Sunday, August 27, 2017

Let's You and Me Do the Local Paper's Crossword

2 lecturer
3 Belfrance
4 phlegm
5 inacting
6 fairy
7 bitch
8 LatviaCity
9 Ace
10 pit
11 dick
12 writer
14 jagger
17 gaming
18 rich
20 austriahungary
23 lipoed
24 shutup
25 tacky
26 dude
29 forsale
30 narc
31 criticized
32 leaves
35 nothing
36 Syria
38 Jew
40 salt
41 bidet
42 holler
43 busy
44 thataway
45 finally
46 wait
47 fox

Friday, August 18, 2017

Life's Worst Meals (So Far)

Spoiled Coho Salmon: The July fishing derby drew up tons of salmon the anglers all give away at day’s end, a problem if your frugal family doesn’t like fish so doesn’t cook it much and fully expects it to smell and taste bad.

Hamburgers in Hot Dog Buns: With a bunch of teenagers to feed, Mom had ground beef but no hamburger buns, so she shaped the beef to fit the hot dog buns she did have, and the grilled and bunned burgers looked like quarter-pound turds.

Sauteed Chicken Livers: A horror show of not one but twenty or so veiny little livers I sincerely could not even look at and the only meal I ever told a friend (the host) I could not eat.

Clams Full of Mud: “Who wants clams for dinner?” caroled the enthusiastic Vermont hostess. I lied that I did. She went out and bought clams just for me and steamed them. I had to eat them.

Stuffed Green Peppers: Bitter body-temperature bell-pepper shells and acidic tomato sauce are a hellish combination always, but ten times worse if served as the gala welcome meal at an expensive retreat.  

Corned Beef and Cabbage: Like eating a human adult sent through a hot shredder.

I eat with no problem tripe, anchovies, lard, creamed herring from a jar, octopus, headcheese, zucchini blossoms, venison, sushi. . .

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Those Who Ironed Before Me

In 2008 I emailed Mom about the old wooden family ironing board I still use and printed out her answer, taping it to the underside: “bought for $2.00 in 1955 in a State Street junk store.” She and Dad were newlyweds, and it was the golden age of ironing. I first saw her cry, over a neighbor's rude remark, while she was ironing out on the porch (it was summer). I was between ages 3 and 5 and horrified. That’s my first memory of this ironing board.

In the '70s the heavy awkward thing became mine and I hauled it to the 10 or so places I lived until settling here in 2001, by then ironing at most four times a year. A week ago I saw the board’s butt end had been soaked and its cover shredded, and thought: Buy a new ironing board? Naw. I’ll simply buy a new cover. So I did. Stripped the old cover off--it had been stapled on--and saw the full-length crack in the board’s “table,” rendering it worthless but not useless.

Googling, I learned this three-legged style was first manufactured around 1914 and that metal legs replaced wooden ones in the 1940s, giving me the board's approximate age. I turned the board over looking for a manufacturer’s label or stamp. Nothing. But besides the note I’d taped to the underside was writing I’d never noticed before. Handwriting. Only some of greenish lettering was readable.

This much was clear:
 ________ d A. Dixon
______________________ Wis.

Probably the previous owner who’d junked the thing! With light and magnification I finally confirmed the name as “Fred A. Dixon.” No, not “Freda.” That “A.” is clearly an initial. Plus I cannot imagine any female so attached to her ironing board she’d write her name and hometown on it. What, is she taking the ironing board to camp, or worried it'll be confused with someone else's?

Where the ink had worn away, faint impressions in the wood allowed me to confirm the first letter of the town as “W,” resembling the fancy “W” in “Wis.” (My hometown with the junk shop begins with “R.”) Fragments of other letters were just visible. Might it be two words?

The town name’s final letter, I thought, looked like “h.” “Beach”? There is no Wisconsin town called anything “Beach.” Or did it say “Fish”? That was more likely. The top of a capital “t” was followed by the top of a capital “e.” The answer was probably “Whitefish”. . .

But there’s no Whitefish, Wisconsin. Whitefish Bay is in the next county to the north, but believe me, no native calls it Whitefish because then we can’t make the standard joke about that wealthy suburb, calling it “Whitefolks Bay.” There’s a Whitewater, Wis. But the final letter before the “Wis.” was not an “r.” The storm outside had knocked out my Internet, so I pursued this puzzle, thinking that “h” might be a “d.”

