Wednesday wanderings – lawns, pollen, owls and Les Miz

These old bones need to finish mowing the grass before heading out on my walk about. Many moons ago, I bought a battery powered lawn mower, where I charge the battery before I mow. Either the grass is getting taller or the battery is getting older (this is electric mower #2) as the battery died before I finished. It is not unlike its owner who tires more easily.

So, today I will tidy up the remainder (usually I get about 75 minutes of mowing per charge). Mowing with an electric mower is healthier for me and better for the environment. I don’t have to breathe in the gas fumes, nor does it drown out my hearing. All of my power tools are battery operated now, as a result.

Speaking of being outside, this is supposed to be a more severe pollen season. My hometown is a city of trees, so we rank in the top ten in pollen in the US. Yippee. It used to not bother me as much, but with the creeping northward heat due to climate change, the warmer seasons are longer, and pollen is more severe. Hence, my daily routine includes a Cetrizine pill (generic Zirtec) and squirt of the generic Flonase up each nostril (I highly recommend).

Pollen brings other challenges as well. Over twenty years ago, we built a pool. It was a great decision, as it is good for relaxation and exercise, and we got to meet our kids’ friends. Yet, EVERYTHING gets into the pool, pollen included. So, cleaning the skimmer baskets is an event during the spring, with that stuff coated on the liner I put on the baskets.

Plus, when the pollen is in there, I cannot see if we have any guests in the pool such as brown snake (not poisonous), frog or deceased vole. There is nothing like pulling out a skimmer basket with a small snake in it to get the heart pumping. Fortunately, copper heads do not care for the water as much.

I think the voles are trying to run away from the hawks and owls we get on occasion. Right now, we have three owls in the neighborhood trees, two together and one separate. It must be a love triangle, with a younger male pining for the committed female. Off the subject, but when we went to see Les Miserables for the first time, a good buddy had read up on the wonderful and multi-part story from the playbill and told us all, “Basically, it is a love triangle.” We still laugh about that today.

So, let’s head out for a walk about after the lawn is taking care of. I will look for the odd-man out owl and see if we can find him a new love interest. As his mother tried to tell him, “there are many owls in the trees.” Maybe he can find him one named Cosette or Eponine.

The emu and the gold mine

When my in-laws were alive, their family property included an old dried-up gold mine that never did amount to much. From what I gather, it was an expensive hobby for my mother-in-law’s father. One day, I was out walking their trails and came upon the large opening to the mine, which in essence is now a large pit about twenty meters in diameter and that much in depth.

As I looked at the bottom of the pit, I saw the skeleton of a very large bird. It looked like an ostrich, which would be very uncommon for this neck of the woods. When I got back to the house, I had to inquire.

My father-in-law laughed and said that was an emu skeleton, which would also be rare. It turns out, one of his neighbors was raising emus and one had passed on. So, he asked my father-in-law if he could toss it into the pit. Although it sounds like a person who just did not want to dig a hole, my father-in-law appeased him and said it was OK.

Currently, there are series of themed TV commercials for Liberty Mutual (who some call Limu or Lee-Moo) insurance, where the mascot is Limu the Emu. Note: some ad agency is making money off this idea. I guess they are combatting the Geiko Gekko (who is a CGI mascot), with an Australian man mimicking a Cockney accent – go figure.

Yet, as I watch these commercials, my mind drift backs to looking down into that pit and seeing the now known emu skeleton. Since I was alone on the trails, it was actually an out of body experience. As I was thinking WTF, I felt like someone was watching me see this skeleton in a Rod Serling sort of way. A spaceship had crashed, created this crater and its bird like pilot died as he crawled out.

Then, reality set in and the acknowledgment it was some kind of large bird came to light. The story of the throwing an emu carcass into the hole did not cross my mind, My saner version of the ET story is a large bird was running and did not know the hole was there and fell in. I like that story better than it just being used as a lazy person’s burial ground. It makes me feel the emu died what he liked doing best – running.

