Friday, February 21, 2014

Between Bend and Burns: Oregon 2011

This was when Fru and I had decided not to stay in Fort lauderdale and after we knew we would not be living in New Orleans. It was a job interview in Bend, Oregon and we had a rental car and I--by myself, on one of the days there--decided to drive out into the desert, to the isolated town of Burns.

It was in September and things were quiet. The weather was nice enough. Sunny. Cool. Empty. The big white-topped mountains of the Sisters and Mt. Bachelor, among a couple of others, were visible in my rearview mirror as I drove east and out of Bend--a pretty little city with the Deschutes River and trees and flowers and such--stopping for gas in a non-town called Brothers (as opposed to the quaint burg of Sisters, OR). Then I kept going east, into the Great Empty that is Central Oregon.

Anyway, this land is desloate. Treeless. Sage brush and rocks, arroyos and sculpted hills, mountains, plateaus, all done in browns and yellows and orange, a little red, shades of purple, gray and almost-black. Few cars. Fewer people. And I don't recall exactly if it was on my drive east, or after I had turned around and headed back west, back towards Bend, but I came across an unusual sight.

Here along the road, almost at a top of a hill, was a guy walking. He wasn't just walking, he was pulling a little cart made of wood with wooden wheels that looked handmade. That looked old-fashioned, pioneer-like, prospector-ish. And the man--gaunt, sunburnt, scraggly-beared, head down to the task under the sun and in the wide nothingness--looked prospector-ish too. Pulling this wooden cart about the size of a refrigerator (and looking about that heavy, too) by hand.


And you couldn't help but wonder what that was about. What the heck was he doing out here? What was his story?  I will say that it looked like he was doing what he wanted to do. That this was his choice in life. It looked like he didn't want to be disturbed nor did he want any type of assistance. I certainly didn't stop.

So who was better off? Me, driving a rental through the nothingness on a lark, looking for a place to settle and live? Or the old guy pulling a cart, living in the slow lane, his home in a wooden cart?

I don't know.

It was just a strange sight . . . And I think I was headed back to Bend (I didn't get to Burns, not on that trip in Oregon), because I remember a car was coming in the other direction and the walking man was coming up a hill and his cart made him stick part way out into the lane of the narrow desert highway road. And so I was a little concerned that he could be hit at the crest of the incline . . . I assume he was not. I assume he may still be out there, doing his thing.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Speaking of Pets

I don't know why I woke up so early this morning--4:22 am--on a Super Bowl Sunday, sat on the couch in the dark and  began to think about the pets in my life. Pets and their names and the locations I lived in, pets from when I was a kid. Cats mostly, a few dogs, an assortment of other creatures. cats and dogs from when my parents were still alive, from when I was first married, from when my kids were little, from my own childhood. Their names. Their deaths or disappearances or their being given away . . .

I Sioux Falls there was, first, Goldie, a cocker spaniel of my father's who--after I was born, #3 out of five kids, or perhaps after my sister #4 or my brother #5--was given away to someone. I can barely recall the dog yet the day of her departure it is still a vivid image in my mind. Then there was Blackie, another cocker, again my father's dog. She lived in South Dakota and went with us when we moved to Vancouver, Washington and then she was lost at a rest stop when we traveled to San Francisco. We had a puppy that was killed. My oldest brother had a rabbit--Maximilian--for a while. We had maybe some gerbils/hamsters/rodentia of some kind, a parakeet or two. In Sioux Falls we had a cantankerous cockatiel that had been given to my mother, which she gave away.

But, starting in Vancouver, we mainly had cats. We got two or three kittens, one of which was Spunky. And Spunky disappeared. My mother always wanted a Siamese cat--a Seal Point--so we drove to Camus one day and bought a Seal Point kitten. She was named Nefertiti or some such but we kids only called her Kitty so my mother said, "At least call her Witty." and so that's what we called her. Witty lived a long time, in Washington and when we moved to Tennessee and when we moved to Iowa. In Tennessee we had a dog named Pokey, a dog named Fluffy neither of which lasted. We had a cat named Viva, who we gave away. We got another Siamese named Jason, who went to Iowa with us and who had a nasty disposition and we ended up giving him away. Then there was Ming Tai, a sweet Siamese who died of poisoning when I was away in college.

In college we briefly had cats: Sparky, Alfredo Garcia.

In north Florida I had a stray cat I named Snake. Monica's cat named Sheldon. I had cats named Lucy and Velcro.

Then I met Fru and she had a cat: M.R. . . . M.R., despite the name, was a wonderful cat--smart, sweet, gentle. She was Siamese-looking but with long fur like a Himalayan. M.R. was from New York City, originally, but lived in Champaign, Illinois and then went with Fru and I to Montana and then back to Illinois and then down to Fort Lauderdale, Florida (where she died and where I buried her beneath the royal palm in my back yard). Jack The Cat was from Montana, a sweet cross-eyed big cat with the same markings as M.R. He was run over when I brought him to Champaign. I never let a cat outside the house after that. Then we had Kitty cat Stone in Champaign--an outside cat who had been the old man's behind us until he died and no one came to get his cat. But we left him in his milieu when we moved to Florida.

After M.R.'s death my girls, age 8 and 10 maybe, maybe younger, wanted cats so we got two cats one Thanksgiving which we spent in Miami at the Standiford's. Came home with them and their names--after a bit of trial and error became Herky and Mr. T. Sister and brother. They are old cats now but we still have them. Then later--as I have posted before--we got our dog: Lia. Wonderful dog. She is here. As are two illegal cats my oldest daughter brought home and would not relinquish and kept them long enough to be part of the family. They were from South Florida but now live with us here: Bubbles and Maya. Four cats and one dog. Here.

I had lizards, a crab and stuff like that, but it's mainly the cats I remember. A few dogs. Pets . . . Why do we keep pets (beyond the initial practical reasons--hunting, security, pest control)? How is it that we associate and relate and love them and, even more so, how do they to us? Doesn't matter, really. We just do.