Thursday, September 22, 2011

from the prairie's edge: road kill, finding girls, mickey mouse watch man, the coming winter

Why did the chicken cross the road?
   To get to the other side.

Why did the frog cross the road?
   He was stapled to the chicken.
- elementary school

While we're in North Dakota, I think I'll call these long, varied updates, as well as region-specific posts, "from the prairie's edge," eh?
My mother-in-law, Barb, was amazed by the quietness and isolation each of her nine days here. She lives and works near D.C., where the traffic can keep you for an hour from your destination two miles away. We shook our heads whenever we saw on the road a dead gopher or bird, who would've had like 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 30 seconds of the day when no vehicle would've crossed its path, but instead chose one of those rare, fateful seconds to make a run for it.

This snake doesn't qualify as road kill, really, because it was still alive.
It was real slow, probably a victim of road glancing.
I wouldn't post actual road kill on my blog. Sheesh.

Jason is having a blast teaching Kaladi to "find the girl." Kaladi seems to love search work, and she's kicking tail with very little training. She naturally ground tracks, which means she follows the scent someone has left behind while walking. Some dogs naturally track by sniffing the air, which isn't as good for a lost person, because they're reliant on wind conditions. Maybe they're better at sniffing out drugs. Anyway, Jason shuts Kaladi in a room in the house, and he has Zoralee walk to some location on the property and hide behind a garbage can or a building or a bale of hay. Then he lets Kaladi out and tells her to "find the girl" or "find Zoralee." She puts her nose right to the ground, gets on the trail, and RUNS to her. Zoralee then drops a treat for her and says, "Good girl! Good girl!"

Blue. Every day at my house, six blue eyes look back at me. Eight, if you count Little Lamb, Zoralee's favorite stuffed animal.

Mickey Mouse Watch Man. We first encountered him at Walmart a few weeks ago. A jovial grandfather type, he walked up to Zoralee and put his wrist right in her face. He stared at her intently with a huge grin, practically bursting with anticipation at her response. He was showing her his Mickey Mouse watch. And she was a deer in the headlights. She doesn't tell time yet and isn't super familiar with Mickey Mouse; anyone else in the store would've been more impressed with that watch than she was. But it was no matter. He was delighted. Laugh and laugh did he. Then last week, he saw us again - by the meats at the local grocer, and just as eagerly showed her his watch. We saw him again near the spices. Then at produce. Each time, he said hello to Zoralee most cheerily and laugh laugh laughed. This time she laughed too. But things turned serious, DEATHLY SERIOUS, over at produce, when his wife, Janet, said she'd heard about a melon recall on the news. Best to avoid melons, we all concurred, at least for a little while. Lots of serious head nods and squinted eyes. No joking around about that

And speaking of local flair, when we were driving through one small town, we picked up their local newspaper. A couple of the highlights are as follows. The front page news was that the paper will not be printed in color for some time; the guy who did that has quit. Very cute, and sad. Also, the reports from the surrounding towns are mostly who went to whose house for supper. I quote (with names changed): "Donald and Edna Verhorn were Friday visitors of Pete and Joann Sanders." I'll tell you one thing, I better not hear these old-timers moaning about privacy lost via social media. Hello. These are totally status updates, but put into print, albeit several days later.

*   *   *

Fall is upon us, no question now. Last week we woke up to a downright chilly house, and it lit a fire under each of us independently to shape up and get ready for winter. The voice of Elephant from Mo Willems' I Am Invited to a Party! keeps haunting me: "WE MUST BE READY!" So I bought canning jars in town for putting up the crab apples in the yard. Aaaaand, that's it. That's the only canning plan I have; if we get stranded out here, it's apple pie 'til spring, baby. Unless I send Jason out on snow shoes to fetch a can of cool whip. Then, it's apple pie and cool whip 'til spring, baby. Oh. And while you're at it, honey, grab some Cream Soda - that's what I'm talking about. That same day, Jason took off work early to come home and cut wood. Little update: we have now had freezing weather a couple of nights, so the apples are mushy. I missed the window to can them. Ridiculous.

