Stuck in the Middle with Me

Self-help gone wrong

Oh. Oh. Oh.
It’s NaNo time again, time to write 50,000 words in a quick 30 days, and of course, I’m in it to win it. Gonna do this thing! Let’s go! (Insert “Animal House” scene, John Belushi running away to battle while his friends sit and watch his weird exit.)
This year I sat a moment and examined my previous attempts, all of which met the critical 50K bar of excellence, but none of which completed a story. That’s where the post-NaNo editing was supposed to happen, and when at last I pulled up the files to begin, I got stuck in the morass of my own verbiage and fell asleep a lot. My stories still lie festering and staring blankly until I get the cojones to rework and complete.
It’s a mess.
And what did I do for those half-successful but not to my own par all previous seven times? I Pantsed it. (That’s a real verb in the NaNo world.) I wrote and wrote, with no thought for rhyme nor reason, spewing lyrical genius from atop my cerebellum onto the keyboard with abandon and glee.
Ain’t so gleeful now, am I?
On October 29th, so so late in the game, I decided I’d make an Outline, the middle school equivalency to torture; loathed them then, loathe them now. But Pantsing wasn’t working, I reasoned. Maybe Plotting was the way of my future, especially if I wanted to finish a story.
Being the book geek that I am, I consulted not one but seven tomes on the subject of writing, planning, navigating, and getting-onto-paper the visual translation of the audio in my head.
Most all of these helpful books say: Start in the middle.
Egads!
Are you kidding me? The middle doesn’t come around for two full weeks! I haven’t even come up with an opener besides “Once upon a time…” and these helpful self-helpers have effectively left me quagmired in a stew of over-wrought thinking, over-whelmed and eating ice cream for both supper last night and breakfast this morning! (Though, you know, that’s not really my complaint here.)
Today is Day 2 of NaNo, and though I floated a lot of words onto the Doc yesterday, today I’m tapped. I got nothin’. Yet my grey matter is storming the castle, screaming, “Just Pants the thing, this one last time. Do research the other eleven months and next year we’ll try this outline thing. We’re running out of time, Dudette [my brain calls me “dudette,” a weird affectation that I’ll ponder later as some sort of brain condition, but for now, Dudette doesn’t seem to rile me]. Get this thing in the books and be done!”
And yet the other half of my brain, the tenacious, not-quite-there side, says no, we gotta figure this out this year.
“Think through the details,” rational-but-annoying Me says. “Create the back story and the “why” and generate the point of the whole telling. Get an outline. Get to work. We have 29 days.”
But since I always have finished before Thanksgiving — because who needs to think of a nearly-done novel around the turkey table; no, all focus should be on mashed potatoes — that’s less days.
Adding to my panic.
And more reason for my brain to keep throwing images of pants onto the screen of my frontal lobe.
I’m telling you, people, I don’t have enough ice cream left for this level of tension and no time to get to the nearest freezer section, because of course I’m in the middle of the prairie.
This is going to be a long month.

 

