Oct 16

Retirement, Day 4: Crone visits hay barn with camera

Yep-o, I’m back. It’s good to see you guys.

Meanwhile, a thorough appreciation of the Slug Life still eludes me. As I mentioned last time, ever since Mickey, the new farm hand, took over the farm chores, I’ve been sort of flumpy. Without purpose. Like something is missing. Which is weird, because prior to having abandoned civilization for the country life, I was as lazy and aimless a professional human blot as ever hoisted an iced Americano at Jo’s coffee shop. For some reason I haven’t yet been able to reconnect with that excellent, dear old slacker Crone.

My nieces, subscribing as always to Blake's assertion that originality is a romantic disease, have named it "Owlie." This photo doesn't adequately convey how tiny Owlie is. No more than 7 or 8 inches.

My nieces, subscribing as always to Blake’s assertion that originality is a romantic disease, have named it “Owlie.” This photo doesn’t adequately convey how mini Owlie is. No more than 7 or 8 inches.

My mother suggested that I use my newfound free time to clean out my garage. She ticked off a whole list of stuff she thinks I should get rid of.* I was a little surprised that my mother is so intimate with the contents of my garage. She lives 200 miles away and only visits once every couple of months. But apparently, behind my back, she has whiled away many an informative hour rootling around in there. Between passive-aggressively cleaning my house, complaining about “the Moslems,” and warning me that everything I do is doomed to failure, I don’t know where she ever found the time.

Needless to say I won’t be cleaning the garage any time soon, but one thing I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while is photograph my famous hay barn owl. So there’s that done, at least.

On the subject of owls, let me just say this: I’ve been around, so you can believe it when I say that few contingencies generate such pleasure as the discovery that a tiny owl has moved into your hay barn. Unlike the attack owl terrorizing joggers in Bethesda MD, the excellence of my owl cannot be overstated. It has decimated the mouse population in the barn, which is terrific, and it does all the owlesque party tricks like rotating its head and flying absolutely silently. But it’s the other, more esoteric aspects of its owliness that I find most resonant. For example. It is laconic. It is asleep. It has no problem whatsoever with me climbing up the hay stacks to within a few feet of it, whereupon it regards me with the wisdom of the ages. And it’s reliable. A crone gets to where the first thing she does when entering the hay barn, after checking that she isn’t about to step on a snake, is to check the rafters and confirm that the owl is still there, which it usually is. Last month it went on the lam for a few weeks, and we all felt a terrible pang of loss. When it returned, it brought along an even tinier bonus owl that stayed for a couple of days; we were unaccountably ecstatic.

I’ve attempted to identify this bird, but let’s face it: my ornithological chops are kind of crap. So don’t laugh when I say I think it’s a Western screech owl, even though the field guide says Cottonmouth County is a bit outside its range. Apparently — and this is the dreadful aspect of this owl — climate change has screwed everything up so bad that it wouldn’t be the first time a kick-ass bird showed up in a somewhat more easterly hay barn than tradition would suggest. Thanks, Exxon!

BINARY SEX UPDATE: I have been informed that female screech owls are larger than the males, and that Owlie is likely a female.

* This is where a lesser crone would list a few of the funkier items, to illustrate what endearingly quirky and eccentric tastes she has. But I will spare you, since my quirky tastes are as banal as anyone’s.

** This owl’s reputation extends all the way to Dripping Springs and beyond; when I was acquainting Mickey with the hay barn, he looked up and asked about it. Apparently Owlie’s the talk of the feed store.

Oct 14

Lady of leisure

It’s 7 AM. You know what I’m not doing right now? That’s right. I’m not feeding any horses. Not even one.

That’s because at long last I’ve hired a farm hand. My 7-year search for a person who can tell the difference between a bog spavin and a shear bolt has finally ended. Mickey moved into Bunkhouse East last weekend. And he’s feeding the horses as I write this.

The East Bunkhouse gleams in the morning sun.

The East Bunkhouse gleams in the morning sun.

