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.

To see my store on Facebook click here

 

 

11. “Et Cetera is Born”

Our move to Whitewright was made possible by our family’s penny pinching habits. No cable, only basic cell phone service, second hand everything and two fairly well paying jobs allowed us to save up enough money that we felt comfortable moving to a location before finding employment there.

In the city my husband owned a lawn care company and he had a long list of customers that he routinely took care of. In an ideal world we would have moved closer to the metroplex in order to keep that already established business. However, we felt we could do the next best thing…. relocate the business to wherever we moved. We learned quickly that there were a few hitches in that giddy up though. 1. There is no code enforcement in small towns and therefore there is no motivation to keep your yard up. 2. Barb wire and other farm instruments can cause havoc on lawn equipment and 3. Everything a mower can do can be done quicker and easier with a tractor…. which we do not own. After 6 months of valiant effort, my husband called his three regular paying customers and told them that he was retiring from the business.

In the interim, I grew restless. Country life was eating at me. I missed civilization. I missed choices. I missed people. I loved my family and all of my pets but I was tired of looking out and only seeing them day in and day out. So one day, Nick and I decided to drive to the small town of Denison. There I fell in love. While Denison, Tx. has approximately half the population that Sherman, Tx. does, it is by far cuter. We strolled the historic downtown area and were amazed by all of the art galleries and studio lofts. There were fabulous antique stores with wonderful prices and just a fun sense of ambiance and history rolled together. I was smitten.

The next week, I found myself looking at a real estate guide for Grayson County. (I sometimes love to look at the booklets and dream of having a little more money, a little more land, and a warmer house.) What I noticed as I perused this issue, though, were not the grander single family homes but, instead, the commercial buildings for sale in downtown Denison. Specifically, a building called The Tucker that was listed for $20,000 and contained almost 8,000 square feet. I called a realtor and made an appointment immediately. Until then, I hadn’t ever thought I could own so much history at such a low price.The Tucker Building ended up being more of a diamond in the rough than I could afford though. However, with two elegant and leaking skylights, original flooring, a crumbling stone wall, outdated electric and plumbing, I was hooked. I searched out another building to buy and elevate my title to real estate tycoon.

So with the backing of my mother and my family we bought a building in Denison. Everything seemed to scream out profit. We were buying when the prices of property were extremely low. It sat across from the Rialto Theater and several other prominent businesses. It had a business already located downstairs with an income of $700 a month. That would take care of mortgage and taxes, plus some. Then with a loft upstairs we could rent it out and make enough to supplement our income. Win. Win. Win. Except, immediately after signing the paperwork the business owner downstairs became gravely ill and needed to close up shop. After that, the Rialto Theatre was foreclosed on. Then another across from me was foreclosed on, and a month later, the building directly beside me was foreclosed on. I brought death to downtown Denison.

What immediately became apparent was that I could NOT have another empty building in downtown Denison. The space would NEVER rent with so many other properties on the market and a lack of foot traffic on the street. So, with the blessing of the previous owners I took over their business…. an art gallery.

I can not sugar coat this…. in 2010 art does not sell. 

Nick hit the pavement…. or rather, the computer, to find a job. What seems like it should have been so obvious to us wasn’t… small town businesses only hire family and friends. Well, of course they do. I would too. However, this meant that Nick’s employer would have to be a minimum of half an hour away. (There was definitely a moment or two in this transition that I seriously questioned our wisdom in moving out of the city.)

To make a long process sound short, Nick was hired in the Bakery department of Walmart.

My husband, is not a typical ego driven person. He worked there and he worked hard and he never thought down on the experience. A job is a job. He is nothing like my friend, Lindsay, or I. She took a job at McDonalds, in a small town in Wyoming, calling it a “socioeconomic experiment”. I worked at the restaurant in the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and compared myself to Matt Damon’s character in Good Will Hunting. “Will” and I were both geniuses who worked menial jobs in buildings that were congruent with our talents. Nick, though, worked at Walmart because they paid him.

