Tales

All posts in the Tales category

A Chicken in Every Plot

Published September 10, 2012 by Ms. Nine

By mazaletel (Flickr: the ladies) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

During Labor Day weekend, my husband decided to build a chicken tractor.  What is a chicken tractor and why did he want to build one? Simple answer – someone at work talked him into it.

“It’s a mobile home for chickens,” he explained, “a coop and a run on wheels.  The chickens will perform magic by changing a patch of ground into fertile garden space within a few weeks.  We’ll move it so the chickens will make lots of garden plots.  By spring, the plots will be ready for planting,” he told me. “What do you think?”

“Go chickens!” I said. “Let’s do it.”

“Great.  I’ll take some time off work.  We can build it this week.”

The fact that we didn’t know a cluck about raising chickens didn’t deter our enthusiasm.  How hard could it be to build for chickens?  After all, we’ve been building from scratch for years.

We researched building plans, inventoried our own stock of scrap materials, and foraged in hardware stores for materials we needed.  Within a few days, we were ready to start building.

When my husband and I build together, my job is “the holder and go-fer”.  This means I hold off the distractions (kids, phone calls, and visitors) and get necessities (food, beverages, and music to maintain the work rhythm).  Occasionally, I’d hold a board in place for my husband to nail, but usually someone else does the heavy lifting (a daughter’s unwitting boyfriend trying to make a favorable impression).

Sadly, after years of observing my husband, none of his skills has transferred to me.  I can’t even swing a hammer.  Unfortunately,  all other conscripts have flown away leaving me holding the screws and everything else.  My poor husband has no idea how limited I am regarding basic carpentry skills.

“Hand me the square. It’s on my workbench.”

His workbench is not my domain. It is littered with tools, boxes of screws, deely-bop-its, and buckets of nails –  a Home Depot garage sale on clearance.  I needed a hint. “What color is it?”

“Yellow.”

Ah, that’s better. It’s easy to spot yellow in a grey area.

He placed the square on a piece of wood to mark a line.  His pencil broke.  He cussed.  “Get me a pencil. No. Get me a pen.”

What were my chances of finding a pen on his workbench?   I scrambled into the house to retrieve a box of pens on my desk.

The pens didn’t write on the damp wood.  He cussed again.  “I can’t figure out the angle for these rafters. Get me the angle guide.”

I handed him a metal object shaped like a triangle. “No, not that,” he said.  Eggs-asperated by my lack of  nomenclature knowledge, he huffed, “I should have said the ‘adjustable’ angle guide.”

By now my husband thinks I’m a wing nut.  His instructions become more explicit.

“Go get me a half-inch socket. Tool case. Third drawer. Round objects – calipers on the side.”

During the next few days, I handed him screws, nails, boards, held up things, plugged in power tools, and picked up things he dropped.  I cheered when pieces fit together and cussed when they didn’t.  I cracked chicken jokes and made him laugh.

More than a few days later, we managed to build the basic frame.  Our next step is making it mobile.  I have a feeling we’ll nail this thing hens down.

Okay, no more fowl jokes.

For now, we’re thinking of names. Yes, we’re going to name our coop.  Any suggestions?

By VanTucky (Own work) [CC-BY-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for stopping by!

FaceBook, Smart Phones, and Fishing

Published August 31, 2012 by Ms. Nine

I’m not an expert with social networking, but I have a Facebook account to connect with people I’m closest to, and I have a blog to connect with folks on the web.  To my husband, a social network means a company picnic and his face on a billboard… I never expected there’d come a day when he’d be schooled.

When he returned from fishing, horns tooting and “Whoopie!” shouting, Marie and my husband flaunted their prizes and took pictures with their phones.

“Baby Beth, hold this up so I can take your picture,” Marie told her daughter.

“I don’t wanna.  It’s icky,” Baby Beth said.

“Oh, common.  I’ll help you,” said my husband.

Snap. Snap. Snap.

After taking several “good ones” with their smart phones, my husband and daughter compared their catches.

