Heigh-ho, Heidi HO

It’s been a while since I’ve written so it may take a little time to catch you up. I’ll start with Heidi HO. Heidi HO is her legal name, which she gave herself. It’s a long story…

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho
It’s home from work we go…

Do you remember the Seven Dwarfs whistling and singing this song?

Well, it’s just like that here except there are no diamonds or rubies and we’re never off work and the lyrics are more like:

Heidi HO, Heidi HO
It’s home at work she goes…

Believe me, this woman works! And ever since the first week of February when I ripped my meniscus, she’s been working overtime, fighting the elements, the intruders and warding off the possibility of any misconceptions (I’ll get to that part in a bit).

For starters, Heidi finds multiple reason to walk around on the roof. First there were bees gathering in the vent (she had a can of hornet spray too, not just the fly swatter). Then there was the squeaky bathroom fan.

Then there were two tiny, tiny leaks.

The bees are gone. The squeak is better and the leaks are sealed but I’m sure there’ll be something else up there to check on any day now.

I’m not allowed on the roof since I fall off the  steps.

And when she’s not on top of the RV, she’s often under it.

Oops, wrong legs! Too hairy. That pair belongs to our mobile RV repairman that had the less than glamorous task of replacing our grey water valve and our toilet.

This is the picture I meant to use. Heidi is very diligent when it comes to warding off the encroaching caliche, making sure our slides slide and our jacks jack and our steps don’t freeze in place.

She’s constantly baking – for us and for the guys on the rig. She bakes so much she wore out the microwave/convention oven and we had to buy a new one.

This one is scary smart. It may be even smarter than my phone. It can sense when I’m looking at it with confusion and it starts frantically flashing messages at me. Press, Set, Choose etc… This makes me nervous so I push Sensor Heat and let it have it’s way.

Heidi’s also been doing more adventurous things. There was the recon trip which included ditch diving, rolling under barbed-wire and crawling through burrs and stickers to get what she thought was a right-side-up wild bore’s head. It turned out to be an upside-down cow skull but she was still very, very proud.

You already know about the onslaught of rattlesnakes. Heidi Ho is very comfortable with a hoe. Just sayin’…

For a day or two we had a rattlesnake head coming out of the eye socket of the recently procured cow’s skull. She says: Hey, we’re just two women with a hoe a long way from nowhere. Heidi is very symbolic and loves to send “messages”. Pretty sure this is supposed to mean best not mess with me.

The problem with the snake’s head in the skull, apart from the fact that it was truly creepy, was that most likely, the resident bobcat would come at night and snatch it like he did the first one. And if not the bobcat, then a hawk or raccoon or coyote or something…

So she planted the head in a bucket (not in hopes of growing baby rattlers). We’ve been told, but are somewhat skeptical, that in the bucket the ants and things (?) will eat all but the skull which Heidi wants to add to the cow skull to make sure we’re truly sending the right message. Hmm…

It’s been there for a while now and grass is starting to grow on top. Haven’t dug any deeper yet. Last time she looked, the nose was still intact.

Heidi’s also been fending off cows with bowls of water again. I don’t know why the cows here are so adverse to water, but they are and if we don’t deter them, they munch on our fake green carpet and eat our satellite cables.

Catch you on the backside – a good ole southern saying takes on new meaning when Heidi has a bowl, or a swatter or a hoe in her hand! While Heidi’s been doing all of this and so much more, I’ve mostly just been stylin’ in Stir-Fry. More on that next time.

Once Bitten Twice Shy

One day a snake dropped out of a tree and landed on my Grandma’s head. This happened when my Grandma was in her 30’s. She lived to be 102 and she never got over it.

“Once bitten by a snake, he/she is scared all his/her life at the mere sight of a rope.” ~ Chinese Proverb

I’m not particularly afraid of snakes but I’ve never had one bite me or drop on my head which may be why I’m more afraid of spiders. 