He came home daily rattling off his experiences with the corporation which is Walmart and the slaves which are their employees and their customers. Now, my husband is great beyond measure. I could easily tie up every love song, in the world, with a big pink bow and place them in my heart just for him. With that said, he is not without fault. 90% of the time he chooses forgiveness but 10% of the time frustration or anger gets the better of him… and Nick does not do passive aggressive. He does retaliation. What is amazing, is that somehow the gods shine down on this, lining up the stars, and clearing the way in order to make events line up so it is possible. My favorite story of his stint at Walmart was this: A night manager made his job difficult. Everyday, Nick would go to him for a pricing gun. Everyday the manager would say, “Give me a minute. I will get back to you.” I would hear the same story, constantly, the only element to change being Nick’s response to it. One day the manager responded, “Give me a minute and I will get back to you.” Nick decided to sit down on the floor and just wait, people passing him as he silently protested. Another time, he heard, “Give me a minute. I will get back to you.” and Nick decided to interrupt a conversation between he and another manager saying, “can we not talk and walk at the same time?” Then one day the gods shined down, the stars lined up, and the way was cleared for events to line up…. This manager was in a store room moving things around with a forklift. It was a small room and before he knew it he had boxed himself in with all of the crates he had been moving. At that moment, Nick walked in. The manager asked, “Could you please get a pallet jack and help me get out of here? I am trapped.” What was Nick’s response? “Give me a minute. I will get back to you” and he left him.

Wednesday- Saturday I would drive in to Denison and sit at my desk, staring at the vacant buildings around me and wishing for customers that never set foot through my door. One day, after visiting a Lowes Home Improvement store it dawned on me. To flourish, Lowes diversified. They sold pet supplies. They sold childrens outdoor toys. They sold books. On my drive in to work, daily, I saw small business that served multiple functions in order to stay afloat.

 

At that moment I decided to add furniture to the store. It was a leap to get from fine art to second hand furniture but, honestly, there was little choice. Thus, Et Cetera was created…

After Christmas, Walmart tries to recoup the extra money that it paid it’s employees for the holiday work. In doing so, the majority of people have their hours cut in half. At that moment, Nick and I decided to “burn the ships”  in reference to the historic conquest of Cortez.  He quit his job and we set off to do whatever it would take to make this business a success. It is advice I would give anyone. Try. You won’t drown, you won’t die.

We incorporated furniture in with the art in May (8 months ago). Sales have been great. It is an interesting blend of retro pieces, shabby painted furniture, and of course, fine art. If you are ever in Denison, Tx, stop in. I can point out all of the new businesses that have sprung up around me and the great deals still available on buildings here.  If nothing else, we can gripe about Walmart together.  🙂  Either way, I guarantee that you will be just as smitten with the history and ambiance as I was.

10. A Year in the Life of Two Mannequins.

Just outside of Whitewright, on Hwy 69, live two mannequins. I noticed them this summer, on one of the rare days we were expecting rain. One mannequin was on a bicycle with a rain slicker on, the other was wearing a matching slicker but standing.

As someone who has spent many hours trying to rip the clothes off of a mannequin only to spend equal time trying to redress it, I was riveted by the fact that 1) someone was willing to change their outfits at the slightest hint of rain and 2) this same person thought that mannequins could/ should be used as yard art.  Of course, with that said, I must mention that I have never actually witnessed anyone disrobing or re-robing these two and so it isn’t quite a stretch to believe them to be like the mannequins in the Twilight Zone episode, “After Hours”.  One day I may get out of my car to snap their picture, only for my family to drive by days later and see me added to the collection of ensemble changing mannequins… wearing a rain slicker and holding my camera.

I drive past this house on a regular basis. I always crane my neck, as I speed by at 70mph, to see what wardrobe choices are being made. Me, now intrigued by these two, thought maybe others might be intrigued as well. So I present… A year in the life of two mannequins…. (I will add pictures as the year continues)

New Year’s Eve photo:

On New Year’s Day I drove by and noticed that they each had a cold compress attached to the top of their heads. Unfortunately, I was late for work and didn’t have time to photograph it.

 

January 5th, 2012:

I am concerned. The male mannequin is no where in sight. She has changed and has her luggage packed. Is there a plot twist so early in my diary of the mannequin couple? I feel the matching vest and fancy hat might suggest that she is now single and on the prowl.

 

January 7th, 2012:

He’s back. How could they have ever parted when they both share such an affinity for vests?

 

January 21, 2012:

Lovers quarrel?

I am working to compile a list of questions to ask the people who own the house, whose yard these two mannequins inhabit. It starts like this:

  1. Do the mannequins have names?
  2. Do you have a mannequin story for them going on in your head?
  3. Are these your family’s clothes or do you buy clothes especially for the mannequins?
  4. Do you suffer from any panic disorders or are on medication to allow you to deal with people?
  5. Are you aware that they make clothes for pets and it might be considerably easier for you to throw a sweater on a chihuahua then to keep dressing two mannequins?

 

January 27, 2012

My two year old son, watching me from the window of the car, actually said, “Mommy, what they say to you?” It got me thinking… what if this actually is a message for me?

 

February 1,2012

Question #6: Are these mannequins symbolic of any situations in your life?

Perhaps the title of this blog entry should have been, “A Month in the Life of Two Mannequins”.

 

February, 2, 2012

Do not worry…. he is not dead.

February 8, 2012

After the attempted murder of the male mannequin I started to concern myself with the mental health of the person living here. I carefully approached a friend about it, wondering if I were the only person who noticed the saga that was playing itself out on the front lawn of this home.  “Is she sane”, I asked.

Her response sounded very casual, “Sometimes I wonder.”

February 15, 2012

I fear that I have failed you all. This morning the battery on my camera was dead so I wasn’t able to take a picture when the sign read, “Will you marry me, Roxy?” It is considerably more work keeping up with Roxy and ??? than I thought it would be when this initially started.  (A special thank you to my husband who took this picture for me.)

February 18, 2012

Hell, I don’t know. This isn’t really what I was expecting when I started the blog. Something about the handwriting isn’t so much informative as it is depraved. Somehow, reminiscent of the letter in I Know What You Did Last Summer.

February 22,2012

I am buying a zoom lens so I no longer have to get out of my car to take these pictures. I can’t stand the apprehension that this blog is causing me. Even though everything appears calm on the surface, I am convinced that someone is watching me from behind those drapes.

February 26, 2012

The change is subtle but can you spot it? What does this change mean?

Is this like the Liam Neeson movie, “Unknown”? Is this man just impersonating her fiancee? Or in an act of desperation, to win back her two timing heart, has he decided to get some Rogaine and a Schneider mustache?

March 1, 2012

Kim Kardashian eat your heart out.

March 14, 2012

I do not have enough time to go in to detail, about if I were a crazy person with mannequins in my front yard, how much differently I would have done this vignette. Happy Saint Patty’s, everyone.

April 1, 2012

Meanwhile, all seems peaceful in mannequin world.

April 26, 2012

In an attempt to steal my thunder the local Whitewright paper has done a write-up on the mannequins and their visionary, Martha. The caption under this photo actually reads, “Martha gives instructions to Roxy and Billy to clean up the yard.” This article has done nothing to convince me that the owner of this house is mentally stable. It actually says that SHE has a website about these guys and a huge storyline… such as:the other day Roxy’s wig blew off revealing that she is actually bald. This prompted Roxy to confess that she had lost all of her hair recently while trying a radical new diet.Seriously? I have gone back through all of my pictures and can’t say that I have noticed her get any thinner.

(Sadly, I have combed the internet for the website about these two and found nothing.)

May 2, 2012

Out in the front yard in a tank top, no bra, and curlers… they simply must be in small town Texas.

 

May 9, 2012

My informant has told me that something big is in the works for this weekend… I will keep you posted.


May 14, 2012

My informant was wrong. Roxy mocks me…

May 21, 2012

May 30, 2012

Roxy and Billy are boring these days. On a side note, this is the car Martha (mannequin visionary) drives.

June 20, 2012

#1??? First what? Is she picking out dresses? If so… who does she think she is fooling? She should be wearing the slut dress Scarlet wears in Gone With the Wind.

June 24, 2012

There has been contact!!! The STALKER is now being STALKED by the STALKEE.

Imagine my surprise when I opened this comment from another one of my posts…

Anonymous June 23, 2012 9:36 PM

i love estates sales! when i walk through the house and see someone’s life on display, i say “this will be me someday! when i’m gone, i have no doubt that my son will open up the doors, invite everyone in and sell everything. don’t get me wrong. i love him dearly and he loves me. but my ‘stuff’ means absolutely nothing to him.
by the way, i’m the “mother” of the mannequins on hwy 69. i loved your blog on them. i will watch it to see how i’m doing.
martha”

Mother? But I won’t digress…
I think I pulled off calm and casual when I responded, however…

“When I originally wrote that blog it was much more depressing. I have several objects of my grandmother’s, but without her here to tell their story, it’s like they have no history. Estate sales, to me, are just a bunch of items with no history. History is what makes a thing more than just wood or metal. It gives it life and warmth. 

Roxy and Billy will always have a fan in me. I look forward to seeing what the next five months bring them. If you could incorporate the Mayan calender’s end of the world prediction in your December display, I would appreciate it. :-)”
So if we see a volcano being constructed in the middle of Martha’s yard come this November we will all have ME to thank!!!

June 28, 2012

The poor picture quality is the fault of my husband (who I have recruited to help with pictures since I am now convinced Martha will pop out at any second and scream, GOTCHA!”) . I apologize. However, in his defense, I don’t think it really matters given this is a white, 1980’s pant suit that simply screams for a sequin eagle on the back it, reminiscent of Elvis.

 

July 1, 2012
I don’t know how I missed dress #3. I don’t know if I should be sad or relieved.  With that said, I still think it is getting my vote.

July 13, 2012

She has taken my advice, apparently, and gone with dress #3. Best choice by far. Bravo.

However, what is up with the creepy mannequin? As I understand it, mannequins are meant to be used in an effort to sell you something. I am telling you, right now, I wouldn’t buy ANYTHING this mannequin was selling… and if this is suppose to be the guy Roxy is cheating on Billy with… well, she shouldn’t be buying what he is selling either!!!

July 27, 2012

August 8, 2012

And today, I bring you a message from mannequin mother, Martha:

“in case you haven’t driven by lately, roxie and billy are back from their honeymoon in Hawaii. she had so much fun doing the hula that she brought a grass skirt home to entertain billy! martha”

Ironically, I had driven by, and photographed them, but I was perplexed as to if they were still on their honeymoon or not and was waiting to see if any more details emerged. Thankfully, Martha cleared it up for me.

August 17, 2012

My husband, Nick, has recently taken a job doing home remodeling. Yesterday, when he rounded the corner of one of the houses he is working on, he spied this:


Look familiar???

This is “Ed from France”. (At least according to THIS mannequin’s owner). Seems just a little coincidental, eh? At first, I felt that my paranoia was justified. Martha is toying with me… or the mannequins are real and know the best way to get to me is to take out my husband… but then reality set in and I remembered I am in a town of only 1,000 people and it was much more plausible that Martha just borrowed Ed for her wedding scene. Creepy nonetheless though, huh?

For the record, I own two mannequins at my store. Neither have names.

August 17, 2012

Another  message from Martha:

“i know who you are! i met your husband at the movie last week! do you drive a silver van? someone stopped and took a picture just after roxie got home from the hospital.
martha”

My response:

“‘i know who you are!’ ??? Your constant additions to my blog are doing nothing to reassure me of my safety while stalking your mannequins. 🙂
As for my husband, I think you met someone else…
Now, in regards to the hospital and Roxie: I can ALMOST suspend disbelief enough to buy the fact that she is now EXTREMELY pregnant (after it only being a few days since she got back from her honeymoon, pencil thin, wearing a bikini top and grass skirt) BUT the fact that Billy is still wearing, pretty much, the same outfit is hampering that considerably.”

August 24, 2012

I get the feeling that she doesn’t care about my opinion on Billy’s wardrobe. Which leads me to question if I will be getting my end of the Mayan calendar event after all.

August 31, 2012

Sept. 28, 2012

I had thought that I would  just go ahead and boycott putting further pictures of Roxy and Billy up until Martha changed his clothes. The casual reader of this blog wouldn’t have been the wiser BUT Martha, who stalks it, would have felt the full power of my outrage. So I have kept this picture, with its odd plastic pony, under wraps until today BECAUSE….

Martha finally caved and improved Billy’s outfit a smidgen.

A rainy September 28, 2012

October 5, 2012

What I am about to reveal may shock you. I want you to brace yourselves…

I left for work early and felt confident that Martha was not lurking… so I decided to venture much closer to the mannequins than I have ever ventured before.

Roxy has NOT been digitally altered. This is actually how she looks! Do you think that maybe she is blind? Because brace yourself, it gets worse…

This is a close up of Billy. Notice anything?


We have all been duped! Billy (or Billi as I will now refer to her as) is actually aFEMALE mannequin dressed in boys clothes with a mustache drawn on!!! Clearly, Billi can NOT be the father of Roxanne’s child! Oh, the charade that is being perpetrated on the streets of Whitewright.

October 25, 2012

October 31, 2012

What a cocky bastard this “Ed from France” is… how he just props his foot up casually, on the pumpkin, after delivering the baby. Poor Roxy looks aghast as the scene unfolds.. while, clearly, Billi can’t handle the situation so she decides to hang up her hardhat before passing out.

As a side note: While driving to Paris, Texas I ran across this mannequin set-up. Martha has some competition.


November 7, 2012

Life just gets harder once you have kids. Someone should have warned Billi.

December 15, 2012

For the last month the road in front of Martha’s home has had construction done on it, making it impossible for me to swoop over and photograph. Thankfully Martha must have understood this because she never bothered to change the mannequin family… I can only assume that this is also the reason for the absence of my suggested Mayan ending of the world display. I understand.

Merry Christmas Roxy, Billi, baby, Martha, and everyone out there….


January 4, 2013

My end of the “A Year in the Life of Two Mannequins” is very anticlimactic. Perhaps, this is a statement by the artist about parenthood. Heaven knows, as a mother of three, I wouldn’t have time to gussy myself up and attend any shin-digs to ring in the new year. However, I am still a little saddened to see it all end with a rotting pumpkin and Roxy missing an arm.

So I have decided to come up with a few endings of my own…

So, this brings our journey to an end. I feel confident that Martha has provided, somewhere in all of this, a message about our hopes, our dreams and our circumstances that we can all learn from. Or perhaps it’s a euphemism for the harsh realities of life. Don’t ask me to decipher any of it though. I have been clueless from the start.

I think the best conclusion for all of this comes from Martha herself:

“just wanted to let you know that i love your blog! as you can tell, i’ve gotten tired of it. so billy found work in calif. and they have moved to the land of sunshine.
but never fear, when the weather gets warmer i’ll think of something else for the yard.
p.s. loved your Mayan stuff. i wanted to do something, but all i had was an umbrella and i couldn’t make it stand up.
martha”

****This blog was moved from its original location on blogspot. If you are interested in seeing more of Martha’s comments you can view them here.

9. The Vet

This last week has been stressful. Last Saturday, around 10:30pm, as I went out to the car, I heard one of the goats screaming. I ran immediately to their enclosure, yelling frantically, in an effort to frighten away the coyote I was certain had gotten in to the pen. It was pitch black, so although I could make out a goat flailing on the ground, I could make out little else. I ran to get a flashlight and came back out to see our goat, Judas, laying on the ground convulsing. His limbs shot out in front of him, his neck twisted back, rigidly, and the pupils of his eyes rapidly moved up and down like the wings of a hummingbird. My mind raced. Poisonous weeds? Kick to the head? Snake bite? Seizure? Parasite? Illness? What? I immediately called our vet whose cell phone number is programmed in to my phone.

 

Relocating can be difficult. When we moved we gave up a wonderful pediatrician, an excellent dentist, a trustworthy mechanic, and a fabulous vet. I knew that selecting replacements would be a matter of trial and error.

Top of my list was finding a vet. Our Dane, Mars, had developed a limp and as any large dog owner can testify- this is a major concern. In the city though, because I had done so much rescue work, I had the opportunity to work with at least 30 vets and choose my vet from the best of those. While driving Mars back to our regular vet was an option, it was not something I really wanted to do. Thus the interview process began. We made appointments at the offices of two reputable veterinarians in the most major city near us.

The first vet we spoke to was immediately eliminated when he said that Danes are not prone to hip dysplasia. The second was omitted just by gut instinct when we weren’t allowed to actually speak to the vet, themselves, and had to relay any questions through the staff. Finally, out of desperation (since those two vets came at the recommendation of the largest local rescue group in the area and again at the recommendation of the local animal shelter) we chose a small town vet, down the road from here.

The country doesn’t have more characters in it than the city, but, my eyes are definitely more open to them now than they were before. Our vet is one of those characters. On our first visit with her she met us in the waiting room. She talked about our various issues, and understood all of our concerns. She did this, the entire time with a 4 year old on her hip, picking his nose. Her long hair hung to her tailbone and swung back and forth with each of his nasal clearing attempts. I had to laugh at the image of any of the pretentious city vets, that I had worked with, in the same situation.

We see our vet several times a month for various reasons. Once, when we asked her if she would look at our turkey that suffered from a limp, she suggested slaughtering it instead. My husband’s informative speech about our not killing animals and being vegetarians fell on deaf ears. Her stance was drastically more practical: if the animal suffers, kill it, eat it.

Her practicality doesn’t end at turkeys. While treating our elderly dog for cancer we asked if this treatment would help. To which she responded, “I always tell everyone the same thing. I do all I can and the rest is in God’s hands”. For some reason this rationale always reminds me of the death of Margret Mitchell, author of “Gone With The Wind”. She was hit by a car in the 40’s and died. The driver of the car was drunk at the time. At first there was a general outrage over her death but later sympathy gravitated to the driver since… it was obviously Miss Mitchell’s time to die. In both cases, everyone is exonerated of responsibility.

I left a message with the vet, that Saturday night, which was promptly returned. She apologized for having the flu and not being able to come over personally. She recommended a ton of various medications for the symptoms that the goat was suffering and said she would have her husband meet us over at the office to give us everything. She admitted to having no idea what was wrong with him but felt that giving large doses of penicillin, vitamin E, vitamin D, and Vitamin B, could not hurt. This recommendation was followed by a quick, “It is in God’s hands”. 
 
A few days ago, my husband called to give the doctor an update on Judas. (He seems to be doing better. for the first 24 hours he remained on his side. A goat has to be upright to digest food so we were desperately trying to wedge his body up even though he continuously fought to lay back down. After 48 hours he had regained control of his back legs and would attempt to stand, only to shove his face in to the dirt. After 72 hours he was able to stand, while leaning against the side of his stall. Now after a week he is back out with the herd, staggering behind them as if drunk but at least he is walking). When he finally got in touch with her she was clueless as to what he was talking about. Her assistant was heard in the background informing her about the sick goat, to which she responded, “That was you? I was really sick.” What city vet would have given out all of those medications without knowing who they dispensed them to? Who of you, out there, has your vet’s cell phone number? This isn’t exclusive to us, either, she has her personal number on the office answering machine. On top of that, I pay half what I would at a big city vet. Practicality has it’s benefits. I am just thankful that she never suggested that we eat him. 

8. Lola

When I was 20, I got MY first dog. She was an adorable Husky mix. At 8 weeks of age she could sit, lay down, beg, and speak, on command. When I went to the vet for the first time, I reeled about the fabulous tricks my brilliant puppy knew. The vet told me, “The best pet is a dumb pet.” That was almost 20 years ago. I have since had many years of dog ownership and almost as many years  fostering dogs. I now, fully understand the wisdom that the vet dispensed to me. With that knowledge, it still surprises me, that I would want to get a pig.

A pig is ranked among the top 5 most intelligent animals on the planet and are the smartest of all domesticated animals. Here are two websites, if you are interested in learning more:

http://chris-mclaughlin.suite101.com/the-intelligent-pig-a84448
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/10/science/10angier.html

We moved in to this house in September of 2009. By that March, I was feeling fairly segregated from the epicenter of life, the city. During a speech of support, from a friend that had also decided to make the transition from city life to country life, I was told that I would like living rurally once I had farm animals to care for. It didn’t take much convincing before my husband agreed that a pig would make a great pet. When a hand painted sign, popped up down the street, a few weeks later saying “Feed Pigs- $35” we were intrigued. What could a feed pig be? Was that a specific breed? Of course, like most things in the country, it was meant to be taken literally.

A pig farm smells atrociously and the pig farm man did not seem to be amused with the city people and their inexperienced questions. The sole purpose of these animals was for consumption. You MAY decide to use one or two for breeding but even those will outgrow their usefulness and be consumed. Either way, they are destined to small enclosures to ensure that they fatten up well and with little human interaction. It is a sad life for an intelligent creature.

And so Lola came in to our life. And as any city loving, pig owner would do… she was immediately bathed… EVERY DAY for a week to remove the pig farm stench from her. For the record, a pig that has never been handled before makes a high pitched wail similar to Linda Blair in the Exorcist. Her entire life, thus far, had been spent, only seeing humans on occasion for food. Now, she was forced to endure kisses and hugs and constant petting. Suffice it to say, we kept a collar and leash on her to make it more convenient when we wanted to force our adoration.

Much to my in-laws irritation, Lola was kept inside with our dogs and learned to use the dog door. At first we tried to love her in to bonding with us but what seemed to work much faster (and far easier than hugging a squirming pig) was food. Once Lola understood that we were the bearers of a quick snack she was entranced. She would follow me anywhere and I would reward her with lemon drops, cheerios, and popcorn, to do so. I am certain that the day the postman drove up to deliver the mail,  and I greeted him with a pig, and 5 chickens in tow, he passed a judgment or two. However, ducking behind a tree at that point was not an option and I knew I had to embrace my Doc Hollywood existence. (P.S. This pig used in the movie is only a few months old).

I am not sure, as a city dweller, that I had ever seen a full grown pig before moving out in to the country. They are not small animals, by any stretch of the imagination. At this time, Lola weighs close to 600 lbs and stands taller at the shoulders than my Great Dane. Suffice it to say that she has been graciously relocated from my home in to her own yard complete with a custom made house, to fit her extraordinary girth. Because of her gigantic size she has broken the pinky toe on my right foot, not once but twice. Also, as I mentioned previously, she was the cause of my husband’s three stitches to his forehead. Not amusing to me was the day that I walked out to pet Lola and she decided to flop over towards me for a belly rub, knocking me off balance, and landing her on top of my leg. I was pinned for 15 minutes before I could finally make her miserable enough to move. With all of that said,  the absolute worse thing about a pig though, is their intelligence.

Nothing is safe from a pig and a pig can be very destructive. Every gate at my home is guarded like a fortress. The only thing missing, truly, is the flaming catapult. After her first siege all gates had to be made out of steel to prevent her from bending them. After her second siege, all gates had to have a bar in front of them to prevent her from pushing them forward. Lastly, after her third siege, all gates are strapped to prevent them from moving at all. I don’t know what to do when she finally learns that she can easily bulldoze the fencing… but I don’t want to jinx myself by giving it too much thought.

One night we had an intruder in our hen house. The creature, more than likely a raccoon, burrowed under the fence in to the property and then wedged a hole, the size of a softball, in to the chicken coop. From there it grabbed, and carried off our rabbit, Foofer Doo. In the process, from shock I suspect, a chicken and a turkey both died.

We bury every animal that dies as our house. It is respectful, I feel, although a huge pain. The morning we discovered the deaths of the turkey and chicken was a maddening one. We were in a rush get the children ready and head out of the house for the entire day. There was simply no time to bury the poor creatures. Nick, in his infinite wisdom, placed them both in a plastic trash bag and left them on the drive way for us to handle when we got home.

The day was a long one, we pulled down our long drive way around 10 that night. I was tired, my husband was tired, my children were asleep in the back seat. As we approached the house, the headlights illuminated the driveway. Nothing was clearly visible, but it was apparent that the area was littered with something. Out of the corner, Lola popped her head up and grunted her greetings. She had broken through the gate and made her way over to the poor deceased chicken and turkey. What was all over the driveway were pieces and parts of their remains. (Let me interject here- I am not certain which is worse, having to clean up feet and heads and internal organs during the day time when you can visibly make out every part of the animal you are picking up OR carrying around a flashlight, illuminating, like a spotlight on an actors performance, each piece.) That night stuck with us for many months, if for no other reason than 100’s of chicken and turkey feathers clung to the fencing along the property as a daily reminder.

I tell Lola constantly that no other pig has it better than she does. She doesn’t recognize this. I informed her that all of her siblings were sold for slaughter and the pig farm down the road was forced to close thus her mother and father were slaughtered as well. I would be hard pressed to believe that she isn’t the last of her bloodline. She doesn’t care though. She has 5 acres to run at her whim. She has goats to chase and a donkey to torment. She has fresh mud to lay in and she has people to clean up the havoc that she causes. Yesterday, darling Lola, broke out again (the children undid the strap on the fence). Our neighbor called asking if we were missing our pig. With haste my husband darted down the driveway and across the road. He was told that Lola had headed towards a neighbor who is far more gun friendly than I believe necessary. At that information, Nick let out his usual pig call, “LOLAAAAAAAA”. From across the field he could hear her grunting affectionately and running. Maybe, deep down inside, she does understand how well she has it.

7. Jogging

Lately I have been feeling very nostalgic. My youngest child recently turned two. I reminisce  about the trips to the park with my daughter when she was the same age. If the city is good for something, other than lap-band surgeries, it is bike trails! I miss putting my daughter in the jogging stroller and running (walking) along the Trinity River. I miss the little dogs with their elderly owners struggling to keep up, the bikes passing on the left, the overly fit people, passing me and then re-passing me an hour later… their sole purpose to make lesser fit people realize their inadequacies.

I would always start my walk at Foster Park and then walk to the River from there. It is a nice walk through shady, densely covered areas and through extremely nice neighborhoods. And we had our favorite little stopping points- Always, as we came around the bend, we would look for the fox that inhabited the park. At the tiny waterfall, I would let her out of her stroller to throw rocks in to the water. One of the houses in the neighborhood had topiary monkeys hanging from their trees. This was her favorite stopping point. On the way back, we would revisit everything again and then we would spend an hour at the playground. I feel sad thinking about it because this isn’t a memory that Linus, the baby, will ever be able to share.

Of course I know this is silly. As he was climbing up and down the dry creek bed, that runs through our property, and then hurried off to chase the goats, I knew my feelings of nostalgia were misplaced. Obviously, his childhood is not going to be lessened by the fact that he didn’t see a bunch of silly monkeys in the trees, but I am a momma and it all just resonates with the understanding that they won’t stay little forever.

I believe, on average, people in the country weigh more than people in the city. Perhaps it is the love affair that they seem to have with mayonnaise, perhaps they are too busy to walk for recreation, or perhaps they just don’t have ANY trails to walk on. For the first year and a half I waited, patiently for the town to build a bike trail that went in front of my property on to some scenic route but around the same time Verizon was telling me that, “no, high speed internet was not going to come to my home any time soon”, I also realized that I was not going to get a bike trail. With that, I decided that I would start walking the road in front of my house.

I live on a fairly busy street, meaning that every 20 minutes or so, a car will drive past… at 70mph. Unlike 3/4 of the streets near me, mine is paved. This is a major plus when it comes to heavy rain or having to drive to the doctor after an ice storm. I decided to grab one of my dogs and set off on my journey. 1/2 a mile into the walk  I had this unsettling feeling I was being stalked. Let me first explain, that this is pretty much my view continuously:

 

 

With that said, I found myself  turning around, again and again, to make sure I wasn’t being followed. Behind my back, I could feel the breath of someone about to lunge. I could see them, in my mind’s eye, creeping up to me, with long fingers outstretched, to grab me and drag me to….. NOWHERE, because there is NOTHING out here. The more that I felt this recurring presence, the more I recognized how my brain had been trained from walking the city trails. As a woman, there is a constant awareness, that you must have, whenever you are in a somewhat secluded situation. My stalker, was nothing more than a figment of my well trained sense of cognizance.

The other day, I tried to explain to a friend, the fear of safety on a country walk versus safety on a city walk, but, before I could even get to my anxiety of someone hiding behind trees, I was interrupted by her exclamation of, “Oh, I bet! There are plenty of coyotes and bobcats out there.” Damn, I hadn’t even thought of that.

6. Banks

I live in Whitewright, Texas. Population under 2000. With as much intensity as I dislike Bonham, I like Whitewright. It’s downtown stretches a block. The majority of those buildings are one story tall. It has a very sweet little movie theater that plays 1 movie a week. For a small Texas town it also has a more liberal feel. The mayor is black and I have never heard a negative word said about the homosexual couples that inhabit it. On top of that, I have even met a couple of big city transplants. That isn’t even counting my mother, who followed us up here and has tried to make herself out to be a local. She took a volunteer job at the Meals on Wheels and spends many a day at the center playing canasta “with the girls”. Months passed with her saying, “I fine, how you?” to me before I finally asked her what on earth she was talking about. I came to find out this was her form of country vernacular. My mother, who is half Japanese and half white, thoroughly believed that everyone she said this to thought her to be from the area. My husband, who has a thick drawl (for a city boy), was actually asked if he was from California by one of the hardware store girls. Had he just said, “how you” to her, obviously, she would have known better.

A lot of things are nice about living in a small town: no waits at the restaurant, no automated messages at the water department,  the children get to wear their Halloween costumes to school and everyone knows you. For instance, my husband goes to our bank, in town, once a week. When he pulls up he is greeted with, “Hi, Nick”. From there, he can just tell them he would like some money. There is no signing anything in triplicate or giving samples of blood. They hand him his money, and 3 dum-dum lollipops, one for each child that they know is stashed in the vehicle. I went in to my previous bank, once a week, for seven years. Rarely, I could see the faintest hint of recognition cross their face. In Whitewright, you feel like a rock star.

The Whitewright bank does not have an ATM. One time when I was in Sherman I decided to run by one at the bank branch there. I pulled my car in to the drive through and ran my card. It instructed me to enter my PIN number but there were no numbers on the screen to push. I was perplexed. I jabbed my finger at the display. I ran my thumb across. I canceled the transaction and ran my card again. All to no avail. I tried everything short of jumping out of the vehicle and kicking the machine. Just as I was about to go in to the lobby and tell the stupid bank that their stupid machine was broken- I saw the keypad. I was expected to punch the numbers in manually on an antiquated, metal, pad. Dallas probably has laser facial recognition by now. I wouldn’t know because I am still stuck with the Atari 2600 of bank instruments.

Here is an interesting tidbit of knowledge that I recently discovered about Whitewright and completely on subject, given the title…. (you have to take what you can get in a town this small)

“Whitewright was the home of US Lieutenant Joe Tom Meador, who after World War II looted several major pieces of art from a cave near QuedlinburgSaxony-AnhaltGermany. On April 19, 1945, American troops occupied Quedlinburg. Various treasures of art were secured in a cave near the castle Altenburg. Meador was responsible for the security of the cave. Meador, a soldier with good knowledge of art, recognized the importance of the treasures (among them being Gospel of Samuel and the Crystals of Constantinople). He sent the treasures to Whitewright via army mail, and the art was placed in a safe at the First National Bank of Whitewright. Meador died in 1980, and his heirs tried to sell ten pieces of Beutekunst (looted art) on the international art market. After a long search and judicial processes, the art was returned to Germany in 1992 and was investigated because of damages to the pieces. At first those stolen artifacts were exhibited in Munich and Berlin but were finally returned to Quedlinburg in 1993. However, two of the pieces stolen by Meador are still in the United States at an unknown location.”

If my description of Whitewright has intrigued you enough to want to move here…