Yesterday was the first moment after … ohhhh, 40 days and 40 nights … that it wasn’t either raining or threatening to rain. Between that and the end of the year’s big hunting seasons, the dogs and I were finally able to return to long, leash-free walks in the woods instead of annoying, leashed walks around town (annoying because Ava likes to gallop and Robbie barely moseys these days; I end up walking sideways with my arms extended in two directions).
It was glorious. Chilly, but blue and still.
On our afternoon walk, though, we came across a lone crow feasting on an elk ribcage. Ava — she of the killer prey drive — alerted and paused. Figuring the crow would fly off, I gave her permission to run at it.
It didn’t fly off. It hobbled into the weeds, limping and vainly flapping its wings.
Saturday evening just as it was turning dark, a young man came to my gate. He was as clean cut as a Mormon missionary (about the only other people prone to show up hereabouts at such an hour) and traveling on foot as they do. But he was solo. I had the vague feeling I’d seen him somewhere before.
“I was here with Mike the other day,” he said by way of introduction. He gave no name. Mike — meaning Handyman Mike — has gone through a steady stream of minions or minion wannabes, all pretty much interchangable to me. I’m trying to figure out which one this is.
“I see you still have that pile of construction material back there. Would you pay me to clean it up for you?”
Clean-cut though he may be, the whole business of a nameless stranger turning up on my doorstep in the near-dark is creepy. I’m still trying to figure out who he is when he announces, “I’m desperate for money.”
And lights up a cigarette.
Now, I can think of a fair number of ways for a young man to demonstrate that he’s either in dire financial straits or worthy of being hired because he’s good. But lighting up a cigarette (in a state where they cost nearly $10 a pack) isn’t one of them. I can’t afford to smoke. If he can, his “desperation” is manufactured.
I let him hand me his contact information over the closed six-foot gate (after I supplied paper and pen). He scrawled a phone number, but still offered no name. I finally asked who he was.
“Troy,” he said.
Then I remembered. Three weeks ago, he answered Mike’s ad for a construction helper. Mike interviewed him and he was supposed to start assisting on my Great Bathroom Project.
The morning he was to begin minioning he called Mike to say he had a flat tire. And no way of changing or fixing it. He finally made it here at 1:30, driven by a friend, just as Mike was going to lunch. Mike showed him the great heap of construction rubble outside the fenced part of the yard and invited him to work on organizing the stack until Mike’s return. Troy declined and left. After that, he didn’t return Mike’s calls. End of minioning.
Now here he is at the gate, weeks later, in the gathering dark on a weekend, wanting the work he wouldn’t do when he had the chance. But not really wanting work. Wanting money.
I’m not sure what it is lately with people being so eager to claim their desperation. Have they been reading Atlas Shrugged and mistaking the bad guys for the good guys or what? Do they seriously believe desperation gives them a compelling claim, some leg up in the race to earn a living?
All it gave me was the creeps.
I remember my Depression-era relatives talking about hungry men showing up on their doorsteps. In their stories, they always made a clear distinction between “hoboes” and “bums.” Hoboes, they said, would show up, hat in hand, offering to work. They didn’t speak of their need, only of their willingness. They were honest men — down on their luck but not broken. Bums, on the other hand, were no good and had probably never been any good. They might (or might not) offer to work, but really they were just looking for a handout. Or a place that might have something worth stealing.
I’ll leave it to you to decide what kind of person my evening visitor is. I don’t know. He might just be an inexperienced kid, born into the self-esteem era, having never been encouraged to acquire either manners, a work ethic, or common sense.
I do know that after he left I let down all the blinds and made sure all my self-defense tools were in good order and accessible. And I gave the dogs extra pats, recalling he’d been too scared of them to come in the yard the first time he was here.
The most important item in the house is now installed and plumbed and has hot water to fill it. Yum!
The wainscoting behind it is beadboard from the old ceiling of the enclosed porch. The doorway you see on the left will eventually become a wall and the wainscotting will continue around three sides of the tub. (That’s Bathroom: Phase Two after the finances have recovered.)
Scrounging and garage saling worked for everything else in the room, but I was determined to have a fabulous faucet, complete with shower attachment. So I found what I wanted online then searched for a factory second. This one has a chip in the porcelain that can be felt but not seen.
The day the plumber completed his work so early, I took Robbie for a long drive along the river. Robbie can’t walk much any more, but he sure loved sniffing the clear, fragrant October air through the rolled-down windows of the car. Seventy-two degrees; I still can’t get over it.
One of the houses on the river road has a flower stand at the end of its driveway. A bargain at a buck a bunch. I’ve never stopped there. But that day, how could I not?
Not being a flower person, I’m not sure what these are. Dahlias, I’m guessing. But could they be mums? Anyhow, I’m pretty sure they’re not dandelions or daisies. :-) They’re beautiful in my kitchen window.
Now back to painting the bathroom shelves.