“I’m posting my shots on Facebook,” Marie declared, deftly tapping her phone.  Within seconds, the picture of Baby Beth’s grimace holding an icky fish was shared with the world.

Marie hopped to the computer and logged in. “Mom, come look.”

“Oh, Lordy!” On the nineteen inch monitor flashed a picture of my granddaughter struggling with a  dead 4lb. bass.  At this very moment, our entire family could see them on Facebook.  Ah…the wonders of the modern world.

“These are great. How can I print these out?” my husband asked, looking over my shoulder.  My dear husband, bless his heart, does not know how to use the features on his smart phone.  Marie, bless her heart, did not want to teach him how people pass around pictures nowadays.

“You need a Facebook account, Dad.  I’ll set one up, if you want…”

He sighed, shook his head, and left.  It was not his thing.

Marie and I seized the moment to introduce him to social media and all its glorious splendor. While he was outside cleaning the fish, Marie and I zip-lined him to the twenty-first century.  We opened a Facebook account for him, uploaded his pictures (a profile, too!), and sent “friend” requests.

After dinner, Marie braved a Facebook demonstration on his smart phone.  She had synced his accounts and showed him how to upload pictures and access his email.

During her lesson, he held his breath and concentrated.  Yes! He’s taking it in, I thought. Within minutes, his eyes glazed.  He blinked repeatedly.  Oh, no.  Marie had overloaded his microchips. The program is not responding.  Do we wait or end program now?  We waited.

It worked!  We squealed as he accessed Facebook and patted him on the back as he opened his picture files.  I can’t say he was delighted, but he grinned at our enthusiasm.

The next day, he slammed his phone on the table. “I hate Facebook.”

“Why?”

“My phone’s been vibrating all day. People keep leaving messages wanting to be “friends” on Facebook.  I’m too busy for that crap.”

I took his phone and tapped off  the notifications. Poor guy.  He’ll still catch fish, but he won’t be using the networks of the twenty-first century.

 

Have a great weekend. And thanks for stopping by!

Watching Grass Grow

Published August 30, 2012 by Ms. Nine

A rare creature adapted for life in a single cave may be wiped out in a collapse, but something like grass, with a few strategic nuances, will survive almost anywhere.” 

“The grass is getting high.  Have you noticed? I can mow tonight if you want me to,” my husband said.

“No, I should do it. I’ll mow tomorrow.”

Does he think I sit at home and watch grass grow?

The truth is, I have been watching the grass grow.  It grows dreadfully fast and mowing it cuts at least four hours out of my writing time.

So, if you’re visiting today you’ll hear the Deere running.  Feel free to grab a rake.

Thanks for stopping by.

When the Wind Blows

Published August 27, 2012 by Ms. Nine

By NOAA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

As Hurricane Isaac threatens the Gulf, I am reminded of the devastating effects of nature.  There’s something feral about hurricane winds.  Your animal side responds to its howl.  Can you outwit nature? Subdue it? Do you really have dominion?

“Mom, can we stay with you tonight?” It was Rachel.  She, her husband, and their infant son lived in a mobile home surrounded by trees. “We’re supposed to evacuate on account of the hurricane.  Mike’s on his way home from work, now.  I’m scared, Mom. ”

“You have time.  But please, honey, come as soon as you can.  We’re getting ready for it.   Bring everything you’ll need for the next several days just in case….” I said.

That night after the wind knocked out the power, we listened to news on a battery operated radio.  My daughters, all of them, huddled in the living room and clung to every word of the emergency broadcast…A loud crash broke the concentration.

Armed with flashlights and rope, my husband and son-in-law left the house to investigate.  The girls held hands and prayed.  As I watched the men though the window, their flashlights illuminated blurs of their movement – the struggle to tie rope to the posts and tether themselves, their blown faces like distorted images in a fun house, the rain slamming them sideways.

When they returned, the girls threw questions at them.  What happened? Did you see the barn? Are the horses okay? What was that noise?