So, while Limu the Emu (and his buddy Doug) are peddling insurance, I am thinking of my ET-like emu skeleton. Since there was no cell service this deep in the woods, I could not “phone home” for this ET. It was truly a very weird day. Almost Twilight Zone-like. Cue Mr. Serling and the eerie music.

Every community needs a Mama

Since we are at the Ides of March in a month to celebrate women’s history, let me offer a brief glimpse of a woman who almost everyone in a small community in southwest Georgia called “Mama.” Not that they were related, but Mama was a health care giver for the community, a self-appointed nurse who helped many while the regional doctor was away.

When the doctor was in the area for his monthly visits, Mama would accompany him on his visits to hear and see what he had to say, but also to share her thoughts. She had such a good rapport with the doctor, she named one of her twelve children after him. In the interim, Mama would make sure the patients took their medicines, rested and did what the doctor asked. Since this was in the 19th century, many of the cures were home or natural remedies.

I have shared the story before about how her youngest boy loved gymnastic type exercise and would tumble or use any prop for his swings and dismounts. One day, he fell and knocked his two front teeth out of his mouth. He gathered them up and ran in with his bloody mouth. Mama sat him down and boiled some water while she cleaned his mouth. She then dipped the end of a dish towel in the hot water and rinsed it quickly. She told the boy to put the towel in his mouth “as hot as he could stand it.” She cleaned the teeth off and then shoved them back into his now-swelling gums and they held.

I love this example and have heard and told this story many times. Her name was Carrie Jane and she was my great grandmother. Since everyone called her Mama, my grandmother’s children included, they would call their own mom “Mother” in deference to Carrie Jane. I never got the chance to meet Mama, but I do know her children grew up as both characters and with character, my grandmother included.

As an example, she called one of her daughters Carrie Bell, but my grandmother would not call her sister that. Instead, she would call her “Cow Bell” as a means of teasing. And, when Carrie Bell would come to visit, she would ask us kids if we wanted to play “marbles” which was her name for the board game Aggravation.

Growing up in a rural area (using town would be inappropriate), people formed a kinship and helped each other out. These folks could not pay Mama for her services, but would bring the family fresh produce as a means of recompense. If a baby was coming, everyone would go find Mama. I think there are mamas like this in every small community.

These are the kind of women I wish to honor today. People may not have been related to them, but they touched many lives. Thanks Mama and all of the mamas in our history. Tell me about the mamas in your history.

Wednesday wanderings the second week of 2022

Good morning all and happy Hump Day. Let’s get out today and wander around some, weather permitting in your area. Even if it is snowing, dress warmly and listen to the crunch of the snow beneath your boots.

I have about finished cutting up a strategically located Wax Myrtle in our back yard that fell over due to all of the rain and wind about ten days ago. It provided such privacy from one backyard neighbor’s view. Now, we can see their house more clearly and vice-versa. Wax Myrtle’s smell nice, so as I took the smaller branches to the curb, I had an aromatic walk. I have cut up many a tree due to high winds from hurricane remnants or just windy storms as our backyard has a small forest which we left for privacy. But, I hate chain saws and love to exercise. So, it is a slower process that takes days.

Today, we will be shedding our house of the many versions of Christmas ornaments we have in the attic. I think we have enough ornaments for ten Christmas trees. We label them by year, but in essence we have the brown, copper and gold Christmas ornaments, we have the blue and silver ones with an artificial white tree when we put up two, we have several variations of red and green ornaments, and we have colored and white lights. Right now, we have pulled them out of the attic and have small paths to walk around upstairs. If I report a sore back tomorrow, you will know the reason why. It won’t be due to the tree cutting, it will be due to ornaments removal. My guess is other folks have this problem.

I have noticed the marketers are mailing less now that Christmas is over. I am sure they will pick up the pace, but the respite is much appreciated. I have shared this before, but my sister gets marketing mail for my mother who passed away several years ago. And, my mother never lived in the house where my sister lives now. This is the definition of eternal life – you remain on marketing lists forever. When my sister tries to remove my mother’s name, they just change it to my sister’s. I wonder how many trees are killed sending mail to dead people?

