January 21st, 2006


Grunt Labor

The Saturday the neighbor had notified me they planned to came down to start digging the trench to hook up the new never-freeze automatic tank waterer, instead of a foot of highly frozen ground, we were terribly dry, and a balmy 68º. I've lived here for 28 years, and had ONE December warm enough to still set fence posts, but after two weeks of highs in the 40-50º range, this was just unprecedented.

Mike was off and running, once he'd given instructions to his crew -- his older brother, who was on the back hoe, Nathan, his 19 year-old son, manning the four wheeler to shut the gates so the herd did not abscond down the road during the project, and his own 14-year-old, Brett. His brother began to dig in mid-afternoon right tight against the hydrant in the corner of the yard where the water line up the hill junctions with the offshoot that allows a garden to be watered. The trusty operator was doing the ticklish job of uncovering the rural water line without digging the metal claws into the fragile black plastic pipe.

I watched for a bit from the porch, then returned to the story I was writing. Soon, Nathan and Brett knocked on the door.

Nathan and Brett got on the four wheeler and headed for the hay field to circle around to the north gate where the front and back forty join.

Nathan inquired politely, "Does your telephone work?"

Thinking he wanted to make a call, I tried to invite them in. Out came the rest of the story. "Dad thinks he clipped the phone line. It was just inches on top of the water line."

Well, I'd told Mike they laid everything in the same trench. I must not have gotten specific enough, or the message had not passed accurately enough. Of course, that was last July. A tiny detail like that could be forgotten, as well. Walking across the living room, I picked up the phone. Dead.

Another trip up the hill. That time, I thought to tell him there were two lines, and I wasn't sure where they branched off -- maybe they came up the hill together, but maybe they were separate. Sure enough, that WAS part of the trouble. There WERE two separate lines down that far.

Next trip. "Does your computer work?"

"Yes, I'm writing a story on it right now."

Asking the wrong question got Nathan the wrong answer. He wanted to know if the computer LINE worked. I was typing off line. I logged on and nope, it was dead. So was the house phone.

Dejected, they headed back down the hill.

Thirty minutes later, they were back. "Nope, nothing works."

"It has to be okay one way or the other."

Another long silence, followed by a knock. "Anything?"

Silently, I handed him the phone. Dead. I mentioned the outside buzzer.

"Does the computer line work?"

I logged on again, then decided to go ahead and post, just in case we backslid.

Needing to go in to school, I went down the hill, stopping to say they could go on in and check, but Mike's brother was standing on the level ground with a cell phone, dialing my number over and over until the outside dinger finally went.

Mike was chest deep in a pit, playing with wires. "The color code is reversed." He had a real pained look on his face. As a professional contractor in both Chicago and Kansas City, small town hyjinks were definitely frowned upon. Mike commented, "I should have remembered about that bell. We can hear it clear up at the house." (about 1/2 mile away.)

After several hours of repair, both were again working, but the lovely afternoon that would have been warm enough to frame up the concrete base and pour it was gone. I began to get depressed, and envision weeks of chopping ice, while paying for the parts at least at the same time...

We stayed warm, but not all night. I wasn't sure how long it had to be warm at one time for the cement to cure enough. Yesterday, Mike hooked up the last of the electric and rebuilt the frame around the tank so the horses can use it. Today, we got SNOW. As in several inches of it. I'm feeling pretty happy with the herd drinking behind the barn and OMYNO in the creek stud pen, all on the 10-year-old waterer, while Debut gets the brand new one. Once the fence along the drive gets repaired, someone will get the hay in the front yard. It may be Coqet if I decide to try to wean her baby. The mothers of the coming four-year-olds I never weaned off STILL are mothering them, as they have not produced other children. Suffering from the empty nest syndrome just isn't an option for horses, I guess.

No Colds

Last year, instead of getting the colds and flu the kids were passing around, I got itchy ears. Soon, I had infection in the inner ears, and a stout antibiotic to apply several times a day.

The second bottle of it was still in the medicine chest, so last week, when my ears began to itch again, I started using it, but I noticed I was hearing less well, especially in my right ear, normally my "good" ear.

Thursday and Friday were our semester tests, and the last hour of the last test, as I was facing the computer, a student behind my back at the end of the first row tried to open his text book in his lap. My right ear was to him, and I clearly heard the rustle of the pages. I asked him to put what he had in his hands on the desk -- nailed!

