Thursday, December 30, 2010

Winter Pleasures

Yes, when I was a kid, fifty years ago now, I got the classic orange in the toe of my Christmas stocking, and I hope you did too. I don't hang stockings anymore, and my Christmas trees are right outside, but I have never loved anything in quite the way I love fruits. All of em. Divine shapes, colors and scents. In winter, the citrus fruits, which are improbably abundant this time of year. When I drew in pastels that's all I drew, could spend all day just admiring an orange and its blue shadow. And not only this, when you open it (or rip the skin off) YOU are the first person ever to see the inside of it. And to top it all off, it's good to eat. Here's a bowl of winter sunshine in winter sunshine. Happy New Year.

Monday, December 27, 2010

See My Christmas Present

See the overgrown brush? I'd planned on hacking at it two hours a day for four months until I cleared it. (See entry "My Machete," Dec. 19, in menu at left.) This is the "before" picture.

See my friend and hero Reeve? As my Christmas present he brought his gas-powered brushcutter and cut all the brush and briars from hell's half-acre in one hour or less, and then made a bonfire of the debris, using just one match.

The "after" picture. (The fallen branch along the bottom is the same as in the "before" picture; there's just a lot less of it.) Best Christmas present. Reeve got a big omelet, a big hug, and other good and valuable consideration.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Doc Sargent, Revealed

Photocopied pages of a local-history book finally reveal the real Doc Sargent who gave his name to a nearby road. Dr. Jesse Sargent (1872-1952) was a country doctor who lived in a stone house with his wife on what became Doc Sargent Road; the house still stands. He is described as "a portly man with mustache and goatee who nearly always wore a gray suit" and drove a Pierce-Arrow. He loved children and from 1917 to 1923 held Christmas programs for them in his home; he also sang in the choir at the Presbyterian church. "For years," Doc got his "simple medicines" from the local "root digger," said to be a freed slave living in a log cabin no longer standing. He was, of course, sometimes paid in eggs or meat or whatever people had to trade for his services. Toward the end of his life, Doc Sargent moved to Springfield, MO, and died and is buried there.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Machete

Demetrius the Gardener died almost two years ago now, and left in my garage his machete, his favorite and most savage tool, which I never touched until today because I was afraid of its size, weight, and wickedly sharp double-edged head. It's 54 inches tall. I'm 62 inches tall. He also left me all the heavy outdoor work he used to do.

My winter project is clearing two years' worth of weeds, briars, fallen branches and Japanese honeysuckle around my twin oaks, with an eye toward a hammock or treehouse between them someday, and I've toiled along with a weed whip and then brushcutters, but in places the brush (you can see some of it behind my blue jacket there) made barriers so dense I couldn't cut through them except with an axe -- or the machete. As usual when I'm reluctant I told myself, "Ain't nobody gonna do it FOR you," and got to work and learned it. The concave side was good for hacking down piles and layers, six feet tall, of dry fallen branches; the convex side for pulverizing them.

While I worked I kept peeling off clothing and wondered why I dreaded winter when it wasn't that bad at all. And every now and then I rested, because I'm older now, and saw that the machete was really a handsome tool. And when I got tired I took off my work gloves and told myself, "Put the machete away now; you have no business using such a thing when you're tired," congratulating myself on my wisdom, except I told myself, "Just a few more minutes" and that's when I cut and scraped my hand -- not on the machete, but on a dry branch sticking up. I said, "Okay, I get it; that was a warning," and put the machete away for the day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Last Day of Save-A-Lot

Farewell to the Save-A-Lot grocery at 225 Thresher Drive, Eureka. The store started up in the late 1960s and the sign probably is 1970s. I began shopping there in 1998, when it wasn't as nice as it is now; on my first visit people were smoking in the store. Then they spiffed it up and it was fine for canned goods and whatever I had to buy quickly and cheaply. Not very well trafficked -- there's a Schnucks grocery store half a mile away and a Wal-Mart superstore within 4 miles -- Save-A-Lot shopping peaked during the hard times in '08 when gasoline came near $4/gallon and the people of Eureka went for groceries and back on foot.

This is probably the last photo ever to be taken of the sign; I was the lone mourner in the parking lot, going in there to get day-old bananas, two cans of Great Northern beans, and a box of cornflakes. (It MUST be Kellogg's with the rooster. I am fond of that rooster and will never give it up.) But change has come. Already there's a new spiffy "Eureka Market" sign, and they've changed the house brand to "Always Save." Although that is objectively very good advice, I don't want to be seen eating out of those cans. P.S. It closes TWO HOURS EARLIER now, too, 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

You Drive What?

I tried to think of things to say about this delivery car topped with a giant chicken parked at the gas station/restaurant in Doolittle, MO, along I-44. But at last I must admit: I'm speechless.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Woodpecker Apartments

Tried the Flint Quarry Trail hoping to see a flint quarry. But instead I saw Pileated Woodpecker luxury highrise apartments. Woodpeckers pair up, and you'll notice they all have the same address, but each pecks out his or her own place, giving each other space. This must be what keeps them cheerfully whooping and yammering, biggest and noisiest birds in the forest, always raising more kids just like themselves, and my favorite birds of all time.

Nobody was home.

Friend of mine once said the best name for a human apartment building would be "The Balzac Apartments." I never laughed so hard.