Sunday, September 13, 2009

Atlas Swam

Lake Camanche

Lake Camanche takes its name from the Gold Rush era town of Camanche. Originally the place was named Limerick, and in my opinion it should have been left that way. At least it would have been spelled correctly. (In case you were wondering, the correct spelling is Comanche. It was named after Camanche, IA, which is also misspelled. Sigh.)

A terrible fire in 1873 destroyed the Chinatown portion of Camanche, and now the old site is entirely underwater due to the construction of a dam. Don't worry, Tina and I both live uphill from the dam. And of course, I won't be here that much longer anyway.

So this week I took time out from my busy schedule ~ still cleaning the garage ~ to go to the lake with the whole crew. Mom, Grandpa, me, all my kids, Tina, and all her kids. When the intrepid Devon arrived, he carried a mysterious bag. It was even mysterious to me, his own mother, since he acquired it 15 miles away while I was slaving in the garage.
It turned out to be a bag of rocks.

Earlier in the day, Devon had been flat busted throwing driveway gravel at Mom's dog, Hannah. Dad came up with a brilliant deterrent: give him a bag of rocks to carry for the rest of the day, since he loved rocks sooooooo much. That was before anyone learned about the swimming trip, not that it would have mattered.

It was late afternoon by the time I saw him, and the wiry young fella had grown heartily sick of rocks by that time. "Come on, Devon," I wheedled, "are you SURE there isn't some animal, somewhere...anywhere...that you would like to throw rocks at? Come on, just one. I want to see you. Please?" He wasn't tempted, not even a little bit.

As he plunged into the shallow water, only a small ripple marked the location of his head. Obviously that wasn't going to work so well. He had to come back right by the shore, and stay where he could keep his head above water while sitting on the bottom. Every few minutes he would stop and dump the water out of his soggy encumbrance.

As if that wasn't bad enough, we walked around afterwards and picked up recycling. By the time he had his bag full of beer cans and Coke bottles, he looked as if he'd stepped right out of the pages of Pilgrim's Progress. And smelled as if he'd stepped right out of the Budweiser factory.

I was in no position to talk. Devon had asked some of the nice people along the way, if they had any recycling they were going to throw away. One helpful group donated most of what you see him carrying, plus a beer case full of cans and bottles. Guess who got to carry the beer case. Guess who had little beer dribbles running down their leg. (And in case you don't know, I never ever ever EVER drink any form of alcohol.) "This," I told Tina, "is the moment when we'll meet someone from church. Carrying our beer case and reeking of booze." The kids were in high spirits ~ I was just in spirits.

While we were gone, Mom had been talking to the nice father and son who let Grandpa share their picnic table so he wouldn't have to walk so far.

"Are all those your grandchildren?" he asked Mom.

"Oh, yes," she exclaimed proudly. Or at least exclaimed.

"Wow, there sure are a lot of them." Mom nodded in agreement. "That one little boy," he went on, "the one carrying the bag...he was sure funny. He came walking right on past, kind of leaning off to one side," (here Mom almost spit out her teeth,) "and eating a piece of candy. Do you know what he told me? 'Sure is a great day for some puuuuuuuure sugar!'"

Thinking about our little human hummingbird, Mom lost the rest of her teeth and maybe tonsils, too. Oh wait, she had already lost those. Between the guffaws and wheezes, "Let me tell you about his bag......"

Usually I don't have Uncle Arthur endings. You know, "...and little Johnny learned his lesson and never disobeyed Mommy again." Usually I have the same story repeat over and over and over. This time, however, even after a week, Devon has not shown even the slightest inclination to throw rocks at animals. Or anything else, for that matter. I am beginning to hope that he has, at last, learned his lesson.

If not, I have a backpack. And some boulders. Swimming, anyone?

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Friday, September 4, 2009

Crimson Lahar

I've been having adventures of a different sort lately. You can believe cleaning any garage is some kind of adventure, but now picture cleaning a garage where the stuff from a couple married 13 years and who never threw anything away, is in the same building with the stuff from a couple married more than 60 years, who never threw anything away. I really do mean anything! In a box of carefully saved receipts and papers from the 80's and 90's (quite recent compared to a lot of the stuff), Mom found one of those dumb sweepstakes things. The envelope said boldly, "DO NOT OPEN!" So they didn't. They just saved it. For decades.

Since this is my blog, I can poke fun at other people and not have to tell you even one of the horrid little pieces of junk that I stored for years. It can be my little secret.

I will confess to having made a small tactical error when I came out. In an effort to pack lightly, I actually packed too lightly. Really, I could have used just a few more clothes. Yesterday, Tiggy was surprised to see me wearing one of her shirts. It even fit, mostly. Sidling up and speaking out of the corner of her mouth, Lampwick style, she asked, "Short on shirts?"

"Shut up, little kid!"

A few minutes later, a hummingbird came to visit our feeder. The feeder was empty, and I just hadn't gotten around to refilling it. The bird tried a couple times to get food. When he couldn't, he flew right up to the front window and hovered there, looking in making tiny hummingbird frowny faces right at me.

Damon was the lucky one who got to fill the feeder. He quickly mixed up the "nectar" and went outside. As soon as he turned the feeder right-side-up, the bottom fell off and that sticky red sugar water flew everywhere!

He has very fast reflexes, and managed to save more than half of the ambrosia. This time, when he turned it upright, the bottom held. He must not have shaken it very well. Either that, or he dumped out more water than sugar when it spilled. As soon as the red water settled to the lower parts of the feeder, you could see the brightly revolting sludge oozing down from the top of the feeder in a crimson lahar.

The hummingbird didn't seem to mind. He came and sat down. And sat and sat and sat. I was beginning to wonder if he would still be able to fly when he finished. Amazingly, he could. Now he comes back every hour or two for another sip of that awful concoction.

There are certain disadvantages to being a hummingbird. Everyone else is bigger than you, lots of things want to eat you, and you can starve to death in a few hours. But I can think of one big advantage, too...

Hummingbirds don't have garages.