And The Winner Is…?

Debbie, I liked your previous post because it paints an interesting picture of a common struggle. Last night being the Academy Awards, I began thinking about the leading role in my own musical soundtrack to life.  I don’t happen to be a fan of the character Guilt, but if you take these sentences and insert the crowning performance of Fear, then I can identify!

Even sadder and more isolating than the loneliest number is the mental music we play when we lose ourselves in FEAR. FEAR is the indulgence of the unquiet mind. FEAR is the musical we can’t dance to.

I have only recently learned to avoid the opening nights of that little number. Life is so much better if I can stop the intro to the music of Fear and just pray about the topic that prompted the first few strains. Sometimes I’m powerless to take a negative thought captive. That’s when I ask for help, if I’m smart. Sometimes it’s prayer, sometimes it’s a call to someone else. Either way, it’s identification of the musical and choosing to listen to something else.

Yesterday I was scouting out a new oil site and was afraid I was going to get lost. That was a legitimate fear. I was 8 miles away from Nixon, Texas (no, not Richard, but John T, as in rancher and founder) and aside from mesquite and dusty roads, it was all desert-like wasteland. The more turns I made into the wasteland, the harder my heart pounded. It wasn’t hard to recognize the leading role in my imagination. It was Fear without costume or makeup!

The leading role of Fear is not always so rational and obvious. In fact, it’s the no-so-obvious cameo appearances that really ramp up the fear musical that plays in my head.

Like one this morning. I have Zune on my laptop so that I can transfer music and pictures from there to my new Sourround windows phone. Ever since I installed Zune, my picture program, Picasa, stopped working. I uninstalled and reinstalled Picasa, just now but to no avail.

I have a love-hate thing going with technology. I love it when it works, but it can tank my day when I don’t know how to fix problems. It’s fear that really causes my day to start going south. Okay and maybe a little frustrated anger. I wanted to post a picture of the area around Nixon for this piece, but no. Just for the illustration of how stark life becomes when Fear takes the lead, I’ll leave this blog without a picture.

I am sure that some of our readers would suggest other emotions that mark a downward descent in their day.  I would like to ask them.

So, all you Lurkers out there…who takes the leading role of your negative musical?

For Want Of Interesting Characters

January 17, 2011 by Debbie

We’ve officially completed 3 weeks of gate guarding in Tilden. This particular gate was supposed to be a 3-6 week assignment, so we’re either  half-way done or all but finished.

Around 5pm the sun finally came out. How funny that in Oregon, famous for rain, rain never bothered me. The ocean storms were always interesting and on most rainy days there would be periods of sun. Here the days of rain seem kind of gloomy.

Our struggle with technology continues as my new AT&T phone blacked out semi-permanently. Tomorrow, Heidi is off to Alice (a town that actually has an AT&T store) to trade our phones in for ones that, hopefully are a little more reliable.

On the way home, she’ll make a library trip to return the books we’ve read and the books we’ve rejected. I’m struggling to find books that I really want to read, now that I have all the time in the world to read for pure pleasure.

I think I know why, but I’m not keen on the reason. I seem to be going through a phase where I don’t want to read about or watch (TV/movies) characters I don’t like. I don’t have to like all of them, but I want to like at least one semi-main character.

With that standard, many, possibly most of the classics would fall into my reject pile. I just finished reading a book where I hated the story line and the writing was only fair but I liked all 4 of the characters. I’m working my way through The Girl Who Played With Fire and feel like I should love it, but I don’t.


Ironically, my sudden need to ‘like’ fictional characters comes at a time in my life when I’m less concerned than I’ve ever been about being liked myself. I have no idea if there’s a connection?

I do have some idea about why being liked is less important to me. I’ve made many decisions over the past 5 years that have caused people who once really “liked” me to stop “liking” me.

What that tells me is that they never actually liked me, they liked (approved of in some cases) my behavior/choices. The sum total of my actions does not equal my essence, my heart or my spirit. So both being liked and not being liked means a lot less than it used to. One the other hand, being loved means a whole lot.