On Monday, I called for an after school appointment, to see if I could get a referral for my knee to the Mayo Clinic this summer, and to check the ears out. The soonest I could do it without missing school was 4:30 this coming Monday.

But, my ear wouldn't wait. Thursday at lunch, I noticed I wasn't hearing well at all and had trouble tracking the discussions. Most of the people were on my right... I began to suspect I wasn't hearing out of my right ear. Sixth hour, a girl was watching the photonovela on the VCR at the back left of the classroom, another one was doing her listening activity quietly on a CD player just to the left of my desk, and a student needing to do an oral for a grade sat in the second chair to the right of my desk. I could SEE her lips moving, but not hear a sound she made. Panic! How do you LIP READ your way through a foreign language class?

Seventh hour was my prep period, and after a few minutes of agonizing, I went to the office and made the call. I could see a PA I get along with pretty well at 3:00. That meant, leaving within 20 minutes, and finding someone to watch 8th hour Spanish.

Since I had not known I was going to Corydon, I made a flying trip home to grab the discarded bottle of medicine I'd been using, and picked up the long haired black female who has wheezing lungs to drop off at the vet's. Mike, who had called that morning to say he'd be hooking up the last of the stuff for the waterer and repairing the toilet valve that was leaking and put on a new seat, was quite surprised when I came in while he was back there. The cats, hearing his strange footsteps and the pounding and thumping that went with the installations, were in a lather. The males were hiding, but both females were on the washer and dryer tops. As soon as I opened the door, the one I wanted rocketed via huge leap into the corner. I blocked her attempt to get behind the washer and dryer with the males, and she caromed off my leg, then took refuge IN THE OPEN CRATE. What luck!

Bending down as far as I could with my knees acting up, I tried to hook the gate shut. In fact, I THOUGHT I had it, but the top was not secure. I set out, empty medicine bottle in my jacket pocket and cat carrier in one hand. She began to fling herself wildly around the inside of the cat crate, and the upper door corner gave, allowing her to escape. She flew, claws digging, to the door, banged her nose on the glass, reversed and boomeranged into the bedroom (I'd shut the utility room door), but instead of hiding under the bed, she flipped right on past into the back bathroom with Mike.

He pulled himself upright just as she hit the top of the tank, then leaped into the sink. As he turned, (probably not even sure what was flying by, she was so air born and quick), she bounded into the bath tub, over the side into the far corner, slunk along the side into another corner, flew into the shower door, behind the toilet tank and into the far corner, where she came to rest. I'd slammed the door shut so she didn't get out, and Mike timidly said, "I'm ready to come out now. She's in the back corner under the overhang."

I opened the door and let him out, then closed it behind me, wondering how I was going to reach her. As I began to move the 48 pack of TP, she ricocheted into the opposite corner, which I knew I could reach from a seated position, so I sat, blocking the other corner with the toilet paper roll pack.

Talking softly to her, I picked her up and carefully lowered her back into the crate. She had all her claws displayed, but did not make a sound or try to leave. I got her into the back seat, and all the way into town, she never made a peep.

Unbelievably, I was on time for my appointment. Ernie checked both ears, and no, I did not have wax plugging up the right one. It was a bit red up in one corner, but not enough to be the trouble. The left one was better but a bit pink. He went for an instrument to check the eardrums. The left was low normal (as it generally is), but he couldn't get a seal on the right, so back he went for a different tip, Once he got a seal, he still couldn't get a reading. I really COULDN'T hear anything out of that ear. Two prescriptions and possibly up to a month for the inner ear fluid to leave... At least, I'm not having pain with it.

Dropping off the scripts, I took the cat over to the vet's. She was still totally silent, and was silent in the vet's office, and probably terrified, but I didn't dare open the crate and risk loosing her before the vet was going to be there to look her over. The vet was on a call, but would check her out when he got in, which would be after hours. I had to leave to get the scripts, as I needed to get started on them at once.

I called Friday morning, and she had a 101º temperature, fluid in her lungs, elevated heart rate (probably FEAR) -- she's staying until she doesn't need to be on any more medication, as I can't treat her alone. I may go in and cuddle her Saturday. Maybe her name is Flying Squirrel...