Hell of a Guy
The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it - Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The West Virginia Chainsaw Massacre

07/27/2006

A chainsaw is not one of those things I have ever given much thought, other than the fact they are outrageously noisy, nor did I ever think I would become the proud, happy owner of one.  Fecal matter occurs, my friends.  As a gift on Father’s Day The Nancy presented me with my very own chainsaw, and a container of chainsaw-blade lubricant.  And, guess what?  I was a very happy camper.  Not long after I got it home I had it up and running for about ten minutes, cut up a limb that had fallen from one of our trees into firewood lengths, and put the saw away in the garage for safekeeping, and that is where it remained until Tuesday night a week ago..

A chainsaw?  Even a chainsaw has a history.  Imagine?  The first documented chainsaw was introduced in 1905.  It had a gas-powered, water-cooled engine, but no name attached to it as its inventor.  The father of the modern chainsaw is Andreas Stihl, a German mechanical engineer.  He received a patent in 1926 for a hand-held “tree-felling machine,” aka, a chainsaw.  These were the first successful patents for hand-held mobile chainsaws designed for woodcutting. Andreas Stihl is most frequently credited as being the inventor of the mobile and motorized chainsaw.  Pretty neat stuff, eh?  Thank God for Google.

So here’s my chainsaw story.  It comes with other junk attached to it, of course.  Perhaps that is why it is called a “story?”  Picture this:  About 4:00pm I stopped by the Food Lion (the world’s most overrated grocery store) near Beautiful Downtown Berkeley Springs – population 711.  I detest even going through the door of the Food Lion, but the need for victuals forced me into making the trip.  As I meandered through the aisles looking for all the stuff I needed and they don’t carry – because it is “not on the buy list” – I settled for the stuff they carry.  Maybe one day it will burn down and we can get a real grocery store in town. 

As I was leaving the so-called “grocery store” I noticed the darkening skies to the Northwest, I called The Nancy at her office to see, if she might be ready to leave her office and head home with me.  I told her it looked as though we were going to have a storm.  Well, those of you who know The Nancy and her workaholic proclivities know what answer I got.  So I headed home alone with instructions to call her later.  Having put the groceries away I made the call.  She still wasn’t ready, but she did tell me it was raining very hard.  I decided to try my luck that by the time I got to her office she would be ready to call it quits.  It was about 5:15.

This is where the story gets really cool.  The Nancy’s office is about seven and half miles from the farm.  Our house is about half a mile off the paved road.  One must make his or her way over two concrete bridges that dip down as one passes over a small creek.  Water very often flows over the bridges after a heavy rain.  Its one of those things the previous owner must have forgotten to share with us in his haste to take our money and run like hell out of town.  I left the house and made my way down the two-lane roads to The Nancy’s office.  At about the three-mile mark it began to rain.  By three and half miles I noticed some small hail stones.  By the time I made it five miles I began to think some of this hail might crack my windshield or dent the metal.  I managed to maneuver my car – the company vehicle – into a Shell gasoline station and squeeze it under the canopy that covers the gas pumps.  Hail began to pelt the ground and some of it was walnut sized.  Within about ten minutes the ground was nearly covered with a layer of little ice balls.  Rain mixed in with the falling hail…the hardest I have ever seen rain come down.  Only minutes had passed when the water began to cover the streets.  By the time I got into Beautiful Downtown Berkeley Springs, some of the streets were nearly impassable.  After I had The Nancy safely in the car we headed for home via the back way to avoid the main roads and the raging water.  The rain continued to fall at an unprecedented rate.  We learned later we had had nearly nine inches of rain that day (in a matter of 1 ½ hours).

We pulled off the main road on to our driveway.  We made it over the first bridge even with about four inches of water cascading over it.  This looked to be a piece of cake, but not so, Gunga Din (http://www.bartleby.com/103/48.html).  About three hundred feet beyond the first bridge laid a tree directly in our path neatly fallen across the driveway – a fence on one side and the stream, at this point a swollen river, on the right side.  We couldn’t drive over or around the tree, and we were still over a third of a mile from the house.  It was pouring cats, dogs, kitchen sinks and lots of crap.  It was decision time.

