Drip. Drip.




Goes the water.



From the faucet



In the bathroom



Drives me crazy.



Turn the knob harder.






Maggie and Moseby, Part Two

Part Two

Maggie was perfectly content being an only cat.  She had her choice of the fine perches in the best windows.  She had her own dish and clean water bowl with no other cat to gross out when she stuck her feet in.  There was a spot in the sunshine on the front porch just for her.  The dust bath, hers alone.  Best of all was the warm air vent in the kitchen.  It was her ultimate luxury. When the furnace was on, she would press up against it and writhe in ecstasy.  When I went to bed, there was her solo spot by my feet in warm weather and by my back in cold. Maggie went in and out and in and out on demand.  If she wanted cat company, she could go next door to visit Grace’s indoor cat Phoebe, through the window. Most importantly, she could ignore me completely and not worry about some other cat getting held or petted instead of her.

I didn’t see all this cat contentment.  I saw what I wanted to see.  I thought that since I was gone all day and often in the evening, Maggie must surely be lonely.  I knew just the thing for her, another cat.  I was wrong.

Maggie was not pleased when I found Moseby in the free ads and brought him home. Like Maggie he was already neutered.  He came from a family with a new baby.  A gray tabby weighing in at over 12 pounds, Mose was a big guy.  Compared to Maggie, a giant.  When I brought him home and let him out of the carrier, he bolted for the basement door like he knew where he was going.  He hid out in the basement for three days before putting in an appearance upstairs again.  I didn’t search for him.

From the beginning it was obvious that Mose fancied himself a lap cat. At that 12 pounds in the summer and more in the winter, he was a lap full.  It was hard to read or knit with him draped across my lap.  There was no place for book or yarn.

Cautious, maybe even a little cowardly, Mose didn’t seek confrontation so Maggie worked her will on him from the beginning.  She was a lot smaller than he, so she had to use her wits.  Since she was a lot smarter, the contest evened out, like the time she got even with him for taking her spot in the bathroom. Maggie had the custom of accompanying me to the bathroom every morning and sitting on the edge of the tub.

Like many cats, Maggie was fascinated by water.  She would bat at the stream coming from the faucet as the tub filled.  She also enjoyed standing in the bottom of tub retreating as the water rose and approached her feet.

Not long after Mose moved in, he began joining us in the bathroom.  Much to Maggie’s disgust, he usurped her place on the edge of the tub.  One morning, Mose was late arriving for the morning ablutions.  I was already in the tub.  Maggie was in her old spot on the edge.  Mose came in a jumped up next to Maggie.  There was enough room for two to sit comfortably, but like kids who can’t share the back seat of the car, Maggie left when Mose arrived.  This particular morning, she jumped off in disgust and went over to sit on the scales. As she sat, she stared at Mose.  Then I saw a gleam in her eye.  Before I could react, she launched herself and rammed the unsuspecting Mose right in the side, unseating him and dumping him into the tub.  He and I shot up from the water. I was as frantically trying to protect myself as he was trying to find something dry to land on to get out of the water.  Water flew.  I yelled. Mose yowled. Chaos reigned. Maggie smugly watched, then tail held high, walked sedately out of the room.






The Last Canyon


We were headed home from a week in southern Utah where we had spent many hours hiking and ohing and ahing at many canyons and formations.  We stopped to get gas and to grab a quick lunch at a sub and pizza shop.  As we were starting to eat, an unusual looking man came in and went to the counter to place his order.


Don’t look.

I’ve already seen it and I’m trying not to.


Oh, no. Now what’s he doing?

Jeez, how gross.

Has he finished ordering yet?

Now what?

He’s filling out a contest form?

Oh, ick. Hurry up. Can’t you write faster?

Oh good.  Here comes a cop. Maybe he’ll say something to him.

I can’t believe it.  He hasn’t said a thing to him. If that’s not indecent exposure….

He’s not going to do anything.  Probably doesn’t want to do the paperwork.

Or he doesn’t think anything of it.

Gross. Pull up your pants.


I don’t care if he hears me.  He’s the one who should be embarrassed.

Why do they do that? It can’t be comfortable having your ass hanging out like that. I can’t imagine a woman doing that and not caring.  Ever heard of working woman’s crack?

Yeah, they call it cleavage.

Oh, yeah. And guys break their necks to get a better view.  Can you imagine wanting a better view of that?


