18. Vegetarian in a Meat and Potatoes World

I recently finished reading a blog of a man that moved from Virginia Beach to rural Virginia. He spent two or so years cataloging his transition, monthly. I enjoyed the similarities in his experience and my own to the point where I envisioned him as a male version of myself in an equally quaint parallel universe.

 

Two stark contrasts stood out, however:

1.When he moved in to the area, he had a parade of neighbors, carrying pies, coming to welcome them. In our case, after two months, I bumped in to a neighbor who asked with complete indifference, “Y’all put up a fence, guess you’re stayin’?” Needless to say, we never received any baked goods.

2. When he and his wife moved out in to the country he compared themselves to Steve Irwin and spoke fondly of their affection for nature. By the end of the blog they were running a business raising goats for meat and talking about plugging the dead animal’s anus in order to not spill excrement during slaughter.

I am always intrigued by paradigm shifts such as this. When did a goat stop being something adorable and sweet to something to make money and eat?

Here is a picture of two of their baby goats, that I stole from his blog (it is hard to find anything cuter than a baby goat)-

 

As a vegetarian, I am okay with other people eating meat. I don’t agree with it but that is why I don’t put it in to my body. If I could speak candidly though, I believe that if the majority of people had to raise those two goats for slaughter, they might choose vegetarianism also.

I had a co-worker, once upon a time, verbally berate me for choosing to raise my children to not eat meat. She actually said that I had no right to do so. Of course, she suffered from a shopping addiction and had a closet full of clothes with the price tags still on them. I have contact with her adult daughter now, and guess what she talks about on a regular basis? Yes, the sales going on at various stores. As parents, we all teach our children our morals and values wittingly or unwittingly.

Since moving to the country I have had a handful of opportunities to quiz people on their feelings about raising animals for consumption. My thought is, if a society was brought up eating a plant based diet they would be repulsed by the introduction of meat. Similarly to how we, as Americans, feel about Asians eating dogs or cats. We weren’t raised to find this act acceptable and therefore, we are disgusted by it. Regardless of the fact, that the man in China, who has eaten this delicacy for years, finds it appetizing.

This isn’t my opus extolling the virtues of vegetarianism, however. It is, sincerely, a collection of a couple of stories with a theme of compassion vs. detachment and all spawned from the blog of a couple, who loves animals, but chooses to slaughter goats. (I actually tried to email him, about a month ago, but have yet to receive a reply.)

My email to the blog man wasn’t full of words of reproach. Simply a question of how you get from Point A to Point B. My personal assumption is one that people, generally, feel guilty about eating animals. I don’t say this with any condemnation. Know that I would be a hypocrite if I judged anyone for what they are putting in their mouth. I eat dairy products and egg products both which are taken in an equally cruel process comparable to the meat industry. On top of that, a lot of the vegetables I eat have their environmental footprint as well. I do what I can but I could do a ton more, which out of convenience, I ignore. To me, this puts me in the same regards as any other person on the planet.

So where was I going with this? Guilt? I don’t need blog man to answer my email. I already know his reason for being okay with slaughtering the goats he raises. He justifies it with his own conscience by making their lives and their deaths humane. If he delved deeper he might have to come to terms with the fact they cease to exist solely because of his will. By far we don’t delve deeper, however. “God wants us to eat animals”, “Meat tastes good”, “We are top of the food chain”. We don’t think past whatever phrase we use to justify our decision. Case in point, many people are aware of factory farms and disagree greatly with their practices but don’t investigate further because it would conflict with their decision and they would no longer be capable of justifying it to themselves. Human beings, by nature, are compassionate creatures. What makes me certain that there is guilt involved? Go to a slaughter house and come out not feeling bad.

Of course, desensitization can come in to play and to that I can only reiterate that that the man in China, who has eaten dog as a delicacy for years, finds it appetizing.

Compassion has been demonstrated to me several times at the local “trade day” events. There you can buy chickens, rabbits, goats, cattle… etc. from men, that regardless of their gruff exteriors, tell stories of love for animals. Yes, the men in their overalls, spitting tobacco, gossiping, and selling chickens that they know could be fought or butchered, have several chickens, at home, that they would never sell. They have names and have somehow wormed their way in to these men’s hearts. Sit and speak to them long enough and they will affectionately tell tales of  ‘Girly” chasing after them or running off and hiding her eggs. The man with the rabbits tells stories about being present for the birth of all of his rabbits. He talks, with pride on his face, about how cute every baby rabbit is but then sells these same rabbits to people to eat. The point, no matter how twisted, is that people, all, have the capacity of love in their hearts.

My daughter, Quinn, has a friend whose parents own a deer farm. I didn’t know that people actually raised and sold deer until I met them.

Hundreds of acres are fenced off to contain these majestic animals. However, one deer had been singled out. This deer had been named and lives in their backyard. This deer is loved. I never asked why this deer was cherished above the others, I was too busy asking questions about deer husbandry and all the various countries this man had gone hunting. (I can not express how kind he was to endure my inquisitive nature.) Later he explained to me that the children were no longer allowed in the backyard because their pet deer had attacked the youngest daughter badly enough to send her to the hospital. I was shocked. This man hunted. This man raised deer for consumption. Why would he not be rid of an animal that hospitalized his child? I don’t have an answer. Humans are complex and love is…. complicated.

