Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Boomer and Bernie

This next story is too good for me not to post it. My lifelong friend, Signa Jean, forwarded it to me today. It is a window into the world I left behind 25 years ago. Signa Jean and her family have been our best friends for 40 years and all are now part of the family because their son married our daughter and the happy twosome live a few blocks away. We were part of that cowboy community in South Dakota, when we left for greener pastures 27 years ago. We made a brief stop in Odessa Texas, for two years and then on to New England for the rest of our lives. This story was from Cowboy Historian and Poet Baxter Black and I am sure he is a friend of Sig and her husband Dale. I've become a bit of a stuffed shirt since moving to NE and this story brought a bit of it, The cowboy life, back to me. Enjoy!

Boomer and Bernie
There's been a gradual change in the way we cowboys do things. It's come over a period of years and coincides with anti-smoking regulations, a healthier diet, mandatory seat belts, bull riders wearing helmets, gentle horse training, improved cattle handling techniques, and now allowing our dogs free run of the pickup bed when we go to town.

It was a long time before I conceded that chaining my dog in the back was the right thing to do. It was about the time I quit speeding, chewing Copenhagen and started taking an aspirin a day. As the loss of my individual freedoms began piling up, I felt less need to let my dog enjoy one of his favorite things: riding unfettered in the back of the pickup.

Bernie, too, had faced the same decisions to do what is begrudgingly safer, but usually not as much fun. In his case, he lets his good cow-dog Boomer ride in the front of the cab with him. Boomer liked it as long as he could have his window down far enough to hang out his head. One fine New Mexico morning they were driving down the Dexter highway, Bernie on the cell phone and Boomer taking in the scenery. Traffic was busy and Bernie was smack dab in the ;middle of a verbal therapy session with his banker. Suddenly the cab filled with a blizzard of old receipts, magazine scraps, ear tags, Maalox pills and a roll of survey tape.
His first thought was that Boomer had hit the electric window all the way open at 45 mph! But no, Boomer's hindquarters from the neck down ws a furious flailing of limbs scattering everything on the seat and dashboard into the air! He realized immediately that Boomer had stepped on the electric window button, but he had closed it on his neck! Bernie fought for control of his vehicle, the cellphone and the mad dog amidst the hurricane of trash that filled the air!

Then, Boomer lost control of his bowels. Digested dog chow, in several stages of viscosity joined the airborne contents in the dog blender. Swerving on the shoulder, Bernie jumped out, raced around and jerked open the door. Boomer was still attached and smacked him on the face! As Boomer dangled momentarily, a passing motorist screamed "Dog abuser!" and made an obscene gesture.

Well, Boomer got saved and Bernie now chains him in the back. He bought a gross of air fresheners to hang on the rearview mirror that smells like cooking broccoli and he is a changed man. Kinder and gentler, but more practical. Yet, the profound question that lingers in his mind every time he climbs into the pickup is, "Why didn't I lower the window from the driver's side?" Maybe it was some deep man-animal bonding conflict, or perhaps simply his vision was blurred.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Fencing is for the Dogs!

Recycling helps save the environment, especially when it comes to fences. My daughter and I have been doing that for the last 23 years. Our latest venture illustrates our efforts. We have a large side lot to our house and it is so large there is room for gardens, the carriage house, a fireplace with a covered table area, large English garden, all of our firewood storage, 50% of the parking for the office and still about 1/3 not used.

My daughter and her son lived with us about 8 years and towards the end of those years she decided that they needed a Golden Doodle for a pet. For those of you that are not familiar with those words it is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a large Poodle. Golden Doodle #1 , Golden Doodle #2 , These hyperlinks will take you back to Dec of 04, when the Golden Doodle came to my house. I wrote about Randy a lot during Dec of 04, and Jan 05, and off and on throughout the years. There were a lot of stories to write about him. Ellen got remarried and soon we had her son Sam, her new husband Mike and Randy the Golden Doodle all living with us. I build a large run for Randy and it enclosed the Majority of our side yard. Went to the Home Depot and bought 4 foot high sections of wooden fencing. Took every other fence picket out and nailed them to 2x4's making another section of fence as the fencing I bought was solid with pickets. This was my second dog run as we also had another 2 dogs at the house. Both dogs were rather small and the run wasn't very large but I took those fence sections to built the new run along with many more sections.