Oh, good.  He’s sitting down.


Can you imagine showing off your cleavage if it was covered with pimples and sprouting pubic hairs?

Please.  I’m trying to eat.

If cleavages looked like that, sexual harassment would come to a screeching halt.

No joke.

Well, I can tell you this.  I hope that’s the last canyon like that I see for a good long time.

Me too.

You finished?

Yeah, let’s go.





Sue kicked the pile of bear scat with the toe of her boot, then leaned over and peered at it.  “At least two days old,” she murmured.

I didn’t know whether to be relieved or stay worried.  Did two days old mean the bear was two days away in some other huckleberry patch or was it two days hungry and due back to this one any time now?

Late July is huckleberry season in the low mountains of northern Idaho.  Huckleberries look and taste a lot like blueberries.  One difference is that huckleberries are smaller. Another is that they are a favorite summer snack of Northwestern bears.

As we walked, it occurred to me that I’d never had to look over my shoulder or discuss in a very loud voice the virtues of sharing the woods while picking blueberries. In fact, I’d never really considered the possibility of actually sharing the woods with creatures which might take exception to my eating their lunch, or that might realistically consider me an acceptable substitute.  I was beginning to feel a lot like Goldilocks and wondered if before devouring me, the bear would drizzle me with huckleberries the way I had my pancakes that morning.

“You don’t think we’ll actually run into a bear?”  I ventured, pointedly ignoring the scatological evidence to the contrary at my feet.  I was not comforted by her reply.

“Mmmm, yeah, we could. They sure like huckleberries.”

“How do we know if they are around?”  My voice went up several decibels and at least one octave.

She looked at me, then at the pile of scat at our feet, and then back at me.

“No, I mean NOW. Around now.”

“Well, usually you hear them.  They are really noisy. They just crash through where they want to go. Not like elk or deer which you only hear by accident.  But then, sometimes you just happen on them.”

“Oh, swell.  Then what?

“Move very slowly.  Back out the way you came.  Don’t try to run.  No matter how clumsy and slow they look, bears are very fast and agile.”

I eyed the distance from me to the safety of the truck.  If spurred by the adrenaline rush brought on by immanent consumption, I figured I could make it.  “You mean I couldn’t beat a bear to the truck?”

Sue looked at me.  Eyed my overweight, out of shape middle aged state, grinned and shook her head from side to side.  “No way.  I told you.  Bears are fast.”

I was not convinced. However, as we continued on our way through the undergrowth, noting the vegetation for her habitat survey, stuffing ourselves with huckleberries, I joined in making a great deal of racket, singing camp songs, talking and laughing with abandon.

We encountered no bears that day.  I haven’t had occasion to eat huckleberries since.

I’m really glad I didn’t have to find out if I could outrun a bear, because deep down inside. I’m pretty sure Sue was right. But don’t tell her that.



Forty years later…

Once again our bedroom is very close to our neighbor’s yard.  Once again, we have clueless neighbors with dogs that bark.

The dogs in question are of the small yappy variety this time.  Small, yappy ones that bark at every noise and movement in all the surrounding yards.  Despite knowing it’s not the dogs’ fault, all the neighbors hate them.

Some time ago, the dog’s owners bought the two small, fluffy dogs for their kids.  No one in the family had ever had a dog before.  They didn’t seem to realize that dogs don’t house break themselves.  That dogs that get bored can be destructive and end up chewing on things that they shouldn’t. They had no idea that dogs need to be trained. They need exercise and attention. They thought that when the dogs did something bad, they should just be put outside.  Once outside, the dogs amused and expressed themselves by barking.  At everything.  All the time. Yap.  Yap. Yap.  The owners didn’t seem to hear them.

One warm September night my directionally challenged ­­­spouse and I were in bed, trying to sleep.  The yappy dogs were out in their yard yapping every once and a while.  The later it got, the more the dogs yapped.  My spouse grumbled and cursed.  Finally, after what seemed like hours of yap, yap, yapping and cursing.  Gail got up. She said she would be up a while.  I managed to get to sleep, but awoke when she came back to bed.  She said that she had gone over to the owners and rang and rang their doorbell, but no one answered. There were lights on. She knew someone was probably home.  They just wouldn’t come to the door. That should have been a clue.