Last month was the beginning of a new year on the Chinese Lunar calendar: The Year of the Snake. Swell. I’m not superstitious but the sound of it doesn’t give me a warm, pleasant feeling. However, folks who are into that type of thing are more optimistic:

Ancient Chinese wisdom says a Snake in the house is a good omen because it means that your family will not starve. ~HanBan.com

Hmm… This is just a guess, but I’m thinking a snake in the RV would mean H, H & I in a motel room which would mean our family might eventually starve. Anyway, we haven’t seen any inside but we have seen several outside snakes since relocating deep in the heart of Texas. Most are just the regular garden variety.

Around this time of year down here it’s the Season of the Snake. When the snakes start sunning, the tails and the tales start spinning. Everyone that comes through the gate has a story.

A fellow couldn’t wait to show this one to Heidi yesterday.

A 5 footer - I'm not sure if that was with or without the head.

And a friend stopped by to show us another.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m arachnophobic. I’m shy with spiders having been more than twice bitten – I think.

All I know for sure is there have been red bumps on my legs and squished spiders in my sleeping bag/bed on more than one occasion.

And I’ve bitten back. This I know this because the other half of the spider was still swimming in my Grape Nuts.

I used to catch garter snakes in the back yard when I was little. They didn’t bite but they do kind of pinch if you stick your finger in their mouth, which I did. I came close to being bitten when I caught a 5 foot water moccasin on a hiking trail. It was almost, but not quite, dead which is probably good or I might have been almost, but not quite dead, too, since I was only about 6 or 7.

Anyway, everyone has a snake story now. Last night, the guys at our TSL said the buzzards were feasting on a rattlesnake just up the road a ways. I’m hoping it was one of the 3 or 4 that have been spotted circling the wagons this week.

I was standing right beside this one when I took the picture, but one of the guys had made sure he was already under the weather.

It may be that I’m not afraid of snakes because I’m not real sharp or maybe, like I said, it’s just because I’ve never had one drop on my head – yet. I figure if we stay in Texas long enough, anything can happen!

The upside of having snakes around (it’s good to try to find an upside) is that it should keep the mice population under control and out of my door.

Although, I’m beginning to rethink that. The other night, the guys stopped to tell us about a bobcat that was 15-20 yards from the RV. Heidi was real disappointed not to have seen it. Me, not so much, although I would have liked to take a picture. Anyway, I was telling that to one of the guys who said:

Hey, I’ve got a picture for you. My boss just sent this from a rig about 30 miles from here.

OK, that kind of took the comfort out the mouse prevention bit.

I looked at the picture and then at Henry VIII. The upside of not getting enough exercise is that Henry has put on a little weight and is now officially bigger than a rabbit.

Last night, a driver was warning me about the rattlesnakes. I told him about the picture and he said:

Oh ya, I just saw one chasing a rabbit across the highway.

Really? I think we may have a crop of rabid rabbit chasing rattlers this year!

The folks at Shorty’s BBQ and Grill seem to have found a solution that works for them.

We have Wasp spray.

I just had a driver come in and say:

Be careful, Mama (they say Mama a lot here), I’ve seen six 6 foot rattlesnakes in the last half hour. They’re on the move!

It makes me feel like I’m in Tremors and they’re going to start popping up through the caliche!

I’m trying to remember to stop for a second and scan the area before I fling myself out of the RV in the dark. I don’t expect a snake to charge me, but I doubt he’d be keen on being stomped on. According to Buzzle (lots of rattlesnake facts here), rattlesnakes hunt mostly at night and can bite even after being beheaded. OK…

I’m issuing a warning to any kind of snake out there even thinking about coming too close, I’m pretty sure I’m a dead-eye with the Wasp killer. I haven’t ever actually tried it, but I’ve always been able to handle a spray can! And then there’s always the long, long-handled hoe.

As the African proverb says:

A weapon which you don’t have in your hand won’t kill a snake.

So y’all take care and be safe. Remember to keep your weapons handy and keep one eye on the ground and one on the sky. You just never know.

And Happy Easter  – again this week!

Year in Review Part 12 – Happy New Year

As before, Word Press won’t allow me to post anything new here but I can copy and paste old posts. This one was written just after the 3rd month of gate guarding. I’d forgotten how many things scared me back them. Wow!