On Timeliness

If I’m not five minutes early, I’m late.
At least, in my brain I am.
“I’m sorry I’m late, traffic was a bear…” I always apologize, shoulders up, head turtling into my neck. Even though it’s the prairie and “traffic” consists of the occasional harvester or a snake in the road.
“You’re not late! Not at all!” says my gracious host, eyes wide with disbelief.
But I hate to not be prompt. Even in college, I’d rather not go at all than squeeze in through a doorway a minute or so after the bell. because hey, I didn’t want a gazillion eyes upon me. School is hard enough without judgment from strangers.
Thus…I missed a lot of classes…sorry, Mom.
So when I shout with near apoplexy at my Bubs, supine in slumber, “Get up! We’re late,” it’s shocking, he doesn’t really listen.
Normally, we are not late to school. I might be taking that last curb on only two tires, and teachers certainly wake up when they hear the chirping of my too-quick tread across that last speed bump, but we aren’t late to school.
Last Wednesday, I may have possibly quite likely mistakenly erroneously not set an alarm to waken me at the normal pre-dawn hour. And perhaps the only cue for sunrise was the snout of my giant moose dog snuffling lovingly into the middle of my face, thus causing me to notice I could see his face in the sunshine, startling me enough to bolt out of bed at 7:33 am, a full 53 minutes past my normal bedside departure.
“We’re late,” I warble as I thump upon my sweet child’s delicate blanket-encased body. “Get up now, please, we’relatewe’relatewe’relate…”
And as I hurriedly don flip-flops and a hat and dub whatever-else-I’m-wearing as appropriate for Office Attire to Drop Off the Late Student, my beautiful boy ignores me.
Wholeheartedly and with no contrition, he ignores me.
“We’re late!” I scream, hurriedly grabbing his coverings and sweeping them back in a flourishing arc. “Throw on clothes, we’re late!”
Finally — finally! — the boy senses urgency in my tone and arises. (Who am I kidding? The stand-off ended in, “If you don’t get up NOW, you get no tech for a year!”)
With a last look at the house, I back the truck and race across the potholed prairie expediently, assuredly, and not-at-all over the traditional speed limits, and chauffeur the boy to the school’s front door.
“What time is it?” he at last asks when I open the front door and shoo him inside.
“7:53,” I remark, with the told-you-so writ large across my derision. I picked up a pen and signed the boy in on the office desk tablet, noting with a blue Wildcats pen to the world about my Mommy Fail for the day.
“Oh. Weird,” he answers while I wait impatiently for elucidation. “We really are late, not just your late.”
“Yes! Yes, we are!” I answer, all patience gone. I turned to face him full on and finished, “And it was the dog’s fault, so now I have to go home and kill him. Have a good day!” And with a pat on the head, he was off to class.
I turned to leave and find clothing suitable for public perusal before work. And coffee.
Unfortunately, while my child may have understood my humor when I’m impatient, homelessly dressed, and under-caffeinated, the proximal office attendants were a bit wary.
They look at me funny now.
I tell myself it is because they admired my hat and rakish insouciance for morning style.

Tire Pressure Seems Important, but What Do I know?