The choices were, one, turn around and go back to town and wait for the rain to stop, and then do whatever had to be done to remove the tree and get us home; or the more brilliant idea simply called #2.  Brainy Boy here chose #2.

#2:  Walk up to the house (it is uphill), via the second bridge some 1000 feet further up the road, get the Wrangler out of the garage and with the “chainsaw” drive back, cut the tree in pieces, move it aside and return safely to the house.  Simple, practical, so I thought. 

With umbrella in hand, I started the trek in the pouring rain with thunder and lightning all around me, albeit in the distance (I prayed).  I did two smart things: I asked The Nancy turn the car around and move back toward the road beyond the first bridge, and the second was to take my cell phone with me.  The walk to the house was arduous.  I traversed the second bridge with water up to my calves.  I was soaking wet as I approached the front porch of the house.  That was when I realized I had no key.  Instant panic, but briefly lived when I remembered the secretly stashed key, known only to a select few.  I managed to get in the house, change my clothes, get the Wrangler equipped with the necessary equipment and was ready start back down to the tree and a chance to use my newly acquired chainsaw skills.

As I approached the second bridge it only took a moment to see that the water was now flowing over the bridge about eighteen inches deep.  There would be no crossing.  I returned to the house, got The Nancy on the cell and we decided it was best that she return to her office.  We were separated by nature’s wrath.  It was now about 6:30.  I was alone.  It was still pouring.  There were rivers of water flowing all around our property.  The world seemingly was coming to an end.  Global warming had taken hold.  All I could think of were the lyrics in the song saying, “It’s the end of the world, as we know it.”  I thought it was.  More lightning, more thunder, more rain. 

At 7:30 I drove down to see what was happening at the bridge.  The water had gotten deeper.  The gravel on the drive was gone in some places.  It looked as though The Nancy might be spending a night in her office.

8:00pm:  I tested the bridge again.  Water was flowing but not quite at the rate as it was on my last look.  I decided to make a run at it, and made it across.  Now the fun would really begin.  It’s been a month since I had started and operated the chainsaw.  I wasn’t sure I could start it and the operator’s manual was back in the garage.  My earlier claim to possessing chainsaw skills was murdered by a ruthless fact, as evidence proved I had no discernable skill level.

A note at this point: In 1963 when I enlisted in the Air Force I was given a battery of tests.  These were to determine what field of endeavor would be best suited for me in the military world.  I have spoken previously about being the poster child for under achievers.  Well, I remember two things about these tests.  One, was that I was best suited for a military career as a file clerk ( I memorized the alphabet in the first grade and it stuck), and the other was when the recruiter laughed and told me he had never had anyone score as low on the mechanical ability section as I did.  I have no mechanical inclination at all (like I didn’t already know this about myself). 

I managed to get the damn thing going, cut and moved the tree.  This was all in the positive mode, but the negative came when I attempted to cross the first bridge and get to the road.  The water was still too high, so I again went back to the house.

Finally at about 9:30 the water level had dropped enough for me to retrieve my wife from her office.  She got home tired and quite hungry.  We had had an adventure.  Additionally, I came away from this adventure with a case of poison ivy.  It was growing on the fallen tree and I hadn’t noticed.  Just call me “Lucky.”

All in all this was a learning curve for us.  We did some dumb stuff and we did some smart stuff.  I learned something about starting and using the chainsaw – thank you, Andreas Stihl.  The poison ivy wasn’t on my list of wants, but it does give me something to do with my now idle hands.

And that’s all I have to say about that…
 

 
Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Ponderisms

07/18/2006

This is one of those craxy e-mails that goes around the world about sixty times before it gets to me. Some of these things give me pause to think….

