Wednesday, January 21, 2009


If you really know me, you've heard the bigfoot story. If you haven't heard it, you can go to and read it. I don't want to write it again because over ten years have gone by and it's still scary! While you're there, check out some other sightings. Just pick a state and a county or read the recent sightings link. Apparently I'm not the only crazy person in the world. In fact, the BFRO reports up to 400 sightings per year in every state except Hawaii. Surely some of these are hoaxes, but all are investigated and only the sightings deemed credible are posted to the website.

I have a confession to make. In the story I wrote, I embellished one detail. Back in 98' or whenever I posted the sighting, I desperately wanted people to believe me and so I added the part about smelling something. I didn't smell anything and I thought that I should since it was right outside my tent. I'm ashamed to think now that I made up even a tiny detail, because it hurts the credibility of anyone who's reported a sighting. Anyways, I want to set the record straight now and come clean. Everything else in that story is the most accurate recollection of the events that occurred that night.

Nowadays I trust myself enough to know what it was I encountered and not to worry about what anyone else thinks or believes. Most of my friends don't believe that I saw anything, only that I believe I saw something. I always tell them to look into it for themselves. It's not a question of belief, it's not some pseudo religion or funky bigfoot cult. The question, to me it seems, is entirely scientific in nature. Does a large bipedal primate exist in North America, as yet undiscovered by science? I think if one really takes a close look at the evidence and doesn't allow oneself to be influenced by tabloid culture, they might be surprised. After all, when I tell my story and explain that I think it was a family of Sasquatch that passed through our campsite, the number one most asked question is always: There's more than one of them? I guess they think it's a crazy hillbilly who made his way into the monkey exhibit at the zoo one night.
What evidence you might ask. Footprints for one. But they're not all the same size. Their sizes perfectly reflect a bell curve. What scientists would expect from a natural population. Some of them show injuries. Better castings show dermal ridges, basically toe prints that have been analyzed by law enforcement professionals who stake their reputation on their authenticity. Hair with DNA that is closely related to the mountain gorilla and humans but is neither. Missing link anyone? I could keep going but I can see my wife rolling her eyes and then stuffing her hands in her armpits and going "whoo whoo whoo" kinda like Pattyo's happy chimp call, only louder and deeper.
Of course, there are those that must see things for themselves. To those brave souls, I recommend attending an expedition. For the bargain basement price of $300 (returners are only $100), you can attend a camping trip in a secluded "hot spot". Your expedition will be guided by "experts" who tote all sorts of sophisticated equipment. Speakers that blast BF screams into the night (listen for the return call and hold on), infrared goggles, plaster of paris, etc. Just don't ask me to come along. I've been there and done that.
Plus, everyone's seen the jerky commercials, "messing with Sasquatch" by now right?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Complicated Man

Heyman got his nickname because he addresses everyone he knows as "Hey Man". "Heyman, whatrya doin Man? Dude, whatryou doin dude? Heyman, what's up?"
Heyman's got a quad, two trucks, three boats, and gadgets, lots of duck hunting gadgets. One of them looks like a big Y that spins around with a duck on each arm, whirring their wings and seeming to hang on for dear life like a kid on a merry-go-round gone haywire. Pattyo asked him how you get it started without getting your head knocked off and he wasn't quite sure. He's got mojo mallards, wonderducks and even a half dozen "winduks".
The thing about our flapping circus is that he's always dissing old man Phil's spread. It's true that Phil's stubborn and set in his ways. He has been hunting this pond since before our Daddy's even knew our Mommy's. And it is true that we'd probably kill a few more ducks every year if he'd just make everyone's life easier and just move it up his path twenty yards. But if he wants to have two thousand decoys out on his pond and plastic ducks with fountains that shoot water out their butts, I say more power to him. But lately Heyman has taken the attitude that if you can't beat him, join him. The last month of the season our pond looked more like Barnum & Bailey than something out of a Duck Commander video. But I give him his props. He works hard to get his ducks. He takes it seriously.
When the birds don't come right over, he wants to move the decoys. When they flare, he's already making plans to take a back hoe out here over the summer and sink em another six inches. When they cut us short, he wants to sink the blinds and move them 30 yards to the southeast. Or he just disses my white dog. His is black and she's named "Red". See! Complicated. It's like, if he can totally confuse the hell out of you, he's won.

