The Emu Rodeo


A few days ago, I went outside to get some tomatoes from my garden and noticed something moving around in our supposedly empty pasture. When it got closer, I realized it was an Emu. You know, one of those huge birds that look something like an ostrich. “Well!,” I thought, “where in the heck did that thing come from.”He was about six feet tall, very mean looking, and seemed determined that he lived here.

After some thought on what to do, I called the Lincoln County sheriff’s office to see if anyone had reported a missing emu  After the sheriff had stopped laughing at me, (and that took a long time) he said that he hadn’t had any reports, but that he would put up a notice in case anyone did call in. Then I called the man who leases the pasture and asked him if the emu was his. Mr. Buroughs, who already thinks I’m a few cards short of a full deck, was polite, (but I just knew he was trying not to laugh too,) said the emu wasn’t his either. So I called the post office and told Carla,*the postmistress, that if anyone mentioned a missing emu, I had their bird in my pasture Now Carla, deals with everyone in this town I live in, and we have a few real inbred types wandering about in these here woods, but she even laughed at me and asked if I had taken my medication that day. However, she posted the notice for me.

I then sent an e-mail to my husband informing him what was in the pasture. He called me right a way to ask if I had taken too much medication, and said he wasn’t too sure if he believed me. I was beginning to wonder about myself, except every time I looked outside, there he was, a six foot tall bird, with beady black eyes and long feathers. So, I determined I was either entering the “Harvey” syndrome, there was really a bird out in the pasture, or I had gotten hold of some really strange medication.

I was relieved to know that it was the second option. Our neighbors had just purchased a breeding pair of emus and the male had jumped the fence and wandered over to our place. I was so glad to know I’m neither unhinged nor over medicated. However, it became evident that an emu rodeo would be necessary to retrieve the stray bird.

About eleven-thirty the next morning, three pickups pulled in to my drive. Six guys unloaded two four wheelers and a dirt bike. After the prerequisite howdy-do’s, they told me they were here to round up, as Tiny Woods put it, “That thar big ole rooster whut done jumped on your property.” It actually took a moment to register that he was talking about the emu. Then, there commenced a rodeo I will never forget.

First, being men, they didn’t think beyond their toys, and that the noise of the four wheelers and the dirt bike was going to be rather distressing to that huge bird. Second, it is not a good idea to upset something six feet tall that runs up to 40 miles an hour and kicks like a horse. The guys loaded up and took off across the pasture and split into three trails, two cutting right and one left. I guess they were planning on getting around behind the bird and running him into the corral to load him into the truck. Right. I climbed up on top of the pickup and wished I had a video camera, this was going to get good!

That old emu looked up and saw three loud vehicles roaring at him with five big, hairy, whooping men on them and took off at a dead run right for the trees. One four wheeler cut around to the back of the stand of trees and ran right into the deepest gully on the place. All I could see was a plume of dirt, and bits of metal flying off the machine. I got an earful of inventive cursing, screams of surprise, and loud crashing sounds.

Meanwhile, the dirt bike ran right through the trees following the emu as he headed due south. I lost sight of them when they disappeared in the direction of the creek. The second four wheeler decided to cut behind the trees in the opposite direction of the first. Things got real quiet for a few minutes except for the distant sounds of the engines Suddenly, the emu came crashing out of the woods headed due north at a dead run. Out in the open he picked up speed, heading right for us. Tiny Woods, who is about six feet seven inches and weighs in at around 350 pounds, jumped into the bed of the truck like he was a skinny kid just as the emu took a long jump and went sailing over the back of the truck. Tiny got kicked right in the chest and fell off the truck on his large posterior. I fell flat on my face on top of the truck and ducked in case the bird came back for revenge. About then the guys on the wrecked four wheeler got it back on its wheels and came tearing after the emu, and the other two vehicles came out of the woods throwing up grass and dirt. Predictable, the guys were getting more inventive in their language by the second.

The bird cut around behind the barn and headed for the second stand of trees behind the loafing shed. Tiny jumped in the truck, as I slid down into the back, and took off – nearly throwing me out on my backside. He went around by the house to cut off the bird while the other three vehicles went through the woods, but that old bird was on to them, and he went running back around the barn heading for the pond. Tiny just about tore the transmission out of the truck turning it around, and the dirt bike rider took a header over the handle bars when he ran right into the creek bed.