P.S. Oh yeah, that bathtub is as comfy-cozy as it looks, you bet. As soon as the water heater had hotness, I made sure to check it out. When I first dragged the tub out of its Dickensian surround, it had no feet. Every brand and model of these old tubs is different and I had no hope of getting the right feet for this one. So I bought four generic, modern cast-iron feet on eBay and epoxied them on with double helpings of JB Weld (which is, um, not the way you’re supposed to attach clawfeet). I put wooden blocks under the tub just in case the legs decided to detach in mid-soak, but so far the footies seem likely to stay in place. Hooray!
P.P.S. Oh heck, here’s the Dickensian surround all over again, just because the contrast between then and now is so awesome. The miracles of Goof-Off, Rustoleum, and elbow grease!
Fedgov seizes that land near Area 51 that’s been owned, worked, and lived on by one family since Abe Lincoln’s day. Looks like they’ll be allowed to cheat the family on price even worse than they’d previously intended. (Sad h/t to Jim B.)
Sorry to disappoint my Christian friends who might hope I’ve had a conversion, but by that I mean only that God-the-Plumber has arrived. On the appointed day. At the appointed hour.
He is now (terrifyingly) drilling holes in my brand-new bathroom floor.
Since Handyman Mike wrapped up his part of the work on Friday, I’ve been hustling like crazy: drywalling, mudding, painting, moving shelving, the vanity, and plumbing parts into the room. No way am I finished, but by working late every evening, I got everything plumber-ready. Last night after finishing my to-do list I spent an extra two hours inspecting and asking myself, “What have I forgotten? What do I still need to discuss with the plumber and the electricians? What else is likely to go wrong?” I scribbled notes on the walls for the electricians (due tomorrow). I got up early today to fix a couple of things.
Now I can sit on my arse for a whole day. Well, other than helping to move the tub into place and starting to clean the living room, which is full of ladders, drywall squares, utility knives, levels, measuring tapes, and suchlike.
But now … to catch up with some overdue emails, blogging, TZP polls and whatever else I can think of.
One thing about drywalling and painting: they’re mindless enough to allow random thoughts. Here are a couple of those.
Just had a hair raising close call here. One of my neighbors has two very large German Shepherd dogs. He lets them run loose when he is with them and they never seemed to be a problem until today.
I carried my 9mm carbine down to the fence along the road today because those two dogs were chasing one of the horses just across the road from me. He was kicking at the dogs, and darn near nailed one too. The dogs didn’t seem to be trying to bring the pony down, but they were all running fast and at any time the pony could have stepped into a hole and broken its leg or gotten hurt running into the barbed wire.
The law here is very clear that any dog harming or harassing livestock may be shot without warning or any repercussions. I’m not clear whether or not that applies only to the owner of the livestock, and family/employees, but I would not have hesitated to shoot if it had gone on any longer. The owner of the horses didn’t get involved until after the dogs were led away… and he wasn’t armed.
The owner of the dogs was running around after them like an idiot, shouting at the dogs with zero influence on them, but just as I got into position, he managed to grab one of them and got them sort of, kind of under control – so I just watched as he led them back to his own property.
I don’t know if he noticed the gun or not… but hope he did. All I can say is that he’d damn well better keep those dogs at home from now on.
Anyway, I wondered what your readers would think about such a situation, and what they would be willing/ready to do about it.
What are your thoughts on this? What would you do (or what do you think you’d do) in this situation? If you saw the chase beginning and had a choice of weapon to bring, what weapon in your arsenal would you be most likely to grab? What, if anything, would you say to the dog-walking neighbor, then or later? How about to the horse-owning neighbor? How would you feel during and after?
The easy response, as we sit in our comfy armchairs or at our office desks, is to snort, “I’d just shoot the damn mutts and be done with it!” But the reality is a lot more complicated, tactically, diplomatically, and emotionally.
I expect that the average gun owner is a lot more likely to run into a situation like this (or to have to defend pets from a four-legged or winged predator) than to confront a human predator with a firearm. Worth thinking about.
ADDED: ML makes the excellent point that how we handle situations like this one says a lot about how we might handle a deadly SHTF confrontation. Or any other potentially deadly human encounter. Also worth thinking about.
I’d expect this sort of thing in over-regulated, over-zoned cities, but when rural Colorado tries to keep people from living off-grid on their own land, we’re truly in a pickle. (Via jed in comments)
Have you ever complained about how some arbitrary credit score governs too much of your life (from the ability to rent an apartment to whether or not you can get a job)? Well, if this article is accurate, you should be glad you don’t live in China. Where your political opinions and those of your friends might soon be scored. (I must stress, though, that I don’t yet know how correct this info is. A writer on the ACLU site confirms the original piece, but more solid info is needed.)
TPP negotiations are finished and the Electronic Frontier Foundation calls the (still largely secret) pact a betrayal.