A pair of widgeon circle the open water in front of us and I give them a "where are you" call as they angle away from us.
"They're flaring on the widgeon call dude" he says.
When they circle back he goes, "Dude, here they come."
"Alright I see them", I whisper.
"Dude, get ready!"
"I'm ready dude." I say a little louder.
"Dude do you see em?" he shouts.
"Yeah, I do!" I shout back, irritated he didn't hear me the first few times.
Heyman goes, "SHHHHHHH".
We shoot at the same duck and it falls but his mate gets away.
"Dude, you had to shoot at the duck on my side didn't you?"
"It was on your side until they flew straight over. I took the one in front because the one in back was closer to you."
"Dude, this side is my side and that side is yours."
I can't see which way he's pointing and I don't pay attention because it will probably change the next time. I'm watching the dogs retrieve when a pair of teal buzz us from the North.
"AWW Duude! You're supposed to be looking that way dude!"
I had been looking that way but I got distracted. In all the excited electricity caused by the complicated man, I forgot what distracted me. Humm, could've been my coffee. Or maybe I was making sure I had shells in my gun. On second thought, there are a bunch of ladybugs in the blind this year.
"I was watching that way!" I defend myself, knowing that getting buzzed is just part of the game. That's where we differ in philosophy and attitude. I can let it go and vow to be ready the next time. Heyman holds onto it like a canker sore. For the next half-hour he'll be bitching, recounting our birds and adding or subtracting "those three we shoulda had", until he wears it out. One time I even caught him telling himself to shut up. That made me feel better. I'm not the only one.
The problem with the complicated man is that he's always keeping score. It's like he thinks when we get back to the clubhouse, someone is going to take a picture of us and pin a blue ribbon on it somewhere on the shack's "wall of fame". There are a few photo galleries but no official record books. All of the pictures are of guys out hunting or fishing and enjoying themselves while doing it. What Heyman fails to realize is that there is no official record book besides the one that he keeps in his head.
Sometimes he can't even count. Like the time we spent an extra two hours in a ferocious December storm to fill out our limits. Until he found two teal "Oh Dude, chuckle, chuckle," he had stuffed up under the cover and we could finally head home.
A big flock of sprig start working the blind. I let the complicated man do the calling. I don't want his criticism of my calling to scare them off. They circle overhead and he's like, "should we take these?" I pull up on them and decide that they're a little far out. Even though everyone on the club does it, no one wants to be the "skyscraper". Heyman yells at me.
"Why didn't you take those? DUUUUUUUUDe those were right there. You aimed at em, what are you waiting for?"
I'm watching the north intently and a smaller flight starts to work our way. There's a single bull that's just in range. "Heyman, check these out!"
I pull up slowly and he's like, "Nelson NO!" But I'm determined and I've been hunting with him long enough to know when to tune him out. "Boom" goes the shotgun and the pintail folds up and begins the long fall into the pond. "Splash" and the dogs are on it.
"huhuhuhuh" he chuckles, "I guess it wasn't too high."

Like I told you, he's a complicated man. But one things for sure, there's never a dull moment.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Simple Man

Pat "Pattyo" Ring is a simple man. Give him a job, a Lay Z boy with a big screen TV in front and a team to root for and he's happy. Take today for instance. He's working that rocking chair like a granny knitting a scarf. He's cradling his favorite ice-cold, ribbon-award winning, traditional American beverage and the Sharks are taking on the Calgary Flames. We're over for dinner and his wife has prepared a wing-dinger: Grilled chicken and Wild duck (tule belle teal to be exact), asparagus and mashed potatoes. The dogs are out back romping contentedly and my children are suprisingly placid.
The thing about a simple man though, is that they like things straight. Predictable. Throw one curveball, change the plan or "jam-up" a guy like Pattyo? The whole works go flying like pee wee herman with a stick in his spokes.
Pattyo just got Hi Definition TV and CABLE. He's graduated to the big time. He can see the cuts and scars crystal clear on his favorite players faces. Witness the blood and snot flying off their noses like a Roman in the Colloseum. Ultra-mega-pixelated-clarity. Only tonight, for reasons unfathomable and unforgiveable to a simple kinda man, Pattyo can't get the sharks game in HD. He can get it on regular cable but that's not what he's paying extra for. That's not why he went through all the hassle. To his credit, he edits out everything for the benefit of the chilluns.
"These A-holes won't give me my HD! Somebodies gonna be sending me a refund check. Wellll, I'm glad we're paying extra for this POS HD cuz I'm refunding the entire MFer tomorrow." When he gets on a role, his voice starts to escalate until it echoes and you can feel the windows shaking. He mashes on the controller with his meaty thumb, hoping the extra exertion will return his world back into the comfort of simplicity. A world where you get what you pay for and things work out like they should. He's now pointing the remote at odd angles, hoping to change the channel back to MTPattyo.
I give him credit though. I've known him since I could suck on my thumb and his temper has steadily improved. He used to get so mad, his face would thicken with blood, the veins would pop out on his forehead and he'd pound his thighs with his fist like someone just stole his car. Once he smashed the windshield of his VW bug when it wouldn't start for him.
Sarcasm is his saving grace. "Welp, I'm glad we pay extra for all this magic BS because I'd just as soon watch the D thing from a TV with a dang antennae like we did back when I was a kid." One of the hallmarks of a thoroughbred simple kinda man is to have a strong sense of nostalgia.
The sharks score a goal in the first minute and all is forgiven. He stands up, pointer finger wagging a little rain dance, spinning as he taps his feet and calls his happy chimp call, "whooo whooo whooo". He pops the collar on his sharks jersey and lets everyone know that he's got the name of the guy that just scored that goal on his back!
He doesn't mind that Tanner is now flying around the room like an airplane, stepping on his baby brother. He doesn't even notice when the dogs scratch the slider with their paws. His LazBoy has hit a new steady, rocking rythmn. He's content, the king of his castle. Life is good. Things are simple and that's how he likes it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Too busy to breathe