Speaking of marketing, I saw where Congress is going to address the number of calls, as they did before. Talk about a waste of time. Counting the fingers on 435 members, they do not have enough digits to plug the holes in the marketing dam. Now, many of the calls are recorded voices trolling the listener. You can tell by the delay, then spiel. Yesterday, Samantha called me, but she was not really there. We usually don’t answer, but if it is real person, I want to tell them to please take me off their list. I think I am up to 768 “final” calls to extend a car warranty, get a better interest rate, etc. “Final” must mean “eternal” as in the previous paragraph on mailers.

Those are few wandering thoughts for the day. Best wishes on all your errands and chores. May the force be with you.

Day Tripping

For those of you old enough to remember, I am not referring to The Beatles’ song by this name or the one the Rolling Stones called “Mother’s Little Helper.” So, narcotics or amphetamines will not be part of this story. I am referencing my wife and I like to do short one day excursions around the region.

Today, we are off to the mountains to see my daughter and her boyfriend. She has an afternoon planned of BBQ, mountain views and hiking on a cool autumn day. It will be just over a two hour journey, so it is not a bad trip for even our old bodies. Of course, we have to add time for the inevitable rest breaks on the way to and fro.

It will be a fun day. She lives in a cabin-like home halfway up a large hill (or small mountain) in a very eclectic area. She has a coop of eight chickens, so when we visit we bring empty egg cartons for their use. I have shared before the town close by is very artsy, so there is a lot of wall art on buildings, galleries and craft shops. There is even a place where they show how cheese is made.

My daughter is an environmentalist, hiker and rock climber, so she is in heaven up there. She met her boyfriend’s sister first, as they were on the climbing team at college up there. And, the sister is the one who made the introductions to her brother. He is a very nice and grounded young man.

So, I will keep this one brief and report later on our journey. Have a great rest of you day.

Celebrating success with too much gusto concerns me

Watching the Ryder Cup, which every two years pits twelve US golfers against twelve European golfers in team competition, it continues to concern me over the lack of sportsmanship the match has devolved into. Dating back to the late-1990s, the televised competition has created a fervor of fans cheering the mistakes of their opponents. There was a time when Jack Nicklaus picked up the coin of Brit Tony Jacklin marking a ten foot putt to halve a match resulting in a tie, but those days are long gone.

But, I must confess, when I played sports, trash talking was something I just did not do. I was taught taunting an opponent is just poor form. As my basketball coach used to preach to us, the way to get back at an opponent is to win. The way to get back is not let them score. I mention the last point as it takes more effort to play defense, so to shut down an opponent from scoring brings satisfaction.

I know the crowds in team sports and some competition want to see demonstrative theatrics. They want to cheer success, even if it is for only one play. Yet, one coach used to say, if you are going to draw attention to your successful play, should you not draw attention when you mess up? Look what I did, I missed a tackle.

With that said, I do love offensive linemen in a football game. Usually, they only get attention when they mess up. It could be a penalty for holding or missing a block that leads to a tackle for a loss. On the flip side, these linemen are the reason games are won and lost. Yet, they don’t get the same upside notoriety when they are doing their job well. Their running backs and quarterback get the glory when they are blocking their opponents.

Mind you, it is OK to be happy with a successful play. But, the baseball term used is “you do not want to show up your opponent.” It is better not to rub it in a pitcher’s face that you just hit a home run, as you may have to face him or her again. One famous football running back used to say when he scored a touchdown, act like you have been there before. Of course, the fans want to see more. Maybe this is why drunk fans should steer clear from the other team’s fans.

I recognize I am old school. What I wrote runs counter to what is being done today. To me, it promotes this we/ they mindset on too many things. It has bled over into tribal politics. Fans are too invested in winning, that they don’t realize what is truly at stake. When politicians are too invested in winning than governing, we all lose.