Naturally I don’t know what to do with myself. Every single morning for the past 7 years I have hauled my reluctant ass out of the sack at the crack of dawn (or occasionally, if I’m honest, at 7:30 or 8), struggled into some hay-resistant clothing, bumbled out to the barnyard, and flung flakes of coastal at the herd. Then I’d shovel shit for an hour, followed by a climb up the hay stack to perform feats of strength with alfalfa. Then water bucket scrubbing, barn aisle sweeping, and “eek, a mouse” yelling (there’s always a dadgum mouse).

With this infernal morning routine so deeply ingrained, I now find myself at a loss. I’d been yearning for a reprieve from these extra-beddal sunrise chores for years, yet now that it’s finally happened, I’m in existential crisis.

“What the heck do I do with myself?” I texted my sibling, Tidy.

“Watch your iron farmer muscles atrophy,” she responded helpfully, after giving me shit about “first world problems.” Tidy is a phatphobic marathon runner with the body fat of a cheetah in winter. She suggested that I join her elite gym in Austin, so I could pay Mickey to do my exercise for me, then make a 2-hour round trip to pay a gym to replace the exercise I’m not getting anymore. Where do I sign?

For two days I sort of followed Mickey around, offering helpful advice he didn’t need (Mickey is a locally renowned horse-whisperer who has forgotten more about equines than I’ll ever know). This morning, however, I awoke to strange yet distantly familiar stirrings. Dimly aware that before having hurled myself into this pastoral abyss I’d once made something of a hobby of poetical self-expression, I suddenly remembered I had a blog. A glance out the window confirmed that my horses were contentedly chomping hay, and a glance at my hand confirmed that I had a cup of coffee. Nothing to prevent me from plopping down at the desk, blinking at the weird, bright screen, and composing some self-indulgent persiflage.

While my big guns melt into blubber.

May 09

Cattle bum me out

Yesterday Stingray and a couple of her friends drove out from Austin to help plant the monastrell vines. Happy day in the vineyard! La di da. The vines got planted, the friends got their picturesque day in the country, and everyone took a skinnydip in the swimmin’ hole (except me. No way do I ever voluntarily insert myself into a cold, wet, murky snake habitat). In short, the indifference of the cosmos was having a refreshingly neutral impact on me. Nothing was dreadful. La di da. So naturally, a few minutes after Stingray left with her friends, she called me on my cell phone with really bad news. She said,

“There’s a [scrackle crackle] on your [cackle crackle].”

“There’s a what on my what?”

“[Snap crackle pop] ow [garble bobble] orble.”

Cell phones don’t work out here. Screw you, AT&T.

Eventually I was able to decipher the communique. “There’s a cow on your place” was the gist. Stingray had spotted it up by the front gate, partially obscured in the brush, about a mile from the bunkhouse. I could feel the blood drain from my face.

Let me explain. For excellent reasons pertaining to my rural ineptitude, I don’t have cattle. In fact, I have gone to great trouble and expense erecting fences specifically designed to keep cattle the hell out of here. By my reckoning, there should never be any cow of any kind on my place, ever. Consequently, whenever the words “there’s a cow” and “on your place” are conjoined in a single sentence and addressed to me, it portends very troubling times indeed. I cannot understand why I keep hearing those words, but hear them I do, and with astonishing regularity, despite the expensive fences. It appears that whenever a 2000-lb cow decides to come a-callin’ at Dreadful Acres, there’s shit-all I can do about it.

If you have never had loose cattle running amok in your personal vicinity, consider yourself lucky. Oh sure, they’re cute for a while. But soon your lack of cattle-management infrastructure bites you in the ass. You start to notice that they’re covered in flies, which waste no time in infesting your horses (which horses are, by the way, completely freaked out by cattle, because instead of sturdy ranch horses, you have neurotic Arabians). They leave gross-smelling puddles of wet poop everywhere (right where you want to put your foot), which attract more flies. They trample your wildflowers and eat all your nice grass. They bust up the hay wagon you keep by the back door for your feeding-time convenience. They make you haul out the giant water trough and put it in the middle of your driveway, because ever since you put up the dadgum fences, there’s no more access to the creek.