Ok, so the caveman supposedly had it soooo rough. Gotta make fire, gotta keep dragging your woman back into the cave when she keeps running off, gotta sharpen your spear and hunt the wooly mammoth. Let me tell you something. The Caveman's got nothing on me.
Wake up to the alarm at 6:15 (Caveman probably didn't wake up until well after sun-up). My dog is licking my face, she needs to go out but she wants me to go with her. Stumble to the coffeemaker (yes it's got a timer but who remembers to make their coffee the night before?) while my Cat tries to herd me over to the tuna cans he knows are in the cupboard. Get out the can opener and tuna can. Rinse utensils and empty can because they've got to be clean before you recycle them in this new-age green world. Is it just me or does being "green" mean spending more money and adding more hassle to your life? Must be worth it since the caveman was a gross polluter.
Now it's time to move on to the children. Don't get me wrong here, my wife does most of this but for all practical purposes, we're both competing with the caveman. For Tanner we need to get him dressed and pull his security blanket from his "Kung Fu" grip. Yes, it's better to get down on his level and have a mature talk with him but the clock is ticking and I still need to take care of the 3 S's: S&%$, Shower and Shave. Cavemen only had one S.
The baby is a little more complicated. Breast milk must be preserved and stored along with bottles, liners and the proper nipple. Extra clothes are a given along with bibs and his chewy Giraffe Sophie. Next is the car seat that meets federal regulations and of course must be fitted each day to fit the baby. We can't use the baby seat because it has a base-life is complicated. He also needs the bumbo, a big blue foam seat the shape of his butt that suctions to the ground. He's also got a cushiony crib, like a cross between a basket and a purse that we've got to lug over to daycare. We're among the lucky few who can walk across the street to our daycare provider. Since it's so close, it saves us from having to buckle the kids into the car along with all of their "gear". We just have to make two trips with our hands and arms full. Oh yeah, I can't forget the diaper bag with all necessities: diapers, wipies, "boogie" wipies (these have a saline solution which softens those crusty and hard to remove boogers), snacks, cereal mix, formula (even though he doesn't drink it, just in case), teething rings, homeopathic teething tablets, gum gel, medicine, diaper rash cream and of course the pacifier. Mind you if ANYTHING is ommitted here, all hell could break loose at any minute.
Next, because we have a mortgage, car payments, credit cards, utilities, cell phones, cable and wireless internet, (not to mention that we have to pay taxes) we go to work. We pack lunches that we can microwave because we don't have time to rub sticks together and blow on the tinder. We bring our gradebooks with us, serving the illusion that there will be time at night to grade papers. Once we get to class we put the lesson on the board, give instructions to our students along with praise and reprimands, we wait for our computers to boot up (leaving it on all night is definitely not green) and take role and enter assignments into the electronic gradebook, along with comments, seating chart changes and tardies, etc. I won't even get into all the acronyms that Maya is involved with: BTA, VAPA, and Site Council (I know it's not an acronym but it fits the bill). Later we'll attend an IEP or 504 conference.
I once read a study on stress in the workplace and it determined that the most stressful jobs involved the number of decisions that needed to be made throughout the day. Teaching and Policing were tops. Don't get me wrong, I love working with kids, molding the minds of tomorrow's workforce. It's just that they drain you slow and steady such that you don't realize it until you have a moment's peace. And they love to ask questions. "When's this due?" "Can I go to the bathroom?" "Mr. Nelson, were you a hippy?"
When we get home, we lug everything back to the Casa. Tanner needs snax and constant attention. I'm guilty of setting him in front of a good ole' Little Einsteins DVD, but I also feel guilty. You know you're not supposed to show your kid TV until they're three? I'll bet the cave children just lay on the cave floor and stared at the fire all day, chewing on a mammoth bone. They didn't have to worry about ADHD and autism back then. So I say, "Tanner, don't you want to go outside and play soccer?" And he says, "No, I wanna watch this." He doesn't even glance his glazed-over-eyeballs at me. I've fed the cats, taken out the garbage, put everything away and now I want him to go outside and play dammit. So we go outside and hit his soccer ball off the Tee. The dog needs to play fetch so I get Tanner engrossed in his sandbox and after playing catch with the dog and scooping up the poop and any children's toys that he's chewed to death, I notice that Tanner is soaked with water because he's learned how to use the faucet. So I scoop up some chow for Montana and drag Tanner inside to change his shirt so I don't have to answer anymore questions.
For our convenience, Maya makes prepackaged dinners at a restaurant without an oven called Dream Dinners. We store them in the freezer and then thaw them out a day in advance so as to be ready for the next day. They're great only you still need to be inconvenienced by that little task called cooking. And that leads to cleaning, wiping the counter, stacking and running the dishwasher, taking out the recycling, all the while paying complete and full attention to the children.
Now it's time for baths. Run the tub, find the proper soaps (lets see, baby tear free, lightning McQueen bubbles or Barney Shampoo?) Then we get a frog towel and play ribbit for awhile. Next it's time to change into jammy's and read some stories. Tanner loves stories. Just when I've finished the third or fourth and I think I'm done he says, "I wanna hear that one again daddy". One thing I wouldn't change with Caveman is the CD player in Tanner's room.
Do you want the pirate story, Simba, Frog and Toad or some classical?
Ummmmmmmm, frog and toad. Wait, baby needs to go potty!
Ok Tanner hurry up.
Daddy? Read me another story.
No Tanner, it's time for night night. He blows me a kiss and I spin around, "ouch! you got my chin!"
Do it again daddy!!
Oh, my elbow! My ear!!! You missed! OOOO my belly button! Good niiiiight.
Good night.

