About the spirits in this house - people are always asking me if there are ghosts or spirits here, because of the age of the house. Statistically, if your house is more than thirty four years old, someone has died in it. So, since ours is hundreds of years old, and has sheltered dozens of families, it stands to reason that people have passed on here. We know definitely that babies were born here (although none of ours).
After Charles died, many many small electrical events were laid at his feet - light bulbs which blew over and over, the barn light suddenly coming on when no one was in the barn, etc. Once, Girlfriend Lynda and I were on the porch talking about him and the porch light over her head flashed on and off several times.
Years ago, a friend's mother said something "touched her' on the shoulder while she was looking out the window. She said it was a very 'real' experience, and she was alone in the house when it happened.
Often, items that are hanging from the ceiling in the kitchen are found on the counter in the morning. It's a nine and a half foot ceiling - I'm five feet. Even if I was sleepwalking, I couldn't get up there without a ladder, and since I don't put things away when I am awake, I am sure if I was asleep when I used it, that ladder would be left out in the morning. So I am saying, it's not me.
I once found my eldest grandson, then about four, sitting on the steps talking to the air. I said, who are you talking to, baby? He looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "the people in the bubbles" and pointed randomly in the air. That's sort of cute, right? Until you have virtually the same conversation with his little brother, six years later.
Anyway, one day this summer some ghostbusters just stopped by and asked about 'activity' in the house. They specifically asked about orbs. I got orbs. Oh yes.
These orbs show up every time I take photos. WIth any camera. They show up in pictures taken with my camera, in friend's cameras and movie cameras and video cameras. They show up in pictures in the barn, in the dining room, in the living room and the kitchen. For instance, the two photos above were taken seconds apart with the same camera, from a focal point only inches apart. There's that orb again - and if you look closely you can see a stylized sort of 'eye' in it.
Even with this going on, I have never felt scary here, whatever is here is fine with me and we get along. I have offered a tactical truce about behavior though - I just asked loudly that if things are to be moved, I just don't want to SEE them. Or I will get the priest. Anyone else with an old house have these experiences?
This is Old Jack Russell, the one with the brain damage. He stuck his head in a popcorn bag that was left on the sofa and just walked around with it on his head for ten minutes. He wasn't hysterical, he wasn't afraid, he was just....wearing a popcorn bag.
Every morning I wake up, do some mental sorting out - usually along the lines of remembering that I am alone now in the house, thinking of things I have to do like grocery shop and work related duties. Before I could not do this because the minute my eyes would fly open, my dogs would be awake and to prevent having to clean up accidents, I would have jump into some clothes of any description, find shoes, tear down the stairs, snap leashes on their necks and then open the door barely in time to keep Ms Manchester from piddling on the floor in the hallway. About a year ago I started putting all three dogs into crates at night, not sharing my bed with them, and we have ALL been sleeping better. I have time to get properly (if you count striped pj bottoms and a sweatshirt) dressed, control the stampede down the stairs and there have been LOTS fewer accidents.
This morning was no different - a little sniffling about the alone situation, happy dogs excited about another day here in heaven, and out the door to greet the day. It's been raining for days but this morning the grass was lush and green, the sky was bright and all and all, it was a good way to wake up.
Because of the construction, we (me and the dog-tourage) go out the front door - Big American Bull Dog on a pink leash, Little Manchester on a Blue Leash, Old Jack Russell NOT on a leash. The control of the dogs on the leashes is a fanciful ballet of high kicks and slipped discs. OJR can not be on a leash because of his terrible accident as a puppy when he was kicked by one of the horses and survived a head injury which left him with short term memory loss and small seizures. Don't feel bad for him - he wakes up every day in this Dog Heaven and says to himself HEY WE HAVE A BARN! and it's all gravy from there. But he can not wear a leash because even if we put the thinnest gossamer thread of a leash on him, the minute we attach it to his collar he falls over. We don't know why, but it's not funny any more so we just try to keep track of him. The other two - well, they have bad habits which involve chasing livestock or attacking animals larger than themselves and need the control til they get to the fenced dog play yard.
