Posted in Boo, Nature, Photography

Squirrels Are Nuts

“Those Bastards!” I heard Boo hollar from the family room window.

“Those dang squirrels have eaten every bite of the bird seed and are now taunting the Bluejays.”

We stood side by side, noses pressed against the window watching as the squirrely creatures took over the backyard.

“It’s like a gang has taken over ‘the yard’ at Alcatraz.  Instead of the Bloods and Crips, it’s the Flying Nuts and the Angry Birds,” I said.

A few years ago our daughter and son-in-law gave us the Yankee Flipper bird feeder, which was our eighth bird feeder in five years.  It was pricey, sturdy and guaranteed to keep squirrels away from the bird food.  “Guaranteed!”  

The Yankee Flipper is designed to spin and flip anything heavier than a bird.  I hate to admit it, but we had a blast watching as it spun, and then gently tossed the squirrels into the grass.  No squirrels were harmed in the process, but it provided hours of entertainment as we watched our pesky guests become dazed and confused.

Squirrels are a member of the rodent family.  They include tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, flying squirrels and prairie dogs. (I always thought a tree squirrel and a ground squirrel were the same thing.)  There are red squirrels and black squirrels and our usually brown ones.  Who knew there could be so many different species?

What is a squirrel’s purpose in life?  I used to think they were so cute, but now they dig up my plants and eat my bird seed.  Remember Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies?  She was always cooking up a mess of stewed squirrel or roast possum.  Sounds like the Keto diet gone amuck.  And talk about attitude…squirrels taunt birds and upset the cat with high pitched chirping, squeeks, scraping and barks.  They act entitled and indignant all at the same time.

Just for fun I read about having a squirrel for a spirit animal.  Who would openly admit this, I wondered?  To have a squirrel on your totem pole means you are very resourceful and that you prepare for the present and future.  And if you dream about squirrels it means you need to lighten your load of clutter and unnecessary items, and that you need more fun in your life.  I tell you this because I know there are still squirrel lovers out there, although the number may be dwindling.

Lest I digress, the Yankee Flipper motor had to be charged occasionally to keep the twirl and flip going.  But, as the years have gone by it has lost its ability to juice up.

Our birds love the large feeder but the problem is the squirrels think it is for them, too.  I personally have watched as a squirrel hangs between the feeder and the tree, perpendicular to the ground, swinging to and fro until he can make the leap.  Sometimes they jump from the tree onto the top of the feeder and shimmy down to the food.  I must admit, they are agile little daredevils.  When we open the backdoor, they freeze to see who it is.  If it’s me, they hang loose and gingerly take their time climbing back up the tree.  If it’s Boo, they disappear in a matter of seconds and perch high enough to chatter and backtalk until he goes back in.

“I won’t go down without a fight”  Boo saluted.  “They have met their match.  Remember when we went to Yosemite, and they taught us to clap our hands loud and yell ‘Hey bear’ if we came across a grizzly?”

“Yes, Babe, but….”  As I turned to look his way, I saw him in his Ranger hat and filling up a water gun, but it was too late.  He was heading out into the back yard.

I give up’, I whispered to myself and moved closer to watch what would happen next.  Squirrels are nuts, and Boo… is Boo.

All photographs are my own…..obviously

Posted in Aging

Old Stuff by Ginger Keller Gannaway

        In 2016 while cleaning out my grandma’s attic, I held up a dilapidated box that held tap shoes from 1960 when I was four years old.

“Should I keep these?” I asked a friend who was helping us go through the treasure and the trash in a home built in the 1890s.

“Of course!” said Mark.

“Can’t believe Momma saved them! Can’t think why I’d want these.”

“We like old things,” Mark explained.

An epiphany hit me like a couple of rusted TV trays and a stolen ash tray from Caesars Palace (circa 1966). I do like old stuff!  Mama Joe’s pie safe where Momma stored mismatched glassware and playing cards; Dad’s beat-up paint stool that my cousin found on Grandma’s back porch; stacks of brittle love letters between Reggie and Gerry (my parents) when they were courting in the 1940’s; a partial set of Shakespeare plays, faded, bent and water-logged, that an intuitive student gave me right before he graduated. “I found these in our attic and thought of you,” he had told me.

Mama Joe’s pie safe

Also, my tastes in movies are in the “old” category: Casablanca, High Noon, and Rear Window. Likewise, two of my favorite books are Great Expectations and Wuthering Heights. I adore my turntable and stereo receiver from 1972. The U.S. city I most love to visit- New Orleans – is a place where the past clings to everything like the moss in the live oaks.