And then, because your place is boxed in on all sides by about five different cattle ranches, which ranches are themselves accessible to wayward livestock from four or five more ranches, and most of these owners are absentee, good luck figuring out where your strays belong. Fact: during a drought, cattle ranchers are not necessarily gonna be chomping at the bit to get their lost cattle back. You will often find that they are somewhat undermotivated even to notice that the cows are missing, much less to remove them from your free grass. This has happened to me more than once. I once involuntarily hosted a herd of 6 Herefords for an entire spring and summer. By the time I finally tracked down their absentee owner, the herd had grown to ten, owing to a birth rate of 66.6%. Rural friends informed me that I was entitled to keep any calves that had been born on my property. Awesome, I said, pulling my foot out of a fresh pie of cow shit, just what I always wanted. Despite the fact that I had fed and watered and picked up after his dadgum cattle for 4 months, and that he clearly had no plans to offer any compensation for these services (let alone for the property damage), I nevertheless had no problem letting the owner take “my” calves when he finally turned up to claim the cows.

That guy never even said thanks. No good deed, amirite?

Yesterday’s cow was Number 61, according to her ear tag. She had been bellowing for several hours before Stingray spotted her on my property (see YouTube video, above; note calf way off to the right). As I said, we’re surrounded by cattle, so constant mooing in the background is just part of the soundtrack out here, and we hadn’t thought anything of it. I now followed the moos. When I finally found her (you’d be surprised how easy it is for a mammal the size of a propane tank to obscure itself in the scrub), it was obvious that she belonged next door. She was calling to a calf who was just on the other side of the fence. Both parties were pretty upset. I was pretty upset. It was a dreadful tableau.

What made it dreadful, besides the incessant bellowing, was the fact that it was getting dark and I couldn’t figure out how to reunite the pair. The nearest gate between my place and the neighbor’s was nearly a mile away over rough terrain. So, even as the little voice in my wisdom-lobe said “you are undoubtedly going to regret this,” I ended up cutting the wire fence, peeling open a gap, and luring Number 61 through with a bucket of Omolene. Then, summoning my rugged pioneer spirit, I slapped it back together with baling twine and a rusty old T-post by the light of the Gator’s headlamps. Cow and calf together again. Fence sorted. Natural order restored.

I should mention that from Stingray’s announcement to the completion of my fence repair, four hours had elapsed. I’d spent the entire time I plotting and stressing and Gatoring back and forth between the cow and the house, collecting tools and buckets of feed and ropes and whatnot, trying out various idiotic gambits. I was exhausted.

My mission accomplished, I tooled on home in my Gator, feeling pretty pleased with myself. Sure, in the morning I was gonna have to call Travis, the rural expert I keep on retainer who calls me “ma’am” even in text messages, to sheepishly explain what happened so he could fix the fence for real. Sure, it was going to be humiliating, because undoubtedly I had committed yet another hilarious act of greenhornery by getting sentimental about the separation of the cow/calf unit and attempting to address this non-problem by ruining a perfectly decent fence. Sure, Travis would exercise his customary palpable restraint in refraining from overtly ridiculing me. But I didn’t care. I had done the decent, humane thing, and that’s all that mattered. In a year’s time that poor calf would be smoked brisket, but at least I’d been able to facilitate this one happy reunion for him. I hoisted a can of wine in my own honor, watched an episode of “Mr Selfridge” (am I the only one who finds Jeremy Piven inexplicably wooden in that role?) and hit the sack.

This morning I was still basking in the glow of my pastoral triumph. Travis stopped by and said, before I’d had a chance to brief him, “Ma’am, did you know there’s a cow up by your front gate?”

I staggered backward as Travis went on to describe the giant black Angus cow on my property, separated (by “bobwar”) from her calf.

You have got to be kidding me. “Not Number 61?” I choked brokenly.

Well, it sure wasn’t the Queen of England.

Stunned by this infuriating deja-vu-all-over-again turn of events, I related to Travis the events of the previous evening, how I’d reunited this same cow with her calf after great mental, emotional, and physical exertions, and that last I’d seen them, they’d been happy as a couple of clams on the other side of the fence. Travis nodded politely, pretending to listen, and informed me that I shouldn’t have worried about that calf, ma’am, he was old enough to be weaned and would have been just fine without my having ruined the fence. He also told me that a cow can jump 6 feet from a standstill. I couldn’t tell if he was just fucking with me.

