humor

How I almost set my house on fire. And then walked out the door.

So, I guess it was just one of those nights. I mean, it’s not every night you set your house on fire on your way out the door. And almost don’t even notice.

house fire

It started with a toddler temper tantrum. And a frantic search for shoes because it was time to go and no one had any. And all the other typical little kid things that put me in a rushed frame of mind as I’m trying to leave the house.

And then I did it. See, we keep our keys and wallets in a little basket on top of the desk along with whatever other odds and ends get dropped in it now and again. It’s a good place to go for loose change. And it’s a good place to drop things I’ve taken from the baby that he shouldn’t have. So as we were on our way out the door, I grabbed the basket, took out my wallet and put the basket back on the desk.

It’s these little things you do every day that you just don’t think about. Little risks you take without a second thought. Little things that could lead to you stepping right out the door as your desk becomes engulfed in flames.

So anyway, then I turn to open the door and I smell smoke. I think, “Well, duh. We heat with wood.” But it just wasn’t quite right. It didn’t smell like smoldering wood smoke. It smelled like a freshly lit match and that first burst of warmth smell you get when you set a bunch of papers on fire on top of the wood in the stove.

This is the moment where the rush and the distraction could have led to me going right out the door.

But instead, I hesitated.

And I turned around, thinking it was all very odd. And suddenly became aware that there were flames shooting out of the basket I had just taken my wallet out of!

Fortunately, it was contained to a couple of papers sitting in the basket and all I had to do was pick them up, blow them out and toss them in the stove for good measure. And then stand there staring in what seemed like a perfectly harmless basket just moments before. Because normal baskets don’t just burst into flames when you take wallets out of them.

Then I saw it. A wee little burnt match wedged in the basket. Somehow, it had fallen out of a box of matches and taking the basket down and putting it back up on the desk was just enough to get it to strike. And set my papers on fire.

And had I just pulled the door closed behind me instead of turning around, it could have grown to take the basket, the papers around it, the desk and the whole house.

All because I grabbed my wallet as I rushed my children out the door.

Thank you, Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump (because Dear The Donald just sounds awkward),

I must thank you for being the first candidate to tackle one of the biggest issues of our time. It may, in fact, be the only one that really matters.

I feel strongly about this. I don’t usually talk politics on this blog. It is my happy place. It is my grieving place. It is about my little place in the country with all of its ups and downs. Politics hasn’t really found a home here. It’s just too . . . divisive. But sometimes you just have to stand up for what’s right and you, dear sir, are the first candidate to inspire me to take this humble little platform and do just that.

I must humbly confess that up to now, you have not been my favorite candidate. I just didn’t trust you. After all, you threw your support behind Hillary Clinton. I understand you’ve come clean on that. Something about being a man of business and knowing where your bread is buttered. And while I can see your point, I rather prefer a man of principle in office. A man who will back what’s right even to his own personal disadvantage. After all, John Hancock was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies who stood the most to lose and he still staked his life on a few principles that guide our nation yet. I’m sure he could have paid off a few people and gone on in relative peace, his fortune largely untouched, but that is neither here nor there. After all, that was only the British Monarchy he was standing up against.

And you’ve always seemed to me like a caricature of conservative values. Like the face behind all those forwarded emails and facebook posts that no one ever checks out before sharing with everyone on their friends list. I just never quite trusted that you were real.

But thanks to your recent stance on the Starbucks coffee cup crisis, I now know you are the man to lead this country in the right direction.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares? If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you. That I can tell you.” ~ Donald Trump

Pure Presidential poetry.

Because no one should be forced to drink overpriced coffee in a plain red cup this time of year. It’s time to finally get rid of holiday trees and season’s greetings for good. I want Christ’s name slapped on all of my holiday excesses and co-opted pagan symbols. And anyone who believes otherwise can just turn in their citizenship and move to the Republik of Kalifornia.

Thank you, Mr. Trump. For taking a stand for all of us.

Roscommon Acres

Livestock will keep you humble

There’s nothing quite like livestock to keep you humble.

I say that because we have these two steer. Calves, really. I mean, they’re almost a year old, but even their mothers get mistaken for calves by the cattle people around here because they’re not Angus or Hereford or Simental. They’re Dexters. And they top out at about 41 inches and 700 pounds.