Happy New Year!

It looks like Fork will be stuck in 2011 for another week or so. I wish you all a joy filled 2012!

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

I didn’t used to be afraid of the dark. As recently as 4 months ago, I was fairly fearless. Apart from my arachnophobia, I’ve  always been moderately brave (or not quite sharp enough to be afraid). I’ve stood on the front porch and watched tornadoes and stood on the beach to watch 30 foot swells. I may even have been a bit under-afraid. But there are nights out here in very rural southern Texas when I’m just a little uneasy. These are some of the things that have happened in 3+ months of gate guarding that make me jumpy after midnight.

1. The potential rattlesnake napping under the RV when I go out to talk to a driver

2. Henry suddenly dashing to the door with fur and ears standing straight up

3. The smell of cigarette smoke in the middle of the night when I’m 1/4 of a mile from the rig

4. The raccoon sitting on my front step looking in at me at 2 a.m.

5. The barrage of  large, unidentified insects flinging themselves like hail on the screen door

6. The screams and screeches of feral pigs, bickering coons and other unnamed nocturnals

7. The snorting, stomping and very loud mooing of many mad bulls

8. The great white sharks

9. The sudden knock on the door when no traffic has rung the bell to alert me

10.The bats falling off the awning onto my head (has only happened once)

11. The pickup idling for an hour with lights off, sitting on the road but never coming to the gate

12.The continual snapping of brush and branches

13. The yipping and  howling of circling coyotes

14. The tarantulas who want to be my friend

Of the afore-mentioned, all except an occasional green beetle or moth have been courteous enough to stay outside. The raccoon almost made it in but was scared off by my camera flash. All except the sharks.

According to the American Movie Goer Consumer Research Group, the primary target market for movies these days are 16-24 year old males. Based on what’s hot at the cinema, that’s believable. I’m speculating that this is also Snicker’s target market.

In this Snickers commercial, animated great white sharks are participating in a focus-group. A pleasant lady asks them in a blind taste test of people they’ve just eaten/sampled, which one they liked best. The sharks preferred Steve who had eaten Snickers Peanut Butter Squared, over Lisa who had eaten a peanut butter cup.

As I sat down to write tonight I Googled the ad and found it’s been pretty controversial. I was surprised at how strongly people felt. Some have sworn off Snickers forever.

Others thought it was the funniest thing they’ve seen on TV. As I read the reactions, it struck me as interesting that the people who, for a variety of reason, don’t care for the ad, were accused of having: no life, no brains, and no sense of humor.

All that over disagreement about a 30 second commercial. Can you imagine a debate something substantial like the terrorism returning to Northern Ireland or Libya’s oil industry? Possibly that would be less intense. Hard to say.

I like Snickers. I’ll probably continue to buy the one or two bars a year I usually buy. I don’t like the commercial. I don’t think there’s a correlation between this and my hobbies, my intellectual prowess or my sense of humor. I just have enough things that might bite me, sting me, charge me or land on me at night to not want to add something that wants to eat me, too.

~

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t have an extra-active imagination, but I’m in danger of develop one. Desert or not, add sharks to the screaming and mooing and screeching and slithering and stalking and it starts getting down right creepy. It’s well after midnight and shapes are shifting  in the shadows of the mesquite and mossy oak. Might be a good time for a Reese’s peanut butter cup!

Year in Review Part 11 – Repeat of Southern Texas Survival Kit

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This is the original post from March, word for word. If you’ve read it, you might want to skip it. Word Press won’t let me post the new post I wrote yesterday but I think it will let me publish old ones (I’ll know in a minute).

There’s no tech support for WP until Jan. 3rd so I may just re-post a few of the originals until then.

March 22, 2011

It’s in the mid 80’s every day. Where I come from, that’s summer even if this is only the second day of Spring.

The 7 items pictured above are the essential ingredients for a Southern Texas Survival Kit.

1. A round rock

Find a nice round rock, about the size of a baseball. This can be thrown at virtually all threatening things

2. Wasp spray

The first thing we were told to get when we arrived in Tilden back in December was that if we didn’t have a shot gun, we’d better be buying some Wasp spray.We have 4 cans, strategically placed.