I win so therefore I lose. All of the wonderful creations and devices that we've created for our own luxury have only served to separate us, like a polar bear adrift on the last iceberg, farther from the serenity of a warm fire, a cave, a nice mammoth chop to munch on and a wooly rug to go to sleep in.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tricky Dick

Tricky Dick was my best buddies Dad and a friend of mine. Unfortunately, he's gone now. I miss him and I know his son Brian does too. He was his best friend as well as his Father.

His son is my hunting partner, "HeyMan Brian" because he's not the same as my other buddy from Chico "Brian". He addresses everyone he knows as "Hey Man". My other buddy Ken was like, "don't let him know we call him "Heyman". But when I told "Heyman" he was like, "right on, I'm Heyman". He named his old boat, "The Heyman". He would've named his new boat, "The Heyman II" but we all know that it's bad luck to rename a boat.

Anyways, "The Big Dick" as he was affectionately known, was the nicest guy you'll ever meet. Whenever he came up to hunt with Heyman from his home on a golf course in SoCal, he would want to know how everything was going. "Cliffy", he would say with his deep vibrato, "how the hell are you?" I remember when we went dove hunting last fall and we reverted to "poaching" birds off the power lines somewhere near Chico. Everyone took a turn knocking them down. When it was my turn, I missed twice. "Cliffy", he said, "don't you know? When you're poaching, (everyone waited for his words of wisdom) YOU ONLY GET ONE SHOT!" I know somewhere he's still laughing about that one.

The Big Dick (another one of his many pseudonyms) also had a unique way of reeling in salmon. Apparently (I only heard about it on the next trip out) he liked to reel in his catch from a seated position. The entire week after their trip, Pattyo kept teasing Heyman about Tricky Dick's fish fighting tactics. We all had a good laugh.
The following weekend found us out trolling all day near Duxberry when Heyman got a bite. It was one of those rare times that I told him his rod was going off and then patiently waited for him to make a move (usually I just grab it while he threatens to kill me). It took a second for him to realize that 1)I wasn't going to try and reel in his fish and 2) this was the only bite all day. He lunged for his rod con mucho gusto, knowing I would snatch it if he hesitated. The boat sorta rocked as he flew across the deck and he ended up slamming on the floor of his boat in a seated position, fighting that fish (which ended up making up for a slow day at 30 lbs.) nearly the entire time from a seated position. Like Father like Son.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Rather than try and capture the raw essence that is Tule Belle with another epic story, I thought it better to chronicle the everyday encounters of the average Duck Man.
Curtis bonked his head on the counter. Everyone's making fun of the way he looks, but even though I haven't seen him yet, I know better. He'll come out of this whole thing with just another scar that makes him more attractive to the kind of woman he attracts. They're out there and I'll leave it up to the reader to decide exactly what kind of woman that is. Suffice it to say that Curtis does have some game.
It's Saturday afternoon and I've got some time to hunt. Heyman, Skiddy, DZo and his buddy (the boys) are out at the firing line, using up all the shells they don't want to see rusting this summer. They've got a few birds on the hook and Heyman tells me I can't bring my dog. Pattyo is out with Ole' Man Phil and Rizzo (remember that chic from Grease?) his Chesapeake that won't lay down but doesn't break either. Gary and Tom anchor down "the middle" of the club.
I decide that Montana is the best company out there and to take a trip down memory lane, I head for plan B. "The Rice Check"is an undesirable section of the Tule Belle that I have permission to hunt. I've noticed that it's been holding birds of late, probably because no one has hunted it for the last few weeks. So I pull off the club road late in the afternoon, before I arrive at the shack, and pull on my waders and begin the three-hundred-yard wade.
Not ten minutes into the hunt, with Montana sticking out like a sore thumb, a bull sprig and widgeon make a circle in the forgotten zone. They split up and the widgeon circles within range. I let it go, hoping the sprig will come around and of course it doesn't.
Meanwhile, Montana's got nowhere to hide. This is the first time I've hunted these blinds all year and, besides having absolutely no cover, there's no dry land for the dog. A good retriever will endure the most severe of conditions, but there are some necessities that they require, much like a visiting Rock Star. First and foremost being a dry place to lay-in-wait.
Luckily Gary and Tom are in good spirits, and buzz by my blind, hoping to scare some birds my way. For reasons inexplicable to even the most seasoned, they're trying to help me out. Nothing jumps even though I've been watching widgeon throw their nose in the air at me all afternoon, only to land a few hundred yards to the east of me, where they're running their boat now. When they turn down the "main ditch" however, the widgeon get nervous and jump.
They're headed right for me and I can't "duck" (pun intended) down far enough into my spider infested "porta-potty" as they fly overhead (Ok infested might be a little harsh but I did kill a big ole' black widow earlier). A pair decides to come right over and I revert to my firing-line, sky-scraping days. The hen drops and I can't pick up the drake diving to follow her. Montana throws the lid she's been sitting on out into the pond and engulfs the widgeon, delivering it to my waiting hand like she was born to do.