Not too long ago we went to our friends, Jason and Amy’s, house. Jason hunts. Then he decapitates the animal and hangs it’s head on his wall. I don’t actually understand why it is more interesting to carry a gun and shoot an animal than it would be to carry a camera and shoot it. I could certainly blow an image of a deer head, up to life size, for him, to hang on his wall for less than it would cost to have the skin removed, placed on styrofoam and then plastic eyes inserted in the empty sockets. However, a case could be made for hunting:
1. The money from permits goes to conservation.
2. Food
3. Camaraderie
4. Competition
5. Hunting teaches self-control and respect for life.
6. There are too many deer.
7. Deer ticks carry Lyme disease.
8. Deer cause car accidents.
Of course, I can’t leave that alone and on the flip side I think a good round of golf can sustain the male ego’s need for camaraderie and competition, getting married and having children can teach self control and respect for life, the number of fawns born is directly related to nutrition and herd density so hunting to control deer populations is nonsensical, hunting does not address Lyme disease because the ticks are usually spread to humans by mice, not deer, and studies show that deer collisions actually rise with hunting season because hunting will scare the deer on to roads. However, if you are going to eat meat, I would much prefer (from my own belief system) consuming an animal that was not contained and killed cruelly is better. Of course, I refuse to pretend that every hunter has paramilitary sniper-esque skills and so the idea of an animal left to suffocate in it’s own blood until dead makes it all practically moot.

Sometimes I am forced to drive past this house. Last year, when all these coyotes were recent kills, the stench could be smelled a mile away. I can hardly fathom how the owner of this house could stand stepping outside. Plus, 20 dead coyotes seems to take away from the peace and tranquility the country has to offer. As I understand, the belief among many ranchers is, hanging the carcass of a dead coyote is suppose to be a deterrent for any other coyotes in the area to come around. The flaw in that mentality, to me, would be, there are about 20 coyotes hanging on the fence. Why did 19 other animals come around after the first one was hung?

Honestly, concern for animals wasn’t the catalyst for my vegetarianism. It was for health concerns that I gave up meat. Only after I eliminated it did I have the courage to educate myself about the practices employed by the meat industry, what they do with animals that are too sick or weak to make it to the processing plant and what actually happens with the meat once the animals has been killed. Still, had my EX mother-in law not said, (and I quote) “She can’t do it. We’ll see how long that lasts” I am not sure that I could have stuck with it. Contempt can be a powerful motivator. Had she only said, “She has as much of a chance at that as she does nuclear disarmament”. Not only would I still be a vegetarian but I would have accomplished a global peace treaty within the year.

That’s it. The end. You survived my self-righteous blog. If you made it this far I would like to leave you with one last thought. I saw an animal rights bumper sticker, somewhere, that said something like- “Why is one your friend and one your food?” People of India revere the cow and the majority refuse to eat it. While some consume sea urchins in Korea, horse meat in Japan, toasted grasshoppers in Mexico, sea slugs in China, sheep’s eyes in the Middle East, haggis (sheep’s organs and entrails) in Scotland, or kidney pie in England. I simply propose that your diet has less to do with what tastes good, where you sit on the food chain, or what God has given you dominance over. It all simply has to do with the latitude and longitude of the body your soul happened to inhabit.

 

 

17. The Dalai Llama

Country living should come with a handbook. Not for the useful or practical things but for stupid things like- Chickens sunbathe on their sides so don’t freak out and think you have a Jonestown incident the first time you witness it.

“An Idiots Guide to Things that Every Country Person Knows Innately but City People Are Clueless About” could have been useful in our encounter with llamas. Starting with our first, Buckbeak… or as our extremely creative neighbors called him, Brownie.

I will address the idiocy of Buckbeak/ Brownie momentarily. First, allow me to digress, these imaginative  neighbors live in this house:

It has inspired me to want to write a blog entitled:  “Crap in People’s Yards”. I am toying with the idea, after all, I have this picture to post with it:

So, after seeing the picture of where Buckbeak used to live, I assume you are grateful that you don’t live there as well. One would think a llama would feel similarly. Such is not the case.

My belief is that all farm animals should serve double duty; besides being just a pet (with the exception of Lola who is worthless). For instance, the goats make manure that is wonderful for our gardens and they clear out the thorny weeds that I despise. A llama has a communal spot for defecating. That would mean that collection of manure for our compost would be considerably easier. On top of that they are excellent goat protectors. Several months earlier a foster dog, of ours, managed to escape and maul one of our goats. Protection from dogs and coyotes seemed extremely  logical and necessary.

I quickly found an ad selling a llama. The fact the owner lived in the same town as us was a major plus; when we learned that they actually lived less than a mile from our house it seemed most fortuitous.

Until a month later when Buckbeak jumped the fence and went back home. Of course, we only learned of his decision of geographical modification after hours of frantic searching and my wreaking the car in the effort to find him. Apparently, it is not that our house isn’t conducive to llama contentment but the previous owner failed to mention that she still had his girlfriend at her property.  If we had a copy of, “An Idiots Guide to Things that Every Country Person Knows Innately but City People Are Clueless About”, perhaps there could have been a quick quip about llama relocation and it would have saved my car a huge dent.

Not to be dissuaded, we found another person selling llamas in a different town. These particular people earn their living by buying large quantities of livestock and exotics, at auction, and then piecing them out. When we approached their property we saw 50 female llamas, some with babies. From those we chose Dalai. We were told, at the time,  that she was 6 months old.  In our eyes, this was ideal. She was young enough to bring up with the goats and therefore, would make the best goat protector.

(I would like to forewarn you that the story I am about to tell you does not have a happy ending. Do not get attached to any of the characters involved…)

After much reading, we learned that a llama responds best to goats when their human interaction is minimized. That, and the fact that she hated us, made our decision to leave her wild easy. The routine of ours was extremely predictable. Month after month I would let her out in the morning and then go out at night and herd her back up in to the enclosure with the goats. Day in, day out, I would walk out to her and chase her back in to the enclosure. Rain or shine, I would walk all the way in the field, begging her to please move so that I could get on with my life.

