24. Copperhead Bites Hurt

Before anything, I need to share these two pictures with you. This used to be the peaceful, serene view from my home:

Now my view looks like this:


It is so large and obnoxious that one of my neighbors actually called to ask if they were building a Wal-Mart in the field next to me. This is important so we will come back to it.

I had a few friends and my husband say that I should write a blog about my copperhead bite. At first, I protested because honestly, I see no humor in the incident at all. However, after reconsideration I decided that my insight might prove valuable to someone else. After my encounter I tried to fill my head with information on bites, recovery times, and other people’s experiences. I soon realized with only 8,000 reported venomous snake bites a year in the US, that individual stories are not plentiful and even if they were each bite and process is different. After all, the amount of venom released differs and the toxin can be injected in muscles, tendons, nerves, etc, which makes each bite unique. With that said, I found the most reassurance and information reading about various copperhead experiences here. Plus, with less than 3,000 copperhead bites a year, that site helps you feel like a rock star.

In general I am not afraid of snakes. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t that long ago that a snake brazenly slithered right in front of me and into the lilies along my sidewalk. With only 20 minutes before I had to leave and get the children from school I refused to allow such an impudent creature to escape. I hunted it down just in time to see it creep behind the cement steps that led to my porch. Profanity flowed from my mouth like a river and angry adrenaline kicked in while righteous indignation took over towards a snake that had the audacity to not hide in the middle of the day. I pulled the heavy steps away and leaped onto the porch to get a better view. Underneath the hollow stairs were 2 heads staring straight up at me. I assessed the situation quickly. Clearly, 20 minutes should be plenty of time to grab a couple of snakes. I could drop them off on the way to get the children. I stuck a stick in the cavity and 4 more snakes lunged forward sending me flying backwards a few feet. I am not one to be deterred and as two of the snakes took off from their hiding spot, like an Olympian I managed to hurdle a 4 foot tall planter, dive in to the lilies and wrangle one of the snakes. I held it up, the snake was nearly as long as my 5 foot 7 inches. With that, I ran into the house to grab a garbage bag and without a single thought stopped before I reached the front door, dropped the snake in the bag, and started to twist the bag closed. Of course, immediately, the snake shot out of the bag and landed on my living room floor then started to make way towards my couch. Even nonvenomous snakes can bite so I have a safe amount of fear and respect of this fact. However, there just isn’t  proper safety protocol that can be followed when a snake is trying to set itself up to be a permanent house guest and I could already hear the screams of my teenage daughter once she learned there was a snake loose somewhere in the house. So I stepped on the snake, grabbed it, threw it in the bag and went to retrieve whatever other snakes were stupid enough to still be under those steps. One extremely angry snake finally put itself in a position for me to pin its head and grab it. I threw it in a bag… while outside… with 4 minutes to spare. (It should be stated here that I have since learned that garbage bags are not the best choice for transporting snakes. I learned this lesson last month as I tossed one in the passenger seat of my car to relocate it. Right before I pulled on the road, I looked down to see a hole in the corner of an empty sack and a snake tail going over the back seats. Consider that my PSA if you consider moving snakes to a different location.)

When you move to the country you are well advised to educate yourself on the venomous snakes in your area and how to best avoid them. In my opinion, I was always careful. When I lifted objects I lifted limiting my exposure to whatever may be lurking underneath, I never walked through tall grass, I watched low hanging tree branches and I never went out at dark without a flashlight to illuminate my path. However, on September 8th, 2017 I made a mistake.

Which brings me back to those two pictures, I admit that I feel too strong of a sense of ownership to the view than I have a right to. We bought our property, in part, because of the extreme privacy we had on our five minuscule acres. I could see no neighbors and no neighbors could see me. I could hear no neighbors and never worried that neighbors could hear me. The tree line of the adjacent property served to mark the passing seasons for me and in my eight years here, I never missed watching intently as the trees went from barren to lush in the course of a spring week. Their bright green foliage brought joy to me as I witnessed the demarcation of winter’s end. I reveled in the process of the planting of that huge field and watched corn, soy beans, and hay grow during the summer… all from my trivial five acres. My neighbor’s property didn’t belong to me, obviously, but my eyes owned the view, or so I felt. So when I watched them stake out a rectangle next to my fence-line I was crushed. They own at least 50 acres. The driveway to their trailer home is on the other side of the field. It made absolutely no sense, in my mind, to build anything next to me. My privacy, my solitude, would be hugely interrupted. Panicked and crazed I handled the situation myself by… sending my husband over to see what they were doing.