“The sycamore, the one by the driveway, toppled over,” Mike reported.

“It’s okay,” my husband said, “it didn’t hit the propane tank.”

At this point, most of us were exhausted.  We were tired of listening to the wind, the tinny radio voices, and the pelting rain.  I blew out the candles and brought out blankets and pillows.  We dosed.

In the light of dawn, the brightest light I had ever seen, we stumbled awake and gathered outside. I heard a scream.

In the blink of an eye, our yard had become a strange landscape.  Toppled trees and branches obscured the view of the street, the barn, and the pond.  A large oak lay across the front field.  The top of  an old cedar had hurled like a spear into Marie’s ragtop.  She was still screaming.  She loved that car.

We comforted each other and checked on our neighbors.   All the people on our street were without electricity too, but no one was hurt.  For the next several days, I would bond with my neighbors in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise.  We held grilling parties to share thawing food, passed around generators for our well pumps, and took turns with chain saws to clear the road of fallen trees.  A friend fixed Marie’s car.

Within a few weeks, our lives returned to normal, but we would never be the same.  We learned about the power of people and the power of nature.  United in humanity, we do have dominion.

Elementary Lessons

Published August 24, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Sometimes the lessons we learn in school aren’t found in a teacher’s plan book. This lesson was taught to a sixth grade class during the last century, but I will never forget what I learned from it.

“Who drank from my cup?” Mr. Skip hurled his voice at the rows of twelve-year-olds in his charge.  A giant of a man, Mr. Skip disciplined with a rolling voice.  We were bowling pins; he could knock us over just by breathing.

Silence.

“I want to know who drank from my coffee mug.  Until someone comes forward, there will be no recess.”

Groans.  Was this the end of recess as we knew it?  Who among us would snitch or confess?

A hand jerked up, hoisted by a good angel and a pulley.

“I did it.”

Gasps.  Billy?  He’s here today?

When he came to school, which was not often, we usually knew it because his odor was unmistakable – fermented onions, Romano cheese, and cow shit.  The kids teased him constantly.  He fought back with dirty fists and kicks from his cardboard soles.  His shirt tails hung to his knees while his filthy jeans frayed and dragged at the cuffs.

This unlikely game changer, a frail shadow of a boy, was the only obstacle between us and Dr. Death-of-Recess.  Billy, the goat.  He stood up and instantly became a warrior, a soldier, a hero.

“Oh, so you like my cup, Billy? Here, take it. Fill it with water.”

Billy smirked, winked at the class, and took the cup.  He returned from the water fountain and handed the cup back to Mr. Skip.

Mr. Skip refused to take it, a gesture of contempt aimed – no doubt – at Billy’s grimy fingers. “Drink it.”

Billy chugged down the water.

“Go and fill it up again.”

By now, we understood Mr. Skip’s story book.  No one would enjoy a happy ending with this script.  Billy shrugged as if to say Is this all you’ve got? Bring it on.  He drank the water a second time, a third, and a fourth. On the fifth fill Billy pleaded, “Aww… Mr. Skip…please…”

Mr. Skip’s eyebrows raised like a stage curtain and engaged Billy in a stare-down.  One minute.  Five minutes.  Billy kept his eyes trained on Mr. Skip’s and brought the cup to his lips.

He drank, bowed for the curtain call, and promptly vomited.

Show over.

None of us made fun of Billy after that incident.  Later, we saw him on the bus holding Mr. Skip’s cup like a trophy.

By Will Murray, via Wikimedia Commons

Have a great weekend and thanks for stopping by!

Higher Education

Published August 23, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

Nerner Moore White (Public Domain) via Wikimedia Commons

For the first time in over fifty years, I’m not preparing to enter a school building. When I stopped teaching and started writing full-time, I didn’t anticipate the feelings I’d have at the start of this school year.  I feel like a blood hound sniffing for a lost scent.  For Heaven’s sake, where are my crayons and wheat paste?