Until one day that changed.  This time when I approached  her she was lying down. “Stupid llama”, I muttered, “Come on, it’s time to go up”. To this, she leaped up and started walking. Yet, something was different. She hesitated, she resisted, she turned to look at me, almost defiantly. Not to be intimidated by a llama I stepped forward to push her on. She jolted forward and I then spotted an oozy liquid coming from her back end. “Oh, you are in heat, are you, Dalai?” and onward we walked. Again she hesitated and stopped. Frustrated, I called her a few choice words when suddenly, something happened. As I was staring at the oozy liquid coming out of her, from beneath her tail a head poked out.

I am a planner. Life is like a chess game,  you simply must have a plan for every single one of your pieces if you intend to succeed. I do not subscribe to the belief that you can fly through life by the seat of your pants, letting things sweep you in any direction it would like. I did not authorize the pregnancy of this llama. I had not planned and obsessed over the pregnancy. Therefore, I felt that denial should be a viable option and so I stood there, mouth agape, trying to comprehend what was happening.

Finally words found me and I yelled out, “Nick, the llama is having a baby!” Now, I would have expected confusion on his part. Our immaculate conception should need to be weighed and compartmentalized by he as well. However, Nick, my level headed husband, yanked out his phone, without hesitation, and called the vet as he ran out to where I stood, mouth still ajar.

Mind you, Dalai is not a pet. She is a 300lb bodyguard for our goats, nothing more. So as Nick scooted behind her to evaluate the life presenting itself, Dalai paced back and forth irritated by our presence.

“Do you see the feet,” the vet questioned. No, the feet were not visible. Just a nose that peeked out occasionally and then would  disappear.

“The feet have to come out first,” she instructed. Nick followed the llama to and fro as she continued to pace. Watching carefully as the baby would emerge and then vanish again.

“If you don’t see the feet, you are going to have to reach inside her and pull them out.”

From my vantage point, I could then hear Nick try and reason with the doctor. “You understand this llama doesn’t like me, right? Corner her? Okay…. and do what?” Had we only had a copy of an “An Idiots Guide to Things that Every Country Person Knows Innately but City People Are Clueless About”, we could have turned to the chapter titled: Reaching Your Hands Into a Llama’s Vagina, and we would have been fine.

I was becoming giddy with the anticipation of watching Nick capture Dalai and confine her well enough for her to allow him to “examine” her, however, about the time the vet officially launched in to a speech condemning us for breeding a llama and never socializing it, Dalai lay down and the baby popped out.

Hugs, kisses, high fives, and tears of joy followed.

By the next morning we could see that something was wrong with the baby. He was standing on his front ankles, like a gorilla stands on it’s knuckles and he wasn’t nursing.

We drove the baby to the doctor immediately. All of the problems he was suffering from were symptomatic of being born prematurely. We shot him full of vitamins and medicines to help with his legs, and received bags of goat colostrum to supplement his nutrition (until Dalai’s milk came in). Sadly, after less than a week of life, the baby died.

All of the family was saddened by this experience. Something completely unplanned for and honestly, unwelcome, had felt like a blessing. Then in the blink of an eye it was taken from us all.

We dealt with all of that, and ironically, Dalai is the worst goat protector ever. She is the Ferdinand the Bull  of goat protecting, completely undermining my “double duty” policy and necessitating the acquisition of a new, better goat protector. Enter-Clarence Worley III. (I am not responsible for the name. I was not allowed to contribute to the name. I do not like the name).

Clarence is a sweet, older donkey that “kicks butt and asks questions later”. We picked up Clarence from the SPCA. Out here, they auction off livestock. When the animal isn’t purchased they are just given away. He had sat at the shelter for months without anyone showing the slightest bit of interest in him. Their loss.

The last few years have offered many learning opportunities. I can’t tell you how many times it would have been nice to whip out a handy copy of “An Idiots Guide to…” in an effort to save ourselves (and the animals) from our inexperience. Perhaps, if nothing else my blog serves the purpose of letting others know they are not alone in being a clueless city person amongst a group of knowledgeable country folk. If you are out there… it isn’t as easy as it looked on Green Acres… there is a learning curve…. but we will get there.

 

16. Things that I miss

It is starting to feel like Spring outside. (What that means in Texas is: mornings start off in the 30’s but by mid afternoon it is up to almost 85 degrees.) The sunshine, birds, and greenery has put me in a much more dapper  mood and I am now officially out of my “I hate the country” funk.

However, as I drove home the other night, wishing for a bowl of baba ganoush and some pita. I decided I was going to make a list of things that I miss about the city. (It needs to be said, that whenever I start to feel nostalgic about the amenities of the city, my husband reels me in with a, “How often did you go there?” His practicality, in this one instance, is annoying. The understanding that. just having the option available could be considered enough to make me content, is lost on him.)

1. Culturally diverse foods
Even on my most lax days, I wouldn’t consider Panda Express to be Chinese food and at half an hour away, that would be my closest option. I miss Indian, Mediterranean, and Asian foods. Whitewright has two restaurants and a Dairy Queen. One is Mexican and the other is Bar-B-Que. (It’s a stereotype of Texas cuisine for a reason.)  The other day, while in a crowd of people, I overheard a woman say, ” I saw a great recipe for chocolate cake with “gah-no-key” icing”. No one corrected her. How could they? Who out here would even know the difference between gnocchi and ganache? 

