Friday, November 26, 2010

Bring Me Some Shorts

Without warning, the rod bent, dipped, and all but broke. Even engaged as he was in the sudden battle, the fisherman sneaked a glance at the sonar fish finder. Tiny blips moved and danced on the vivid blue screen, probably black crappie or yellow perch. Maybe even some small trout. The smaller blips scattered like mice at a cat convention as the behemoth filled the screen with its sinister presence.

Aye, it was a big'un. The fisherman shuddered. It was just like all those monster movies where you only saw the creature out of the corner of your eye...right before all the extras started getting eaten.

This last summer, John John took his family and several friends on an extended fishing trip to Fort Peck, many miles west of Culbertson, MT. Mom and Dad have both been there, separately, by accident, having missed the turn to Sidney. Jack went out there for his weather-spotter class, and there is a fine museum with delightful fossils. Someday I'll get to see them.

At first, 7-year-old Bubba was the only one who caught a fish, with his dinky Batman pole. The menfolks with their hundreds of dollars worth of specialized equipment, caught nothing. I'm sure the fact that he wouldn't let anyone else fish off the deep end of the boat was the only reason for that.

When it was time to set up camp, Bubba whipped out his one-boy tent and snapped everything in place. Jerry, a family friend, didn't fare as well, being unaccustomed to the outdoor life. No matter how he tried, his tent sagged in the middle. At last, in complete frustration, he gave it a parting kick and drove 25 miles to the nearest town, where he bought another tent.

Same result.

"I tried to tell you that you had to fasten those strings up," was John John's laconic comment. He only laughed a little as poor Jerry finally took wire out twisted, it, and tied the top of his tent to a nearby tree.

"You might want to turn your tent around," John John suggested helpfully. "Face the door away from the wind."

"Naw," Jerry drawled. "It's hot. Besides, I like the breeze."

The next morning, John John manfully held in his laughter as a hollow-eyed Jerry crept out of his twisty-tied tent, complaining, "I hardly slept a wink all night! The wind kept whipping the tent all around, and just about blew me over."

Are you kidding? This is Jack's little brother we're talking about. He howled with glee. And the fun was only getting started.

"I'm going to fire up my propane stove and cook supper for everyone," John John promised one evening.

"You go ahead," Jerry said. "My brother and I are going to beer roast a couple of chickens over the fire. I've got a great recipe!"

"Suit yourself," John John shrugged, silently noting that it was already 7 o'clock at night.

In a little while, John, Dusty, and all three kids were happily eating their succulent dinner. Jerry and his brother were not.

The two men poked a couple holes in the top of their beer cans, and inserted one into each bird. Jerry carefully gathered up two miniscule twigs and began to insert them into the rear of the chickens. "Aaaaaagh, don't use those," John John exclaimed. "You have to get something bigger."

After upgrading from twigs to sticks, Jerry poured most of a bottle of lighter fluid into the fire pit, and excitedly held the chickens just above it while his brother tossed the match. A massive volcano of flame shot upwards, engulfing the chickens in the inferno. Whatever the temperature farther in, there was no question that the skin was done. Very done.

At last the firestorm subsided to glowing coals, and they got down to the business of cooking supper. "I don't know about that," John John said doubtfully, as he listened to the beer popping and hissing inside its poultry prison.

"Oh, it'll be fine," Jerry assured him, trying not to notice that it was getting very late and his body was beginning to consume itself. He shifted to a more comfortable position and continued his lengthy vigil.

Startled, he jerked upright as the beer cans burst inside the chickens, spilling over and dousing the already-guttering coals. "That's it - I'm eating!" Jerry burst out bitterly. He and his brother held their prizes and took a big bite. Black as night on the outside, juicy and raw on the inside. It could almost have walked away on its own.

"Please, John," the two men begged, "do you have anything we could eat?"

Fort Peck has such nice, warm water in the summer, that water sports are wildly popular. John John decided to introduce his friends to the fine art of inner tubing. "Are you sure you want to wear that?" he asked Jerry, who was just tying his drawstring sweat-shorts.