The fancy truck I drive tells me the pressure of each tire. Which is good, because tire pressure is not on my priority list…ever…
When the tire “map,” as it were, popped up the other day, it told me all the tires were low by about five pounds.
So I gunned it to warm the air and gain some pressure.
I wish I were kidding.
But the owner’s manual seated within the car pocket subliminally told me I was acting like an irresponsible beginning driver.
“Don’t ignore my warnings. I’m high-tech; you’re not; you’ll lose,” the truck announced to my chagrin, because it’s right. It’s always right.
Besides. I needed gas. And an Icy Drink.
Under the guise of Adult Vehicle Maintenance, I pulled into a prairie 7-11, one so busy that it’s hazardous. But it has the best Icy Drinks: just the right juice/ice combination so important when enjoying a frozen beverage.
“Bubs,” I said, as I pulled up to the air compressor. “I’m going to leave the key on, and you’re going to read the gauge,” which I displayed with my best parade wave at the dashboard control, “And tell me when the pressure number reaches 41. Okay?”
(Note that I was so proud of myself for using correct vernacular instead of pointing and using nonsensical words ending with “-icky” or “-ingie,” as in: “I’m going to push a button to get  air to squirt into the wheel…valve…thingie.”)
“Okay,” he proudly respond as the driver door slammed shut behind me at the precise moment the radio volume escalated to a level left behind with high school and days of “cruising.”
“Turn it down!” I barked, indeed using a pointer finger to enunciate my point. And I frowned; it was All Mom there for a minute, though I really like Imagine Dragons and my toes betrayed me. They were thankfully hidden by the enormous truck body so I could retain my Mom Status and get away with a wiggle in my butt.
At the first tire, the one most perilously close to empty though not low enough to have caused any true alarm, I unscrewed the valve cap and proceeded to push air through the stem. Down about five pounds? I’ll count to…10…
“What’s it read?” I yelled in to my child, ever vigilant to his mother’s voice.
(Yeah, right.)
“Turn down the radio!” I repeated atop a window bang. Things were getting heated.
“What?” came the reply over the stilled air.
“The gauge, on the dashboard, what does it read now?”
“Still 36.”
I waited a beat.
“Okay, what about now?”
“What?”
“It’s been two seconds!” I yell, rising to stroll quickly to the open window and wave my rubber hose dealie in my son’s perplexed face. “What does the gauge read now?”
“36,” he said, his eyes wide but sparkly, because, hey, I was waving a hose in his face, and yeah, that’s pretty funny, but fortunately he didn’t laugh. Smart kid. Mostly.
“You didn’t even turn your head and look!” I noted loudly.
“Oh,” he mumbled, then turned to read the number. “38.”
I paused. I’d counted to 10 and only gained 2 pounds.
“Alright,” I muttered, more to myself and the guzzintas in my head than to my boy. “Fine. I’ll count to 20 then, sucker.”
And I did.
And after a similar verbal exchange as previously, I heard my boy say, “It says 45.”
“45?”
“Yeah. 45…is that good?”
“Yes,” I answered. “If I were going pontooning in this thing.”
“What’s a…”
“Never mind, never mind,” I said, canceling the ensuing conversation post haste.
Did I want to air the others up to 45, stay balanced, would that work??
No, no…I’m kidding. I knew the situation was overinflated, never fear.
With a fingernail, I proceeded to release some of my hard-won air.
“What’s it say now?”
“Uuummm…”
Silence.
“Son?”
“Yeah, uuuummm…I’m looking…”
“I don’t believe the gauges have moved.” My spirits were low. It was a hot day. I’d been at work all day. I had no Icy with which to cool my ire. Things were dicey, I’ll admit.
“Still says 45.”
“But I let out so much air,” I said to no one in particular, because of course my son had found a Big Nate book in the previous half second and cared not one whit for my predicament.
“Fine,” I said, again surly. “I’ll show you how to let it out, ya stupid ol’ stupid ol’…” (Insert any swearing you like in there; I’m sure it’s as accurate as any illustration would be.)
“Okay,” I said after letting the tire relieve itself. “Howzabout now?”
“What?”
Oh, sweet Lord in Heaven, he’s so cute…don’t let me use this air hose inappropriately, I prayed as I stomped my unhappy self toward the driver window and popped my head to check for myself.
“It looks like a big red butt,” my son whispered in my ear.
And sure enough, I’d lowered the pressure so much that now the tire map glowed rouge and indicated with a decidedly butt-like icon that indeed, the tire was low, low, low.
“What now?” Bubs asked.
“I get rid of the butt.”
I stomped back into place, shot air into the air like I knew what I was doing — all the while relying on my bird like instincts to tell me when air pressure was optimal — and released the hose when any good bird would.
“What’s it say now?” I called for what I hoped was the final time.
“Um…36.”
“Perfect!” I screamed at anyone within listening range. “Mama earned an Icy Drink.”
I wrapped the hose around the waist of that delightfully inexpensive air dispensing machine, stormed into the store toward the frozen concoction dispenser and filled two cups to the brim.
“I got no trouble until the butt glows red.” I’m gonna print it on a bumper sticker.

.

I Can Hear Bells from Everywhere

My Bubs is officially a sixth grade band member.
I am a band mom.

I am a band mom to a sixth grade percussionist.
Monday was Instrument Night, in which moms cry a lot as they write really big checks and then go home to eat ramen.
(Or maybe it was just this mom. The other didn’t seem so stressed. And actually, I don’t mind ramen, so that last statement may have seemed more dire than intended.)
Anyway, what does a big check buy on Instrument Night? Well, for a newly minted percussionist, it buys a carry-on luggage-style bag — with sassy wheels and a clever ull-out handle, thank heaven — housing a drum practice pad, a set of mallets, a set of drumsticks, an instrument stand, a metronome, a chromatic tuner, and a xylophone, though I was immediately corrected that indeed it was not a xylophone, it was a “set of bells,” that for all my worldly experience I would swear was a xylophone.
Here’s the sweet, sweet thing: Bubs wanted to “get the feel” for his new instrument, as for the last week he’s been learning how to hold sticks, how to tap rhythmically, how to keep time, and now that he had a rolly-cart full of official merchandise, he wanted to practice on the real thing.
Absolutely! Yes! Let’s do this!
He carefully demonstrated how to mount his drum practice pad on the stand; it screws on; it’s a dull sound, not the snare drum chaos I was expecting. I took my fingers out of my ears almost immediately, so Bubs didn’t know of my fear.
Then he moved on to the metronome, which he turned on and to which I found myself keeping time while I was watching ramen noodles boil. Why was the beat, beat, beat continuing? Why was Bubs not stopping the madness? Oh, because he suddenly had to go to the bathroom for the interminably long time that boys suddenly go to the bathroom. Books are involved.
Somehow I managed to find the power button on the delightful apparatus that I learned “stays home for nightly practice.”
Delightful.
Once Bubs was out of the bathroom, he returned to center stage to put together the bells — to properly mount them on the instrument stand — and grab his mallets.
“Ready?” he asked while I shoveled noodles into my head.
“Yes,” I mumbled and nodded. I had no free fingers to plug my ears. Why would I? Bells are melodic, bells are lovely, soothing, dainty…
What the holy hell.
I have never heard such disruption of my psychic calm.
Did you know an eleven-year-old boy can make a xylophone wail like it’s part of Metallica?
Or maybe that was only me wailing.
Because without even realizing it, Bubs’ mother had deserted her noodle bowl, grabbed a bag of dark chocolate chips of questionable age and a screw-top bottle of red wine — pairings are important, even in the time of crisis; dark chocolate absolutely must go with red wine — and vanished into her bedroom as quickly as possible. Door closed. Netflix on the Fish in Aquarium app — “so soothing!” squeals the ad — and a fistful of chocolate shoved into her maw as quickly as possible.
Band Mom. That’s me.
Ever supportive. Ever present. Ever tipsy.
It’s going to be a long year.

