered the little soldiers, I was standing on the driveway watching the dogs when I felt folly of my erroneous assumption. At least another platoon must have managed to hang on to my flip flop and were now, on signal from the platoon leader no doubt, exercising an effective offensive on my foot and toes.

You will remember that I said that I had a scratch-induced infection? These little guys found it and stung me over and over on that infected flesh. A trip to the doctor seemed inevitable now.

With this being the information age and all, I often seek alternative information before I make a run into the doctor. My way of thinking was that if red lines started forming up the line of a vein in my foot then I’d waste no time in getting the doctor. However, if I could find a remedy online that was worth trying, my thanks would go out to Sergey and Larry rather than the doctor.

It just doesn’t seem likely that, out 391 million possibilities that Google can put in front of me in less than a minute, that Sergey and Larry would give me the most stupid solution out there. How wrong that I was. My search was a homerun for some dumbass that has no business talking to other people, much less posting “information” on the internet.

I found How to Treat a Fire Ant Sting. First of all, the title is bogus by reference to stings in the singular. One single fire ant sting is a rarity. These guys attack in armies.

Next, it offers two steps in Dealing with Fire Ants. First, step away from the mound. Now this might not seem obvious to someone who has never had the misfortune of stepping on a fire ant mound. However, I assure you that, experienced or not, you are going to step off of the fire ant the moment that you realize that your error. Nobody needs to tell you that. I couldn’t help but wonder if this half-wit thought that I was still standing in the middle of the fire ant mound while I reading his very limited wisdom on my smart phone.

The next instruction is to that you should pick the fire ants off one at time. Oh yeah! I can guarantee that, if you’re suffering a regimental fire ant attack then you’re going to knock those buggers off with as few sweeps of your hands as possible. You might pick off wood ticks but you had better wipe off fire ants very quickly.

Remember, north to a fire ant is up your pant leg. It will give a whole new meaning to the childhood colloquialism of Ants in Your Pants. That brings us to the next instruction from this idiot.  If there is a chance that fire ants got into your clothing, remove them immediately. Duh?

This happened to me once while I was running a gas-powered weed trimmer in the yard. By the time that I realized that they were there, those soldiers were high enough up my leg to claim the jewels. I didn’t care who might be offended by the sight of a half naked old man in my back yard. Everything from the waist down was off and was caste aside as I launched my counter-offensive.

I could not imagine going to the doctor with a part of my gender specific anatomy swollen beyond recognition.  I’d be sitting there in the exam room while the nurse took my vitals and then she would ask, “And what are we seeing you for today?” Try explaining that one without wearing a crimson face.

Then there would be the itching. Every guy has to scratch once in awhile but with the intensity of itch that fire stings cause… It would be like perpetual masturbation….but without a climax.

This is one of the best of the stupid instructions in the internet article. Do not slap the fire ants as this might agitate them. How ridiculous is that? You just walked all over their home. How can you “agitate” them more than you already have? They are already, willing to die for the survival of the colony, livid with you.

Imagine if Godzilla came tromping around in your neighborhood. You’re not going wait for him to slap you into agitation. You’re going to take that sucker out with a couple of RPGs into his vitals before he can even get to your next-door neighbor’s house.

For Treatment of Fire Ant Stings, which isn’t the same as Dealing with Fire Ant Stings in this article, the first step is to hold the affected area high to avoid swelling. Now I don’t know how well this ding-a-ling was listening when he went through Fire Ants 101 but he missed a couple of important points. Fire ants live in the ground and the most likely affected areas are, therefore, the person’s feet and legs.

Are you going to walk home on your hands to avoid swelling in your feet and legs? About the only way that you’re going to get stings from fire ants above your waist is if you and you intimate partner are foolish enough to get naked and do the horizontal mambo in the near vicinity of a fire ant mound. That is certain to be a screwing that neither of you will ever forget.

It’s pretty much guaranteed that those ants would heat up your foreplay like never before. Then it will you sitting in the exam room when the nurse asks, “And what are seeing you for today?”

You might as well go to the doctor together. Maybe you can a twofer discount and then only one of you will have answer sheepishly, “Well… we were making bugaloo on a fire ant mound when all of the sudden they started coming. They just kept on coming and coming until we were fire ant hot all over.”

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Pretty Young Woman Bumped Her Head under President Obama's Desk

Now that the half truth title that implies a blatant lie has your attention, you should read on. You might be one of the persons that this article was written for. Ignorance is contagious.

In the final years of the 20th century two doctorate students at Stanford, by the names of Sergey and Larry, came up with an internet search engine that put all predecessors to shame. So effective is their search engine that it can sort through 391,000,000 possibilities in less than a minute and put the top ten, in order of relevance, on the computer screen in front of you.

All other search engines of the time were comparable to wading through a university library without benefit of the card catalog and Dewey’s decimals. The name, Google, that Larry and Sergey chose to call their search engine has become synonymous for the verbs search and find with respect to the internet. With a few taps on your computer mouse and keyboard, you can find the answer to any question that comes into your mind.

So, how is that we can find postings on Facebook that are, not only erroneous, but mindlessly “shared” as if they contained divine truths? Think of it now. At the touch of the very device with which these morons passed on this frivolous and blatantly incorrect information, they could have verified the authenticity in only a few seconds.