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*  I used to eat a lot of natural foods until I learned that most people die of natural causes.

*  Gardening Rule: When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it? If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

*  The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a replacement.

*  Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway.

*  There are two kinds of pedestrians: the quick and the dead.

*  Life is sexually transmitted.

*  Health is merely the slowest possible rate at which one can die.

*  The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.

*  Some people are like Slinkies. Not really good for anything, but you
    still can’t help but smile when you see one tumble down the stairs.

*  Health nuts are going to feel stupid someday, lying in hospitals dying of nothing.

*  Have you noticed since everyone has a camcorder these days no one
    talks about seeing UFOs like they used to?

*    Whenever I feel blue, I start breathing again.

*  All of us could take a lesson from the weather. It pays no attention to criticism.

*  In the 60’s, people took acid to make the world weird.  Now the world
    is weird and people take Prozac to make it normal.

*  How is it one careless match can start a forest fire, but it takes a
    whole box to start a campfire?

*  Who was the first person to look at a cow and say, “I think I’ll
    squeeze these dangly things here, and drink whatever comes out?”

*  Who was the first person to say, “See that chicken there? I’m gonna
    eat the next thing that comes outta its butt.”

*  Why is there a light in the fridge and not in the freezer?

*  If Jimmy cracks corn and no one cares, why is there a song about him?

*  Why do people point to their wrist when asking for the time, but
    don’t point to their crotch when they ask where the bathroom is?

*  Why does your OB-GYN leave the room when you get undressed?

*  If quizzes are quizzical, what are tests?

*  If electricity comes from electrons, does morality come from morons?

*  Do illiterate people get the full effect of Alphabet Soup?

*  Did you ever notice that when you blow in a dog’s face, he gets mad
    at you, but when you take him on a car ride, he sticks his head out the window?

*  Does pushing the elevator button more than once make it arrive faster?

*  Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

 
Friday, July 07, 2006

Independence Day And So On…

07/07/2006

How I spent my “Fourth” weekend…

I spent a number of hours this past holiday weekend engaged in puzzlement, not a conundrum; I was puzzled by a puzzle.  Well, the weekend started out, actually, on the 30th.  I took a vacation day on Friday just so I could play in my expansive yard.  There was a crap-load of outside chores to be accomplished in a short period of time - grass to cut (about five acres worth), trimming to be done, plus a little straightening of the habitual abode.  We had company coming.  A daughter, a son-in-law and four grandchildren were about to grace us with a visit.  We love it when they come and love it when they leave.  God intended it that way.

So after purchasing eight gallons of gas for the mowers - note “mowers” not “mower” - I went home and donned my grass cuttin’ attire - aka shorts, a t-shirt and my special grass cuttin’ shoes, and began to mow.  Mowing five acres is a tedious job, and it is pretty damn boring.  Just me, the elements, my trusty 60” cut Cub Cadet, a bottle of water, and miles and miles of grass.  Have I written about how much I hate yard work?

Long story endless:  Our guests, we figured, wouldn’t get in our vicinity until about 5pm, or later, that day.  I had plenty of time to get my jobs done, take a shower and be sparkling clean and ready for the onslaught and utter pandemonium that occurs when the grandchildren are in our home.  Not so fast, zoo-breath: At about 2pm I got a call that they were but 100 miles away.  That sort of put a kink in my plan.  Luckily I finished the mowing, it only took three and a half hours, and at least the grass was ready for company.

The grandchildren are 11, 9, 7 and 5-years old.  These are special kids.  These kids are special to me.  These kids are the children of my step-daughter and her husband.  My own flesh and blood granddaughter is special just because of whom she is and I love her dearly.  The step-grandchildren are special because I made them so and I allow them to be.  They all call me “Dave.”

Once they hit the house, all hell breaks loose.  One of them immediately heads for the refrigerator and swings open both the doors as he looks for snacks.  These kids are junk-food junkies.  There is wrestling and throwing and crying and pouting and shouting and lots of love.  And I get to do special grandfatherly things with them.