I’m never going to earn Pearls

I made a small penny floor — an accent feature — in my kitchen, and now I hate every other single thing in the room. So dull. So drab.
Best way to un-drab boring tile? Floor wax.
It’s a guess. I’m not really much of a house keeper. I watched “Leave it to Beaver,” though, and June Cleaver mopped — while wearing a dress, heels, and pearls — covering her kitchen’s black and white drab with a shiny coating. Thus, I shall wax as well.
I made a trip to Lowe’s for cleaning supplies only. Who does that? But I did, and I drug Bubs with me. He loved the trip. Why? Because a mop can be a pretend weapon of sorts. And Bubs has surprisingly strong arm strength. He can whip a mop around his head quicker than a guy with a Lowe’s cart can scurry away.
(Again, Strange Lowe’s Shopper in the Small Tools Section, I’m sorry. So sorry. But Bubs did miss, in his defense.)
Still ambitious, and with Pandora roaring in the background, I drug every bit of furniture, junk, and kitchen-y crap out of the room, leaving the floor bare and vulnerable to the numerous orange scented cleaners I bought at Lowe’s.
I scrubbed.
I toiled.
labored over the floor.
Then I pulled the mop from the clutches of my imaginative warrior Bubs and got to waxing.
How hard could it be? “Dump the stuff in an “s” shape and squoosh it around the floor with a damp pretend sword/gun thing.”
Easy peasy.
I was even conscious enough to remove the dogs to the backyard so that they wouldn’t spoil my efforts.
I was in the zone.
Shiny! Pretty! Clean and so so shiny!!
A half hour later, I checked the final results and recognized immediately that waxing the floor seems to have a learning curve. Chunks of tile, still bare to the elements — unshiny, unpretty, so very very dull brown — that I missed entirely while executing my wax/squoosh plan.
Second coats don’t really work so well…still have spots…don’t know how that happened.
Third coats? I’m afraid of build-up…
So…here I sit, with all my kitchen accoutrements shoved into the living room and I don’t want to put a single one of them back into the kitchen on my sort of shiny tile.
But I need to clean the living room floor…and to do that, I have to take everything out of the living room and put it…elsewhere…perhaps in the back of a U-Haul van.
At least the kitchen looks much…emptier…cleaner…shiny-ish. And it won’t get dirty again because there’s nothing in it but my purse and keys.
Best place in the house to keep my purse and keys, in fact, because the other rooms are stuffed with crap I moved in there from the kitchen.
Poor June Cleaver. She would so hate me.