Stupidity is innate. However, ignorance is not born into us. It is a choice made by an individual neglect to one’s own learning at all levels of intelligence.

Some of the people sharing this trash are no surprise, if we know them, as they have never exhibited the desire to absorb information of their own initiative. Others are frightening because they appear, at least by the nature of their socio-economic status, to be intelligent people. Some of the examples of “shares” are simply mind boggling that the information isn’t suspect to even a stupid person.

Don’t eat instant noodles because they are coated with wax to keep them from sticking together. That wax can cause cancer. Now right away one has wonder why cancer hasn't wiped out the whole world population of honeybees. There are some reasons not to eat instant noodles but it has nothing to do with wax. If instant noodles require wax to keep them from sticking together, then wouldn't it also be so in other forms of pasta? The short answer, it just ain’t so.

Here’s a good one. American service men and women must serve 20 years to get the equivalent of half pay for their retirement. However, one can earn full retirement, in the U.S. Congress, by serving only one day. There is half truth there. Military service retirement is what this says it is. However, as lucrative as the retirement benefit is for our congress, who could believe that it is that good? Doubt it? Google it.

President Obama is not an American. He is a Kenyan. This is the really scary one because otherwise intelligent people actually believe this. President Obama was born in the United States of America. With that and his mother being a natural-born American citizen, he is an American citizen. He is not disqualified from American citizenship because his father was a Kenyan.

The real argument is regarding President Obama’s eligibility to be the president of the United States. His mixed heritage brings that into question but no one has had the good sense challenge that properly. The U.S Supreme Court set a precedent over 150 years ago to define citizenship eligibility for a presidential nominee. If that fact had been shared on Facebook with a half truth or lie thrown in it would have gone viral within days.

Maybe some goober should post this on Facebook. President Obama is a heterosexual lesbian with Republican tendencies. That would be certain to get around, represented as hard fact, in no time.

The sad part about this article is that it can’t be written in twenty words or less and put onto a colorful poster. If that was possible then it might get the attention of the ignorant people that really need to read it. Most everyone else who took the time to read this far will probably agree with most everything that is said in the article.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


The old man could hear himself calling out but it was as if he wasn’t in his own body. His voice was faint and distant, even to him. He pressed the little button on the pendant that he wore around his neck.

“Help… Help… I've fallen and I can’t get up.” There was no response to his weak cry. He pressed the button again.

Ralph had been warned that he didn’t belong where he laid helpless now. Everyone told him to stay in his Lazy Boy with the TV remote control and a good book within reach.

“I ain’t dead yet!” He would always tell them. “As long as I can get to the crapper on my own and still wipe my own ass, then I ought to be able to go where I want to go and do what I want to do.”

Now he wasn’t so sure. He was having a little trouble breathing. That could get worse very soon. If only he hadn’t gone so high, he thought to himself.

When Ralph saw it coming, it was too late to get out of the way. At first it didn’t look like much but more and more just kept coming. It put him down hard. He was buried. He continued trying the little button on the pendant.

Ralph was 79 years-old and he felt like it but that didn't mean he had to be confined to an ass-lifting recliner chair. After all, there were other old farts still riding bicycles (or tricycles) and they went where they wanted to.

His children bought the butt lifter for Ralph for Father’s Day. He feigned appreciation to them but he hated the chair. The way that Ralph felt about it, when he couldn't get his fat ass out of his chair on his own then it was time to lie down and die. Now here he was, in the prone position, and he just might die there if he didn't get help.

There was still no response to the old codger alert pendant. That’s what Ralph he called it. Ralph tried to move just a little but pain from his hip electrified his entire body. He tried to dig himself out some but; the cruel truth of it was that he didn’t see the point of it. Fear and anger were soon replaced with complacence.

Ralph lost track of time and drifted off for awhile. He was awakened by the sound of a voice. It wasn’t from the worthless pendant. The voice was close and familiar.

“Ralph! Are you alright” It was his wife Nancy. He turned awkwardly and looked up at her.

“Hell no, I’m not all right! Does it look like I’m all right? I've been knocked down and buried by a damned avalanche. How can you ask me such a question?”

With exception of his broken hip, Ralph was pretty well back to normal at the sight of his wife. The complacence quickly faded. His fear was gone but he had no shortage of anger.

They had been married for fifty-seven years. Much of the credit for those years was to Nancy. She learned in the first year that it was better to let her husband rant when he was angry. Trying to talk to him when was he was this angry was like spraying water on an oil fire. It was always best to let it just burn out, no matter how hot that it got.

Nancy could see that Ralph had been in the process of making coffee. The canister on the counter was nearly empty so he was attempting to get a fresh bag of coffee from the top shelf. She picked up the kitchen step stool, folded it and slipped it into place between the fridge and the counter. She gathered up the various plastic bowls, cups, lids and odd containers while her angry husband continued to rant.

“I have never in fifty-seven years understood why you had to have so much Tupperware. It wouldn't even be so bad if it all fit together in some organized manner, but NO! We have to have a hundred bowls with a hundred matching lids. The only trouble is that you can’t ever find the lid that matches the bowl that just got filled up with left-over soup. So what good are they?”

