Tuesday, November 12, 2013

And That's The (Horse) Poop!

It’s funny.  I live in a rural area with lots of Amish around.  They pay school taxes and land taxes and keep to themselves.  They farm and bake and sell their produce and baked goods on the side of the road wherever they can.  Some build sheds, or craft chairs and other furniture or toys.  They keep to themselves and their ways.  But there is one thing people can’t stand about the Amish.  THEIR HORSE AND CARTS!

            If it’s night time you can’t see them.  There are some that will use just a lantern or two and you don’t see them until you’re almost on top of them.  Then there are some that cover the back of the cart with reflective tape and you can see them a mile away.  Most of the time it’s in-between.  There’s just enough reflective tape to let one know that there is a buggy ahead.  It has been a huge divide for the “English” up here. 

On one hand you’ve got the “live and let live” folks.  These are the people that admire the Amish.  They think it’s great that they’ve kept the old ways and haven’t bent to society.  On the other hand you have the morons that think the Amish are dirty and stupid and have no right to be on our roads.  These are the people who continually complain about the dark buggies and the horse poop.

When my parents moved up here from the city they were trying for a simpler kind of life.  Dad wanted a hobby farm.  Get a couple cows, a couple pigs, a dog, some cats and a horse.  Grow a garden and feed the family.  Fresh air to breathe, green grass to sprawl on in the summertime.  No asphalt jungle.  A very “Green Acres” type of existence.  They actually pulled it off and I had a great childhood. 

While I was growing up I didn’t realize the animosity some people felt towards the Amish.  They were always welcome in our house.  They would come by to visit with my parents and I could hear their different dialect and I thought we were pretty special because we had Amish friends. 

In the on-line newspaper today, opinions to a poll were published.  The poll asked whether the Amish should pick up after their horses when they pooped in the road.  (I told you we were rural)  The fact that this was a poll should have given me a clue as to the answers.  I was really surprised that so many people would want the Amish to stop and scoop.  A lot of respondents also said it was a stupid idea given that they are slow already and it would add to the danger they are already in, in a buggy on fast roadways. 

I was completely taken off guard by the number of people who complained that if they had to pick up after their dogs then the Amish should pick up after their horses.  Again, rural area here – I almost never see anyone pick up after their dog, including me.  Yes, I admit it.  When I take my dog out I always forget a bag.  In the more urban areas I do bring bags and pick up but we don’t go there together very often.  So when my dog drops a load, that’s where it stays.  And I’m guessing a lot of the people who said they scoop really don’t.

What I don’t understand is this – I’ve seen horse poop on the road.  I’m a walker and a part-time runner.  I’ve run around it and through it.  My dogs have rolled in it.  Comments about how gross it is make me wonder if these North Country “natives” have ever seen real horse poop, because horse poop is probably the nicest poop around.  It’s grass.  It falls apart when it’s dry and turns to dust.  It smells just like a horse.  I’d rather have my dog roll in horse poop than a dead frog or worse – a dead bird.  If I walk through horse poop I don’t get all grossed out.  It’s not slippery like cow poop.  It doesn’t stink to high heaven like dog poop.  You’ll never find it in your flower garden when you are planting, like cat poop.  It doesn’t stick to your sneakers.

Oh yeah, one other thing, its biodegradable, unlike the chemicals that we, the “English”, spew from our cars into the Amish faces as well as their horses. 

We like to think we are so advanced, but what would we do if the government shut down all computer systems?  No phone, no electric, no computers.  It’s not that far-fetched of an idea.  I think we’d probably need to go to our Amish neighbors and ask them for help.  Maybe even a ride.  And you know what they would probably do?  They would probably help us, even though we treat them like second class citizens, even though we complain about their old ways and the buggies they drive and the poop that their horses leave on the road.

Imagine that.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eulogy For My Cat

My cat died.  She was sixteen years old.  Her name was AJ.  She had belonged to an ex-boyfriend of mine.  When I met her she was just a little thing.  A little ball of gray fur and big green eyes.  When I was done having sex with my then-lover, he left the room.  She came over to me and I picked her up and held her to my chest.  We stared into each other’s eyes for the longest time, neither looking away.  I had heard if you did this with a cat they became yours forever, but that it was rare.  I don’t know who looked away first, but we were both hooked.  When he left to go to jail or something he asked me to take her and I did.  Then he asked me to bring her to his kids, and I did.  It hurt to let her go, but she was theirs.  Several days later I was asked to pick her up and she’s been mine ever since.  That was sixteen years ago. 

