All I Know

Welcome to my world

Month: June 2018

Seeking the Promised Land

My great-grandpa, first generation in that branch born in the US.

At the risk of trivializing what’s going on in our country today, I have been spending some time lately thinking about current events on a more personal level. Recently I have been doing some genealogical research which has led me to a discovery about my very presence here in the US, and secondly, I’ve come to understand “catch and release” on a very personal level.

First, the fact is that I (and my family) may be here under questionable circumstances. I’m not sure what the statute of limitations is on entering the country in a manner that is not entirely legal, and maybe that has passed for my family, it’s just that I can’t help smiling a little at the audacity of my ancestor before being a little embarrassed about the way he got us here.

It all started when my great-great-grandfather sort of lied about why he wanted to leave his home country by telling the officials there that he wanted to come to the United States to fetch his brother back home so they could both fulfill the military duties they owed their Fatherland. He swore an oath he would not renounce his citizenship while he was gone.

See, the thing is, he lied. Not only did he renounce his citizenship, within 6 months of arriving here, he applied for citizenship to the United States. Now, maybe by applying, he was legal as far as the United States was concerned, but he was here based on a lie and he was mostly trying to avoid serving in an army he did not support. I’m not real sure if that is legal grounds for asylum. While it is true that I was born on US soil, and my ancestor (who will remain nameless, just in case someone decides to look into this case) did marry a woman who was a US citizen, you can see where I feel just a little uneasy about judging anyone who wants to come to the US for a better life.

Now the “catch and release” part of this story has nothing to do with my ancestry, but I have some critters in my yard that don’t belong there. They are criminal and they engage in criminal activity and I have begun a campaign to remove them by trapping them and relocating them to a place I think is much better for them.

The problem is that sometimes traps don’t always catch what we expect. The little thieves that I am waging my war against are chipmunks (so cute, right?). They eat my birds’ food, they dig up anything I plant because apparently roots are delicious, and they are trying to move in under my home where I am sure my wiring and my very walls look like natural resources to them.

So, I set a trap. Now I’m not a bad person. I don’t intend to kill them. My plan is to move them to the country…way off on the other side of the river. Good luck to them trying to return to their families! Not my problem, right? Hopefully, one by one, I’ll move their entire families to the general neighborhood where the first two went, they’ll reunite and live happily ever after.

The first day of trapping went well. Got one of the little critters and took him for a drive.

The second day was a totally different animal…literally. Rolled out my door and down the steps to inspect my trap and came face to face with a VERY upset possum! Now, I’m a country girl, so I have a little knowledge of animals and I know this chipmunk trap I am using could not hold a full-grown possum, so obviously this little guy was a youngster, but he had learned the mad possum hiss which is pretty intimidating, whatever the size of the possum.

I made a very quick and well-advised retreat to think over my options. I watched from a safe distance as he reached his strangely humanoid little hands through the cage and quickly decided I did not want to wrestle with him for the handle, nor did I want to travel with him in an enclosed vehicle! We have people for that, so I called Animal Control.

Long story – short…I don’t know where they took this guy. That’s sort of the point, isn’t it? I think the phrase is: “…not in MY back yard.”

If you want to draw some analogies from my stories, you are welcome to make of them what you will, but in the future, when I sit out on my deck drinking my coffee, I hope to see a yard that serves as a haven for me and does not contain any vandals or alien creatures…I’m just not sure that’s possible.

I have the distinct feeling that my yard is some other creature’s “better life.”

Weeds

Welcome to Summer, 2018.

You’ve probably heard the song…“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy?” I’ll lay you 10 to 1 odds, that song writer didn’t have a garden. I have had gardens in the past, but this is not going to be a gardening post. Anyone with a lawn and/or flowerbeds will appreciate this along with the gardeners who are reading. The subject today is: Weeds—You Can’t Live With ‘Em and You Can’t Live Without ‘Em.

For the last two weeks, every evening after supper, I’ve been going out to study weeds. I thought you might be interested in some of the things I’ve discovered.

Weeds are tricky. Some of them look like what they are not, and many of them grow where we plant other things, so I’ve developed a sort of checklist for some of you new gardeners.

How to tell if it’s a weed:

  1. If it starts to sprout 3-5 days after you planted something…it’s a weed.
  2. If it grows 6 inches a day…it’s a weed.
  3. If it’s green in late June, July or August…it’s a weed.
  4.   If it has a pretty flower on it shortly after it breaks through the soil…it’s a  weed.
  5. If that pretty flower turns into thousands of little seed sails that fly away at the slightest breeze, or stick tightly to your socks, your dogs, your hair or any food product carried by a child…it’s a weed.
  6. If you yank on it and it has a root that pulls up your septic tank lid, or it snaps off neatly at the soil, leaving the root to sprout again…it’s a weed.
  7. If it comes up in the middle of your blacktop driveway or concrete patio…it’s a weed.
  8. If it grows anywhere you don’t want it…it’s a weed. This rule is a little tricky, because somebody in the audience always brings up grass. While it’s true that grass is not technically a weed…you’ve all seen or experienced grass that will not, no matter how much you weed and feed, simply will not grow in the vast expanse of your lawn, but can’t be kept out of your flower beds. For you I will repeat Rule 8: If it grows anywhere you don’t want it…it’s a weed!