The thing is, Jason and I are actually excited for winter. We don't say this when the locals lament the departing summer, but since we had that stint in south Texas before this, we're basically coming off a whole year of summer. We both like power outages and crazy storms and having to cancel plans and hunker down, so a winter here on the frozen plains could be fun! It feels like, if we're going to avoid a Donner party type situation, we better know what the heck we're doing.

At this juncture, I'm going to enthusiastically recommend a children's book called, Ox-Cart Man. It'll get you excited to stack wood and can beans for winter, as well as plan needlepoint projects to sell next summer in nearby villages. Not the catchiest title ever, unless you're in a sarcastic mood, but Ox-Cart Man is a right dandy story! We have it from the library now, and it is definitely one I'd like for my kids to own. Ahhem, Grandma or Nana, givers of Christmas presents. Even now, I feel like a dimwit spending time on the internet instead of dusting off the old loom and spinning out a few shawls.

While we were in Montana last month, Jason got a wood stove, which we hauled here to ND, along with the 800 pound beastly upright piano I inherited from my great-aunt Wilma a few years back. Mom and Dad cried and cried to see that dust collector leave their basement, but boy was it a nice wagon trainy feeling to bring it and the stove to our little house on the prairie. Jason finished installing the stove a couple of week ago, and we've been enjoying it so, so much. We've been disappointed when the weather pendulums back to warmish. I know - we should be slapped.


Elaine said...

I am so enjoying reading about your life there. :) Mickey mouse watch man cracks me up. I wish our Wal-mart greeters were as friendly. :)

Christi said...

Love all of this so much...please keep recording even the tiniest of moments. Yes, Mickey Mouse Watch man was the best.

Christi said...

I also love your book recs.

And your fb parallel.

There's a book I read a long time ago and just finished its sequel last week. Her writing style reminds me of yours so I'm wondering if you would enjoy it as much as me...A Girl Named Zippy by Haven Kimmel

2 Moms of a Feather...Stick Together said...

Loved ready about you looking forward to winter...LOL
And yes some people would slap you. ;~)
I like jsut maybe by "spring" will be glad winter is over.
Nice that you have a toasty woodstove to sit by.And...yes...make sure to have enough food for the storms you will be "snowed in". to be able to play your old piano....especially for those long winter days. ;~)
Take care...and Thanks for posting!

Rachel Clear @ Clearly Speaking said...

If I didn't know you as well as I do, I'd say you were on some sort of incredible drug as you wrote this. The kind of drug that does the opposite of make you pay attention to one thing at a time.

Great retelling of Mickey Mouse Watch Man. Although I must admit my surprise when I discovered he was married. I did not see that one coming. I mean, right?

Thanks for not posting road-kill. That injured snake was MUCH better. Much.

And yes, I can still practically hear mom and dad's mournful wailing over the loss over the piano... ha ha ha!


Tamie said...

Damn, you are such a good writer. Damn, damn.

Rena said...

So many things to comment on, so I'll be brief: ***I'd rather look at road kill than snakes. ***It makes me feel good inside, reassured, that Kaladi has that "find the girl" skill. ***I think I'd love the quietness and isolation AND the blue! ***I'm looking forward to a cozy winter too, and I'm about as prepared as you are. (Although I'll have to gather more firewood now that the piano is gone ☺) ***I think Mickey Mouse Watch Man sounds really creepy. I'd watch him. ***I'll put Ox-Cart Man on my list, so you'll have to give Barb something else for her list!

Shana said...

Yes...."from the prarie's edge"-I like! Zoralee wasn't freaked by the snake? Kudos to you guys for that!!! I have to agree with your Mom on Mickey Mouse watch man-keep an eye on that one! And, the paper....that cracks me up!!! Reminds me of the "Olney Briefs" in the Whitefish Pilot every week where they talked about who had dinner with who, etc.

melissa said...

I'm with your mom on Mickey Mouse Watch Man: creepy.....