One can is in the Jeep. Today I went into town to pick up a few things. Since it was 86 degrees and the freon has pretty much all eased it’s way out of the Jeep, I put the windows down while I filled up 10 gallon jugs of water. In the 5 minutes this took, 2 wasps took up residence in the front seat. It never occurred to me I’d need Wasp spray for wasps. I bought it for scary people and other kinds of snakes. I considered giving the wasps a squirt, but I had to question the wisdom of streaming it that close to my face if that is indeed how intend to fend of unwanted visitors carrying large backpacks and various snakes. I fanned them with a paper plate

3. The round rock in driftwood catapult

This needs to be a pretty precise fit: snug enough to stay in place during the back-swing and loose enough to leave the wood and hurl towards your target. The catapult gives range the wood alone doesn’t have and force throwing the rock bare-handed lacks. The disadvantage is that round rocks roll so practice rounds can be grueling.

4. Spider spray

Twice, black widows crept out of our generator when we were checking the oil back in Shiner. I think the spray would most likely be ineffectual on tarantulas so, hopefully they’ll live up to their shy reputation and just go away on their own and the brown recluse will stay reclusive.

5. A long handled hoe

Today, Jerry and Kathy (our landlords)  came by in their 4-wheeler. While talking yesterday, they casually mentioned  the 6 Copperheads the guys killed at the rig site 3 miles east yesterday. Earlier, JoJo  told us about the Bull snake he chased under our barb-wire fence and  Kevin stopped by to tell us he killed a 3 foot Rattlesnake at our site.

Jerry and Kathy asked what everyone asks: Do we have a gun? No, I said, but we have Wasp spray! They stopped by today with a garden hoe. Heidi’s Grandma always killed snakes with garden hoes and she had lots of guns. This is a very long handled hoe, which is good because ordinarily, a rattlesnake strike can cover a distance of between 1/3 and 1/2 of it’s length. The gate guard a mile up the road killed a 5 1/2 footer. I re-read the Wasp can. It doesn’t mention snakes but does mention scorpions(that’s good) and tent caterpillars.

6. A camera

Besides the obvious attacker identification (they like to know which kind of pit viper bite it was or what the backpack looked like), a camera is also an effective weapon. Last night I heard a considerable racket outside (on the dark side) of the RV. I found a flashlight bright enough to cut through the pitch blackness of the undergrowth to find that I had not 1 but 2 nocturnal visitors.

Raccoon, afraid of the flash, falling off the barbed-wire fence

Just a couple of days before, Heidi had decided to try to draw some of the cardinals and chickadees to the fence line. It’s a jungle of mesquite and live oak all around us so it provides a natural habitat for quite a variety of birds, and others things. The cardinals have come, along with a pair of morning doves, a raccoon and a wild pig.

I found taking flash photos of the raccoon to be very effect. Every time he came back, I’d just shoot a picture in the dark and he’d fall off the barb-wire fence and run. He only came back twice and the feeders are now taking their place in the Jeep at night.

7. A creepy pig on a fence post carcass

To get rid of crows, they sometimes shoot a few and put the dead ones in the trees to scare away the rest of the flock. I don’t know if this same principle holds true with wild pigs and boars. The difficulty lies in finding decaying pigs to borrow.

8. A watch dog

In my case, Henry is a bull dog. He has acquired a great dislike for bulls. He lies down in front of the door(inside) and gives his best low guttural growl, which the bulls never hears, and 1 loud bark which the bulls ignore. At that point he considers his job done and proudly waits for praise and a treat.

If you have a shotgun,  you can throw out everything but the spider spray ( a shotgun would be over-kill) and, of course, you’ll want to keep your dog .

Rigging Down With Dead Eye Debbie

We’re rigging down. Rigging, as I’m sure you know was originally a nautical term.

While rigging up meant getting everything in order and ready to sail, rigging down meant disassembling.

The same is true here. We’re being disassembled.

I’ve grown a lot since December – partially because it’s always too hot, too dark or to scary to walk outside and get any kind of exercise and partially because I’ve met so many fine people.

