February Photos

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Monday, May 12, 2003 - More Floods -- But the Birds are Back!

Monday morning Larry blew out the pipes to the tub, which fixed them.  Boy, did it ever fix them.  Now the water shoots in so violently, and the tub fills so fast, we all take snorkel and mask with us to the bathroom, just in case we don’t get the water turned off in time.       
Keith came that evening to help put studs up in the downstairs bathroom.  Lydia’s bed has now been moved to the big part of the room, to the area that may someday be the kitchen.
“I hope nobody trips as they’re coming down the stairs at night,” she remarked, “or they’re going to land right on top of me!”
A little while before sunset, the clouds were traveling overhead at a rapid pace.  Thunderclouds loomed on all horizons.  There was a lot of lightning and thunder.  But it rained and the wind blew hard for only a little bit, and then was all calm again.  We could hear several different kinds of frogs, including northern cricket frogs and bullfrogs, from my office window.  They are probably in and around all those ‘lakes’ in the fields and ditches.
Did you know that the African giant frog, the largest of all frogs, grows as long as 26 inches and weighs as much as 10 pounds?  Ugh!  I’m sure glad I don’t live there.  But I guess they need that size of frog to eat up all their enormous insects.  Yike.  Makes Antarctica seem pleasant and agreeable, yes?
             Jim C. moved a huge log with his tractor to our front yard next to the ditch, where Larry put dirt around it and is using it as a dike to keep water from flooding the yard.  Hopefully, the water will now be directed into the culvert properly.  He also brought his lawn mower for Larry to repair and service.  I think he speaks the truth when he says, “There ain’t nothin’ Larry can’t fix!”
            Tuesday morning after taking Hester, Lydia, and Caleb to school, Victoria and I went to the grocery store.  One time when in the bakery department, I bought only frozen bread, reasoning that if I didn’t get regular ready-made bread, then I’d be forced to bake the frozen stuff, which is always so scrumptious.  Now, that might make perfect sense in the light of day, but in the middle of the night, when it suddenly occurs to me that we have no bread for lunch the next day, it seems quite berserk.  My bread machine is sitting ready and waiting atop my pattern file in the washroom; but I have yet to use it since we’ve moved.  Bread machines in washrooms are not extremely handy.
           We then went to Wal-Mart for ink, typing paper, and a scrapbook.  We came home, put groceries away, ate muffins, and read the newspaper.  I came upstairs to my office to print my letter.  By then, it was 11:00.  I fired up my computer, pulled up my document – and the electricity went off.  On.  Off.
           “Victoria!” I cried, “You’re kicking the cord, you’re making it come unplugged!”
            Victoria, who’d been playing with dolls, dishes, stuffed animals, books, colors, and coloring books on my big lighthouse rug, sat up and stared at me.  I looked at the cord and realized it was a good two feet from her – and it dawned on me that, not only was my computer off, but so was the light, the furnace, and the tape player.
           “Oh!” I said, “Sorry!  Guess it wasn’t you, after all.”
            I called Cornhusker Public Power.
          “We are in the dark here at our office, too,” the receptionist told me.  “Linesmen are already out trying to find the problem.”
           Perhaps it was lightning, for the sky was covered with dark, ominous clouds most of the morning and afternoon.
           I gathered up everything we needed for lunch, took Lydia’s glasses to Wal-Mart to have a new screw put in them, did a couple of other errands, and got to Mama’s house five minutes early.  By the time I got home, the electricity was back on, and soon the sun was shining into my office window so brightly that I could hardly see the monitor screen.  But the microwave clock gained ten minutes to every hour, until Amy suggested that I unplug it and then plug it back in.  Presto, abracadabra, voilá!  Fixed.
           A week or two ago, Dorcas gave Lydia and Victoria an American Girls' Collection Activity Booklet.  They’d finished several of the projects, so I took them to Dee’s Hallmark Card and Gift to get stickers affixed to their books.  And – best of all – they were awarded a cute little pin with a picture of an ‘American Girl’ for each completed activity.
          After that, we went to the library so Lydia could get some books about pianos for a report she was doing on industries.  Hester went with her, and the bookworm came back out with an armload of books so high she could hardly see over the top of them.  We went back to Wal-Mart – third time that day – to get Lydia some notebook paper for school.  Why don’t they tell me what they need before I go to the store?!  Oh, well; I’d forgotten to get Norma and Mama a Mother’s Day present and card anyway.
          For Norma I got a set of stone coasters and a hot plate with lighthouse pictures on them, and two envelopes of potpourri.  For Mama, I got potpourri envelopes, two big bags of potpourri, and a heart-shaped glass dish and a round glass dish with fluted top in which to put the potpourri.
          Dorcas brought us chicken rice casserole for supper that night.  We had fruit and S’mores pudding for dessert.  Mmmm…
         Noble House, a publishing company based in London, with offices in France and New York, has asked me to send one of my poems for publication in their newest poetry edition.  It’s just like International House of Poetry:  I will be famous, but I will not be rich.  In fact, I should send them money!  The more the merrier!  [If I want a copy of the book, I must pay for it.  If I want a short biography in the book, I must pay for it.]  I sent them a poem, nothing more.
         Keith came and helped Larry Tuesday night.  They put the shower walls on the tub and got it all positioned properly, framing it in where there will be built-in knotty pine cabinets and cupboards.
        It rained Wednesday, and we felt a bit soggy going to church that evening.  As Dorcas once said when she was not quite two, “Zis woo-ins mine hay-ooo!”  (This ruins my hair.)
          Thursday, it rained most of the day.  The lady who stays with Mama in the mornings had made a large pan of chicken enchiladas, enough for all of us at dinnertime.  She’d also baked banana cake with poppy seeds and cream cheese frosting, and she gave us some of that, too.
Dorcas had gone with Hannah and the children to see the doctor, but he was running late, and they didn’t get to see him until almost noon.  So I stayed with Mama until Dorcas returned, playing her electronic piano.