Ralph paused but Nancy knew it wasn't because he was waiting for an answer. To try answer his question would only fan his fire.

“I have less money in 35mm cameras that you have in Tupperware and I have a LOT of camera equipment, but you know what? Any Nikon lens that was made in the last fifty years will fit my Nikon digital camera that was made in 2008. Do you think that Tupperware could understand such user-friendly manufacturing practices? Hell no! They change designs, colors and fit every year just so they can get you to buy more of their junk at their ridiculously inflated prices. In the end, a bowl is just a bowl and a lid is just a lid.”

Another pause… but Nancy waited quietly.

“What we ought to do is to throw all of the lids away and just use that press ‘n stick plastic wrapping stuff. It’s a lot easier on my patience than trying to find the right lid out of the wrong selection. Why, it’s no small wonder to me why they put a life-time guarantee on their junk. It’s sure to kill one or both of us sooner or later. It’ll either be me for suffering another avalanche or you for buying more of the junk because, if you do, I just might have to kill you.”

Ralph quieted considerably with his last sentence. They both knew that he didn’t mean that. Even though, Ralph stayed quiet a little longer this time, Nancy waited patiently. She knew he had to blow through his second wind.

“And I’m going to tell you another thing, too. There just ain't no reason, at all, to have so much plastic in the guest bedroom that it looks like a Tupperwarehouse. Do you want one our grandchildren to die in an avalanche of plastic? Why, if I was to have all of that plastic recycled into a stiffer grade, I could probably mold the hull for a sizable bass fishing boat.”

Ralph quieted again. Nancy was pretty certain that he had played out now but she waited, just the same. Then the anger faded from his face and he looked like the loving man that Nancy had adored for so many years. He winced.

“What can I do to help you?”

“You’d better call 911.” His voice was calm and even. “I think that my hip might be busted.” He held the pendant up. “The other thing that you can do is tape a nickel to his piece of crap. Then put it in a Tupperware bowl, complete with a matching lid, and throw into the street. Whoever finds it will be five cents better off than we are.”

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Waking Up to a Car in the Back Yard

It was kind of a shocker to look out of the kitchen window this morning and see the sunrise illuminating an SUV parked at a rather awkward angle in the drainage ditch that runs along the south easement of our property. The ditch runs into a drainage canal behind our lot on the east boundary. That canal, in turn, drains toward the south, into the main canal. Then it dissipates into a marsh about four miles away.

As I went out to investigate, my wife called the local sheriff’s office. Thankfully, there wasn't anyone in the SUV injured. However, about an eighth of mile to the south, near the intersection of the two larger drainage canals, was another car in the ditch. There was also a pick-up truck on the canal right-of-way with the headlights on.

As the morning sun rose higher, a further comedy of events was about to unfold. A young man had got his car stuck while trying to cross the drainage canal near the main canal. The summer rainy season, in Florida, is not the time to attempt crossing a drainage canal in a car or on foot. On foot, you’re pretty much guaranteed to give up your Nikes to the mud. A car is going to sink up to the axles in mud.

The SUV that was in our ditch, the young man had borrowed to pull his car out. It was not clear why the two ditched vehicles were over two city blocks apart. This was especially curious since the closest street access to the canal was nearer to the main canal where the car was stuck.

It gets better. Having two vehicles stuck in the two different ditches, this young man borrowed a pick-up truck to pull out the car and SUV. Later in the morning the owners of the SUV and pick-up were more than a little peeved that their vehicles had been “borrowed” without the young man asking for their permission.

When the deputy sheriff showed up, the young man quickly proved that his listening skills were no better than his judgment. The young man was not rude or disrespectful but he was very argumentative. I had to admire the deputy’s patience. However, the conversation finally ended with the deputy saying something to this effect.

“You are trespassing on these canals and on this man’s private property. We have a standing order to arrest anyone on the canals or adjacent right-of-ways and confiscate their vehicles. We try to be lenient. However, if you don’t want to listen to me then I CAN arrest you and you can have this conversation with a judge.”

The young man wasn't real enthused about that idea. The deputy went on.

“I don’t want to hear anymore about trying to pull these vehicles out with a pick-up truck. You need a tow truck with a winch to bring them out.”

The young man nodded agreement and headed, on foot, down the street toward where he lived. The deputy gave me his name and cell phone number so that I could call him directly, if needed, and then he left too.

Within the hour there was a tow truck in front of our house and the deputy was back. However, when I looked out back at the SUV I was dumbfounded. If you can imagine a scene of eight monkeys all trying to fornicate the same football, at the same time, then that would be close to what I was looking at. In this case, though, some monkeys were going to get hurt.

Just as the deputy had told the young man not to do, there was a pick-up truck hooked onto the SUV with a chain from the trailer hitch of the truck to the trailer hitch of the SUV. Five people were in the ditch and hunched in front of the SUV with a grip on the bumper. Someone was in the driver’s seat of the SUV and someone was driving the pick-up.

The eighth person had a reasonable chance of surviving the imminent calamity. He was standing back at a distance as if he was the one in charge. They pulled with the pick-up while they pushed with the five people in the ditch, in front of the SUV.