Henry hasn’t actually grown a whole lot but he was pretty perfect to start with. He already had an open heart and an open mind.

Around mid-August, Lantern 17 is set to move from the Texas panhandle to Gonzales county where we’ll join them and begin drilling new wells, on new pads, working with new men.

In the interim, which begins tomorrow, we leave Lantern 16 for Lantern 3.  We’re moving  a quarter of a mile for 4-5 weeks of short holes. Or so I’m told.

Of course I’m told a lot of things like frogs don’t like the smell of moth balls; fire ants have 3 teeth; the sound of the generator scares away rattlesnakes; the sound of the generator lures rattlesnakes etc…

Although two of our Company Men from 16 are going to 3, I don’t think we’ll know anyone else. It’s a new adventure, but I’m taking precautions. If you read, Breaking Up is Hard to Do, you know those guys were pretty serious about protecting us.

They’re gone now so I have my own arsenal ready, right by the door.

What doesn’t discourage one possible intruder, might well discourage another, so I have (clockwise):

A fly swatter

A small canister of mace

My Guardian Angel, in its tiny shiny box

A partial can of wasp spray. I’d already used almost all of it on a big spider, dangling from the hummingbird feeder on the window. It intimidated the spider but the down side was that after emptying most of the potent potion, I began to worry about the effects of the wasp spay on the paint and spent the next 15 minutes throwing large bowls of water on the RV while watching to see if the spider resurrected.

Next is the fire extinguisher which we’ve never taken out of its holder or tested – I know, not wise

There’s Menopause The Musical – menopause scares a lot of people

A flashlight with a revolving head so I can see behind me

And the newest addition, a gun

As I mentioned in the recounting of the birdseed stealing squirrels, I’m an accidental shooter at most. However, desperate times call for desperate measures.

This is Heidi’s gun that had gotten lost somewhere in the off-season clothes (that would include everything we own that you wear when the temperature in under 115). I decided I’d better practice shooting. Having learned a life lesson from Bob in Tilden who shot out the window of his RV while showing Heidi how to load his shot gun, I went outside.

I set a  pop can in the grass and pulled the trigger. Turns out I’m wicked with a BB gun. This one has a special CO2 cartridge, I think.  Anyway, it packs quite a punch.

I don’t plan on using it.

I’m counting on all rattlesnakes and tarantulas and wild hogs and other uninvited guests to take one look at it and head for the cactus.

  All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl.  ~ Jean-Luc Godard

There you have it!

Guest Post by Lorien Sage

Some friends from our last site dropped by tonight to say hi and to let us know that the rattlesnakes problem is getting really bad, in addition to the great proliferation in wild hogs. Apparently this is a particularly unfortunate combination. They said the hogs go right for the rattlesnakes. The rattlers have caught on and have stopped rattling. Now that the southern Texas rattlesnakes are silent, there’s no warning before they strike.

Steve and Cindy wanted us to be more careful than ever since they’re seeing them all over the place around here. I appreciate that. I took at look at my new  Guardian Angel, but I doubt that shouting Stop! while waving my invisible weapon would be very intimidating to a non-rattling rattler during a silent late night encounter.

I’ve been a bit under the weather (unrelated to rattlesnakes or wild hogs) so I asked my 4 1/2 year old grand-daughter if she would be willing to guest post for me since  she’s a very prolific writer. She graciously agreed.

The writing process is as follows: Lorien dictates the story to my daughter, Jennielee, who types it out, word for word. Jennielee then prints each page separately to create a new book.

Lorien illustrates each page, since she intends to grow up to be a very famous artist (I’m sorry, I only have the text for this one). Personally, I think she could also be a very famous author, but that’s not her passion. I may be a little biased. Still, she is only 4 1/2…

I don’t know that there’s a solution in Lorien’s tale for the rattlesnake problem. But I do think if we put more effort into trying to understand each other, we might indeed have more happy endings!

The Knight with His Shield and the Fire-Breathing Dragon
By Lorien

Once upon a time, there lived a knight.
He woke up out of his bed, and he
heard a dragon.
He went outside, and it was a dragon!