2. Pizza Delivery
Technically, this is two fold. I also miss Papa John’s and their disgustingly artery clogging garlic butter gelatinous goo. While in the city, I never actually ate Papa John’s but somehow, because my options are limited to Domino’s and Pizza Hut. (since I don’t actually own one of those nifty pizza cozies to keep my pizza warm if I were to travel further to purchase said pizza) my desire for Papa John’s has intensified.

3. NPR
Oh, the wonderful city days of zooming around listening to Diane Rehm, Fresh Air, and This American Life are over. To listen to NPR now, I must make a concerted effort to tune in to 88.9 if I drive  southeast,  90.1 if I drive south, and  99.3 if I drive northwest. It is a constant balancing act and it is driving me insane. Especially since one of these stations plays the program with a 5 minute delay from the other two. When you incorporate an Ira Glass pause in to the equation, that 5 minute delay can feel like an eternity.

4. Museums/ cultural events
I don’t need to elaborate on what we gave up when it comes to museums and cultural events. You can well imagine the plethora of art, plays, ballets, operas, symphonies, all available at leisure. It can be best summed up by one picture:

This is the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth. The building appears to rest on an 18 inch deep reflecting pool. It was designed by the famous Japanese architect, Tadao Ando, and is one of my most favorite buildings in Fort Worth.

In contrast, my husband took the children to see this, extremely popular, event in Whitewright:

Click here for video.

Obviously, I declined to go.

Oh, but all is not lost. If ever I start to mourn my cultural loss of Shakespeare in the Park, I can rejoice in the knowledge that every year Whitewright offers an Annual Fiddlefest. Lest I forget their Rose Tour.

If I care to step out of my town for the day, there is a dandy of a new museum that has just opened in Sherman. It is called Harber Wildlife Museum. Before I elaborate further, here is a picture:

It was constructed in an old restaurant. As I have come to find out, Mr. Harber is quite the world hunter. All 150 animals in this “museum” were killed by him. Here is a quote given by Mrs. Harber concerning their philanthropic work.

“There’s nothing like it when you arrive (in Africa) and see your first species. All of a sudden you’re in the middle of National Geographic,” said Dorothy Harber. “It’s all about culture. It makes you appreciate in your heart what you have.”

The newspaper goes on to explain:

“The couple, who donate the meat from all their kills to area villagers, recalled stories of women walking 50 miles for a portion, and in a culture where breastfeeding is the only option for babies, that means carrying the little ones along.”

Unfortunately, as I understand it, to do a safari in Africa, donating the meat is mandatory... watching breastfeeding women walk 50 miles for food is optional. YEA, HARBERS!!!

Which, clearly brings me to #5-

5. Democrats
Obviously I am a Democrat. I am a vegetarian who is appalled by hunting. While, I confess, this is Texas so finding a Democrat is difficult to begin with, try moving to the edge of nowhere and finding one here. 99% – 99.9% of people out here carry guns. Since it is believed that all Democrats want to abolish the 2nd amendment, you couldn’t convince one of these people to go blue if you left them naked in Antarctica for a month.

6. My dentist

First this (and yes, those are my molars poking out):

My old dentist never made me wear this horrible tooth trap. I don’t care if my NEW dentist says it is the law, it makes me feel like the long lost sister of  Chatterbox.

I stole away to the bathroom in order to take that picture. When I got back to the room, the dentist asked me if I took a picture of myself. I felt it was an odd question to ask since I can’t visualize that many people wanting to revisit this experience but I nodded honestly and was met with a 5 minute lecture on how photographing a dental procedure was illegal. So there I was, confined to this horrible, latex, tooth trap, dollar store sunglasses, unable to verbally retaliate, and left feeling very much like a scolded third grader. Personally, I just don’t think that he wants anyone to possess photographic evidence of the torture he is inflicting on his clients. How do you like this, doctor, now the whole world can witness your perversion?!

6. High speed internet.
Nick and I waited almost two years before we forfeited our dream of getting high speed internet at our home. Verizon says not only is it not available but they have no plans to make it available either. Depressed, we contacted HughesNet.  Here is what their website says,

“With HughesNet® as your high-speed satellite Internet service, your super-fast, always-on, satellite Internet access is ready when you are – no dialing in, no waiting, and no tied-up phone lines. You can download files in seconds, check email instantly, and surf faster than you ever imagined.”

Awesome, huh? Let me say, that you could invent a time traveling device, go back and conduct an interview with Abraham Lincoln, then write a book about your experience, in faster time than it would take me to download the Gettysburg Address in PDF format.

That is not entirely true, but as you are staring at a blank screen for 10 minutes before finally giving up and turning everything off…. it feels true. I hate HughesNet and thus I hate Verizon.

9.  Recycling
Honestly, this is just self explanatory. Aside from driving all of our recyclables to my in-laws, our choices are nil. I wonder if global warming is even taught in schools out here. 

And all that the Lorax left here in this mess
was a small pile of rocks, with the one word…
“UNLESS.”

10. Variety
This category covers a wide spectrum of things (including those listed above). I miss the variety of people that the city offers, I miss the variety of services the city offers, I miss the variety of places that I can buy things from and all of that within a 10 mile radius of your home. Unless you have lived in the city, you simply can not understand what convenience is. My husband would point out that all of those options contain vast crowds of people and many miles of traffic. This is something we don’t have to deal with out here. There are no lines when you do your Christmas shopping. It is almost worth it to drive the 100+ miles to shop at the Target or BestBuy, in Sherman, for Black Friday, really. Walmart may be another story though.