The SUV wouldn’t budge. Then the pick-up driver backed up to slack the chain and jerked against it while the pushers heaved. They repeated that three times and actually moved the SUV a foot or two. As I watched, my fear was that all of the five would be crushed in front of the SUV when the chain snapped.

Fortunately, there was at least one in the group who had a GED level or higher of common sense and decided to stop the effort to think about their next move. Then the deputy walked into our back yard and started chewing butts. It went something like this.

“I am tired of you people screwing with me. Now, get that truck out of here or I’ll have it towed. I have the tag number in my accident report already. The tow truck has been here waiting for a while now. Get him back here and get this car winched out right now or somebody is going to go to jail.”

The tow truck easily drew the SUV out of the ditch with a winch. On level ground, the SUV was started. The owner was able to drive it away. Isn’t it great when a logical plan falls together?

Game Over!       Football 5       Monkeys 0 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Long Haul Truck Driver Job Description

Safely and efficiently operate a tractor-trailer combination throughout U.S. lower 48 states and all bordering provinces of Canada. Pick up and deliver freight on time and without damage or shortage that might result claims filed by customers to loss prevention department. Inspect equipment daily and seek appropriate maintenance and repairs to avoid unnecessary delays due to breakdown.  Maintain a positive image in behavior and appearance. Comply with all state, provincial and national laws. Maintain daily written records as required by the company and state, provincial or national jurisdictions. Read maps and plan routes for the most efficient travel time and fuel mileage. Attend regular company required training sessions without compensation for your time. Maintain your personal health through proper eating and exercise in your spare time.

  • Be a U.S. citizen or possess proof of legal residence and right to work certification.
  • Must have a U.S. passport or other legal document that will allow border crossing into Canada.
  • Must have a Transportation Workers Identification Credential as required by the TSA.
  • Class A Commercial Driver’s License
  • Hazardous Materials Handling Endorsement to the CDL.
  • Various other CDL endorsements as required for equipment such as double trailers or tanker.
  • Graduation from an accredited truck driving school or one year of verifiable experience.
  • Clean driving record. (No accidents or convictions in past three years.)
  • No criminal record or DUI conviction ever.

  • Ability to remain calm in stressful or difficult situations.
  • Not easily angered by rude or thoughtless people.
  • Ability to negotiate large equipment in tight spaces at various speeds ranging 0-70 MPH.
  • Must be able to work 12-14 hours per day up to 70 hours in any 8 day period.
  • Must be away from home for 2-4 weeks at a time including holidays and family events.
  • Be thick skinned enough to take the heat from a customer when an office person screws up.
  • Be gracious enough to let the office people have the credit when things go well.
  • Have the judgment to know when to run and when to wait for inclement weather to pass.
  • Have the tolerance to be judged wrong for whichever decision that you make.
  • Have the self-esteem to be satisfied that if you kept the shiny side up and the dirty side down, the freight intact and the equipment undamaged then you did it right, regardless of negative judgment against you.
  • Tolerance for people who couldn’t move your truck off of the fuel island, much less negotiate rush hour traffic and back the truck into receiving dock but, nonetheless, believe that they know more about your job than you do.
  • The skill to get the job done right even when the office person, who doesn’t know the difference or relationship between gross weight, axle weight, pin to axle length and bridge law, wants you to “run with it anyway” because “we do it that way all of the time.”

Additional skills (not required):
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • Multi-lingual
  • At least a limited command of French so that French-Canadians will give up and speak English after you have attempted their preferred language.
  • Ability to understand diverse and sometimes unintelligible dialects of the English language.
  • Ability to make a surly asshole smile and like you in spite of his sociopathic demeanor.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Khaki Shorts, Bias Tape and One Long Checkout Line

I walked into a fabric and craft store on a mission for my wife. In one hand a carried a bag with a pair of my granddaughter’s khaki uniform shorts for middle school. The kids all love their grandma and they know that when they need sewing done, she’s a solid resource. She’ll do anything for her grandkids, especially, in exchange for extra hugs.

I entered the huge cavern of aisles and shelves to find the only people in the front of the store to be two cashiers who were busy with customers. I eased down a main aisle looking down each cross aisle for anything that looked like bias tape. I wore my best, lost man in a woman’s environment, face as I perused along each intersection.

I was familiar enough with this type of retail facility to know that somewhere, near the center of the infinite displays of fabrics and accessories, would be table and store employee for assisting customers in cutting off their desired amounts of cloth from bulk rolls. When I came to that area, the store employee was busy with another customer so I continued my left and right visual scans of each aisle intersection.

At the back of the store the main aisle intersected with another main aisle. Down the aisle, to the left, I saw a store employee with a shopping cart full of go-backs. She was suffering an acute case of tunnel vision. She must have thought that she had a cute bootie and I might want to admire it because, as I moved to get in front of her so that we could talk, she turned her back to me. 

Finally, winning the game of About Face and Circle Around, I held out a small sample that I had been carrying in my other hand.

“Can you tell me where to find any of this?”

“I don’t even know what that is?”

I was dumbfounded. I responded in mocked astonishment.

“You work in this store and you don’t what this is?”

“I work here but I’m a cashier,” she said with great emphasis on the word cashier.

I was thinking that, if this woman was doing go-backs. then she must know where everything is. Otherwise, how could she go back to the right place, where each item belonged, to re-shelf it?