So I guess I like the characters that I think I know and I love the people who know me and love me for the knowing.

By the way, the bulls came back. Henry snorted but was too afraid to bark, I shooed and threw rocks and banged pots and Heidi set off the alarm in the Jeep. The bulls stayed. They were clearly here before us and intend to stay after we’re gone. I don’t know that happened to that helicopter round-up. Maybe they should have rented cowboys.

Got Signal?

January 15, 2011  by Debbie

I generally get up early, 5ish, and get dressed in the dark to be ready to open the gate. I don’t usually shower until things slow down around 10:00. This personal information is divulged only as an explanation of why it was 10:30 before I realized that today was definitely laundry day.

Laundry day is always also grocery day, garbage day and internet day. I initially planned the shorter Three Rivers route but the library was closed on Saturday for Martin Luther King Day which isn’t until Monday, at which time the library will be closed also. Taking a look at the passengers’ seat of the Jeep, full of gallons jugs of water and the back seat full of everything we don’t have room form inside, I decided against holding my laptop and sitting in the library parking lot.

So I left Heidi to gate guarding and cooking and I white-knuckled it out our dirt turned to mud road back to hwy 16 and on to Pleasanton.

I briefly considered another trip to the portable dump but decided maybe not. Anyway, I think it goes away on the weekends.

I had to pass up the Longhorn Museum once again which was enjoying a full parking lot of 5 trucks.

I found the gas station/carwash/laundry mat on the far edge of Pleasanton. And, as an extra bonus, there was a unlocked dumpster! Hurrah!

It’s a funny laundry mat, connected to a bustling convenience store, equipped with dry cleaning services and picnic  tables. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a laundry mat with inside picnic tables before. I think they were there to encourage the purchase of nachos and bean burritos and rolling hotdogs from the convenience store which you had to go into to find the restrooms.

It seemed to be working as all the tables were full of people drinking soda (I’ve adapted to coastal/southern and about everywhere but IN and IA colloquialisms) and eating paper wrapped dripping items. By the time I used
$3.75 in the machines, a table cleared and I plopped down with my laptop and was happily able to hop on line with my air card for just about the exact amount of time it took to do wash before I lost the signal. At that point there was no choice but to end another afternoon with a $1 sandwich and free internet at McDonalds!

The staff is getting to know me there not just because of my frequent visits, but because I always sit at the same table, right in front of them and plug into a dead outlet. I didn’t realize the outlet was dead until I stayed longer than usual and couldn’t figure out why it was taking the pictures so long to upload. I finally looked at the bottom corner of my screen to find the battery life was ebbing away at 42%.

And here I thought the employees that were always smiling at me were just extra friendly.

Dump Challenge

January 14, 2011 by Debbie

Today was suppose to be Direct TV day. My first clue that maybe not was when the phone rang at 1:30 and Jim, speaking perfect English, asked how to get to Old Fowlerton Rd from Port Orford. Well, that would be quite a drive… The phone signal was so poor today, I didn’t even try to set up yet another appointment. Maybe tomorrow, maybe next week when the weather is suppose to clear.

So I packed my little hat box satellite back out to the Jeep and headed into Tilden to check the mail since Heidi was expecting a letter from her Mom (which came and was a fun treat to read!). My other two errands were to buy bananas at the Mercantile (they were sort of gray so I passed) where I got parked in and go to the dump because the Jeep was beginning to smell like a dead mouse.
There may actually be a dead mouse, but the garbage was definitely ripe, too, so I drove out Hill Top Cemetery road to the dump. But, once again, the dump was gone, even tho’ it was 2pm on a Friday and the posted hours are Monday 10-5
Friday 10-5 (I’m unclear as to whether or not that’s meant to encompass the in between days).

I made it almost back to the highway (2 miles) when the dump passed me, going back up HTC road. So I turned around and followed until the dump passed it’s parking spot and pulled way back into the landfill, where the dump, dumped. There were 2 or 3 pickups waiting back there. A local hang out?