"Yep," Jerry answered confidently, climbing into the boat. When it was Jerry's turn to ride the inner tube, he happily jumped in the water, got into position, and signaled John John to take off. When the boat took off, so did Jerry's pants, to the riotous, shrieking delight of the bevy of college girls on the shore.

With dignity barely preserved by a strategic life jacket, Jerry crept to the shallow water and called to his friend, "Hey, can you bring me some shorts? And bring them right to the shore."

"You might not want to put that there," John John sighed as he warned Jerry yet again.

"My grill? It'll be fine." Jerry smacked his lips. "I can almost taste those hot dogs already." John John just shook his head.

After another fishing foray, the return to camp was marked by a shrill cry of outrage. "They're gone - all gone! WHO ATE MY HOT DOGS???"

John John held his aching sides with one hand, wheezing as he tried to talk and laugh at the same time. Pointing at the ground, he gasped, "Don't you see the footprints? The dogs got your dogs." Overcome by his own wit, it was a moment before he could continue. "That's why you're supposed to put the grill up on the picnic table, not on the ground!"

Jerry was busy having his own adventures, with no unkind soul to record or remember them, when the Great Fish made its appearance.

John John battled fiercely, sometimes playing out the line, and sometimes reeling it in. Once, the fish breached the water, landing with a splash. One look at its alligator head, and he knew he had a Northern Pike on the line.

"What am I going to do?" he thought to himself. "I was hoping to get a walleye, and I don't even have a net." Though short on equipment, he had no lack of ingenuity. As the pike drew in closer and still closer, he picked up a pair of pliers and seized its jaw, heaving its four-foot-long body into the sixteen-foot boat.

The fish went mad. Jaws snapping, it lunged, thrashed, and leaped, wildly beating against the resonant metal. Already taking shelter in the bow, Dusty tried to keep the frantic children calm. As the pike snapped and beat a few feet closer, she caught three-year-old Emily midair as she tried to leap off the boat. Apparently the certainty of one pike in the boat was more terrifying than the possibility of many more under it.

Word quickly spread, and a rather large audience had gathered to watch by the time John John got his trophy to the cleaning station. They were all there to see him clog up the drain with the fish's head, too. "Ya know, Son," one old-timer offered, "these stations weren't really designed for fish that big." Aw, he was probably just jealous he didn't have anything to plug the drain with.

They all ate fish fillets, about as fresh as it gets. John John cut them in quarters, and when they were still too big for his largest frying pan, he quartered them again. It was much more popular than the chicken.

Hopefully we'll be able to go camping there next summer. If normal, grown men could get into so many adventures, I have to wonder what a professional like Devon could do.

Until the next adventure,
Noni Beth

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Jonah Syndrome

(Borrowed from one of Tina's blogs of which I am a contributor, since she hasn't been using it for many months.)

Something brought to mind the sad fate of one of our pets, back when Damon and Tiggy were very small, and Devon was still in the oven.

So shortly after the turn of the century, we had this adorable little black dog named Jonah. She, yes she, looked like a whippet, but I have no clue what she actually was. She was the fastest, wiggliest little thing you could imagine, with a white star on her chest. We all loved Jonah.

Then, while the kids and I were gone on a trip, she came up missing. The kids were sad for a day or two, but life went on and we got another dog. However, for YEARS afterward, whenever Damon became upset about something else, he would wail, "I MISS JONAH!!!!!!!!" That became his excuse basket to put every bad and sad feeling for years. No, he wasn't upset because someone called him names. He just missed Jonah. No, he wasn't upset because he got in trouble. He just missed Jonah. No, he wasn't crying because he fell down and skinned his forehead. He just missed Jonah.

It was a long time before the kids found out what happened, but Jack and I had a pretty good idea from the start. Shortly after we got back from the trip, a horrible smell began emanating from under the house on one side, where a vent cover was missing. For a month or two I couldn't even go out there, pregnant and very sensitive to bad smells as I was.

