Never, Ever Open Your Eyes in the Shower

I’m 54. It’ll be another 10 years before I’ve reached the endearing age of the Beatles hit from Yellow Submarine.

There don’t seem to be many economic changes that kick in at 54. I can’t even get senior coffee at McDonald’s for another year. But David Smidt, president of, (Find Gold in the Golden Years) offers reassurance:  You’d be surprised who will shave off a percentage for a 55-plus customer if they ask. We have apartment complexes, Lincoln and Cadillac dealerships, car washes, tree service, lawn care, plumbers, handymen …

As a full-time RV-er, I’m not sure how many of these services I’ll need, still, good to know.

There have been some personal age related changes, though. I started getting  AARP cards in the mail when I turned 49. That was 9 years after I began highlighting my hair. Delora was my hairstylist and my friend. One day she said: Debbie, you’re starting to get a few grey hairs around your face, lets just blend them in with some highlights. We blended for the next 11 years.

After I left the Midwest, I tried a couple more times, but never found anyone who could make the highlights look like they came from an artist’s pallet instead of a squirt bottle, so I quit.

My eyesight isn’t the best and I don’t spend much time in front of the mirror. You can’t  begin to imagine my surprise as I was getting ready for work, back when I still had to dress up for work, and I looked a bit closer than usual at my reflection. I was dumbfounded! I’d gone from 53, looking like 43, to 53 looking like 63 overnight!

That little bit of grey around my face, hidden beneath highlights now long gone, was apparently a white contagion that had infected two-thirds of my hair. It doesn’t run in my family. Maybe I was adopted. No one else has green eyes either…

As surprised as I’ve been about my hair, I had an even bigger age related surprise today.

About once a week, I plop Henry in the shower with me. It’s so dang dusty here that it’s a necessary to afflict this torture on his small frame.

He stands very still, which is good since an RV shower stall gives new definition to elbow room. In an RV, it’s a room where, if you put your hands on your hips and turn full circle, you can touch all 4 walls with your elbows.

Once Henry’s shower is complete, I finish mine.

I dutifully picked up the razor, as I have every time I’ve showered since I was 11. Today, for some reason, I opened my eyes. I never open my eyes in the shower. I don’t like getting soap in my eyes. Maybe I’m harboring some subconscious fear of what I’ll see, I don’t know. Anyway, I opened my eyes and there they were, my completely naked arm pits. When did that happen? How many years have I been squint-eyed shaving away at nothing?

I must be going through reverse puberty. Next week I’ll likely develop a case of acne and before you know it my front tooth will start to wiggle, but at least I’ve shaved 10 seconds off my showers!

How about you? Is there anything about your current age that’s come as a surprise?

Mighty Mouse and Me

I grew up in a world of cartoon superheros.

Dudley Do-Right vs Snidely Whiplash

Casper the Friendly Ghost vs The Ghostly Trio

Mighty Mouse vs Oil Can Harry

They didn’t have  girl superheros when I was of cartoon age. I wanted to grow up and save the day like Mighty Mouse, but in Casper style. I wanted to save the day, sweetly. Maybe that’s why I was drawn to counseling. I’ve worked in Corrections and at Crisis and Counseling Centers. I particularly loved the 20 years I spent on the road as a trainer and public speaker. Through all of that though, it became techno-color clear that saving the day is beyond my non-super human powers.

My focus now is on saving the moment.

In Oregon, I was a manager at a beautiful resort on the southern coast. My job was to keep people happy. Staff or guests, it was a mix of problem-solving, counseling and placating.

After work, Henry and I often headed the 120 yards to the beach.

With no leash law, Henry was in heaven, chasing gulls and playing tags with the surf. It was during a beautiful evening of romp and stomp that I saw the lovely couple from Australia I’d met earlier at the resort.

The husband called out me: Hurry! You have to save him!

My heart started racing. It’s called the Wild Oregon Coast for a reason! The waves are mighty and the water’s always cold. No one could last long, tumbling in that tide.

I can swim well enough to save myself in a swimming pool. I float really well so I could survive a long time in a lake. But my glorified dog-paddle isn’t well suited to the high seas.

Run, You have to save him!

I rushed to the spot where his wife was staring at the surf. Suddenly he was there, thrashing at my feet and then pulled back out on the next wave.

Please save him!

