Thursday, February 24, 2011

By the Side of the Road

            Aunt Hazel made this needlepoint for my mother, who always had it hanging by the telephone in Ithaca, and it now hangs on my own wall.   I don't claim to be man's best friend, and I prefer to be
alone most of the time, but this house  on Pumpkin Hill is close to the road, so sometimes I get involved with the human traffic. 
    When you  drive over Pumpkin Hill,  the trees fall back and the horizon  drops   away;  when you round the top of the hill at speed, you experience  a  quarter mile  of virtual  weightlessness, during which empty  Doritos bags  and   Poland Water bottles float  out the windows;  folks slip into cruising gear, insert a  new CD, light up, make a call, or maybe  resume an old argument.  Sometimes they just want to bail out:

      Stitches in Time

         I was out with the  chickens  one Fall afternoon,  when  I heard  car door and voice commotion  down towards the neighbors place;     "you hit me."  in a shrill voice that made me imagine a kid   being bumped by a riding mower.  I went out the driveway to see.    
     A  car stood half on and half off the road, the driver side open into road.      An elderly  man and a  younger   woman were trying to get  a kicking and mumbling older woman   into the back of the car.     I could see  how maybe these two they  hadn't noticed her walking  along the road, had accidentally hit her, and were now attempting  to bundle away  the evidence.        Cars were coming from both directions now,  so I  closed the driver-side door.

        The two asked me to help get the old woman into the car.
       I could see  cuts on her legs.   They said she had fallen at home and would need stitches, so  they were trying to take her to the Aurora  "Urgent care center"     They said there was a dementia problem 
      I am sure they were father and daughter and it was all as they said, but  I knew the medical center in Aurora was not open on Sundays, so I called 991 while they packed Mother in.     They were driving away by the time I got the local dispatcher, whom I told they ought to dispatch some one to catch up with these poor folks headed for the the closed, non-emergency center.    I don't know how it turned out for the unlucky lady, or that I was any help at all,  so I  expect to keep thinking about it.

      I can think of at least one   old woman in a restless dementia who  did come walking this way along route ninety this way.  She  did a good twenty miles along route ninety without beging struck or picked up,  but she must have been navigating by the lake rather than by the road, because when ninety bends up  Pumpkin Hill out of Aurora, she took the old road straight along the lake where cottages are in close neighborhoods  and people walk,   was   noticed by someone, and the Sheriff got finally got involved.   Had she come over my way,  I  wouldn't have noticed  her passing.

    Innocence Preserved

      I  wouldn't want to be aware of everything that happens on my little stretch of highway, and I'm sure I do miss a lot.
     Peter my feed man  is an emergency vehicle driver.  One afternoon as I picked up some cracked corn  he asked me how I had liked the  spectacular crash right near my place that  same morning.  I had been totally unaware of it   But Peter  said the car had flipped end for end  several times, hitting the ground   five times before it came to a stop right side up.   It had happend at nine thirrty when I was siting right here, and I would have expected to hear it.
   The car must have toe-danced so deftly that it didn't make much noise with each touch....and  since it landed right side up and not once on the top, the  d the jaws of life were not required to extract  her from her Toyota..  She walked away uninjured , but she complained of a  brake problem,
   It might just have been the fault of the place itself.  Maybe  Black Ice was responsible.

   Black Ice
         One frozen morning after a misty rain,  I thought I heard a  rumble of thunder north up the road....but I knew it could hardly be that, so  I went out to look.

