Archive for August, 2006

Skunk Bait

I wrote a column recently where I bemoaned the fact that my dog, Callie, had been sprayed by skunks twice so far this summer.  The ink on that column was barely dry when Callie, now called “Skunk Bait”, outdid herself by getting hit again. 

There I was, minding my own business at the kitchen table, when Skunk Bait began to beg to go outside.  It was only about 9pm, and the “skunkings” had been occurring at around 11pm, so I didn’t think it was any big deal.  Besides that, I had taken the extra step of protecting my yard from skunks by turning on the floodlight. 

Skunks, you see, are nocturnal animals.  I hoped that if I could simulate daylight in my backyard, the local skunk population would choose to trundle off to some other yard and spray someone else’s dog under the cover of darkness. 

What I didn’t take into account was the fact that birds are not very tidy.  What do grubby birds have to do with skunks, you ask?  Well, I had recently filled the bird feeder that hangs off of my shed with a new birdfeed.  The new feed features not only the usual seeds and nuts but also little pieces of fruit, and the birds go wild over it.  At times it seems like every bird in Worcester County is hanging out waiting for a turn at my bird feeder.  The problem is, however, that while these birds are gorging themselves they are liberally sprinkling fruit, seeds, and nuts all over my lawn. 

So, back to the night in question:  Skunk Bait was antsy to go out, so I, confident in the floodlight’s repellant powers (The lesson here is that I’m not very smart), opened the sliding glass door to let her out.  She was barely out the door when my eyes moved to the area under my birdfeeder, where a medium-sized skunk was happily snorking up all of the birds’ table scraps.  I felt like I was in one of those slow motion nightmares, where you can see things happening but are powerless to do anything about it except scream, “NOOooooooo.” 

Skunk Bait is, if nothing else, very territorial.  She doesn’t like it when other animals walk past our house legally, never mind one that blatantly trespasses in her very own backyard.  I know that she wanted a piece of the skunk, because she didn’t bother to bark at it or scare it away; she sprinted toward it.  I called after her, but I knew it was a waste of my breath. 

The skunk, no doubt surprised to look up from a scrumptious nosh of fruit and nuts to see a dog charging at it – after all, how many animals are dumb enough to attack a skunk – never took a backwards step.  It turned and aimed, and waited until just when Callie lunged to deliver a full shot of spray into her face.  It then stood there, smiling at her. 

I called Callie again, trying to get her inside to avoid a biting fight with the invader, and this time she listened to me.  She bolted into the house and immediately began rubbing her eyes on the piece of carpet in front of the door.   I tried to grab her, and she bolted past me and onto the enclosed front porch, where she continued rubbing her face on the carpet.  I ran to the porch but she sprinted past me and up the stairs, into the bedroom and onto the bed.  Ugh. 

While this chase was on, the air in the entire house was filled with a cloud of the skunk’s essence, which is not smelled so much as it is tasted.  Also, every place where the dog had paused to rub her face became a little stink factory. 

I finally managed to track Skunk Bait down and give her a bath, but some of the stink had gotten onto her skin and managed to hang around for a few days.  Likewise, even though I had showered twice and scrubbed my arms, I still found a patch of my arm that smelled like skunk the next day (I’m sure that my coworkers were thrilled). 

For the next week or so, the backyard had to be scoped out before Skunk Bait was allowed outside at night. 

I also removed the birdfeeder.  I’m sure that the birds in Worcester County are not happy with that decision (apparently they all decided to take their revenge on my car), but it serves them right.  If they hadn’t been such slobs in the first place, everything would have been cool.  Of course, now that I think about it, Skunk Bait did sometimes chase them off of the feeder while they are in the middle of a meal…maybe she IS trying to lure skunks into the yard.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 25 Aug 2006 No Comments

Hot Flashes

The other morning, my dog Callie was lying on our bed getting her belly scratched by my wife.  I was standing on the other side of the room and I watched as Callie rolled over to change position…right off of the side of the bed.  It was one of those situations that seem to develop in slow motion, but which there is no time to prevent.  She rolled over, paused for a moment while gravity made up its mind, then slid off of the bed, landing directly on top of a humidifier.  The French judge gave her a 7.8 for the landing and luckily only her pride was hurt in what was the second roll-off of her career… 