I knew it was too late, but that was a truth they weren’t ready to hear. I rolled up my jeans and waded out into the surf. I picked up the young, dying tiger shark by his tail and flung him as far as I could. Nearly 3 feet long and heavy, I only managed to clear the next wave.

Henry, the elderly couple and I watched as he washed ashore, 5 waves later. I looked at their faces and said, I just didn’t get him out far enough. They were having such a good vacation. I wanted to save the moment.

This time I carried him out until the waves were breaking about mid-belly. I adjusted my grip as he struggled to get free, staying clear of his teeth as I gave him a mighty hurl. The tide was going out so I figured this would buy about 5 minutes.

The couple held hands as they watched and waited. I knew it was only a matter of waves before he returned. Just as I was preparing to share the facts of life with them, they smiled and hugged me as if I were their real life hero.

Thanking me for saving their vacation, they walked back up the path to the resort. I rolled down my sea soaked jeans and watched the sun begin its slide when a familiar voice called out Hey Debbie! I want you to meet my grandson!

The grandson streaked past me crying: Grandpa, hurry, you gotta save this shark! Clayton has lived in Oregon a long time. He knew. But his grandson was visiting from Nebraska. They’d just stopped for a quick peek at the ocean before dinner. I looked at Clayton’s expensive loafers and the classy-casual clothes.

I looked at my already soggy, sandy self and said: Maybe I can help him clear the breakers. Clayton smiled. His grandson smiled. I didn’t bother to roll up my jeans.

I picked up my shark and once again rode the waves out and set him free. By the time I got back on the beach, the guys were beaming and heading for the restaurant.

As the sun finally dropped into the ocean, I was reminded that I may have to get my more than my feet wet to save the moment. And to be honest, there are times when I don’t want to make the effort.

Gate guarding in southern Texas, my feet, along with everything else, stay dry. Here, I have to be willing to swallow a little grit. It’s so much simpler than saving sharks. You’d think it would always come naturally but it doesn’t. I know I’m losing perspective when people become an interruption. All it takes at the gate is a smile, a few kind words and an occasional brownie. I’ll never save the day, but once in a while, I get the chance to save the moment. When I take it, it’s always worth it.

A Night With Darth Vader

Way out here they have a name for wind and rain and fire
The rain is Tes ,
the fire’s Joe,
and they call the wind Mariah

Mariah blows the stars around,
sets the clouds a’flyin’
Mariah makes the mountain sound
like folks was up there dyin’
Mariah, (Mariah), Mariah (Mariah), they call the wind Mariah

There’s hasn’t been any sign of Tes for more than four months which is an invitation we all pray Joe continues to refuse. Mariah doesn’t need an invitation.
She’s a permanent resident.
If you Paint Your Own Wagon, you may Call the Wind Mariah.
I just call her Fierce.
The wind is relentless here in the flat lands, howling night and day.

The substance of the winds is too thin for human eyes…  ~John Muir

John Muir, the famous naturalist, clearly didn’t spend a lot of time in Texas. In Texas you can see the wind.

I used to think dirt devils were vacuum cleaners.

Now I know they’re day time apparitions in the southern Texas sky. They swirl like mini-tornadoes, hiding only when I grab the camera.

With the temperature creeping up to almost 100 today, all who passed through the gate ate grit when they opened their windows. By night fall, everyone was wind whipped and weary.

The gate finally slows down with midnight approaching. As I reach for my coffee, one soft light flickers to the rhythmic beating of the wind. I turn the page. The RV sways like a doll’s house.

The empty over-stuffed chair begins to rock on its own. I can see the whites of Henry’s eyes.

The bell rings and my arm nearly flies off with the door as the wind races in. I step outside. No one is there.

Henry’s ears stand straight up. I open the shades and turn off the flickering lamp. As I scoop up Henry, I hear the distinctive breathing. On this moonless night, Darth Vader has slipped into my living room.

I slowly reach behind me and flip the light back on. The wind continues to cry through the door and the RV feels like a small ship on a rough sea,.

Henry’s remains on high alert, but I can’t see the invader.

I pick up my dropped book and read several chapters, tension building. Suddenly the wind stops completely. The dramatic stillness is eerie.

Then, he breathes again. This time I look up in time to see him. His raspy breath seeps out of the dredges of my coffee pot. I turn it off. He emits one final sigh and moan.