“It’s bias tape,” I said.

“Oh, well… Yeah… I know what bias tape is but I didn't know that was bias tape.”

I didn't make up that quote. Yes, she really said that.

Off she hurried down the aisle at a near sprint. Near the cutting table, but on the opposite side that I had passed, there was a short cross aisle with a selection of bias tape. I found what I needed and my praise of the woman put a big grin on her face.

When I arrived at the front of the store to check out, my walk slowed at the sight of nine people lined up for one cashier. The first thought to light up my brain was that, if the woman doing go-backs was a cashier, then she ought to go back to the front of the store to serve in her primary role. If this item had been for me I would have set it down on another shelf and left the store. However, Grandma would not be happy if she couldn't take care of her granddaughter.

I got into the line and more people lined up behind me. I counted fourteen people in total. I’m a firm believer that if you’re not in a happy place then you ought to, at least, try to have some fun.

“Well… if it wasn't for the green shirts on the store employees, I’d think I was at Walmart.”

“Isn't that the truth,” said the brown-haired woman ahead of me.

“Yeah… I was in a Walmart a few weeks ago and there wasn't any line at all.”

“Were they having a bomb scare?” The white-haired woman behind me chuckled at her own humor.

“I don’t know but when I expressed my astonishment to the cashier she said it had been like that. I asked if they had finally caught the Kmart syndrome and all of their shoppers had gone somewhere else. The woman took offense to the comment.”

Both of the women laughed at that and others in the checkout line smiled. I saw my go-back woman down the aisle but her tunnel vision was still working well. I continued to entertain the other customers.

“You know, Kmart and Sears are like two fat giants falling from the pedestal and becoming the biggest losers. Then they married each other.”

The laughs were rippling farther down the line on each side of me now. The line was also getting longer. I was contemplating running down the aisle and bringing Go-Back to a checkout line but grey hair broke the quiet.

“Did you notice that they don’t wear those vests in Walmart, anymore, that say HOW CAN I HELP YOU?”

I snorted. “Go figure! The only time that you could read one was when they were running down the aisle to get away from you.”

“That’s for sure,” said the brunette.

“Yeah, I read an article somewhere that they’re getting new vests made up that read CATCH ME IF YOU CAN.”

Grey Hair started laughing so hard that she was afraid of peeing herself. I could still see Go-Back and had had enough of waiting. However, before I broke from the line, two cashiers, a man and woman, came up to open checkouts. They both had the look of somebody who had been pulled out of the same mop closet before their smiles had fully molded onto their faces. They were a surly looking pair.

“Next one in line.” The man’s voice had no energy and he didn’t smile one iota. I decided to sling some positive energy at him.

"How are you today?” I gave him my most sincere smile.

“All right,” he said in monotone.

“It got kind of busy all of the sudden.” This is a chance for somebody, who is having a bad day, to snap out of it and apologize for the poor service. Some even like to explain. Sometimes the explaining can turn into finger pointing but at least they’re thinking about customers then.

This guy said nothing and continued to frown. I took my change and started to walk away but changed my mind. Okay, asshole, I thought to myself. You asked for it. I’m going to sucker punch you.

“Does your face feel kind of tired?”

He just looked at me. There was a hint of confusion but his look didn't soften.

“I’m serious, man. I’m worried about you.”

“Why don’t you just get out of here? You’re holding up our customers,” he snapped.

Grey Hair had moved up beside me but she was smiling in anticipation of what I might be about to say.

“It’s interesting that you might notice that but, you see, they were conditioned to waiting when there were fifteen of us waiting for one cashier.”

I glanced at Grey Hair. She was still with me.

“I’m worried about you because it takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. With the piss face that you’re wearing, you’re going to be plumb worn out by the end of the day.”

Grey Hair lost it. Her knees buckled and she held the counter to break a fall. I grabbed her under one arm to help.

“Are you okay?”

“I hate you!” She was saying that she hated me but she was laughing so hard that she couldn't stand.

“I hate you! I’m going to have to go back home and change my pants before I can finish shopping. You are freaking hilarious!”

Not a single muscle relaxed on the Piss Face, though.

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Bird Dog View of Opening Day

Duchess savored the crisp autumn air filling her lungs.  The trees had shed their leaves for the winter.  The cold ground chilled her toes through the calloused surface of her pads.  The change of season signals her that opening day is getting closer.  Bird-dogging is what she lives for.

John brought out a long gun a few weeks ago.  Tight by his side on every move, Duchess wasn’t about to be forgotten.  Something wasn’t quite right though.  The long gun that John had brought out had the stink of stale fur from a bushy-tailed tree rat.  She didn’t mind when John would occasionally take a rabbit that might pop up on a bird hunt.  Once she caught on that John wanted the long-eared hoppers, she would even flush them for him when she picked up the scent.  When he went squirrel hunting, however, he left her behind.

 “It won’t be long, girl.  Pheasant season is around the corner,” John had told his loyal companion as he scratched her head.

Bird dogs and squirrel hunting didn’t mix.  Squirrels are wary of dogs and people.  By himself, John would blend into the oak grove and wait quietly.  Eventually, a squirrel, unaware of human presence, would come within range of the crosshairs of John’s small scope.

