Another life ruined, as Amelia Peabody might say*

Last time I ruined a guy's life, I insisted that the Woolly Mammoth take a fourth year of French in high school. That was five years ago. Apparently, I haven't lost my touch.

Now I'm ruining my dad's life by moving him into assisted living. It's not entirely my fault. I have to share his resentment with my sister. The difference is that he feels more betrayed by me, as I've long been his solid rock of support.

The Woolly Mammoth hasn't actually expressed gratitude for my French class insistence. He does admit that he gained many free credit hours toward his degree and an early "upperclassman" status his first year of college due to my torture.

I can hope that someday my dad may acknowledge certain benefits derived by my interference in his life. We both know he has fewer years left to come around to my way of thinking on this matter.

When I went back to work after the divorce I discouraged my early-teen sons from phoning my place of employment unless there was "blood on the rug". I needed them to handle their own petty disputes and develop their self-sufficiency so I could bring in some bacon.

"Blood on the rug" is a useful guideline. Unfortunately the past year has brought many situations where Dad had to use his Lifeline pager to get help after falls and injuries. His neighbors and relatives worried every time their phones rang that Dad had fallen again. We were all dreading the call from a stranger informing us that Dad had been unable to page Lifeline, that he was found unconscious in a pool of blood on the linoleum or rug.

Dad probably won't do a junior year abroad in Italy. He may never thank me for removing him from his home of fifty-plus years. I hope that he meets some other alert seniors, and has an improved quality of life in his new assisted-living apartment. I hope to anticipate his chatty calls instead of dreading "blood on the rug" notifications. Maybe we will get past the resentments and petty disputes. Maybe I can keep bringing home a little bacon while still being Dad's emotional support. Sure would hate to think this is my last chance to ruin a guy's life.


© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Petula Clark cleans out her folks' house

"Don't Dive In Your Own Dang Dumpster" is the first hit single for Petula's comeback. The flip side of the 45 rpm is "When You're Alone and Life Is Making You Lonely You Can Always Move Into Assisted Living."

Petula doesn't wear make-up by Yardley for this music video. She is too sweaty dragging that ancient couch out of the basement to heave into the Dumpsters R Us construction container plunked on the driveway. Sometimes it is necessary to rearrange the contents of the twenty-yard dumpster in order to accommodate more and more. This can be done by pushing the contents while standing on the dumpster side rails, but should NOT be done by diving. Just FYI, Petula might want to put the biggest junk in first.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Knievel Anole or Anole Oakley?

Recently Robbie Knievel, the son of Evel, jumped his motorcycle over two Budweiser trucks near the state capital building in Austin, Texas. This stunt did not impress me. I was much more awed by Stubby's leap from the forehead of the clay mask across 2.5 feet into the canna bloom. The little lizard with the short tail seems to have mastered the art of reckless abandon when it comes to patio jumps.

Stubby is still shy when I head outside with my camera. He raced from the flowers into the hiding spots among large canna leaves.

Had to dig out my Edith Hamilton's Mythology to get my story straight. Stubby didn't spring from the terra cotta mask forehead full-grown and in full armor like Pallas Athena from the head of Zeus. It was still an impressive leap.

Wondering tonight why I respect Annie Oakley's stunts but not Robbie Knievel's. Had a great visit to the Annie Oakley Center at the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio on a rainy day this month. Annie was a class act, and a much better role model for young Stubby than Mr. Knievel. The image below is of mother-of-pearl opera glasses given to Ms. Oakley by Princess Alexandra, wife of England's Prince Edward. Alexandra's photo is in the oval frame.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Foxy Loxy in Local Lock-up

During the years my eldest son has worked in university residence halls, he has managed various wildlife/student situations. Deer seem to consider campus quadrangles desirable dining spots. "Bambi Goes to College" sounds like a low budget porn movie, but it is really more like a "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" show with Marlin Perkins than you might imagine.

Now my small Montessori school in the middle of the Dallas metropolex is having its own close encounter with wildlife. On the first morning of summer school we watched a coyote-like animal trot casually past the preschool windows. It's head seemed small for a coyote. Its fur was gray/beige. It had a prominent black ridge along the length of its tail. This animal was also completely unafraid to be walking between a dentist's office and a private school at mid-morning.