Basking under the glow of the propane hand-and-face heater on Gary's porch, watching the Arizona Cardinals face the North Carolina Panthers, (a game which I could care less about but which apparently is the catalyst on everyone's parlay card) I decide this wasn't such a bad hunt for a new spot. I'm also thinking you should never bet against Curt Warner(sic?) and Edgerin James (ditto?).
Heyman and Skiddy racked up two limits compared to a handful by Derek and Co. (chalk it up to experience, a good dog and the fact that Skiddy is nobody's punk when it comes to knocking down ducks out of the sky). Pattyo comes weaving down the slough just as the marsh takes on that orange magical glow, outlasting even the most die-hard of diehards, his partner 70 something year-old Phil Smith. Phil is notorious for waiting out even the most gung ho of club gunners. Pattyo proudly held his sprig up for all to see. He offered it to me to make into sausage. "You want it?" he asked.
When I said "Sure", he plucked out the six inch tail feathers and handed it over.
Not a bad evening at the old club, especially considering that the weather man was right for once. It was sunny and clear, with a slight breeze.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Sargeant Curtis Hale and the Sawzall Blade

I wanna talk about what my wife calls the "porta-potties", not because I hope to convince her that my passion (OK Obsession) for duck hunting is glorious and honorable (I do think it is, but I've long ago given up any hope of convincing her). Nor because I want to defend the dignity of a duck blind (it doesn't care what anyone thinks). No, the duck club that I've been hunting for the past twelve years has a story that needs to be told.

The Tule Belle is inexcusable and unapologetic. It's inhabitants a rogue stew of contractors, retirees and tradesman: back stabbers and backslappers, best friends and enemies depending on the fog or the sunshine and the wind and the migration. It is mud and pickle weed, rusty irrigation tubes and fresh green cattails sprouting from a mucky slough bank of decaying biomass that admittedly does resemble the contents of a porta-potti and smells about as sweet.
It's dwellings are both ramshackle and dilapidated, historical and rejuvenated, floating precariously atop a two acre flat of gravel known as "the compound". It has been around as long as the town of Benicia and yet feels as fragile and delicate as pollen on a dandelion in a windstorm. Most nearby residents don't know it, but the Suisun Marsh is one of the largest freshwater estuaries on the Pacific Coast.
One doesn't get this sense of fragility until they truly understand the inner workings of the marsh. In the summer, when the ponds are drained and it's possible to operate heavy equipment on it's crusty surface, the water table lurks only inches below, waiting for rain or the turn of an irrigation gate to bring it back to life. The buildings sink a few inches every year and are constantly being jacked up and reinforced. Last summer, a parking lot sank into the slough overnight. And yet the shack my buddies rent used to be the ice house for market hunters over a hundred years ago, when the only way to get there was by boat and later by train. An ill advised route that is more difficult to maintain than the arctic tundra. Nowadays, "the shack" is furnished with a 75 inch big screen, LayZBoy and sectional couch.
Here's a story. "Uncle Curtis", a proud Vietnam Veteran and the Tule Belle caretaker, was having an addition built onto his double wide, complete with south facing skylights. His former partner "Scary Larry" (who tragically passed away in his sleep last year in his early forties) was part of the crew. Curtis had just come home from work and mixed himself the first cocktail of the afternoon in preparation for some good old "straw bossing". I remember a pencil fell on the floor and Curtis walked under a ladder to retrieve it for one of his volunteer work crewmen. Time stood still after that. Larry decided to retrieve the sawzall off the roof in true Tule Belle fashion, whipping the extension cord "rodeo style" off the unfinished roof.
I was standing about ten feet away.
I heard the "zzzzt" of the sawzall and Curtis let out a stifled, grunting "Aaargh".
I still can't believe it. CSI could do an episode on it if Curtis wasn't still hauling his happy butt out hunting every morning and cooking his favorite grilled potato dish.
Curtis was standing there holding the Sawzall with both hands in front of his face. I couldn't understand how or why he caught it in mid-air until I saw that the ten inch blade had poked through the cartilage in front of his nose. He's got to be the toughest bastard I've ever met. He never screamed. He kept grunting "AAAAhhh" but it wasn't a scream, he was just grunting and dealing with the problem facing him at the moment.
Everyone circled Curtis all at once, contemplating this sudden turn of events. One moment it's a work party and the next moment, Curtis has a Sawzall blade through his nose. Everyone stopped that is, except Larry. When he was younger, some genius (probably one of his friends) had filled a Budweiser can with gas and Larry (friend of genius?) mistook it for his freshie. Ever since, he will barf at a good joke.
Larry disappeared to puke and then came back with some box cutters. I volunteered that we should keep the blade in. My lifeguard training taught me to leave the foreign-object-removal up to the pros. But in my shaken (I can honestly say I didn't panic but I probably would've been better off) condition and due to the fact that I'm an English teacher and not a carpenter, I couldn't figure out how to remove the blade. Plus, Larry had the box cutters all ready and he was feeling guilty, so he cut a straight, neat score right across the top of Curtis' nose, above the top edge of the sinister Sawzall blade. Larry removed the blade like he was playing Operation only it wouldn't just buzz if he made a wrong move, Curtis would probably punch him in the throat.
We applied some toilet paper and then later packed gauze on top. My Lifeguard training taught me to never remove bandaging once it's applied so as not to interfere with the blood clot. (I admit, my Lifeguard training seemed pathetic in comparison with the problem at hand.) My buddy Ken and I volunteered to drive Curtis to the emergency room. After all, his injury wasn't life threatening at this point and all the volunteer crew men probably thought he would feel better when he got back if they made some good progress on his double-wide.
We sat in the emergency room for awhile, trying to talk Curtis out of going back home. I remember thinking that if we had left the blade in, they probably would have brought him in by now. As it was, it just looked like he had a bloody nose. Ken kept trying to explain what kind of damage a Sawzall blade could do but the secretary didn't seem fazed.
In the end, we gave in to Sargeant Curtis Hale. "Just drive me to Raley's and get me some Neosporin and some butterfly Band-Aids!", he kept saying. So we did.
You have to look closely to see the line on Curtis' nose, but it's there. I swear a plastic surgeon would've charged tens-of-thousands more and wouldn't have gotten the results that Curtis did with his Neosporin and Butterfly Band-Aids. On a cold December morning, well before sun-up, with his waders and shotgun and army-surplus-backpack, he almost looks handsome.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Toilet Training Tanner