The temperature was around 42 and it’d been raining off and on all day, just enough to make the clay roads really slick. I decided to wait for the dump to return to it’s resting place and began reorganizing the glove box. I was deeply contemplating whether or not anyone puts gloves in the glove box, or does that mean something else, as I refolded yesterday’s map and put away the superfluous sunglasses.

Remembering that I did once keep driving gloves in my Camry, I was startled by a short rap on my door. A middle-aged man in all black: hat, jeans, belt, boots, except for his wine-colored shirt, the exact shade of his pickup, signaled for me to put my window down, which I did, just a bit. He said, gold front tooth shining: “Is there something we can do for you ma’am?”

I was confused by the we since it was at least a mile back to the other trucks, and there was no one else in sight. I answered that I was just waiting to throw away my garbage. He told me to go on back to the spot where the dump was emptying. I said I was afraid I might get stuck in the mud. He assured me that if I got stuck (not that I wouldn’t) the guys would pull me out.

That didn’t sound like a very good plan to me so I declined and said I’d wait. He told me I was in the way and to pull over by the fence. Maybe 5 minutes later, the dumped sped up the road, mud flying and parked in the usual spot. The gold toothed man drove up next to me and put his window down and said: “Just between us, I’d wait to get out until we leave.”

Puzzled and starting to feel a little creepy I asked if I wasn’t suppose to put my garbage there? He just sort of smiled and said again: “I’m just saying, if I was you, I wouldn’t get out until we leave.”

At that point I took my leave and decided there are worse things than the smell of  garbage in the back of the Jeep. In the mean time, the bell rang like crazy all day and we still have no idea what anyone’s doing back there.

In Search of the Perfect Dish For Direct TV and RV

January 13, 2011  by Debbie

I set out for New Brunsfled, about 30 miles NE of San Antonio, this morning around 9 to find Camping World to buy the portable dish I’m told I need to get any TV reception. What should have been a 2 hour journey turned into 3 ½ as my Navigation system repeated lost the GPS signal on my phone (no there‘s a surprise). I toured downtown San Antonio and was 20 miles south of the city before I realized I’d gone the wrong way on Interstate 35.

I might have been a little more astute if it hadn’t been for Menopause. The radio is un-programmable, un-seeking and un-searching in my Oregon looking Jeep. The only station I can pick up is 1230 AM which is Sports Talk Radio. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as sports-talk-radio.

I border on narcolepsy anyway so that’s out of the question. And although I passed some interesting sights like the Longhorn Museum, the scenery isn’t particularly eye-popping (what I saw of it at 70 miles an hour – the speed limit is 75 most of the time). People drive fast and funny in Texas. There were giant flashing interstate signs all over San Antonio stating: “NEW TEXAS LAW … NO TEXTING WHILE DRIVING”. Driving is Texas is a topic for another day.

I need entertainment to stay awake any time I drive longer than about 15 minutes. Our dear friend, Mary Anne, gave us Charles Kurault’s On the Road tapes as a going away gift when we left PRR and I’ve listened to all of those twice.

The CD player prefers to play only professionally mixed CD’s and shoots my homemade ones right back at me. With my trips to Pleasanton and Three Rivers for AT&T, internet and laundry and now the 275 mile satellite in a suitcase trip, I’ve become friends with the Iowa Housewife, the Soap Star, Earth Mother and Professional Woman who cheerful belt out songs about menopause to 60’s tunes like The Lion Sleeps Tonight, Puff the Magic Dragon and I‘ve Got You, Babe!

Bob and Trudy and Heidi and I saw Menopause, the Musical when we were at a social-networking conference in Las Vegas in March. Our last-minute tickets put us in the very front row. I didn’t really want to go. Actually, only Bob wanted to go, but he’d taken us to the Grand Canyon that day, which was quite a drive, so we owed him his choice of evening shows (we’d seen
The Lion King the night before – see why I love going to conventions with B&T!).