For several weeks there have been sightings of this canid creature near the school, usually emerging from the wooded area along a creek and behind a very urban office park dumpster. In early morning headlights it appeared to be a "white fox". The first person to arrive at school would spot an animal chomping on its breakfast prey of bird or rodent. The second person usually cleaned up the souvenir scat it left on the playground. From a distance it looked like a wild dog or coyote. Eventually we realized there were two distinct animals hanging around the neighborhood.

Scat mess on the playground is an inconvenience. Possibly unafraid rabid mammals strolling as close as window-shoppers at the mall in broad daylight is a significant concern. These animals should be nocturnal and hide from humans. Calling Animal Control seemed like the prudent thing to do.

Animal Control suggested we remove the birdfeeder outside the school. Nighttime rodents eating spilled seeds beneath the feeder probably kept the larger predators fed. It took about two days before one of our school visitors ended up in the trap set near the creek. The Animal Control employee was surprised how docile the animal was, and informed us that gray foxes can be more agressive. We also learned the gray fox can climb trees, and doesn't get rabies. After a day or so in the slammer, our canid visitor will be released in a less-populated area. Animal Control will reset the trap to lure its probable mate. Tonight I'm worrying that there are little foxy-loxies down by the creek or up in the hollow of a tree.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Bye Baby Bunting

Ohio is the land of porch patriotic bunting, although that is not its slogan on car license plates. Red, white, and blue decorations must be recommended, if not actually required, in every sort of Ohio community.

This particular bunted abode is the former home of William Holmes McGuffey. The writer of the McGuffey Readers series lived in this house from 1826 to 1836:

It was during his years at Miami when McGuffey was approached to write a series of readers for school children. In addition to the work done on these by William Holmes McGuffey, he was assisted by his brother, Alexander Hamilton McGuffey, who also compiled a speller and had sole responsibility for the Fifth Reader. Alexander taught school while working on his law degree and opened a law office in Cincinnati in 1839. The McGuffey Readers sold over 125,000,000 copies.

Why do folks in the Buckeye State bunt so profusely? This was something to consider during the Reds vs. Cubs game which had a few instances of bunting.

1825, "to strike with the head or horns," perhaps an alteration of butt (as a goat), or from M.E. bounten "to return." Baseball term is from 1889. [from the Online Etymology Dictionary]

My old American Heritage dictionary shows bunt as a variant of butt with horns or head. In baseball, it is to bat a pitched ball with a half swing, and with the upper hand supporting the middle of the bat, so that the ball rolls slowly in front of the infielders. Bunt also has a nautical usage, being the middle section of a square sail or the sagging middle part of a fishnet. And then there's the agricultural bunt disease of wheat, rye, and other cereal grasses caused by fungi of the genus Tilletia and resulting in sooty black spores in place of normal seeds. Ick.

What does "bunting" mean?

bunting (1)
"flag material," 1742, perhaps from M.E. bonting gerundive of bonten "to sift," because cloth was used for sifting grain, via O.Fr. from V.L. *bonitare "to make good." [from the Online Etymology Dictionary]

A light cotton or woolen cloth used for making flags. Flags collectively. Long, colored strips of cloth used for festive decoration. [Origin unknown]

bunting (2)
"type of lark-like bird," c.1300, bountyng, maybe from buntin "plump" (cf. baby bunting, also Scots buntin "short and thick;" Welsh bontin "rump," and bontinog "big-assed"), or a double dim. of Fr. bon. [from the Online Etymology Dictionary]

Any of various birds of the family Fringillidae, having short, cone-shaped bills.

A snug-fitting, hooded sleeping bag for infants. [From "Bye, Baby Bunting," a nursery rhyme, origin and meaning unknown.]

Then there's the matter of the buntline. It's a rope that keeps a square sail from bellying when it is being hauled up for furling. Edward Zane Carroll Judson chose the pseudonym Ned Buntline for his sensational newswriting and dime novels about Buffalo Bill Cody.

Where does Ohio fit in this, with its bounty of pleated fan bunting and flag-festooned porches?

I'm only guessing that it dates way back to the "front-porch" presidential campaigns of Ohioans James A. Garfield in 1880 and William McKinley in 1896.