We have seen a mallard drake and hen swimming in a full ditch of water beside Shady Lake Road each day.  That afternoon as I was bringing the children home from school, the drake started flying just as I drove past – and he stayed even with my window for a quarter of a mile or so.  The sun was shining on him, and his colors shimmered and shone in the light.  “Quack, quack!” he said with some degree of alarm, peering through my window right into my face.  He just couldn’t seem to get away from us.  And then he got smart and banked sharply to the left and rose higher in the sky.
Victoria brought a bean plant home from school.  It was about 10” tall.  We planted it on the west side of the porch.  She is delighted that it is standing up straight and tall, hale and hearty, and she tends to it faithfully every day.
“Are there any beans on it yet?” she asks anxiously.
Keith came out to help Larry Thursday night.  It wasn’t long before they ‘ran themselves out of a job’, as Larry said, because there was no more they could do without purchasing more supplies.  Keith was the first to notice:  there is grass coming up here and there on our hillside.  Would you ever believe it?  Of course, not where the real rivers flowed, but on every section of higher ground, there is grass.  Real, honest-to-goodness grass.  We are glad; every little bit will help.
There is still a small leak in Hester’s new room.  The gutters need to be cleaned out; several pieces of siding need to be replaced…  Larry says he’ll probably have to build a roof over that porch.  We look around at similar houses, and we decide, “Yes, we’ll have a porch;” “No, it’ll look ‘attached’;” “I’m sure we can make it look nice;” “No, it’ll look better without a roof, with only fancy white railing all the way around;” and so forth and so on, back and forth.  But we are beginning to think that a porch roof might be a necessity.  I am heartily sick to death of washing, rewashing, and then rewashing again, clothes that have gotten drowned.
I’d just finished washing all the clothes…and then I had to wash a box full of skirts that got wet in the storage room.  I hung a few things and emptied out more boxes.  The hostas were swamped, and I supposed they were ruined.
Larry told me that our neighbor Richard A. remarked, “Your children must be feeding Winston, because he hasn’t been eating as much at home, and he isn’t getting skinny.”
“What would they be feeding him?” I wondered, knowing we’d had no leftovers recently.
“I saw Hester tossing crackers out the door to him earlier,” Larry informed me.
Aaaauuuugggghhhh!  Crackers!  Those were for humans, to go with our soup, not for neighbor dogs, and I hadn’t even had any yet!  Dumb kids.
          Jim C. has let his cows into the south pasture; they aren’t in the field beside us anymore.  There is tall, green bromegrass there, and they like it.  He was riding his big white horse around his property, checking all the fence, when Richard A. came out to confront him – and there was Larry, right betwixt them, in the position we’ve both hoped to avoid.
“What were you doing on my property, digging up my dirt?” demanded Richard.
Jim had indeed done just that with his tractor, using the dirt to fill in a gully that had washed across the lane.  A couple of weeks ago he repositioned his cattle guard, and since he only filled in the culvert with dirt, there is no place for the water to go but straight across the road.
“Just leveling out the lane,” Jim told him, looking down at him condescendingly.
“Why don’t you get down from that horse, and I’ll show you I’m younger than you think I am!!” bawled Mr. A.
“Why don’t you come a little closer, and my horse will kick you right in the head!” offered Mr. C.
Larry busied himself with whatever he’d been doing and pretended he was deaf.  Good grief!  These are men in their 70s, acting like that!  And we live smack-dab in between them.  The Bible says in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”  Hmmm.  I wonder, how do you bring peace between two old coots who want to strangle each other cold?  It’s a good thing it was Larry out there instead of me.  I’d have probably ordered them, “Stop talking to each other like that!  For shame!” – and that would be the end of any friendship we might have with either of them.
We went to bed at a quarter till midnight, an unheard-of early hour.  But we felt like it had been days and days since we last slept.  Then at 1:00 a.m., there was such an awful noise from one of the cats just outside our bedroom window – a scream, a snarl, a howl, a growl, and more screams – that I thought a coyote must have nabbed him or her, and we’d never see the puss again so long as we lived.
             But Friday morning we found all the cats alive and well; evidently one of our cats had merely been having a conversation with one of the neighbor cats.
That afternoon, Hester, Lydia, and Caleb went on a field trip to the airport to watch a model airplane show.  The airport manager later called to tell my sister Lura Kay, our principal, how much he and the ‘pilots’ appreciated the good behavior and attentiveness of our students.  Not long ago, an official from Loup Power District came and gave a speech and demonstration on electrical safety.  He, too, complimented our students on their well-mannered behavior and quiet listening, and on the intelligent questions several of them posed.
Hannah and the children came visiting.  Aaron, who has four grandmas, including his great-grandmas, is going to think that Grandma Jackson is the one with boxes all over her house; he probably can’t well remember either house any other way.  Baby Joanna weighs over 17 pounds now.
It was not until after school that Lydia advised me that she’d received an invitation to her friend Dorothy’s birthday party that afternoon.  Dorothy is the third child of my friend Malinda, who died in childbirth a year and a half ago.  It’s hard to believe it’s been that long.
Anyway, the party started at 4:00; we had no gift; it would take fifteen minutes to get there; and it was 3:45 already.
I turned the Subdivision toward Wal-Mart.
It took us ten minutes to pick out a tall, fat, hand-painted glass vase, along with a large, fancy pink dahlia bulb.  I grabbed a box of ‘spiritual’ birthday cards in which was one that spoke of planting seeds of kindness and reaping joy.  As we drove, Lydia put the dirt and bulb into the vase and signed the card.  One needn’t wrap a plant, so we were all set.  We were only ten minutes late.
We’d only just pulled into the drive when Helen, the children’s grandmother who used to be one of our school teachers before Malinda died, rushed out and gave us a tan ruffled skirt for Lydia, jerking off the price tag as she handed it to me.  Helen is my brother-in-law John's sister, and they are alike in that they are both extraordinarily generous.