Glorious day. Seventy-five degrees under a blue sky, but still a distinct feel of fall.
Our walks in the woods have been short and halting since May — first because of my ankle and increasingly because Robbie’s getting so old. I walk a little bit, slowly, while Ava runs ahead. Then I stop to wait for the old boy. Not to wait for him to catch up, but just to come into sight. He’s fine on the familiar old roads with their high banks of berry bramble; can’t wander off and get lost. But he’s good for only a few hundred yards and a lot of stopping to smell pee on the roses. I wait for him just to see me and be reassured (both of us), then I move on. Eventually, though, we turn back sooner than we’d like.
Yesterday on our afternoon walk, Robbie picked up an elk bone that’s sufficiently putrescine and cadaverine to please the least refined doggie palate. He brought it home in the car (windows open, fans blasting), but Ava’s been dominating it most of the time since.
Today when Ava dropped it to get in the car, Robbie glommed onto it and said no thanks to a ride into the woods. So Ava and I went out to a favorite long-walk place and we walked and walked and walked — and at a good pace, besides.
It wasn’t anything that would impress a serious hiker, but enough to work up a nice sweaty glow and a good heart rate. Felt wonderful in the cool woods and the brilliant blue weather. It was great watching Ava dance ahead and not worry about Robbie lingering behind.
I felt guilty for being glad he wasn’t with us, though.
When we came home, I discovered an auto transport blocking the road just beyond the house. A shiny orange hot rod rode the top deck. The lower held a gaudy classic motorcycle and a dignified yet sporty steel gray Volvo. Vintage stuff. (Don’t think clunky, boxy Volvo. Think two-seater sports car.)
I walked over to enjoy something you don’t see around here every day, and now I know what my silent neighbor’s been working on in his garage so many late nights. That restored Volvo is on its way from the PNW boonies to a new home someplace in Europe.
“I could see myself driving a car like that,” I told the silent neighbor’s mother.
“Well, he has another one he’s about to start on …”
“Yeah, but I can’t see myself paying for a car like that. Not the type that gets sold to Europe, thank you.”
Sure was beautiful, though. I loved that subdued steely gray on the sporty design. Aside from the Avanti, the Mercedes 450SL Roadster and maybe the Delorean DMC-12 (even the non-time-machine models), I don’t think I’ve seen any vehicle so elegant and so spicy at the same time.
There’s a crew out today, dealing with brush and noxious weeds on my property across the street. Two of the people, a man and his daughter-in-law, have done work for me before and I like them very much, especially her. And I trust them.
But he’s in the process of handing their business off to her and she’s brought in third relative, a man in his 50s.
The new guy’s been here twice and every time he’s around, I’ve got this prickly feeling. First time, he was here only 20 minutes and by the time he left I had the beginnings of a tension headache.
There are objective reasons I don’t take to him. He’s a know-it-all and very patronizing. But this feeling goes beyond that. It’s like somebody’s pressed a ringing alarm clock against the back of my skull. It’s to the point where I’ll probably tell her I won’t be using their services if he’s a regular (which she’s already told me he will be) — and I’d hate that because she’s good and super reliable.
You ever have reactions like this about people (other than ones you meet in dark alleys, I mean)? And have those reactions ever told you anything important?
A reader of this blog is right now doing the dangerous, punishing, vital work of fighting wildfires in one of the many blazing western states. Hats off to him, big time.
He sent me this:
It’s an oregano farm, so he swears. :-) And far from the only one they’ve come across. In fact, these grows turn out to be a mainstay of this particular area’s economy. And not with government approval.
Curious, I asked whether fire crews were being ordered to destroy the illegal “oregano,” report it, or let it be. He responded:
I knew I wasn’t going to monkey with anyone’s private property, and would have dodged the mission if that had been written in as part of it. We are here to protect it, otherwise nature would be allowed to run her course. She will eventually anyways, just not this season.
This whole region is a tinderbox waiting to erupt, and the drought has made things considerably worse. To my uneducated eyes things look the same as always in the timberline, but at their core and roots, the trees are suffering mightily. Or so I’ve been told by those in the know.
Once boots were on the ground and the nature of the local economy became apparent, I too was curious about how things would be handled, so I asked our handler/trainer/liaison (who is a REAL wilderness firefighter with 20 years of experience). His response was along the lines of, “If we were [in an area whose economy wasn’t so dependent on the crop], yeah, I’d probably report them. Or if it was a meth lab or something. But this? Here? Nah.”
The backwoods property owners have mixed emotions about our presence and are shadowing our movements (sometimes openly armed). The “townspeople” (all four hundred of them) are happy. That said, there are at least three fed LEO agencies here with us, but none of them are in enough force to logistically do anything. I suspect they were sent by their higher ups primarily to be seen by each other. Organizational phallic displays and measuring.
Despite the feds and their wars on everything, a ray of goodness penetrates this dark, smoky, perilous summer.