Riding with a Rat

They come with the territory. Anytime there’s feed for horses or cattle or even dogs, they’re going to arrive to see what they can salvage from the smorgasbord. You may have the cleanest barn in the neighborhood, which we do, thanks to my OCD husband who blows out the barn aisle at every opportunity.

For the first time last evening, we saw a little unwanted guest. I, of course, am using that particular adjective loosely. Anything larger than a chipmunk should be charged rent. I heard my husband yelling, “Did you see him? Did you see him? You almost stepped on him!” That was a tidbit that I didn’t need to hear.

It turns out the interloper ran from the front of the barn all the way to the other end and disappeared. The little bugger. I never got an eyeball on him.

“Was it a mouse or a rat?” I’m not sure why that really makes any difference but it does. We horse people are a weird lot. Mice….hmm. They’re cute. Rats! It’s like the elephant in the closet.

“It was about this big.” He held his hands apart about 6″…. yep that’s a rat.

“Well he’s gone now and honestly, all the food is in a metal container. I wouldn’t worry.”

We headed up to the house without a second thought.

The next morning, my husband decided to mow the front lawn before noon. I don’t know about you, but I love the sound of a mower. It brings back childhood memories; the smell of fresh-cut grass, the distance hum of the mower and the memory of my father whipping around on his riding mower with his favorite farmer’s cap perched on his head. My husband is the same. He loves his zero turn, taking great pride in making sure the lines are even and level. Wanting to complete the lawn before the sun got too hot, he was in a particular jaunty mood, turning corners on a dime, zipping right along. Not only was my husband enjoying the ride, so was the rat.

Of course, the stowaway wasn’t discovered until my husband stopped to blow off the debris that collects in the filter. While he’s at it, he blows everything off. That’s when he discovered “Harold” literally flying off the mower when he got caught in the crosshairs. Then the real fun began.

In an effort to hide from both from my husband’s blower and further airborne torment, “Harold” darted into, of all things, our garage which was only open for the guy working on our base boards. In hot pursuit, my husband followed, cornered him and revved up his blower again. Once more, “Harold” was sent airborne, flying in a perfect five foot arch before landing outside the garage. His little legs working overtime, he scrambled toward the screened portch in the back of the house, my husband unsuccessfully trying to send him airborne into our neighbor’s pasture.

I heard a frantic thumping on the door.

“Get Charlie! CHARLIE! Come here Charlie! Rat! Get ’em boy!”

Charlie is our jackshitz…part Jack Russell, part Shitzu. Now you would think any dog with Jack Russell blood would take off like a lawn dart after such a prize catch but after leaping out the door in excitement, all Charlie could do was look up at my husband as if to say, “Yea, so? What am I supposed to do about him?”

“Harold”- unable to climb up the screen eventually took off toward the back yard and tried to disappear into the brush, with my husband, blower revved up to the highest rpm level, right on his tail, no pun intended. I would like to be able to say there is photographic documentation of this. An airborne rat is not something you see everyday. Unfortunately, as with most delightful escapades, it’s a visual one can only imagine.

Ah, life on a farm. It’s never boring.

The True Definition of Perfection

In response to  DAILY PROMPT   https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/perfection/ 

They sat together as they had for years, tucked away in their booth, out of the way from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen. Close enough to watch the fascinating dance of waiters carrying well balanced food trays weaving between tables covered with white linen cloths.

Slowly, he reached across to grasp her hand in a loving gesture of perfect harmony. He felt the softness of her skin and rubbed his thumb over the familiar simple gold wedding ring. A perfect moment where the din of the banging cutlery and china faded into silence. It was their anniversary and here, they could have their own miniature celebration before joining friends later that evening.

For those sitting nearby, their display of perfect affection drew slow smiles of appreciation and yet those witnesses probably didn’t comprehend the thoughts behind the value of perfection.

