Crazy Little Dinosaurs and Traffic

Life is unpredictable. Completely, utterly and oh so frustratingly unpredictable. Depending on where you live, there are different types, or definitions of, unpredictability. When I lived in cities or major metropolitan areas, traffic was unpredictable. It could take me fifteen minutes to get to work, or two hours, based on the amount of rubbernecking fools gawking at a traffic stop, or texting on their phones while driving with their knees and the line around Starbucks, which could literally spill out into the street and stop traffic. I hated it. I moved to within walking distance of everything, in a neighborhood called the Kentlands, which literally had the same architect who designed the movie set of Pleasantville. It’s called a neo-traditional new town planning attempt to create a walking space with house centered urban architecture. It made me want to barf, but hey, traffic was suddenly non-existent.

Until I broke my ankle by falling down a set of stairs in Colonel Williamsburg and was relegated to crutches for four months. (My doctor said six, I said screw him. Which may be why I still walk with a bit of a limp. There was also that lack of physical therapy thing.) After losing my temper while trying to navigate the impossibly perfect terrain of the Kentlands on my way to the pool and beating the taillights out of a still-occupied and moving Porsche with my crutches, the occupants of which were total assholes, and totally scared assholes when I was through, my therapist, employers, wife-to-be and lawyers decided it was best if I move. The “Temporarily Insane” defense is amazing.

We chose a little town near Blacksburg, VA, right on the New River, a place so secluded that I can and do pee off my front porch. Without fear of retaliation or public nudity warnings, even though a drone attack could change all that, I suppose. That’s why I keep several hundred twelve-gauge shotgun shells on hand, but I really don’t think that would do me any good, unless I could talk my way into and out of, destroying a lot of government property utilizing the “Temporarily Insane” thing. Which is highly doubtful as now I most likely would just be called legally insane and locked up under that basis. Which would keep me away from my new son, which keeps me from peeing off the porch and shooting drones. Man, life is complicated. Even in the country.

Life can be even more complicated in the country, and traffic can take on a whole new meaning. For example, an entire herd of Longhorn cattle can break through a fence and take their new residence in the two-lane, unmarked road devoid of vehicles in front of my house. Although, I’ve never been more rattled by anything than a flock of Guineas.

I was headed to town, if you can call our little town with one restaurant a couple of outfitters and a general store a town. Which I think is the very definition of a town. I was driving along in my old Ford, minding my own business when a flock of Guineas suddenly ran under my truck. I hit my brakes, slid to a stop, grimacing at the thought of running over one of my neighbors birds. There was no inevitable thump, no shower of feathers, so I was very relieved. I put the truck in park and blew my horn. There were no Guineas in sight, not in my mirrors or anywhere so I was reasonably certain they were still under the truck.

Tentatively, I opened the door. I have very little experience with Guineas but a LOT with chickens, so I am fully aware that birds are descendents of dinosaurs and have very little knowledge that they have gotten a lot smaller during the evolutionary process that began around the K-T boundary. (Scientists, rejoice. I used a nerdism.) I was immediately attacked by the entire flock of Guineas, which after a bit of after-the-fact  research, I discovered are extremely territorial and quite mad, in the Alice in Wonderland way. I bolted down the road, realizing as I went the absurdity of being chased by an entire flock of creatures whose combined weight didn’t match mine. I wasn’t really sure about the intelligence level, but they were chasing me, not the other way around. I checked my speed after a hundred yards or so, not really for sure if they were still after me, but certain that I couldn’t run much further.

Considerably out of breath, I ascertained that they had once again gathered under my truck, which was sitting with the driver’s side door open and the engine running. I wondered if they meant to use it as a battering ram then decided I’d watched “Gremlins” way too many times. I gathered a stick and meant to use it as an assault device, or Weapon of Not So Mass Destruction, if you will, but the clever birds simply huddled together out of reach of my stick of choice in the middle of the truck.

So, I regained the main controls of the truck without harm, carefully shut the door, inspected the cab for a stray mini-dinosaur, and slowly placed the gears in Drive. After a few moments I realized that they were simply using the truck for cover for some nefarious deed that they had all planned, no doubt involving an assault on the Treasurer’s Office of Giles County. Which I would have totally supported, but I really didn’t want to explain that the troop of Guineas under my truck were actually in control of the planned assault and I had nothing to do with it.

Very carefully, I sped up. Cringing, dreading the sound of the crunch of tiny dinosaur bones, which never happened. I looked in my rearview mirror to see the clever birds mingling about on the side of the road, eating bugs and chasing one another as if nothing had ever happened. To think, Giles County was nearly invaded by Guineas.

I took another route home. Call me crazy.