When you think about it, school consumes a large chunk of your life.  You might be a student, a teacher, or a parent of a school-age child; sooner or later you’ll march through the doors of a school building.  For many of you, that time is now.

As you poke through your school memories, you’ll find moments of truth.  If you’d like, share them in a comment.

Have a great year and thanks for stopping by!

 

When Mom Calls

Published July 30, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

My mom called me today.  One of my uncles recently celebrated his 90th birthday.  I loved my mom’s version of the party.  After our conversation, I pictured the scene and drew out the memories of my uncles and cousins.  Home.

This post was buried in the archives.  It’s back in case you haven’t read it.

 

Nine Writes

I visited my hometown, a place I haven’t seen in years, to attend a wedding.  A day before the wedding, my feelings of nostalgia led me to the old neighborhood where I grew up.   How differerent it looked from the days of my youth!  It took days to untangle my emotions and wrap them up in words.

Here’s what I told myself:

What did you expect?  When you walked away thirty years ago, did you think you were the only one who would leave?  You thought home would always be there, didn’t you?  Well, things change.

Where you once lived, the new owners have installed wrought iron stairs leading to your old room on the second floor.  At the top of the stairs is a door instead of a window.  Two familites live there now.

As you walk the streets of your childhood memories, you notice the sidewalks where you learned to ride a…

View original post 282 more words

Published July 27, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

This post about the writing process by writer A. Christine spoke to me. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.

 

a. christine writer

First, you get an idea. It is bright and shiny like a quarter in a corner, and you run over and pick it up and gloat quietly in your head that you were the one who found it. You subsequently remember that there are lots of ideas out there that other people have picked up and will pick up, some of which look and sound an awful lot like the one you have in your hand. Damn that Collective Unconscious thingamajig!

Still, you like your idea. It excites you, so you keep it around, like a pygmy puff (Harry Potter reference – think a less reproductive tribble). It sits on your shoulder and occasionally reminds you that it’s there. It’s comfortable, and as the idea grows and develops into something more concrete, you start to get that persistent poke at the back of your brain that you need to put…

View original post 1,386 more words

Holy Terror, Batman!

Published July 20, 2012 by Ms. Nine

 

My thoughts and prayers are with the victims in Aurora, Colorado.

When you go to the movies, especially in 3D, you expect the characters to come alive before your eyes, to experience the film in a way that only the big screen delivers.  The action, the drama, the interaction between good and evil pop out at you, a source of marvelous entertainment.  For fans of the comic book genre, the plot and the action are predictable but nonetheless breathtaking.  Not life taking. Not real.

For Batman lovers in an Aurora theatre, a shooting scene in the movie mirrored a real scene when a gunman fired shots and randomly killed fourteen people, wounding at least fifty others.  The gunman’s motives, rationale, or whatever reason you can imagine, is unfathomable.

I wonder.  Why did he choose to be the villain? In his delusional state, did he expect to come face to face with Batman? Did he expect Batman to stop him? Unfortunately, Batman is not real.  But there are real victims here, some of them children.

Please reflect and remember them in your prayers.

Thanks for stopping by.

Three Word Wednesday Knocks Me Out

Published July 18, 2012 by Ms. Nine

Today’s words lured out a story I thought had sunk to the depths of dead bottom.    3WW: feel, tangle, shade

She unwrapped herself from the tangle of sheets and bounded out of bed.  Today was her birthday!

“Did you get it, Daddy?”

“Get what?” he answered coyly, “This?” He placed a tiara on her head.

“Oh, Daddy,” she said, “No, the pony!”

“Oh, that. Go on, open the back door.”

Her father rented it for her birthday party.  The party guests clambered about her, a chorus of “Can I be next?”  Her father led the beast for each romp around the yard.  During the last ride, the pony bit his arm.  His face turned an ugly shade of crimson.  Instantly he reacted with his fist, a blow that knocked the stubborn pony on its ass.

Years later, she could still feel the tiara’s comb dig into her scalp.

Thanks for dropping by!

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