When we got home, we discovered that Jim C. had brought us a big box of fruit, including two cartons of scrumptious strawberries.  Mmmm…  Now, why doesn’t he try some of his munificence and benevolence on Richard A.?  Maybe even a little tolerance.  After all, Mr. A.’s ‘collection’ isn’t hurting Jim, except perhaps for wounding his sensibilities.  He does keep all that junk in sorted groups, with walkways through it all; and he does diligently dig up all the dandelions throughout his property.  In the words of Rodney King, and Booker T. Washington before him, Why can’t we all just get along?!!
But... let me tell you where all this produce is coming from:  Jim C. drives around town to each of the grocery stores in turn, collecting all the fresh foodstuffs they're preparing to throw out, tells them it's for his Black Angus cattle (they won't give it to people for human consumption, after it's expired), and soon here he comes home again, van loaded with food.  He sorts through it, saves the best for himself, gives us anything else that still looks edible -- and tosses the rest into his pasture for his cows.  This is all supposed to be a Big Secret, so you mustn't tell.
             By 6:00 p.m., Hester had started the garbage burning, Caleb had swept the steps, Victoria had shaken the rugs, and potatoes were baking in the oven.  The kids headed outside to play.
I found a picture of a couple of Dalmatian pups in an old calendar.  After cutting it to the right size, I affixed it to a plaque one of the children had received when they were in Jr. Fire Patrol.  It has a 3‑D fireman’s hat and, under that, where there used to be a yellow paper with the child’s name typed in, and the words Jr. Fire Marshall, is the cute picture of the Dalmatian pups tussling over a stick.  I hung the picture on one side of Caleb’s mirror.  On the other side I hung a picture of Dalmatian pups playing with a fireman’s hat; they are both just above the Dalmatian trim that runs all around the room.
            Keith came home with Larry, and they unloaded his pickup.  It held, among other things, the wood flooring from the other house.  There will be enough for Hester’s room, and maybe even for Lydia’s, and most of it still looks like new.  Caleb took an old mattress down to Jim C.’s burn pile on the lawn tractor.
I transplanted the drowned hostas to higher ground; they did not enjoy swimming, as water got in their ears.
We were just finishing supper when Lydia found two or three ticks crawling happily about on her arm and neck.  When I gave Victoria a bath, I found two crawling in her hair, one attached to her head, and one on the floor.  Ugh!  Shudder!  Shiver!  I had ticks, tarantulas, termites, tiger beetles, and tailless whipscorpions that didn’t feel tailless at all racing madly up and down my spine the rest of the evening.
Teddy and Amy came visiting while I was juicing carrots, celery, and apples, using Mama’s big juicer.  I like carrot juice.  With one or two sticks of celery.  Too much celery makes it bitter.  And maybe an apple for a little more sweetness.  I know somebody who likes cabbage juice.  Don’t worry; I’m not that far off the beam.
Teddy and Amy brought me a Mother’s Day card and a rose bush that will sport big, beautiful pink and yellow blooms.  So now I feel better about leaving behind that pretty miniature rosebush he gave me several years ago.  I tried to dig it up, but couldn’t.  It was too big, and the ground too hard.
Larry came home wet and cold at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.  Walkers had dug a basement, set up forms, and poured it, too, in the rain.  It wasn’t raining hard, but enough to drench a person if he was in it very long.  He ate a big bowl of split pea and ham soup, and a grilled cheese sandwich.  He brought Keith with him; they’d been to Menards for supplies to work on the bathtub/shower downstairs.
“Whose shoes are on the porch?” asked Larry as he came in.
Aaccchhhh!  They were mine.  Were they ever a mess.  Mud was still caked on the bottom (from digging up the hostas); but they were filled to the brim with water, and the leather – yes, leather – was soaked.  Yes, we do need a roof over the porch.  (By the way, the hostas are revived, alive, and thriving.)
Hannah and the children came, bringing me a snowmound spirea bush.  There were tiny white buds all over it.  By the next day, many of them had bloomed into tiny white flowers.
Lydia’s biome was due today.  She’d collected everything she needed during the last couple of weeks.  Larry had cut a sturdy box down to size for her, and she’d filled it with sand, dirt, and a few rocks – and put it in the basement where she thought it wouldn’t be disturbed.  Three guesses what happened to it, and the first two don’t count.
That’s right; cats.  One of them, anyway; anybody’s guess which one.  I’m sure he/she was greatly appreciative that somebody was so thoughtful as to put a litterbox in the basement for him/her, so he/she wouldn’t have to exert himself/herself to come all the way back upstairs every time he/she needed to go.
Lydia was distressed.  “I had it all fixed up so neat!” she wailed.  “Those horrible cats!”
I dumped the dirt outside, and Caleb tossed the box out the patio door for later burning when it wasn’t raining.  I emptied another box, and we started over.  That was about the time Hannah arrived.  Keith went out to help carry in kids and paraphernalia.  Lydia set about entertaining Aaron.  I wrapped the box with Christmas paper that was mostly brown, with pine cones and needles all over it – just the thing for a coniferous forest biome.  Lydia’s science teacher had loaned Lydia a bunch of little animals.  One cute little figurine of a couple of squirrels had fallen onto the basement floor, and both their tails broke off.  So the first thing I had to do was to glue the poor thing back together again.  I wonder where she got it; we need to get her a new one.  I put dirt, rocks, and plants into the box.  By the time Hannah left not long later, the biome was done, and Lydia was consoled.  In fact, she was well pleased.
“It looks like we’ve spent a long, long time on it!” she exclaimed happily.