Of course, the trade-off’s are innumerable. When we first moved in to the house, I made the mistake of standing in a pile of fire ants. Faster than Clark Kent could change in to Superman, I had my pants ripped off and was dancing around like a lunatic. We took our two year old son to a park in Dallas, last fall, when he saw the beautifully constructed pond. He had thrown his shoes off and was working on getting his pants down before we could catch him and explain that he couldn’t be naked here, like at home. Outdoor nudity, a plus to country living.

Our children attend a small school where the principle greets every child by name each morning. Small school, a plus to country living. On the flip side, the other day when we were at a bookstore in the city, my daughter commented on a little girl wearing cowboy boots and a cowboy hat by saying, indignantly, “She is dressed like a cowboy and she doesn’t even live in the country!” The fact that she felt that this little girl was impeding on her, personal, lifestyle may end up being a problem.

When all else fails to put my yearning for the city in perspective, I can look at the sunset’s reflection on my pond and know that we made the right choice. (It also helps that I know it is all just a waiting game, and I have already told Nick when the kid’s are grown we are moving back to the city. He has laid down some terms and conditions but has reluctantly agreed.)

 

15. Man’s Best Friend and Our Worst Enemy

First let me say, I took all three of these pictures on my way to work last Wednesday. These three pictures, pretty much, sum up my view of country life, right this minute.

 

 

For the past week, I have been dedicating moments of thought to the understanding of what makes city people different from country people. I have been desperately trying to do this without a smidgen of egotism or elitism, which has been difficult to the point of impossible. Two things prompted this quest for enlightenment, 1. my Cheerios blog and 2. a crazy woman with a dog. As I sat, last week, in the midst of blind, unshakable, anger- I decided to stop pretending that I was still in Kansas (metaphorically). For the past two years, with the understanding that I was in a land very different from wince I came, I had decided to keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself. I have spoken of weather, I have spoken of children, I have not spoken of politics or of religion… both being seen as a hot topic given my general location. However, what couldn’t remain hidden was my husband’s or my actions.

As I have mentioned before, we run an extremely small dog rescue group. I, personally, have been fostering dogs for the past 18 years. Our move in to the country did not alter our desire to help animals that were in need. Most of the dogs that we take in come from individuals who contact us, or dogs on the euthanasia list at the Fort Worth Animal Control, and most recently, the Bonham Animal Shelter. With that said, we do, on occasion, find a dog near us and have taken in those as well.

A few months ago a male German Shepherd mutt got on to our property. We contacted all of our neighbors, in a half mile radius, to see if anyone owned this dog and then after three weeks, of not hearing anything, we spent a couple of hundred dollars neutering him, heartworm testing him, vaccinating him and then put him online for adoption. After a month a sign went up for the missing dog and after a long talk, we decided (even though we were financially and emotionally invested) to give them their dog back.  For this we didn’t get as much as a thank you; “ofcourse” they were angry, “ofcourse” they planned to breed their dog. That same day, as my husband was driving the children to school, he noticed cars swerving on the highway in front of him. Another German Shepherd (this time a pretty one) was standing in the road. He, again, contacted everyone in a half mile radius to find out if it was their dog and then took the dog to our home to wait and see if anyone came forward for him.

That night, a woman came to our house distraught and hysterical. She demanded her dog back. To which, we gladly and promptly went and got him. As she continued to droll on about her dog being worth $500, how he was always getting out, and how she was missing her black lab as well, it became apparent that she was accusing us of stealing her dogs. Now, in my Cheerios blog, I mentioned that country people lack pretense. In this woman’s case, that is completely true as well, self righteous but without pretense. No matter how many times she stated that her dog would tear through her fencing; she still managed to blame us for stealing dogs. A wiser, or even more pretentious person would have excluded the dogs constant departure, out of her yard, from her story. That was simply not true with her and after many attempts to reason with her, her derangement won out and my husband, with forehead in hand, was left on the driveway, her screams of, “If he gets out again, I’ll be back and I won’t be alone” echoed through the crisp evening air.

At this point I would like to discuss the rules, regulations and/ or laws concerning picking up animals in Fannin County. As confusing and complex as the woman and law enforcement agents would like these to be I can explain them in one, extremely, quick sentence: There are none. While there are laws to mandate your cattle, horses, or other livestock being on the road there is nothing to regulate household pets.

Last week a warden from Texas Parks and Wildlife came to our house. He greeted me with a good ol’ boy country smile that had probably won the affections of many a female in his youth. This charm was lost on me once he started speaking though. “Hello, ma’am. I was wondering if you had seen a husky or a lab around here. You see, I had heard two dogs have made their way back to their owners lately, cause of y’all, and there are a couple of kid’s at home without a dry eye.”  I hate being condescended to and as clear as glass, to me, was the fact that a “Lil’ lady” or a “Darlin'” was about to roll off of his tongue. As I fear most females do, however, I stammered and just spit out openly hostile answers to his ridiculously invasive questions. “How many dogs do you have? What do you do with these dogs, rehabilitate them or something? Can I look in your back yard? If I find any dogs on the road do you want me to just bring them here?” With that last question, his gaze intensified and I wanted to scream out, “I don’t know if this nonchalant laissez faire attitude works on others out here but I am not from out here!!!” Yes, I am more than aware that my ego became just as large as his at that moment. To my defense though, he started it.

Twice the Fannin County sheriff’s office called us to see if we had this woman’s dogs. Albeit, they weren’t really questioning us as much making us aware of her accusations. To them, it seemed more than apparent that we would be the worst dog thieves, on record, if we actually did go door to door and told people we had her animals. And why would we have chosen to give her back just one of her dogs when questioned by her?  When pressed on the issue of taking in stray dogs one of the officers responded that, “the right thing to do would be to hold on to the dog for a month or so and see if the owner shows up.” The (as in the only one) Bonham Animal Control officer said that there are no leash laws in Fanin County and therefore there are no laws regulating what to do with a dog that you find on the highway.