And they lead like puppy dogs. When they see their halters, they come running. It means a walk. Fresh pasture. A visit with mom. All good things happen after the halter is secured. This is why it seemed like a good idea to go ahead and let the girls show them at the fair. Sure, they’ll look a little puny against those muscle bound products of our neighbor’s, but they shouldn’t take two grown men bodysurfing through the fair like that steer last year.

So getting them weighed on Saturday should have been a breeze. Nevermind the fact I can’t back up a trailer to save my life. I mean, I have sweet little halter broke calves that look like newborns compared to these half-wild beasts being unloaded before and after us.

When I said, “Load up!” they hopped in the trailer. When I said, “Back out!” they backed out and let us lead them to their pen.

Easy peasy.

It absolutely did not matter that I could not back the trailer up to that shoot.

Until I told Mike, the kind man opening and closing the gate that we were just walking them out to the trailer.

Open went the gate and off went the calves. All my daughter and I had left was the rope burn as they kicked up their heels, bucked around the parking lot and made for the grass on the other side.

For a moment, I just stood there. For a moment, I thought it would be fine. They’d settle in to grazing and we’d just walk up to them and pick up their leads and haul them to the trailer. After all, they were scared. Grazing is comfort. We’re security. It would all be fine.

That’s why I didn’t run.

That and the fact that thanks to an old hip injury I really can’t run. But at that moment, I wouldn’t have even if I could have. I even told my daughter to approach from the south but to walk slowly.

And then the train whistle blew.

And the calves bolted.

And Mike sprinted. I never knew a man wearing work boots and Carharts could move so fast. But he was at a full run, waving his arms and doing everything he could to get those calves to turn.

I was almost at a run and the searing pain that normally accompanies such endeavors was noticeably absent. And then everything turned to slow motion. Mike, my daughter, the train, the calves.

And I saw it all. They were going to reach the tracks just ahead of the train. Just in time to get hit and there was nothing we could do about it. But everyone kept running. And I just saw them spattered all over the train and started wondering since we were right there if they would be able to process anything we scraped off the tracks when it was over.

Then they turned. The relief was met with that searing pain I hadn’t felt a moment ago and I couldn’t keep up the pace that really wasn’t getting me anywhere, anyway.

They ran straight up ninth street and the vet’s office there on the corner emptied out — the vet, the vet tech and I’m pretty sure the third person joining the chase was a customer. It was like the running of the bulls right there in Tecumseh, Nebraska.

Except everyone was in workboots and Carharts. And they were chasing 375 pound calves that don’t even have horns. Or testicles, for that matter.

They finally got them cornered and tied them to a fence while I went to get the trailer. A fence that in no way could hold them if they decided to take off again.

Ask me how I know.

Ask me why we had to replace our chicken run this summer.

And after a short lesson in managing steers, and a simple, “Load up!” we had them back in the trailer and tied for the ride.

And I told my daughter we’re changing the family motto from the old McIntire “per ardua” (through hardship) to “Yes, we’re that family.” And I’m putting it on a T-shirt.

Though apparently that isn’t necessary. Because when I stopped at Orscheln’s to pick up a new halter, the checker greeted me with, “So I heard about what happened with your little calves.”

Word travels fast.

And livestock keep you humble.

Making marriage work

So apparently, a reddit user recently asked what makes a successful marriage. I thought that was easy.

Stubborness.

It’s why every year, something takes out my garden, be it weather or weeds or my geese. Every year it is something, and yet every year I plant it again.

It’s why every year I start tomatoes and peppers from seeds and every year I end up going to the nursery to buy tomatoes and peppers because something happened, be it weather or negligence or my herbicidal cat. But every year, I try it again.

It’s why every year I lose chicks or ducklings or goslings to the fickleness of made-in-China heat lamps and cold spring weather, but every spring, I try it again.

And it’s why after over 18 years, I’m still married to the same man.

That and an ability to keep it all in perspective with a touch of humor to make it all worthwhie.

Like when our local nursery had sweet potatoes. Up until the very moment I found out, I had not considered planting sweet potatoes. I had actually decided that was a future maybe-if-I-ever-get-to-it project after my cow ate all I had planted the year before. And then I mistook the Japanese knotweed for a few survivors and dutifully nurtured and weeded my bed of knotweed until it was well-estabished and sent out its little runners into everything without producing a single sweet potato.