The weeks had passed and John was up early one Saturday morning.  As soon as he came into the kitchen Duchess alerted with anticipation.  Then she saw the shotgun.  When he brought out the hunting vest that carried his spare shotgun rounds and the bird scented game bag, Duchess went crazy with excitement.

As Duchess ran to the door, back to John and then back to the door again her actions were clearly saying to John, “Come on!  Let’s go!”

John gathered up his gear and kissed his wife, Nancy, as she held the door for him.  Duchess was already waiting at the rear of the car.  When John opened the trunk of the car she hopped in.  He laid his gear beside her and closed the lid.

Duchess had heard people scold John for being cruel because he rode her in the trunk.  She didn’t mind though.  She was going on a hunt and that was all that mattered.  John taught the dog to ride in the trunk so that after the hunt she wouldn’t soil the interior of the car on the ride home.

About to back out of the driveway, John stopped when he saw his wife hurrying toward him with his coffee thermos.  Her robe fell away from her shapely legs as she ran.  He set the thermos in the seat beside him and she leaned in to kiss him again.  With this move her robe fell open at the top and her breasts elongated as they stretched away from her body.  John cupped one of them.

“Are you trying to temp me?”

She smiled mischievously.  “Not on purpose but it might be fun to make the morning a twofer.”  She enjoyed his touch.

Both of them felt the swell of hormones urging them for the second time this morning.  They kissed again but more deeply.  Then John’s eyes caught sight of their toddler standing at the front door.

"Guess who is awake?"

Nancy turned and saw her three-year-old.  “I’ll be right there baby girl.”

“Hug her for me,” John said as his wife went to their child.

“I’ll do that and more.”  She smiled over shoulder.  “I’m going to keep something else warm for you.  Chloe is going to need a nap later.”

Duchess rode patiently and, eventually, the sounds of the car changed as John turned off of the main highway and onto a gravel road.  A few minutes later John stopped and opened the trunk lid for Duchess.  She leaped to the ground and, again, she quivered with excitement.  John closed the lid, got back into the car and drove off down the farm lane.  Duchess caught up to the car at the end of lane.  This was a pre

 e-hunt ritual that John had started when Duchess was a six-month-old pup.  It helped her to vent off her excitement so that she handled better when the hunt started.

When they arrived, John’s brother, Steve, was waiting with his dog, Gunner.  Most people don’t realize that dogs communicate clearly to each other without words.  Duchess and Gunner were familiar and exchanged greetings.  Off season, they played with each other when the two families would get together.  Gunner went around on Duchess and sniffed her hinter end.

“Don’t get any ideas.”  Duchess asserted politely.

“You’re never in the mood when we hunt.”  Gunner was there to hunt but hormones are hormones.

“I don’t know what to tell you, Gunner.  If I’m in season during season then John and I hunt alone.”

“That’s just wrong.  Every dog has to have a little bootie once in awhile.”

“So take your bootie down that lane that I just ran, and then run it back.  You need to work it off, fool.  You studs have one thing on your mind all of the time.  Add pedigree papers and you all think that you’re nature’s gift to bitches.  Do you have any idea what pups will do to my teats?”

The conversation ended as the dogs’ ears lifted to the sound of chambering shotgun rounds.  It was 8:00 AM.  The men headed off for the field.  Through the fence and into the field, the dogs started to quarter.  Both men called their dogs to heel.  Confused, the dogs obeyed.

Gunner looked over at Duchess.  “What’s going on?”

“Look.”  Duchess turned her snout to the rows of corn that were not yet harvested. “There is still some corn standing.”

“So?”  Gunner had never hunted this way.

“Watch and do what you’re told.”  Her patience with Gunner was fading fast.

If he couldn’t get all of the harvest done before the season started, the farmer who owned this ground, would always leave some corn standing in anticipation of pheasant season..  He would leave about ten rows standing and harvest ten rows in between.  If pheasants were in the field in the early morning and they saw the hunters approaching they would run to the standing corn for cover.

The two hunters stopped, discussed their plan and Steve snapped a short leash onto Gunner’s collar.  He handed the loop to his brother and walked off to the right by himself.  John headed to the left and commanded Duchess to heel.  Gunner followed on the leash.

Looking back, John saw that Steve had reached his destination at one end of the standing corn rows.  About fifty feet from the other end of the corn rows, the dogs started acting birdy.  Duchess wanted to break heel but obeyed as John reiterated his command.  Gunner was about to tug at the leash but relaxed as he heard the heel command.

John gave three short tweets on his dog whistle to indicate that the dogs were on scent.  Steve acknowledged with one tweet.

John unsnapped Gunner’s leash and commanded, “Hunt ‘em up!”

The dogs charged into the corn led by noses searching for hotter scent.  Out of sight, their yelping confirmed the hot scent of running birds.

At the other end of the standing corn the birds’ panicked flapping of wings swooshed them into the air.  The dogs reared on hind legs as if to chase the birds into the sky.  There was one rooster and two hens.  Steve leveled his shotgun at the brightly feathered rooster.  The sound of two successive reports drowned the noise of escaping wings.

Duchess and Gunner looked at each other in total disbelief.

“What’s the matter with your fool?”