As I have said, this morning we leave the front door without incident (by the time you get to the bottom of this post you will be wondering WHY at that very minute I did not KNOW something was WRONG - having Three Very Active Noses working) and head to the dog play yard. The goats are in their adjacent play yard, and there is some fence jousting and threats and intimidation on both sides but it never goes anywhere. Big Yellow Horse and Big Brown Horse give a glance and head for the pasture. Eldest Grandson catches the bus before I usually get out and he lets the chickens out (again, you are going to wonder why HE didn't alert us). The Ugly White Rooster is on top of the chicken house crowing. An idyllic morning. Picture Perfect. Quiet.
Daughter-In-Law comes out on the lawn with Youngest Grandson ready for the bus. He does his chicken count, DIL and I exchange bleary good mornings and lean over the fence watching the dogs and the goats and the horses and the chickens, and in general, accessing the very good life that God has given us. Once Jeremy is on the bus, we go back in THE FRONT (again, completely clueless as to what is around us) DOOR and sit on the sofa and start to wonder why the traffic is going past the house sooooo sllllooowwwly.
In fact, I remark on it. "Look, that car is going past the house realllllly sloooowly."
DIL says, "Of course it is. Our house looks like crazy people live here - with all the construction, with the bucket truck stuck in the porch like a permanent fixture, I am sure there are people for whom a highlight of any given weekday morning is checking out the latest crazy crap that is going on here blah blah blah.... " My attention is momentarily diverted to the TV where they have just announced that the average woman eats 450 extra calories between Friday evening and Sunday night. 450? That's like ten calories an hour. Big deal.
I am pulled back into conversation with DIL when she says something about having to pick up a trumpet for Youngest Grandson. I say I thought he played the violin. She says NOW he wants to play the trumpet so she has to go to Reading to pick this trumpet up and she wants to know if I can go with her because she doesn't know where she is going.
I say, use your GPS. She says, well, somehow a penny got down the cigarette lighter thingie and shorted it out and she can't plug the GPS I gave her for her birthday in.
I said, I thought MY SON YOUR HUSBAND fixed that. She says, He did. But it happened again. Sigh.
I have a business appointment at 11am so I can't go to Reading to pick up a trumpet, but I suggest that she go to my car (parked next to the front door because it was raining so hard when I got home the day before I just pulled it up on the lawn), plug my GPS in, and then it will be charged and she can take it with her when she leaves.
Another car crawls by the front of the house.
DIL says that is a great idea and goes out the front door. I go to get a cuppa tea. Seconds later, she is back in and says....
"I don't know how to say this. Get your shoes on and come outside."
Through the window I can see another car slowing down and then speeding up, and the driver shaking his head.
I say, "No."
She says, "Get your camera, get your shoes on and come outside." She sees me hesitating and knows I am going to need to know something, anything, that will help me walk the twenty four feet from my kitchen to the front door and out, to see the thing that requires shoes and a camera.
She says, "There is a dead deer stuck under your car."
Well, now. It's not a horse, it's not a dog. Thank God it's not a child. Not pleasant. But not a tragedy. (For those of you NOT from this area, deer are like rats with antlers, wandering around roadways, killing innocent drivers, causing untold millions of dollars worth of property damage, spreading lymes disease, ruining crops. Our native deer are three times the size of the ones our forefathers found when they came to this country, because most of them are cornfed scavengers.)
We walk out together and sure enough, there is a deer stuck under my car. Not just any deer. The BIGGEST, HUGEST, MALE DEER I have ever seen. In perfect condition. With one two three OH MY GOD seven points! (how you measure antlers) A spread of about eighteen inches. She says, "This wasn't here when you parked last night, was it?" Just the first of many questions I will be asked about this situation which will give me insight into what people think I am capable of.
No. It was not there when I parked my car last night. And, NO, even though the bedroom where I sleep is under thirty feet from this scene, I didn't hear anything. And furthermore, doesn't she think I would have MENTIONED it?
Best guess, someone ELSE hit the poor thing and it was thrown or projected off the roadway into my car. And even though like most things in life there are no answers, and since neither of us are really sure what we are supposed to do at this moment, we wander around it, look at it from a lot of different angles, talk a lot of speculation and take a lot of pictures. We make our best guesses regarding the bloating of the corpse and turgidity and the time of death (DIL practically grew up in a funeral parlor and I watch a lot of court tv so we both can make pretty educated hunches). We look for drag or hoof prints in my soggy lawn. We count those antler points. We wonder WHY the dogs didn't react to several hundred pounds of fresh roadkill virtually beneath their noses. And then we start making the phone calls and sending the pictures.