AJ used to fly around the room when she was a kitten.  She’d get a running start and then bounce off the walls.  It was hilarious to watch.  She slept with me every night.  She would climb up my legs and sit on my shoulder when she was just a baby, and a little older. 

AJ moved with me every time I found a new place to live.  I always let her outside a couple days after moving because she loved being outdoors.  She was a hunter and a sun-baby, although she loved to sit under my hostas in the afternoon sun.  She disappeared a couple times, but she always came back.  This last move she spent two weeks at a neighbor’s house with her two girls.  I had no idea until my next door neighbor came to me after a walk and told me where she was.  They had named her Madonna (which was an appropriate name for her) and fed her wet food.  Their mom was very willing to give my girl back to me, but I told myself if she went back there I was going to let her stay.  She never did, but I didn’t want to hold her back from what she wanted. 

She loved it outside and would cry to be out all the time except for the winter.  Then she would get all squirrely sometimes from being in the house so long.  She liked to climb and we would find her peeking out of the neighbor’s pontoon boat, or scaling the roof of their house.  She would sit up there and look out over us, and once they moved away she would look into their windows at what, we didn’t know, but there must have been birds or rodents or something in there.  A couple times I had to coax her out of trees, not because she couldn’t come down on her own, but because I was afraid she would get stuck. 

She used to love riding in the car when she was younger.  She’d lie down in the back window and yowl.  I’d yowl with her.  She definitely had part of my soul and I had hers.  Every once in a while she would give me a little kiss on my cheek or chin.  It was hardly an everyday occurrence and whenever it happened I felt like I had just won something.  It was like she was saying that she loved me and I was ok by her standards. 

AJ taught me how to speak cat.  She had a beautiful big mouth and sometimes we would meow back and forth to each other, getting louder and louder until either she or I would soft meow and quiet it down.  Anyone with a talker cat knows what I’m talking about.  I wish I had gotten video of her voice because even though I can imitate her pretty well, it’s not the same when she doesn’t answer back.  It was also hard to get a good photo of her because she would squint her eyes at me, but I got a few and I’m glad.  I got a video of her in the catnip I grew for her last year.  Glad about that too. 

She never got big.  She always looked like a kitten – small and thin.  For a couple summers she bulked up and got muscular, but I think the hunting was good in those years. 

AJ was an upstairs cat.  She didn’t get along well with one of our dogs, so to keep her safe we installed a gate and gave her the run of the upstairs – no dogs allowed.  The bathroom was her private dining room and every morning she woke us up with her loud meows before she even got off the bed, letting us know that she was hungry and wanted food NOW.  I would meow back at her and then tell her to “c’mon, we’ll get some food for ya.”  She was definitely a creature of habit and had us do everything we could to keep those habits, and we loved her for it. 

She was allergic to the red dye in cat food.  We had to spend more money for better food but she felt better for it so it was worth it. 

She tolerated Cal and Sky, but loved Jack (gone now for several years), Toby, and Bella. 

When I would lie on my back she would crawl up on to my chest and bump my chin with her head.  She slept on the bed on a pillow between us.  She would lick my boyfriend’s hair.  At first it annoyed him, but they grew so close and I think it was her way of letting him know that he was accepted.  I also think she liked the salt.  She would purr so loudly that I called her my little percolator.  Such a big sound from such a small kitty.  Many nights after I had fallen asleep on my side, I would wake up to find her sleeping on top of me, between my arm and hip.  She fit so perfectly there.  I loved to wake up in the middle of the night and see her silhouetted against the night sky.  She was beautiful in profile, and when she was like that, looking out at the night, it made me wonder what she saw, what she thought. 

She listened to me laugh and cry.  She listened to me rant and she allowed me to love her more than any other cat I have ever loved.  She was my best friend. 

When she was miffed with something or someone, or if she was tracking a bird or squirrel, her tail would whip back and forth.  She loved to do this at night, on her pillow and hit our heads if we weren’t paying attention to her.   