Since most of you who read this know either Heidi or me, you know we both have pretty hardy laughs. Never hardier than that night! Good thing we were in the front row. I’m pretty sure anyone in front of us would have turned around a lot (which probably would have embarrassed my cousin) and maybe suffered some hearing impairment. After the show, we were told by the cast that we laughed so much we almost made them mess up their lines!

Who would have thought that that topic could be so hysterical?. We had so much fun, Trudy bought us the CD. So, as I drive, I happily sing lines like “Thank you prozac, thank thank you prozac” to the tune of Help Me Rhonda; and “Louder than I talk is the swishing when I walk, their my thighs, my thighs” to the tune of My Guy.

Anyway, I finally made it to Camping World and purchased  my little dish in a hatbox. Or at least I was about to purchase it when an elderly lady rushed up to the register and grabbed it out of my hands. This surprised since there were probably 20 on display, but I smiled and started to go get another one when she admonished me; “Did you open it up?” I hadn’t so she did, explaining that the one they bought yesterday was “used” so they drove 35 miles (obviously not listening to cheerful Menopause music) to exchange it for a new one.

Eventually, mine proved acceptable and I was allowed to pay for it and leave the store. I called Direct TV and confirmed their appointment for tomorrow. It will be stunning if 1) they come and 2) it works! I stopped in Pleasanton at McDonald’s for a large Latte and internet access.
When I got home around 4:30, Heidi had only had 5 people at the gate and 2 were lost. She’d fixed dinner, had done the daily cleaning and read ½ of The Girl That Played With Fire all while I got lost and sang and blogged.

We’ve added Spite and Malice to our nightly card game ritual. It’s Henry’s favorite because it’s so ruckus that whenever one of us hollers, we feel sorry for him and give him a treat.

600 Miles…Situation Hopeless?

January 9, 2011  by Debbie

It stormed last night so tomorrow will be another hammer-to-the-shoes day (the mud isn’t quite dry enough this afternoon). I think we are now officially guarding nothing. It’s 4:00pm and only 5 people have passed through the gate today and that includes Heidi and me and a ranch hand.

Yesterday’s 2 hour tech session drew to a close with the conclusion that our new air card is corrupted. So, this morning I went back to Pleasanton. We think we’ve now driven 600 miles back and forth just trying to get connected. We probably should have just enjoyed the peace while we had it.

What was that movie where everything in a little town (Pleasantville?) was black and white until these two teenagers (I think one was Toby McGuire, maybe not?) went back in time and things started turning colors, a little at a time? Today was just the opposite.


After last nights’ rain, the trees and cactus no longer looked like they were covered with frost (dust) and I could see all the way up the road from cattle crossing to cattle crossing. It was so clear, I didn’t have to pull over once to wait for the dust to settle.


By the time I returned with yet another air card three hours later, conditions had returned to normal and all the color was dusted away again. Heidi had a lively 3 hour chat with a Canadian tech support fellow who complimented her on being the most polite person he’s tried to help in 8 years on the job. However, he declared our situation hopeless until we move to a less remote locale. I’m reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, so I think it’s time to power down and turn a few pages of real paper.

Helicoptors VS Cowboys

January 8, 2011  by Debbie

Typical day on the ranch, beginning with our regular salt water guys and an oil truck or 2 and Robbie, the gauger. Just as Robbie finished filling me in on the dangers of havalinas (he said they attack barking dogs), illegals (if they’re drug runners, they’ll attack anything) and the rattlesnakes (you start seeing them more in March, about 1 per mile), 10 Perterbuilts pulled up to the gate. This caused a significant traffic jam as they trailed a half a mile back down the road. They sat patiently for over an hour, trying to find out if they were at the right gate.

As usual, I had no idea. It’s like being held hostage (movie style) where you just keep repeating your tag number. In the meantime, Heidi had driven into Tilden to meet the Direct TV installation guy. 90 minutes later, they squeezed their way past the caravan, both shaking their heads as they pulled in. The company had sent the wrong kind of satellite for a rolling home. The young man, who kept apologizing for his English (lack of) was frustrated after missing Tilden and driving all the way to Mexico and back to find us.