He tried to fight it, but he couldn’t.
Besides, it was really hard for him, because
the dragon was next to his
house. If the knight fought there, he
might kill the dragon, but it would
hurt his pretty knight house, and he
didn’t know where else to go.

The knight tried to fight on top of the
mountain, but it was too wobbly with
two of them on it.

He tried in the pond, but if he fought
in the pond, his armor would get wet,
and he would have to stay that way for
the whole morning, and it would
make him itchy, and he doesn’t like
that.

They tried on the logs, but the beaver
was bothering the knight, so they
couldn’t fight on the logs.

He tried in the tunnel, but the tunnel
was breaking his knight shield.
Also, the dragon’s horns were poking
the tunnel, and it was making blocks
of ruined tunnel fall on the knight’s
shield.

When the knight saw the dragon
breathe fire, he was scared, even
though he wasn’t supposed to be
scared because he was a knight.

And then the knight understood that
when the dragon was breathing fire, it
meant, “Come back, I love you!”

So the knight snuggled in the bed with
the dragon, and they had a happy
sleep, and a happy morning.

The End

Thank you, Lorien. I love you very much!

Grandma Debbie

Lower Than a Snake’s Belly in a Wagon Rut

Yet another common southern idiom that’s new to me.

I did recently have an experience that sort of resembles it in the most literal sense.

According to Virgil, There’s a snake lurking in the grass. Apparently, that’s not the only place they lurk!

As the temperatures climb in Texas, so do the snakes, or so I’m told.

I have it from a variety of reliable locals that the snake population is now either:

1. sunning themselves

2. seeking shade

3. shimmying up trees

Having heard all 3 stated as absolute fact, I find myself hesitant to wander far from home. I’m continually looking up, down and around; confusing a crop of grasshoppers with a rattle and a stick poised to strike with a viper of some sort.

I know the rule, if the stick moves, it isn’t a stick. It moved but it was still a stick. Must have been a heat hallucination.

Having only seen 2 snakes in 4 months, I was starting to feel a little more relaxed until Miss K reported a 6 foot rattler near their RV last night. As rattlesnakes go, that’s a big snake!

I almost saw a rattlesnake one night.

A couple of the guys caught one.

Everybody knows about my fascination with my new surroundings so they stopped on the way back from town to show me.

The conversation went something like this:

Hey, we just caught a rattlesnake up the road a ways. Want to see it?

Sure, let me just grab my camera.

I go inside, get the camera; the guys wait patiently in their truck.

Where is it?

He’s in the back. Just lift up the hard hat.

OK, maybe these two aren’t crazy about me? I may be a Yankee and a city-slicker, but I know enough not to reach into the back of a pickup truck in the dark and lift up a hard-hat to look for a rattlesnake.

I don’t think so. You lift up the hat.

Both guys get out obligingly.

One of the guys searches for a stick to flip the hat. (and I was supposed to just pick it up?)

The hat flips, the camera is ready. No snake, just a frog.

He must’a spit out the frog we fed him.

The search begins.

Everything in the back that can be lifted with a stick is overturned. The corners are poked.

I brought out a flashlight. We looked for a good 5 minutes (seemed longer).

Can’t find him. Guess he’s hidin’ in the truck somewhere.

Then with complete aplomb, they got back in and drove up to the rig.

I watched until their truck rounded the bend to make sure the  rattlesnake didn’t decide to drop out of the tailpipe.

You couldn’t have paid me to get in that pickup with a rattlesnake looking for a comfy corner.

These are brave men. Crazy men, but still brave.

Another of our guys said he’s trying to catch a rattlesnake and rope him to his trailer door to keep people out. I’m not sure if he meant a dead snake (bad voodoo) or a live one (guard snake).

Not everyone is so fond of snakes.

Indiana Jones was ophidiophobic, so there’s clearly no shame in it.

If you do happen to enjoy snakes, the largest Rattlesnake Roundup in the US is in Freer, Texas at the end of  April.

I won’t be able to get off work, shucks.

But if you go, I’d love to hear about it!