DIL calls My Son, sends him a picture to prove she's not hallucinating, and he says he is on his way. (As wife, she trumps mother when it comes to giving news) She calls her brother-in-law, Hunter/Gatherer and sends him a picture. She calls her father, also Hunter/Gatherer. He doesn't have a phone that will accept pictures, but he runs around his workplace finding someone who can get an email - because you just can't have this happen without sending pictures. So we send him a picture. All these Hunter/Gathers have been sitting in tree blinds freezing their asses off for years to bag a specimen like this, and I have one thrown on to my lawn. The irony escapes no one.
I call my appointment and leave a long, confusing and absurdly neurotic message about deer and my car and I can't move it and not being able to put time constraints on this situation so I will have to call them later to reschedule. Patient And Amused Male Business Partner calls coincidentally to discuss something entirely different and when I explain I can't move the car because of the dead deer stuck under it, he says, "Well, it's already dead. Just back up. You can't really hurt it now." This makes me gag for about three minutes and he hangs up, saying he will call back later - I told him I would send him the pictures so he can understand the situation better.
And then my phone rings and it's Wonderful Neighborwoman. She says, "Rodeo, Did you shoot that thing?"
I say, "Noooooo." We have a very intense conversation about when she went by, that she thought I shot it or that I hit it, or that something'd it. That maybe the Crazy Cat Lady next door put it there. That makes us both laugh.
Meanwhile DIL is arranging to have the deer taken away, which is something I haven't even thought of. I tell her I want the antlers. I want them mounted. I explain that God gave me the deer and I want those antlers over my fireplace, right above my rifle (which I have never used to shoot anything) and I want to be able to point at them and tell the story over and over for years...
She says "You are not keeping that deer. You know what will happen. That head will just go in the freezer and never come out."
Meanwhile, My Son Her Husband arrives at the very second that a flatbed truck with an earthmover pulls off the road just feet from the deer. A skinny young man in a John Deere (!) hat asks, Hey, can I have that deer?
My Son says Yes. I say No.
My Son says, you don't want that deer. No one will take it away if they can't have the head. And you know what will happen, that head will go in the freezer and never come out.
You leave a couple of animal bodies in the freezer for a couple of months and your family never lets you forget it.
I feel genuinely sad as my son and this stranger drag the deer out from under the car and put it on the flat bed. The stranger is beyond excited. That cheers me a little. I hope he makes up a huge hunter's lie about how he got this magnificent beast's head.
All the excitement is over and DIL and I adjourn to the kitchen table and are astounded at how two hours have past. Not only past, but we know this is not how most people have spent their morning. As My Son was leaving he shook his head and said, "You have to stop doing this. Things like this keep happening. Really." He wasn't blaming us, but the thought was not lost on us. We start trying to figure out why we have one domestic episode after another. We worry about what will happen tomorrow. DIL distances herself a little by reminding me that until she and My Son took what is now approaching custodial care of me, they lived a very tame life. She swears months would go by without anything happening. I need to come clean with you all and tell you that I don't put one TENTH of the daily, unusual, crazy, unpredictable, bizarre things that happen here down in writing because frankly a lot of the times I am embarrassed because if I did, it would speak to the out of control, random direction my life takes ninety percent of the time and no one would let me hug their children or pet their dogs for fear of some cosmic intervention that would wreck havoc on the innocents in proximity to me. I say to DIL, "While everyone is laughing, I am thinking I need some kind of Chi-cleaning or something. Like an exorcism."
She says, "We need a Priest."
I say, "I was thinking of something more like an asian spiritual monk, someone who would smudge smoke over me and waft away the evil spirits."
DIL says, "Oh, no Rodeo. You need a Priest. They scare the shit out of Demons. You don't want some asian spiritual monk that just makes friends with it."
Well, something to think about it. I think I have to think about what this all means. I used to think in terms of animals as totems or messengers. What does it mean when a deer crashes itself into your car when you aren't even in it?