One of the guys on a four wheeler strung out a lariat and commenced to whirl it around his head like he was going to rope the emu. Just about the time he let the rope go, the bird jumped over the end of the pond and took off for the back of the pasture again. The driver of the four wheeler couldn’t stop and went right into the water, kept on going, and came out the other side of the pond, then headed after the bird. The dirt biker got back on his bike and took off to the back too. The second four wheeler was going down the fence line behind the trees, as if he were going to be able to sneak up on the darned bird make that much noise with an engine. Tiny slammed on the brakes at the top of the hill and I climbed back on top of the truck to see better. Before the bird got back to the woods, he turned and ran straight back toward where he’d been at the barn.

Split into three trails, all three vehicles came roaring after the bird. Tiny jumped out of the truck and ran to open the corral gate. Even thought the bird ran right into the corral, he just kept right on going and jumped over the back fence like it was a foot high instead of nearly five feet. Tiny looked so funny standing there with the gate closed and a stupid look on his face, with the bird long gone toward the front of the pasture that I lost it and started laughing. I got so tickled that I feel off the top of the truck and ended up on the ground. About that time all three vehicles went tearing past us headed to the house.  Both passengers on the four wheelers were getting ready to throw lariats, and the language was even more inventive. Geez, I wish I could curse like that when I got mad instead of crying saying the same old words over and over.

The emu was now in the woods headed for the dump at a good clip. Tiny and I jumped in the truck and we went flying around the end of the woods and by the house. The bird passed us going the other way. I was laughing so hard I was incoherent and Tiny was cussing and roaring at the guys on the vehicles as if they could hear him over all the noise. As Tiny cut a donut in the pasture, all three drivers passed us and went roaring over the dips (washed out places where water runs off into the pond). One passenger on the four wheeler went flying off the back when the driver hit a particularly bad dip, and he was almost run over by the dirt biker. The other four wheeler went round to cut the bird off, heading it back toward the truck. The guy on the ground took one look at that big bird running straight for him and dove right into the pond, lariat, boots and all. The emu just missed landing on him when he jumped into the pond too.  There was a mad scramble and lots of splashing and muffled cussing as they both tried to to get away from each other as fast as possible. Just as the bird ran out the other side of the pond, the other roper managed to get a lariat around the bird’s head, and the fight was on!. That was one ticked off bird and he tried to bite, kick, and stomp that poor cowboy to death.

I had never seen a roper try to run away and hang on at the same time. By now I was beyond mere laughter, I was cackling and trying not to wet my knickers. Tiny was mad because every time he told me to hush (only not so nicely) I would look at him and fall apart laughing harder. That poor roper was yelling for someone to rope that darned bird’s feet so he could get him down, but the other roper had lost his lariat in the pond and was fishing around for in the mud at the bottom. Meanwhile, the bird took off again, dragging the roper with him (why that boy didn’t let go is beyond me), and the roper got the ride of his life. I am willing to bet he had never run so fast before. That boy’d be up, then down on his bum, then running alongside, then being dragged along behind. That bird tried to scrape him off on the side of trees, drown him in the pond (resulting in the other roper having to run for it again), slam him against the barn and drag him through the corral fence – face first. Around and around the barn and pond that bird went with the roper hanging on for dear life, and the vehicles making worse because the drivers were trying to keep the bird from heading for open pasture.

Finally, the other roper got his lariat out of the pond and managed to get along side the emu and rope his legs. All three went down in a tangle of feathers, boots, ropes, and dust. After a bit of insane activity, they managed to hog tie the bird’s feet and wings so he couldn’t stand or flog them. But the first roper didn’t manage to get out of the way fast enough and that old bird bit him right on the bum. I had managed to get my laughter under control, but that caused me to lose it again and I simply sat on the ground next to the truck and howled with laughter, All six guys, cussing and yelling at each other had to pick up the bird (after they tied his beak shut) and put him in the truck. No one thought it was funny but me, no sense of humor these inbred types, none at all.