I have two sons. Tanner is now 2 and a half, Sage is about five months. Since I'm always leaving Maya with the two of them in pursuit of wily waterfowl, I've agreed to play Mr. Mom today. But if that wasn't enough, I've decided to raise the stakes. On a whim I decide, unilaterally of course, that Tanner is ready to wear his Lightning McQueen Big Boy Briefs. I type "potty training" into the google toolbar. The first site gives me a list of criteria that your child must meet in order to be ready for the potty.
Criteria #1: Does your toddler show signs of wanting to do more things for themselves such as pulling up their own pants?
Although he likes for me to pull up his pants, at least he arches his back so I can pull them over his little buttski. To Mom's chagrin, he loves to put DVD's in the player, poking his finger carefully through the hole so as not to scratch it. He would definitely take my truck for a spin if I let him. Check yes on #1.
Criteria #2: Does your toddler have the required verbal understanding? This includes being able to understand and carry out simple instructions.
Well, he is my son. He talks more than we'd like most of the time. When he says, "I'd like three more warm pancakes please. In a bowl." I think he can get his message across. Let's see, when I tell him in the sweetest voice, and get down on his level, that it's nap time, he throws the appropriate temper tantrum. He'll do just about anything if he knows there are trains involved or at least a Little Einstein Episode. Check yes to #2.
Criteria #3: Is your child's bladder and bowel control adequately developed? For instance, can he or she go for two or three hours before wetting their diaper?
Hmmm. This one's a little tougher. I have changed his diaper after nap time and it's dry. I quiz Maya and I get the look. The one that says: "You really want to take this on right now?"
"He's ready babe. I know he can do this. We'll bust out that sticker chart and bribe him with pieces of the sugar cookies that he decorated." She's still not convinced.
"Babe, you need to follow through on this. Aren't you going hunting tomorrow?"
Dammit, she's got me. I'll have to up the ante. Shopping is the great equalizer.
"Look honey, there's a shopping list here! We've got most of this stuff: the big boy briefs, the sugar bribes, the sticker chart. All we need are a few more Thomas the Train Tighties. You can pick em up when you're out with the girls." I can see I'm starting to win her over. I should be careful what I wish for. "Plus, if we're going to do this, it's gotta be a team effort. You gotta back me up on this one Babe. I need your help and support." That does it. Our Wedding Rings are inscribed with the words: "U & I R A TEAM". I pushed just the right button.
"Alright I'll pick some up at the factory outlets." Check #3.
I'm in the money but I don't know when to quit. "Plus, if you wanted to get some work done at school, we could have my Mom watch them for a little bit in the morning. You know she's got the patience to reinforce what we're teaching him."
"Well, you have to call her then." Whew, I almost blew it there.
She hates it when I use Moms to bail me out so I can go hunting. She likes it when I suffer alone and feel the pain that she feels. But I'm passed the point of no return. As I read on down the website, I encounter the catalyst. Diapers are a sinister conspiracy by the diaper industry to keep your kids in diapers way past the age when kids in other countries are already doing long division. I'm a sucker for conspiracies.
So Maya leaves and it's just me and the boys. I show Tanner the stickers and explain the whole rewards thing. I have an epiphony. This is the first time we've really used positive reinforcement with him. He loves it. He's juiced. He wants to get those stickers and cookies so bad, he'll do anything. He loves his Lightning McQueen Big Boy Briefs (BBBs). He gets a sticker for: telling Daddy he's got to go, sitting on the potty even if he doesn't go, actually going on the potty, wiping and flushing(he loves to flush I tell you) and for washing his hands. When he gets three stickers, he gets a piece of sugar cookie. Things are going swell. The website advises to feed your child plenty of liquids so they get lots of practice. I let the milk and juice flow through those sippy cups. Stickers are starting to pile up. I'm using my most encouraging voice, praising, rewarding. I have the slightest sense that I may be getting taken for the sugar by a two year old because Tanner asks to sit on the potty like every five minutes but hey, if the shoe fits wear it, right?
So Tanner tells me he has to go again and he's sitting there waiting for the pee train when Sage starts to wail. When he was born, I texted everyone that he came out, "screaming like a Tiger." I was so proud. He hasn't lost his knack either. His screams will bring chills down your spine.
"Ok Tanner, just sit here and I'll be right back."
I run to sooth Sage. Actually I just stuff his squeeky rubber giraffe "Sophie" (made with all food-grade materials whatever that means-it just looks like a dog toy to me and Montana perks up whenever Sage squeeks it) into his mouth and run back to check on Tanner.
"I peed" he says and I see that he did. The bathroom is glistening. "I missed" he says.
"I can see" I say, keeping my cool. Remembering the advice of internet guru daddy: "It's not what you say but how you say it." I perk my voice up a notch, "Yeah! Tanner you did it! Lets clean up and get some more stickers!"
"I want a Cookie" he says. I can't fault the kid. He's knew at this. He just missed. What guy out there can say they haven't? We wash up and cash in on all the stickers, carefully reviewing with Tanner exactly why he is being rewarded.
I think it's fantastic that he's now opened every present a boy could ever wish for and yet all he cares about is getting a silly sticker for washing his hands. Did you tell Daddy you went Potty? Yes, here's a sticker. Did you go on the potty? Yes, well not exactly, I mean, Yeah, well you tried and that's what counts yeah!!
The sugar cookie supply is dwindling along with the clean underwear. I hope Maya gets here quick with the back ups and some mini M&M's (recommended by internet guru dad, IGD as he will be hereafter referred as). Also, the wash is filling up fast with soaked articles. By naptime, I'm on pins and needles. IGD says that "once you go to the BBB's, there's no going back." I lay a towel down under Tanner and tuck him in. His favorite blanky "Cha Cha" is already a urine soaked victim, soaking in the wash with the rest of the casualties. I'm starting to realize that sugar cookies (even in small doses) and naptime mix about as well as oil and water, but I forge on.
Meanwhile, Sage is neglected. I think Tanner is seizing this opportunity to get back at least some of the attention he's lost in the last five months since "Baby Sage" was born. As soon as Sage starts sounding off, Tanner needs me. Luckily Maya arrives with reinforcements. Tanner's naptime, usually an uninterrupted oasis of calm for about two and a half hours, has been sabotaged. Tanner calls me in about every half hour with varying success. I'm starting to hear voices in my head going "I peed", "Daddy I PEEEED." My nerves are frazzled but I try not to let it show, Tanner is still racking up the stickers and cookies like, well, like a kid in a candy store.
I don't remember exactly when I threw in the white towel. After all, I'd been dealing with pee soaked white towels all day. Maybe it was when he peed on the floor for the third time. Maybe it was when I realized that we had gone through 10 pairs of BBBs that day or when I saw there was a full load of urine stained casualties. Whatever or whenever it was, I did. I threw in the towel and grabbed some pull-ups. I needed peace, I needed security. I didn't care that I was single handedly funding the entire diaper industry for another six months or so, I was done. I think Tanner was actually bored with the sugar now and content on his Thomas the Train set.
When we went to bed that night, Maya told me that she was proud of me for what I took on. She didn't even say I told you so. She didn't have to. I swallowed my defeat like a man.
The next day, while I was quacking at ducks from my duck blind (what Maya likes to call the porta-potties), Tanner woke up and refused to put on his diapers. He wanted his BBBs. And stickers. And M&M's. Three green ones.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Chores and Trashic Control