For some reason I couldn't get Jack to go under the house, either. We just figured it would go away eventually, and it did. Very eventually.

Later, Buster, a huge naughty dog that destroyed and ate everything in sight, managed to squeeze his bulk under the house somehow, and clawed up the walls pretty good before he got back out.

Several years after that, a heater duct repair guy found Jonah's bones, just as we suspected. "It was horrible," he said with a catch in his voice, "there were claw marks all over where the poor thing tried to get out."

Monday, November 22, 2010

Hunting Season 2010

You've probably been wondering why there have been no adventures of Gastron O. Nomical. He's probably been having all sorts of fun, but without any of us.

We've been going through Hunting Season 2010, aka The Great Car Massacre. In the middle of a blizzard, or excuse m
e, BLIZZARD-LIKE CONDITIONS (to some purists very separate and distinct from actual blizzards), the 2-point buck came out of the swirling black whiteness, attracted to the lights of the swirling white whiteness by some primitive force th
at brings deer and autos together all over the globe.

Mom was the poor unfortunate who happened to be driving when the deer rushed at her, thwacked the passenger-side lights, thrust one little antler into the engine compartment, and kicked out a light o
n the driver's side for good measure, before collapsing dead beside the road. There was nowhere to pull over right there, and the car kept going just long enough to coast onto one of the few roads out there in the middle of the bliz - in the storm.

Jack was at work, so I set out to her rescue in the only vehicle available to me - our aging and ailing van, whose transmission is slipping like Bambi on ice, so I only drive it right in town. (You might be wondering why, after I drove all the way to CA to bring back the little red truck for Mom that she wasn't driving it. Bear with me - there was a very good reason. Well, a reason.) Despite all trepidation, the rescue went off without a hitch, as well as the subsequent towing. John-John, my brother-in-law, turned out to have his own personal tow truck, so he drove the 10 miles out of town, hooked up our defunt Suburban, pulled it onto the bed, and drove it back to our house. By that time it was so late and cold that he parked the tow truck in our driveway, Suburban still on it, and got a ride home.

The next day, Mom had to go to Williston for many essential supplies, as well as a dentist appointment, and oh yes, picking up Jackie the Junior Border Collie from the vet after being fixed. All that was going to fall to pieces if I couldn't get the red truck running again.

It was all my fault. I admit it. Dad had so carefully warned me numerous times that there was a quirky little thing wrong with the red truck. Something kept the battery from staying charged like a normal car, so it either had to be started every day, or plugged into the special little battery charger in the engine compartment. "Don't forget," he said again and again. "There will be all kinds of trouble if the battery goes dead."

The night I got back from my trip at almost 11 pm, I was so dead I could hardly walk. As I staggered into my bedroom, bed lit up as with a spotlight, I looked down at my hand with horror to find the truck keys still clutched there. Before keeling over, dead asleep, I have a vague memory of handing them to Devon - desperate times call for desperate measures, and I foolishly thought it was a better option than dropping them under the bed - and saying, "Grandpa will kill us all if you lose these. GO HANG THEM UP!!!" Then a few giggles, and a tiny voice saying, "Look! A laser! Hee hee hee," before all went black.

The next morning the keys were nowhere to be found. With no way to start the truck, it sat unplugged past the critical point, and the battery died. Still, how bad could it be? I had jump-started so many batteries I lost count years ago. I could do it in my sleep. All I had to do was find the keys, and Devon had no idea where they were.

After four days of frantic searching, Tiggy found them in a cup-holder in the van. Go figure. No problemo, I would have the truck going in 3 minutes, tops. (This was the day before the buck hunt.)

Hooking up the battery charger with practiced ease, I turned it on to Quick Charge. A shrill siren split the air, and I made it several feet straight up before recovering enough presence of mind to snatch the clips off before something exploded. Jack thought that was pretty funny when I called him, and he informed me that it was the car alarm.

He thought it was even funnier when I called him after a quadrillion attempts to charge the battery while turning off the alarm, had all failed. At least I think he was laughing. It could have been my ears ringing.