A New App

I went to Wyoming.
I took pictures.
I took many, many pictures. Some with my phone, some with an uber nice, borrowed camera. I called it my “Now and Later” system, in which I could see the phone pics immediately but hadn’t quite figured out the viewing procedure for the Good Camera.
(I knew I’d figure it out eventually, once I was exhausted of oo-ing and ah-ing and was finally ready to see what I had seen all day. But frankly I fell asleep, and didn’t figure out the play back thing until I was re-settled in Oklahoma. Huh. Well. All the better that I had my Now Camera. Anyway. I digress.)
I was in the truck for a total of 54 hours and traveled 3,200 miles in said vehicle.
It was a camper without the beds. Or the kitchen. Or, of course, a bathroom, but God made truck stops for that necessity. Plus you can get more M&M’s after you use the facility, so it’s a win/win.
So the speed limit in Wyoming is 80 mph. Which meant I clipped along at a hale and hearty 85, because that’s what we do, and who wants to stop every two seconds for a gorgeous shot? Because really, it’s an Every 2 Seconds I Stop state — that should be their motto — but now that I’ve rethought it, maybe not…
Thus, I employed my Vintage Through-the-Windshield App on both of my cameras. And if you look through the bug juice created by the filter, you can see all the pretty stuff, like the sky in the above example. PLUS you get the Ol’ Time Vintage feel to your photo.
Love it. Used it a lot.
(A LOT. In fact my photographer friend was nearly apoplectic at my insouciant use of the Vintage Windshield app. He may never speak to me again.)
I’ll show you Later photos later, to complement the trip narrative I have planned for you. It’s like a “My Vacation” without slides…just picture after picture using Vintage Windshield. It’s gonna be great.

Touring Okies: Western Heritage Museum


After travelling 3,252 miles in a truck for 54 hours — 54! — the Bubs and I landed back at home, deep in the heart of Oklahoma, to spend my final vacation day touring the City.
Over the course of a packed week, we saw Wyoming, Colorado, Idaho, and a little bit of Montana, stirring our Westward juices — it’s a thing — so that once we arrived back on the prairie, we settled in for a while at Oklahoma City’s National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, a place I haven’t visited since it was called The Cowboy Hall of Fame.
I erroneously referred to its previous name, and Bubs was sad. “Aw,” he muttered. “Hall of Fames are boring.”
I did not know that.
But when I corrected myself, with the proper title, he cheered instantly and said, “Oh! Well, museums are fun!”
Also something I did not think I would hear from a pre-teen.
I had always thought there was a Fun for Adults part, with paintings and sculptures and yucky boring stuff, and a Fun for Kids part, with a wild west town replica made perfectly for children.
But, now, in my adult-youth, I find that the whole darn tootin’ place is fabulous.
Paintings: because I marvel at technique and skill.
Old West Town: because hey, that stuff doesn’t get old
Gardens & Ponds: because of my gardening gene
Museum Store: because there’s a little bit of Retail Therapy for every place we roam
Rodeo Corral: fascinating; did you know “tenny boots” were a real thing?? I’ve heard that expression always and thought it was fake, fake, fake
Wild West Women: obviously
Prix de West exhibit: again, because of the Art Gene
The Old West in Entertainment: because I can stare at boots worn by Sam Elliott in “Name Whatever Westerns He was Even In” for a shockingly long time
Air Conditioning: because after returning from the West, where the last day’s morning was a drizzly, glorious 54 degrees, and arriving in the middle of Summertime August, I’m still whining at the heat, and doggone it, “Let’s look at the whole entire and complete museum because it’s cool in here and so stinkin’ hot out there.”
We loved the museum. Loved, loved, loved it. I encourage all visitors to go there right now. Right stinkin’ now.
And touring your own hometown is always an adventure. There’s something you don’t know about it; go find that thing.
And I’m facing the fact that I wasn’t ready to let the West go just yet.

Penny Fall/Fail?