Lake Tahoe and Diners

I like my camouflage shorts. A lot. I don’t have to do anything except put them on. No planning, just a belt and some sort of shirt. Underwear is optional. It makes dressing a lot easier. I’ve had them for nearly 15 years and they are still holding up. A little threadbare, but still together. They have accompanied me to Mexico, California, Tijuana, Florida, down the Panhandle of Texas, to Wyoming, into various kitchens, through coal mining bath houses and into and out of various relationships. My wife occasionally raises her eyebrows over my wardrobe, which doesn’t consist of much, but she largely leaves me alone. I despise shoes almost as much as I love my shorts, but again, she leaves me be when it comes to dressing myself.

My siblings mostly share my disdain for footwear, content with bare feet or Chaco sandals, which we have somehow all unanimously agreed will work with most any outfit for any occasion that doesn’t involve a tuxedo. My Dad said just the other day that putting shoes on a Matney child is like trying to feed a walrus to a terrier. I’m not sure, exactly, what that means, but it’s pretty funny to write.

It was an impossibly blue day, that day, when I kicked off my Chaco’s in preparation for an ascent on an a previously unclimbed assault on a beautiful granite face just north of Lake Tahoe, on the California side. The kind of day when you really don’t see how anything could go wrong. The kind of day that you can only get in California, where the weather forecasters get it right most of the time. I was wearing the same pair of shorts that I have on right now when we, meaning an expert climber named Cheryl, and I started the route.

She had spent days on end flat on her back studying all the possible lines, and, for whatever reason, chose me to help her on the first ascent. I am anything but an excellent climber – strong, maybe, fearless, ok, but I am not the person that I would choose to help with a new climb. I think she was leaning on my underground experience in coal mining a bit too much. My rope skills are excellent, but why she swapped out with me on leads is beyond me. Normally I climb up to the better climber, hook up to belay and allow them to climb on ahead. That day, she was allowing me to climb all I wanted.

I crouched under the ledge with my thighs wedged against the rock and shook the tremors out of my hands. There was one more hold visible and I shook out the rope. I could hear Cheryl calling to me, but barely. I knew I was hitting the end of the belay line and hadn’t set protection in about one hundred feet. I felt the line play out a little and gambled that it was enough to stick the next hold, a great crack that would have been perfect to set up another belay station. With Lake Tahoe gleaming like a Hope Diamond on my left, I leap for that next hold.  I stuck it. Perfectly. With legs dangling and my right hand in my chalk bag, I felt as if I had won the Preakness. I drew up the rope, placed it in my teeth, and starting removing static gear from my harness.

The next sensation was of wind rushing by my face. I barely had time to register that I was falling, but I was. At 32 ft/s squared, there isn’t much time to react. Yet, time seems to slow when you are that far up. I yelled at Cheryl, but she was already roping off like a western cowboy on a steer. She weighed maybe 110 pounds, me, 200 pounds. Even in the camo shorts. I pushed off the face of the granite, registering for just one split second that there was a vug of granodiorite and most likely pyrite deposits as I twisted about in an attempt to miss Cheryl.

If I’d hit her, we’d both be dead now. I would have sheared her and all her protection off the wall and that would have been the end of both of us. At 50 feet or 1,000 feet, you aren’t walking away from a fall into the trees, tangled in ropes and gear and each other. I don’t care what the movies portray; a fall from that distance is fatal.

So, I propelled my way off the face, desperate to not take her off the face with me. There was no time for movie lines, knives sawing as we looked into each other’s eyes, knowing what decision the director had made. It was just me falling and her roping in to her barely there belay point.

We ate at an unknown diner just outside of Reno, NV that night. It was the best steak and hash browns I have ever tasted. It even came with a side of cole slaw and baked beans. Besides an encounter with the cops in Pensacola, FL, that was our last adventure together. I don’t know where she is now, but I’ll bet she is still pushing her limits. Just with someone a bit more capable than me.  

Baby Poems

Our baby is spoiled you see.

Not from consumer goods for free.

But for the life that he gets to live.

Devoid of day care, nannies and preschool,

He gets to spend his days with love,

Sharing his days with his Mom and his Dad, as they send adoration from above.

As he lies on his back,

On his activity mat,

Fighting with his stuffed worm,

Which we have named Wombat.

After our neighbors dog, you see,

Which isn’t afraid to run up a tree.

Nor is he (Wombat) afraid of his Momma’s new twins,

Which will bless their world with giggles and grins.

I think they’ll all play together, as they get older,

And their activities get bolder and bolder.

Sliding down mountains, getting muddy and bruised,

Only to limp home to some yummy venison stew!

As a Dad I will worry that he will get hurt,

Then I’ll get angry when he hurls an insult.

But as I instruct in the way he must behave,

I’ll be proud of this boy that we just gave,

To our God, who hopefully sees,

That we truly care about the life our son brings.

So with this little poem I write,

I hope that for all his days,

Our son will see light.