About three years ago when I moved into my cottage my beautiful, talented, intelligent granddaughter (I am a grandfather. I am required to say those kinds of things even if my grandkids are mini-Godzillas.) presented me with two adopted kittens. She thought I needed some company in the new place.
A word about adoption. We ordinary saps think we are doing a good thing by adopting animals, That part is true; however there is a slight fee. In this case it was $70 a piece for these rare, genuine, American Alley Minks. This does not include the cost of taking them to the vet to get their booster shots and their bags unpacked.
So, into my life came the Kilkenny Brothers, Fast Eddie and Lazy Jake. I gave them Irish names since they were born in mid-March so now their birthday is the easy to remember, and sometimes embarrassingly hard to forget, Saint Patrick’s Day.
So these little fur balls moved right in. After a week or so when I had a chance to observe them, they got their names befitting their personalities. Then their training began.
The popular notion that it is difficult to train a cat because they have an independent streak is not true. They are difficult to train because (cat lovers are going to hate me for this) they are dumb. Cats are unencumbered by the slightest trace of intelligence. If you do not believe me, take a cat into a dark room. Shine a flashlight in their right ear and a beam of light will come out of their left.
So their training began. The vet told me that they would live longer, more healthy lives if I kept them indoors. So as kittens they would scratch at the front door to go out. I permitted them to do so, but only when it was raining, the harder the better. It only took them six or seven times to learn that outside meant a good soaking. Now they will not go near the front door, but they will try to bolt out the backdoor.
It also took a little time for them to learn the difference between the litter box and my shoes. This period was filled with quite a bit of loud, early morning blasphemy on my part.
Cats are creatures of habit. Anything out of the normal routine is very upsetting for them. This trait was exhibited just last week.
Normally, I work from home. There are occasional absences’ for errands, but they only last for a hour or so. Last week I was gone for over six hours. I knew I would be so I left them with full water and chow bowls and a clean litter box. I also left the TV on the Animal Channel and the remote where they could get at it.
When I got back I was confronted with two cats sitting side by side in the classic Egyptian Cat pose, tails angrily swishing back and forth, ears slightly back, angrily, staring at me through squinted eyes, giving me the ‘stink eye’.
I immediately checked my shoes. © 2014, Jim McGowan
By now you have probably determined that the citizens of Harmony County are a pretty swave and deboner bunch. So our annual Wine Festival is a very sophisticated affair. It is put on by the Harmony County Winers. These folks are easily identified in the summer when they wear their flip-flops. They are the ones with the purple feet. The Winers are definitely ‘old school’ when it comes to their craft.
The festival starts in the same manner each year. Everyone gathers in the town square where they have built a temporary platform where they place a barrel of this year’s efforts. The oldest citizen has the tasting honors and that individual traditionally states it is the greatest stuff ever made.
Usually this is done by Grannie Fannie Feinstermacher. Not only is she the oldest person in the county, but long ago her taste buds were burnt out by her addiction to ‘Old Stump Burner Hot Sauce’ which she puts on everything include her corn flakes.
However, one year Grannie Fannie was not available due to her being a guest of the county for some minor misunderstanding involving two midgets, a goat and some glitter. On that year her substitute went through the drill and when he took the first sip he immediately sprayed it out and screamed, “This stuff tastes like…”
As one might expect the locals were outraged. They grabbed him and he found himself taking an involuntary swim in the river. Despite the admonitions of the Boy Scouts, sometimes being truthful may not be the best course of action.
This year’s festival was considered a complete success. Only 20% of the attendees went temporarily blind and there were no drunk driving offenses since people could not remember where they parked their pick ups. There was one dark spot on the celebration. Sadly, the days of Grannie Fannie being a pole dancer are long over. Though the spirit was willing the flesh was weak, or more accurately, sagging.
If you remember back to the days of your misspent youth I am sure you will recall having the guy with the false ID buy some alleged wines, the names of which I can not repeat here without getting sued, and you and your Buds sneaking behind the woodshed and learned first hand the evils of alcohol. Well, the Harmony County Wine Du Jour is a couple of places below that stuff. You really can not expect too much from a concoction whose motto is, “Aged on the truck.”
Actually, when compared to such stuff as kerosene or paint thinner the stuff is not all that bad, plus it can be used as a substitute for those other less volatile liquids. On the up side NASA has made some inquires for the stuff as a possible use as rocket fuel.
So this year’s vintage is off to an unexpecting public. Let us hope they all have stomachs like leather bags. The only group that looks forward to its arrival is pest exterminators. © 2014 Jim McGowan
The pride and joy of Harmony County were out in force last weekend at the annual Harmony County Cup races. As usual it was held at the Harmony County Hippodrome and Land Fill.