Begrudgingly, he walked across our property and jumped the fence, like the Bumbus hounds from A Christmas Story, their 20 dogs greeted him as he learned they were building a workshop for all of “their toys”. I think, had it been me that went over there, I would have discussed the lunacy of building anything so close to a neighbor’s property. I may have pointed out how I am constantly outside… watching, listening, being as nosy as Gladys Kravitz… in a futile attempt of projection. After all, certainly, they wouldn’t want us in their business anymore than I wanted them in ours. Instead, Nick took the opportunity to tell them that the bombs they set off every week were frightening our animals and rattling the windows in our 100 year-old house. He didn’t take the opportunity to inform them the tannerite explosions made one of our dogs run away.  He didn’t tell them that their constant mowing of the front of our property destroyed the bushes we planted. He didn’t speak to them about their incessant need to spray MY fence with pesticide, subsequently killing the ivy and saplings that I tried to grow there. He didn’t even yell at them for flying drones over our house.

As I have mentioned many times, gossip in small towns doesn’t die, it is only replaced with newer, fresher gossip. I should feel proud that the gossip that I keep having rehashed about me is 7 years-old. So, when it traveled down through the gossip chain that our neighbors were calling us dog thieves, I wasn’t surprised. (You can read about that story here.) I did feel a smidgen guilty when I heard that they were ridiculing my poor husband for coming over to speak to them and a little bemused when they said he was complaining about fireworks on the 4th of July. HOWEVER, when the gossip started to spread through the high school and made my daughter cry, as any mother can relate, I was outraged.

All of this just to explain to you how much I hate my neighbors. How much I loathed seeing them every day for months, out gazing at the spot they plotted, mowing the patch weekly, visiting it constantly on bike, 4 wheeler, and truck, while waiting for their bank loan to finalize. How indignant I felt and how stubbornly I refused to let their monstrosity impact my life. So much so that on September 8th, 2017, after I went out to check on something, I conducted my usual silent, passive aggressive, protest by not going back inside just because they were standing, again, admiring their dumb quadrilateral. I stomped resentfully around my yard; it was only 7pm, but I should have known better. As I walked onto the path near my garden I felt something snap my right inside ankle. I turned to double check and saw a small copperhead lying there.

In my memory it was like looking through a pin hole. I see the outer circumference in darkness and a hazy center image. I see the pattern and little more. I probably stared at it for several seconds trying to convince myself that it wasn’t really a snake. Afterwards, I remained collected. I did not remain calm. I ran upstairs to change clothes. I did this because that seemed rational. (I was wearing shorts and no undies and heaven forbid that nurses were going to be down at my feet asking me to lift my leg!) I also grabbed an ice pack from the freezer. Out here there is a choice of two hospitals. The rural one is 10 minutes away. The other one, in a larger town, is 40 minutes away. Logically, to me, the rural hospital, out where the snakes are, would have anti-venom so we chose to go to that one. I would later learn that my running upstairs increased blood flow and the movement of the venom, ice packs are bad, and anti-venom is too expensive to be kept at a rural hospital.

Copperhead bites hurt. Half way to the hospital the pain started to set in. I knew to try and be calm but I was terrified. A copperhead bit me. I had never thought to research what to do or death rates for a copperhead bite. What lay in front of me was unknown and I am a planner. I asked the first nurse, in between screams of “It’s a 10! The pain is a 10!” and bits of profanity, “Will I die from this?” She replied thoughtfully with, “Umm, probably not.” When I was later transferred to the other hospital, I asked the ambulance paramedic if I would die from this to which he responded, “Umm, I think the fact that you got here so quickly is a good sign”. To the nurse at the second hospital I asked if I would die and she reassured me with, “Umm, we are going to do everything we can.” Do you see the pattern of vagueness? The correct answer, after plenty of research is, no, copperhead bites are rarely fatal (as in almost never). However, by the time I had questioned the second nurse about my impending demise I had already worked out in my head that amputating my foot at the ankle was okay, I probably didn’t want to lose the entire leg and death was not really optimal at this time. I had also gone through a checklist in my head of all of my reasons to live and all the embarrassing things I may have left lying around if I died. Rather than reassure me, the nurses seemed more interested in viewing the snake bite, hearing how it happened, and finding out if I killed the snake. As if somehow taking time to kill the snake took precedence over becoming hysterical and getting to the hospital. Truth be told, snake bites are an anomaly and I am sure the medical staff was not hugely well-versed on them. This was evident later as the attending doctor floundered for answers when I asked about future bites and allergic reactions to further treatments of anti-venom. In his defense, I later learned he is a plastic surgeon.