It appears, of course we’re not sure, that things are winding down at this gate. They took the lights and the Port-a-Johns out last night and the suction floats today, so we’re thinking we may be moved soon. Robbie’s description of leaving a gate sounds more like a Tsunami evacuation. They say you’re shut down and you need to be ready to roll. It’s a small dilemma, to pack or not to pack. We may be here another day or another month.

Regardless, the TV’s on hold. Heidi doesn’t like it anyway and I’m getting a lot more reading done. J  Back to the Peterbuilts: turns out they were at the right gate, twice! Richard, the one of the head ranchers drove up in a dune buggy and let them in to dump 40 tons of rock around the lake for the birds.
Really? “Mr. Stuart has a lot of money.” When there nothing else to say, just state the obvious. Although I saw them dump the rocks, I couldn’t find hardly any later. I think they must have dumped most of the 40 tons in the lake for the underwater birds.

The cattle have strayed to our gate again, which is a problem for the ranchers. So today is round up day as the stragglers will be herded back to their appropriate location. Finally something that sounds like a Western! But no, they won’t be using cowboys. Cowboys run $75 a day and it’s another $100 a day for the horse (I thought they came in sets). It would take quite a few cowboys and horses to accomplish the task. A helicopter, on the other hand, is only $200 an hour and can get the job done in less than 2 hours! So we’re having a round-up, helicopter style.

Heidi is in (you guessed it) Pleasanton at Radio Shack buying an AC adapter for the DC adapter I picked up yesterday. No idea if it will get us on line or not or if we’ll even need it next week if we are relocated. Speaking of next week, I was able to get a little more insight into our future from Raul, but unfortunately, I don’t know what it was.

Going to school in Indiana in the 70’s, I saw as little value in my 2 years of high school and 2 years of college Spanish as I did in the Chemistry and Calculus classes I took because the guidance counselor insisted. While the latter 2 still lack application for me, I wish I‘d applied myself in Spanish class. Everything I remember about Spanish now, I learned from Doris Day but at least it’s appropriate: Que sera sera…

Texas Style Deer Hunting

January 6, 2011   by Debbie

Might as well start out by stating the obvious. I’m writing so, no, the air card doesn’t work with only one bar. Tech support said we’re so far from a tower (18 miles doesn’t sound like that far, but it must be a long way in internet waves). They’re amazed we can use our phones a little.

Most of the traffic has passed on by today. It’s been a quiet day on the ranch.

Ranch being an really important concept, not to be confused with farm. On a farm you grow corn and try to keep the deer out. On this ranch, they grow corn to draw the deer in and to plump them up like those Tyson Chicken commercials.

Theses are actually Tilden chicken, not Tyson chickens. I pass them on the way to the dump.

Actually, it seems more like the witch’s gingerbread house in Hansel and Gretel. There are corn feeders and salt licks strategically placed near the blinds, where the hunters sit and wait for company. It’s been a highly charged afternoon.

So far, the ducks are safe...

A ranch hand filled me in on a few of the details. While anyone with a license can hunt on some ranches for $1500 a day and up, our rancher only lets his friends, his family and his attorneys pay to hunt here.

In Cedar Rapids, the deer population has become so invasive that flower gardening is impossible in many neighborhoods right in the city and hitting a deer while driving at night is more likely than hitting a patch of ice in the winter. Iowans are continually debating about the most humane way to thin the herd some.

In Oregon, people still take pictures of a buck or a doe. Hunting is popular albeit very short season.

In Texas, they fence off areas on the ranches app. the size of a football field and go to Rent-A-Buck. For between $30,000 and $50,000, you can procure the services of a perfect buck to put in the field with around 20 doe.

The seasonal limit for buck is 5, no one cares much about the doe, since it’s trophy mounting, not eating that’s the motivation. It explains a lot about Max’s Motel and Café!