So anyway, we went down to buy sweet potatoes. They had like twenty each of two different varieties. I was inclined to take them all, because who can have too many sweet potatoes? My husband had to be all rational. Did I really need them? And I thought need? What’s need? What does anyone really need? At 79 cents a pound, sweet potatoes start looking pretty cheap at the end of a summer of weeding, especially when all you have to show for it is a bed of Japanese knotweed that the internet says you will never ever in a million years get rid of.

So no, I didn’t need it.

“What will you give up for it?”

There I was beaten. It’s hard to stake a potential harvest when my history with gardening is sketchy at best. So I relented and only bought 20 plants. And while I paid, he got to ride on their mower.

Their SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLAR mower.

And I coud see in his eyes that gleam that says, “I want this. I must have this.” And it also says to me to run and hide the checkbook and the credit cards.

Instead, I decided to share some of his wisdom with him.

“What are you willing to give up for that?”

And you know what he said to me? This man who would begrudge me 20 sweet potato plants?

“Your hobbies.”

And there you have it.

What do you think makes a successful marriage?

In which I run screaming down the road. Because of a honeybee.

I thought someone stole my beehive. Driving by on my way to town, I noticed it just wasn’t there. As I put my car into reverse to double check, I imagined someone cruising down the highway as my bees attacked.

photo by Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel

It didn’t help.

I’ve put too much time and effort into these bees. I’ve been trying to start a colony for three years, but I just can’t seem to carry a hive through winter. And here after failure after failure after failure, April and the dandelion bloom are in sight. One of my students in my nature study class found a dandelion bud and I beamed as I told them the importance of early spring flowers to honeybees.

And now someone is going to up and steal my beehive?

I wanted to cry.

And then I spotted the beehive upside down in the windbreak.

It’s maybe been a touch on the windy side these last few days. I didn’t even have that happen when the tornado went through that pushed our neighbor’s outbuildings off the foundation.

So anyway, I was a little too relieved to really think through what I should do. I just put the car in park right there in the road, grabbed my daughter and ran over. I was happy to see a few bees buzzing about and hear the whole hive buzzing.

The angry “you better not mess with us” buzz. After all, what colony of anything likes lying on its back, exposed like that? It didn’t really occur to me that they might blame me for their misfortune. I had nothing to do with it. I was rescuing them. And it was cold out. Bees really don’t fly around much when it is below forty.

So my daughter grabbed one side, I grabbed the other and we gently rolled the hive over and backed away quickly.

“Yay! Success!”

Or so I thought. I figured it best to leave the hive alone for awhile. Let the bees calm down, I thought. Besides, I wasn’t sure my daughter and I actually would be able to lift it anyway. So we went back to the car and continued on our way.

I made it all the way to the stop sign at the bottom of our road before I felt a buzzing down my back.

And this is the weird thing. I’ve been stung before. It’s not that bad. It isn’t fun. I’d rather it not happen again. But you get over it. Especially if you have bindweed because if you chew the flower and smack that glob of goo on the sting, the pain goes away almost immediately.

Getting stung isn’t so bad. But knowing you’re about to get stung is enough to send you into a panic. Or at least it is enough to send me into a panic.

And this after I oh so calmly explained to someone on facebook how easy it is to lose your fear of working the bees. How calming it is, in fact. I failed to mention that it’s still scary as anything to have a bee fly into your clothing and start that angry buzz.

So, yeah. I slammed on the brakes and tried to get out of the car. The door was locked. Put the car in park. Swung open the door and jumped out while trying to extricate myself from my jacket while trying not to let my shirt tighten across my back.

“Mouse! Help me!” I cried out as I ran around the front of car. (Good thing it was in park. Oh how fun it would have been to try to explain how I ran over myself while running from a bee that was stuck in my shirt!)

I’m not sure she entirely knew what was going on, but she dutifully grabbed my sleeve and pulled my arm out as I spun. I had my shirt half off . . . right there in the middle of the road on a 35 degree day . . . when I felt the bee crawl up my back and into my hair.

I screamed. I screamed and ran, flipping my hair over my head and spinning for no real reason while my daughter yelled, “I see it! I see it!”

That’s when I ran right into the open car door. The one I had left open as I made my dramatic exit from the car.

And that’s when the bee flew off.

And when my daughter and I started laughing so hard, I couldn’t drive.

And once again, I found myself incredibly thankful we don’t have neighbors.

Because what would you do if you pulled up on someone half dressed and frantically screaming as they spun in circles around their car?