Darth Vader returns to his alternate universe just as the wind picks up, once again rattling the windows and beating at the door.

Warp Not, Weft Not

After reading last nights’ post, a friend said my first knitting endeavor looked kind of like The 10 Commandments. Although I’m sure God was less distracted and His rows were very even, I have continued to learn some lessons from knitting.

I’ve looked at a lot of web sites and knitting blogs. I’ve learned that pearl is spelled purl. And I’ve learned that the world is full of overachieving knitters.

I watched a video of a guy knitting while playing the drums. I’ve read about people who wear port-a-pocket pouches so they can knit while walking on the treadmill or jogging.

Considering the troubles I have just putting down my needles and walking to the door, I’ve ruled that one out.

I’ve read multiple confessions of people who knit while they drink and of those who knit while they drive, although no one admitted to knitting while drinking and driving.

I found this book to be particularly Texas appropriate. This is considered a classic among knitters, proving that real men do knit. I ‘m pretty sure if I tried this (the knitting while riding a horse part) it would give new meaning to Back in the Saddle Again and again and again.

I loved the saying I read on one guy’s t-shirt: Man enough to knit. Strong enough to purl. Haven’t seen any of those here at the drill site yet.

I found out that there’s a technique called psso where you slip a stitch and pass over it to create a hole. For some knitters, this is a skill and they do it on purpose.

For me, it comes naturally and at the most unexpected times.

I often slip stitches, making holes. I usually don’t realize I’ve dropped a stitch until 10 or 15 rows later. Sometimes I unravel row after row and make it right.

This takes a me quite a long time since I can hardly get the little loops back on the needle before they drop down a few more rows, kind of like a knitting version of Tetris.

Usually I just take a small piece of yarn, pass it through the hole, and tie it in a knot on the back side. It’s a little unconventional. I don’t think there’s a name for this technique.

The second thing I made was a scarf for Henry. It didn’t start out to be a scarf  for Henry, but I cast on too many stitches and only had 1 skein of yarn.

Henry is the only one small enough for such a short scarf.

As you can see, it’s actually more like a dog-shawl, kind of wide for a scarf. I  think there’s a lesson in proportions here somewhere.

Uncertain about what to make next, I decided on little squares.

I have no idea why. I guess it just seemed like there’d be less to unravel.

I made a good number of these, 20 maybe.

Then I realized I don’t know how to whipstitch and all the edges are so tight I can’t really see any way to fasten them together.

Undaunted, I continued to make new little squares, each with a different knit/purl pattern. There are other stitches like the warp and the weft.  I have no idea what they are so I’m sticking with knit and purl.

Clearly, I’m an under-acheiving knitter.

I’m perfectly happy with my knitting.

Maybe eventually I’ll get restless and decide to make something other than long rows and little squares. Until then, I’m content.

I’ve decided it’s OK to do things for the pure pleasure of the moment without having a single thing to show for it. That’s a bit radical for me, but I’m liking it.

I’m not ashamed to say that I joyfully knit nothing.

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore… Are We?

If you click to enlarge this picture, you'll see Henry is also surveying his new surroundings!

The swirling house lands on the Wicked Witch of the East.

Dorothy opens the door to a strange new techno-colored world.

She meets Glinda, the Good Witch of the South, who’s rejected brooming and travels in a bubble to indicate her goodness.

Dorothy is charmed by the Munchkins who will soon celebrate and welcome her to Munchkin Land.

But just before all of this, Dorothy surveys her surroundings and says:

Toto, I have a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore! (link to clip)

We moved to a new drill site on Saturday.

Friday it was the swamp and the bull!

Moving as a Gate Guard is a little more complicated than moving as a camper.

We started before daylight, coiling the air hose, the extension cords and the satellite cables.

We put the lights and stop sign by the wagons for Jamie, took down the pictures that don’t travel well, put away the breakables and fastened the cabinet doors.

We were ready at 6:45 when we had a slight mechanical malfunction: the steps refused to retract. They finally slid in as a semi-driver I’d just met the night before arrived with breakfast and lunch for us! So nice of him!

We made a quick trip into Nixon to get gas and wash the RV. I pulled up to the Tall wash stall when Heidi hollered Stop! I guess the RV is taller than tall. Those of you who read Fork regularly know that I have dirt issues. We hadn’t washed the RV since we left Oregon December 15th.