Hester helped Victoria make Mother’s Day cards for Mama and Norma.  They then colored  pictures and I wrapped the presents.  Lacking bows, I taped a handful of silk flowers to the top of each present.  While hunting for a box, I came upon my weatherball!  I promptly took it to the sink to fill it.  Those things are hard to fill, did you ever try it?  When it was almost as full as it ought to be {half full}, it occurred to me that I needed to put food coloring into the water.  Of course, one is supposed to put food coloring into the water before one fills the ball.  The only bottle of food coloring in the spice cupboard was yellow.  Thank you; no yellow water.  Lydia opened an old egg-dying kit, and, sure enough, it held all sorts of dyes – in powdered form.  I mixed up the blue, and then carefully trickled it into the ball.  I now have a weatherball on my desk with the brightest blue water you ever did see.  I’ve missed that thing!  It’s been packed away since before Christmas.  After packing it – very carefully, I did – many were the times I’d glance at the top of my desk to see if the water was rising, signaling an approaching storm.  Right now, 6:40 p.m., the water has risen almost to the top of the tube, halfway filling the small ball at the top of the tube.  My Oregon weather clock shows a picture of clouds and rain.  Wonder if we’re in for a storm?
Saturday night, we had baked potatoes for supper, covered with split pea and ham soup; and Lydia made Twice-the-Blueberries muffins.  The house smelt scrumptious.
And then – “Don’t anybody flush anything,” Keith called up the steps, “I’m working on the main water conduit!”
Of course, that made everyone need to use the water facilities immediately.  Some time later, I thoughtlessly washed my hands.
“HEY!” came a muffled yell of protest from Keith as he scrambled out from under the pipe.
“Oops, sorry,” I called back down to him, “It was nothing but nice clean water!”
The littles snickered and tee-heed.
Larry and Keith were unable to finish everything and make the tub/shower usable, because, once again, they needed more plumbing supplies.  And it was getting late.  Maybe this week…
Esther came to get Keith, bringing me a gift:  a set of pillowcases she had embroidered, and a pretty pad of stationery, three different sizes, with embossed flowers on the edges.
Dorcas arrived with cinnamon rolls from Norma.  She gave me three white pillows, small, medium, and large, tied with lavender and white ribbon.  She’d done purple crocheting on the tops.  Just what I needed to decorate my bed.
Mother’s Day arrived with the wind blowing in 35-40 mph gusts.  Imagine what we looked like by the time we got to church!  Help.  Help and bother.  If you see a dark brownish-gray-with-strands-of-white wig sailing by, please return it, won’t you?  I was fond of it.  I was attached to it.
After church, we all went to Mama’s house to give her a gift.  We went home with Keith and Esther’s lasagna, because they’d been invited to her parents’ house for dinner.  I stayed with Mama Sunday night, and afterwards we took Norma her gift.  Norma was so busy doling out soup and cookies and ice cream bars, it was a good forty-five minutes before she had time to sit down and open her present.
She told us that Lawrence had fallen down their basement steps Saturday night; he was stiff and sore, and stairs were difficult for him to negotiate, but he’s one of those sorts who rarely complains.
As I type, my office window is open, and I am watching the mother blackbird on her nest.  Every now and then she exits the nest with a loud, shrill squawk, flying right by the window, which makes the cat nearly jump out of her skin.  Somewhere not far away, I hear the tiny, raucous screeching of baby birds.  A few minutes ago, another bird of unknown genealogy landed nearby and was immediately bombarded by an extremely irate male blackbird.  The intruder departed posthaste.
Baltimore orioles have arrived en masse, and are in the big old oak trees to our east warbling and trilling like anything.  I can hear an Eastern phoebe, and a warbler, too, probably a yellow-rumped warbler, although I have not yet spotted it.  Cardinals are whistling and chirping, and barn swallows are chattering excitedly.
This morning on our way home from the school jaunt, Victoria and I saw a flock of bobolinks, wings outstretched and all soaring in unison, landing near a small pond.  The white patches on their shoulders and rump glistened in the early morning sunlight.  The bobolink migrates all the way from southern South America.  Few other North American songbirds migrate that far.  Bobolinks molt all of their feathers, including those of wing and tail, twice a year.  At the end of summer, adult males molt into a plumage much like that worn by females and first-year males:  buff on the underparts and heavily streaked with brown above.  Starting in January, while still in South America, the males begin molting into their “skunk blackbird” breeding plumage, which includes a buff patch on the nape.
Christine, David’s widow, gave Bobby’s mother, Bethany, our high-school science teacher, three abandoned duck eggs that she’d found in her garden.  Bethany put them into her incubator.  The eggs hatched last week, and there were the cutest little mallard ducklings one could ever hope to find in one’s incubator.
Today, Hester told me, Bethany’s class took the ducklings out to the Big Garage – or gymnasium, as it is now – where Bethany had filled a child’s ‘turtle’ sandbox with water.
“And then we taught—” Hester paused.  “Well, I guess you don’t have to teach a duck to swim.  We let the ducklings swim,” she finished.
I’d better get busy!  Larry has cleared out a small corner of the living room where, he hopes, I’ll be able to fit all the rest of the boxes and furniture that are still inside the trailer.  He plans to sell the trailer; somebody we know has expressed interest in buying it.  There are several loads of clothes to wash…a fish tank to clean…supper to fix…  I must rush!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Monday, May 05, 2003 - Of Floods, Soggy Sneakers & Dresses, Drowned Hostas, & Re-sunk Sinkholes


 after school, the children watered the lawn – that is to say, they watered the seed.  Until it got dark, they watered, carefully trying to hit every corner while leaving no large puddles.
oren and Janice came to our house, bringing us their basketball hoop and two very good basketballs.  They had taken the hoop down because it was in the way when they park their motorhome.
“If I should run a corner of the motorhome into that hoop, it would quickly make the hoop a $2,000 piece of merchandise,” explained Loren.
Now we will have a regular basketball court, with two hoops!  Wanna come play basketball with us?
hat evening, Keith came and helped Larry put more Sheetrock on Hester’s room.
Larry took the starter off his pickup, returned it to O'Reilly’s, and got a new one.  Luckily, it was under warranty.  I wonder if they ever ponder over why he goes through more starters than the army goes through MREs?
t was raining Tuesday morning when we got up, and it continued to rain gently all day.  We were glad.
“We won’t have to water the lawn today!” said Hester happily.