Old stuff comforts me. It connects me to some of my best memories. When I use Momma’s bent-up aluminum bun warmer she got as a wedding present in 1954, I remember homemade biscuits in the kitchen with family gathered for a holiday. I smell coffee from a well-used pot on the stove and hear kids and adults vying for space and talking over one another.  I recall the taste of hot boudin from Johnson’s Grocery. 

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with old pictures. I especially love the black and white photos, the ones from before I was born and the ones of me as a child. Life seemed simpler and easier. I’m not sure that’s accurate, but that rose-colored tint does slip over my memories before puberty hit and sent me to the land of pimples and self-doubt. 

Reginald A. Keller, 1929
Geraldine and Stretch, 1952

According to the CDC guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic, I’m “high risk” and I could go to the local grocery store’s early hours for old folks.  I suppose Gary (age 75) and I (64 today) are old people. 

Too bad our society does not extend a love of old things to old people. No one I know looks forward to old age. We fear the weak mind and frail body as much as the loneliness and incontinence. I wish I felt the same comfort and peace when I hold someone’s wrinkled and arthritic hand that I get when I run my fingers over the dents of a bun warmer or the rough paint flecks of a wooden stool. 

Dad’s paint stool from Keller Advertising days

I’m not one of the enlightened. I wish these uncertain days with lots of time for reading and praying and thinking might guide me to an appreciation for old stuff that includes old folks. As much as I like my fat-faced images when I was two, I should be kinder to the 64-year-old I see in the mirror now. She’s doing the best she can with what she’s got, and  that needs to be enough.

Posted in Relationships

Daddy Was A Saver

My daddy, J.C.Claughton, passed away eleven years ago today.

My Daddy was a “saver”.  A procurer of particulars…a frugal forager.  It was probably because he was a product of the Depression, but for whatever reason, if you needed ‘it’, he had it, at least one and an alternate.

When Daddy passed away we found boxes full of souvenirs, balls of twine, ink pens, jars of nails and business cards.  We found his report cards, measuring tapes, hundreds of bank statements and thousands of photographs labeled neatly into chronological albums.  There were boxes, bags and myriad other containers full of his mementos.   

My brother and I waded through his things sometimes laughing …sometimes crying.  Towards the end of our sorting, we bantered across to each other, “You take it!”  “No, YOU take it!”  Still, we filled large, black Hefty bags with things to give away or dispose of.  His obsessive ‘saving’ wore us out.  Sometimes, as we discarded, I whispered a prayer, “I’m sorry Daddy, we just have to let this go,” hoping he understood.

Last year I was going through a box of Daddy’s things that I had ‘saved’ from ten years ago.  When I brought it home, I thought I would go through it right away.  But, ten years had passed and I had just found the strength to open the box.

Inside were our report cards, Baptism announcements, college essays, school pictures and more.  I found an old, faded manila envelope, sealed with a piece of tape and enclosed were letters and cards my brother and I had sent Daddy through the years; Father’s Day cards, poems, and notes we had written him.  Behind those cards were letters tied with a string….our letters to Santa Claus.

I unfolded one pristine piece of notebook paper and I was transported, as I read my brother’s childish handwriting. 

Dear Santa,  I hope that I have been good enough to deserve these things I want.  I would like a bulldog tank, an electric football game and a boy scout nap sack.  My sister would like a jewelry box, a ballarena doll, a girl cowboy suit and play doe, please.   From:  Jimmy and Nancy.  December 16, 1958

This letter was written one month before our mother passed away. Not all of our letters to Santa were saved, just this one and the ones the year after she died. My Dad wasn’t always good at professing his love.  He wasn’t the sentimental, mushy type.  But, after he was gone, I saw his tender side amongst the 14 retractable measuring tapes and boxes of Navy war memorabilia.  The cards and notes his children had sent and letters to Santa obviously touched his heart, although we never knew it.  His heart was inside this box that took me ten years to open. And, suddenly, all of this stuff he had ‘saved’, became a piece of him…a bridge to the other side, where he was standing, arms open wide, saying, “See?  I have always loved you.”  And finally my heart whispered back, “I know, Daddy.  I love you, too.”

Posted in Family

Cicadas by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Cicadas – 1963

trees in Eunice
Live oaks around my childhood home

I opened the shoe box gently to show Kelly my treasure.

“Just tree mess,” said Kelly as she moved the leaves, twigs, and moss around.

Couillon! They’re hiding from us.” And I gently picked up a green and brown insect. Its whirring whine made my three-year-old sister say, “Coooool,” as she petted its folded wings. 

“Careful,” I said and replaced the insect as my sister searched and found the box’s true treasure – a poopy-brown thing.  “Lookit this.”

“It’s dead,” said Kelly.  I set it on the oak tree trunk whose shade we sat in.  The brown bug took slow-motion steps up the trunk. Kelly could only stare.