My husband, does not suffer from my inability to think and be angry at the same time and he used this to his advantage in a phone call back to my new friend from Parks and Wildlife. Nick quickly got to the crux of the situation  1. Is it against the law to pick up a dog on the freeway? (The officer stammered and talked about if it was right to do. To which my husband responded that his loyalty was not to a human that was incapable of keeping their dog off the road time and time again. His loyalty was to the dog.) 2. If you admit that it is not against the law, regardless of your feelings about the morality involved, I should not see you on my property again or else we will view it as harassment.

I am not sure the difference this conversation really made. Their mentality towards dogs was clearly different than ours. To the woman who owned the German Shepherd, the $500 that she felt the dog was worth, was all important. To this man, he possessed hunting dogs and felt that if they were hit by a car they deserved it for standing on the road. He also believed that his extremely expensive dog GPS collar was going to protect them from theft. Pointing out, at that moment, that a thief need only remove the collar, might have made us look a little more like professional dognappers.

Thus leads me to my conundrum about city people versus country people and my week of pondering their differences. Ego would lead me to believe that city people are just more intelligent, as if smog contributes to your intelligence quotient. My few moments under the tree of wisdom has led me to this, though- human interaction is how knowledge is disseminated. It is as simple as that. The people from a small town have little interaction with the diversity of people and circumstances that a city person has. With that, comes a more close minded, narrow outlook. They adhere to their social norms, many as they were set by generations before. Their lack of pretense has nothing to do with a humble nature, in this society there is nothing to be ashamed of in those particular situations. Pretense is clearly visible in issues concerning wealth or religion.

Dick Cheney stepped across party lines to support marriage equality because he has a gay daughter. How can a child learn to protect our world’s wildlife without first seeing the majestic tiger in a zoo? Perhaps crazy dog woman needs to be partnered, for a week, with a group of animal rights activists. They can recite the number of animals euthanized in the US, annually. They can preach about why spaying and neutering is important. Lastly, they could explain the hazards of letting her dog roam free.  The point is, unless you have experienced the opposite of what you reject inherently, a transition in your thinking can not be made. I suggest that all of Fannin County attend some diversity training.

The woman with the German Shepherd found out that we had her dog from the mailman. Unbeknownst, to me all this time, in small towns, if you want to know something- ask the mailman. He is a method of information transportation. Mull that over. Your magazines, your boxes wrapped in brown paper, bills, medical information…. all under analysis and dissection for your neighbors fodder. I fear, that even though I have been speaking weather and children all this time, the lack of hunting literature and Rick Perry endorsements, making it’s way to my mailbox, is speaking volumes on it’s own.

14. Cheerios

I don’t often listen to other people’s conversations. I believe this is because the monologue going on in my head is too loud for me to hear anything else. The other day though, I was at a church rummage sale and couldn’t help but overhear these two women speaking. The first woman said that she had heard that in order to grow you need to be open to new experiences.  The second woman responded,  “Yea, like when me and Harold went to that Christmas party. If we wouldn’t have gone we would have never met that Jewish couple.”

People are different out here. There is no judgment associated with that it is just an observation. I think, perhaps, life is so much simpler that people lack the necessity for pretense.

One day Nick and I were having a conversation with one of Whitewright’s police officers. He was an attractive man probably in his late 20’s. We spent a bit of time discussing dogs and children; rattling off cute experiences concerning each. His daughter was similar in age to Linus and already potty trained. The lack of necessity for diapers now thrilled him. Of course, Linus isn’t trained yet and I don’t think he will feel the need to be so until he understands it is hampering his ability to live a happier more productive life. Nick quickly told the officer how simple potty training Caden was and how different an experience it has been with Linus. “With Caden, I just threw a handful of cheerios in to the toilet and asked him to pee on them,” Nick told the officer. Caden laughed in the background at a cute story about himself as a baby. The officer responded with a smile and said, “My dad did the same thing for me”. He then paused and continued, “Except he used cigarette butts.”

A clear lack of pretense. In the city, dads will use cigarette butts too, they would just tell everyone they were cheerios.

13. The Reverend Early James

Now, he goes by the name of Reverend Early James, but back in the day we knew him as Jimmy.

I met Jimmy about 8 months ago. It was a beautiful spring day. (The weather was the absolute perfect temperature where you could go naked and not be too cold or wear a jacket and not be too hot. I love those days.) I spied Jimmy’s estate sale sign from the road and pulled in his gate. Large trees shadowed the majority of his 6 acres. His house was nestled at the very back of the property and so I made the trek down his long driveway, carefully avoiding the numerous ditches and mud pits. The sandy red soil spitting an orangish hue all over my vehicle.

As I opened my door, I immediately saw Jimmy walking briskly up to me. He stood just over six feet tall. He was clad in jeans and a t-shirt. His slim build and rough exterior hinted at a life spent working hard and outdoors. As he walked his shaggy, salt and pepper hair bounced freely. The conversation went as follows:

Me: Hello.
Jimmy: What do you want? Why are you here?
Me: You are having an estate sale.
Jimmy: What? I can’t hear you. I am not wearing my hearing aid.
Me: Estate Sale?

It was at that point I took the time to survey my surroundings and assess the situation. Directly in front of me lay an extremely old mobile home. A single wide from back in the day when single wide was the only option. Even from my position outside I could see the warped and leaning walls. To the front and right of that was a one car garage.