                 Victoria and I went to Hy-Vee for groceries and paid a few bills, coming home with our heads considerably wetter than when we had begun.
orcas bought a bunch of flowers at Wal-Mart, which she started planting while we were there at noon.  One day last week, she happily showed me the bleeding heart that was just starting to bloom.  That very evening, one of the boys who was on lawn duty pulled the poor thing up by its roots, evidently assuming it was a weed, although why one would think a bleeding heart with tiny pink hearts all over the uppermost stems is a weed, I have no idea.  Dorcas was dismayed.  The boy apologized and promised to buy her a new one – and he was true to his word.  Unfortunately, it’s merely a root; it will take a couple of years before it’s as big as the one that got assassinated.
Dorcas gave me a pretty white potted begonia, totally covered with blossoms.  I took it home and put it in a place of honor on the front porch.  I then put dirt in the 84 little peat pots.  Picking up the box with all the jars of seeds, I opened it and peered in.
“Is this all?” I asked, “I thought I had a lot more than this!”
The children looked inside the box, too.
No more little jars of seeds materialized.
ester helped me push seeds – purple coneflower, small daisies, large daisies, pink hollyhock, gaillardia – into the dirt.  Before I knew it, the peat pots were planted, and there didn’t even seem to be a dent in the amount of seeds.
“I could have used several hundred of those peat pots!” I exclaimed.
“I thought you needed more seeds,” said Lydia.
“I always need more of everything,” I explained.  “Or think I do.”
I planted seeds in the decorative pots on the porch, and then Caleb and I swept the porch.  We fight an unending battle with the mud people drag around everywhere on their hooves.  Here mud, there mud, everywhere mud, mud, e-i-e-i-o.   
“Oh, a-yes, ♪♯ we’re a-country folk! ♪♭  Just a-look at ma boots!”  … … … … “Ewwww.  Somebody a-get me a stick.”
e ordered pizza that night, and it was a jolly good thing I got more than usual, because Keith came and helped with Hester’s room, and he hadn’t had supper yet.  Or if he had, he was not adverse to having two suppers, once he saw the pizza.  We got a box of those big hot crispy-and-soft cinnamon bread sticks, too, which come with cream cheese topping, though not nearly enough.
Larry’s starter worked perfectly that day; he didn’t have to use ether to start it, as he’d been doing, and he was mighty happy about it, let me tell you.  He and Keith put up the frame for Hester’s closet and got part of it Sheetrocked.
ur neighbor had given us so many apples I didn’t know what to do with them all.  Of course, I could have made apple pie, and everyone would have loved me forever; but when I am still tripping over boxes everywhere I walk, I really don’t feel much like baking.  Sooo…I juiced them.
I got out the cutting board…positioned the juicer…cut an apple in fourths…stuck it into the slot – and then hastily stuck my cupped hands underneath the spout and yelled, “SOMEBODY BRING ME A GLASS – FAST!!
             Sometimes one’s errors are difficult to live down.  This was one of them.
If the brats (including the big ones, Larry and Keith) had not been laughing so uproariously, they might have fetched the glass quickly enough that no juice spilt.  But by the time the glass arrived, juice was running over the tops and in between all my fingers.  Lydia situated the glass under my hands and I let juice flow into it.  Then, since there wasn’t any sense in being high-hat after that fiasco, I licked every one of my fingers.
Ooooo…Mmmmmm…what scrumptious liquid was flowing from that machine – until I didn’t stop to clean it out soon enough and gobs of thick pulp started rolling into the glasses.  (It was still good – if you like to chew your juice.)
he juicer was making so much noise, I didn’t hear the rain and the hail until it was coming down in buckets and bushels and barrels and kegs.
“Oh!  My begonia!” I cried, and dashed to the door.
There it was, at the far end of the porch, getting pummeled.  The hail was thundering down, and I decided I’d rather have my begonia pummeled than to have me pummeled.  But Keith donned a baseball cap, pulled his jacket over his head, and dashed out to get it.  Almost all the pretty blooms were broken off.
ester’s sneakers got left outside, and were found later full of water, right up to the top.  Streams were running around our house from the north, converging into one river south of the house, and gushing on to the south pasture, creating a delta rivaling the Irrawaddy.
              And the storage room leaked.  And the dresses got wet.  I retrieved the stepladder, climbed up, and removed all the wet dresses.  Why were most of the wet ones taffeta or satin?  The washable cotton things must have had water repellent on them or something.  Botheration!  Larry put two hook-screws into the ceiling at the foot of Hester’s bed and hung a rod there temporarily.  Esther helped me hang wet dresses there to dry, and I put one big load of clothes into the dryer.  Keith and Larry fastened painter’s plastic behind the dresses, next to the wall, curving it up and over them and stapling the plastic to the overhead rafters.  I do hope that keeps them dry.
oor Kitty got left out that night.  The rain had stopped when she went outside, but it continued to rain off and on throughout the night.  By Wednesday morning, she was a soggy, muddy, tired mess.  She was so tired she didn’t even clean herself up for several hours, but slept the sleep of the orphaned and the exhausted and the forlorn.  We need a garage!  An attached garage with a pet door!
A few of my hostas were underwater; I hope hostas know how to swim.  Or breathe beneath all that H­2O.  We quit saying we were glad for the rain, glad we wouldn’t have to water, and began mentioning the multi-million-dollar homes in California that slide into muddy abysses.
fter taking the children to school, Victoria and I went to Menards for caulking, a ceramic tile cutter, and plaster screws.  Home again, I discovered that when one holds the cutter the wrong direction, one snaps tiles in half the wrong way – over and over and over again, if one is so stubborn (stupid?) as to keep trying to use it that way.  Eventually I retrieved the directions from the garbage, enlightened myself, and did it right.  Then I glued the poor tile back together again and affixed it to the wall too soon, so that the glued edges nearly came unglued, and then caulked it.
It looks bad.  Sort of like someone who didn’t know what they were doing put the thing on the wall.  Which is precisely what happened.  Actually, it looks like the UPS man drove over it with his truck.  Ignorance and impatience can cause all sorts of troubles and trials.