Eventually Sam, Mike and Ellen gathered up Randy and moved to their own house but they needed a dog run for Randy at the new house. We didn't have much use for a dog run as all we had left was Simon, a shiatsu, and there were no fences around that could contain Simon. He found a way out no matter what we did but it really didn't make any difference because when he got out he never went anywhere. So down came the fence and off to Ellen, Mike and Sam's with it. Some where along the line, Ellen and Mike picked up Boo, a Black Lab, as company for Randy. Boo has turned out to be the real escape artist. He has tunneled under the fence, gone over the fence, tunneled through the hedge that is actually part of the fence, ate his way through the fence and has escaped through every door in the house. He's good! His escapes have provided me with reasons to keep bringing more fence sections to their house instead of mine. Recently they have changed their design and made the dog run area much smaller and much easier to control but that has allowed them to store many more sections of fencing. They have a Plethora of fencing sections, you might say.

Along comes my wife and we buy a new dog. A cute, little Yorkie/Shiatsu mix who now needs a dog run at our house. My wife lays out the boundaries and I make a phone call to the kids asking for my fence back, at least the sections that they are not now using and it all magically reappears in my back yard. They even brought back the sections of pickets that Boo chewed up. Must have figured I could work it into the new design or something? Friday I started digging fence post holes again and today I started putting up fence sections. I had to completely rebuild some sections, taking off the pickets and adding them with others on new 2x4's to make a complete 8' section. I am about half done. I am never going to put this fence up again because if ever we need another I will hire some one to make and install a new fence. I purchased 24" high, green, garden wire to go around the inside of the fence with the hopes of containing Bridget but if she turns out to be as adept at the art of escape as the prior inmates have, this will turn out to be a wasted adventure on my part. Lets hope not. She probably won't be any good at escape cause after all she is a GIRL!

This is not my first foray into fence recycling as 23 years ago my daughter and I built a fence at another house we had. All in the hope of containing Cody, a master pain-in-the-butt, 1/2 rat terrier and 1/2 what ever crawled under the fence and master escape artist. Cody has since passed on but Simon apprenticed under him. We built the fence out of 1x3's with Ellen operating the radial Arm saw cutting the points and I ran the cutoff saw for length. She was 14 at the time. I can't remember how many times I moved that fence as designs and needs changed. I moved it so many times the fence just fell apart and it ended up as firewood for my wood burning stove that heated the shop. That is probably the best way to end the recycle. That brings up the point that used fencing materials make very excellent kindling for a wood stove.

Thursday, May 03, 2007


Today one of our Board of Directors was in the office signing checks and our little pain-in-the-butt, Yorkie-Shiatsu, named Bridget attacked his shoes. He was wearing work shoes with laces and Bridget was trying to untie the shoes and he just ignored her. "Oh don't worry about her, my girlfriends little dog eats all of my shoe laces up, whether my feet are in the shoes or not" he ventured. "The problem is replacing the laces as 1st of all they are hard to find and secondly the colors don't seem to match," he finished. It got me to thinking about the problem of replacement laces and I too have that problem. The obvious choice is Wal-Mart or K-Mart and it doesn't usually work out. The problem is that there aren't very many shoe stores around anymore as the "Big Box Stores" have ran them out of business. JC Penny's and Sears come to mind as having shoe store within their stores and they are definitely not a good option. When was the last time you walked into a "pseudo-shoe store" and saw a foot X-Ray machine? The shoe fitting fluoroscope was a common fixture in shoe stores during the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. A typical unit, like the Adrian machine shown here, consisted of a vertical wooden cabinet with an opening near the bottom into which the feet were placed. When you looked through one of the three viewing ports on the top of the cabinet (e.g., one for the child being fitted, one for the child's parent, and the third for the shoe salesman or saleswoman), you would see a fluorescent image of the bones of the feet and the outline of the shoes.

You just can't find a good shoe fitting fluoroscope anymore so what else is there? How about a good foot gauge along with someone that really knows how to use it. When my wife Dale and I moved to the State Capital in Pierre, SD, so that I could work for the Division of Criminal Investigation, she found work in a local Shoe Store. She knows how to use a foot gauge because they taught her. In fact she knows a lot about shoes and proper fittings. She even had her feet fluoroscoped when she was a little girl. I always wanted my feet fluoroscoped but my mother would never allow me to have it done. Didn't believe in them I guess.

I have friends out in South Dakota, at the Rushmore Mall in Rapid City, that own a real shoe store and have for years. They do really well with it. I'll bet they would have the replacement laces that I need and in the correct color. Wonder what a round trip flight would cost?

I really don't know much about shoes and I definitely don't have a foot fetish but I thought this was a good subject to write a story about. All I know about feet is that when I was 14 and a counselor at a Boy Scout Camp [Camp Old Broadaxe], I slipped on the side of the pool and ripped all of the toenails off of my foot and boy did that hurt. Said a lot of non-Boy Scout things. and 2 weeks after that I had to be in my Brother Bill's wedding. My Mom had to buy me two pair of shoes because one of the shoes had to be large enough to hold the lambs wool that protected my toes. 2 weeks after that football started. Jeez!