Gunner stared back in equal confusion, not knowing what to say.

“Bury my heart under wounded sky!  We come out here and work our tails off to flush a prime first season rooster and the best that your fool can do is put two holes in the sky behind that one rooster?  I don’t get it.”

The men called out to each other.  They exchanged a question, some lame excuses and some well embellished kidding.  On a small farm the ruckus that they just made could have frightened all of the birds into the surrounding quarter sections.  They moved on to the next rows of standing corn and Steve sent the dogs to John.

The next five sets of standing corn didn’t net up any birds.  On the sixth and final pass, however, the dogs were coming John’s way when they went birdy again.  At the sound of the dogs’ yelps John released his shotgun safety.

This time it seemed as if the dogs came out of the corn already on hind legs in attempt to keep up with the fleeing birds.  Two hens stayed low and went in opposite directions.  One rooster came straight at John and over his head.  Boom!

Two flashes of green-headed gold and bronze flew left of John.  As he birds leveled in flight, John leveled the shotgun and led, first one bird, then the other.  Boom!  Boom!

Duchess looked at Gunner again but, this time, with a face full of her delight.  Three rooster pheasants lay waiting to be retrieved and the sky had suffered no trauma.

Each dog dashed out and brought back a fallen bird.  Duchess ran back out and foraged around until she found the third.  The bird had worked itself under some thick dead matted grass along a fence row.  The men would never have found it without the dogs.

Usually Duchess would sit and patiently wait for her reward after a kill.  This time, however, for benefit of Gunner, she strutted back and forth in front of her hunter as he field-dressed the three birds.  He gave both dogs a heart from the birds.  John gave the third heart to Duchess and tossed a liver to Gunner.

The group went on to work the natural cover of the draws and creeks, and the fence rows on the farm.  Steve bagged two birds.  John dropped a fourth and gave it to his brother.  Six birds were the limit between two hunters and they headed back to the cars.

The brothers cajoled each other on the walk back.  For love of the hunt the dogs continued to quarter.  For knowing his dog, John was ready when Duchess flushed a cottontail.  He saw her heating up on rabbit scent and added fur to his bag for the day.

Before they got into the cars Gunner nuzzled Duchess.  “Maybe next time?”  He sniffed her butt.

“You’re funny!  Consider our relationship Platonic.  Next time, you come wearing a shock collar.  John will carry the control and anytime that I whimper you’re going to your knees.  You’re just lucky that nature didn’t gift me with an opposing thumb.  I’d bring you to your knees myself, right now.  You deserve it just for your acting so adolescent.”  She pulled away and hopped into the trunk that John had just opened.

John and Steve exchanged farewells and pointed the cars back down the lane toward home.  John had something delicious on his mind but it had nothing to do with cooked wild game.

For Love of Dogs: Once Homeless

The first time that I saw Ozark he was at the end of a rope leash trotting along side of his owner’s bicycle in the mid-afternoon south Florida sun.  I was interested in finding a dog that would be more intimidating to a home intruder than our lovable Springer Spaniel was at the time.  The owner of a hot dog stand that I occasionally visited on my way home from work told me that she knew of a dog that would fit my needs and he needed new home.
A bicyclist and the dog entered the parking lot and passed the hot dog stand.  They cut a couple figure eights on the hot asphalt and then Jeannie, the owner of the hot dog stand, called out to the rider in an authoritative tone.

“Get that dog over here so that I can give him some water!  It’s too hot to be dragging him all over the parking lot.”

The dog’s ribs showed under his reddish brown, brindle-marked coat.  His head appeared too large for his under-nourished body.  His face and forelegs were heavily scarred.  One ear stood up while the other drooped.  Large dark brown eyes mirrored acquiescence for his situation.  White hair around the dog’s mouth gave him to be about seven-years-old.

Jeannie cooed over the dog and lavished affection upon him.  She poured water from a jug into one dish and dog food from a bag into another.  The gaunt dog slaked his thirst and then his hunger.  Afterward, she treated him to a few hot dogs from the cart.  Ozark didn’t hesitate.

The dog’s owner often stopped by the stand near closing time.  Jeannie would feed him, as well as the dog, so long as he didn’t make himself conspicuous when customers were around.

Bruce sat down beside me and we introduced ourselves to each other.  He was fairly well kept and a pleasant enough man to talk with.  He hadn’t worked for some time.  He told of being fired from one of the local labor pools and of his perception of the unfairness of losing the job.  With the dog taken care of Jeannie put another hot dog into a bun and handed it to Bruce.

Bruce called the dog Ozark but his full name was Ozark Mountain Coon Hound.  He looked more like a lab mix than a hound.  According to him the dog was not aggressive toward children.  This was a concern to me because of our grandchildren.

Bruce insisted that the dog was only two or three years old despite my observation of his white hair about the mouth.  I shrugged this off and continued to ask about the dog’s behavior and personality.  Apparently unaware of my intentions until I began asking questions, Bruce became defensive.

“What’s going on?  This is the second person asking questions about my dog.”  Bruce was looking straight at Jeannie.

“I told you that I was going to find a good home for that dog.  You don’t take care of him.”

As it turned out, Bruce had no intention of giving up his dog.  Jeannie, on the other hand, was determined to adopt out the dog with or without the consent his owner.