So it's Christmas morning. Are visions of sugarplums dancing in my head? No, I'm thinking about chores and what I like to call: "Trashic Control". The floor is littered with wrapping paper, plastic packaging of all conceivable shapes and sizes and my favorite: the unrecyclable and trash can clogging styrofoam. At least there is no "ghost poop" (also known as styrofoam peanuts) this year. As tanner begins to spoil like raw meat at noon in july, I gather what I can and begin the first phase: Trashic Reconciliation. This is where try and reconcile all of the garbage.
Only I separate into different piles because I know I will have to do it sooner or later. The grandmas and Mama (who is afflicted with the most severe of OCD conditions) just pile the trash into other trash cans, thus condensing the load. The next phase is that the boxes must migrate to the garage. My wife loves to leave them right outside the door, blocking my passage to hunting gadgets and other manly pleasures so that I must deal with them before moving onto what she might consider distractions.
The pile is growing. Only I can see this for only I venture into this side of my garage. It is my domain if you will and I rule it with a brace of "drying" ducks (my wife prefers to call them dead) that my brother and I were lucky enough to harvest (she would be so brazen as to use the phrase "killed") on Xmas eave. I also weild an efficient box cutter with fresh razor. I realize that there's just enough room to exit through the side garage door to my outside work area: the place where Trashic is butchered into garbage bin size tidbits. So I go back inside, searching for the elusive "family time".
Tanner is opening a race track. It's about 10 feet long and rated for 5+. We may not have a clearing in this house that's 3x10. He's only two and a half by his admission so I know this one will require more work on my part and I'll want to play with it more than him so sooner or later, we'll be engaged in a one side wrestling match. Yes, I am aware that one day he will be able to kick my ass.
Next up is the one cup coffee wizard. I'm not sure what it's called but the first time I encountered it was at a Ford Dealership that's now out of business. You put a tiny cup in and close the handle, which pierces a tiny mono-vampire-like prick in the small cup. It's best described as a large version of one of those creamer cups you find in a diner where you peel the top off. Upon dissection, I encountered a bag-like strainer inside. You then select one of three settings, ultra rich(small cup), just right (medium cup), or too weak and diluted (larger cup). This one's a no-brainer. I like it just right so I push the middle and with a humming vibration, black coffee pees in two streams, right into your cup. This is so wrong on many levels. First off, the cups have already begun to litter the kitchen island like that island of floatsam trash somewhere off Africa that I've read about in National Geographic. Second, this thing is extra large and with the carousel cup-display-holder, it takes up all that was left of our precious counter space. Also, I just bought myself a thermos as a pre-just-for-me gift. I like to make my coffee by the pot thank you. My wife and I had no sooner conspired to keep it at school where we could both use it than she spilt the beans to Mom-in-Law. "That's fine" replies Mom, "so long as you have it here for me whenever I come up." Now it's going to be a portable menace to green environmentalists.
Miraculously everyone settled down in their kerchiefs for that Xmas hangover nap and I snuck away to my domain, box cutters in hand. I separated the mountain. Reminding myself as I often must-to live in the moment. Like the tibetan monk who watches ants with fascination all day. And to put my heart and soul into every task, no matter how miniscule or insignificant it may seem. The pile slowly began to diminish. The unruly mountain was now a neat and tidy 3x3 square of cardboard and a santa sized black trash bag, all bundled up for the trash guys, to be set out as a sort of cruel irony the day after xmas.
I pride myself in this type of work. I worked at Swigard's Hardware when I lived in Tahoe and I can sling a box cutter like a samurai, always remembering the warning of my first sensai, "always cut away from your body because somewhere on that body is a set of balls". My wife doesn't think it's that important. She reminds me that my stint as Tim the Tool Man was only about four months before I decided to teach toddlers to do a pizza with their ski's, but I know better. These skills I learned have forever prepared me to be the man who can control the endless flow of "trashic".
Of course, after Tanner waved goodbye to his favorite trash truck, and after a careful inspection of the entire household, twice going through every pile of gifts and gift certificates, we think there might be a $50 gift certificate somewhere in the Trashic. It's dirty work, but somebodies got to do it and sometimes nobody even appreciates it.