Directly to my right was a structure that looked as if it had been added on to in layers. Perhaps every five years or so the owner felt it was time to expand and so they built another box on to the already existing boxes. What immediately caught my eye was a sign on the arbor that read, “Universal Life Church and Chapel. Hours: 9am-?”. It was currently 10 in the morning.

 

Once Jimmy understood I was at his property for a reason, albeit not a reason he was interested in, he was excited and offered to show me around his property. He had many types of flora and fauna that he wanted, very much, to go in to detail to me about and he immediately offered for me to ride with him in his van down to his self made pond.

While many people are not old enough to actually remember reading about Ted Bundy and his method for murder. You should at least be old enough to remember Silence of the Lambs and know that there was absolutely no way, in hell, that I was going to get in to his van. 

There is no rhyme or reason to anything on Jimmy’s property. In an effort to be polite, I did a 30 minute tour of his gardens (largely in part because with out his hearing aid in he could not hear my multiple attempts to segue in to a departure). Just like his home, trees are planted haphazardly here and there. You might find 2 tomato plants growing in a corner and another 20 feet away. A walnut tree is planted a yard away from a pear tree with no thought given to the mature height of either. And his favorite plant of all… the muskodine grape is everywhere. He ties the vines to anything that stays still along enough for him to wrap strings around it.

The tour ended in his greenhouse, which isn’t so much a greenhouse as it is a room with a green roof.

Bear with me. By now you may be asking yourself why I have bothered to show you all of these boring pictures of this man’s property. The answer is this: yesterday I saw him dressed in robes like Moses and hanging up these signs on his fence.

 

(What this article fails to tell you is…. the Reverend Early James is not completely sane.)

We all have visions of grandeur, however, I don’t put up signs on the gate, at my house, saying “Whitewright Zoo” or “Wildlife Preserve”. With that said, I do find it mildly amusing that if survival training had been offered at the original Garden of Eden then Adam and Eve could have built their own compass, did a little team building, escape and evasion and made their way back, once they were banished.

My encounter with Jimmy did not end that day. While I was on his property he offered me a donkey that he had pinned up. After some thought, a conference with my husband, and a brief drive back with trailer in tow, we were ready to load the donkey.

Our greetings exchange went very similarly to my preliminary one.

Nick and I: Hello.
Jimmy: Why are you here? What do you want?
Nick and I: We are suppose to get the donkey
Jimmy: What? I can’t hear you. I am not wearing my hearing aid.
Nick and I: Donkey?

Once Jimmy understood we were on his property for a reason, albeit not a reason he was interested in, he was excited and offered to show us around his home. Sitting in a corner, in the dark (save the light from the small television) was Jimmy’s nurse/ girlfriend/ friend/ supplier/ ??? , Janet. For imagery sake, I must tell you, that Janet is a five foot tall, black woman, who chews tobacco and spits continuously. She doesn’t say much but what she does say she says with authority. As we walked in to the room, Janet looked up from her book, spat in to a container, nodded, and then went back to reading/ staring at her book.

At this point we walked in to Jimmy’s office, all the while, attempting to explain about how we needed to get home, so if we could…. just… get…. the…. donkey…..

 

A picture of Elvis mocked us from above the desk, while Jimmy pulled his guitar out of the corner and began explaining his belief that he would one day be the Commander In Chief of the United States of America. According to him, organic living was the only chance our country had at survival. To emphasize that thought, he pulled out a cigarette, inhaled, and strummed his guitar. He went on to tell us that he had written a song about it and once everyone heard it they would elect him as the next president. The title of this mind controlling melody was “World Wide Garden Web”. Carefully, we positioned ourselves so that all entrances in to the room were visible as he played.

(I wish that I could now tell you the words to that song, but my memory has chosen to block it. I have a habit of over thinking things and there is a very probable chance that I got stuck on the impracticable nature of a bunch of garden loving zombies voting him in as President and never really digested the rest of the lyrics.)

With that, we were led to THE VAN, our protests fell on (literally) deaf ears and so we climbed inside so we could take a tour of the cornucopia of greenery. Jimmy as driver, Janet in the passenger seat, and Nick and I on our knees in the cargo area, ready to be jostled this way and that. Quite honestly, Jimmy’s place is not so vast that a car ride is necessary. However, for the sake of the donkey, we pressed on. Jimmy put the van in reverse, pulled back, and hit the car directly behind  him. There was nothing within 30 feet of the van but this car and somehow he managed to hit it.  (You could tell that he desperately wanted to blame someone for this action by the way he contorted his face and began to speak but when he looked at Janet accusingly she just spat in to her container.)

Once the tour was over, we could, at last, get to the matter of loading the donkey in to our trailer. Jimmy dismissed us with a “just lasso him. It will be easy” and we set off. After 30 minutes of Nick’s astonishing Lone Ranger type skills- through the thicket of weeds and trees. The donkey was no closer to getting in to the trailer than before. With trepidation we went to get Jimmy, who after several attempts of us “speaking up” finally comprehended that we couldn’t catch the beast. Once again, he assured us how easy it would be to load him and with that he walked over to the donkey and bravely jumped on his back.

The actions of Jimmy and the results they garnered are listed below:

1. Ride donkey… bruises, dirty, no donkey in trailer.
2. Put donkey in a headlock… no donkey in trailer.
3. Pull donkey by it’s head, while Nick pushes from behind…. no donkey in trailer.
4. Put trash bag over donkeys head…. no donkey in trailer.
5. Send Nick on the ridiculous assignment to find grass for the donkey in an effort to lure him like a fish to a worm… Janet spits and says, forcefully, “This is enough”. Jimmy has a cigarette and says,  “This isn’t easy.” No donkey in trailer.

