Saturday, September 12, 2015


Hickory dickory dock. A mouse ran up the clock. The clock struck one - the mouse ran down. Hickory dickory dock. As a general rule, I'm not a big fan of mice... or rats... or gerbils--the live kind.

I'm also not a big fan of clocks--they're not my friend. I don't like them--worst invention ever, especially alarm clocks. Ick. Clocks document the passage of time as their hands tick-tick-tick in a circle. They also represent waiting and I'm not always the best at that. Of course there are various levels of waiting. There's waiting in line for two hours at Six Flags to ride a roller coaster. You know eventually you're going to get to ride the ride and it won't be too much longer that you have to listen to the people in front or behind you debate the merits of shoes with laces versus those with Velcro.

Then there's the waiting you do in anticipation of say, an exciting vacation. You cross off each day on the calendar as the trip draws near. You can see it getting closer and closer. The same is true of Christmas or your birthday. One day at a time and like waiting in line for the roller coaster, you know you'll reach the end soon enough and be on the beach or blowing out candles on a cake.

But the worst kind of waiting, the kind I'm not always good at, is the throw-yourself-out-there-and-hope-for-the-best kind. You've done something of a singular, independent nature and the final result depends on someone else's opinion. Skating is notorious for this. You train for years, getting up before the roosters crow to try, try, and try again one bruise-inducing move after another on a frozen slab of ice until finally you get the hang of them. You enter a competition and you skate your best--or you don't. Maybe you crash and burn all over the place. Maybe things are more 50/50, some success mixed with failure. However it skates out, the judges will decide just how well or poorly you did based on established criteria--and in their opinion. It's the latter part of this that causes people to scream at their televisions and boo in the stands when they feel a fan favorite is robbed of a medal or even simply a better score. When you're the athlete, however, waiting for the results can seem like an eternity. Time drags, like a pulse hooked up to a slow-motion machine.

Writing is like this, too, whether it be a paragraph written or a completed tale. There's waiting involved. You wait for an idea to sprout. You wait for the words for the paragraphs to materialize. Later, after you've revised and revised and revised, after you've re-laced and tightened your skate laces, after you've taken a deep breath and finally stepped out onto the ice and sent in the manuscript--you wait. And wait. And wait. Tick-tock. Tick-tock. The pulse of the wait slows, maybe even flatlines. You try not to think about it. Then, just when you think you can't wait another heartbeat, hickory dickory dock the scores are given and the judges announce you've won the Colorado Gold Writer's Contest--Romance category!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Dog On It

We're thinking about getting a dog, something to deter the deer from further devouring our hostas. We already have one canine companion, a sixteen year old beagle named Guy Beagle. He arrived, as most strays do, on the coldest day in winter. Shivering, hungry, and scared, there was no telling how long he'd been on his own. We coaxed him in, fed him some kibble--a lot of kibble, and rubbed his floppy brown ears in the warmth of the kitchen. He must have decided he'd found a pretty good spot because, fourteen years later, he's still with us.

Over the years other dogs have come along and kept him company on his scent-filled adventures in our woods and along our creek. But Guy's managed to outlast them all. Roscoe, a big brown Shepherd-Golden Retriever mix, schooled Guy over the course of ten years on the ins and outs of his favorite game "Wish Upon a Deer Leg." This is the canine version of the human Thanksgiving tradition of pulling apart the wishbone of a turkey. In Roscoe's version, each dog grabbed an end of a deer leg and together they carried it home. Upon arrival, a game of tug-o-war ensued in the front yard. The winner got to gnaw on it for as long as he liked. Bonus points were earned if you, the dog, successfully kept it from the human as he or she tried to dispose of it; points were lost if the human caught you and gave you a bath as a result of eating the rotted dead meat. Not to be outdone, Guy had his own tail-wagging tricks up his paw to share, in particular "Garbage Can Roulette," a crafty little adventure that involved knocking over the neighbors' trash cans in search of such delicacies as moldy pot roast, rotten eggs, and a-day-past-expiration potato salad.

And then there was Penny, a calico-colored Corgi-Jack Russell Terrier mix rescued from a shelter. Originally a city pooch, it took her no time at all to adjust to being a country girl--especially with Guy to show her the merits of splashing in the creek, admiring the bluebells, and rousting Coyote from his den at the bottom of the 150 year old oak tree. Her favorite responsibility, however, was wildlife patrol. She had such a natural ability at scaring raccoons up a tree, cornering pesky possums, and derailing deer attempts at landscape damage that Guy quickly promoted her to Chief of Farm Security. This allowed him to transition nicely into retirement after twelve years of round-the-clock service.

Now fully retired, he spends his days concerned only with how many hours of snoozing in the sun can be achieved in between meals. He's a character in his own right, which got me thinking about some of my favorite fictional pooches.

There's Rosemary Wells' McDuff, the West Highland White Terrier that melts your heart with his expressive eyes and red bandana. I'm so glad that nice couple in the book took him in that rainy night.

Ree Drummond's Charlie is the Basset Hound to beat all Basset Hounds. Slow on the uptake, lover of naps, and with a large-and-in-charge personality I would love to have my own Charlie someday.

It's a good thing Chris Raschka's Daisy got her ball back, albeit a new one after that well-meaning but over-enthusiastic dog park friend popped the first one. No one likes it when a favorite toy breaks.

But, dogs are quick to accept apologies and get back to the things that really matter, like enjoying a good meal, taking time to smell the flowers, and naps. At 112 years old, "Old Man Beagle" is still teaching us a trick or two--except, of course, the ancient canine secret to keeping deer out of the hostas.