Being bit by a copperhead feels like being hit with a baseball bat by a MLB player. If you would have told me that the snake shattered every bone in my ankle and foot I would have believed you. I received 3 different types of intravenous pain medications and nothing helped. Only after anti-venom and Morphine could I relax.

I was swollen to my hip; it was impossible to move my toes or rotate my ankle. I screamed when any pressure was applied to the leg, it felt like it would burst. The pain was manageable with the foot elevated. It was practically unbearable if I tried to lower it. I was told that my recovery time could be anywhere from three weeks to three months. What I chose to hear was- “Because you are so awesome you will be back to normal in two weeks.” I abhor being sick and a stupid snake would not keep me down. Thus, I begged the doctor to leave the ICU/hospital that morning. I knew it was probably the wrong thing to do as my leg could bear no weight at all, my ankle had swollen into a contorted position and I was exhausted from the smallest movements. However, I wanted to go home to my kids, my husband, my pets, and my own bed (in no specific order).

The car drive was excruciating. To get into the house my husband literally threw me over his shoulders like a backpack and carried me, to which halfway through, I had the audacity to ask for a break so that I could rest and catch my breath. Getting up the stairs to bed required me to sit on my bottom and hoist myself up each step tirelessly. Nick propped my leg like a treasure on a pillow and lifted it as I elevated myself. This was miserable, but my bed felt delicious (if there was an order bed may have ranked first).

For six days straight I lay in bed except for bathroom breaks. After much thought, and a trip on his back to the bathroom, I remembered a wheeled table that he could use to transport me. He kindly indulged me when I asked that he do sound effects as he pushed me to the bathroom. Train sounds turned to plane sounds turned to car sounds that eventually turned to puttering and sputtering and creaking sounds. On the seventh day the pain to the leg, when standing, succumbed enough that I could tolerate short distances on crutches. I cried that night, when, with a lot of assistance, I was able to lower myself into a bath. Getting out of the bath probably took twice as long as the bath itself.

Each day the swelling improved and after twelve days I was able to limp slowly, without crutches. My husband felt that I if I could just swing my arms correctly that my hobble would look more like a strut. It did not. I was still exhausted at the smallest efforts and read that venom destroys red blood cells so I increased my iron and felt better.

I saw snakes everywhere. They were the cat’s tail slipping under a chair, the scarf the girl on TV was wearing, a belt on the floor, a dog’s toy, and everything in my peripheral. On the morning of my 16th day of recovery I decided to finally go into the yard. I missed the outdoors and wanted to help feed the goats and chickens. My youngest child was wonderful to help and be my support. When he guided me over to the spot where I was bit I was filled with trepidation. I couldn’t move and stared at the spot, afraid. As I stood there, I noticed a slight movement. The snake was so well camouflaged with the leaves, that I wouldn’t have noticed it otherwise. I would like to say that I was brave during this encounter, but as my son ran to get his father, I started to hyperventilate. The nurses would be happy to know… we killed the snake. I do not know if I condone killing copperheads, I only know at that moment it felt semi-justified and I was filled with hope that it would relieve me of my prison of paranoia. That was not the case though and I didn’t feel safe until I got my snake-proof boots. Now I courageously stagger around my yard like a drunkard looking to start a fight.

I am now in week three and the improvements have slowed down. I can walk up the stairs, but walking down is tenuous. I tend to walk on the side of my foot because straightening my ankle is painful. I have to consciously force myself to walk heel to toe because I would rather not flex the ankle at all. Also, more than 10 minutes standing or sitting and my foot begins to swell and turn bright red. I think I was a little too optimistic about my recovery time. Even so, things like this can change a person. I have learned to be more grateful. If my recovery stops here I am grateful that I have made it this far. I am grateful for a person in my life to take care of me and employment that made it possible to take the time off to do so. I am thankful for my friends who supported me, checked on me, and/or donated money towards my doctor’s bills. I am also more appreciative of the struggles of others. I feel even more compassion toward the elderly, that walk so slowly or the ill that struggle to walk at all. I have even really tried to come to terms with the eyesore of a building next to me. After all, at least it isn’t an actual Wal-Mart. It wasn’t lost on me that my pettiness was the real cause of my injury. I have to admit though, yesterday when I saw him attempting to install gutters on his vastly too tall building, I laughed hysterically as he fell off the ladder and the ladder fell on him. If he hadn’t built it so close to us I would never have witnessed that… but I digress.