This little side note for folks like me from the hometown of William Jennings Bryan:

"McKinley's opposing candidate, William Jennings Bryan, gave over 600 speeches and traveled many miles all over the United States to campaign, but McKinley outdid this by spending about twice as much money campaigning. While McKinley was at his Canton, Ohio, home conducting his "front-porch campaign", Mark Hanna was out raising millions to help with the campaign." [from Wikipedia]

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Headless Sherman and extra-inning Reds

My Ohio roadtrip highlights reel includes a child jumping out of a car wearing her softball uniform. She was hurrying into Pickerington, Ohio's own Planet Coffee with her dad. I was stunned by her fabulous candy cane/barber pole knee socks. I was so envious!

Neither the Cincinnati Reds nor the Chicago Cubs had such awesome socks. I loved watching boats and barges on the river beyond the stadium as our game went into extra innings.

Planet Coffee has another claim to fame. A statue of General William Tecumseh Sherman stands near the coffee shop patio in this strip mall. Sherman is missing his head. The statue is nonequestrian. Why is it there?

I've got to give Ohio credit. It sure provokes a lot of Googling for trivia answers. Turns out the real General Sherman was born not far from Pickerington in Lancaster, Ohio. Maybe coffee shops in Lincoln, Nebraska should have headless statues of General John J. Pershing or perennial presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan.

Back home in North Texas we've had odd rainbow sherbet skies in the evenings. Three dips--lemon, orange, and lime, but no waffle cones. It takes many days to reset myself after a roadtrip. The questions raised on a good trip keep me searching for many stay-at-home months.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Empress tree at Jackson's Hermitage

Intrigued by the gigantic heart-shaped leaves and odd pods on the gigantic tree, I knew I'd be checking the Tree Notes blog when I got home from my road trip. The label on this tree outside Andrew Jackson's Hermitage home read "Empress Tree". This single specimen did not worry me that it was an invasive species, but I wondered if it was foreign or primeval.

The kudzu in Natchez Trace State Park, Tennessee, was obviously a more agressive and invasive plant. In some versions of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale the kingdom is overgrown with briar wood while the princess slumbers. Kudzu could cover the kingdom while the princess took a power nap!

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Harvest gold Rival?

Pretty envious of the twenty-something woman sporting this t-shirt. Some of us don't play air guitar, but we fantasize virtuoso crockpot suppers.

The Cotton Factory, http://store.cottonfactory.com, sells the shirt for $18.99 plus $3.00 shipping and handling. I'm wondering why the shirt isn't available in harvest gold or avocado green.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


Medic garden at Shaker Village

Yarrow, the tag tells me, repels insects and is used for yellow dye. I'm visiting the cool cellar exhibits in the Centre Family Dwelling at Shaker Village, Pleasant Hill, Kentucky, and perusing the rack of dried plants. Medicinal plants are growing in orderly rows just outside the building. There's comfrey, tansy, boneset, white and yellow yarrow, lavendar, and many more. The bees are going crazy at the purple comfrey flowers. A skipper butterfly enjoys the yarrow.

Shaker Village at Pleasant Hill was a high point of my recent road trip. Living history demonstrations of spinning, weaving, and laundering were intriguing. The Shaker beliefs speaker was outstanding. I came away wanting to know more about this sect's beliefs. Mostly, I soaked up the Shaker aesthetic of spirituality, simplicity, craftsmanship as meditation, and a peaceful feeling of breathing space. Efficiency and energy are everywhere evident, but nothing is cluttered or crowded. There is space for the spirit, and spirit in the place.

The West Family Wash House

Yellow was an important color to the Shakers. Each building was painted according to its function. Farm barns and corn cribs were charcoal black or red. Work buildings were painted golden yellow. Dwellings were cream-colored. The spiritual meeting house was white.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder

Stubby foretold

Last time I was in Lincoln I visited the Mary Riepma Ross Media Arts Center at UNL. Didn't go to see a film. Just wanted to see the Art-O-Mat vending machine in the lobby. I didn't know pulling the knob for my five dollar original art purchase would yield a portent of my patio friend, Stubby, the short-tailed anole.

Art-O-Mats are repurposed cigarette vending machines sponsored by Artists In Cellophane. Visit the website to find one near you.

© 2009 Nancy L. Ruder


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