Concerned about our HUGE family Carbon Foot Print (we own one gas truck, one diesel truck, four cars, two golf carts, a tractor, a bucket truck, one dirt bike, one street bike, three four wheelers) Daughter In Law and I decided to get some goats to take care of an out of control weed problem. Well, and also, someone offered us two FREE goats. Nellie, a Nubian/Alpine mix doe and Nate, who looks all Nubian and seems sort of slow, mentally. After we upgraded fencing and bought goat appropriate accessories at the Farm Tractor Store, the free goats cost us about 1100.00. My Son was impressed with the efficiency with which the goats tore into vines and weeds and brush and said, We Need A Dozen More! (more power, more power, faster, faster, better, better - our family mantra) so DIL and I stopped at the farm around the corner and asked about borrowing their buck. Three days later, a GORGEOUS young woman named Jen pulls into the driveway in a pick-up truck. DIL and I look at each other and say, What's that smell?
She opens the back of the truck and Hawk jumps to the ground, large and in charge! Before his feet hit the driveway, he was armed and ready for action, and without even a lead, walked purposefully toward the goat pen and let Nellie know he was there to service her. He did this by peeing in his mouth and checking his equipment. I think I dated a guy like that once.
Nellie was coy at first, but Hawk was persistent and remarkably patient and charming. The more charming he got, the worse he smelled. There was some action going on, but it was sort of... confusing, which led to to comments like, Did he get her? Why is she walking like that? Does that mean he got her? And, of course, don't touch him, you'll get pee on you! Hawk was literally DRIPPING with goat essence. Which smells a lot like a pair of 'lambskin' gloves I bought in an import shop once. Or, like the most potent fatty greasy musky lanolin hand lotion. Because no one was sure he got her, he stayed the night.
In the morning I got the dogs out and you could smell him from the front door. DIL's eldest sister was already here, leaning over the fence because news of backyard sexual shenanigans travels fast in her family. I said "good morning" and held my breath against the odor, and she said, He got her, right in front of me!
Gorgeous Jen mentioned when she came to pick Hawk up that he was for sale, but I think we got what we needed. In five months we will have two or three or maybe one little baby goat. I'll keep you posted! (PS: this is the business end of Hawk, registered Nubian Stud Muffin)
Big Brown Horse has a stone bruise and some thrush in her passenger side front - the stone bruise happened I think when she and the big Yellow Horse broke into the goat pasture and chased them around. Old rickety girls in their late twenties, they should not be cavorting around a small pasture posturing like roping horses and making quick slidy turns in the corners. The thrush is just a bi-product of this wet wet summer. The grass is lush and wet most mornings and it has rained two or three times a week for a month or more. The treatment for the thrush is a quick dip in bleach water, the treatment for the stone bruise is a soak in Epsom salts, followed by a dressing consisting of a newborn baby diaper duct taped to the foot to keep dirt out and the Epsom salts on. I was chatting with a horsey friend the other day about this and she said that in the barn she had when she was growing up they had horses with injuries from going through fences, weird skin diseases and other stuff, but never a stone bruise. We've never had THAT stuff, just colic (horrible, mostly fatal) and stone bruises. Interesting that there is a theme to barn episodes.
Anyhow, the vet came yesterday and took a look and said the soaking is the cure and gave me some butte (horse aspirin) to take the pain away. The butte is for the horse. No one is interested in taking MY pain away. She said that shortly the bruise will abscess and burst and the pain will go away and it will heal. The thrush I need to bleach. If you are going to have lameness, this is the best kind - not stiffles or founder or laminitis, or any of the other expensive and horrible things that can cause it.
This morning I went out to do the baby diaper/duct tape/epsom salt/bleach soak thing feeling very comfortable, very much Woman Healer. I had all my supplies - the butte, the diapers, the duct tape, scissors (very proud of myself for remembering them - scissors being the actual TOOL you use to cut duct tape - instead tearing it with your teeth while balancing a 1200 lb horse's foot in one hand and mangling duct tape into your hair - like I have done before), warm water in a thermos that says Property Of Charles. I can't find the horses, but activity in the barn usually brings them in for starlight mints and sweet talk.