I can’t really tell you what happened next, it’s all a blur. All I know is, Number 61 is still on my property, her calf is still on the other side of the fence, my fence patch is still a joke, and I’m out of canned wine.

Apr 18

Infestation du jour

As I mentioned the other day, my life is a constant battle against assorted life forms united by the common goal of taking over my bunkhouse by any means necessary. Thus, for the second morning in a row, did I awaken to discover the mud room alive with dozens of paper wasps. It is always disappointing to entertain flying, stinging insects before coffee, but one must soldier on. I cannot fathom how these wasps are getting in, but I do know how they’re getting out. I’m suckin’em up with my BugZooka, baby.

Paper wasps collected in a BugZooka tube were released after modeling in this photo shoot.

Paper wasps collected in a BugZooka tube were released after modeling in this photo shoot.

The BugZooka is a child’s toy I found online. It’s a long plastic tube with a bellows on one end and a bug-catching nozzle on the other. You squeeze the bellows, lock it in place, position the nozzle within an inch of the bug, and press the release button. The bellows instantly inflate, sucking the bug into a little escape-proof compartment. This contraption may look dorky, but it is superior to a rolled-up newspaper because it doesn’t kill the bug, so you can release it back into the wild or, in the case of the venomous brown recluse spider, explain that it’s nothing personal but you’re gonna have to stomp it.

Also, the BugZooka won’t leave a squish stain on your wall. And it adds about 2 1/2 feet to your reach. And it uses no batteries. It’s genius, really. I often hand’em out on those occasions when social conventions dictate that, to maintain order within the fabric of civilization, gifts must be given. People think it’s a cheapo crap present until the next time they find a scorpion in the shower, and then they’re all “I don’t know how I ever lived without my BugZooka!” and they shower me with thanks through tears of gratitude.

As you can see from the photo, a typical wasp infestation at Dreadful Acres is child’s play for the BugZooka. I only wish they made a larger model that would suck up my feral hogs. If it had a sausage-maker attachment, so much the better.

Apr 17

Pus-colored entities

Well, it’s finally happened. And why wouldn’t it? Why wouldn’t my desk become infested with tiny pus-colored, speck-like entities that look like they’d be right at home inside a moth-eaten 100-year-old taxidermied jackalope? Frankly, I’m shocked that it took’em this long. Since I moved out here, nature’s indifference toward the personal sovereignty of H. sapiens has pretty much been the universal cry echoing through the hills. Life in the middle of nowhere is a losing battle against the tireless encroachment into one’s personal bunkhouse of violently aggressive life forms, most of which have teeth, stingers, venom, or all three. That my desk has heretofore been pus-colored-entity-free seems unbelievable.

Since discovering them this morning, I have been devising two working theories that could explain the tiny pus-colored entity population explosion: either my iMac has spawned nanobots, or, possibly, this:

For years the bunkhouse was rife with scorpions and brown recluse spiders and a crap-ton of every other bug you can think of. I shied away from chemical solutions because, cancer. But it was too ridiculous. I was smashing 2 or 3 brown recluses a day. So last summer, realizing that it was pretty miraculous that neither I nor the dogs had been envenomated yet, I finally cried uncle and called in an exterminator to douse the joint with carcinogenic toxins, whereupon the arthropods were done in.

But — and here’s the part where it gets kind of relevant to the pus-colored bugs — what if the dispatched spiders, or some other collaterally damaged insect population, had actually been instrumental in keeping the tiny bugs in check? What if, by killing the brown recluses, I have inadvertently set in motion a tiny pus-colored bug apocalypse? Obviously this is the butterfly effect moment that will ultimately bring human civilization crashing down in a pus-colored shitstorm.

Sadly, I cannot test my hypothesis without re-introducing the spiders, so this is another Science Mystery that will have to go unexplained because I am too lazy to ceaselessly toil in pursuit of Truth. Until further developments develop, I will continue to implement a squish first, ask questions later policy regarding the tiny pus-colored bugs.