I offered them something to drink, and was politely refused. But, as they drove out of the drive way, that bird must have gotten his beak loose, because I heard outraged cussing followed by a meaty smack from one man to another and the words, “I thought I told you to tie that *&%##@ bird’s mouth shut!” I sat on the porch and laughed until I had to go in and use the bathroom or really wet my knickers. Heavens, it was funny! Only in Oklahoma would there be an emu rodeo where the bird darn near go the best of six men, four vehicles, and two lariats.

*names have been changed to protect myself.  I don’t think that those involved would appreciate being the object of humor.

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Childhood Memory


When I was a little girl, my sister, Carla, and I spent one year with my grandparents in Atoka County, Oklahoma. My grandparents still lived in the house they had built with their own hands when they got married. It was a two-room cabin with a lean to on the back for a kitchen. There was no running water, no indoor toilet, and the electricity hook ups would never have passed any inspection if they had bothered to come have a look. In the front room, where my grandparents also slept, was wood burning stove, a double bed with an old cast iron headboard, a dresser, and a small table on which the bulbous brown radio with the huge dial sat. My favourite piece of furniture in the whole house was the wooden rocking chair with the rope seat. All of the grandchildren would fight over sitting in that chair, until Granddad would look up from what ever he was working and say, in his quiet but firm voice, “Here now, y’all stop that fussin’.”

 I remember it was cold that winter, but we went off to school at Harmony School every morning on the big yellow school bus. Every day Grannie would get us up and we would dash from the cold North Bedroom into the front room to stand by the stove as we raced to get our clothes on before we froze to death. I was in first grade, and scared to death of making a mistake. Mrs. Graham was the teacher for grades one through three – all in the same room. She was at the school her entire career as a teacher, and still remembered us up until she died a few years ago. I think she remembered every student who ever walked into her classroom. She was the kind of teacher that I would desire to be if I taught children. I can still remember her looking over her glasses at me, smiling and saying, “Of course you can learn this word, it isn’t too hard to read.” And learn it I did because Mrs. Graham never accepted less than one’s best efforts.

 When school got out for the summer, Carla and I had to go to work with our grandparents. Grannie worked at a laundry that did washing for hotels and restaurants as well as regular folks. I remember the huge whiter than white sheets hanging on the seemingly endless clotheslines, the heat of the clothes press and the steam billowing up as the sheets and tablecloths were ironed every day. The laundry stood in an old building that seemed to be half tin and half falling down bricks. It smelled of starch, steam, water, and freshly aired cloth. The women chattered, laughed, shouted, and aimed an occasional swat at one of the multitude of little kids running around during the summer.

 Granddad worked at a garage as a mechanic. I love the smell of the place. I still get nostalgic when I step into an old fashioned garage that smells of grease and oil. Every morning the new tire smell battled with the odour of fresh brewed coffee strong enough to melt a spoon. I used to play in the office in an old wooden chair. If I did things just right I could get it to spin in great circles while rolling across the floor. In the afternoon, when it got hot and sticky, I could climb up into the cab of Granddad’s pickup and have a nap. He would always wake me up around three with a cold Nehi Grape Soda to refresh me.

 At lunch every day, without fail, Granddad and I would go pick up Grannie and Carla, and the four of us would stop at the little gas station near the Railroad Bridge to buy lunchmeat, bread, and drinks from their deli. Then we would drive out of town and find a place to stop on a dirt road to have our lunch. Granddad would park under a shade tree, near a creek if he could find one, and we would all climb into the back of the truck to have lunch. Nothing tastes better than a pickle loaf sandwich and a cold soda pop on a hot summer day. The memory of those afternoons seems to be imprinted on my heart. All of my senses were involved in those hours. The smell of dry dusty roads, the feel of the soft breeze, the whirr of grasshoppers in the tall weeds, birds squabbling in the trees, and the taste of ice cold soda pop on a parched tongue. All were brought together in a kolidascope of colours to satisfy even the most discerning artistic eyes. If Granddad was in a good mood, Carla and I would be allowed to sit in the back of the truck until we got to the highway. I know, now, that we didn’t go very fast, but it seemed to us we were flying down the road throwing up huge clouds of dust behind us.