I’m gearing up for the annual trip to Wyoming, except this year, we are going further into Wyoming, so far in, in fact, that we’re going out.
While usually we skim the state’s fringe by hunkering home base into Cheyenne, this year we are heading northwest to Jackson and Yellowstone, but we’re staying three nights in Idaho, which makes perfect sense, because…well, I don’t know, but when I was looking for room to sleep, this one yelled “yes” to me.
I booked it! Paid the deposit! Woot! Rest isn’t due for a whole week! (And that was last week!)
Blink. Blink.
Okay, so vacationing is expensive and for the next two weeks until we leave, my wallet is on lock down, which hampers the Bubs’ summer fun.
Hampers mine, too.
For instance, I wanted a haircut before we leave. Solution: pull hair into ponytail; snip the ends, et voila, an instant “layered” look. (That’s what I’m telling my stylist who will fix this hot mess when I can afford to see her again. Until then, I like hats.)
What to do with all the hours left to while away in poverty?
Pinterest. Internet is paid up for the month and it doesn’t cost to look, so, yes, to Pinterest!
Yesterday, I loved Pinterest.
Today…not so much.
Remember when my kitchen gave me no joy, thus I ripped out a huge chunk of cabinetry to “open the space, let me breathe more freely with joy, worry about where to put actual kitchen-type items later”? Yeah. That’s a hot mess, and I was sure Pinterest would have the cure.
Penny floors. Have you seen them? I’ll wait here while you Google it…
Lovely, right?
And what’s cheaper than sitting on the naked floor, gluing pennies to give it a nice coppery glow, while the Bubs languishes in all the video gaming time he and I both need to turn my cement slab into a masterpiece? Nothing. Nothing is cheaper than that.
I dug out my hot glue gun, turned it on to burn away the dust it had collected, assembled four dollars worth of rolled pennies, and proceeded to glue away! I even tried to put all of the coins face up, so my superstitious Mom won’t freak out at the good luck leaking into the slab. (I can tell you now I’m not as OCD as I once thought, because Abe be darned; within seconds I only wanted the stupid roll of stupid coins stuck to the stupid ground and I didn’t care about stupid heads nor stupid tails and why oh why did I have to go to the Pinterest?)
Well. I can tell you this, which is no surprise…four dollars doesn’t go very far. And if you lay four hundred pennies out end to end, well, you have a place mat. I need a bedspread, though crib size, and four dollars in copper lays out to the size of a place mat?
Pennies are hateful.
Bubs’ piggy bank was bleating to me from his room. Really. It lured me in there with its, “I have more money than you right now” witticism, and I followed the sound, because you know what? My kid really and truly stored more money — though silver — on his dresser than I have in my vacation depleted bank account.
I grab said piggy and go to shaking.
What is the only thing that will draw my Bubs away from his intense gaming? The sound of money. Which bodes well for his entrepreneurial future, but completely busted me in the maternal venue, as in “Mama, why are you robbing me?”
I proceeded with, “Honey, only the pennies. And I’ll pay you back.”
“Pennies?” he warbled. “But that’s the bulk of my stash!”
While I lauded his verbiage, I dratted his excellent hearing and puppy dog eyes that guilted me into almost putting the loot back. Almost.
Because the hot glue was still hot and Mama was in the midst of a project.
Anyway, I told him I heard a mysterious noise coming from the PlayStation or whatever system he has and convinced him it might be shutting down, which immediately made him vanish from sight.
And I glued more pennies.
Another three dollars, and still I have a lot of blank cement left to cover.
I need more glue. And many, many more pennies.
(Pennies add up to actual dollars so quickly, don’t they?)
Which requires having the pennies, thus rendering my project dead in the water until I donate platelets for money or work for three weeks after returning from vacation.
I have to write my son an August — maybe September — dated check for $7.24 to cover the costs of my crafty side.
Sigh.
Stupid Pinterest. This never would have happened if I hadn’t been dazzled by the four-minute demo video that lured me into thinking, “Hey, pretty! Sanctioned nonsense as an adult! And yes, yes, I have a glue gun and one jillion pennies!!” (Nope. Nope, I don’t.)
That kind of thinking is what gets people in trouble.
And proceeding to dig into a closet I haven’t opened since the 1900’s to look for a throw rug.

 