The next morning the dogs were still barking.  Their house was closed up and dark, so I went over to take a look.  I knocked on the door, loudly.  No one answered. I rang the bell.  No one came.

I decided to check with the people who lived on one side.  The woman who came to the door said she had no idea where the owners were.  She was sick of the barking too.  When I turned to leave, she said, “I had just gotten to sleep last night when someone starting ringing my doorbell. I couldn’t imagine who it was, so I didn’t answer.  That wasn’t you was it?”

“No,” I answered, “but I know who it was.”


This is a view out the slider in our bedroom.  The house on the right is the house with the dogs.  The house on the left is the doorbell house.


Night Stalker

One of life’s mysteries is why people who have dogs that habitually bark, whine or howl don’t ever hear them, or if they do hear them, why they don’t do anything about it?

Years ago and right out of college, I was sharing a house with one of my male cousins, Mikey.  We had very small house next door to a family that had a black lab named Duke.  Like most Labs, Duke was a big, friendly guy who just wanted to be with people.  He really didn’t like being outside all night chained to his dog house.

It was fall in Kansas.  The hot prairie summer was gone. It was perfect weather for sleeping with the windows open.  The windows in both of our bedrooms were very close to Duke’s dog house, so that when he began telling the neighborhood how lonely he was, and all he wanted was to sleep inside with his family, we both had front row seats. Front row seats like at a concert because Duke didn’t bark or whine, he sang.  His plaintive howl would go up and down a scale: woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo, woo. Over and over.

After about half an hour of listening to Duke, Mike started the ever effective tactic of yelling at him to shut up.  Duke would shut up for a few minutes and when no one came to rescue him, he’d start in again, then Mike would yell, etc.  This cycle went on for another half hour.  Finally, I heard Mike jump out of bed and storm out of the house.  He stalked over to fence where Duke greeted him, tail wagging.  I watch out my window as Mike picked the dog up by the scruff of the neck, got in his face and through gritted teeth asked him to be quiet.

That seemed to work.  Duke settled down and so did we.  We were all just drifting off to sleep, when I heard a police radio and saw a flashlight beam sweep across my window. Mike heard it too and recognized the voice as belonging to the chief of police who lived just down the street.  Mike yelled at me that he’d go out to see what was going on.

What was going on is that our neighbors who couldn’t hear Duke singing or Mike yelling at him, had heard someone outside in their yard. Suspecting a prowler, they called to police.   My cousin, the abashed new, rookie cop, had to confess to the police chief that he was the night stalker.

And then there was the time….tune in for the next installment….



Sparking Joy

My father instilled in me the idea that no matter what I did, it could be improved upon.  The outward sign of this psychological scar is that I am drawn to self-improvement books and articles.

As I’ve aged, I’ve become less susceptible to wholesale reconstruction of some aspect of my being.  Still, every so often, my father reaches up out of his grave, taps me on the shoulder and says, “Read this and do better” “5 Simple Ways to Raise Perfect Children”, you bet.  “The Liver and Onions Diet”, worth a try.  “Clean You Whole House in 10 Minutes”, who wouldn’t want to?  You get the idea.

So, when The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo became a best seller, I had to see what I was missing.  Maybe in my case the magic would be no longer sensing my father’s scowl.  I checked the book out of the library and started reading.  I dismissed some of her suggestions as not pertinent.  Others, I took under advisement.  I didn’t toss out everything in the house that didn’t “spark joy” as she put it.  That would have been wasteful. My father would not be pleased. I kept reading.

A few years ago, I retired. Since then, we moved from Wyoming to North Carolina, then finally, back west to Albuquerque.  I ended up with a lot of clothes I no longer wore.  Every time I walked into the closet or opened a dresser drawer, I could feel my father’s disapproval.

Ever ready to improve, I ruthlessly filled bags for Goodwill with work clothing I would never wear again and with clothes I still liked, but were too heavy for the Southwestern climate.  I made good progress until I got to the dresser drawers full of tee shirts.   I loved them all.  They reminded me of places I’d been and events I’d participated in. They all sparked joy, even the faded out holey ones I no longer wore.  It dawned on me that Marie had the answer.  Following her instructions for tee shirt storage, I folded and folded and carefully placed the shirts in the drawer.  When I finished, I had reduced the space required for storage to one drawer which now held precisely 24 tee shirts placed on end like books with their spines up.

I haven’t heard from my father since.