 I rarely go back to Atoka County, it just isn’t the way I remember it. My grandfather passed away and Grannie moved to town. It is where my parent’s “people” are from, and I suppose it is really the only home I’ve ever really known as I’ve lived all over the world since then. But, always in my heart stands the memory of those cold winter days, boiling summer nights, and simple times.

Ride From Amarillo


Ride From Amarillo

Today I caught a ride from Amarillo, Texas to Gallup, New Mexico. The old geezer that picked me up was a hard case from some place up north. He didn’t talk much at first, but he was friendly enough. Most old guys won’t pick up a hitchhiker these days. I look kinda rough too since I ain’t had a shave or bath in three days. I don’t know what made him stop, but I sure was glad to have lift. It was getting’ hot standin’ on the road with my thumb out.

About 60 miles down the road, the old guy asked if I was hungry. I wasn’t gonna tell him I didn’t have no money to eat, but he said he would be happy to get me a burger or something. So we got off the highway and pulled into a burger joint. It was one of them old kind where someone comes out to your car with a load of food and hangs a tray on the window.

When we headed back on the highway into the setting sun, he finally started to talk to me some. He asked all the same questions everyone asks me. I told him I was just wanderin’ cause I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life yet. Usually I get some sort of lecture about being sensible and finding some sort of career, but this old guy really surprised me because he did just the opposite.

He told me about when he was a young guy, younger than me, he ran off from home during the depression. He said there wasn’t food enough to feed him and he knew if he left his mother would have enough to eat. So he just up and ran off one day. Back then the times were real hard, and no one had much of anything so he took to riding the rails and learned how to survive from one day to the next. He knew what it was like to be hungry and alone, and he sure knew how much he appreciated it when folks would help him out by giving him a meal for doing any sort of work they could find for him. So he figured he owed it to someone to help out anyone who needed a helping hand. That’s why he picked me up, he saw a lot of himself in me and knew it was what he needed to do.

I asked him if he ever went back home after the depression and he said no. He said he got all the way up north to Washington State and found a job at a sawmill. He just stayed on and after a while World War II broke out. He enlisted in the Army and went off to war. While he was gone, his mom died, and all his brothers and sisters scattered during the war. He said he never really knew his dad, he left when he was still a kid. After the war, he went back to Washington State and got a job logging. Then after a while he met a girl and got married. They settled down and had kids, and life went on.

 He got real quiet then asked if I could drive for a while. So I got behind the wheel and he dozed off. As I drove west, through a sunset that turned the sky red and purple and the land blue and orange, I thought a lot about how it felt to be alone in a place where I didn’t know anyone. I thought a lot about the old man sleeping next to me and all that he had told me. He had lived a long life, and he had done a lot of things, but he had always remembered those first days when he was alone and scared and hungry. Those days painted his life in more ways than he had ever imagined they would. Because at 75 years old, he was still trying to pay back all the help he had been given from strangers.

 I wondered if I would be trying to pay back strangers my whole life too. I wondered how my mom would feel if I didn’t ever come back home, and she died wondering where I was. And I wondered how I would feel when I was 75. Would I feel a deep need to pay back the ride and meal from an old man who picked me up on I-40 outside Amarillo, Texas on a hot summer day? Deep inside I knew I would find a way to help someone else some day. And I knew I would go home again when I figured out what I wanted.

 After a time the old man woke up and we talked through the deep night until we got to New Mexico. He offered to put me up for the night but I said no thanks and he dropped me off at a truck stop. When I got out of the car, he gave me 20 bucks and told me to eat decent meal and get a shower. I went inside and made a call home to mom. She was glad to hear from me, but didn’t nag me to come home. I was glad about that. One thing has been bugging me for a while now. I didn’t think about it until he drove off, but that old geezer never did tell me his name.

I am going to catch some sleep back behind the truck stop. The cook said there was an old building back there I could sleep in. Tomorrow I want to try to make it into Arizona, but if I can’t catch a ride I may try to find some work around here so I can get some money up for the time being.