Perfection to him didn’t mean flawless or a fashion magazine’s interpretation of ideal beauty. No. As he caressed her hand, he could feel the soft skin dotted with well earned age spots and permanent creases. Cerulean blue eyes met his gaze…ones that had seen much edged with radiating crow’s feet signifying decades of laughter and joy. Lines from the corners of her eyes showed where life’s tragic events created a path for tears. Together, they had survived life’s struggles, family tragedy and experienced the most joyous moments life has to offer. When he looked at her, he saw imperfect perfection. The silver hair, the glasses, the soft lines of living and the knowledge that together they had weathered the good and the bad. In sadness, they had discovered  strength. In happiness, they had experienced inner peace. In frustration, they had learned the importance of patience. Ultimately, their imperfect life was perfect.

“Don’t Touch!!!”

“Stop touching that!”

“Please don’t pick that up.”

“Put it back!”

As I listened to my voice repeating the mantra of one of the above for the upteenth time, it occurred to me to question my own sanity. Stepping back objectively, I had to ask myself why was I asking the same questions over and over again after almost fifteen years of repeating them to my now teenage son every time we were at some checkout or near anything he shouldn’t have his hands on.

As a youngster, it was the brightly colored candy wrappers at the grocery store. At the local bagel shop, it was the tip jar or neatly arranged business cards he couldn’t resist. At the pediatrician, he was a sucker for the stickers and lollipops, no pun intended. But the best irresistible paraphernalia lurked at the gas station counters: little red vials of 5-hour energy, an abundant display of cookies and, every parent’s favorite, handy dandy pocket lighters. Who wouldn’t want their toddler flicking a bic while waiting to pay for gas.

It brought me back to a distance memory that will remain one of my fondest although there is one friend who doesn’t share my opinion. We used to ship horses professionally and in doing so, were regular customers at certain truck stops. My son, as a toddler, always traveled with me. Driving a semi allowed him to enjoy the wide expanse of a double bunk, a television, VCR and cold juice from the refrigerator. It was a young boy’s dream. On one particular trip, we were fueling up for the last time before heading home. I’d left a deposit inside and was done topping off the tanks. Taking my hand, my son skipped alongside as we walked inside to purchase some chocolate milk for him and a pack of gum for me, get our change and be on our way. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, the type California is known for. Just before we entered the doors, my son did a little hop, skip and a jump and pulled a heretofore unnoticed lever. Frankly in all my years of stopping there, I had never really noticed it. We entered, retrieved our items and completed our transaction. While waiting for a fuel receipt, it became quite apparent something wasn’t quite right. A nearby cashier, a weathered middle aged woman with a bouffant hairdo masticating on a wad of Juicy Fruit, began swearing under her breath. She began banging the buttons on her electronic register with escalating force as if the thing would eventually cry uncle the harder she pushed. The line of customers began grumbling, softly at first, then their tone began to escalate as well. Grizzled truck drivers began filtering in, complaining loudly about the pumps not working.

With obvious exasperation, the cashier called for the manager over the loud speaker. “PAUL! I need you up to the front. RIGHT NOW!” From the back, a short, bald headed man following his ample belly came scurrying to the fuel counter asking what was wrong. The cashier voiced the problem loudly, “All the damned pumps are shut down. Nothin’s working! Some idiot must have pulled the emergency switch. DAMN IT!”

It didn’t take long to figure out what had happened. That heretofore unnoticed lever my son had spontaneously jumped up and pulled had completely shut down every fuel pump in the entire facility.  I could feel myself breaking into a cold sweat.  Worse, in his innocence, my four year old son was trying to confess to the crime. Now, I’m a great believer in honesty but I’m also a believer in survival. Scooping up my son, I said, “Let’s not bother the nice lady right now, sweetheart.” We skedaddled out of there weaving our way through a small throng of frustrated drivers elbowing their way inside.

