Well, there you go. No sooner had I recovered from the craven clam murder attempt detailed in last month’s missive than I was laid low by the Flu from Hell, and I’m still not over it. Bleh. No, I’m not sure what kind it was. We don’t cotton to doctors out here in the boonies. If one of our kin takes sick, we just carry ’em out into the woods, tie ’em to a big rock, and hope the coyotes don’t get ’em afore spring.
Anyway, I know it’s March now, but I’m still calling this the February edition because, barring some further catastrophe, I intend to put up another batch later this month. This batch does not, however, have any of the usual odd illustrations in it, so you’ll have to get out your Crayolas and draw your own on your monitors.
Onward. This is a real long shot, but here goes. If anyone out there has a laptop computer of semi-recent vintage (more recent than 2005 or so) that you’re not using (but which does work, and has a CD-R or DVD drive), please consider popping it in a box and sending it to P.O. Box 1, Millersport, OH 43046. The one I’ve been trying to use was made in — I kid you not — 1998, and it just doesn’t cut it (if it ever did, which I doubt). The operating system is irrelevant, since I’d probably just replace it with Linux. If somebody has an aging IBM Thinkpad, that would be awesome (cause I love that little pointer thingy), but anything functional would be appreciated. Even that little netbook you got carried away and bought but don’t really like…. Or someone with pots of money could buy me something like this.
There’s actually a good reason for this request, having to do with my mobility (or lack thereof). I spend a lot of time climbing up and down stairs during the day, and past a certain point it becomes very painful, so it would be nice to be able to do some work downstairs. It would also be helpful to have when the lights go out and we have to pile in the car and drive 20 miles to the Caribou Coffee place with wifi so we can send our columns to the newspapers.
Speaking of which, the inability of the local electric co-op to keep the power on in anything more than a stiff breeze made last month’s snow-a-thon a real nailbiter around here. The lights actually went out four or five times one night for a minute or two at a time, which usually means they’re about to conk out for good, but they miraculously stayed on. If the power goes out, we lose lights, heat, water and most of the stove, and, since this house, dating to the 1860s, is insulated with horse hair, it quickly becomes very cold in here.
When we first moved out here, the power company came by at least once every summer to trim limbs and check the lines. Mirabile dictu, power outages were very rare. That kind of maintenance stopped around 2004, and now it’s not unusual to have outages ranging from two hours to two days several times per year. People with the means to do so are installing whole-house generating systems, and I realized last month that something like that would change the way I look at snow. Growing up in Connecticut, we had far more snow than Ohio gets, plus some pretty serious storms coming off the Atlantic. But we never lost power, except for once when the entire Northeast went dark in the mid-60s. So storms were kinda neat. But out here, we spend all night waiting for the other shoe to drop. Not fun.
We did end up losing half of a very large tree last month right outside my office window. It split right down the trunk during one storm, with a huge limb missing my office window by inches and nearly smashing the air-conditioning unit outside the kitchen window. I happened to be sitting on the couch in front of my office window when it broke off. Interesting. Then again, that tree has had a grudge against me for years. It was the one struck by lightning a few years back, which traveled down the trunk, became ball lightning when it hit the ground, and then floated about ten feet across the yard and zapped me. About six months later I began to exhibit the first really serious symptoms of MS. Coinkydink? I doubt it.
Speaking of rural drama, I ventured outside (always a bad idea) one morning a few weeks ago when the wind was blowing razor-edged snow at about 30 mph and the wind chill was down around 2 degrees. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a small cat making its way across the snow toward the house, which is very unusual because most feral cats around here take off as as soon as you step out of the door. This one, however, seemed oblivious to my presence and headed over to the leeward side of the house near a vent into the crawlspace under the front porch. There it huddled against whatever small warmth was coming from the house.
I’ve become used to seeing feral cats on our land over the years, and I’ve developed the ability to resist the impulse to invite them inside for a cup of joe and a better life. We have more cats than we need already (though I really can’t think of one I’d be willing to give up). But this cat was clearly starving and in distress, so I went inside and brought it out some cat food (shoot me now), of which it ate a bit, still showing no fear of me. Then it put its head down and seemed to pass out. I poked it gently with my boot and it didn’t react. At all. It sure looked like it was dying.
Crunch time. It’s one thing to look past a feral cat twenty feet away in warm weather. It’s another to watch one dying in front of you.
So I got a cat-carrier out of the garage, picked up the little critter by the scruff of its neck (still no reaction), carried it into the house, and put it in the bathroom off the kitchen. I left it in the carrier and brought it some more food, but it was unresponsive. It clearly had pretty serious hypothermia, but all I could do was keep it warm and hope for the best.
A couple of hours later, it seemed more animated and interested in food and water, so I made it a little bed next to the sink and reached into the carrier, intending to gently pull it out. Bad idea. The little darling had apparently thawed sufficiently to recognize me as its mortal enemy, and as soon as my hand was within six inches of its flank, it went completely berserk and did its best to bite off the tip of my right index finger. Yow. Blood everywhere, a la the old Julia Child SNL skit. My finger took weeks to heal.
Long story short, Miss Psycho Cat eventually calmed down a bit and lived in the bathroom for two weeks, and is presently residing in the corner of my office in a little pink cat bed we bought her at Target. She lets us pet her if we are very, very quiet and move slowly. I doubt that she was truly feral. She used the kitty litter from day one, she plays with cat toys, and she isn’t freaked out by the presence of other cats. I think she was somebody’s cat and then spent some months, or longer, out there on her own. I suspect she’s actually a sweet little cat. But I have a history of believing a lot of stupid things.
What else … I was sitting in the car at the local Post Office a few weeks ago when an SUV with handicapped tags pulled into the lot and a 60-ish man got out and opened the back hatch. He reached in and pulled out one of those new-style fancy collapsible walkers, and, as he unfolded it, I noticed that it was festooned with all sorts of doodads ranging from things that looked like saddlebags (handy, I suppose) to a cupholder (of course) and a long leather bag-like thing I couldn’t identify hanging off the right-hand grip. I was paying this level of attention because I now have to use a cane to walk when we go out, so, as an official gimp, I have a newfound interest in mobility technology. (I actually have two old-style walkers out in the garage, inherited from Kathy’s mother, but they’re the uncool silvery aluminum old-lady kind. No way.)
So then the guy turns back to his vehicle, opens a hatch in the floor of the cargo compartment, reaches in, and pulls out a humongous revolver, I mean Dirty Harry .44 Magnum humongous, sticks it in what I now realize is the large leather holster on the right grip of the walker, and toddles off. In broad daylight in small town Ohio. On Federal property, no less. Whoa.
I don’t have a problem with guns, generally. Everyone out here has guns. But what’s the plan here? Not gonna take any more guff from the village pharmacist? Planning to settle a score at the Elks Lodge? Or just free-range paranoid? This is, of course, a town that drove the Pakistani-owned Quickee-Mart out of business because they were convinced that the owner (a nice guy, in my experience) was a terrorist sleeper agent. Just another day in Weirdville, I guess.
And that’s the news from East Ratsass, where all the pizza is soggy, all the animals have attitude, and the elements themselves conspire against you. And now, on with our show….