Then I saw it: Waterford!
Waterford is a village in the same county as my hometown.

Census records from 1940 list the household of Fred A. Dixon, 57, of Waterford, Wisconsin as himself and his wife Lulu, 56; their son and daughter-in-law, ages 31 and 29; and three children under age 4. They used the ironing board a lot. So did Mom, who sprinkled water on clothes and rolled them in towels before pressing them, and also darned socks over a light bulb.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Nothing Bit Me All Summer

"Lavender is an insect repellent," the Lavender Farm nearby had advised. That place, of happy memory, lost its lovely scenic lavender crop from alternating years of flooding and drought. But when their brand of lavender oil ran out I bought a 16-ounce bottle from Amazon and have used it ever since as insect repellent, pre-treating myself against bites and bugs before stepping out and meanwhile smelling pretty good.

Somebody told me that lavender oil at the Amazon price I paid is probably not real lavender oil but swill from big tanks of chemicals in China, but I just couldn't see letting that ruin my day. The darned stuff, no matter what it is, works just as well, whether cloudy (it turned cloudy) or clear.

Caution that lavender oil as a bug repellent doesn't serve everyone. I drenched a friend in it before we went bushwhacking. Chiggers still bit him and so covered him with those volcanic bites that he was bedridden with nausea. Usually he deserved bad things to happen to him, but not that time.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Two Cheers for Conservation

I trekked down Highway FF to see what those earth-movers and heavy-equipment operators spent three weeks doing down by LaBarque Creek during the hotter weather. The conservation department or somebody demanded our landlord provide erosion control at this creek bend. Wait any longer and the LaBarque here, give or take a few flash floods, could undermine the road.

I could tell you why. More paving, especially a parking lot built in 2014 right next to the creek, makes runoff. This encourages the gentle LaBarque to rise and flood. During 2015's heavy rain this was no flash flood: the creek was torrential for a full day, eroding its own sandstone channel, filling its fishing and swimming holes with sand, changing  the creek's floor--it's now all shallow--and its shape, and dumping sand up and over the creek banks for 50 feet on either side, instantly altering the ecology of its entire riparian corridor. Back then I climbed a cliff to take a photo and show you the aftermath. Happened again in 2017. Flash floods now grow ever faster and taller, and when meeting this bend here they hammered a new channel through our other soil: clay.

Was I surprised to see rope for erosion control; 100 yards of woven rope to hold the creek bank all around its bend. Conservation people forced the landlord to uproot invasive cedars nearby and rope them into the creek bank's walls to try to mitigate the pounding this clay side of the creek will still take during flash flooding. Why? Because the other side is sand.

Rope doesn't solve the problem. The only real solution is to dredge or straighten the channel. The LaBarque did have its own very pretty and reasonable channel, but now it's clogged with sand.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Reflective Post

Somebody really, really wants drivers to see this wooden post at night, accommodating even the colorblind. I liked it. . .it embodies command, force, desire, communication, concern, compassion in the night.

Two ceremonies 40 days apart at the cemetery--traditional, and my stepfather wanted us there. It's the least I can do for a man who loved my mother for 31 years. For 40 days after death the soul may freely wander the earth and visit places important to it, and on the 40th day (just like Jesus) it ascends to heaven and is really, really not coming back, so the survivors hold a sendoff service at the gravesite with brandy, wine, food and bread, pouring wine into the earth, and then, all ready to faint or vomit because it's 114 degrees, go to an air-conditioned lunch. Then you're supposed to move on with life, except for the six-month observance and the one-year observance. I am eager to move on. Rest in peace, Mom.

Doing my best to move on, I had a new professional portrait taken July 25 and when I saw the photo, which is awesome, I thought, "Mom would love this, I'll send one.  . ." but she's seen it already.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Produce Stand

I don't know who owns this modest and remote little farm stand in a wagon; never asked. A few times I've seen a gardener working the dense, thick victory-garden plot just behind this wagon; don't know if that's the farmer. Tomatoes of several types, eggplants, pickle-type cucumbers, berries, onions, red and white potatoes, squashes (especially pumpkins, in season) are all sold here, but supply depends on what's ripe and whoever got there before I did. Also sells salsa and jam when appropriate. For cheap. I love this little vegetable stand. It's so midsummer in Missouri.