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summer 2005

Howdy folks,

We just returned from our usual summer excursion to Colorado, but I’ll get to that later. We had another treat before we left. We had to clean out the lily/fish pond in the Japanese garden at the rear of the house.

Now this is not a nice job. The pond is actually a large, round artificial tank sunk in the ground, about 18 inches deep and 9 feet across. Around the edge of the tank is stacked, at various heights, a border of red shale rock. This makes the pond look natural and quite attractive. However, every couple of years, we have to take the lily pad pots out, lower the water level, and clean the pond sludge out of the bottom of the tank. This upsets the fish and distresses Shirl. I make her get into the pond and scoop up the scum, which she then deposits in buckets that I carry down to the woods and dump. Pond scum is very heavy and I wouldn’t want Shirl to hurt herself. I do my best to be considerate .

Anyway, as I was coming back from a dump, I heard Shirl screech. I dashed up to the pond, figuring that she had been attacked by an anaconda. She had only stepped on a frog hiding in the muck. She was screaming, “kill it, kill it!” How was I supposed to do that? Clamp my hunting knife between my teeth, dive into 8 inches of water, and make like Crocodile Dundee? Good grief!

My solution was far saner. I got the pond skimmer and handed it to her. Lordy, she started scooping frogs from the bottom, flipping them all over the place, screaming for me to kill them. So I exhausted myself hopping around -- not stomping on the poor little devils, but booting them down the slope into the woods. I looked like some frenzied hillbilly, dancing up a storm to Flatt and Scruggs’ “Dueling Banjos”—and that wasn’t the worst of it. She wanted me to stand guard at the edge of the pond with the pellet rifle to shoot any of the frogs that made their way back Horrible! Just the day before we got our little nephew a number of kid’s books. One of them was titled Frog and Toad are Friends. The cover of the book showed Frog and Toad dressed in tweed jackets and wearing bowler hats, amphibious English gentlemen Jeez! Shoot frogs? It was like my wife was asking me to commit murder. I could only imagine it. A little frog hops up to pond and I get the drop on him with the pellet rifle, pointed right between his eyes. I say, “Sorry, Frog, I got a message for you from Shirl. Nothing personal.” Splat.

Shirl got her revenge for the pond cleaning when we went to Colorado to visit our ex-friends Pam and Bob Voit. (Oh well, I guess Pam is still my friend—but not Bob!) Shirl and Bob conspired to get me to go with him to a town called Lucky Limping Lizard where we collected a load of 6,000 pounds of hay bales for his two horses. When we returned, I had to help him unload three-tons of hay from the horse trailer. Take it from me, hay dust inside a trailer at an altitude of 50,000 feet in the Colorado Rockies is murder. Even Bob, who was working outside the trailer, was coughing. Inside, I was suffocating. The air at 50,000 feet on the mountainside is so thin it won’t support the weight of a flying bird. They have to walk. And they gasp while doing it. Did you ever try to drift off to sleep at night to the sound of pulmonarily pestered pigeons gasping in the trees?

When I took a break, sitting on a bucket near the corral, wheezing away, the horses—Sancho and Shiloh—came over and started whinnying, complaining that I wasn’t moving fast enough unloading their hay. That’s when I got the idea. Use the hay that we were unloading to feed the horses double rations until they were as round as hippos. Then, sell the horses to the cannery. Use that money and the coin saved on the rest of the year’s feed bill (and believe me, that’s a lot of money!) to buy two Harley Davidsons. Even with the high gas costs nowadays, the motorcycles would be cheaper than the horses. Moreover, if a Harley throws you off, you can beat the bejesus out of it and not get arrested for animal abuse. Also, you can cuss a Harley and it won’t try to get back at you the way a tricky horse will. Bob didn’t go for my plan.

The next day, Shirl and Bob rode the two well-fed horses in Sedalia, Colorado’s 4th of July parade. Pam and I stood alongside the parade rout and watched. I was still wheezing and my back was killing me. As the would-be Roy Rodgers and Dale Evans rode by on their snickering horses, I would have shot all four of them—if only I had my pellet rifle. Revenge for my ruined body and for all those dispossessed frogs back home…and it would have been very personal.


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