…Speaking of Callie the Flying Dog, she seems to have grown fond of being sprayed by the skunks that lurk around my backyard in the summer.  She doesn’t bark at them at all, so I suspect that she is actually bribing the skunks with spare pig ears to spray her.  The way it usually happens is that I will let Callie out one last time before bed.  I will watch TV and perhaps start to nod off when suddenly the air I am trying to breathe is infused with a familiar yet overpowering rottenness.  It seems that I can taste the putrid aerosol more than can smell it (my wife tells me that she has a similar experience whenever I eat burritos). 

With the signal in the air that something terrible has happened, I run to the door to find Callie covered in Eau de Skunk and wagging her tail like she just won a meat raffle.  Once the door is open, the race is to see if I can grab her and drag her to the bathtub before she can run upstairs and hop onto my bed.  Callie can be wily and elusive, so I don’t always win this race. 

I never seem to have any tomato juice in the house when I eventually do wrestle her into the tub, but luckily Herbal Essences shampoo seems to work well enough.  It doesn’t work for Callie, though, because although she will gladly leap into any swimming pool, she despises the bathtub.  It’s as if she went to all the trouble of rolling on a dead thing or paying off a skunk and now I’m ruining it by washing away all of her hard work. 

Once the bath is finished, Callie runs to the door and whines to be let out.  No chance – after all, who knows if the skunks are running a “Buy One, Get One Free” special…  

…The recent heat wave in Massachusetts was so hot and humid that it made stepping outside feel like I was walking into a bowl of hot Jell-O.  It also made me thankful that I have an air conditioner; until, of course, I murdered the air conditioner. 

It happened one night when my wife was in Philadelphia.  I came home late after losing a softball playoff game – I pitched and was lousy – and decided that it was cool enough to use a fan instead of the AC.  I went to unplug the air conditioner from the heavy duty extension cord (I know, bad idea, but it’s the only way I can use the AC in my bedroom) and found that the plug was stuck. 

I unplugged the extension cord from the outlet and tried again.  No dice.  I tried to wedge a pair of fingernail clippers in between the plugs – if you can’t use the right tool, at least use the one that’s nearby – but ended up with bent fingernail clippers.  Finally, I got a screwdriver and wedged it between the plugs and pried them apart.  Victory!

Until I noticed that I had simply pulled a metal prong out of the air conditioner plug.  Apparently, the plug had heated enough that it had melted the plastic from the extension cord plug and cooled.  Voila, non-functional air conditioner. 

By the time this happened, it was well past my bedtime and I was sweating and swearing and stomping around; in truth, what I really needed was an air conditioner.  It was the perfect end to a perfect day. 

I guess a rational person would be happy that the heated extension cord hadn’t caused a fire… 

…Last, as I wrote in a recent column, I went sailing recently on Lake Winnipesaukee.  The water on the lake was fairly rough, and it reminded me of something that happened to me when I was about 12.  My parents had invited my cousin, who is a year older than I am, to take a vacation with us and we were on a ferry to Block Island. 

The water was very rough and I was feeling queasy.  People were getting sick all around me, and I was trying very hard to keep myself together.  It was at this point that my loving cousin sat down next to me. 

We talked a bit and I told him that I wasn’t feeling very well; a huge mistake. 

He looked at me with delight in his eyes and said, “The boat is really moving up and down.  UUUUPPPP and DDOWWWN…UUUUUUUPPPP AND DOOOOWWWWWNNNN.”  He repeated the words over and over and over again in time with the rocking of the boat, putting special emphasis on the word “up.”  After a few minutes of this, he got his way and I needed a moment alone with a trash barrel. 

Since that day, 23 or so years ago, every single time I am on rough water my cousin’s voice pops into my head.  My stomach does flips as I hear his mantra echoing in my cranium over and over again:  “UUUPPP AND DOWNNNN!”  It has essentially scuttled any hopes of me becoming a seafaring man. 