The attendees were in their Spring finery as one may well imagine. Hardly a patch could be found on the overalls, clean T-shirts and sneeze free bandanas were the rule. The men were equally impressively attired, many of whom were even wearing shoes.
Though it had rained heavily the night before and into the morning, folks and their steeds started to arrive early. In many cases the racers were pulling the wagons their owners were riding.
One of the first to arrive was the ever lovely and popular, Grannie Fannie Feinstermacher. She took up her usual position and set up shop. Grannie Fannie is a lifelong member of the ‘muley’ set and her intimate knowledge of the runners makes her the ‘go-to gal’ if one is in the mood to laying down a few bucks on the outcome of the races.
So, to quote Billy Joel, “It was 9-o’clock on a Saturday, the regular crowd drifted in.” Tailgating Harmony County style is not for the timid. While the favorite horse’s ovary is the yummy catfish and collard green canapé the heavy drinking begins early on. Even by my low standards, 9 AM is not my preferred start of Happy Hour.
You see while the runners were certainly in the equus family they were given to long ears, saying “hee-haw” frequently and can occasionally be less than cooperative. (Safety tip; Do not approach these large, brown, beasties from the rear. Not unless you want to spend the next week bouncing.)
Horses have four gaits; walk, trot, canter and gallop. However, in some cases a mule can be creative with their forms of locomotion. These are sometimes described as, “Start, f**t, stumble, and fall”. These leads to some interesting races. Add to that the tendency to think independently in a race if you have 10 mules and 10 riders you have 21 opinions on how the race should be run.
As any punter will tell you the most important part of the race is the finish. While I would normally agree an exception has to be made for a mule race. The race organizers started with a mechanical starting gate. ‘Briiiiing’ went the bell and the doors flew open. The mules just stood there with puzzled looks. Eventually one or two wandered out and munched on the grass on the side of the track.
Next they got some poor sap with a starter’s pistol. Pulling a gun and firing it in Harmony County is not wise. The ensuing firefight would make Audie Murphy duck for cover. Even the mules low crawled away. Now they use a rope and a green flag and, “There off”!”
The year’s Cup race was considered a success. Out of 15 starters 11 crossed the finish line, seven with riders.
Grannie Fannie made a bundle. © 2014, Jim McGowan
Oh how the mighty have fallen. Unfortunately this is not the first time for me. I remember when my family found out I was becoming a journalist. Putting it mildly, they were aghast.
They said, “What! How could you? Why not do something with some respectability? Why not become a drug dealer to fifth graders or a piano player in a house of ill repute? Be like your Uncle Seamus. He can teach you accounting if he makes parole.”
I suppose those are all good suggestions. However, since I raised a bunch of fifth graders (I am amazed I did not strangle one or two of them), can not carry a tune in a basket, nor am good with numbers, so those time honored family traditions were definitely not in my future.
Well, I went on to become a newspaper man and, following Mark Twain’s advice, “Make sure you get your facts straight, then go ahead and lie.” I have enjoyed a spotted career unencumbered by anything approaching the truth. (Maybe I should apply to one of the major networks.)
My days of attending government council meetings and getting bounced down the town hall steps and doing interviews with law enforcement officers and getting bounced down police headquarters steps are pretty much over. But that does not mean I can’t reach new career lows.
I have become involved in local politics. I have become a campaign manager and now no one in my family will return my calls and the cats are using my shoes as size 10 litter boxes.
The job has its ups and downs. The pay is so-so. I figured I would make the serious cash on the back end. There is nothing like a bit of graft and corruption to make semi-retirement a little easier.
One of my tasks is to set up meetings with various organizations and church groups throughout the community. I figured my ‘bouncing’ experience would come in handy for these appointments. Surprisingly, I have been cordially greeted and have had great receptions.
Another task is speech writing. There is a job right up my alley. Here we go, “Now boarding for Flight of Fantasy #1 non-stop to Elected City.” With my talent for playing fast and loose with the truth I am going to turn my man into a water walker. But noooo, the candidate who I am working for is, wait for it, honest. That’s right, honest. Not only that, he insists that I be honest too, go figure.
Another part of my job is to get the skinny on the opposition. I got out my slander shovel and dug right in. After moving a Panama Canal worth of history I came up with a grand total of zip. (For those suffering from insomnia read a couple of week’s worth of council meeting notes, Nighty-night.) All that was in the minutes was about as exciting as a “Brady Bunch” marathon. It was just elected officials doing their jobs.
Honest officials, wow.© 2014, Jim McGowan
I have always considered myself something of a Renaissance Man. You know, a guy with many, varied interests. I sure that you would be surprised to learn that quite a few of them are not in violation local, state or federal laws. That is not to say I do not have any addictions.
Putting aside my alleged addiction to personality altering substances, one of my biggest addictions is to a very large lizard. I am nuts about ‘Godzilla’ movies.
Ever since the first one came out in the early ‘50s I have not missed one. That is I have seen Tokyo stomped flat over 30 times. Back in the day I have cut school, missed trips to the beach, skipped bail and disappeared into theaters for two glorious hours to watch the ‘G’ create havoc, parking lots and very large smoking holes all around Mount Fuji and its environs.
I suppose there is an upside to all the destruction. I can imagine that that anybody in the building trades in Japan make out like bandits. In comes Godzilla; stomp, stomp, crush, crush (What has he got against railroads? He is always busting up the 6:15 for Yokohama.) Next come the contractors; hammer, hammer, saw, saw. “Here is the bill” and off they go to Hawaii to wait for Mr. Scales to start the cycle again. On the other hand, the price of property insurance has got to be out of sight.
The casting is pretty standard. First you got your ‘Professor’ he is an older man in a lab coat who is always finding large, radioactive eggs. Next there is his pretty, young girl assistant. She is a dim bulb, but likes short skirts and can really scream. Then there is the handsome young reporter who has got a thing for the lab assistant. Let us not forget the token ‘round eye’. He is always on a committee of some kind and advises the use of nukes. (In one of the first movies this role was played by Raymond Burr.)
Occasionally you will see a baby ‘G’. He is a cuddly little thing and the pet of the lab assistant. He is around six-foot-tall and only stomps on shrubbery, but every now and again eats a first-grader. At the end of the movie he always links up with daddy and they walk into a setting sun.
‘G’s enemies are varied. Forget about tanks, artillery, jets etc. They only tick him off and they head for the tall and uncut when they find out how ineffective they are. The real bad actors are other monsters that can fly or live in the sea, or are robots or come from outer space or the future. Together they take turns destroying Japan by the square mile, but in the end Godzilla wins.
The best movies are the older ones. The special effects are great. But now Hollywood is making them and it is not the same.
The newest is due out this year. I’ll buy the popcorn.©2014, Jim McGowan
I don’t know what came over me, but I exercised. I walked four whole blocks to the convenience store pushing my bike. I had to take three breaks along the way. I filled up the tires and rode back. It was a total of six tenths of a mile over the ground and not one saloon along the long, exhausting route.
My well earned ‘couch potato’ image is in shatters. Oh the shame of it all.
I suppose that we all have to fight back these sudden impulses. When I was a kid I left my nose print on every candy store window in town. Come to think of it, I still do occasionally. Much to the same result of me being chased down the street by an angry, broom swinging, confectioner. (People who deal with children should never use language like that.)
I suppose this exercise thing is a family trait. Our Family Crest has a guy leaping over a fence in the moonlight with a pig under his arm. Believe it or not I used to be a runner. Back in my high school days I was a pretty decent medium distance runner. Then the Army go a hold of me and that was the end of my “Joy of Running” feelings.
I remember a particularly sadistic platoon sergeant. Not that one would describe any platoon sergeant as warm and cuddly. It was three miles at a seven minute pace five times a week and six miles on Saturday.
That Saturday run was a killer and the ‘plat daddy’ was not happy until at least half the platoon was strung out along the trail laying in a pool of their vomit. Not hard to accomplish since most of those troopers were down town the night before and they were definitely not at choir practice.
Getting back to my recent little tromp. It must have to be, in part, due to the beautiful warm, sunny day last Sunday. I was sitting out on the porch contemplating a choice of cocktails when I glanced over and there was the bike with tires flatter then yesterday’s beer.
That was when the second part kicked in. There is nothing quite like guilt to make a person do dumb things. I got to thinking about the people who are older then me that walk briskly by every day. Then there is the constant stream of commercials on TV that have geriatric gymnasts bounding around like teenagers.
So one of the voices in my head, the evil one, said, “You are out of shape, Bubble butt. You must exercise and hurt yourself.” And like a dummy I did. That explains why the house reeks of industrial strength Ben-Gay.
My friend suggested that I join ‘AA’ not the alcohol one, but “Athletics Anonymous”. If you get an overwhelming urge to do anything physical you call your sponsor and he talks to you until he hears a beer can opening in the background.
Where do I sign up? © 2014, Jim McGowan