New Year's Day

I didn't make it to the ball drop. I fell asleep around 11:30 and I was content. We had no plans. No snowy cabin. No streets filled with people swarming like ants, making out just as randomly with champagne breath. No, the most attractive plan for Maya and Me was to just hunker down, eat nachos and (drumline please) watch some bowl games. We had the grandparents over (I'm their fault) and had nachos, assembly line style.
My Mom asked if she could bring anything over beforehand and I seized the opportunity to enlist her as an accomplice in violating the first rule of my now fading diet regime. "Would you pick up some of that nasty nacho cheese in a jar please?"
My wife shot me a "I won't let this happen. Not on my watch.", sort of glance. It was the kind that says, "I'm not going to make a big deal of this now, lest I appear overly controlling and oppressive in front of your mother, but I will get you back for this later. OH yes, I will make you pay." Now it might seem just a tad over reactive for just a jar of nasty nacho cheese. But to understand things in their full context well, you have to know the full context.
I applied for life insurance about a year and a half ago. My triglyceride count was through the roof and it cost US. I thought I was in fairly good shape, but these triglyceride numbers were through the roof. So I try the latest pharmaceutical concoction from my doctor who professes to "be hesistant to use them unless absolutely necessary" and then waits for me to say yes to them like a car salesman. They helped, a little. So now he says I should try a diet and exercise. Duh, I could've told him that. Only one problem. That means I have to diet and exercise.
Ok, so Maya and I sign up for weight watchers. She is losing weight form her second pregnancy. She needs my support and my new health crisis is like a weapon of mass destruction for Dick Cheney. We report five minutes late. (Rounding up the kids, diapers, snacks, etc will make another great blog at a later date.) We have to go in shifts because we're afraid. Afraid to remove tanner's glued eyes from the five inch DVD playing CARS in the back of the car. Afraid the baby will cry and we won't be able to soothe him. When Maya returns from her journey, she gives me a slough of directions to follow. Needless to say, when I walk in I'm lost. Luckily one of the nice ladies helps me and I obey the customary procedure: remove your shoes and weigh in like a black angus steer. Then have your score dutifully recorded in your log book.
So, we stopped going after about three or four weeks and then consciously weighed ourselves on the bathroom scale, recording our weight on the calendar until we decayed, subliminally of course, into subconsciously ignoring the whole weight thing all together.
She corned me as I tried to return to the house, defenseless with a stack of firewood under both arms, and delivered her guilt ridden ultimatum: "Sure, you can have the nacho cheese, but then you can't have any beer then." As I tucked the kids in and bade farewell to the grandfolk, I kept noticing the Nacho cheese on the counter. The lid was still sunken in at the top and the cheese extended nearly to the lid. I reflected that the answer to our successful marriage was right there, vacuum sealed inside that nasty nacho cheese jar. We look out for each other. We've got each other's back even when it's inconvenient or even painful. I tucked the nasty nacho cheese jar back deep into the cabinet with pride.