I have a “Dave” toy in my garage - a Jeep Wrangler.  This weekend I took off the doors and the canvas sides, leaving the canvas roof in case it rained.  I took Justin (who gets a kick out of asking me for $100) out for a ride on some of the trails cut through the fields around the farm.  There is about 115 acres of undeveloped land surrounding our little piece of Heaven.  We managed to get airborne a couple of times as we maneuvered the Jeep over some bumps and ruts in the fields.  Justin had a death-grip on the handle on the dash board, but loved every second of the ride.  I suppose doing forty-miles an hour on a bumpy, grass-covered field yields some scary moments for a 9-year old…I know it did me.  I took the same route with Jared (the intrepid 7-year old who not long ago asked me if I have ever had sex) and got pretty much the same reaction, except Jared wanted to go faster…so we did.

Lukey, the five-year old, managed to make it to the local hospital’s emergency room for the second time in two visits, this time with a leg malady of some sort that went down as “undetermined origin.”  The first time he wiped out on his bike.  Lukey is a piece of work.

Ole David managed to get the scornful eye from the Nancy after I allowed my precious Jessica (blond hair, blues eyes and gorgeous) to drive my car around the farm.  She actually did very well for an eleven-year old’s first time behind the wheel, but I will have to say there were a few moments as we drove along the path just ten feet from the shoreline of the lake that even I was a tad uneasy.  Mother and grandmother gave me the evil eye for that move.  Jessica was more than pleased with her accomplishment and wanted to do it again.  She got her mom and her grandmother to go with her.  She also got her first experience with “backseat drivers.”  A one point, having listened to her mother to tell her to slow down and her grandmother’s banter from the back seat, Jessica told them, “Don’t make me stop this car!”  I assume it is a phrase often used when mom or dad is driving.

Saturday, we all piled in the cars and went into beautiful downtown Berkeley Springs, population 711, had lunch and visited some of the shops.  Nancy, God bless her, bought the puzzle, a puzzle with 1000 pieces.  That’s 1000 little pieces with bits and parts of cats on them.  Not my cup of tea, but the kids, their mother and their grandmother seem to enjoy the mental torture puzzles are meant to create.  Sunday morning at 12:30am, long after I fell into a deep sleep, Nancy quit working on it and meandered into the bed.  Sunday morning there were still about 800 pieces yet to be placed within the border of the puzzle. 

Needless to say the visit was wonderful.  We had a terrific time with the children and their parents and sadly waved goodbye as they drove off Sunday morning.  But, we do know they will be back and the enjoyment will be had again.  Grandkids are the bomb.  I love waving at them.

Nancy continued to spend a few minutes here and a few minutes there affixing pieces in the puzzle.  Eventually, damn her, I could no longer resist the temptation and allure of the puzzle, and, I, too, began to pick at it here and there.  We had it spread out on a table, the entire table in fact.  Neither Nancy nor I could walk by it without picking up a piece and making an attempt to place it.  The puzzle nearly drove me nuts.  I got up earlier than Nancy on the Fourth, made some coffee and almost immediately began to work on the puzzle.  By the time Nancy was up and at it, I was engaged in mumbling dirty words under my breath as none of the pieces on the table seemed destined to go anywhere within the border of the daggone puzzle.

July 4th was a great day.  Nancy and I went to a movie, “Click,” and had some pretty good belly laughs.  Then we had a late lunch at the Outback, and then meandered on home and worked on the damn puzzle.  We probably spent two to three hours placing pieces of cats into other pieces of cats (if she ever buys another puzzle this marriage is over), but we finally placed the last piece into it, took a picture of the completed masterpiece, and went to bed.  The puzzle was complete and I slept like a baby.  I awoke on the 5th with an overwhelming desire to kick one of our cats.

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So much for my sixty-third Fourth of July, and that is all I have to say about that.