As for the plaster screws…a dumbish girl led me to the screws, and I wasn’t at all sure she really knew which were for what.
hen I opened the package and started using them, I determined that indeed she did not know what screws were for which.  The new ones were no different than the too-fat ones I had; they were only shorter, and gold.
Larry sighs in exasperation; why can’t I tell which ones I ought to get?!  Of course, I need the ‘self-drilling’ kind!
Well, why didn’t he tell me?
He thought he did.
No, he didn’t.
Well, he thought I ought to know.
Of course I don’t.  How could I, if someone doesn’t tell me?
Et cetera.
 put up several pictures upstairs, and then suddenly remembered at 4:30 that I’d promised to hem Victoria’s dress from Lawrence and Norma, the one that matches Lydia’s, so she could wear it to church that night.  So I ran upstairs, cut it off, split the piece I’d removed, sewed it into one long strip, and then affixed it to the bottom of the dress as a ruffle.  And it looks downright pretty.  {At least I can do that.}
It was misting when we went to church.  Lydia had all sorts of troubles getting her hair to curl and then hold what meager curl she got it to take.  The very next day, she asked me to cut her hair.  So I did.  It is now a couple of inches above her shoulders, a short pageboy, and ever so cute.  Furthermore, it’s easy as pie to make neat as a pin.
fter church, Hester bought us doughnuts—at least, that’s what we were hoping to get.  Krispy Kreme doughnuts, from Hy-Vee.  But they were all out.  There were absolutely none in the case.  Nada.  Nyet.  Nein.  So Larry got a box of strawberry and cream cheese fig Newtons instead, the first time we ever had them, and a specialty kind of Oreos… what was it?  Extra Crunch Snickers Butterfingers Peanut Butter Fudge Oh Henry Milkdud?
After taking the children to school Thursday morning, Victoria and I went to Wal-Mart, where I bought a few necessities—and some screws that Mr. I. KnowItAll Shortbald told me would work just swell for plaster.  (They don’t.)  I did see some in packages that said ‘self-drilling’, but they wouldn’t have worked for hanging pictures from, because the heads were too big and rounded.
e came home, washed clothes, did the mending, and emptied out boxes, dispersing stuffed toys and dolls here, there, and everywhere.  I’ve saved only those stuffed animals that are nice enough to be decorative…and I tell you the truth, there are enough of them that this is going to be one stuffed-toy-decorated house.  I needed to burn garbage and boxes…but there was knee-deep mud between the house and the burn barrel.
e saw a large flock of cattle egrets in a nearby pasture, and there have been green-winged teals in a lake in a field (from all the rain) for the last couple of days.  A pair of Canada geese flew over, low; they fly in formation even when there are only two of them.  I wonder – does the male lead, or does the female?
 realized it was May Day when we went to Mama’s house at noon and Dorcas gave us all little May baskets filled with popcorn and candy.
             Lydia and Caleb made May baskets at school, filling them with lilacs that Sandy, their teacher, had brought from home, and with carnations that Hy-Vee had donated to the cause.  Businesses around town have certainly been generous with our school.  On the way home, we stopped at the neighbors’ to give them each baskets.  Viola talked to the children for a bit, inviting them to come over sometime and see her doll collection.  [Imagine!  A doll collection, in the middle of that junkyard!]  She’s nice, a friendly lady.
           We proceeded on to give the other two baskets to the C.'s, but couldn’t find them anywhere.  We turned around and came back down the lane—and discovered they’d beaten us to the punch:  there was a large box full of lettuce, tomatoes, oranges, lemon, bags of ready-made salad, and a carton of fruit dip cream cheese on our porch.
           I set about ironing kitchen curtains.  Trouble is, a wide rod and pair of clips are missing, and I could only hang one set.  Where’d those things get to?  Rats!

orcas bought a CD-ROM of the Berenstein bears from the Goodwill.  It’s from 1993, and a bit antiquated – but Victoria likes it.  There is a worn area in the middle; perhaps that is keeping it from working quite like it’s supposed to.  The bears seem to have a lisp, and they clip their words off short.  Victoria thinks it’s funny.
After Larry came home from work, he borrowed Keith’s little lawn wagon for use behind the lawn tractor, so he could haul dirt back up from the bottom of the hill where it all got washed, and while he was at it, he borrowed Keith, too.  {Esther is very nice about loaning him out.}  I dug up flowers by the front side of the porch so he could add dirt where it had all sunk about two feet.
I told Larry, “I liked living on a hill…but I don’t live on one anymore.”
Well, it isn’t really that bad, of course.  But it was sho’ ’nuff a gully washer.
ydia and Caleb took turns driving the little tractor and pulling wagon loads of dirt up the hill.  Keith and Larry put it in the sinkholes beside the house, and tamped it down.  When that was done, they went back to working on Hester’s room.  They finished framing the closet and completed all the Sheetrocking.  Larry is very tired; his chest has been hurting him, especially when he is working for Walkers.
riday, I found one more wide rod for the kitchen, so I hung the valance over the kitchen sink – and it was no cakewalk, either, because first one end and then the other kept slipping loose – and usually the components coming apart were inside the casing, so that I had the debbil’s own time trying to reconnect them while the fabric wrinkled and bunched in between.  My arms and shoulders got steadily more tired…and then my feet started complaining (I was standing on the edge of the sink)…but I finally got it, just in time to go get the children from school.
When I went out to the Suburban, I carried with me an orange that was a bit too aged for human consumption.  The big cow with only one eye was standing near the fence, so I slowly walked forward and then rolled the orange under the fence.  She did not seem at all afraid, and the minute the orange was where she could get to it, she ambled forward and scooped it up.  Crunch, crunch, and it was gone.  She then turned and looked me straight in the eye.  Her black eyelashes are impossibly long, and, judging by how she acts, I think the Cummings have made something of a pet out of her.  Her eye then traveled down my arm and fastened onto my hand before she lifted her head and stared into my face again, looking quite a bit as if she was thinking, “You mean that’s all?!  Phooey!”
he cows and calves are getting used to us, and the children found that, if they are calm and move slowly, they can feed them fruit without scaring them away.  The one-eyed cow will eat right out of their hands.  Well, that’s what they were doing when along came Winston.  Evidently he was jealous of all the attention the cows were getting, as opposed to himself, and he suddenly shot into the pasture, barking and chasing the calves.