I was determined. I put my 4 quarters in and washed its nose. As Heidi predicted, I think I made it worse, but I felt better for trying.

Saturday it's wheat... and wheat!

Our new site is just 5 miles north of our last location, on the same dirt road. Good old Eagle Ford Shale territory!

We went from the beautiful, if somewhat eerie, Louisiana-like swamp land, to the golden wheat fields of … Texas? All without ever leaving Gonzales county.

It felt as if the wind had picked us up and plopped us down in a strange new land!

Maybe it was prophetic. Henry VIII was a reject pup. He was 5 months old when I got him. Barb, the breeder, had given up on ever selling him and had named him, you guessed it: Toto!

I got Henry in Iowa, but this certainly looked like Kansas! As we crossed the cattle gate I looked at him and said: Henry, I’ve got a feeling we’re not in Texas anymore!

I was wrong, of course.

I parked the RV and was starting to step out, when the wind caught the door ushering in a cloud of caliche, leaving no doubt that we were still in The Lone Star State!

At home at Holmes 1-H

Home is where your heart is.

If you’re a full-timer, home is also wherever your RV is.

Wheat or woods, it’s all good.

There’s no place like home…

There’s no place like home…

There’s no place like home…

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents, except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” ~Edward Bulwer-Lytton

It was exactly like that except for the part about the rain. We haven’t had any rain for 4 months. And, there wasn’t even a hint of wind. Also, of course, this is Texas, not London. The treetops did seem to be rattling, but that could have been snakes or pig hunters. The tea lamps put out very scanty flames.

I was writing. Henry was having disturbing dreams, making little yelps in his sleep. Of course he may have been dreaming he was back in Oregon, chasing sea gulls on the beach. Anyway, a part from Henry, it was very quiet. Even the rig site seemed still.

Then suddenly everything went black. It was no longer just quiet, it was silent. No generator hum. No suicidal moths flinging themselves at the lights.

No sound machine making white noise keeping Heidi asleep.

Something tackled me. Startled into flight by the silence, Henry bounded onto my lap, spilling my coffee. Sadly that was the last coffee I was to have for a long time.

I sat in the dark, holding Henry, waiting for everything to be restored to its natural order.

I’m of the school of thought that if it’s broken, don’t do anything and maybe it will fix itself.

It didn’t. My keen problem solving skills kicked in. I was about to wake Heidi up to ask her what to do when out of the vast blackness came a thump and a whisper.

What’s going on?  Heidi murmured. After 4 months of gate guarding, if there’s anything that feels unnatural about sleeping it’s darkness and quiet.

Heidi sprang into action! She does not believe in waiting for spontaneous restoration. Armed with 1 LCD flashlight, we systematically secured the perimeters.

Sleeping snakes, hungry hogs, mad bulls, crazed coons and all other unknown lurking creatures failed to manifest themselves. The shadows were deep since we live in a jungle of mesquite and live oaks, but if something was hiding, it remained hidden.

Heidi restarted the generator. Hum! Silence.

She tried again. Hum! Lights! Silence.

After re-checking every plug and valve and socket and giving the key one final turn, we retreated, defeated.

Lovely atmosphere for meditation. A little dark for reading.

Heidi left a message for our Field Supervisor while I lit candles.

It was close to midnight by this time so we knew we wouldn’t hear from Gate Guard Services until the a.m.

I don’t do a lot of reading at night because I read myself to sleep. I was fairly certain I’d fall asleep in the soft candle glow with  the last of my coffee coloring the rug.

No generator means no air hose which means no bell. It was 44 degrees and dropping, so I ruled out leaving the door open to listen for trucks.

As I waited for this dilemma to resolve itself, Heidi once again took action. After shining the flashlight in all the dark places, she rummaged under the RV and pulled out a modern battery operated Coleman lantern.

By the light of the silvery lantern

I’m usually fluorescent phobic, but not that night. I settled by the fluorescent beam to finish BAD LOVE, which turned out to be only mildly suspenseful.

Heidi talked to our FS, Junior just before 7 a.m. He was sorry but he had to move a gate guard and couldn’t come out.

She called Jamie, our boss whom we’d never met. He said he’d leave work and come out (100 miles or so) and take a look. We believe it’s important to make a positive first impression…

The generator blew its belt. Jamie fixed it. By 10a.m. we were back up and running. Later in the day when I was walking Henry, I noticed a yellow sticky note on the trailer plate.