Cleaning My Closet


Today I was standing knee deep in stuff I cleared out of a closet in my granddaughter’s bedroom. As I stood there amid the broken toys, cast off clothing, and miscellaneous pieces of discarded rubbish, I saw it as a sort of metaphor for my life.

Once, like all those toys and clothes, my life was shiny and new. I was excited about the future and everything looked and felt right. The toys were going to bring me ultimate satisfaction and fulfil their roll forever, and I was never going to change so all my clothes would always fit. I never, not once, thought about the fact that life is always changing. I didn’t plan on out growing anything, nor did I plan on finding the toys boring as I changed and grew within.

At sixteen, newly married, in the middle of the hippie era in San Francisco, I was free to experiment and play with all sorts of new ideas and life style choices. And boy did I play hard. Like a child let loose in a toy store, I had to try everything new. But, like a spoiled child, I soon threw aside each new thing because I became bored, or saw something brighter, bigger, and more exciting to try. Eventually, like all children needing boundaries, I got bored with all of it and started looking for something to give meaning to my life.

At nineteen, I was a mother, and everything changed. All the toys of my childhood were useless and soon gathered dust in a closet that would, in time, become filled with cast off and forgotten things. By twenty-one, I had two young children and a husband who was obsessed with his career. We moved from place to place as he changed jobs and worked his way up the ladder of success. Each move caused me to place more and more of my discarded life into that closet. Soon the floor was covered, and I was working my way up the walls. No matter how much I reorganized, I couldn’t bring myself to throw out the harmful toys, the unflattering clothes, or the old mouldy feelings of worthlessness.

Things moved along from day to day. Life went on, my children grew, and one day I found myself looking at that closet with loathing. I had changed so much that a lot of that stuff in there didn’t apply to me any longer. Broken pieces of rubbish, hateful feelings, anger, sorrow, and all the old things that no longer fit were wearing me down. I had found a new purpose in my spiritual self. I had found a place to settle, even if it meant my husband was away all the time.

Life got busier as the years rolled on, and more of my life traumas found their way into the closet, to be closed off so as not to effect my life. Why deal with anything when there was still room to stuff everything in the closet and close the door? I got older, my children got older, and my husband drifted further away. But that didn’t stop me from looking for new toys to replace the losses in my life. One of the best toys I found was food. Lots of lovely food, and all of it found a permanent place on my body. So, instead of dealing with my emotional needs, I fed them, and stuffed the extra feelings in the closet, even if it was getting harder and harder to close the door.

Then, one day, the door burst open and would never close again. My son died. There was no more room in the closet, and I couldn’t shove my hurt and broken heart in there. When I tried, the door fell down. All those old toys, past mistakes, broken pieces of my heart and soul, old clothes of my former self, and every single miserable hurt flooded out, knee deep, into the middle of my life.

I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t know where to start cleaning things up. Finally, after a long, fruitless struggle, I started by picking up one thing at a time. I would examine it, carefully, see if it had any possible value, if it could be repaired, or if it simply needed to be loved. I would then place it in a stack. I had three stacks; one for giving away, one for sharing with my friends and family, and one for the rubbish man. As each stack grew, I began to feel lighter, free, and most of all, I felt my spirituality come back. My heart began to find all it’s lost pieces, and the old clothes that were mouldy and no longer fit my new perspective on life, were easily thrown away.

Soon, I had three towering stacks of emotional toys and clothes to share, give away, or throw out. Sometimes the recipient of the items appreciated them, sometimes they passed them on and recycle them, but the things I threw away no longer hurt or annoy anyone. They are buried deep in some landfill that will become an eternal garden in time. There are some things I have kept because I just can’t get rid of them. Mostly they are memories of important moments that have changed and redirected my life. They are often painful memories, but memories I need to keep around so I will continue to be motivated to clean out my closet.

As I have gone through those stacks over the years, I occasionally add to them. The closet floor is pretty clean, although I do get lazy and just toss things in there from time to time. There is a new door on it too, but made of glass and it is very easy to see when I need to clean my emotional and spiritual closet. There is no hiding from myself now. It’s a good thing I am no longer searching for perfect things to fulfil me, because I have discovered that I am really just a plain, old-fashioned woman who enjoys the simple things in life. Eventually, with a bit of elbow grease and determination my closet will not only be empty, it will be clean and I will be free of greed, fear, and pain. I guess I’d best get back to cleaning my granddaughter’s closet. Metaphor or not, there is still work to be done.