I heard the children yelling, dashed to the window, and saw all this.  Snatching up a long board, I raced out of the house, bellowed at him, and chased him down the hill.  He didn’t come back onto our property, but ran through the pasture to the south, heading for his own place in a roundabout orbit, ears down and tail tucked.
“Bad dog!” I yelled, “Go HOME!” wondering if the A.'s could hear all the commotion, and not particularly caring.
ater, the big gangly black Lab pup from up the hill saw the kids playing in the hayfield.  He came loping down the hill in a Lab’s characteristic disconnected gait.  Then he followed them home and stepped on the newly-planted pansies, violets, and ageratum that Dorcas had just given me.  Hester and Lydia had planted them while I transplanted some flowers that Larry had dug up in order to replace the dirt.
“Go home!” I told the mutt, pointing up the hill.
“No compreheñdo,” he replied, going into a don’t-beat-me huddle and practically sprawling on the hapless flowers.
I shoved him away.  Have you ever tried to shove a 90-pound wad of silly putty?
He snail-crawled onto the porch, trying to hide behind the planters.  I bodily removed him, and then prevented him from coming back onto the porch as he kept trying to do.  He went all noodly, and kept falling over and spreading out like a rubber puddle when I tried to push him away from the flowers.  Ahhh, don’t I remember Ebony, our black Lab, doing the very same thing!  Black Labradors:  They act like you’re beating them half to death when you try to teach them something.  They act like they have no marbles.  They fall over and refuse to get back up.  Ooooooo…I will never ever as long as I live have another black Lab! – {although we did get terribly fond of Ebony, and by the time she was 1½, she was becoming an awfully nice doggy.  But what a lot of work it was, training that beast!  Just about the time she was getting to be a very good pet, she acquired epilepsy and finally had to be put to sleep, poor thing.}
arry, who was starting up his lawn tractor in order to fill the wagon with more dirt and haul it to the sinkhole next to the retaining wall, came to the rescue.  He picked the dog up, hauled him up the hill to the lane, put him down with an enormous boost, and then, when the dog turned around, all in a sad, bedraggled lump, and started to come back, Larry stomped, clapped, ran at him, and bellowed, “GO HOME!!!  GO ON!!!  YOU GO HOME!!!  GET AWAY!!!  SHOO!!!  SCAT!!!  GGRRRRR!!!  ROOOOAARRRRR!!!” and you’d better believe, that dog fled for home lickety-split.  Victoria laughed so hard, she sat right down on the step.
aturday, Sandra C. brought me a couple of unique shoots from her bushes that I had admired the day before Easter.  They have funny jointed stems, sort of a cross between snake grass and bamboo.  The leaves are thick and wrinkly, light green, with lighter veins and edges.  There aren’t any roots to speak of; I hope they survive.
hat morning, I opened the cupboard to retrieve my blowdryer – and discovered Lake Okeechobee under the sink.  Aaarrrggghhh.  What I mean to say is, ARRGGHH!!!
             I took all the things from the cupboard, wiped them off, turned off the hot water (it leaks), and mopped up the mess.  That happened because Larry had removed the filter from the faucet to clean it out, then forgotten to put it back on.  This made the water run back down the underside of the faucet, and the faucet had not been caulked to the sink.  Sooo…it leaked.
            I dried the sink and faucet, collected the caulking tube, and gave that thing the most liberal application of caulking it had ever seen in its life.  Now, I cannot say that it was done with elegant artistry, nor yet with refined workmanship; but I can tell you this much:  it leaks no more.
he children played outside most of the day.  Victoria keeps getting into something – I think it’s merely the prairie grass – that makes her legs look like they have little scratches and red bumps all over them.  And they itch like crazy.  She gets into the tub and scrubs with soap, after which I liberally douse her with baby powder, and it’s soon better.
eith came again to help move more dirt to the sinkholes near the house.  Lydia drove the tractor for a while, and then Caleb…and then Keith.  I heard them all laughing, went to the window, and there they were, the littles riding in the trailer, and Keith at the wheel, gunning it as he went downhill.  I ran for the camcorder.
Larry got the rest of our wood in town and stacked it amongst the cedars.  He then cleaned the big room downstairs so that he and Keith could unload Uncle Clyde’s trailer into it.  We’d been storing Dorcas’ furniture and various other things in it; but Uncle Clyde was needing his trailer.
obert has started a series from Genesis.  The first was Wednesday.  I have always loved the “and it was so” verses in chapter one:
 7)   And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
9)   And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
11) And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.
15)  And let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so.
24)  And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so.
30)  And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

 think one of the reasons I like those verses so well is because when I was two years old, my sister Lura Kay – Robert’s mother – taught me a song, And God Said.  The words are as follows:
And God said the sun should shine,
The rain should fall, the flowers should grow,
And God said the birds should sing,
And it was so, was so!

And God said the grass should grow,
The trees bear fruit, the winds should blow,
And God said the streams should flow,
And it was so, was so!

enny, my blind friend who is one of our teachers and a musician from head to toe, added three more verses to that song, all about Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection, and our Jr. Choir once sang it for Easter.
y the way…I got a letter from a dear aunt of ours in which she says that she did believe me when I said that if Larry fell asleep in church, the ushers with the goads would descend upon him.  She’d heard that if people fell asleep, the ushers would hit them, and if babies were too noisy, they would come and tap you on the shoulder.
Some people must have awfully boring lives, the way they are so busy making up stories about us.