I reminded him of this story the other day and it brought a smile to his face immediately.  “The secret,” he told me, “is to make the word ‘up’ sound like someone retching.”   

I then punched him in the nose. 

Ok, not really, but could you blame me if I had?

The Day to Day Grind Tim 18 Aug 2006 No Comments

Hot Flashes

A bunch of stuff that won’t work for a column by itself: 

I went to a birthday party for a 2-year old the other day.  This would be just like any other normal birthday party for a 2-year old, except that when I got there, the birthday boy’s parents weren’t home. 

Why would any parents throw a party for their son and then not show up, you ask?  Perhaps they were kidnapped?  Went on a secret vacation?  Had to drive to Michigan for just the right birthday cake? 

Well, in this case, they had a pretty good excuse:  Mom was unexpectedly at the hospital giving birth to the birthday boy’s little sister.  The party went on without them (Aunt and Uncle ran things; I manned the grill) and everything was fine.  Of course, I forgot to include a card with my gift, so how will they know that the biggest and best present was from me?… 

…I hope for Theo Epstein’s sake that these kids Lester and Hansen turn out to be the real deal.  If they don’t, and it turns out that we could have traded them for a star pitcher or hitter; well, then I’ll be quite upset.  And Theo doesn’t want that. 

Young stars aside, why does it seem that every other team would only take the Sox’s top prospects, but then turn around and trade star players and important role players to the Yankees for a bunch of middling minor leaguers?  Do the other teams just dislike Mr. Epstein, or do the Red Sox just not have any reasonable middling minor leaguers? 

Either way, it seems odd that the Yankees were able to sweep in and pick up a starting pitcher (Cory Lidle), a seriously good outfielder (Bobby Abreu), and a decent role player (Craig Wilson – who can play catcher in a pinch!) while the Red Sox spun their wheels and ended up with Javy “I don’t throw well, but I have the hair of a televangelist” Lopez. 

I’m not saying that it’s panic time yet, but as the losses to Tampa Bay and Kansas City continue to mount, I find myself more and more interested in football season… 

…When I was in college at UMass-Lowell, a number of my friends found gainful employment teaching sailing classes during the summer.  They would first be taught to sail, and then use that knowledge to teach the children of Lowell how to navigate the waters of the mighty Merrimack River with a bed sheet. 

While they were learning neat stuff like the sheepshank and the double loop bowline, I was working in a grocery store; well, most of the time I was outside the grocery store fetching carriages. 

The reason I mention this is because one of my friends now owns a sailboat and invited a number of us up to sail Lake Winnipesaukee this past Saturday.  It was a beautiful day to be on the water and besides, it’s pretty cool to spend the day on a sailboat, so I readily accepted. 

The other guys who went were all Lowell boathouse veterans.  They scrambled all over the boat and made themselves useful by tying knots, raising jibs, and saying “Avast!” when appropriate.  

Me?  I carried the coolers and otherwise stood around trying not to fall in.  My sailor-type friends said that I served an important function on the boat, however:  I was the ballast. 

The good people at Merriam-Webster describe ballast as:  a heavy substance placed in such a way as to improve stability and control (as of the draft of a ship or the buoyancy of a balloon or submarine). 

Well, at least I served a function.  Anyway, while standing around trying not to fall in, I noticed that any time the sailboat was going to turn, someone would shout, “Coming about!”  Coming about, I have found, means that a headhunting piece of wood, “the boom”, will come swinging around, along with a bunch of sail, in an effort to knock people into the water. 

I was able to dodge the boom for the most part, but at one point the sail wiped the hat off of my head and into the water.  We came about a number of times in an effort to find the hat, but it had sunk down into the depths of Davy Jones’ locker (ok, so Davy Jones is usually thought to hang out in the ocean…perhaps if dealing with a lake, it is Shirley Jones’ locker?).  The hat, pictured on my head in the picture next to this column, came from Hawaii, so clearly now I’ll have to shoot back over there to replace it.  If only I can find an airliner that needs some ballast.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 11 Aug 2006 No Comments