Sure enough, while I am PRECUTTING the duct tape - so proud of myself for thinking ahead, Big Yellow Horse and Big Brown Horse come thumping into the aisle. Miraculously, Big Brown Horse is still wearing her halter from yesterday so she is easy to catch and put in the cross ties (one tie on each side of the aisle securely anchored with carriage bolts into 200 year old oak as hard as rock). This fall, when the foliage on the trees is gone, I expect to find about six brand new halters hanging in branches or stuck on rocks or dangling from fence posts, because she just won't keep them on. But this morning, everything is going fine fine fine. Which should have given me prickly hairs on the back of my neck.
I give each horse a starlight mint and Big Yellow Horse actually goes and stands patiently on the other side of the barn. Horses are like curious, critical seventh graders - you can not do ANYTHING with just one of them. They poke their nose in (literally) to anything you are doing and comment loudly about the idiocy of it.
I lean over and grab the tendon that runs down the back of BBH's leg, below what would be her knee if she was human and she lifts it cooperatively. I dig a big dark oyster shaped clod of dirt out of her hoof. She is standing quietly while I do this and my confidence soars again. I am HEALER, I am INDEPENDENT! For the rest of the day I will walk among mortals, smiling at children and making the lame walk and the blind see. I will work the story of my success at healing into conversations with total strangers at the Dunkin Donuts. Others will seek me out for my wisdom and skill.
I put her foot down and you can see the relief on her sweet big face just from having the muck removed that was pressing on the abscessing wound. Even SHE is impressed with my skill at easing her pain. Like Androcles and the Lion, we are crossing anthropomorphic boundaries and forging a bond worthy of a Disney movie. Any minute, bluebirds are going to start at my feet and weave a prom dress up my body while singing! Crickets will smile benignly at me from my hearth! The mice in my kitchen will start wearing big white gloves and red short shorts and stop eating my cornmeal muffin mix! The rooster will stop being an ass and become charming like Fog Horn Leg Horn. Okay, maybe that won't happen. Now it's time to soak that foot.
I carefully measure out the epsom salts and mix them with warm water from Charles' thermos in a blue feed bucket. I test the temperature - because I am a caring, considerate animal healer. Perfect. I say Give and BBH lifts her foot cooperatively. I guide her foot into the soothing waters.
She backs up, rips her head out of the halter holding her, gets her foot between the bucket handle and the bucket making it clang around on the floor, rears up and slips on the water spilling out of the bucket and goes down like the three quarter of a ton animal that she is.
I watch helplessly as she thrashes around between the stalls on the slippery cement floor. I can't do anything til she either stops struggling or gets herself up. BYH helpfully GALLOPS out the door screaming.
She eventually gets herself free of the bucket, flinging it across the barn with determination of a Hellfire missle and stands up and shakes herself. Calmly limps out the door to join BYH. They take off for the field at a fast dressage-y lope and run in circles. I try to catch my breath and and stop panicking. She's okay. I'm having heart palpitations.
I pack up my supplIes and decide to try this again later when I have help and a bucket with no handle.
I am going inside for a nice cuppa tea. At least that is the plan.
On my way out, I notice that Old Brain Damaged Dog is rolling in the grass inside the goat pen. He got kicked in the head as a puppy because he was hanging on the tail of a horse - just like his crazy mother. Her life was one big episode til she was finally killed by a Bud Lite Truck while hunting ground hogs. Old now, he doesn't hear well, doesn't see well, has small seizures where he leaves the planet and basically doesn't give a flying fig about anything but his immediate comfort. Right now he's comfortable, rolling in goat pee.
The goats, however, are the most dangerous, unpredictable, sociopathic animals I have ever encountered. And right now they are conspiring like the Sante Kimes family and staring gleefully at the clueless dog. I throw the only thing I have in my hand - the easy boot I was going to clean for the horse. It makes no never mind to the goats. I should have thrown it at the dog. I finally get his attention and he trots through the gate.
I go inside and have my nice cuppa. I am exhausted and it's only 8:30 am. The kids arrive to work on the addition and are full of youthful exuberance. They want to chat. They want to share plans. I want to go back to sleep.
The Bickers: Decision Time
"Where did he go?"
"Down there. Down those steps."
"Okay. Wait. I have to take these pumps off. Shh."
"Don't shh me. He was watching us. He was takin...
6 years ago
Friends of the Rodeo Princess
“The young man or woman writing today has forgotten the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself which alone can make good writing because only that is worth writing about, worth the agony and the sweat.” William Faulkner