There have been times when mothers from our congregation would go tell visiting mothers with noisy babies where the baby room was, sometimes offering to care for the child for the visitors, if they would like.  Don’t people even notice when their child is the only one creating a ruckus in an otherwise quiet church sanctuary?  Doesn’t it matter to them that no one can hear the preacher?  Have they no manners?  Have they no pride?  Aren’t they even embarrassed?  Good grief.
e drove home from church in a light, misty rain, with fog all around.  “We’re in a cloud!” giggled Victoria.
By the time we were done eating, it was raining and hailing, with hailstones the size of marbles.  Later, we learned that Grand Island got hailstones as big as baseballs and softballs.  We are in the middle of a Vast Mud Lolly.  Those two hostas that were just considering coming back to life again were totally covered with water.  The water is supposed to go through the culvert and down the east side of the property, but there is a low spot around the very tree where I planted them.  Rats.  Why didn’t I dig them up Saturday and move them to higher ground?  Furthermore, it is threatening to rain all week.
here was a tornado sixteen miles south of Hastings; we could see the bank of storm clouds from our second-floor windows.  Overhead, an upper level of clouds was moving fast northeast, while the lower clouds headed southwest just as quickly.
But we were too tired to worry about the weather; we went to bed for a Sunday afternoon nap.  Shortly thereafter, everyone was abruptly roused from their doldrums by one of the brightest flashes of lightning – and in the daytime, yet! – we’d ever seen, accompanied by one of the loudest claps of thunder you can ever imagine.
“It really scared me,” related Victoria later, “but it scared Tabby even worse.  He was sleeping on my bed.”
I said, “I have a notion that it was not the crash of the thunder that scared him so badly as it was you, flying straight up out of bed!”
Victoria wiggled her eyebrows and giggled.  “Could’ve been,” she admitted.
 whole lot of the dirt that Keith and Larry put back into the sinkholes Saturday has washed down to the bottom of the hill again.
“Be patient!” advised my brother Loren, and then he laughed.  “I know what you are thinking:  ‘Is that something you eat?’”
I made a face at him.
He added, “All you need are ten good days after you replant; then the grass shoots will start coming up, and after that you’re home free; the rain won’t hurt you unless there’s a big mudslide.”  He grimaced.  “We had to plant ours” (they live on a hill, too) “three times!”
eddy and Amy invited us over after church Sunday night; he’d made brownies with chocolate syrup in them.  He gave me French vanilla and Butterfingers creamer to put in my coffee.  Mmmmm…  We had root beer floats to go with the brownies.
Larry didn’t have to go to work this morning.  All of Walkers’ jobs were too, too muddy.
s I was filling yet another bookcase, I came upon my old Dick, Jane, and Sally first-grade primer, and Victoria is reading it, delighted that she can actually read nearly every word.  We were only supposed to read a story a day, and go no farther.  But when the teacher wasn’t looking, I read that primer just as fast as I possibly could.  Oh, I loved to read!  And I didn’t want to stop.  I liked Dick, Jane, and Sally; still do.  I thought it was ridiculous when people started throwing fits and tantrums about those stories, saying they were tedious and tiresome and boring.
utside my window, the female Brewer’s blackbird is sitting in her nest, and the male is repairing it after yesterday’s storm.  He catches each little wayward twig in his beak and quickly and skillfully weaves it back into the nest, hopping nimbly all around the nest as he does so.
                Now and then the female poles her head out.  “Awwk!  You missed one!” squawks she, in the tone of imperious females everywhere.
               When I got up at 6:15 a.m., the sky was blue and cloudless.  But by the time I took the children to school, it was overcast, looking like rain.  It was like that all day, overcast one minute, bright blue the next.
e went to court this morning for the hearing to determine what would be done with Joseph.  He pleaded no contest to the reduced charge of trespassing.  The judge gave a lengthy dialogue about what a difficult case this was, and how he’d contemplated over it, because it’s so embroiled in religious minutiae, and there is always the problem of keeping church and state separate.  In the end, he emancipated Joseph – freed him from all charges.  No parole, no fine, no nothing.  Joseph (or Terry H., or someone) had repaid the man from whom he stole money, gun, food, etc., but they have not repaid what he stole from the church, the school, or his siblings.  The judge said he could do nothing about that; it was a civil matter, and those people would have to file a civil lawsuit if they wanted their money back.
“It isn’t up to me,” he said; “juvenile court is a unique court where we cannot always punish wrong-doing the way some people think it should be punished.”
What do you think of that?
              I imagine Joseph thinks he got off scot-free.  But people who think they can get away with anything and everything wind up pulling worse stunts than they have already done.  Wait and see.  The judge did him no favor.
e returned home, and then Victoria and I went back to Mama’s house to take the children their dinner.  Dorcas wanted to play me a song she’d recorded – full blast, or so it seemed to me.  And my head hurt.
“Could you turn it down, please?” I requested.
The volume went down two notches but soon went back up three, I think.
“Aaaauuuggghhh!!” I protested, “I can’t listen to that right now!  One needs a bit of peace after a court session,” I explained.  “Everyone just be very quiet and try not to breathe too loudly.”
“Or cough,” added Mama, and then coughed by accident.  “Oops,” said she.
hee hee 
Truly, these troubles with Joseph are quite distressing.  But we must carry on; we have other children to care for, and we cannot be all depressed and down in the dumps.  We must leave Joseph in God's hands.
e do not have an address yet, and cannot have one, because Jim C. has not legally filed to plat this area, which he should have done long ago, when first he decided to divide it up for a housing development.  Anyway, he must have it certified with the Board Of Regal Address Dolers-Out (something like that).  Larry talked to him about it this evening, and we learned that he has nearly decided not to sell any more lots after all, because of all the expense involved – roads, streets, avenues, lanes, highways, turnpikes, toll ways, addresses, endorsement, sanction, certification, ratification, affirmation, authorization … and on and on, ad infinitum.  We are trying hard not to jump up and down with glee — at least not right where the C.'s can see us.  We have not at all wanted to share our forested hillside!