The next night, with the Suburban down for the count, it was confession time. Holding back ~most~ of his I-told-you-so's, Dad gave me several things to try, and one of them worked. Just in time for Mom to leave for the dentist and vet, I whisked the purring truck over to her.

That evening, the call came in. "Do you suppose John-John can make another trip to Williston? The red truck has broken down." I think there were muffled sobs in the background.

With the Suburban hastily set down in the driveway, the family tow service sprang into action once more. Mom rode home with Tina, so she wasn't there to see the dazzled coyote slicing through the heavy snow, mystically drawn to the glowing li.... thump thump. Never mind.

Two cars that don't run any more. Two animals that don't run any more. Most folks would call that a draw.

I call it a pedestrian. Two pedestrians.

Doing a lot of walking,
Noni Beth


The drill barely goes

How red and cold is my nose

My boogers are froze.

~ Inspired by helping Jack with an installation at -5 F/-20 C.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Look, There's Elvis!

The man - or was it a woman? - slumped against the bathroom wall in the hospital, unresponsive and deadly pale. A passing employee rent the air with her startled scream. "Please, come quick! Somebody help me!"

The team of crack EMT's rushed in, determined to save the man - or was it a woman? - if they could. "Let's get him on the floor, stat," the lead EMT barked.

"Or her," another mumbled under her breath.

"No respirations and no pulse." The lead sounded hoarse. "Initiate CPR."

As one, each member of the team leaped into action, one beginning chest compressions, one inserting an airway and preparing to bag, and one getting the board for transport. The poor hospital employee watched it all, wringing her hands and moaning softly.

It was a long trip, and the EMT's were tired when at last they rolled the patient, still unresponsive, into the ER where Dr. Ruth waited. She spared only the most cursory glance before declaring the patient dead. The EMT's relaxed, stretched their aching muscles. They had done all they could.

"Great job, guys," the instructor said. "Now sit down and write me up a report on what you just did. Oh, and please put the dummy back where you found him."

"Her," someone whispered.

Then it was my turn to be on a team. When we found the patient, he was in even worse shape than before. What, you ask, could be downhill from dead? As it turns out, plenty. This time, our poor person was found face-down, still unresponsive, with his head in the toilet and the seat resting on the back of his neck. It looked for all the world like the toilet was trying to eat him, and just hadn't gotten around to swallowing the rest of him. Rather an undignified way to go...but not if we could help it!

After we loaded our patient, the ambulance driver took us all around town, over the railroad tracks, bumpity bump bump, pumping and bagging all the way. Two of us kept up the CPR at all times, the other two steadying with one hand and hanging onto the ceiling rail, subway-style. The "hysterical" hospital employee rode along, too, giving direction as needed, and timing us to get a baseline against future efforts.

Alas, despite all we could do, upon our arrival Dr. Ruth quickly declared him dead. Again.

She never did explain to us how, with no pulse and no respiration, our patient was able to get sick to his stomach on the way to the hospital, thus needing to be turned on his side and suctioned, mid-CPR. One would almost think it had only been an excuse to get us to practice suctioning.

When the instructor read the three trip reports, our team was horrified to learn that another team had been far more creative, naming the patient and making up a funny address. (They did have trouble picking a gender, though, since the poor dummy had a man's head and a woman's torso, but hey, nobody's perfect.) Our report, though most excellent, had not made anyone laugh. Well, Team A, consider the gauntlet to be thrown.

Next, another student and I were dispatched to an office, a hospital office, oddly enough, for an unresponsive male. We walked in to find a tall, burly EMT lying flat on the floor, his desk chair knocked over beside him. Snoring sounds came from his throat, and his right hand still clutched a urinal.

"I don't even want to know."

Performing the treatment was a little distracting, when the 'unresponsive' patient kept giggling. He's just lucky I only pretended to insert the nasal airway. Next time, he might not be so fortunate.

Tune in next week for the adventures of...
Gastron O. Nomical