I could say that Nick and I drove home empty handed but that wouldn’t be completely true. Nick had a bright red rash that covered his entire torso; adding to his frustration about the whole fiasco. Honestly, though, while it took many months for either of us to find the events with the donkey amusing, it was difficult to be too angry. Both Jimmy and Janet are extremely nice people and his enthusiasm about gardening is very endearing.

**** I would like to take this opportunity to thank Coldwell Banker for the exterior and interior photographs of the house. Jimmy’s house has now been taken off the market (to become a theme park), but at the time, you could have had his posh estate for the low price of $400,000. Before you puzzle over the expense of living in Denison. This is a house, within the area, that is priced equivalently.

12. Your Stuff?

The most commonly asked question I get, when I am at work is, “Where do you get your stuff?” It is always said in exactly that manner. “Where do you get your stuff?” Not “Where do you find this furniture?”, “How do you come across these items?”, “What methods do you employ in order to encounter all of these various objects?”. No. There is not a smidgen of diversity to the question. At least twice a day, I have someone ask, “Where do you get your stuff?”.

At first I went through great effort to explain the means by which I find the things for the store. However, after the 108th time of being asked this the response has now become, “Here and there”. It isn’t because I am being secretive about the lengths I go through to find some of this “stuff” but rather, it is too diverse to elaborate on daily.

I went to a storage auction once. The people who do these things are a rare breed. To bid and not really know what you are bidding on is a concept that eludes me. I watched a storage unit, with several bags that looked very strikingly similar to garbage and a taxidermy baby alligator, go for $200.  That was my first and last storage auction. It was nothing like Auction Wars or any of the other “reality” auction programs. In those shows, you are led to believe that everyone needs a secret place to stash away rare coin collections or special, one of a kind,  items that are in perfect, never been used condition. Then, you have to suspend disbelief that these same people manage to forget about moving their treasures. Instead, I buy some of my “stuff” from a guy that buys storage units.

I go to a farm auction once a month called “Whitlock’s”. Every stereotype of country/farm people comes into play at this auction. Groups of large men, no shirts, overalls, work boots, spitting everywhere…  their wives are in the background bidding on trinkets, ceramic chicken collections, baskets of old Avon bottles, “The Joy of Cooking” from 1972. Children run amok everywhere. No one worries about the child molesters in the bathroom or the pedophiles stealing off with one of them. Last auction I watched a little boy, about 7 years old,  bounce from dangerous farm implement to dangerous farm implement with nigh a parent in sight. He weighed  approximately 100lbs and wore a large cowboy hat, plaid long sleeve shirt, and cowboy boots. He was like a pudgy cowboy cherub, whose wings could not support his weight. The image became all the more surreal when, as we were leaving, I looked to see him pull his pants down to his ankles and start peeing. His large bottom shining white in the moonlight, almost like a marble fountain.

There are two auctioneers at this large auction. One sells off the little items to the women on the inside of the barn. On the outside another auctioneer calls out for bids on all of the various country clutter. Cattle fencing (which I have learned is different from goat fencing and pig fencing), tractors, livestock, rusty this or that. We are always hard pressed to find items for the store here. Usually the items, we do acquire, are in need of a lot of work. That is where Nick’s part in the business comes into play. He has turned into quite the carpenter. It is not rare for me to buy something and bring it to him, with the instructions- “I want to cut it down to this size, add this to it, just tighten this and then make it straighter”, or, my favorite, “I plan to use it for this-can’t you just do that for me?” Somehow he understands my vague terminology. It is a partnership that works…. my vision, his attention to detail.

Estate sales are hugely depressing, in my opinion, since mainly, they are held in the event of someone’s death. The remainder of a person’s entire material life lay’s there, waiting for people to arrive at 10am precisely and buy it off bit by bit. If that isn’t enough to make you want to pick up the phone and call a loved one, let me say this-  (cue the soft music) When all is said and done, every item that you spent so much time dusting and admiring will be gone and all that is left of you are the memories that you left behind, not the “stuff”. Your 250 piece refrigerator magnet collection will be sold off for a quarter each…. That collection of books, all alphabetized, cataloged, and your name carefully placed on the front page, will all thrown in to a pile for “$2 for hardbacks and fifty cents for paperbacks”.  Even your favorite zodiac coffee mug, with the clever quip about Capricorns gets reduced 50% off on Sunday. Depressing, depressing, depressing. Of course, you could just be like me and guilt your children in to holding on to everything. After all, why wouldn’t they want my collection of antique baby doll heads? Seriously.

I have a myriad of ways in which these things come in to my possession. Auctions, garage sales, estate sales, resale shops, individuals, side of the road, barns, scrap yards, flea markets, consignments AND here is the most interesting thing I have come to learn: In the city, you would NEVER go up to someone and offer to buy something off their front porch…. in the country, everything is fair game. We recently acquired a greenhouse in just this manner. One day, while I was out driving, I saw an old greenhouse peeking out through the weeds and trees. Nick had been wanting a greenhouse to bolster his ranks in farmerdom. He found the owner and quickly negotiated a price. It was a commercial greenhouse and regardless of his belief that one day he will grow all of the food our family consumes, he was practical and only built half of the structure. A few months later a man came on to our property and saw the remainder of the materials and asked to purchase it.  See, everything is fair game.

Honestly, I am flattered when people want to know where I get the merchandise for my store. It could mean that they appreciate the uniqueness of the items sold or it could mean that they like the various pieces and wish they could find things like this on their own.  Perhaps jealousy comes in to play, and it is more of a sense of entitlement that haunts them. Then again, .it could be considerably more benign than that and arrogance could just be getting the best of me. Chance are, they just want to sell me something and are questioning if they qualify.

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