Here’s a pretty dreadful thing, though. Once you have discovered a bazillion bugs on your desk, your entire body starts itching.

Photo of pus-colored bug taken with a ProScope Mobile at 50X magnification. It’s blurry because the dang bugs move fast and 50X photography with a handheld scope is hard.

Mar 27

The crone and the post-hole sirens

Gate latchWell, the horses got out.

First, though: you know how horses are in the wind? Let me refresh your memory. There’s something about an ordinary, garden-variety tornadic gale that sends a horse plummeting into a sort of infinite feedback loop of blind terror. They prance around, their eyes look crazed, they snort and blow, they flip their tails over their backs and arch their 28-foot necks and spook sideways for no reason. Then suddenly they go galloping off en masse, usually straight into a fence.

Panicking horse + fence = carnage and vet bills

Anyway, yesterday the tableau was cinematic. It was fixin’ to rain and the wind was gusting at about 40 miles an hour. Dark clouds roiled overhead. Dirt devils — little funnel clouds of dust, leaves, and taco wrappers loosed by the construction crew — sworled menacingly. Dead limbs came crashing down from drought-stressed oaks. Anything that could possibly make a rattling or creaking or whistling sound was rattling, creaking, and whistling. In the distance something — or someone — was screeching.

Naturally, out in the field the mares were stampeding according to the Global Accords Governing Equine Behavior, so I thought it might be better for everyone if I just brought them all in until everything blew over.

My flighty little Arabian Stella and I are two hearts that beat as one when it comes to repairing to cozy barns during sucky weather; when she saw me coming with the halter she was first in line, all “I’m a celebrity, get me outta here.” It wasn’t until I’d patted her butt and closed the stall door behind her that I happened to glance out the barn window. The spectacle I beheld was ghastly beyond comprehension. The two remaining horses, Pearl and Ginger Rogers, were lickety-splitting down the driveway, bucking and snorting.

This simply could not be happening. In disbelief I turned to observe the gate I thought I had securely fastened not a minute earlier. Impossibly, it swung sickeningly in the wind, its stupid unfastened chain thunking against the fencepost, mocking me. Shit. Damn thing must have bounced out of its stupid little groove. Usually I double-check, but with Stella jumpy as heck, my attention had been mostly focused on not getting too trampled.

Jumpy Arabian + stupid crone = loose horse crisis

Crisis? you ask. So your horses got loose, big whoop. Just stroll after’em with a bucket of feed like you always do.

Post hole with invisible post-hole siren

Post hole with invisible post-hole siren

I think I may have forgotten to mention that I am having a new fence built in the barnyard. About a quarter mile of it. It is just at that awkward stage where 7642 post holes have been dug to a depth of about 3 feet, but no lumber has arrived yet. The holes are wide open and plentiful. As far as horses go, that part of the farm is, it’s fair to say, a death trap, basically.

This is Dreadful Acres, so it goes without saying that it was toward this very hazard that the wind-crazed pair-o-mares had commenced scramming at a dead run. And I am a science-based crone, so it goes without saying that my hypothesis was this: my gaping post holes are inhabited by invisible post-hole sirens all transmitting on some equine frequency this irresistible message: “come hither, Dobbin, and step lively, right into these holes, hurry up, 72 bales of virgin alfalfa await you, no shit I’m totally serious.”

It is a scientific fact that horses in a herd are all connected emotionally by an invisible equine fiber-optic internet. Therefore Stella, who from her run had observed the egress of the escapees with mounting alarm, got the memo and began caterwauling and executing little “Ima jump outta here” rears. In reality poor Stella couldn’t jump over a broomstick, but she is not averse to dying in an effort to prove it.

The situation, in short, was completely out of hand.

The place I was in was a hard one. Next to me was a rock. I mean, the last thing you do with a pair of panicking horses is give chase; their most basic instinct is to flee at breakneck speed in the direction opposite the horrific threat, even if that threat is nothing more sinister than you, the wind, and a cotton lead rope, and particularly if a field of leg-breaking death-pits awaits them. Normally I’d just head’em off while projecting a totally chill, non-threatening, fancy-free demeanor, but in this case they were too far ahead of me. So although I couldn’t chase’em, I had to chase’em.