Okies on Tour: The Glass (Gloss) Mountains

What does Fourth of July mean to me?
A day off.
And a day off is simply destined to be a road trip day.
It just is.
Because I’m a tourist in my own state, I wanted to see the Glass Mountains, AKA the Gloss Mountains. Lore calls it both, seemingly because a British gentleman said “glass” like “glaws,” because…he was British.
Which, frankly, led to all kinds of questions, like, “Why was a British dude in the middle of the prairie in the middle of the upper half of the middle of the state in the middle of the US??”
But no marker answered that burning question.
Has no one else pondered that anomaly?
I wanted to see these mountains because for years I’ve seen them pictured beautifully within the pages of promotional dental office calendars.
And, as per the pics, when the mountains are shiny with sun-setting light, they are truly lovely; striations of coloration all over the place. Ask any dentist, they’ll tell you that, “Yeah, those hills look like plateaus of stained glass panels atop the prairie. Now, rinse.”
I might paraphrase, but I had to see those hills for myself, right?
So I pointed myself northwest and I darn near missed my target.
The entire Glass/Gloss Mountain State Park is book ended by signs saying “Welcome” and “Thanks for Visiting,” within a half mile distance to each other.
Circling back to the parking lot, I parked and prepared to scale the less-than-ominous looking butte of a “mountain,” elevation 200 feet, according to Wikipedia.
Scale we did, and do you know, proper foot wear is a must when climbing the side of anything rising to the sky at a 70 degree angle? My toes clung to the plastic sole of my flip-flops, while I kept telling myself their lack of tread was a point in my favor. Goats don’t have corrugated plastic soles on their feet, so boom, I win.
Fortunately, the short distance was equipped with a metal handrail presumably re-purposed from a ship from the 1880’s, it was so rusted and bent — scoliosis of metal, nearly curly, I tell you — and I clung to that bad boy as though it were a lifeline, because it was. For the last fifteen feet or so, I was no longer walking across pieces of ladder laid over the rock face and instead climbed upon boulders, white ones that looked like chunks of quartz. The all-rock terrain tested my toes, lungs, and gratitude equally.
But I made it.
I made it.
When I pivoted to see how far I’d traveled, well, I got a little woozy. See the above photo. Notice how the “trail” seems not to exist but was instead carved by millions of furry-bodied lemmings who sloughed away any edges as they fell to their doom? I did not Photoshop this, folks.
Needless to say, I was willing to sit a while and enjoy the valley view before tumbling to a painful lemming-like death.

Up top, I followed a “Trail” marker for the twenty feet necessary to reach the “End of Trail” marker, which stopped abruptly at the edge of an equally high precipice.
I had hoped for an elevator.

I thought there was no good way down.
And after psyching myself up for a good long while, I literally tiptoed my way down the side of the hillock, across those ladders, nearly bounding with over confidence at the end, telling fellow “hikers”, “Aw, shoot, it’s not as bad as it looks,” as I hustled back to the car.
Because, hey, over-and-down-on-foot was the only way down.
Except it wasn’t. Look at this guy who literally jumped! What a show-off.

I swoon at heights, truly, and yet I considered, “If I’d had a parachute, would I have preferred its twenty second ride to the laborious ten minute stalk-of-terror it took to return to prairie civilization?”
I nodded sagely to myself and answered Me honestly when I replied, “Hell, no.”
By the way, from experience I’ve learned that the Glass/Gloss of the mountains looks Red/Rouge, with a Matte/Anti-gloss finish on cloudy days.
Which means I need to gear up with my camera and return to the mountains on a sunny day. I’ll stay at the bottom, too, I believe.
No parachute requested, thank you.
Happy Fourth, everyone!

I Throw in My Ranching Gloves

Faulty gate latches and my own blind excitement about a road trip led to the pathway to destruction for five of my beloved chickens.
Four hens and the most beautiful little rooster I’ve ever loved, gone to the unmerciful jaws of two bored dogs who wanted to play keep-away with live bait.
Two beautiful, no-evidence-obvious-but-still-they-were-dead corpses greeted my dusky return from the road, after we Okies toured the state’s northeast Green Country.
I tell you, while the sun said goodnight, my heart cracked in half.
No other signs of life came running from corners to rest for the night. How could I blame them if they were there? I’d stay there, too, wherever that may have been.
This morning, I went to cluck with my girls. The rooster was silent; he lost all of his tail feathers and any vestige of pride while I warrior-ed the road yesterday.
And there, in front of the gate, was one of the girls I thought I’d lost.
Mangled, weary, but bright-eyed and quiet.
I bawled like a four-year-old, then retrieved the Neosporin and coated her wounds.
She’s in the coop now, in the shade, near water and food and the rest of her tribe, who still can’t cluck their condolences. It really is every bird for herself. And I can’t blame them for that, either.
But for the last hour, I’ve had my eye on every hidey-hole in the yard, armed with bandages and tears in case another feathery friend wants to trust me again.