You never know, so please hug your family

If the 9/11 memorial ceremony did not heighten our focus to hug our loved ones when we leave them in the morning and return to them in the evening, let me share an abrupt reminder from yesterday. My wife and I learned a 56 year old neighbor passed away from a heart attack.

The night before, a fire truck and EMV was outside of his home. The next morning we learned he died while his wife and kids were away. He had been working on a stationary rowing machine and was found by a friend his wife called to check on him when she could not reach him.

The tragedy is puzzling as he appeared to be in good shape and was routinely out doing yard work or washing his cars. He was also the most congenial of people stopping to chat as folks walked by. In fact, he seemed to be younger than his actual age given his temperament and work ethic.

We don’t know when it is our time. We don’t expect that today will be the day. So, the best we can do is take care of ourselves and hug our families goodbye and hello. Tell the people we love that we love them.

May our neighbor and friend rest in peace and his family remember more his smile than his passing over time.

That boy sure is a runnin’ fool

Those familiar with the movie “Forrest Gump” know the title is one of the many one-liners from the movie. We learn early on that Forrest could “run like the wind blows” after his legs got better from wearing braces. And, that was his primary means of transportation.

I used to be a runner, but after a lot of up and down running efforts, my joints told me I needed to walk more. It is much easier to start walking again after stopping a walking regimen, than it is is to start running.

Yet, I see many who run both along the streets and on trails that fail to heed a few lessons that might help. I learned from others, but still had challenges with the yo-yo running efforts. Here are few tidbits that I hope are more redundant than not.

  • Do not run on sidewalks made of concrete. The concrete does not flex, so your knees, feet and ankles (and other parts) take the brunt of the impact of each step.
  • Do not run with headphones on if you are next to car traffic or by yourself on a trail. Not being able to hear puts you in danger of turning cars or nefarious folks on trails. If you must have music, heighten your other senses to avoid getting run over.
  • Stretch before and after running. Sometimes the after part gets left off, but warming down is as important as warming up.
  • Start out slow (or even walking) and build up speed to the pace you want. Starting out to fast can cause pulled muscles and charley horses.
  • Wear shoes that have a good tread and are designed for running. A worn out tread can add impact shock to knees, feet and ankles.
  • Courtesy of the legendary basketball coach John Wooden, wear two pairs of socks, one reversed inside of one normal. The combined friction in the socks will cause less friction on your feet. Wooden would actually teach this the first day of practice.
  • Stay hydrated. This is a no-brainer, but never pass a water stop in a race and have a water bottle with you or in the car waiting for you.
  • If you do run on trails, have someone with you or run on popular trails designed for running. Some trails have way too many tree roots that are painful when stepped on or could trip you (I have done both).

I know much of the above may be well-known. But, as an old fart, let me just add I have read in my local newspapers of more than a few women being sexually assaulted on trails, I have read wear joggers were run over and killed not realizing a car was turning (one woman did not comprehend that a truck was pulling a trailer because of her headphones and stepped into traffic after she thought the truck had passed) and I am aware of many falls, bumps and bruises and arthritic or worn out knees.

Be safe. Be healthy. And, run like the wind blows.

Needed sports funnies in golf and football

It may have been legendary and funny golfer Lee Trevino who answered the question why he played a fade in golf. Trevino said, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook just won’t listen.” There you have it. Trevino was crazy good. 

Football Coach Lou Holtz was also an amateur magician. Appearing on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show, he did a trick and then answered Carson’s question as to how he did that. “Perfectly,” answered Holtz.

Golfers have a term for a terrible score of an eight on a golf hole – they call it a “snowman” due to the written score resembling a snowman. When a pro made one on a par 5, the reporter asked how he could have made a snowman on such an easy hole. The golfer said, “Easy. I made a ten footer to avoid a nine.”

One of the greatest defensive lineman in NFL history was named Jim Marshall and his Minnesota Vikings team was so good at preventing scoring they were called the “Purple People Eaters.” In a moment of confusion, Marshall must have felt guilty of denying the other team points, as he recovered a fumble and ran it in for a touchdown – the wrong way.. When he crossed the goal line, he celebrated his play by throwing the ball into the stands. The referees gathered together and scored it a safety awarding the opposing team two points. Had he kept the ball, it might have been ruled a touchback with no points. Oops.