AJ had claws that wouldn’t retract.  They weren’t out super far or anything like that; they were just always there when you picked her up.  She didn’t mean to dig (you knew it when she did).  When we lived in the rental house it had a side yard and it was full of moles.  One day I looked out and saw her playing with them.  She literally threw them into the air and hit them like you would a baseball.  It was hilarious until she ate one.  I don’t think she ever ate another one after that.  They did not agree with her tender tummy.  When I moved into that place and let her out she disappeared and I called and cried for her and eventually she came home and I hugged her and held her and didn’t scold her.  I wish this was one of those times.   

My last morning with AJ was Tuesday, August 6, 2013.  I had gotten ready for work and was heading to the bedroom door to go downstairs.  I turned around and decided to pull the blankets up over the pillows.  AJ was on my boyfriend’s side of the bed, lying down.  I pulled up my side and went over to the other side.  I picked her up, pulled the blankets up, then set her down again.  Usually she’ll jump from the bed but she lay back down and I scratched her head and gave her a kiss.  I told her I would see her later. 

I can’t talk about what happened because it is tragic and violent and not something I think she thought through carefully enough.  Looking back on the past week I can see now that she was planning it.  Call me crazy if you want, but she was a smart cat.  She was getting old and her body was hurting.  I saw it in her walk, in her unsteadiness, in her frailty.  She was still my kitten, but my old kitten.  She never sat in the driveway.  If she did, she would get up and wander away when the car pulled in.  The last week she just stared down the car.  She was waiting for the hit.  I think she thought it would be quick.   

I picture her on my dad’s knee, him sitting at our kitchen table at the old house.  Every morning he would have his coffee and she would lie on his leg while he sat and smoked.  I think of that now, and immediately after she died, I know she is with him, that he is holding her now.  That she’s purring and talking to him now instead of me.  And he’s answering her.  Not like I did, but with words cause he’ll know what she’s saying.  I want to talk to her one last time.  I want to hold her one last time and not let go, not let her out of the house, out of my sight. 

Over the last several weeks as I have looked back over our time together I realize that after all the time I thought I was a dog person I am actually a cat person.  She has given us so many memories, good ones, that will probably ruin us for another cat. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Words vs Actions vs Washington Redskins

As I was listening to the news this morning, and hearing about this one topic for a month or so now, I have to laugh.  The president and other political groups want the Washington Redskins to change their name. 
At first I thought it was outrageous because what about the branding and the history, stats, trading cards, etc.  What would happen to these things?  Then I thought, well maybe they have a point, maybe the name strikes hatred in the hearts of Indians all over the United States. 

Then I read an editorial written by an Indian or had quotes from real Indians living on real reservations who weren’t really concerned about the football team.  They were saying it was really the political Indians, the ones in office or in politically affiliated groups that were concerned about the name.  And then it was stated, and I’m paraphrasing, that the Indians that aren’t registered in one group or another don’t really count because their opinion can’t be counted because they aren’t registered.  Huh?  Yeah, that’s what I said too, maybe I misunderstood. 

But what that “uncounted” Indian said was that his people were more concerned about clean water, good schools, housing, you know, the essentials.  They really didn’t feel slighted by the football team name.  So why all the fuss?  When did this nation have to be so politically correct?  We are censoring ourselves and I don’t think anyone realizes it. 

Now please don’t think I’m insensitive to the Indian nations.  My daughter is part Indian.  Not much, but enough so that when she was born I was actually asked if her father was black.  I also tried to get his family to get me more information so she would know her heritage, but no one (in his family) thought it was important.

Here’s what I want to say though, about the political correctness that has everyone taking umbrage about, well, nearly everything.  If we are so upset about a football team name then we should just stop buying tickets to those games and stop buying those items that support that particular team.  It’s as easy as that. 

Better yet, maybe we should start putting into practice ourselves what we want everyone else to do.  We expect politicians to be fine, upstanding, honest folk who are looking out for our own, and the nation’s, good. 

We should also be that in our homes, our jobs and our communities.   If we treat others as we want to be treated and not how we expect to be treated then hopefully that trend will grow and grow until we have a nation that works together for the best of our fellow man and country.   Actions will matter, not words.