Yeah, I think I also may have forgotten to mention that I was nursing a recent ankle sprain.

So, to recap:

Gale force winds. Panicked horses on the lam. Field full of holes. Stella trying to commit suicide on paddock fence. Lone crone hobbling at breakankle speed.

Gad, the hilarity of it all.

Well, it all turned out OK in the end, no thanks to me. What happened was, at the last minute the post-hole sirens started transmitting a new message: “Never mind. Go back to the barn. Let that idiot Crone put a halter on you. Nothin’ to see here.”

Mar 25

Death in springtime

Many dreadful contingencies have obtained as a result of my having built a tall-ass horse barn, not the least of which is the decimation of the black-chinned hummingbirds.

I don’t know if you know about hummingbirds. Well, let me enlighten you. They are complete freaks of nature. Their metabolism is extreme and ridiculous, necessitated by their predilection for hovering over flowers and their concomitant aversion to taking a load off. If they don’t eat nectar more or less constantly they’ll starve to death within a couple of hours. This is all well and good and as nature intended and whatnot, until they get trapped in your barn.

Though pleasing to the human eye, the architecture of the barn — involving a 25-foot raised center aisle with skylights and fixed clerestory windows all around — is incompatible with hummingbird survival. They fly into the barn for reasons known only to them.

They don’t fly out.

The hummingbird’s instinct, which clearly evolved previous to the invention of RCA barns, compels them to fly up, up, never down toward the open door, always up, toward the skylights. Among the grimmest spectacles a crone can witness is one of these teensy birds, unaware that freedom awaits only a few feet below, bumping relentlessly at each window in succession until it expires from exhaustion. As distressing as it is for me, I suspect that it is somewhat worse for the bird.

Now it’s spring again, which means all kinds of horrible things. Oak pollen, and venomous snakes coming out of hibernation, and Eastern phoebes nesting in my carport in order to crap all over my car, and yes, the hummingbirds are back from points south, making their inevitable beeline for my dang barn. Yesterday I found the season’s first casualty dead on the floor.

Well, no more! I say. Based on last year’s detailed observations of trapped hummingbird window-bumping behavior, I have hatched a plan. This plan is predicated on the following hypothesis: if a hole is cut into the wooden gable vent at the same level as the clerestory windows against which the birds are wont to bump, they will eventually find this hole and liberate themselves. Today I am going to set in motion a series of events that will result such a hole being cut. Phase 2 of my cunning plan entails stringing up one of those red plastic feeders on a pulley positioned adjacent to the proposed gable-hole, and hoisting it up there to attract the bird to the exit.

If this doesn’t work I guess I am just doomed to suffer eternally the pangs of cosmic indifference to hummingbird life.

The logo for Dreadful Acres, if I ever get around to drawing it, will be a hummingbird with a teardrop in its eye.

Mar 24

Crone totally loses it

If there were some kind of contest for lack of rural aptitude, I would definitely own that thing. Guess what stupid thing I’ve done now.

Did you guess “put in a vineyard in the Back Forty”? You’re right!

You can’t just buy a few grape vines and stick’em in the ground, it turns out. Instead, you have to enclose the entire acreage in deer fence, run power and water out there, install irrigation lines, and erect what the vineyard guy is calling “a little house” for reasons I have yet to grasp.

Yeah, I said “vineyard guy.” You are obliged to engage one of these, because, remember? You don’t know jack about growing grapes.

That’s bad enough, but then you have to have arguments with your winemaker about what to call the winery, even though the first harvest is still at least two years out. We’re gonna be making rosé, so naturally I wanted to call it Summer Winery. It has its own flippin excellent video already.

However, the winemaker, my longtime sidekick Stingray, has put her foot down. “Summer” is apparently the worst winery name since “Mommy’s Juice.” Her reasoning eludes me. “Rosé isn’t just for summer anymore!” she keeps insisting. Fine, I counter, but we’re talking about a name, not a set of instructions. You don’t take it literally, it’s only meant to suggest a certain mood, elicit a certain feeling. It’s poetical, a metaphor. Is pasta alla puttanesca eaten only by prostituted women? Pull yourself together, woman!

This fight isn’t over.

Jun 21

Death of a cistern

JackhammerLike all recent mornings, there is, as I write this, a gigantic jackhammer jackhammering right outside my window. The jackhammer is destroying a 50,000 gallon underground concrete cistern. This cistern, constructed at great expense at the urging of my architect (“you’ve never tasted water so good!”), was meant to collect rainwater off the roof of the bunkhouse. And it did, in fact, collect some of that. It also collected oak pollen, squirrel feces, katydid frass, and the incessant involvement of my annoying handyman, who was obliged to ascend the roof with a leaf-blower seemingly every other day in a futile attempt to combat nature’s natural impulse to deposit its stankonious detritus over every square millimeter of Dreadful Acres.

The fact that rainwater collection necessitated daily interactions with a person as annoying as my handyman made that aspect of the process particularly trying.

The mosquitoes, though, were the cistern’s most truly breathtaking product. In the middle of a 3-year drought, with no other standing water around for miles, my house was a beacon, a spa, a luxury resort for mosquitoes. They spawned like mad in the cistern, where they were protected from both predators and, owing to the intended purpose of the water (drinking), from pesticides. For eight months out of the year any trip outside the house in shorts and a T-shirt was a foolhardy suicide mission.

“You aren’t going outside?”

“But I have to. The horses haven’t eaten since, like, April.”

“Well, here, just slip on this suit of armor.”

“Are you crazy? It’s 102 degrees out there.”

“Then at least spray yourself with Deep Woods Off. The bugs’ll still bite you, but at least you’ll get cancer.”

“Great idea!”

One would limp back in moments later, stinking of DEET, disfigured by stinging red bumps, scratching bloody divets into the skin, defeated, showing symptoms of malaria.

Meanwhile, a couple of months ago something or someone crawled into the cistern and died. The water went septic. I wonder if you grasp my meaning. The entire house stunk a stink the sheer enormity of which words cannot adequately express. Let me just tell you, you haven’t lived (in hell) until you’ve showered with water in which an unidentified mammal has recently decomposed.

Well, that was IT. With deft and malodorous fingers I texted young Travis, the quintessentially Texan cowboy Brad Pitt-lookin rurally-literate dude I keep on retainer, and gave him the word.

“Let’s fill that motherfucker in.”

Looking back, I probably didn’t actually use the word ‘motherfucker’. It’s irrational, but for some reason I am uncomfortable dropping the good old misogynist curses around godly young persons who wear Jesus fish chokers on leather thongs and call me “ma’am.”

rebarWhich brings me to this morning, Day 5 of the Great Cistern Demolition of 2013. The crew informs me that they’ll probably have it fully collapsed by tonight.

Not a moment too soon. Five days of ceaseless jackhammering can wear a crone down. The contractor who built this place was without a doubt the most drunken chump-ass jacknut this side of Luckenbach, but he was apparently and uncharacteristically somewhat on the ball when he installed the cistern. That thing was constructed like the president’s atomic bunker, and from what I can tell, was also the source of the Great Rebar Shortage of 2005.* In other words, it has resisted demolition at every turn. The jackhammerist is pretty fed up with it. Somehow, when I imagined filling it in, I hadn’t envisioned that it would entail caving in a vast expanse of concrete 30 feet across and 2 feet thick and pissing off 3 dudes with heavy machinery for the better part of a week. I thought maybe they’d drop one of those Monty Python weights on it and shove a bit of dirt in the hole, done and done.

Well, you live and learn. Next time I spend thousands of dollars on a useless mosquito farm, I’ll be sure and put it above ground and on someone else’s property.

* You can’t tell from the photo, because Flickr has apparently done something screwy to the resolution, but that’s about 47,358 rebars in a pile in front of what was once the cistern in question.

May 01

Horrible! I would totally wear these to a barn dance

Hoof boots

Taxidermy shoes by Iris Schieferstein give new meaning to the phrase “hoof boots.”

Via Buzzfeed

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