I never shared that particular tale with anyone other than my husband until one day a year later. Meeting up with a trainer friend, I thought it was the kind of escapade he would appreciate, considering he possessed a wonderful sense of humor. Upon completion of the story, he looked at me for a good ten seconds before responding.

“Do you know, I was stranded there for at least three hours before they got those damn pumps working again?”

So here I was trying to pay for diesel and a cup of coffee when that memory came floating back. And again, my now young teenage son, who towers over most people including me, became instantly mesmerized with an unusually tinted lighter.

“Mom, take a look at this one.” Snatching up the lighter without thinking, he tried, once again, to flick his bic to no avail. I stopped myself in mid-scold.

“Yea, cool lighter.”

Thank goodness there are no emergency shutoff valves around here. In this town, they know where we live.

Written in response to a prompt. “Who is your Hero(ine)”

You’ve passed them on the sidewalk

that borders every street.

They possess no notable features

to shout their simple feats.

 

And yet these souls have simple traits,

what comes to mind are three.

They possess not only inner grace

but compassion and empathy.

 

There are many who feel a hero

is a noted person of deeds

but the everyday folk among us

fulfill simple wants and needs.

 

My hero was my father

who remained devoted to my mom

while a disease stole her all her memories

until she recognized no one.

 

My hero is my husband

reading to our son at night.

A simple gesture to be sure

but for my son, it’s pure delight.

 

My hero is a neighbor

left with four young boys to rear

while coping with her husband’s death

she gallantly perseveres.

 

My hero is my sister in law,

holding a dying woman’s hand.

refusing to let this gentle soul

pass alone when her time came.

 

My hero is the tall young man

offering an elderly woman his seat.

My hero is the school girl

who invites a new girl to sit and eat.

 

All these acts that no one sees

happen each and every day.

By modest folks who simply care.

Heroic in their own quiet way.

 

A Walk in the Woods

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Rule of Thirds.”

Growing up, we lived in a rural area. Every weekend, we would meet our friends and seek adventure. Those adventures usually amounted to nothing more than climbing a tree, catching tadpoles in the creek, kick the can, or capturing lightening bugs as dusk began to fall. They may not have been the most exciting of adventures but the memories made have lasted an entire lifetime. I like to think it was our imagination that led us to believe the tree we climbed was actually the mast of a sea going vessel, the tadpoles we captured would grow into frogs to scare our mothers and the can some sort of exploding device we needed to kick before it was too late. And the lightening bugs? Those were iridescent fairies we would keep under our bed to protect us from the bed monsters.

When I saw my son walking with his friends along this long, remote path which is part of a national preserve, the memories of my youth came flooding back. Stopping to let them walk ahead, I wondered what adventures they were imagining, what tales were they confiding to each other. I could hear their laughter floating toward me and it seemed fitting to capture the moment.

Taken on a long, long walk in a nearby nature preserve.

Taken on a long, long walk in a nearby nature preserve.

The Beauty of Teens

Anytime an article can snap you to attention, it’s worth noting. I stumbled on to this essay by accident or perhaps it was destined. Portraying teenage years in a positive and humorous light made me realize how lucky I am, how lucky my husband and I are, to be parents to a wonderful young man.

The Human Rights Warrior

Photo credit to my son Sevrin Photo taken by (and used with permission from) my son Sevrin at his high school sailing team practice.

As I write this, there are seven teens asleep in my basement.  My son and his friends came back from their high school dance in high spirits last night. Laughing and joking loudly, they boisterously descended on my kitchen, devouring everything within reach (even some chips that I thought I had hidden pretty well).  These guys were the human equivalent of an invading colony of army ants, foraging insatiably through my refrigerator.

Now these boy-men are dead to the world, asleep in a puppy pile on my basement floor.  And I have to be honest – I am loving every single thing about these teens.   In fifteen plus years of parenthood, I have grown accustomed to – perhaps, in some ways, inured to – the many and diverse aspects of wonder in…

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