Golf is funnier when you get to the every day players who are not nearly as good as the pros. Their one-liners are immeasurable. For those of you who do not remember the TV evangelist Ernest Angley (that is a real name), he was a faith healer known for his elongated healing words. When a friend would hit a golf ball into the woods, he would pull out an Angleyism and say “Out, Satan!” If he hit another one poorly, he would say “Be Healed!” On occasion, a tree would answer his prayer and the ball would carom back onto the course.

One of the funniest endings to a football game was in the big rivalry of University of California and Stanford University. Per History.com, “On November 20, 1982, the UC Berkeley football team, referred to as Cal, wins an improbable last-second victory over Stanford when they complete five lateral passes around members of the Cardinals’ marching band, who had wandered onto the field a bit early to celebrate the upset they were sure their team had won, and score a touchdown.” One of the Cal players ran over a band member to get to the end zone. It is unreported if future Stanford bands were taught how to tackle.(see video below).

Next time, I may hit some other sports funnies besides football and golf.

Here is a link to the Cal/ Stanford final play. The band still missed the tackle.

Heartbreaking moments

For some reason, we seem to be watching more of the Olympics in Japan than we have in previous ones. The exhilarating competition and human stories are wonderful to watch. But, it also exposes us to heartbreaking moments where you just want to hug the athlete and say it will be OK. Let me set aside the Simone Biles story, as I have written about that as have others.

There are two stories I want to focus on, but I will leave off their names, as I do not want to highlight who they are, just what happened. Plus, these two people qualified for the Olympics, which is not a small feat.

First, in one of the many “heats” for the women’s 400 meter hurdles, the Great Britain champion racer was looking to qualify for the semi-finals. This was her first race of the Olympics. Sadly, on her way to the very first hurdle, she got her feet tangled and fell into the hurdle. Her Olympic competition was ended. Seeing in live action was one thing, but when they showed it in slow motion, you truly agonize with her.

Second, the next day, in the women springboard diving competition, the top twelve divers were looking to qualify for the semi-finals, I think. After several dives, a Canadian diver was in ninth place and just needed a couple of more decent dives. Apparently, the young woman must have felt she did not get enough elevation for the twists and turns as she hopped once (per the routine) and propelled herself upward. She just meekly fell knees first into the pool. The announcers could not hide their feelings for her as they called it a “failed dive.”

Seeing both of these women, who trained so hard, walk away from what just happened made you want to hug them. Fortunately, coaches and teammates were there to do so.

It reminds me that I have failed on more than a few occasions. We all fail at some time. It hurts. Plus, you replay that hurt over and over in your mind. Hopefully, we have learned from that failure, as it can be a better teacher than success.

One of the things that I admire about the gymnasts (or skaters) is they keep going. If they mess up or have a small misstep, they keep going. It should be noted the women’s gymnastic team winners from Russia overcame two of their better gymnasts falling off the balance beam (I still don’t know how they perform on a four inch wide beam). Guess what they did? The two got back up on the beam and continued on. And, the team won.

So, it may not be a four inch balance beam, but we need to get off the floor and climb back on and keep going. And, for those two women I highlighted above. They were there. They made it to Japan. There is a lot to be said for that.

*Note: People remember failures like this, which is why I did not use their names. If you ask people in Boston who Bill Buckner is, some will tell you about a terrible error he made playing first base for the Boston Red Sox that cost them the 1986 World Series. But, there is far more to this story. His error was in Game Six and there was another game the next day. Plus, the winning New York Mets knew Boston’s weakness was their late game pitchers – they knew if Boston pulled their starting pitcher, they had a chance. Yet, Red Sox fans also forget that Buckner had a heckuva season and helped Boston make the World Series. Yes, he made a key error, but the team lost, not Bill Buckner.