I asked Heidi what it meant but she had no idea. Jamie must have left it as a warning for Junior.

Heidi's generator. Hummm...

If you’re considering Gate Guarding, it helps to be brave :), flexible and to have a sense of humor.

And if you’re in a remote place, as many of us are, remember the words of  the Spanish poet Federico Garcia Lorca :

With their souls of patent leather, they come down the road. Hunched and nocturnal, where they breathe they impose, silence of dark rubber, and fear of fine sand.

Henry’s House of Horror

There’s a bit of a Louisiana swamp feeling to our present drill site. The guys on the crew that are from Louisiana say it feels like home. It apparently feels like home to just about everything that lives in southern Texas.

Approaching our RV from the drill site

It’s really quite pretty, thick with mesquite (of course) and live oaks draped in moss.

I saw my first kangaroo rat today, which I understand are partial to mesquite. I was talking to a local at the time so I’m confident in the identification. For my fellow Yankees who may never have seen one, they look, as you might expect, like a fast furry hopping rat.

It’s been a jumpy day. I saw a very quick snake, heading for the feral pig hang out to the East and my first armadillo family of four. Sadly, the armadillos crossed in front of the gate after it was too dark for a picture.

The night noises have escalated. The bulls seem to be  particularly riled up and the lady cows have been mooing mournfully since dusk.

Separation anxiety?

The guys told me today that the hog they’re grilling tonight they actually caught about 10 yards from my window (on the back, dark side of the RV).

I think it’s revenge of the herd tonight because there’s an excessive amount of squealing and screaming.

I mentioned a while back that there was a raccoon sitting on my steps one night (the same one that was doing the balancing act on the barbed-wire fence). For some reason, Henry slept through the first visit.

I doubt if he’ll get a wink of sleep tonight. If it had come from any dog but Henry, I would have been temped to ignore his low guttural growl, given the cacophony outside. But since Henry is so quiet that he’s nearly mute I thought I’d better check it out.

I couldn’t see anything moving but Henry stayed on high alert. I took a couple of steps out onto the fake grass rug, flashlight and garden hoe in hand. Coming from Iowa, carrying that hoe around always makes me feel so American Gothic.

Almost instantly, I saw the offender. The step-sitting raccoon had returned with a couple of cousins. As before, I grabbed my little point and shoot and scattered them with a flash.

I find eyes that glow in the dark kind of creepy

Satisfied that I’d protected the homestead, I gave Henry a Greenie (isn’t it funny that the treat that cleans dog’s teeth is green?) and sat down to read Bad Love by Jonathan Kellerman about a child psychologist and a stalker.

I’ve been reading Kellerman for light reading because he was a child psychologist before he started writing novels and I like the psychological aspect he adds to his work.

However, I’m re-thinking my choice of late night fiction. I’d only turned a few pages when Henry tumbled down the steps, knocking open the screen door.

I yelled! He yipped! Then he scrambled back in. Since I didn’t see the footfall, I’m just guessing he tripped on the rug that was a little bunched-up?

Henry's pre-fall bull watching

He made enough racket to scare away whatever had scared him. Who says Schoodles can’t be watch dogs!

I held him until his heart stopped racing and put him in his bed which is up on the sofa at night beside my chair.

There’s a window right over his bed which was open to let in the little bit of breeze that was stirring. I had read maybe 2 chapters (they’re short) when something slammed against the window screen and Henry tumbled to the floor, again.

I looked up just in time to see the raccoon, clinging momentarily to the outside of the screen, looking in at the spot that used to be Henry.

The raccoon lost his grip about the same time I lost mine.

It was pretty warm today, 93 degrees and it’s still 81. I decided it was time to close the windows, pull the shades and turn on the air.

I don’t know if the air conditioner is supposed to hum or not, but tonight I’m glad it does. Whatever is out there screeching or snorting or prowling about, Henry and I can no longer hear or smell or see it.

Do you remember the picture of Jodi Foster in Silence of the Lambs with a butterfly over her mouth? Creepy.

It could be a long night...

I just picked up my coffee and drank a fluttering moth. Guess it’s going to be that kind of night…

It seems fitting to close with this traditional Scottish prayer:

From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!