“Looks like a seratops.”

Kelly reached to touch it with her index finger, but my larger hand covered my little sister’s whole hand.  “Leave it. Just watch.”

Our heads moved close, close to the bug on the tree. We watched it mummy-move some more.  Then it stopped.

“It’s dying,” said Kelly as she put her arm around my neck.

“Watch,” I repeated.

It took one and a half minutes for the younger girl to lose interest. “It’s really dead now,” she whispered into my ear.

brown cicada“Shhhhhh,” and I squeezed Kelly’s shoulder and pointed.  Kelly moved her head closer in. Did the brown bug’s back crack? Why was it killing itself? Then slow, slow a wet thing backed out of the cracked bug. Kelly remembered cartoons where a baby bird pecks its way out of an egg. She leaned in and almost kissed the tree bark.

I held her shoulder and brought my face over my sister’s.  As the new bug emerged, it paused to allow its folded wings to unfurl. The green translucent beauty of the wings brought soft gasps from both of us.

“Now he’s gotta dry off,” I said, and we both froze to witness the new and improved insect glowing atop the broken carcass. It seemed to be sunbathing in the broken sunbeams.

Kelly held her breath and I nodded my head. After awhile the cicada made its whirring, clicking whine to flyaway. Both of our heads tilted up to watch the miracle depart. 

Then I carefully took the split-open brown thing and placed it in my shoe box.

“Cool,” said Kelly.  I nodded and put an arm around my sister’s shoulder.

Kelly, age 3
Kelly, age 3

Posted in Friendship, Relationships

Skinny Jeans

 

Jeggins-GQ-07Dec16_b

 

Boo had skated around the fact that he was eating exactly what he wanted in spite of the doctor’s warning.  “Your blood sugar is getting higher.  You need to change your eating habits and get more exercise, and it would help if you lost a few pounds.”  Still, he had his stash of candy and cookies semi-hidden on the third shelf of the pantry behind the flour, brown sugar, and the grandkids’ Capri Sun.  I use the term ‘hidden’ loosely.

It took one more threat from the doctor for the message to click.  “If you don’t change your ways, I’ll be putting you on insulin shots.  Here’s the name of a dietitian to help get you started.”  I heard all of this second hand, mind you, and it took him a few hours to disclose what was actually said because he had stopped off at Starbucks for a Caramel Macchiato and pound cake, just a little reward for after the doctor.

Boo reluctantly relayed the information, grudgingly called the dietitian, and went about his way saying, “I’m going to eat whatever I want until I see this nutrition person.”

“I’m going with you to the dietitian,” I said.

“You just want to make sure I tell the truth,” he countered.

“That’s right, “ I said.  “I don’t trust you.”

boo

One week later, we saw the dietitian who was a beautiful, thirty-something, tall, slender nurse.  She was sweet on the outside, but it didn’t take her long to see through his antics.  Yes, I helped him answer her questions honestly.  Yes, I ratted him out on a few things, but I saw him really listening as she explained carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins.  Almost overnight Boo began watching his carbs, forgoing desserts, using sugar-free creamer, and walking 10,000 steps.  It was a miracle.  As the pounds dropped off, he started to envision himself quite the stud.  “I think I’m almost ready for skinny jeans, what do you think?” 

 “Maybe just five more pounds?” I offered.

We went from grilled ham and cheese sandwiches with a generous handful of chips at lunch, to baked fish and Charro beans.  We had berries for dessert instead of double stuffed oreo cookies and ice cream.  We even bought Fitbits.  In fact, Boo became a zealot, watching every bite he put in his mouth.

 When we walked together, I would come home angry.  I envisioned us walking hand in hand down the road of love and health; sharing goals and encouraging each other on our fitness journey.  His focus was to walk briskly and clock his miles, no time for idle chit chat, let alone hand-holding.  So, we opted to walk separately, allowing him to go faster and me to stay sweeter. 

 Six months later he was down thirty pounds and looking svelte.  I, on the other hand, was down three pounds and sneaking potato chips.   How is it that men can just put their minds to it and make this losing weight look so easy?  I think women just have slower metabolisms and don’t forget the whole hormone thing, we’re challenged at every turn.

This year at Christmas, Boo finally got his wish of skinny jeans!  As he pulled the jeans gleefully from the wrapping paper, he grinned like a little kid and stood up to hold the jeans next to his legs.  Even though he needed a little help to pull them on, once he zipped up they fit like a glove. (literally)  Truthfully, I never thought of Boo as skinny jeans material, but I wanted him to live the dream, and he is.

“Enjoy your new-found hotness!” I teased.

“Oh, I will,”  he smiled, as he turned around and checked out his rear end view.  “GQ has nothing on me!”