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.

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.

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.

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.

****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:


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.





4. Winter

This is our house, as of today:

It is over 100 years old and has never been insulated. It has wonderful, old, wavy glass, single pane windows. It has 12 foot ceilings and original wooden floors. What this means is… in the winter it is freezing. In the country, there are no buildings to block the wind. The northern wind blows freely over the fields and through the grasses until it reaches the cracks and crevices of my home. To which, with no obstacles to keep it from coming in, it is allowed to roam unabated in to every living area within. Anyone who has ever come in to contact with me, knows because of my incessant complaining, that I hate cold weather. The first winter, my home, was my personal purgatory.

The men that we had purchased this place from had used it as a weekend house. Their sweet little country get away. Looking back though, it is quite possible that there is a distinct reason that they chose to sell the house after only owning it for a year… and that reason, my assumption would be, was WINTER.

One day, while on the couch of purgatory, I took notice that the furnace had not shut off in a considerable amount of time. Up until then I had ignored the fact that I could not only see my breath, the baby’s breath, but also the dog’s breath. With a multitude of blankets draped around me I waddled up to the thermostat to gaze in shocked amazement at the reading of 56 degrees. I am conservative in my temperature selection but not THAT conservative. The furnace stood little chance of warming this house up if it was a constant 10+ degrees cooler than what it was set at. My husband and I spent the next 48 hours in insulation mode. We took apart door jams to stuff it in. We bought 10 cans of that yellow foamy stuff and squirted it everywhere. We covered the windows with heavy fabric. We put down thick covering on the floor, under the stairs. Our conversation was limited to, “I feel air coming in here”, “where”, “right here”, “got it”. We caulked and covered every spot.

That winter we spent (without an iota of exaggeration) $2900 in utility bills towards heating.

This last year we did something about this:

We had two open living areas that we sectioned off. Thought being that I can hold up in the smallest living area with a space heater placed strategically between my legs. Hence, I would never be cold again. It was better… but purgatory was not one to release me from it’s icy grasp so easily.

Last year, my oldest son brought the flu home from school. In his usual fashion, he hardly fell victim to it while I was down for weeks. I was certain that death would claim me at any instant and whining that cetainty to anyone within ear shot. Everyone in the family became ill. However, everyone else seemed to recover within 24 hours. Not me. Texas rarely has snow or severe ice. During my infestation of the flu virus… Texas had both. One night, as I lay on the floor of my bedroom, incapable of making it all the way from the bathroom back to the bed, I realized that if I didn’t see a doctor I actually, really, would die. OF COURSE, on the day that I finally succumbed to the idea of getting medical help, the roads were completely frozen. Having dealt with the small town doctor previously, I was dead set on driving the 40 minutes to a “real” doctor. (My definition of a real doctor is simply a doctor that is willing to give painkillers.Which, for whatever reason, our town’s doctor is not).

Long story short: You can’t drive 70mph on ice. So what normally is a 40 minute drive became an hour and a half drive. I crawled in to the office wearing my pajamas and a coat and lay down in the waiting room. After an examination, blood tests, and x-rays, it was determined that I had pneumonia. He gave me injections, syrups, and best of all… painkillers.

Not much later, another ice storm hit Texas.My husband, who is wonderful beyond measure, is a thunder stealer. (Side note: One time when I was having to undergo a minor surgery he decided to fast in solidarity with me. As the nurse struggled to insert the IV in me, with lack of sustenance in his stomach, he fainted. As if in a ridiculous sitcom, every nurse fell to the floor to help him. I was left laying on the table, alone.) So it is little surprise that as I was still recovering from pneumonia he falls and splits his head open.  As he was letting out our pig, Lola, he rounded the corner and bumped in to her. He slipped on the ice and slammed his head on the concrete. We made the dangerous drive to the town doctor. He received 3 stitches and… no painkillers.

As the air outside starts to take on a chill, I can feel fear starting to set in. I don’t know what winter may hold for me this year but I feel certain that I won’t be able to escape purgatory any time soon.

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