Little Girl, Little Girl


Little girl little girl where have you gone?

Yesterday you were a laughing child twinkling eyes filled with laughter, and tumbling curls, flowing after.

In a dress of Pink and white, flowers all around. Baby dolls and little bikes, falling on the ground. Tears, and scrapes, band aids and drinks. Hugs and kisses, our hearts linked.

Little girl, growing up fast, with your girlfriends running past. Trying lipstick, high heels and dresses. Fixing hair, and polishing nails all attitude and tossing tresses.

France

One day the little girl was all gone, and there you stood. A woman grown all on your own. Eyes all aglow, in love with life.

Some times though I see, in your smile and twinkling eyes, that little girl with tumbled curls whose laughter filled the skies

Little girl little girl, where have I gone? “No where, look in your heart Where memories go on, and love never dies. There, your little girl lies.”

Grannie’s Hands


Her hands lie upon her stomach quiet and still. Telling, in their scared wrinkles, the story of a lifetime.

As a child her plump dimpled hands clung to her mother’s. They were, at times, covered with mud, sticky sweets, and all of the mess and mire of childhood. When she was a young woman, her hands were thin and lovely, yet strong enough to cope with the life she anticipated as the wife of a farmer. Those hands were adorned with a simple gold band, and, in time, held each of her newborn children.

They scrubbed, cooked, cleaned, and washed for her family. They comforted the ill, held the weary, and buried the dead. They were scared by fire, cut by life, and calloused by work. But to me, they were simply Grannie’s Hands.

I remember how they touched my face, braided my hair, and tied my shoes. I remember watching them as they sewed on buttons, kneaded bread dough, and planted flowers. They gently held my hands as I learned how to measure sugar for vanilla cookies, cried out my hurt feelings and fears, and poured out my heart when I fell in love. I remember Grannie’s hands reaching out to hold my first baby, and watching as she touched the face of her great great grandchild.

Her hands passed down instruction, discipline, talent, love, comfort, and compassion to four generations, and now, on her death bed, they are still.

But  as long as I live, I will remember Grannies hands.

 

Re-Evaluating


I was reading a blog by Sarah A. Hoyt (Yes, the SF writer) that made me stop and think about how we all have to stop and take a look at where we are in life on a regular basis. http://accordingtohoyt.com/2012/08/02/im-not-that-guy

This is the response I posted on her blog.

I think many of us of a certain age go through that whole process you wrote about, no matter what career they chose and what kind of “fame” it creates – or not. We reach the point of self evaluation through many avenues, but at some point, unless very shallow or so lost in depression etc., it tends to happen.

I think it comes in stages throughout life. In our teens, we grow up and have to decide what the next step will be. In our 20’s we are striving to learn a multitude of talents to reach the step we decided on, often changing course and objectives along the way. In our 30’s we are generally in a long term relationship and having our children. Another big step for most of us because having kids is a very scary thing.

Then we hit 40. Oh boy, 40 . . . how the heck did that happen? It’s OK, because by then we have settled into house, home, career, relationship, and it is a good time to either cruise through the next ten years or re-evaluate our choices and decisions. Most of us re-evaluate, and either stay where we are because we are happy with our choices, or we panic and decide on a mid-life crises (women too), or, many of us realize that life is passing by fast, and we are no where near where we want to be in life.

I’m pushing 60 now. And looking back, I can honestly say I did the mid-life crises thing by going off to England to complete my doctorate. Life stepped in, however, and at the loss of our eldest son, we became parents to his one year old daughter. I had to re-evaluate big time at this juncture in my life.
So, at the age of 41, I was a new mom, and just to make things crazier, my husband and I decided to work our way around the world. We moved back to England, on to Hong Kong, and finally to New Zealand before coming home to the US nearly eight years later. It was worth it, every moment.

Now my granddaughter is 18, going to college, in a long term relationship, and expecting her first child. Holy CATS! I am going to be a great grandmother at the age of 58. Time to re-evaluate again.