I redirected the conversation to a more casual content and tone.  Then after a few minutes, I was able to gracefully excuse myself.  I told Jeannie that I would see her in a day or two.  My position on this was simple.

The dog belonged to Bruce.  He didn’t want to give him up.  The dog was everything that he had as far as I could see.  His possessiveness was understandable.

Furthermore, because of the way that Bruce lived, the dog was likely to have any number of medical problems.  Of my biggest concern was the probability of heartworm.  Without regular heartworm preventative medication, the probability, in a Florida dog that is living outdoors, is very high.  Cost of treatment for heartworm was about $1500 at the time.  In addition, there is a possibility that the dog will not survive the heartworm treatment.

A few months later J
eannie called me.  Bruce had been hit by car and died at the scene as result of the injuries.  Ozark was trying to pull his dying companion off of the street when the police arrived.  He was taken to the county animal shelter.

The shelter policy at the time allowed for a minimum of three days in the shelter before an animal’s fate was decided.  Jeannie was more than anxious for me to rescue the dog. However, I still had the same health apprehensions as when I first met Bruce.  Heartworm was on top of the list.

As it turned out the county would do heartworm treatment for a small fraction of what the local veterinarians charged.  My wife and I decided, at least, to visit the dog at the shelter.  In order to satisfy my second apprehension we took our granddaughters with us.

We walked the kennels until we found Ozark.  Unlike his excited shelter-mates he was lying quietly in the corner of his assigned kennel.  He showed no interest in us.  Jeannie had visited him the day before and reported that he became very excited to see her.  But then, he knew her.

Ozark was brought out to another room where we could interact with him.  His behavior didn’t change from what we saw in the kennel.  He was quiet almost to the point of lethargic.

Our four-year-old granddaughter fell in love with Ozark.  She hugged him, petted him and lavished him with comforting words of affection.  The thirteen-year-old was okay with him but her true affection was for our Spaniel who had been her lifelong pal.

We paid the adoption and heartworm treatment fees.  We couldn’t take Ozark home that day as he was to be neutered first.  This was required on all adoptions.

Heartworm treatment has a two to three day recovery period for a dog.  It sickens them to the point that they’re lethargic for a few days.  Upon recovery, though, we found that Ozark needed to be watched when he went outside.

When he was let out the front door he would follow the front walk to the driveway, follow the driveway to the street and then methodically trot down the street as if he had somewhere else to be.  He did not heed a call to return and would have to be brought back.

It is easy to attach human emotions to animals.  How accurate that is, is open to debate.  However, my guess is that Ozark was trying to leave to find the Bruce.  Had he known that Bruce was deceased then he might have let go.  Unfortunately, however, it is possible that they were separated before Bruce passed.

It took week or two for Ozark to start responding to my gestures of affection toward him.  He finally bonded and, everyday, when I arrived home from work he wanted to romp and play with me in the yard.  He was clearly excited to see me.  Likewise, he enjoyed the companionship of Mindi, our Springer Spaniel.

I imagined in terms of human comprehension that it must have finally occurred to Ozark the good life that he had fallen into.  He now had daily feeding, fresh water and a shelter with warmth when it was cold and air conditioning when it was hot.

It is amusing to watch Ozark’s reaction to the weather since he now has permanent shelter.  On hot afternoons he wastes no time in relieving himself and heading back to the door to be let in.  If it is raining he simply will not go outside unless I insist.  I call him Sugar Bear when it rains as if he might melt.

He established himself as the alpha pet and was extremely jealous of any attention that I gave to my cat.  The cat and I had a daily ritual just before I left for work.  The cat would always grasp at my boot laces as I put on the boots.   This usually evolved into some rough but harmless playing for a few minutes.  Ozark would sit back whine with jealousy.

It’s going on six years now that Ozark has been with us.  The Springer Spaniel was in her twilight when he came and has since had to be put down.  Ozark’s white hair now covers his face past his eyebrows.  His previous gaunt fifty-two pounds is an overweight eighty-three pounds now.

He stepped down a notch in the pack order when we adopted another dog.  The younger dog wasted no time in redefining the pack hierarchy with Ozark.  Yet, he seems happy.  He is always eager for his daily walk and moves straight to the door when he sees the leashes coming out.  Life is good for the Ozark Mountain Coon Hound.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Proof That You Can't Fix Stupid

The silver Lexus in front of me drifted to the right. The driver snapped it back to center. This repeated a couple of times. I doubled my following distance.

A stoplight halted us but, when the light turned green, the car did not move out immediately. A polite beep beep on my horn got the driver going. I moved to the right lane and gradually overtook the car.

Looking over as I passed, I saw the driver’s head down with a phone in one hand. Remembering her previous drift to the right, I accelerated ahead. Needing to make a left turn ahead, I moved back to the left lane.

Down the road I noticed the silver Lexus in my rear-view mirror while waiting for another red light. The driver’s head was tipped down as if her attention was on a phone again. On green, I pulled away from the stoplight and put distance between the Lexus and me.

I chuckled at the sight in my rear-view mirror. The Lexus had suffered damage across the entire front end. It looked as if the car had rear-ended another car. I had seen proof that you can’t fix stupid.