In case you think I’m being too harsh, though, I must say I think some weeds are really very nice. Dandelions, for instance, get a bum wrap. My grandmother used to pick and cook dandelion greens and even as a child I thought they were quite tasty. While it’s true I’ve never actually gone out into the yard and picked any myself, I intend to someday and in the meantime, it’s nice to look out at the yellow carpet that is my lawn and know I won’t starve to death if I run out of food. Besides there’s a certain charm to any weed that can make a kid’s face light up the way dandelions do. What a pretty bouquet they make, clutched in a tiny little hand.

Another weed I’ve known and loved is honeysuckle. I know, I know! It’ll sneak and creep and wrap itself around any slow moving object and pull old buildings and fences down like quicksand, but oh! the scent of honeysuckle on a hot summer night when the fireflies dance like fairies and the frogs and crickets sing songs that make other frogs and crickets fall in love.

Maybe the guy who wrote that song…“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy”…maybe he didn’t have a garden, but I bet he had smelled that honeysuckle breeze!

 

Drivin’ Dad’s Truck

Note: I wrote the following back in 2008 after losing my home and vehicles to the catastrophic Columbus Flood of 2008. I thought this might be a nice tribute to share this Father’s Day, 2018 to recognize the 10th anniversary of that flood…and of course, as a memory of my dad, Leon Nicholas.

Yesterday I borrowed my dad’s truck.

After Dad died, with no particular discussion, our family decided to keep his truck to be used by any of us who just needed it for a few days for whatever reason. There should be no shame in asking for it, so I’m not sure where my reluctance comes in…maybe the natural reluctance of an adult child to ask for a parent’s help in any way.

Climbing into my dad’s truck reminds me of being a small child and crawling into his lap. The truck is a big ol’ full size pickup and entering requires climbing. I grab the huge well-worn steering wheel and launch myself upward. Once inside, I am welcomed by nubby soft cloth upholstery and the smell of my dad, a mix of honest workingman sweat, a lifelong tobacco habit, gasoline and old garage smell, Old Spice and maybe just a hint of one or two other types of alcohol.

My dad was a big man, not just to me as a child, but to others as well. His family’s name for him was Guy, but his nickname to the outside world was Nick, and somehow over the years, he became Big Nick to all who knew him. He was a jack of all trades, able to do anything to support his family…build houses, operate heavy equipment, lay asphalt. He built our house, the one I think of as home, when I was seven or eight — built it almost  single handed, a carpenter learning brick laying and electrical installation in the process.

Dad bought this truck sometime around the time he retired. He bought it brand new “off the lot,” a rare act in those days and I’m not sure, but I think he also bought it “straight out” which is Hoosier for “paid cash.” He loved this truck. He loved the bigness of it, the red-and-whiteness of it, the chrome of it.

The truck I’m driving today reminds me of his early years as a workman because it’s a workman’s truck. It has fog lights and a toolbox and improvised carpeting he made from cut up commercial door mats. The big bench seat can seat 3 people comfortably, but 4 sweaty laborers could get to a job site by squeezing in and clutching their thermoses tightly. The truck has an automatic transmission, something my dad really thought was essential and miraculous as his aching joints and muscles began to cause him chronic problems…no more jamming in the clutch and working the gearshift to find a gear that worked. How he would have loved to have this truck back in his working days.

The one real luxury he allowed himself when he bought the truck was the air conditioning, but it’s less than perfect now and I find myself cranking down the two front windows, prying open those little wing thingys to deflect the wind from my face and just feeling the road blow by me.

The truck is sort of a visual experience, and I see heads turn at the sight of this big old red and white truck, decked out with chrome running boards and chrome bed rails, driven by this short, somewhat sturdy, 50 something…well, you get the picture! I feel like my head is barely visible behind the steering wheel.

Probably the most remarkable thing about the truck is the huge silver ram’s head hood ornament. From the front, it appears to be only the ram’s head with dramatically curved ram horns, but from my vantage point in the driver’s seat there’s the view of an anatomically correct (if somewhat proportionately challenged) ram’s butt. You can point that ram head/butt at the white line on the side of the road and motor on, drifting a little from time to time. You have to let it drift, because if you try to force it the truck gives you attitude and you can wind up fighting it left and right. Just let it go, the best way to drive it is to just sit back and enjoy it.

Drivin’ Dad’s truck takes me back to days when we were all stronger, when our needs were simpler, when comfort and joy could be taken in feeling the wind of the highway while riding high in a big old truck.

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