         From my driveway,  I could see a car half on the road   up  past the next telephone pole.  The car seemed to be sitting a bit low.
        I went down there.   The tires were all blown and the  roof was a bit mashed, and the two women inside were  buckled up, unbloodied, and talking,  but the older woman, who had been driving said she, couldn't move her head.     I made the 911 call. 
      The two women were mother and daughter and  had just gone out to get a pack of cigarettes. They hadn't been thinking about black ice, or black lung I guess.  Now they wanted to call home right away and tell husband/ son-in-law that they wouldn't be back with the car,  but they couldn't find the shoulder bag with Mom's  cell phone in it. 
     I found the bag   with the cell phone ,  and some of the other stuff that had been in it scattered along the ditch.   Also a whole lot of  none of the pieces  larger than a maple leaf.  Maybe some of the ditch glass was  from previous incidents.     Mom  complained of the cold.  I put my coat over her until they had  cut the car open with the " jaws of life " tool, and  moved her  to the ambulance.
         The next day, the-son-in-law/ husband   appeared, searching along the road for his mother-in- law's  wallet.    It  had been in the shoulder bag and had her driver's license in it.   He didn't find the wallet, but he didn't seem to disturbed about it all,d  I asked about Mom and he said she had NOT  broken her neck.  That's a miracle,  because  the car had rolled over three times and gone six feet up the telephone pole, before eventually   landing right side up beside the road .
    I haven't heard if there is a whip lash issue, or if they were ever able   to find the wallet with the driver's license ;  but the next time they have to run out for cigarettes, the daughter can drive.   
       Have Mercy
    You better watch out if you drive over Pumpkin Hill at twilight.
  One evening  this fall as I sat right here with the doors shut, I heard a muffled clatter from outside, and imagined something was after my hens under the deck.  But then from out on my deck I could see a big SUV pulled off to the side of the road only fifty feet or so up here.  I went out and across the yard. 
      The Stealth black, high wheel-base  plastic- grilled SUV had hit a deer about a hundred feet down the road,  and driven it half past my place. A lesser vehicle might have taken it through the windshield..
   The car radio was on loud.   The deer was in the ditch behind the car,  all four legs shattered, struggling silently to get up. .  A man and woman  stood at the other end of the SUV   looking at the radiator.  The plastic grill was just about all gone, but the radiator didn't seem to be leaking.  We supposed they could drive away.

            The fellow guessed the deer had a broken back.   I offered to shoot it, so they drove away and I went for the shot gun.
    I left the deer in the ditch as a kind of road sign for a couple of days.   Be warned: deer like to go up and over a hill instead of around it, so all ways over the hill tend to cross at the top.
        After a few days it snowed some, so I  sledded  the corpse  back into the brush for the coyotes and  crows.
            I  hope it's never YOU I have to shoot.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Update on My Imaginary Brother William, Who Started this Blog

                                                        ( William in Ithaca, January 2001)

  After thinking for months that  my so called brother William   was off down in the Carolinas   with Missy Hoolihan (or Hooligan) and the Tall Animal Review,  I got an email, saying    he   was in Hollywood, California, living on the Universal Studios lot,  in a trailer which used to belong to Gweneth Paltrow's cousin or brother.   
  Willy  is....or  was, so he says,  working as a chicken wrangler  for those old-time  farm-yard scenes you've got to  have in every pre-twentieth century movie.   He had use of a laptop with  free Univeral  internet;     the cousin had left him a fridge full of diet Pepsi  (which Willy complained about)   and  there would always be a nineteenth century drama filming on the lot....  and  paying way more money than he has any use for.
 That was a few weeks ago.  I doubt  he is there now.   He's essentially too rural a stray for that life....and given his freedom with the truth....he might not have been there at any point, might have actually  emailed me  from the doublewide  home of a waitress in Chisom,  West Carolina.
     Nope....   I don't know where he was or where he's gone.  And as a matter of fact, I don't know where he came  from either....not before the day back in Natural Bridge when I was about six years old, and  he appeared in the family garden with our dog Binker.
      Binker was part Spitz and part Border Collie, a former stray herself.  She must have brought him home with her.   I   remember the scene very well, because I have remembered it so often:  William standing there in the garden with his hand on   Binker,  seeming, because of his preternaturally short legs,  to be a normal, though raggedy boy, standing in a hole up to his knees.
  Right away I disliked this   feral intruder, even if the dog had brought him home.  Especially because My dog brought him home.  Nobody wants to be displaced in his own home or his dog's affections.
     When my mom and dad tried to bring the dirty boy in,  I  tried, and failed, to hold the door shut from inside,   so   I ran upstairs and hid in a closet while Mom and Dad took the nameless William to the bathroom and tried to wash the stink off him.  They didn't quite manage to get all the stink off him,  but  he eventually got a name, and  I would  have to share my dog and my and bedrooms with him.   It helped that he preferred to spend most nights either in the bathtub,  or outdoors somewhere.

  When I got to be ten or twelve he would  disappear for days or even weeks at a time.....and then after we let him go off  to stay with Aunt Sammy in Florida.... it was very easy to  forget he ever existed.
     So  it was always a little uncomfortable for me and the family  when he reappeared. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Moon of the Pop Corn Snow

  The pre-Iroquoian Boe-Gae people of the Finger Lakes had a weather-related name for every month of the year....and  for them, January was the month of the Pop Corn Snow.
    This year the Pop Corn came, as it always does, with a dramatic cold front freeziing the air itself  and suffusing everything  with an intense, crystal light.  Such light, so in advance of the temperatures  and in conjunction with the full moon, confused the chickens of Dog's Plot, and severely aggravated Uncle Thread Bear's fly fishing fever.
    Davey Weathercock and Olive the Weather Hen reporting: