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…

5. Chickens

We decided to move out in to the country for a myriad of reasons.

1. Schools: We thought it would be nicer for the children to go to a smaller school. Especially when they got to middle school and kids tend to be hateful to one another. The sad thing is we left at exactly the same time that the city’s public schools were finally adding vegetarian options to their daily lunch menu. It may seem like a little thing, but I felt badly not being there to support it. Just picture the contrast between that and the fact that their new school has children in it whose parents actually slaughter their own food.

2. We run a dog rescue group. The city only allows you to have three dogs at any one time. Currently, I have 14. I doubt any of my previous neighbors would have condoned this.

3. Chickens. My husband, at the time, was a vegan. He very much felt that if he could raise his own chickens humanely it would be okay to consume the eggs. When he looked in to having chickens, in the city, there were too many restrictions to make that possible. Besides, I doubt any of my previous neighbors would have condoned this.

The children, Quinn and Caden, love their new school. Caden loves it mostly, I feel confident, because they have a large television set up in the cafeteria. This televisionshows a steady stream of Scooby Doo. This television blares non-stop through lunch. I think, my husband and I, are the only parents who hate this television. But, after all, we are from the city- where there would be a parental uprising over, not just the fact that educational programs are NOT being shown, but that there is this television in the first place.

Movies are also shown regularly in the place of recess, if the weather is a little bad. In the city, the teacher chooses the movie based on what has been deemed acceptable by the school board  or they simply play games. Here, the children bring movies. Quinn decided to take a 1966 Disney movie called “The Ugly Dachshund”, (If you hadn’t seen it, it is a cute little comedy about Great Dane that thinks he is a doxie.) 5 minutes in to the movie the teacher turned it off and said it wasn’t appropriate. Why? Because the two ADULTS in the movie were celebrating his birthday by drinking a glass of wine. I, being me, was incensed and wanted to drive up to the school and tell that teacher how ludicrous it was that a movie, in which a married couple is depicted sleeping in two separate beds, could ever be called inappropriate. However, my passive aggressive side got the better of me, so silently I fumed.

Our house, at the time of purchase, had a dilapidated chicken coop. I was excited to get it back up and running. Nick, my husband, took much pride in his first, real carpentry job. I didn’t think that the chickens would care if every rafter of their run was spaced perfectly and level. Nick did care though. With the placement of every board I was forced to endure the ritual of walking over to see that the bubble in the level was precisely in the middle. Our chicken palace, is sturdy and strong and above all else… it is straight.

After it’s reconstruction we set forth to find chickens, knowing nothing about chickens. A man, in a neighboring town, was selling some called Red Sex Links. Excitedly, we decided to make the drive. (Let it be said here, that in the country, if you pass the location you are attempting to get to, there is a good chance that it will take you several miles before you really realize it.) We didn’t make it to his house until dark. At that time, we decided that 5 hens and 1 rooster would make a fabulous flock. After all, every country home needs the crow of a rooster to get it started in the morning and 5 eggs a day would be more than enough to feed our family. We brought our chickens home and the first few flew out in a tizzy. Two remained, in the back of the crate, not moving. Nick pronounced them dead and in disbelief we stood staring in to the crate wondering how we could have killed two birds by simply transporting them. He reached his hand in to remove the poor creatures from their plastic tomb, when suddenly they sprang back to life and flew at his face in an attempt to escape. Unbeknownst to us at the time, chickens are heavy sleepers and as soon as the sun goes down so do they.

Chickens, I think, need the largest learning curve of all farm animals. The next morning, after getting them, I stood staring at their creepy, scaly feet, uncertain as to how to care for them. Yes, you can read magazine after magazine, and book after book on the subject but actually looking at a living one versus a picture is quite different. Besides, I had found all the magazines quite depressing from an animal lovers stand point. 1. They always addressed killing and eating them and 2. Chickens can catch a ton of gross diseases.  So, I will admit that I could have gone in to this venture a little bit more knowledgeable. Had I actually read more, I may have also known that winter is the worst time for egg production with chickens. So as Nick was warming up the pan for all of the eggs sandwiches he was planning to eat…. the chickens were only laying 1 egg a week.

We have lost many birds over the past year and a half. It took us a bit to learn about injecting the chickens with antibiotics, or proper worming and who the hell would have known that some chickens would sit on an egg until they were dead from dehydration or starvation?! The chicken farmers at the local market are a wealth of information. Decked in overalls and missing teeth you give the most limited description of what your animal is suffering from and they can quickly spit out a home remedy to fix it. One of our chickens legs was breaking out in bumps, they told us to soak it in vegetable oil and it would clear up. In two days, our little chicken was better. I know they think we are funny. They speak down to us in a way that lets me know that in the same way city people characterize country folks as dumb, they think the same of city people.

Before moving out here, I thought chickens only came in white and red. Those are factory birds and for all I knew the selection was limited to that. I was shocked to see the variety that there is. Our flock has now grown to 30 (give or take). Some of the birds are quite impressive. I don’t stare at them with uncertainty any longer. I love watching them and could sit among them for hours, not moving. The hierarchy among them is fascinating and their days are spent pleasantly clucking and pecking at the dirt. I find it very relaxing watching any living creature that is so content just being.